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I was drafted two weeks after my brother was drafted.  I was to report on December 7th.  It was changed to December 8th, 1965. 

We were loaded on a private airlines and flown to El Paso, Texas.  I did my basic training at For Bliss, Texas.  They had not completed the new basic training facility when we arrived.  So we were put into the advance training facility.  This met we were bused or trucked to the different training areas.  Let me tell you when I say trucked I mean trucked!  They would load us in a cattle trailer and truck us around.  They did give us all off Christmas off if we could get a flight home.  I stayed at basic training over the holidays, just could not see burning up leave and spending the money on such a short trip.  We did our week bivouac in January.  Let me tell you it gets cold in the desert at night.  Basic training was pretty uneventful.  However I must say I met a bunch of nice people.  One evening some of us went to El Paso for a rare evening out.  We went into a coffee shop to get some coffee and a doughnut.  We were in uniform as that was the only thing we had to ware.  The man running the coffee shop would not take our money.  We then ran into one of the guys in our basic training company who lived in El Paso, he invited us to his house.  It was a pleasant change from the barracks. 

After basic training I was assigned to advance training at Fort Rucker Alabama.  This was the armies aviation school.  Fort Rucker was just getting geared up to handle the need for helicopter Pilots and Crewmembers. First level of training was on fixed wing aircraft, second level was on rotary aircraft.  During our second level of training we were assigned barracks that had not been used in centuries.  You could see through the walls.  Heat and hot water was for a coal boiled.  During the week while we were in class the boilers were stocked for us, on the weekends we had to do it if we wanted hot water.  I completed my advance training and was assigned a MOS of Helicopter Crew Chief/Door Gunner.  I made some good friends, James Keough, Larry Vickers, George Turner, Steve and Matt Amaral.  Steve and Matt we cousins who had joined up together.  I was sorry to here my friend Mathew Amaral was killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam.

After advance training I was assigned to Fort Lewis Washington.  There was a rumor that they were going to start another aviation school there.  The service is filled with rumors.  There must have been about 50 of us sent there, of course they did not have anything for us to do.  We were assigned various duties at Gray Airfield.  We cut grass, filled up aircraft, did runway patrols and many meaningless jobs.  We would catch a ride anytime we could on a any type of aircraft.  This went on for almost a year then we started to get orders.  Some of us got orders for the 4th Division, it was being formed at Fort Lewis.  They had built a complete Vietnamese Village there for training,  My friend James Keough was assigned to the 4th division.  My friend Steven Amaral was sent to Panama.  My friends Larry Vickers, George E. Turner and myself were given orders to report to Vietnam.

I had a two week leave before I was to report to Travis Air force base, for my flight to Vietnam.  It was good to see family and friends before I left.  We to report Easter weekend.  George Turner reported early to avoid Easter weekend, I did not get to see him.  I ran into Larry Vickers at the assignment depot.   I spent a few days there while they took away all my warm weather gear and gave me hot weather gear.  My parents had driven me to Oakland.

The flight over was on a private airlines (TWA I believe).  The first stop was in Alaska, there was snow all over the place.  The next stop was Japan.  I picked to a Stars and Strips paper there.  For those of you who do not know what the Stars and Strips is, it is a Army publication.  There was an article in it where they were no longer going to send anyone to Vietnam with less then one year left in the service, my luck, I had less then 8 months.

We landed at Cam Ranh Bay, when the door swing open, the heat took you breath away, of course the first words from the officer getting on the plane was welcome to Vietnam men.  We were taken to the replacement barracks.  I spent the next few days filling sand bags and getting orientations on Vietnam. 

I was assigned to the 90th Replacement Company in South Vietnam.  So I was sent to the air field to catch a flight.  I rode in the tail boom of a air force plane.  Yes I laid down in the tail boom of an air plane for my ride to Saigon.  We landed at Saigon Air base, then caught the standard transportation, a buss with wire screen over the windows.  The 90th Replacement Company  had people coming and going.  I spent a few days there waiting for an assignment.  I was assigned to the 334th Armed Helicopter Company in Bien Hoa.  A 3/4 ton arrived to take use to the 334th.

After arriving at Bien Hoa air base I was taken to the 334th Armed Helicopter Company.  I was assigned to the maintenance company and assigned a bunk.  The barracks were the standard open bay.  You could see all the way thru them.  The sides were slanted boards with bug screen underneath.  After about a month we all chipped in and bought beads to put up.  We divided the areas into two bunks in the beaded off area which was four men.  The center isle was also beaded off.  It did give us more privacy.  There was on refrigerator for the barracks.  Of course the NCO's had enclosed rooms with air conditioning.  The latrine was pretty standard also.  Open showers, sinks all in a line and toilets all in a line.  They were at least flush toilets and were divided off with doors.  This may sound strange but it was a luxury to have partitions and doors on the toilets.  Most of the latrines just had the toilets lined up on a wall with nothing between them.   

We paid the mamasons to clean our barracks and to do our laundry.  We also paid to have KP's in the mess hall.


 

 

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