DOGANBEY, Turkey -- Staff Sergeant James A. Brown knows apricots cause Amphibious Assault Vehicles to malfunction.
He has no scientific proof, but the section leader with Battalion Landing Team 2/2 Echo Company's AAV platoon does not need any. He has experience.
"On my first float, we had an engine blow up in one of the AAVs," said Brown. "No one could figure out what caused it. We took it apart at the very bottom was an apricot seed."
Though Brown is far from alone.
"I would say in the AAV community, about seventy percent of us believe apricots cause malfunctions to the AAVs," said Cpl. Matt O'Connor, AAV Crew Chief and Portland, Ore. native.
"Yeah, that's about right. It might even be eighty," agreed Cpl. Eric Budgett, Marietta, Ohio native and fellow AAV Crew Chief.
Truth or fiction, apricots and AAVs have a sorted history. Most accounts say that in World War II, during the Marine Corps' island-hopping campaign, a platoon of AAVs carrying supplies was shot down by the Japanese. Every AAV was sunk, and every crewmember lost his life. The bulk of their supplies: apricots. Also by most accounts, this event marked the beginning of the apricot's malice.
"I know its true," said SSgt. Joseph Landgeraf, Toledo, Ohio native and Section Leader with the AAV platoon. "When I was a rookie in the AAV community I didn't believe it, but I've seen too many things that proved me wrong."
Landgeraf said his turning point was an incident where a Marine had drank apricot juice and boarded the vehicle. Within hours the transmission died.
Apparently the power of the apricot's wrath has grown over the years. Believers say it is not only important that you stay away from apricots, but anything containing apricot extract, like most fruit drinks.
"If I know someone has been drinking something with apricot in it, I won't let them on," said Brown, who added that it takes 24-hours of an apricot-free diet until the effects wear off. If an apricot or apricot juice is applied directly to the vehicle, then a thorough cleaning should be sufficient. But Brown takes no chances.
As a joke, some Marines once sprayed his AAV with a juice containing apricot extract. Brown refused to operate the vehicle until it was blessed by a Chaplain.
"I just don't believe in it," said Cpl. David Lynn, Tompkinsville, Kent. native and radio technician with the platoon. "I think planes have gremlins and AAVs have apricots. These things are just old. Sometimes old things just break down."
Others in the Battalion are also skeptical.
"As far as I know, there is nothing linking the performance of AAVs to apricots," said CWO-2 Cannon Cargile, a weapons expert with BLT 2/2.
However, several years ago apricots were removed from the military's Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE).
"Anytime you would open an MRE you'd have apricots," said MgySgt. David Lynch, Excelsior Springs, Mo. native and Operations Chief with BLT 2/2. "Now they aren't there anymore."
A coincidence? That depends on whom you ask. Some in the AAV community believe the peach-like fruits were removed from the ready-made meal because officials knew something was awry, though no documents exist to corroborate this.
Believers within the AAV community do not need documents. They have their stories, and that's enough.
"I've seen too many things that made me wonder," said Cpl. Joshua Cartmil, Saranac Lake, N.Y. native and Crew Chief with the AAV platoon. "I don't trust apricots. I don't even eat them when I'm on leave."
"Maybe the only way to test if it's true is to throw a couple of crates on an AAV and go," said Lynn.
Not likely. Brown and his fellow AAV crew chiefs said they would rather live with their hunches.