"We aren't prepared for this"
The U. S. Air Force C-130 is a flying workhorse. Passengers sit in seats made of nylon netting and cargo is stowed in the middle of the aircraft. Many people have difficulty sleeping on a commercial airliner, but give me the hammock-like seat of a C-130, let me listen to the loud drone of its engines for a few minutes and its off to dreamland. The engines are quite loud, making conversation difficult. Since none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into and no one could talk over the sounds of the engines and be understood, most of the passengers on our flight rested or read during the entire trip.
It was a star-filled night when we left Panama's air space. The fact that the mission we were embarking on was undoubtedly one of the most unusual in the annals of military history added to the uneasiness one feels when it is dark and the senses are handicapped. Nothing could be seen outside the aircraft except blackness and the noise of the engines made communications next to impossible. I guess it was one of the few times in my Army career when I truly felt like a mushroom: kept in the dark and fed bullshit. Only this time, we didn't even have the B.S.
The sun was a thin red line on the eastern horizon when we arrived at Timheri Airport near Georgetown, Guyana. Even though we were tropical soldiers stationed in Panama, the stifling heat of that South American country was somewhat overwhelming as the Air Force crew opened the huge back hatch on the aircraft. Unlike Panama, the rainy season was in full swing in Guyana and the humidity was overwhelming.
Upon disembarking from the Hercules C-130, we were assembled in what was obviously an unused terminal building. One look across the expanse of runways, about half a mile away explained why: a gleaming new terminal could be seen on the other side. I do not know if we were purposely segregated from the civilian population of Georgetown, but in a briefing given by Colonel William Gordon, our task force commander, we were told that any place but where we were now was off limits. We were especially forbidden to go anywhere near the civilian terminal across the tarmac and were not allowed to speak with anyone not associated with the operation.