Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I Really Did In Vietnam -- part 4


Had I known SFC Valentine had also transferred over to the B Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery (ARA), I would have definately taken SFC Saloman's offer. But I didn't know until the first day I arrived and it was too late to turn back. 

Of course the first crappy job that came up, he volunteered me for it.
New assignment riding shot gun on a trash truck which could be described as being stinky, stanky and stunky.

After you get past the stench and the humiliation. You begin to realize just how much C-4 (that's plastice explosive) was being carried by our soldiers and how much of it was getting thrown away. Way I calculated it, if the C-4 ever blew up, it would create one hell of a stink bomb.

"Ma am, I regret to inform you that your son was killed in action protecting a trash truck. There wasn't enough of him to fill a condom."

Come to think of it, riding shot gun on a trash truck did have its fringe benefits.

French/Vietnam women are living angels with devil minds.  One I rode with had a grity high pitched voice. Constantly telling me I was NUUM BER ONE.

I guess this is a good time as any to talk about sex in Vietnam and just say this now.  There was no sex unless you were gay and then you'd have to beat the refer head out of the hidden dark spots and drainage culverts. 

You could find lots of women down in Saigon but we weren't in Saigon.

Even if you could have sex in the area where I was, there were stories about men getting a sexually transmitted disease that stopped you from going home.
Consequently, some of us came up with some creative means by which we handled our sexual desires.
For example, there were places where the mud was creamy and smooth.  GOB -- aka axel grease -- worked but a safer product -- Petroleum Jelly got the job done.

But the main problem was the lack of privacy.

The hooch for the most part was an open bay area so there was no way to do anything without everyone knowing about it.  When everyone else was asleep, imagination and hands was the way you relieved your sexual tension.
With that said, after two weeks of being shot gun on a trash truck, one of my hooch buddies convinced me to talk a lieutenant by the name of Craig Gies.
Craig Gies stood straight as an arrow and was 6’2” tall.

Most of the time you expect guys his size that fit the description as being tall and athletic as also being, well, not so smart: A kind of Mice and Men stereotype.

This guy was not only a big man; he was extremely intelligent and cunning.
So his nickname “The Animal” upon first glance didn’t make much sense. That is, until you really started knowing the man.

This was the kind of leader you would not question.  The kind of man you want on your team. The kind of soldier you’d expect would become a hero.
His only flaws:
He was brutally right all the time.
He was aggressive as hell in doing the right thing all the time.
He was dedicated to pushing his soldiers under his command into rare areas of their potential they didn’t even know they could do.
He also knew poker and knew how to play a serious bluff.
So I talked to him and explained my situation.  He listened.  Then told me there was an opening for a crew chiefs job and said he would test me to see if I would be a good fit.

That took me off the trash truck duty. But I never did get the crew chief job.

The truth is, Craig Gies saw two physical flaws in me and after looking at my military test scores
he made a decision for me that proved to be another brilliant moment for the both of us.

The primary reason why I didn’t become an aviator was because of my lazy left eye.  When I get tired, my eye turns in. And I was tired that day we met.

When I’m uncomfortable with a situation or not as secure with my environment, I say stupid things, do dumb things and otherwise appear to be scatter brained.

So when he asked me where the RMI was in the Cobra. I couldn’t find it.


It doesn’t exist.

In Vietnam, Cobras were not certified for IFR or instrument flight rules flying. The radio magnetic indicator (RMI) would be in the cockpit if they were.

So, based on this Craig offered me a job as an aircraft maintenance clerk. It was better than riding shotgun on a trash truck.  So, I took it.

I worked the maintenance job during the day and the flight line at night. Between times, I learned how to play a mean game of ping pong.

We lost two Cobras and two officers in March.  The loss of two pilots and one Cobra happened the day I arrived. The loss of the second Cobra occurred when Joe Maxsom decided to land his perfectly good helicopter inside the middle of a NVA base camp. Basically, what we fondly call an idiot light came on warning Maxsom of no oil pressure.

He was asked by the Operations Officer if the oil temperature had increased and was told no.    
Because it was up to the pilot and not the Operations Officer, Maxsom elected to land the helicopter.  He just picked the wrong spot to do it.

Fred Capo had to land beside the doomed chopper and pick Maxsom and his front seat using his rocket pod wings and skids. He then dropped the pilots off in a safe location, called a medevac and went back over to where the doomed Cobra was located.
 A very pasty white Joe Maxsom jumped out of the medevac after it landed on our tarmac.

 I’m beginning to gain some respect.  Especially, my antics on the flight line. After the two minute section came in on a fire mission on late afternoon, I started to tie down the main rotor to the tail.  I turned the blades the way I was trained to do but pulled them too far. So, I had to pull the blades towards the opposite direction. There was something wrong with the engine and I pointed it out to Craig.

 The Cobra was pulled off the flight line and the damaged engine was replaced.

 I was also given the task of cleaning and polishing up a white phosphorous 10 pound rocket and stencil it with the number 2,000,000.  It was to be fired later on that month as a publicity stunt.

The one thing I learned about these rockets is that once you turn them 200 times, they are armed.
 So, I went back and forth with only one turn.
 This one still makes me laugh.
 Sergeant Valentine.  “Wow, PFC Edwards, that round looks really nice.  How many times did you turn it?”
 “You know, Sergeant Valentine,” I said as a matter of fact. “I stopped counting after 230 times.”
I looked back and the pale faced Valentine creped slowly backwards out of the room where I was working.

I loved every minute of that one.

My R&R got approved for the last week in April. So, orders came in and within a few weeks, I would be on my way to Japan and the Worlds Expo in Osaka.

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