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Vomit Machine

Heiko Tepper

I don't know how about you, but during my military service the most memorable things always seemed to happen when you did not have a camera at hand.

I used to serve in the distribution department of a German Armed Forces Logistics Battalion. Our responsibility was to ensure distribution of heavy or high problematic cargoes throughout what then (during the late 80's and early 90's) was called Territorial Command South by the German higher-ups.

As it happened, one day we had to deliver a quite huge and complex communications computer (not comparable with those lousy PC's everyone of us is using today). We had to ensure its transport from our main depot about 70 miles outside of Frankfurt to Rhein Main AB for a transport flight to Berlin Tempelhof. At Rhein Main a C-141 and the guys of (then) MAC already waited for us to load this thing aboard.

I was quite excited because for the first time of my military career I seemed to have the chance to come in close contact with my favorite cargo planes. For the Autobahn ride we chose one of our 10 ton trucks. And if this operation (loading the electronic monster on and off the truck and stuff...) already turned out to be tricky, the real problems started to surface as we reached the airbase and had unloaded.

On the tarmac, while trying to push the heavy cargo container onto one of those pallets, the computer inside the box (obviously driven by an autonomous energy system) suddenly gave weird noises. As it did not seem to stop we and our MAC counterparts started to open the freight container, and what has happened is that the giant electronic wonder had started to spit out all the roll paper apparently stored inside it. What we are talking about is not just paper, but TONS of paper.

It had crumbled up all inside the box and now gushed outside on the tarmac, because nobody knew how to stop it. After about five minutes of constantly "vomiting", the computer finally kept mum. We collected the whole paper mess around, stuffed it away and finished loading.

Since having these experiences with his cargo, the loadmaster wanted at least one of us "Germans" to accompany the flight to Tempelhof. We had to tell him that we had other orders and that, according to the Berlin Troop Regulations, as German soldiers, we were not supposed to come even close to Berlin soil as long as we are in uniform (things were very different then ...).

And how disappointed I was...I could have had a flight in a C-141!! It was not meant to be.

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