Moatengators; remember Venado DZ?

| February 2, 2009 | 258 Comments

Moatengators

I know there are some old Moatengators out there from A Co. (ABN) 3/5th Infantry and later from the 508th PIR who were stationed at Fort Kobbe in Panama and became intimate with navigating through Venado DZ’s twelve foot elephant grass at the end of the Howard AFB air strip.

Some pictures I lifted of Venado from someone’s webpage;

Well, I went out there yesterday to reminisce about the old days. Here’s what the leading edge of the DZ looks like now;

It’s kind of a strip mall of tourist stores with a few bars (yeah!) mixed in. The place we went to eat had great chuletta (pork chops) .

For those of you that don’t know the stories about Venado DZ, I’ll fill you in. The aircraft would approach from the south (over the Pacific) and the light would go green as the plane crossed over the beach. Inevitably, the first jumper would end up in the ocean. Since the Bay of Panama is reputed to have about 1000 sharks per square mile, there’d be a rescue team in the ocean in a row boat (usually dirty, nasty legs from one of the other companies) who would take their sweet time rowing the boat over to the panicky jumper. If a shark did show up, they could use the oars to drive him away. You think I’m joking, right? It was so common for us to land in the ocean, we practiced Huey jumps into Gatun Lake (super-Hollywood; PT shorts and T-shirts and jungle boots and no equipment). That way we’d be able to practice not drowning without the added feature of shark attacks.

We’re talking about an airborne company that used to jump with their mascot – a live Panamanian crocodile (cayman) wrapped in a mattress cover and strapped in under the reserve parachute of a volunteer NCO. We had a gator pit (built with “volunteer labor” from the extra duty personnel) alongside the company’s barracks that was home three caymans when I was there.

The patch in the picture at the top of this post was worn on the left pocket of our jungle OD’s.

Category: Historical

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  1. carl nephew says:

    Williams, Nephew here would love to get a copy of those photos. contact me at shepneph04@aol.com Hey! how many guys here plan on going to the reunion Aug 1 in Colo. its posted on Facebook. I plan on going. Hope to see you guys there.

  2. John Ochranek says:

    Moatengator from ’73 thru ’77. Actually started out as a Bandidto (there were no slots in A Co). Arrived as a SGT and left as an E6, then on to flight school. I was mainly the Training NCO in HQ Platoon for our CO CPT Harris. Who remembers 1SG IJ Elder? Or when LTC Tuhoy got relieved in the field by BG Richardson? Many great memories. I have many pictures, old jump manifests with names, ranks and SSNs, used Moatengator patches. Would love to get in touch with old Moatengators from the same time frame.
    Tony Alger. I remembr you. Many of the names you mention. Cooley, Tischman, Vangrinsven, Highsmith, Pachulio, Honaker, etc. I could go thru all the copies of the Jump manifests I have and name drop everyone. Wonder where everyone is now? I completed 37 years and retired as a CW5 in ’07.
    Not too many replys in my time frame. Some great guys and great memories.

    • David Srein says:

      I remember you John….Tony too:). I was there when the LTC got relieved. Donny Rogers was there, Norman Crawford and others.

  3. LOL! LOL!. RB here just want to give a shout out to all my fellow Montengators Warriors!To all who came before me,and to all who came after, AIRBORNE MONTENGATORS AATTEEEENTION PREESENT! ARRMS! SSAAALLUUTE!. To my old Platoon,Sgt.Henderson,Sgt Kelcey, Dunkley,Bennet,Nechols,West,Vialobos,Felix,Owens,Tate,Sgt Buchter,Longmire,Debrey,Newborne,Sgt Revira(RIP),Blizzard,Thomson,SKI,to my other fellow 2nd platoon I do remember in memory I see your faces.Best platoon that why we went to Uss Siapan.LOL,Our Company was the BEST!

    • reggie rendon says:

      is been a long 34 yrs r.b. I remember waiting for you and Harrington that sunday afternoon on july 29th 1979, after the Nicaraguan crisis were over, you were so combat loaded you couldn’t even walk. it took a special breed of men to be a moatengator. airborne!

    • reggie rendon says:

      john call me at 361 442 7198

      • John Roybal RB says:

        DUUUUUUUUDE ! REDON hahah Good to hear from you bro..Last time I heard from you gave me a call when I got out in 83,,Thought you going to call ball back ahahahahahh I should of got your number. Good to hear from you BRO, got your number give you a call. Right on maaaan!

  4. Goodie - 11B2P says:

    I was in Ft Kobbe in 1968 when they took all airborne qualified
    and moved them to HHC for an all airborne company. Too long ago to remember names but I remember going to jump school located at Ft Sherman that was run by the 7 or 8 Special forces
    team but I can’t find out anything more about the school. In addition, I also did a couple of the drawing in the barracks in
    HHC while I was there. Anyone know anything at all about the jump school let me know.

  5. Goodie - 11B2P says:

    To correct previous statement. I was in HHC when they moved everyone on jump status to A co to form an all airborne infantry unit to train to be a ready action strike force. Most of the troops were Viet Nam vets including NCO’s and Officers.
    We did some jumps, practice some riot control for our panama friends and lots of jungle training and did a couple of aggressor duties at the Jungle School. And in Dec 68 I got orders for Nam and ended up with the 3/506th Airborne/ Air Assault 101st Division.

  6. T. Brumfield says:

    Anybody that was there about 79-80-81 Shoot me an email——lonefxd@aol.com

    • reggie rendon says:

      hey! brum how are you? I remember you and sgt daniels from the weapons plt. horse playing around lol gd ole days

  7. Dalys Guerra says:

    Is this paradise or what!!!!

  8. Larry Cicale says:

    I was with C 3/5 81-83. Here are a few other links to check out if anyone is interested. They’re on Facebook also. I couldn’t get the other Facebook link to work that Greg Griffin posted. Terry Cole, I believe we went to PNCOC together at Fort Sherman. I have a few pictures of you in the field.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/75491837480/

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/51986364285/

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/59900947553/ I posted a bunch of pic’s here while I was an instructor 87-89.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/114589775292757/ This page was merged with another back when Facebook went through some changes. Quite a few pictures here also.

  9. D. Kreeger says:

    Hey Eddie Paredez,
    I remember most of it. Was the best tour in my career. Missed you guys and all the crazy shit you all pulled. If you get this contact me. Who am I kidding I was a bit crazy myself back then.

  10. robert nagy says:

    2 of 44

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    Amanda Sandford
    10:39 PM (2 hours ago)

    to me
    I was a moatengator through 76/77. Captin Paul Harvey was CO. Can’t remember Tops name but, he was with the 172nd airborne in Nam. I was in first platoon second squad A team. Sargent Rob was my team leader. I was there when we were in the old screened in barracks, before we got A/C. Sorry but, I am bad with names but, I remember a few. I remember an old man, he must have been 30, named Charlie from Chicago. I drank a bottle of seco one night, saw a picture of his wife, said something very stupid and he knocked me out with one punch. I totally blacked out the whole situation and then 20 years later remembered what I said that night. Charlie, if you’re out there, I’m sorry. I was an asshole then and probably still one now. I remember Steven Rasowych (Raz), Skip Radux, Norman (West By-God Virginia) Ulrich. Remember him when we were out in the field everybody would run out of cigarettes and you would say “Hey Norm you got a cigarette?” and he would say “Yeah, have a whole pack.” I swear that man had nothing in his rucksack but cigarettes. When we came in from the field, even the black guys had Camel non filters. To this day, I can’t smoke a cigarette with a filter on it.

    Sometime in March, maybe April 77, we were in Garison. Most of the time we spent in the field but, this day was unusual, the uniform of the day was jungle fatigues, we got our web gear with empty mags (no amo) checked out our weapons and we wore our helmets. We never wore helmets on base unless we had riot training. We always wore our barrette. We were the only unit authorized to wear the red barrette in the entire southern command. Unless we jumped in, we always wore boonie caps in the field. We only wore our helmets on a jump or when we had riot training but, this day we wore our helmets on base. Sargent Rob took us towards Kobie Beach and we sat under some tress under the shade about one Kkick from Howard AFB’s back gate. Right where the road splits to go to Kobi or Veracruz. We had a radio with us and it actually worked. Those days it was about a 50/50 chance on the radio working. We sat around and talked about home and the RTO said “shut up some terrorist just hit the back gate, they stole a car in Varacruz, drove it through the 2 by 4 and plywood shack at the back gate of Howard airforce base, got out of the car, took the SP’s side arm, and shot him in the head and took off on foot into the jungle.” There was a request for an amo drop to send us, the moatengators, after these guys, we were left in one klick away, immediately the col. commanding 193rd infantry , got on the horn and said “negative, negative, stand down, this is an airforce problem, let the airforce handle it.” I said “fuck that”, and took off towards the back gate. When I got to the back gate, there was a dead airman on the ground, covered with plastic, some SP’s were standing around, looking worried, I said “do you have anyone in the woods yet?” They said “No, we’re about to go in.” I said “Give me a live mag.” The Sargent in charge of the SP’s was more than happy to hand me a 30 round mag. Just then, my team caught up with me. Sargent Rob jumped in between me and that live magazine, and said “We’ve been ordered to go back to the barracks.” I said “Fuck you, you fucking communist. I’m going after these guys.” Sargent Rob ordered my team to physically drag me back to the barracks. As I went kicking and screaming calling them all communists and faggots. When I got back to the barracks, I turned in my weapons, burned my weapons cards in front of the quarter master and declared “if you wont let me do the job I was trained to do, you don’t need me. As of this day I am officially a civilian.” As a result of this by May 17, the day before my 18th birthday, I was arrested and court marshaled for disobeying the lawful order and communication of a threat. I am convinced that this was a CIA operation. In response to the 1977 treaty between Jimmy Carter and Generalisimo Torrijos. If anyone has any information regarding this incident, including the name of the airman killed, the name of our col. name (can’t remember), or even the unit number of the SP’s at Howard AFB, please contact me at psycobob50@gmail.com or (239)-478-065

    • reggie rendon says:

      I never saw a woman moatengator, nor in the infantry. as for the 172nd Airborne never heard of that either maybe the 173rd airborne brigade in Vietnam, as for paul Harvey, that was the guy that was newscaster at 12pm overseas, as for the rest of the story, you tell me.

  11. John Dowhy says:

    Hey all,
    I’m checking here because I just acquired a combat knife that apparently belonged to someone in this unit. It’s engraved (A co.(ABN) 3/5 INF. SP/4 Robert D Berry) I’m trying to contact either him or his family just to make sure this wasn’t stolen or lost and they’re wondering what happened to it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Amazing to actually find something about the 193rd. Was there 6/70-10/70 after jump school at Benning. Was a medic along with Doc Morrison. Only got 3 jumps in before leaving for Nam with Doc Ortiz. Made a payday, full dress night jump, and a Huey jump. What a righteous dz. Incredible view of the ocean with prayers for good winds. Missed making the isthmus crossing. Broke my heart.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi I was a motengator and I was one of the soldiers who was assigned in building that cement pool for the gator,and I was in A Co. assigned to 1st PLT. from 1974-1976 I really enjoyed my stay there and I was very sorry to see the post was closed., because I was looking forward in returning. Plus I’m looking for another motengator patch. Thanks Roy

  14. Sarah Keefer says:

    Anybody remember SSG Keefer? A Company Moatengator 1978……

  15. Martin Vaughan says:

    I was in BN mortar platoon, HHC 2/187th. 3Jan84-29Dec86. Went to jump school at Ft. Sherman (3/7th SF ran it). Tiger Island, San Lorenzo (Hondo), Palmerola, the Rio Hato jump, Radar Hill, La Cascada, the NCO club at Howard. Lived in Cocoli with my first wife. Anyone remember CSM Jordan? LtCol Utter was the BN CO when I got there, then it was LtCol Wagner.
    Went back to Panama this past January. Went to Kobbe/Clayton/Venado DZ. Stayed at a resort right by Rio Hato no less! Talk about deja vu! Panama has changed….you should see the PC skyline now! I have pics from my trip there if anyone is interested.
    vaughan2133@gmail.com

    • Jeff Dickey says:

      I was in CSC, left in 83, I try to go back to Panama every year, yes it has changed a lot. We go down during carnival, always a good time. during my last trip some jack ass lifted my camera. I hope you enjoyed your vacation.

  16. What ever happened to China the barmaid at the Ovalo? What a sweetheart!

  17. Tony Alger says:

    Hey John Ochranek: Just read your message from Mar2013. I’m in FLA playing softball and golfing my butt off!!! but still have a place in COLO mountains. Sorry about the late replay, WO5, super job John. Did you fly or Special Forces? I’m with North Central Florida All Airborne Chapt of 82nd Airborne Assoc. DAVID SREIN still in WA? I’ll try to reply in a more timely manner next time.

    • David Srein says:

      I remember you John….Tony too:). I was there when the LTC got relieved. Donny Rogers was there, Norman Crawford and others.

      Tony, I am still in WA, Olympia now. Will retire this month from Department of Homeland Security. Retired from the Army in 1991.

      If I remember correctly Lanny Cardona was the CO Cdr during 1974. I think Norman C and John Dengerud went to Delta during the 80s.

      I remember Mike Pachulio

  18. Hollinrake says:

    Hey massengale give me a call 508 287 4570

  19. Norman Wright says:

    Hello I was there 72 74 in supply with SSt mitchell, anyone remenber capt boreson. Any old gators are welcome to reply

  20. Mike Pachuilo 74-76 says:

    Roy, #214
    I was in 1st PLT with SSG Crawford’s squad until I made E5 and went to 3rd PLT as a squad leader, with SFC Lewis. Played softball, flag football and hung out with FM, Aiken, Ranger Huff and all the other cazy guys. We put on a show one night at some club. Great times playing tennis, going to the beach and downtown to the Ancon Inn and Napoli’s. Airborne!

    • David Srein says:

      The Ancon Inn was awesome. The Dairy Queen just up the street had great milkshakes. Had my appendix removed at Gorgas in 1973. I remember going to Rio Hato for training and cutting fresh sugar cane. The beaches there were great as well as Punta Chame. Going to the town of David to visit the orphanage there and having dinner with a local family. Those were the days.

  21. Tony Alger says:

    Norman Wright were you in Co A 1-505th, 82nd AB in 71-72? Your name looks familiar. Mike Pachuilo, Crawford was my Sqd Ldr before going to 1st Plt. Taught me a lot of stuff. Believe he and Dengerud went to Delta Force. Lewis was my PSG also. Washington was 1st Sqd Ldr, I was 3rd Sqd Ldr back then. Ochranek was Ops NCO. Davis (Lizard) was 1SG and I do remember Huff.

    • David Srein says:

      C and D did go to Delta. I was an instructor at the Airborne School in 77 and saw Crawford just before he tested for Delta.

  22. C CO 3BN 508th Inf. Mar’68 to Dec ’68 spent spare time at A Co. with SSgt Geraldo Lanauze a former Ke-San survivor Vietnam Central highlands. A former K street trooper, El Rancho, The Blue Goose, Rio Abajo, El Marallon housing complex located downtown Panama. Was there for the Arnulfo Arias Up rising and riots, President LBJ trips to Honduras, Rio Hato bivwacs, guard duty at the Canal. My Plt Sgt SFC Colon from Coamo PR from the 82nd paratrooper. Anybody from my era contact me at: efrainserranorojas@yahoo.com.

  23. Wayne Golon says:

    Mark Soliday (post#200) or Bill Atkinson (post#41) check out post#17! Give me a call anytime at 407-443-8020 (cell) or 407-384-3949 (work). Would like to see if we can get some members of 76-78 Moatengators Weapon Platoon together. Look forward to hearing from you. Wayne Golon, CPL, Co A, 3rd Bn, 5th Inf, Squad Leader- 2nd squad

  24. Wayne Golon says:

    I forgot to provide my email wayne.golon@att.net (home) or wayne.golon@us.army.mil (work)

  25. Bob Berry says:

    Greetings follow Gators! Wayne Golon and I served together. During his commo check he advised about this webpage. There is Facebook pages for the Moatengators, and a separate one for Wpn Plt; if you have not yet found it.

    Can anyone assist with entry 212, contacting John Dowhy? His entry is to me, and I would like to make contact.

  26. DANIEL KNAUSS says:

    WAS A MOATENGATOR {LEAPINLIZARD} WITH A CO ABN 3/5 1972-1974.WAS 1ST PLATOON RTO WITH SFC BARRIOUS PLT SGT AND SQUAD LEADER SSGT SWEAT. WHERE ARE ALL YOU MONKEY MEAT EATIN LIZARDS!! 25 CENT A STICK ON THE STREET BETWEEN THE ANCON INN, PANAMA CANAL BAR AND THE GOLDEN KEY???? MMMM MOATENGATORS WANT SOME MEAT. WHERE ARE YOU. RICKY MACFARLAND, KEN {REDS} KIRCHNER, JOE FINCH, YOTHER AND ALL YOU OTHER LEAPINLIZARDS???? IM STILL ALIVE AND WELL, I THINK!!!! WE WERE THE BEST RUCK SACK TOTTIN SNAKE EATIN AIRBORNE INFANTRY. WE OUT RUN AND OUT DID ALL THOSE (F*****G) “LEGS” IN THE BATTALION!!!!!!!!STLL AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY!!!
    DANNY KNAUSS

  27. David Srein says:

    Tony, I am still in WA. My number is (360) 292-2513.

    • Tony Alger says:

      Hi Dave: Saw your reply. We’re headed to Woodland Park, CO. Will Call you soon. Been in Florida for the winter playing softball and golfing. We have a home in Whidbey Island. Been renting it for 10+ years. How’s your family. AIRBORNE!

  28. norman wright says:

    anyone remember greg miller, husbands, and shaffer, they were ther in 72 74 area, capt borreson sgt mitchell supply sgt, these were real moatengators

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