Posted by: Bob Ringma | June 12, 2011

Running the MLBU

Before we go any further, it might be helpful for the reader if I explained the basic elements in the running of an MLBU.  First, a location must be found to set the unit up.  The prime requirement is water.  Even though hundreds of gallons an hour is needed to feed the laundry and the showers, a small, fast flowing stream could sometimes provide enough water.  Reasonably level ground was also a requirement.  It was desirable to have the laundry van near the shower tent so that exchange clothing could be quickly laundered and returned to the bath unit.  Both machines needed a water intake and dirty water outlet.  The intakes were upstream and the effluent was discharged downstream through drainage ditches.  The laundry trailer and the bath trailer each had its own power plant and boiler.

Two squad tents were erected for the showers.  One was used as a dressing room and clothing exchange where soiled underwear, pyjamas, shirts and towels could be traded for clean ones.  The adjoining tent was where the 24 showerheads were located.  A parking lot was needed nearby to handle the 2½  ton trucks, which served as troop transports, and other customer’s vehicles.  The bath unit boiler could produce a continuous supply of hot water for showers.  The laundry boiler made enough hot water to wash clothes but, as I learned, it was not hot enough to sterilize medical linen.

 

blanket wash

 

Spare parts were sometimes a problem.  Parts for the laundry were never as critical as those needed for the shower trailers.  Electrodes seemed to burn out quickly.  Thanks to American generosity, I found a source for them.

The day to day running of the MLBU was in the hands of SSgt Reid and the men.  My main functions were not laid out in a Standard Operating Procedure.  Evolved through necessity, they were: locating bath and laundry sites, liaison with the OFP, brigade HQ and brigade units plus scrounging for spare parts.

The boys

 

While conscious of being an officer, I was not trying to behave according to any leadership manual.  I was learning what worked and what didn’t.  I was finding out that I had to accept responsibility and had to delegate chores to get them done. Leadership skills were slowly being acquired through on-the-job-training.

Our awareness of the difference between support troops and the combat arms was one of the things which contributed to our eventual success running the MLBU.  The infantry got the dirty end of the stick, while the support services had a relatively easy time of it.  This was not to say that the support was not needed, for it was, but it told me that everything possible should be done to help the infantry.  For this reason, I made a point of locating the MLBU sections as close to the front lines as possible.  In this I succeeded.

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Responses

  1. :
    “Our awareness of the difference between support troops and the combat arms was one of the things which contributed to our eventual success running the MLBU. The infantry got the dirty end of the stick, while the support services had a relatively easy time of it. This was not to say that the support was not needed, for it was, but it told me that everything possible should be done to help the infantry.”

    First, let me congratulate for using proper “stick” term (although cleaned up slightly for public consumption) Far too many people refer to the “short end of the stick” whatever that is, obviously confusing it with the term “short straw”.

    You comment about the combat arms guys, especially the infantry, should get priority rings very true. My son, Ian, now MGen I.C. Poulter, soon to be Chief of Programs when he returns from his secondment to Treasury Board was also the CO of 2 Svc Bn, as was I. He told me about a night on exercise when things got fouled up at a DP for one of the inf bns. He learned of it and promptly told OC HQ Coy of his bn to provide the short items to the inf unit involved. The HQ Coy was able to either make do or get replacement later that night. That inf unit loved him.

    I am enjoying your accounts of your first command.

  2. Hello Sir,

    I had the pleasure of taking the same e-Publishing course as your daughter last year (Algonquin College). She helped me so much while I was there. She also kept me in the loop about your blog and I enjoy it a lot. I have a History degree and in classes we did not talk about Canada’s involvement in the Korean War as much as the WWs.

    I have recently come back from Ethiopia and it’s the exact opposite: while I was there, I heard many anecdotes about Ethiopian soldiers in the Korean War. One anecdote was that Ethiopian soldiers were feared because ”others” thought they were cannibals, basing themselves on the fact they were seen eating raw cow or goat meat. (Raw meat was eaten that way since Italy invaded Ethiopia as a means to remain hidden from the enemy -no fire smoke-). I would love to hear if this is true, and if you came in contact with Ethiopian soldiers while you were there.

    Thank you again for this great blog.

    • Zaina,
      First of all I presume you are referring to our daughter Norah. We have another daughter, Julia, who teaches subjects in law at Algonquin.

      With regard to Ethiopians, I’m sorry to say that I never met any in Korea so I cannot attest to the truth or otherwise of the “cannibal” stories. We were mostly with the British Commonwealth and Americans but I did meet some Indians (at their Field Ambulance), one or two Norwegians and on several occasions saw Greek soldiers using the Canadian showers. While in Japan I met some Dutch sailors when invited aboard their destroyer, HNMS Van Gallen. The most memorable group from another nation was Turks. I saw what looked like a wild west rodeo going on in a field and found that it was a bunch of Turks who had found a horse and (perhaps before they slaughtered and ate it) they were riding around yelling the Turkish equivalent of “Yippee.”

      I’m glad to have you on board my blog.


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