Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I Really Did In Vietnam -- Part 6

By the time I left B Battery and went to Battalion for my new job as a stringer, Firebase Ripcord had just happened and the focus was on awards and decorations. So, the first day was an interesting one to say the least. We flew up to Camp Evans where I took an image of an OH-58 being flown back from Ripcord under the belly of a CH-47. I also took some images of the officers being given awards during the awards and decorations ceremony.
When I returned I found out that SFC Ford would be my new boss.
Of course, SFC Ford, like Valentine, thought he owed me. I don't know why I was assigned to S-3. All I know is it wasn't me how showed him the errors of his ways. It was Command Sergeant Major Jones.
One thing you learn real quick is you don't mess with a Command Sergeant Major.  Especially one by the name of Jones. CSM Jones was a burly black man who loved to find stuff that wasn't secure and would take it and make it his.
When this happened you learned really quickly to secure your equipment and more importantly,  when it is your camera.
When Jones found out that Ford had me doing things I wasn't there to do, Jones made sure that would not happen again.
There was also an awkward time when I was between orders.  I wasn't exactly the Battalion Stringer just yet. And a lot of things can happen in just a few short weeks,
One day while walking over to the photo-lab -- I learned how to develop my own film and make prints there -- I spotted a General Officer and asked if I could take his picture.  He went into a pose and that was the first image I had of General Sidney Berry.
I should point out that while I was the Battalion Stringer, I still had to perform duties for B Battery as well. So on this day, as I begain to walk back over to the unit, a pair of 122 rockets were fired at Camp Eagle and I had to run almost a quarter of a mile.
Craig Gies was outside my hooch honking his horn. He was not happy that I wasn't there to drive him around.  We were both assigned to the ready reactionay force around our inside paramater.
Like I'm going to know when incoming rounds were going to come in and be there.
"Where the hell were you?"
"Sorry sir, it won't happen again."
"Dam straight it won't. Hop in."
So he drove me around. I think everyone thought it was funny.  Except me.
"Sir, I don't think that was the last of the rounds we are going to see tonight."
"Gut feeling."
"Then I'll keep the jeep up close to me...just in case you aren't around."
So, we parked the jeep. And I walked back down to my hooch.  Didn't take my flack jacket off.  Had my gun to my side. I sat on my cot and waited and waited and waited. Around 9:50 two more came in.  The sirens wailed.  I waited around 2 minutes.  Nothing happened. So I began racing my way up to the jeep.
One last rocket was about to knock me backwards.  I watched it blowup behind one of our Cobras.
I got up and raced over to the jeep. Hopped in and started it up.  It was my time to honk the horn.
Craig came out with a matress over his head.
"Damn that was close."
"Yes sir."
"Where did it hit?"
"I know exactly where it hit."
"Be out in a minute."
He got into the jeep and I showed him where the round hit.  There was the sound of a shovel as Joe Maxsom was throwing dirt on the JP4 that was leaking from the ruptured fuel blatter. We were both staring at the hole in the ground where the round hit when the Battery CO came up and  smiled at us both.
"Dam that was close. Shrapnel was hitting my hooch.  Where did it hit?"
"We both looked down. The smell of JP4 hit the CO's nostrials. In a fit of rage, he threw down his helment.
"Dimmit! Not another one!."
Craig and I looked at each other, got back into the jeep and ran along our interiror parameter. The next day, we a UH-47 Chinook sling loaded the crippled Cobra off the El Toro pad.
This night was the last time that Lt. Craig Gies and I would work together. My orders were officially in and I would have to move over to Battalion Headquarters.

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