What Am I Doing Here? Viet Nam Map
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It was 1964 and I had a real problem getting a job because I was draftable so I decided that if the my draft status was keeping me from a job, I may as well go in the service and get that out of the way.  There was this action starting up in Viet Nam and the Army was looking for people to be helicopter pilots.  Since I grew up with the Whirlybirds TV show, I thought that might be an interesting thing to do.

The Army recruiter pointed that that I would have a better chance if I went in for helicopter maintenance and then apply for flight school.  So I entered the Army in March 1964 and went to Fort Leonard Woods Missouri for Basic Training.  There was the Airborne Indoctrination session after which the CO went to each person and asked, "Why are you here?"  To every person, after they stated what occupational training they were in for, the CO said that the person should go to Airborne instead.  That is until he got to me.  I said helicopter maintenance and he said, "Son, you are going to helicopter maintenance school and then to Viet Nam."  No Airborne for me.

So off I went to Fort Eustis Virginia for MOS 640B Cargo Helicopter Maintenance Training.  At the start of school, it was stated that the First in Class student gets his choice of assignment.  Since I was in this to go to Viet Nam, I worked hard and finished First-in-Class.  So Stan Frieberg and I went to Germany and the rest of the class went to Fort Benning to start up the First Cav.  So much for Army methods.

As I arrived in Germany, I put in for Helicopter Flight School, OCS, and to go to Viet Nam to cover all my bets.  Life was not bad in Germany.  I was stationed at McCully Barracks, Wackernheim.  The quarters were WWII German barracks that were really not bad compared to Fort Leonard Woods and Fort Eustis.  Tests were taken but not much else happened.  In October 1965, after about a year, the First Shirt called me into the office and said, "Pack you bags son, you're going to Viet Nam."

The orders I received were very simple.  There were two paragraphs.  The first said to go to Rein Main AFB and get on a MATS Flight to New York.  The second paragraph said to arrive in Viet Nam wearing Khaki uniform.  I was to report to the 390th TC Detachment. That was the total detail.

So I went to Rein Main AFB and the MATS Flight I was supposed to take was cancelled.  So they put us on a civilian TWA flight to New York.  We arrived in New York, as since most of the Army personnel were being discharged, we all got on a bus to an Army base just out side of New York.  When I arrived there, the Sergeant looked at my orders and asked, "What are you doing here?"  I replied that I didn’t know and asked what should I do.  The Sergeant said go home on a leave.  The Army would call me.  So I went home.

I was home for about two weeks and I went down to the recruiter and asked him what I should do.  He said I should just wait for the Army to call.  As I approached 30 days, I called the recruiter and asked that if someone were going to Viet Nam, where would he go from shipping.  He said Oakland.  So instead of waiting for the Army, I got on a plane and went to Oakland.  When I arrived, the Sergeant looked at my orders and asked me "What are you doing here?"  He checked and found that there was no 390th TC Detachment in Viet Nam.  I said the orders said I was supposed to arrive in Viet Nam so I should go there.  So there decided to send me to Viet Nam even if they were not sure where I was going.

I arrived at Camp Alpha in Saigon and showed my orders.  The Sergeant said, "What are you doing here?"  Seems I have heard this before.  They checked and said there was no 390th TC Detachment in Viet Nam.  After a few days, I was shipped to Nha Trang to the 339th Maintenance Company.  The Sergeant looked at my orders and said, "What are you doing here?"  I told him I was not sure but I guess I was there because the numbers were almost the same (390 339, pretty close for the Army).

The 339th was well established.  There were barracks and hangers to work in.  It was almost like Germany except for the heat.  I worked for the 339th for two months.  Then I was sent to Phan Rang.  So far I have been to places with concrete runway airports, barracks, and all those other amenities.  Phan Rang airport at least has a PSP (Pierced Steel Plank) runway and parking area.

So I asked where the 390th might be and they pointed down the road.  As I entered the compound, I saw GP tents and not much else.  I had asked for this but I am not sure I was ready for a camping trip.  I said to myself, "What am I doing here?"