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.