NOEL COWARD PURPORTEDLY wrote that song while on the road from Hanoi to Saigon while Vietnam was secure in the arms of the French colonial empire. I ran there almost every day in the midday sun while the country was locked in the grips of war.
When asked why I ran so much, I explained that if I ever had to run, I wanted to be able to run, far and fast. I was half-joking, but actually, that was a pretty good reason.
Most people were content simply to sit and shake their heads at my behavior while others made comments out of earshot. Remember, the temperature was well above 100 most of the time and the humidity made the air feel as though I was running through a thoroughly soaked sponge. The guards at the bunkers that I passed on my nightly runs along the perimeter road sometimes challenged me and I would laugh in response. If a lone insurgent had made it inside the camp and was running in a white tee-shirt and U.S. Army issue fatigue pants and combat boots, they had my permission to shoot him on sight.
One night I decided to cut across the camp using the street that delineated one edge of the airfield, and a group of mechanics working on a Huey nearby decided to encourage me on my way by tossing rocks in my direction – at me, actually. I reversed direction without hesitation and ran back to them, all in the spirit of good fellowship, of course, and they scattered. When I found their commanding officer in a hangar nearby, he seemed annoyed that I should disturb his rest with such a petty matter. (He definitely was one who put the “MF” in REMF (Rear Echelon Mother F***r.) So, I waited by the helicopter until the vagrants returned and explained the nature of their transgression. Although I was not wearing any insignia of rank, the .45 caliber on my hip might have given away the fact that I was an officer. Not too many enlisted men had them -- although from what I have seen in the news, almost all Army personnel carry sidearms these days.
I never insisted on my men maintaining any kind of physical training nor did their company commander ever make such an effort. For REMF, duties continued 12 hours or more each day, 7 days each week. There was no break such as combat soldiers might enjoy between patrols. (Note that the use of “enjoy” there is somewhat sarcastic.)There were only church services on Sunday morning for those who chose to attend and then back to work. They would never know the fun they were missing had I not written of it here.