ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Say Hello to My Little Friends - A Tale of Being Stationed in Korea

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I just thought of something I hadn't thought of in years. I think writing the earlier post about the Palpable Fear in Korea triggered it. Let me begin the tale with, There I Was, because all good stories start that way.

So I was pretty newly stationed in Korea, knee deep in hand grenade pins, a T-72 tank coming over the hill and all I got was a P38.
 
Front Gate of Camp Page Circa 1985
Whoops. Wrong story. Before I begin, this is the true story of what happened on a morning back in the winter of 1985. The rules of decency were different then. We didn't know what we did about human trafficking and sex slavery, or if we did, it wasn't dealt with. As a young man still in my teens, I had no idea. So please read this with the appropriate time and distance applied. Then read the afterward for some more information.
 
So there I was, newly stationed in Korea, it's the winter of 1985, cold as hell outside, and we're about to get a lesson in skoshi jingus from our hard-as-nails Polish American platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Pavarnik. I'd already been out in the local 'ville and met some club girls. Nights were usually fueled by combat bottles of soju and OB beer as we club-hopped the five small clubs mapped out for us GIs in the village of Chun Chon. 
 
Morning PT runs were always fun. Most people were still drunk by the time we fell into formation at about 6 AM. Most of us had Cinderella Passes the night before, meaning we had to be back on post by Midnight. Overnights were a rare thing, especially if you were a private, like me. Our platoon sergeant had the special ability to discern who the drunkest of us was. He'd put them in the front of the formation; especially those who'd drank porta-a-ju the previous night-a vile concoction of port wine and soju. That way, about a mile in when they started puking, the formation would end up looking like the Pie Eating Contest in Stand By Me. We did this mind you, out in the 'ville, so I can only imagine what the locals thought of us.
 
 

One winter morning, the guy running beside me couldn't stop scratching his crotch. I'm not talking subtle hand movements that might not attract attention. I'm talking major muscle movements that a pilot might mistake for landing instructions.

Finally, the platoon sergeant can't take it any longer. He halted the formation in the middle of a Korean village alley. Vendors were rolling up the tin covering their frontages and grocers were putting out their vegetables. It's cold enough we can see our breath, but not cold enough for our platoon sergeant to allow us to wear sweats. We're still in tshirts and shorts and the running was all that was keeping us warm.

typical village street
"Private Brady, what the hell is going on in your pants?"

Brady was a narrow kid from Chicago who didn't get out much. "I'm not sure, sergeant," he said.

"Then why are you scratching down there? You got an STD?"

"I ain't got no STD, sergeant."

"Then what the hell is going on?"

"My girlfriend says that I have skoshi jingus."

This stops the sergeant. "Did you say skoshi jungus?"

"Yes, sergeant." Brady looked like he was about to cry.

"Drop your pants. I want to see if she's right."

"But sergeant." He looked around at the old Korean men and women surreptitiously watching us. "I can't do it here."

"You can and will do it, private. This is a serious business." The platoon sergeant parts the ranks and we sort of cluster around Brady. "Now, drop them."

Brady's expression implored the platoon sergeant to not make him do this, but after a good ten seconds, he reached down and pulled his shorts to his knees. He's wearing whitie tighties underneath which the platoon sergeant commanded to be pulled down as well. Brady eventually did this, then went to attention, closed his eyes, and balled his hands to his sides.

Now, I'm not the sort to go about staring at another man's junk, but I gotta say, on that day, me and everyone else in the platoon was staring at Brady's junk. Not really the junk, but the many little things around the junk.

Let me flash back three months earlier. I was at Fort Gordon Outprocessing Center, getting ready to PCS to Korea. I bumped into an old Spec 7 (when they had them), and when I told him where I was going, he got all serious like, and told me, "Whatever you do, don't let them take you to the Black Island." Now I was used to old timers messing with me, so I grinned. But he shook his head firmly. "This is not a joke, son. This is for real. Don't let them take you to the Black Island. If they do, you'll never see your family or the Land of the Big PX again."

"Why would they send me to the Black Island?" I asked, now nervous and unsure if he was messing with me or not. 

"They got all sorts of VD over there. Some of it is as bad as it gets. Rot your dick right off. But there's a special kind of VD called Black VD. You get that and you might as well call home and say goodby forever. Make sure you check the girl's VD card. Make sure it's up to date."

And then he left the smoke pit and I never saw him again.

Now, fast forward to us staring at Brady's junk and the hundreds of little black spots moving around it.

The platoon sergeant knelt down and got eye level to the junk. Then he nodded. "Sure as shit," he said. "Brady, you got skoshi jingus."

Then someone asked, "Is he going to the Black Island, sergeant?"

My head and several others jerked towards the guy who asked. No one ever talked about Black Island like no one ever talked about Fight Club.

We jerked our heads towards the platoon sergeant who had straightened up and was lighting a cigarette with a zippo, both brought along for PT. He inhaled, then exhaled. Brady's eyes were open and wide as he stared at the platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant waited until he finished the cigarette before he answered slow and low, like the Martial Artist Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon, when John Saxon and he are bilking a betting man by pretending that John can't fight. The platoon sergeant shook his head and said, "No, we're not going to send him to the Black Island. Right now, he's got worse problems than that."

"Wo--worse problems?" Brady stuttered.

"You have unauthorized pets all over your crotch. They are not allowed on Camp Page. Commandant forbids it. We're going to have to get rid of them before you can return to base."

"Wha--what?"

"Skoshi jingus. Means Little Friends. Your girlfriend gave you crabs, son."

At this we all started to itch a bit. We didn't know which club girl was his girlfriend, but chances were, she'd been one of our girlfriends for a night or to as well.

Then the platoon sergeant ordered Sergeant Slaughter to run back to base, grab the red ammo can by the platoon sergeant's desk, and return, pronto. It took about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of us freezing our asses off while the platoon sergeant smoked and stared at Brady's shriveling junk, all the while shaking his head. The only thing he said the entire time was a single sentence. "Brady, the sheer number of those skoshi jingus you have is impressive."

To this day I can't hear the word impressive and not think of those crabs.

By the time Slaughter returned, we were all shivering and shaking violently. During this entire time, the Koreans were shaking their heads. This was certainly something they hadn't seen, but I did hear several of them laughing about skoshi jingus, so I guess it was definitely a thing.
 
Slaughter handed the red metal ammo can to our platoon sergeant, who then placed it on the ground, opened it, and began taking out several items: a can of Zippo lighter fluid, a box of matches, and an ice pick. 

"This is something you have to do, son. I can't do it for you. Against regulations."

"Wha--what is it that I ha--have to do, sergeant?" Brady stuttered.

The platoon sergeant frowned. "Isn't it obvious?"

"I--I don't understand."

"Private Brady. You cannot and will not bring unauthorized pets onto our military base. It's against all regulation.You have to get rid of them here, now, in this alley." Then he added, "And you better do it before we all freeze our balls off."

Brady reached down and grabbed the can of lighter fluid and the book of matches. He stared at them much like a pig would looking at a wristwatch. He just couldn't make sense of it. Eventually, he began to cry. Not gentle-weepy-I-just-saw-a-chick-flick-tears, but huge sobs wrenched from the depths of his soul that made us all feel uncomfortable. But I was with Brady. I couldn't figure out at all what he was supposed to do with those three items. 

The platoon sergeant lit another cigarette and let Brady ball for a full minute, before he finally said, "For God's sake. Sergeant Slaughter, will you please explain to Private Brady the tried and true and only trusted method of getting rid of skoshi jingus."

"Yes, sergeant," Slaughter said. He went over to Brady and placed all three items in his hands. "Stop, balling, son. This is important."

Brady wiped his eyes with the back of his hands then held the items out in front of them. "Truly, sergeant, I want to do this right. I just don't understand."

Slaughter nodded gently. "It's alright, private. Everyone understands. What you got to do isn't hard, but you have to be quick and resolute."

"Quick and resolute," Brady repeated. 

"Step one is you take the lighter fluid and spray it all over your crotch, making sure to soak into all that hair down there."

Brady's eyes narrowed.

"Step two is you light a match. Now step three has to happen immediately after step two so you have to be ready. Match in one hand ice pick in the other. Are you right handed, private?"

"Sergeant?"

"Which hand do you jack off with?"

"The right."

"So light the match, place it in your left hand, then put the ice pick in the right hand. You're going to want it to be in the hand with the greatest dexterity."

"Dexterity," Brady said, turning the word into its own question.

Slaughter grabbed the book of matches out of Brady's hand. "So step 2 is to light the match." He did this, then dropped the box of matches on the ground and switched the lit match to his right hand. Then he grabbed the ice pick out of Brady's other hand. "No, remember what I said about dexterity?" he asked.

Brady nodded. "Quick and resolute. Dexterity."

Slaughter smiled. "You're going to get back on base yet. So step one is douse your crotch with lighter fluid."

"Making sure to get my hair down there," Brady said.

Slaughter nodded. "Step two is to light the match, step three is to light your crotch on fire," then Slaughter made hard fast stabbing motions with the ice pick as he said, "And step four is to stab as many of them little fuckers as you can running out of the flames because you don't want to have to do it again."
 
I looked from Slaughter's face to Brady's who was just beginning to figure out what he was supposed to do with the three items.

Were they for real? That was the most insane thing I'd ever heard.

But the platoon sergeant and Sergeant Slaughter never cracked a smile.

"Do you want to practice it, or just go for it?" Slaughter asked, stone-faced.

"Pppractice?" Brady stuttered.

"Just get it over with," the platoon sergeant said.

Slaughter handed the lighter fluid to Brady and said, "Commence step one."

Brady stood there. 

"Open the god damned lighter fluid and spray, yourself, private?"

Brady stood there, silent tears, now sliding down his face.

I didn't want to be there. This was becoming awful super fast.

"Spray yourself with the lighter fluid, private!" Slaughter screamed, face now inches from Brady's. "Do it or I'll do it for you."

Brady gripped the lighter fluid with shaking hands and opened the top of it. Then he turned it down and sprayed his crotch, the wet liquid causing him to jump as it hit him. But he squeezed the can until it was dry. Ice crystals immediately began to form.

Slaughter took the empty can and tossed it on the ground. "Now move onto step two, private!"

"I don't want to light it."

"You don't have a choice."

Now in tears, "Please don't make me set my penis on fire, Sergeant Slaughter."

"Then why'd you sleep with a club girl who had crabs?"

Brady blinked several times.

"I didn't know she had crabs."

"Did you check her VD card? They don't give VD cards to women with crabs."

"I--I didn't check her VD card."

"Well, doesn't that make you look like an idiot. And now you're standing out here in the middle of the goddamned 'ville, shorts around your ankles, shwanz all shriveled and wet, ice pick in one hand and a match in the other, about to burn your fucking dick off because you didn't want to be impolite and ask the nice club girl if she had skoshi jingus. Who's the fucking idiot now?"

"I am," Brady said in a soft voice. 
 
"Now, hand me that ice pick, pull up your fucking shorts, and let's get the rest of you idiots back to post."
 
Brady handed the things over. "What about the lighter fluid?"
 
Sergeant Slaughter shook his head. "That wasn't lighter fluid, private. That was water. By now your skoshi jingus are frozen in nice little ice crystals that will kill them. What we didn't just kill, the medic will take care of."
 
The platoon sergeant finished smoking his cigarette, rolled the pack back in the sleeve of his short sleeve PT shirt, then formed us up. Soon we were running back to base, silent and serious, the only sound was occasional clang from the red ammo box that Brady had been told to carry back. 



Afterward: Since the 1990s, the US Military along with the Korean goverment began to crack down on prostitution, recognizing it for what it was. I saw the prostitutes in Itaewon decrease from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s until they were almost gone entirely. Historically, many of the girls at the clubs were third daughters or unwanted daughters and given over to a mamasan for a sum of money that they would then have to work off (see the buying out term above). The mamasan, or Hajima, ran the club and ensured that the girls were paid for their time. I was 19 years old when I was first stationed in Korea and didn't know any of this. It was only later that I learned. I actually bought out the contract of one girl, hoping to free her from the club system. But when it became clear that I wasn't planning on spending my life with her, she went back to work at the very same club. It was a different time. For more information about the history of prostitution in South Korea, go here.

And what became of Brady? He stopped going out to the 'ville entirely after that.





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