Friday, May 20, 2011

Vietnam -- Beyond The Call of Duty

I don't think this story would be complete without including what I really did between the hours of 8pm and 2pm.

Aside from doing all the things mentioned previously in The typical daily routine, my 8pm to 2am time was devoted to flight line and Tactical Operations Center (TOC).

My volunteered routine included making sure the generators were had plenty of fuel, fresh hot coffee was available, all the maintenance paperwork including the flight log books were correctly filled out and the 2 minute section was ready to go when the time came.

To sum it up, I added to the positive morale of the unit. Wasn't really my job to do it.  I just did it.

When all of that was done, I simply bathed in the sights and sounds around me. I smoked my pipe, listened to the crickets, and the bull frogs, the sounds of helicopters starting up and enjoyed the cool air.

Songs sometines filled the night air mixed with laughter. The smell of beer mixed with stale breathing sliced calm and diced to pieces any thought of tranqulity. There would always be a fight.

At best, someone would lose a few teeth or have a black eye in formation.

At worst, a lone rifle would echo out the moment of truth like a firing squad.

If the wind was blowing at just the right angle, you could hear some one's record player or radio pounding the transparent air with off balance and loud base tempo.

As well, many nights brought the night alive with the gritty howling of a generator, a mad minute and insane mixture of popping flares, cracking M16s, thumping quad 40s and whatever else the outside parameter was going to light up the night with.

Occasionally, not often, you would hear the throaty sound of the Cobra's rotor blades and know you were in for a real treat. Nothing like seeing a night time fire mission up close and personal.

A Cobra was like an angel on a mission of rapture. Solid lines of hot mini gun ammo tracers, the whoosh of the rockets and that pop pop pop sound of a 40mm grenade launcher. Thunder from the sky with no storm in sight.

It was, indeed, a spectacle.

I came to realize that what I all of what I was hearing,seeing and smelling was the serenade of life and death.

But most of the time, I made sure the two minute section was ready to go when called for, our operations officer had plenty of coffee and there was enough guys up on the second floor to play four man ping pong.

I learned a lot about ping pong from a Japanese Warrant Officer who had a wicked slice.

But when a fire mission did occur, I was out there untying the blades and making sure everything was working as it should.  My other responsibility was to alert the 5 and 15 minute sections that they had just been bumped up a notch and then worked with the crew chiefs to perform last minute maintenance checks of the helicopters.

Around 01:30, when no one was around, I went back over to my hooch, grabbed my soap and towel and went over to the shower area and took a shower.

It wasn't that I was too good for everyone else or that I simply wanted privacy. It was a fact that this sexually abused child felt uncomfortable around a bunch of naked men who knew nothing about shame.

By 02:00, I was back in my hooch and sound asleep.

It would all start again at 06:30.

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