It was a typical winter morning in the Philippines, sunny and dry, with a high temperature expected to be in the mid 80’s. The Sweaty Young Man, as usual, had been out until after curfew with his friends the night before, and was moving in slow motion, as he showered and dressed for work. Something about the mood and pace of the day seemed odd, and without giving it much thought, the SYM prepared himself for the unexpected, which of course, was to be expected.
It began with a phone call, that the customary pick up by his flight members to take them to the armory for their weapons, was canceled. Tri-Agency Patrol or Town Patrol, as most called it, was short three M-151 jeep type vehicles, as they were in the base motor pool for repairs. The normal number of patrols would be limited, and the motor pool would provide other vehicles when they were available. So the SYM had to catch a ride to the office from his apartment at Del Rosario compound, and from there they would take another patrolman’s personal vehicle to the armory. As they gathered at the office, they checked in with the grave yard shift, which was the shift they would be relieving. It had been a weird night, and morning, as reflected in the police blotter, the unofficial “pass-on” book, as well as the comments and looks in the eyes of the patrolmen. Town Patrol had three eight hour shifts, like so many other organizations, only structured differently, due to the times of day and night when activity was at it’s highest. The day shift was from 10a.m. to 6p.m., swing shift was from 6p.m. to 2a.m., and the graveyard shift was from 2a.m. to 10a.m. Town Patrol had to deal with a crime rate equivalent to Chicago, on a per capita basis, and this included the same types of crimes, as well as the same cause of most, drugs, alcohol, poverty, and testerone.
After relieving the graveyard shift, the normal calls started coming in, as people awoke to find items missing from their houses or cars, disputes of all sorts, and of course car accidents. When the day shift had taken charge of the office, they had been informed that a call had come in from a hospital in Dagupan that was unclear, but concerned a Filipina dependent wife of a member of the USAF. The long distance call was a bad connection, the caller didn’t speak very good English, and there were no native speakers at the office, when the call came in, so the day shift was given a heads-up. Not long after the shift began, another call came in from the Command Post, informing them of the incident in Dagupan, and that the dependent wife had been injured in a car accident the night before, and was admitted into the hospital in Dagupan, with unknown internal injuries. As Town Patrol was responsible for that area of the Island, with any incidents involving U.S. government or civilian personnel, TP was ordered to proceed to the hospital, and escort a USAF ambulance from the Clark AB hospital. They consulted with the NCOIC, and he with the Squadron HQ, as they were already short three vehicles, and would be leaving the office short four vehicles, as this was going to be an all day road trip. More than an hour and a half up, conduct an accident investigation, and escort the ambulance back. It was determined, that the only option was for the SYM, and Sgt. DeLeon, of the Philippine Constabulary(PC), to ride with the ambulance, and at some point, have the ambulance drive them to the accident scene, to conduct the investigation. The ambulance was ordered to the TP office, and they proceeded to Dagupan, as quickly as they could, which wasn’t very quick. The main highway through Luzon island was MacArthur Highway, a congested two lane highway, which combined with the unorthodox traffic customs, made for some interesting traffic maneuvers, especially when accelerating the big block 455 cubic inch Oldsmobile V8, on the long wheel base 1971 Oldsmobile ambulance. It was one big blue bomb, with a red “gumball machine” on the roof, and passing other vehicles was almost too challenging for the young E-3 ambulance driver, who had only been on the island for a few months.
After the tiring trip to Dagupan, the hospital was located, and they found the young woman that had been injured. Everyone at the hospital was gracious and helpful, and wanted to speak English, but things went much more smoothly when Sgt. DeLeon spoke to them in Tagalog. It was learned, shortly after they made contact with the doctor in charge, that the patient they had come for was about to be taken in for exploratory surgery, as they couldn’t determine the source of her bleeding. The medic in charge freaked upon hearing this, and stated they needed to take her out of this hospital and get her back to Clark as quickly as they could. The SYM was not happy. Not only was this woman’s health in jeopardy, but it meant he wouldn’t be able to conduct the investigation he was sent to perform, and that he wouldn’t be able to talk with the tall gorgeous nurse that was showing interest in the SYM. As the SYM realized that getting her to the Clark hospital quickly was the correct thing to do, he reluctantly agreed. The SYM looked into the beautiful dark and deep eyes of the nurse, and informed her that he must leave, to which those gorgeous eyes revealed disappointment, while her soft sweet voice said goodbye.(*sigh*)
The medic in charge stayed in the back with the patient, monitoring her vitals, while the other medic drove, Sgt. DeLeon rode “shotgun,” and the SYM rode in the middle, and since this was now an emergency, they were now Code Three…lights and siren. The big 455ci V8 rumbled along when it could, as they weaved in and out of traffic, getting stuck behind long trailers carrying sugar cane, and watching the gas gauge needle fall every time it accelerated to pass. The SYM was manning the “Federal System” or the electronic siren, with the varied tones, and he played it like a Moog synthesizer, making the high pitched electronic sounds as frightening as possible, gaining maximum impact on those who needed to be passed. The ambulance was rolling along , making good time, though they were all becoming fatigued from the days events, and the tense Code Three ride back, when they came up behind a sugar cane trailer, that wouldn’t cooperate or respond to the emergency signals. The trailer kept the ambulance tied in traffic, unable to pass for more than a mile, when it could have slowed down numerous times, to give them the room they needed to pass safely. Finally, they were able to pass, with a long stretch of highway open ahead, but as they were passing the cab of the truck, Sgt. DeLeon told the driver of the ambulance to slow and stay even with the truck. As they got even with the truck cab, Sgt. D leaned out of the passenger window, as the SYM grabbed his belt. Sgt. D was yelling at the driver of the truck in anger, and as he did, he took his vintage WWII U.S. M1a1 Carbine, and shoved it into the drivers face. The last they saw of the truck, it was headed off the road into a rice paddy. Laughter erupted throughout the ambulance, as the respect the SYM had already had for Sgt. D was observed and shared by the medics. Sgt. D was a warrior, a twenty year veteran of the PC’s, he had helped find Japanese soldiers hiding in the jungle for the G.I.’s when he was a kid, and had fought the Muslim and Maoist terrorist, all over the islands. Sgt. D was a trusted friend, a quiet and wise man, but one who would not tolerate people behaving badly. The SYM knew he would not have shot the truck driver, but the truck driver didn’t know.
After arriving at the main gate of Clark AB, the ambulance dropped the SYM and Sgt. D off, and proceeded to the hospital. The dependent USAF wife would recover from her injuries without surgery, and be able to return to Dagupan to finish visiting her family, before returning to Germany, where her husband was stationed.
The SYM returned to the office, made his official report, including notificatons in the chain of command, and would spend weeks defending his report, after it was kicked back several times for being an incomplete investigation. It took a personal interview with the Base Commander, to put the matter to rest, as it wasn’t possible to return to the scene of the accident, or find the pertinent witnesses, with so much time passing since the accident.
There would be other road trips for the SYM, but none as arousing, funny, noisy, or tense as the road trip to Dagupan.
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