Feelin’ alright in Jamaica

Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard, C.D.

I think it was 1969 that word came down from the top that the battalion was going to fly to Jamaica for a month of jungle training. This was during the month of March, as I recall.
After all the paperwork was done, we held QM parades to issue jungle gear, suntan lotion, and anything else the army felt we would require.
You won’t believe the job that was set aside for me! Bobby Somerville and I were to run the wet canteen under the supervision of Sgt. Joe Crosky. No climbing mountains or sweltering in the jungle for us.
Anyway, we trucked to the London airport and were loaded onto Hercules aircraft. Man, Oh Man! They are a beautiful piece of military equipment. We were seated in bucket seats along the walls, as in the centre were vehicles and other gear. We had a super flight with good weather. Over Florida, the pilot took the plane down so that we could see the coastline and all the sandy beaches.
Arriving in Jamaica, we were greeted at the Kingston airport. Because of an upcoming election, no one was allowed to go into the city (too much trouble brewing).
We were marched to awaiting Buffalo aircraft, which are a smaller version of the Herc, and transported over the mountains to a banana plantation in the northeast sector of the island. The Buffalo can land on a very short runway, which it had to do.
The plantation, we were told, belonged to a Canadian who allowed the government to use it. Our tent was situated under palm trees right at the edge of a beach. What a great spot. I had only seen places like this in the movies.
If we wanted to go to town, we had to get a pass and hop a truck to Port Antonio, which was only about a half hour drive. Bobby and I had to go there a few times to pick up supplies of ice or dry-cleaning. There was generally a cruise ship in the harbour. Some of the guys had a field day as shopkeepers took Canadian Tire money at par.
That month was probably the easiest and most relaxing during my career. We were not very happy about leaving, but could not complain too much since we had missed a month of Canadian weather. Most of the guys had acquired a pretty good tan and looked relaxed.
The army in those days was a pretty good experience. Next up: getting ready for a second tour of Cyprus.