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Posts from the ‘Amazing Stories from the Vietnam War’ Category

12
Jun

Band of Brothers

By LtCol Mike Christy-TogetherWeServed Dispatches

Once the long line of passengers ahead of me finished fumbling with stowing their carry-on luggage in the overhead bins and taking their seats, I at least reached my aisle seat near the center of the plane. I sat down, buckled in and exchanged “hellos” with the young man sitting in the center seat next to me. I then closed my eyes in preparation for my normal routine of falling asleep even before the plane leaves the ground. This day was different, however. I was too excited to sleep.

Forty-two years ago, I had met some exceptional young men. We were all part of a rifle company humping the jungles of Vietnam, including two months during the Cambodia incursion in 1970. Now, in a matter of hours, I would be seeing 18 of them at a reunion in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I knew they would have aged, but in my mind’s eye, they are still the brave young warriors who did their duty in a nasty war they didn’t totally understand. And through it all, bonded together as brothers, placing their lives in each other’s hands. I was proud to be one of them.

When the plane reached cruising altitude and the pilot finished welcoming us aboard, I began a conversation with the young man. His name was Jason, an engineer from Atlanta, who was heading home following a business trip to Los Angeles. When he asked me where I was going, I told him about meeting up with some men I served with in Vietnam. “We read about Vietnam in high school,” he said, “but I didn’t learn much. There were only four or five paragraphs about it in our history book.” That amazed me. How could a 10-year war that changed the United States in so many ways rate less than half a dozen paragraphs? I decided to tell Jason as much about the hows and whys of the war as best I understood them and what I observed from my ringside seat.

When I finished, Jason wanted to know how the men felt about the war. “They didn’t want to be there,” I answered. “They were a long way from home in a hot, dangerous place full of bad smells, bugs, and snakes. Every step they took, they didn’t know if it would be their last. Yet in spite of all the uncertainty, the camaraderie we built among each other is what kept most of us going. We had each other’s back.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a pretty flight attendant asking us what we’d like to drink. I got some water and Jason got a coke. Sipping our drinks, we both fell into silence. Soon Jason closed his eye, perhaps contemplating what he had just learned about the Vietnam War from an eyewitness. I stared ahead, lost in thought about the reunion and how it would not have happened without a website exclusively for veterans.

TogetherWeServed.com is an exclusive website where former, retired and active duty men and women reconnect and bond. It’s also a place where I met some really great people.

The first time I signed on, I was surprised how easy it was to navigate and within a couple of hours, I found six old army buddies. When someone becomes a member there are encouraged to fill out their profile page with as much personal information about their military and personal history. There are places for unit assignments, awards, schools attended and military and personal photos. To capitalize on this powerful search capacity, I filled out my profile on both the Marine Corps and Army site as completely as possible.

I had joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1956, then joined the Army as an infantry second lieutenant in 1966 during the height of Vietnam War. Following a year of selected training, I was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in 1967. My first four-month was on A-Team 102 Tien Phouc along the Song Tran River southwest of Na Trang for four months. The remainder of my tour was with Project Delta, a special operations units running small reconnaissance teams deep in enemy-held territory. Today the unit is known as Delta Force.

My second tour began in 1969 when I was a rifle company commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). In May 1970, we operated for two months in Cambodia. I retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 1984 and jumped into a career as a writer and documentary filmmaker.

With my entire military career uploaded on both my Marine Corps and Army profiles, it wasn’t long before I begin getting messages from old Army buddies, most of whom I served with in Vietnam.

After months of exchanging emails and messages over the TWS message center with Vietnam comrades, the idea of holding a reunion began to take shape. There was a lot of enthusiasm and the beginning of some planning. The final shove, however, came from somewhere else.

One day, I got a TWS message from an unknown veteran. He wrote he had been a member of our company when it arrived in Vietnam in 1965 and for the past eight years, the original members had been meeting for reunions every two years. He wanted to open up the next reunion to be held in Myrtle Beach to all veterans from all years who served in the company. I wrote back we would be there and got busy getting the word out.

Reflecting on how it all came about, I was struck by the versatility of TWS. It not only brings together long-lost friends, it’s a national archive where millions of stories and photos are posted, and with each, a lasting legacy of America’s military heritage.

Whenever I get the chance, I like to search for photos and stories posted by vets who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It never fails to amaze me the detail some of the veterans have posted. It is better than a history book because it’s personal and because of these living, breathing “scrapbooks” come straight from the gut and the heart. The postings by friends and relatives honoring the men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice are the ones that get me the most.

Somewhere in my mental praising of why I love Together We Served, I’d fallen asleep. The next thing I felt was the plane leveling off and the pilot telling us we would be landing in 15 minutes. The head flight attendant got on the horn with some gate numbers for some connecting flights and thanked us for flying their airline.

The plane landed at the Atlanta and parked at a gate. Walking off the plane I said goodbye to Jason and headed for the gate my flight to Myrtle Beach would depart. Two hours later the commuter plane landed. I called the hotel where I would be staying and where the reunion was being held. In a matter of minutes, a van picked me up.

The excitement and anticipation was growing inside as I realized that within minutes, I would be coming face-to-face with some of my combat buddies after more than four decades. They understood better than anyone else about what Vietnam meant because they were there, they shared in the experience too. No doubt Shakespeare had us in mind when he wrote in Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”.

This article appeared in the April 2013 Vietnam magazine

29
May

Military Myths and Legends: Women of the Vietnam War

By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches

It has been estimated that as many as 11,000 women served in Vietnam or in other locations, but over 90% served as nurses. Some served as nurses in evacuation hospitals, MASH units and aboard hospital ships. Others worked in support roles in military information offices, headquarters, service clubs, and various other clerical, medical, and personnel positions. Servicewomen in Vietnam experienced many of the same hardships as their male counterparts and served bravely in dangerous situations. Many were awarded personal citations.

Non-military women also served important roles. They provided entertainment and support to the troops through the USO, the American Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations. Women working as civilian nurses for USAID (US Agency for International Development) participated in one of the most famous humanitarian operations of the war, Operation Babylift, which brought thousands of Vietnamese orphans to the U.S. for adoption. Additionally, many women reported the war for news and media agencies.

Combat Nurses
Combat nurses worked twelve-hour shifts six days a week and when a mass casualty incident occurred, like a major battle, those twelve-hour shifts could easily turn into twenty-four to thirty-six-hour shifts. Nurses also volunteered their time in the communities around them, often going to the local orphanages or hospitals to offer the civilians their medical services or to teach classes on basic hygiene, first aid or even English. Nurses also had to deal with numerous emotions: stress from a number of patients they had to serve, anger at seeing young men so horribly wounded and guilt at not being able to save all of the wounded men or make them whole again.

Despite the long hours and sometimes horrifying wounds these women had to face, many nurses found their service rewarding. They were able to serve their country and save and comfort the wounded men in their facilities. During the Vietnam War 98% of the men who were wounded and made it to the hospital survived. Nurses witnessed some truly miraculous events such as men recovering from their wounds or acts of true selflessness that are common during combat situations, and many nurses made close friends with their fellow co-workers some of whom still keep in contact into the present day.

Eight U.S. of these heroic nurses died in Vietnam; six were killed, two died of illnesses. Each dedicated themselves to taking care of the wounded and dying.

See their faces and remember their names. These are their stories.

Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham, Chief Nurse at 91st Evacuation Hospital in Tuy Hoa. A native of Efland N.C., she suffered a stroke in August 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. She was a veteran of both WW II and Korea. She was 52.

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/argraham.htm
View her shadow box on TogetherWeServed: LtCol Annie Ruth Graham

First Lieutenant Sharon Anne Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Vietnam, was dedicated in her honor. She was 26 years old.

In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/nurse-sharon-lane-paid-the-highest-price-in-vietnam/
View here service shadow box on TogetherWeServed: 1stLt Sharon Ann Lane

2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba (L) of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones of Allendale, South Carolina. Both were the first military women killed in the Vietnam War. Both were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. On February 18, 1966, they were on an administrative flight to Dalat aboard a helicopter from the 197th Assault Helicopter Company, 145th Combat Aviation Battalion, when the aircraft struck a high-tension transmission line over a river in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. They died along with five other passengers in a helicopter crash including Jones’ fiance. Both were 22 years old.

They are honored on Panel 5E, Row 46 and Panel 5E, Row 47 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

View their shadow boxes on TogetherWeServed: 2nd Lt.Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba
2nd Lt Elizabeth Ann Jones
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Ann_Drazba
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=107659173 Read more »

12
May

Remains of Marine shot down during Vietnam War heading home after 48 years

A Marine radar intercept officer missing nearly 48 years after he was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War has been accounted for after his remains were found last year, the Bergen Record reports.

The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J. (left in photo) were identified through DNA tests conducted by the Defense Pow/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, the paper reported Friday.

Ryan’s plane crashed on a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border on May 11, 1969, the day before his son’s first birthday.

“I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that’s what my mom told me,” Michael Ryan, 48 told the paper. “What she didn’t tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she’d see his face again.”

His aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued.

Ryan was also shot down in 1968 over the Gulf of Tonkin but he survived that crash.

According to the Record, military investigators went to the Laos crash site in 1990 and found his plane seat.

Investigators visited the site on six other occasions from May 2012 to January 2016 to look for remains.

A lab identified the remains as Ryan’s and notified Michael last month.
The next day Ryan’s widow Judith was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.

“I don’t know, it’s strange to me,” Michael told the paper. “We’ve waited 48 years for this. And now I’m looking up at God and saying, ‘Can you give this woman a week to celebrate?'”

Billy Ryan will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, the eve of the crash anniversary.

Much more about Ryan and his family can be found at the site below: http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2017/02/24/garden-state-mind-missing-action-nearly-50-years-bogota-marine-comes-home/97424752/

8
May

It’s Only a Movie

By Al Bell

As a small boy I was terrified by Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, a comedy which featured Lou Costello in constant danger of being attacked by such horror film villains asabbott Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man. Each time Lou was in peril, I would hide my eyes, while my dad would comfort me with the words, “Don’t worry. It’s only a movie.” I soon relaxed. No one was really hurt.

In 1969, I became the senior advisor to a South Vietnamese River Assault and Interdiction Division (RAID), consisting of 21 river boats which had been transferred from the U.S. Navy’s “Brown Water Navy.” I was a Navy lieutenant, and I was assisted by about six enlisted men. We provided technical support and advice in the maintenance and operation of the heavily armed boats. We liaised with U.S. units when the Vietnamese needed air or artillery support. We also helped with logistics in obtaining fuel and ammunition.

My position as an advisor gave me a sense that I was sort of an observer of the passing scene, only becoming involved when help was needed. While I had been to school to learn riverine tactics, the Vietnamese had actually been at war for decades. I had more to learn than to teach.

RAID 72 had the job of transporting a battalion of Vietnamese marines into combat in the U-Minh Forest of the Mekong Delta. We would typically put the marines ashore at a point determined by intelligence to have a concentration of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Our boats would then move into blocking positions, while the marines with air and artillery support would attempt to drive the enemy into our ambush. More commonly, the enemy would fade into the jungle while the marines gave futile chase, leaving the boats to sit and wait for the marines to return.

tet2During Tet of 1968 the enemy had suffered so many casualties that they withdrew into the U-Minh Forest to lick their wounds and to regroup. Both the U.S. and South Vietnamese believed we had the enemy on the run. The South Vietnamese launched a “Dark Forest” Campaign to destroy the remaining enemy in that area.

Our boats carried the marines down a long, narrow canal, the Song Cai Lon. We had to fight our way down. Ahead of my boat, a monitor (a boat bristling with guns) was sunk by an IED made from a U.S. 500 lb. bomb, killing all five sailors on board.

Ever the dispassionate observer, I photographed the boat as it was sinking. After all, this seemed just a movie. There was nothing for me to do but to send a report.

Farther down the canal we bivouacked at a place on the canal shown as the village of Dong Hung. It had been destroyed years before, the villagers had been relocated to a government area, and the jungle had closed in. Still there were the 273rd North Vietnamese Regiment and thousands of VC.

The marines established a small command post (CP) at Dong Hung and the main force went out into the jungle to find the enemy. Our boats moored on both banks of the canal near the CP. My Vietnamese counterpart, Lieutenant Commander Binh, the commanding officer of RAID 72, explained to me that the plan for defending ourselves if attacked was to move the boats to the outside ends of the stretch of the canal bounding our encampment. The boats could then have interlocking fields of fire. I had been concerned that no defensive barrier had been established, nono barbed wire had been strung, nor had trees been felled to provide those fields of fire. They assured me that this would have to do since they did not know how long we would be there. I just thought about Roman Legions on the march who erected timber palisades wherever they stopped, even if it were only for the night.

I don’t recall how many days we were there while the marines were away looking for the enemy. Reports generated by me tracked Vietnamese marine movements, engagements, casualties, and the status of boats. In addition to the 110 Vietnamese sailors, there was one of my enlisted advisors, Radioman 3rd class Bruce McIver, and two enlisted advisors from RAID 74, which provided some of the boats in our group of twenty-one. At night, I would lie under mosquito netting on an air mattress and listen to the chatter on my AN/PRC-25 short range (VHF FM) radio. There were just brief communications between the U.S. Marine advisor, Maj. Mike Cerreta, and the pilot of an Army single-engine forward air control (FAC) aircraft which coordinated air support.

At about 1 a.m. on November 6, I was listening to the Marine advisor and the FAC pilot when the FAC signed off and headed for his base. That meant that there would be no further communication, so I drifted off to sleep. Thirty minutes later, I was jarred awake by explosions all around me. was2Was this just a movie? Mortar rounds were impacting throughout the CP and among the boats. Soon, it became apparent that we were under attack by a large force, perhaps two battalions (500-600 men each) armed with 82 mm mortars, 60 mm mortars, 57 mm recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades (RPG), Chinese machine guns, and AK-47 assault rifles. Swarming from the jungle, they quickly overran the CP, destroying tents, huts, bunkers, and communication equipment. The small contingent of Vietnamese marines and their U.S. advisors were forced to retreat onto the boats.

Plans to move the boats to the edges of the CP evaporated under the speed of the attack. Soon the enemy was among us, climbing on some boats with hand grenades and satchel charges. Most boats got underway from the west bank of the canal and moved to the east bank, for, although we were completely surrounded, the main force of the attack was from the west.

Maj. Cerreta retreated to my Command and Control Boat (CCB) with many Vietnamese marines, some of whom were badly wounded. The CCB tried to back off the west bank but it was tied with nylon lines to a bush on the bank. The CCB backed at full power, but it could only fishtail helplessly three feet from the bank while the enemy on the bank was raking us with rockets and small arms fire. Maj. Cerreta and I crawled to the bow trying to free the line, but it was hopeless. The major even tried unsuccessfully to shoot the line in half with his military issue 1911 Colt.45 Cal pistol.

I jumped below, fetched my Buck knife, and ran back up to the deck. We had been hit by four B40 RPGs, and the boat was on fire from burning fuel. I told Maj. Cerreta that I was going to crawl up and cut the line. Reinforcing my feeling that this was only a movie, he held up his pistol and said, “I’ll cover you!” I crawled exposed up to the bow and found a Vietnamese marine still trying fruitlessly to free the line; I shoved him aside and cut it loose. The CCB quickly moved to the east bank, only 20 yards from the enemy who pounded us with crew manned weapons from the west bank. We fired back with every weapon we had.

The fierce fighting continued until dawn. A medevac helicopter relayed a request for air support. This turned out to be Shadow and Spooky gunships, cargo planes fitted with high speed Vulcan guns. Those Gatling type guns fired so many rounds that it appeared they were pouring liquid metal on the enemy.

In the morning, I organized the evacuation of the many wounded. A man pressing a battle dressing against his belly to hold his intestines in place was begging me to get the helicopters there fast. Each time the helos approached, the VC would fire mortars at us.

After it was all over, I had fired every one of the 500 rounds of M-16 ammunition that I had. A quick survey revealed that all of the boats were out of ammunition, too. I urgently requested helo delivery of all types of ammunition. It did not arrive until the following day. Had we been attacked that night, we would have been wiped out.

Searing my soul for life is a scene from the morning after the fight. Lacking body bags, the Vietnamese had wrapped one of our sailors in a plastic rain poncho. I remember thinking irrationally as I looked at the face limned against the plastic, “He can’t breathe!” Then it came home to me — he would never breathe again! We suffered 44 killed and 151 wounded. Seventy-five enemy bodies were found.

The night of November 8, the enemy attacked again, this time sinking two boats, but we held them off again, but with more casualties on both sides. My realization at this point that this was not a movie and that I had nearly five more months of this affected me deeply. Clearly, this was serious business.

The week in March 1970 that I left Vietnam, we killed a VC whose possessions included a citation for his role in the November 6, 1969 attack on us. Unfortunately, the same firefight which killed that VC resulted in the death of a U.S. Army advisor to Regional and Popular Forces we were transporting.

Al Bell is a writer and publisher who just released his second book “Sea Story!” and Other Sketches: Memories and musings from a life of adventure. Available from Amazon.com/books (search term; “CDR BELL”). My first book, “Sea Story!” & Other Sketches, is still available there.

The book is a collection of previously published stories, essays, rants, and musings by ‘Skipper Al’ Bell, whose adventurous life has given him a unique perspective on the world. The writings range from interesting accounts of real events to humorous lampoons and fiction. Some are inspiring, while others are ironic. The gentle reader may not agree with the author on some issues, in which case the reader is almost certainly wrong. His writings are part Mark Twain, part Jonathan Swift, and a large dose of Mad Magazine. Some stories are serious and uplifting. Others reflect brooding depression. All are entertaining.

29
Mar

TCCM Dennis White U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1972-1998)

profile2Read the service reflections of

TCCM Dennis White

U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)

(1972-1998)

Shadow Box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/16048

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?

In my late elementary school years I took and interest in aviation. I would check out books from the public library and read the principles of flight and aeronautics. In my junior high years, this developed into a dream of becoming a helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Growing upin San Diego, my family spent many afternoons fishing off the rocks in San Diego bay around Shelter Island. We would drive past the Coast Guard Air Station San Diego which had its own traffic light that would stop traffic on Harbor Drive when a C-130 or old Albatross sea plane would taxi from the Coast Guard base to the international airport runways. In my junior year of high school I spoke with the Coast Guard recruiter in San Diego about my plans. But my dream of becoming a pilot was quickly squashed when I learned that my eye sight was not good enough. Undaunted, I simply lowered my sights a bit and looked to another field I was studying, marine biology. I learned of the Marine Science Technician rate in the Coast Guard which caught my attention. I joined up soon after graduating high school, taking the entrance exam in October. The recruiter called me and asked when I wanted to go to boot camp. I told him I would like to spend the holidays at home first. I arrived at the Alameda Training Center on January 2nd! By the end of boot camp, another rate caught my eye, one which was a long time hobby, radio. And there where two opening for Radioman school. One was mine!

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

Starting in junior high, I had a hobby of building Heathkit radios. I started with a simple AM/FM set, then an analog FM/VHF radio, and then stepping up to a crystal controlled VHF scanner. I also had a large portable short wave radio that I would tune in the world with at night, our aluminum mobile home awning serving as my antenna. I went into boot camp hoping to become a Marine Science Technician. But when I had an opportunity to look more closely at the MST rate, I saw that I would probably not be that happy just being someone who simply gathered info but didn’t really get into any marine research. I graduated boot camp as Hotel-83 Honorman, so I had first pick of the available schools out of my company. When I saw two openings for Radioman school, the proverbial light bulb in my brain came one, and I was off to Petaluma to become a Radioman. I never regretted that decision! My 26.5 year career took me from vacuum tubes and dials to IC chips, computer monitors, and push buttons!

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

The morning of January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger sat on a launch pad in freezing temperatures. The USCGC Dallas entered The Tongue of the Ocean off Andros Island, Bahamas for exercise torpedo drills. The Dallas had just come off a long patrol in the Caribbean. We had leftour homeport of New York a little over two months ago, and had been on patrol through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. All we had to do now was work with a navy nuclear submarine, fire off some exercise torpedoes, and then we could head for home and families. It was late morning as we headed for the exercise area, then the ship’s loudspeakers came on with “Officers call, officers call. All hands to quarters.” Strange; we usually had Officers call right after lunch. Why now? As we a gathered on the flight deck, the two gas turbines could be heard coming on line. This meant something was up! The ship’s company was soon informed of the tragic explosion of the Shuttle Challenger, and the CGC Dallas was to “proceed at best possible speed” and assume On-scene Commander for the rescue and recovery operations. The CGC Dallas was soon throwing a ten foot rooster tail of water as we left Andros Island at full speed. What followed was two weeks of long hard days and nights for the Dallas crew members. The area was soon full of Coast Guard, Navy and NASA vessels as part of the recovery operations. Plus, the area was soon further crowded my private vessels carrying news reporters and crews. It was the CGC Dallas’ job as On Scene Commander to coordinate all the efforts of not only the surface vessels, but also the numerous aircraft in the area. The bridge crew and Combat Information Center (CIC) handled the voice communications with vessels and aircraft. The radio room was busy sending and receiving long situation reports (SITREPs) every four hours. These administrative and coordinating duties were daunting enough, but the Dallas was also very much into the physical efforts of recovery. During day light hours, both of our small boats were in the water collecting the bits and pieces, both large and small, which were scattered over and ever increasing search area. All this “evidence” from both our own small boats, and other surface vessels was collected onto our flight deck. Each piece had to be tagged for identification purposes with information such as time and location it was found, and a unique number. We collected everything from booster rocket nose cones to small pieces of gold foil, plus dangerous fuel canisters. The small boat operators were “In the saddle” so long, they all soon had painful blisters on their inner thighs. As soon as the sun would go down, the Dallas would head into Port Canaveral, set special sea detail, tie up to the NASA pier, off load our days load of “evidence”, set special sea detail, and head back out to the scene to be ready to do it again starting at first light. If you were lucky, you could catch 2 to 4 hours of sleep on the trip back out to the scene. This routine went on for about 2 weeks. But despite the long hours of hard work, the extension of our already long patrol, and the lack of sleep, I never saw the crew of the CGC Dallas with higher morale and dedication to duty. Unit and individual awards from the Coast Guard and from NASA followed. I remember late one night as we were off loading at Port Canaveral, two astronauts came into the radio room as we were preparing the final situation report for the day. I only remember that one of them, Astronaut William Shepherd. They thanked us for the hard work we were doing and told us just how much they appreciated it. It was very touching, knowing that they too must have been going through a lot of emotional stress themselves.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

The same station was both – Coast Guard Radio Station Honolulu. Fondest memories: This was back in the day of open bay barracks. I was a young, single, and at my first true duty station. You quickly developed a comradery with the other operators in your duty section. We wereon the front lines in saving lives and property at sea. We received the frantic and scared calls for help from large tankers to the weekend pleasure boater. Calls came in as voice calls over Channel 16, SOS’s over CW on 500 KHz. CG Radio Station Honolulu (call sign NMO) prided itself on not missing a call for help. You quickly had to learn to remain calm yourself as you handled distress calls for fires at sea, amputated limbs, sinking vessels, and just plain scared seamen riding out a hurricane. And of course, the fondness for the duty station may also have something to do with the fact that I met my future wife while stationed here!

It was also my least favorite because of the leadership we served under. (I will not mention any names.) Our CO and XO were both warrant officers. The XO was an alcoholic. Many a time, on of the mid-watch duty section men would be called to a local bar to drive the XO home. When he was semi-sober, he a real hard nosed person, handing out extra duty hours for even the simplest infractions of log keeping. The CO either didn’t know, or didn’t care about the conduct of his XO. Oh well, you do the extra duty, say “Sir yes Sir”, and ride out the storm.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

My most personal impact of life altering events happened there at CG Radio Station Honolulu, my best and worst duty station. In our duty section, there occurred an on-going debate between two in our section who had gotten into Scientology and two of our section chiefs who were Christians. Iwould listen in on these debates, trying not to get involved. But God had other plans! The best meal in the Navy galley was mid-rations, or “midrats”. They would serve left overs from dinner, or you could have an omelet made to order by a cook that was a real master of his art! (The Coast Guard Radio Station was co-located on the US Navy Communications Station.) One night after getting off of the eve-watch, I headed to the galley for midrats. I sat down at a table with my food, and this young skinny navy dude sat down across the table from me and ask me “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just got up and left. A couple of nights later, this same navy man did the exact same thing. I never saw or heard from him again. Just a few days later, I got an invitation that no single guy living in the barracks could pass up. My section chief invited me to his house for Easter dinner, home cooked by his wife, in a house off the base. All I had to do for this wonderful meal away from the military was to go with his family to Easter services at his church. So on Easter Sunday of 1974 I found myself sitting on a pew in the Wahiawa Christian Church. My section chief, RMC Doug Peterson, and his wife Roberta, didn’t put any pressure on me by trying to “convert” me. They invited me into their home and we had an enjoyable and pleasant day. But that day was really a joy to me. I got to met people other than military types, and they were all so warm and pleasant to me. I wanted to come back! I was usually accompanied to church my one of my room mates RM3 Roy Ludwig. (By now we had moved out of the open bay barracks and into three man rooms. Whoopee!) After a couple of months of studying God’s Word with my new found friends, I was ready to make a decision which would set my course for the rest of my life. One night, while lying in my bed in our three man room, I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ. I prayed silently that night for forgiveness and acknowledged my complete surrender to Jesus. I drifted off into a pleasant sleep. Around 7 a.m. the three of us got up to get ready for the day watch. The very first words spoken that morning was from the third man in our room, RM3 Larry Dinger. Larry looked at us as we all stood there in our underwear, and said, “What happened to you two?” Roy and I looked at each other, and we both realized we had both accepted the Lord earlier that night, with our the other having known about it! But Larry knew there was now something very different about us!

Wahiawa Christian Church was a small local church. It had no baptistery, so they held their baptisms in the ocean on the north shore of Oahu. Great things were happening at this small church. Sunday filled the small church and overflow was seated outside on the lawn. The south side of the building had sliding walls that could open the whole building up. So many people were coming to the Lord that every two weeks they would have a baptism picnic on the beach, with about a dozen baptisms happening each time. Our pastor was an active duty navy chief yeoman who was soon to retire. I got baptized there in the surf that day. Afterwards everyone had a grand time with a picnic and games. Chief Peterson came up to me during the picnic and asked a favor of me. He told me of a girl who was a radioman in the navy, and she needed someone to show her around the island. As a favor to him, would I give her a call some time and show her around. I reluctantly said yes. A couple weeks later I was playing tour guide to RM3 Mary Kerr, USN. A year later we were married! A couple of months after we were married, we were going through some of Mary’s photos from Hawaii. She had taken just one picture of someone getting baptized. That picture was of me! Taken before we had even be introduced! So God took me to Hawaii to meet Him and my wife!

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 
What achievements make me proud? What do I look back on the most? It was accomplishments that I never got medals or awards for. It was the satisfaction and pride I achieved from being able to lead others that were under my watch. Being radioman-in-charge on the CGC Dallas and at CG Group Los Angeles/Long Beach. Being able to work closely with the staff at Pacific Area/Maritime Defense Zone Pacific. My pride comes more from the relationships I made in the service rather than from my own accomplishments. I tried to treat enlisted and officer with equal respect and courtesy. My son is currently serving in the Air Force, and I have many other friends from other services. And I don’t know of any better service to have been a part of were you can share such a wonderful sense of serving together. The Coast Guard was truly like a family to me.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

You should see my “awards wall” at home! It’s full of plaques and memorabilia. A great shadow box presented to me upon retirement from my shipmates and ESU Cleveland. Plaques from PACAREA, CGC Dallas, Group LA/LB, Certificates of appreciation from NASA, North Coast CPOA, our church in Long Beach, andmy diploma from the Chief’s Academy. But on top of them all, right up near the ceiling, there is mounted one small wooden plaque with a cheap brass colored engraved plate. My Honorman award from my boot camp company, Hotel 83. I received it from the hand of Alex Haley. At the time I had no idea who this man was. It wasn’t until years later that I learned of Mr. Haley. But it wasn’t who I received it from that makes it meaningful. It’s because it was the first real accomplishment I was recognized for. It represented the fact that I could rise above and face all the coming challenges of service with confidence. You just keep your head above water, your eyes and ears open, and do the best you can!

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Personally, it would be RMC Douglas Peterson who loved and cared enough about me to draw me away from Scientology into the arms of my Lord Jesus Christ.

Professionally, it was Captain Carl Luck of the CGC Dallas. CAPT Luck was a strong leader, an expert seaman, and was always very fair yet firm in his dealings with those in his command. He was a fine example of true leadership for me.

PLEASE RECOUNT THE NAMES OF FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH, AT WHICH LOCATION, AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THEM. INDICATE THOSE YOU ARE ALREADY IN TOUCH WITH AND THOSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE CONTACT WITH.
I find it curious that most of the friends I remember by name are from either my first or last duty stations. After my basic and A school training, my first station was Radio Station Honolulu. RMC Douglas Peterson was my watch section chief. Doug was a compassionate leader who was very professional on watch, but also cared enough about the young men he led. He would invite the young single men in his section over the his house on occasion for a home cooked meal and some quality time of really getting to know you. I still communicate with him, especially since he introduced me to my wife! There at RADSTA Honolulu (NMO), I still remember my two room mates, Larry Dinger and Roy Ludwig. I found Roy recently on facebook, but have not heard from Larry since Honolulu. Facebook is great! I also recently reconnected with two shipmates from CCGDNine Cleveland, my last duty station. Debi and Scott Morris worked closely with me in the communications center.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
As a new member of the watch section at Radio Station Honolulu, I soon fell in with a group of guys who shared my love of snorkeling and scuba diving. We all decided to do a night dive on the east side of Oahu. The shortest way there was driving through Scofield Barracks and over Lualualei pass which meant driving a small winding road on the base. But this road also had a legend attached to it about a ghostly specter of a female hitch hiker that would appear on the road, and then appear in your car! As we drove this dark lonely road, freaking ourselves out with ghostly stories of spirit hitch hikers and US Marines who had taken their own lives at the guard post atop the pass, we were suddenly met with two glowing eyes in the middle of the road! The horror was quickly replaced with laughter as we got closer and saw it was just a cow! The night dive went off uneventful.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

I retired out of the Ninth Coast Guard District offices in Cleveland Ohio. We moved to Spokane Washington, my wife’s home state. We purchased a ten acre parcel of land to build on which was an old alfalfa field. I took on a part time job at the local Radio Shack to help with the expenses and pay for our rental in town while the land was being prepared for our home. I stayed there five years until my wife Mary got a good paying job.

We joined a local Christian congregation at Westgate Christian Church. I have made serving at Westgate my second career. I have served there as a deacon, elder, and member of the school board. I am also the current IT Technology Leader and head sound technician. My training in the Coast Guard, both as Radioman and Leadership training at the Chief’s Academy has served me well in these positions. Serving in these areas is a true passion for me.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I currently carry memberships in the USCG CPOA and the American Military Society. They serve as my voice in Washington D.C. along with their sister military associations. I am also a member of the National Rifle Association, though not a military association, I feel they also support many of the ideals that veterans hold dear.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

Whoa! This is a simple question with a not so simple answer! I still remember the first time I went home after boot camp. I left home just a few short months after graduating from high school. When I came home after boot camp, those high school friends of mine acted and seemed like “immature kids”. Of course, it wasn’t them that changed, it was me. I had broken away from mom’s “apron strings” and proved to myself that I could make it on my own. The challenges and hardships of military life will either break you or make you stronger. I saw a few who did get broken and had to be sent home or discharged. I don’t think I was that much better than them, but by the grace of God, I was able to change and grow in the new environment of the service life. These lessons of change, growth, and personal strength have become life lessons that have not let me down. I ended up making the Coast Guard my career. A decision I have never once regretted. I can look back at my life and career with pride, dignity, and a true sense of accomplishment.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?

Get yourself in a job that you have a true passion for and you’ll never look back. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Treat others with respect and fairness. And most importantly, anchor yourself in the one true harbor of Jesus Christ.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Some of you may be like me, and not very good at remembering names after you leave a duty station. If your lucky, you may remember 2 or 3 out of every 100 you served with. TogetherWeServed puts names together with times and duty stations. When you see those names that you have long forgot, the memories come flooding back! What happened to Petty Officer Jones after you parted? Now you can find out. But first you have to sign up! (But there’s no recruiter lies!)

22
Mar

SSgt Walter Madden U.S. Air Force (1958-1966)

profile1Read the service reflections of

SSgt Walter Madden

U.S. Air Force

(1958-1966)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/164873

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?

The decision was made while I was still in high school. During my junior year, the Air Force invited our Scout Troop to Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Md. We were taken on a tour of the base and fed in the mess hall. But the biggest thrill of the entire trip was when they flew us around in a C-130, allowing each of us on the flight deck where we could ask questions. When we landed, I was hooked! I wanted to fly! I set my mind on getting good grades, going to college during my junior and senior years of high school, all to qualify for pilot/navigator training.

Most of my senior class had plans of going to college, but I couldn’t afford to go. So certain of my plan, in the middle of my senior year, I went to Philadelphia’s All Services Induction and Physical Center and signed up for the Air Force program of induction right after high school graduation. I even took the tests and physical so I could go straight to training.

That is when the first setback occurred. The doctor noted that I had asked for pilot/navigator training and said that I had failed the physical. My two right shoulder operations (one while an infant, the other at three years old from a car accident) had left me with an inability to turn my head to the right far enough to look over my right shoulder, a necessary requirement for flight training. I still wanted to fly, so I went ahead with my enlistment. I graduated high school on June 10, 1958 and within two days, I was in Lackland AFB, Tx. to start Basic Military Training.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

During my little over eight years in the Air Force, I had many jobs, some better than others. Of course, my training began with basic training. As we rolled off the bus for our first day on the base, I found that the Training Instructor (TI) was yelling at everyone but me. This was because of my years in the Boy Scouts, I knew what was meant by hurry, fall in line and stand at attention, stop looking around and so forth. I also already knew most of the marching and parade commands since I had instructed other scouts in these same things.

The TI asked the group, “Any of you had any college?” There were only two of us who had, one tall young man who looked older than the rest of us and myself. He made us the Flight Leader and Assistant Flight Leader, respectively.

Most of the young men in my training flight were Southern farm boys who struggled with learning the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the chain of command. I’d been ordered to teach those in my bay in the barracks. However, they had very little trouble with the physical and marching part of the training except with the sweltering heat, which bothered all of us. It was so hot on the day we were at the rifle range, the TI’s took each of us off of the range as soon as we’d qualified. Only the those going into the Air Police (AP) were required to remain for Marksman, Sharpshooter, and pistol qualifications.

We were given a battery of tests at the Philadelphia Induction Center. I did well with the electronics test with a score of 80. I figured if even if I couldn’t go to flight training, I would qualify for a flying job in Electronics. But I was wrong again. I was told that Electronics was not what the Air Force needed. I was also given the Radio Operator Code Test but I purposely did poorly so I would not be forced into a job listening to code all day long. Eventually, I was assigned to “General” which gave me a choice of Air Police, cook, or medical. Since I was always good at first aid in Boy Scouts, I took medical.

After Basic Military Training I was sent to Basic Medical School (on the ‘other side’) of Lackland. The 8-week course was exceptional and I learned a lot. I had made a good career choice. After graduation and a week on casual status, I was assigned to the Air Force Headquarters Hospital at Andrews AFB, Md.

My first assignment was as a Psychiatric Technician with Medical Air Evacuation Unit. I was given the responsibility for moving patients from incoming aircraft to the hospital or from the hospital to outgoing aircraft. Apparently the reason I was assigned to this unit was to be available to help with any incoming or outgoing patient showing signs of psychiatric issues.

My shift was 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off. On my days off, I mostly spent taking classes at the University of Maryland. I used the time between flights coming and going to study my college course home work. The great thing about the job, however, was I got to fly some of the patients to their new hospital or from their old hospital back to Andrews. Shortly after I got married and about eight months into this assignment, I was transferred to the Hospital Psychiatric Ward, where I found I enjoyed working with the patients.

While I enjoyed my work, I came to realize promotion possibilities were slow in the medical field. That’s when I started looking around for a career field that had higher visibility for promotion. I discovered the Air Force was looking for Manpower Engineering people so before reenlisting for my second tour, I switched to the Manpower Management Technician career field.

I was sent to Rock Island, Ill for Engineering School and soon got overseas orders for either Lakenheath AFB , United Kingdom or Bitburg AFB, Germany. I took Germany. The three year tour requirement for a married airman forced me to extend my current enlistment beyond eight years.

My assignment at the 36th Air Base Wing was that of an instructor for the 50 hour Air Force Leadership Course. The students in my class were senior NCOs and officers through the rank of Lt. Col. What amazes me about the whole experience is, I was only a Senior Airman (E-4) and yet all those high ranking students respected me because they knew I knew what I was doing. Later I was transferred to manpower management at the 7101st Air Base Wing for the United States Air Force Europe out of Wiesbaden, Germany. I also made Staff Sgt.

I was still in Germany when it became apparent I needed to leave the Air Force. My wife at the time hated the Air Force and hated Germany even more. Also, I was having severe problems with one of the officers I worked for in the Manpower Detachment. So with eight years, one month, and seventeen days, I came back to McGuire AFB to be discharged, which was maybe the biggest mistake I have ever made.

After my discharge, a friend of my wife, offered me a stripe in the Army Reserves. But when my wife found out that I was considering joining the Army Reserves she threw a real fit! Looking back, however, the marriage only lasted 5 more years and then I met the love of my life and at this writing my second marriage has lasted 40 years. I do not think if I had remained in the AF I would have met my wife. God works in mysterious way–and always for what best.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

The three years I was stationed at Bitburg were by far the best of my career. The winters were mighty cold there, however. Teaching the Air Force Leadership course gave me the confidence that carried throughout my entire career and the rest of my life. Even some of the best working conditions I had at my civilian jobs do not compare to this experience. The people I met there were the best (and the worst) of any place I was stationed. They all taught me how to deal with and react around people so that you get the best outcome.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

The first outstanding memory was when I was on Andrews AFB, Md. I was befriended by the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Detachment on the base. He invited me to ride along on a post-maintenance test flight. The flight took us over Eastern Maryland and before he turned back, he had the co-pilot come get me and had me sit in the co-pilot’s seat. He instructed me to turn the plane around (same plane as an AF C-124) and gave me all the altitude and headings needed to get us back. I flew it with only the altimeter and compass headings and never looked out the window. After some time he firmly said, “I got it!” I released the wheel and pulled my feet off of the peddles. I looked up and out the front windshield and we were several hundred feet off the end of the runway in perfect alignment to land. What happened next was enough to give you a required underwear change.

A few seconds after the Marine Major took control, we hit a crosswind and were headed down between the runway and the taxi way. The major corrected and put the plane down right on the runway. After we landed the major said that the only trouble I exhibited during the flight was that I did not keep the nose down. He kept rolling the nose wheel down during the entire time I was at the controls, but I was flying the plane. What a great experience!

While hardly a fond memory, I must mention what happen at Bitburg, Germany. My wife and I had been there about two and a half months and had just gotten settled into our in-town apartment. While moving stuff in, an airman from down the street came to our home. He asked if I had heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I was totally shocked and somewhat in the dark. We went back to his home and listened to the radio for a few minutes and then realized that we had better get into uniform and get back to base. We were on alert with the base on lock down for over three weeks. What a time, with little news, and no one really knowing what was going on back in the U.S.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award given to Andrews AFB Hospital in 1961. I was proud to be a part of that group. I also thought it was neat that the my first Good Conduct Medal was an Army Medal; I later received the Air Force version.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Anyone in the military for any length of time are impacted by others. But the first one I can recall is Tech Sgt. Clayton Riegel at Andrews AFB Hospital. He taught me the skills necessary to be a good Corpsman and how to care for the people with whom we were charged. They were all hurting, although not by something you could see externally, but mentally.

The second was Airman Alvin (I do not remember his last name) who ended up in our Psychiatric Ward after he had been thrown off of a high voltage utility pole after his Sgt had told him the power was off. He was in a near vegetative state when he arrived. Doctors and nurses told him he would never walk or talk again. Everyone working in the ward thought differently. Day and night, we all took turns caring and feeding him. Most of us being about this Airman’s age, we interacted with him to encourage him to do more and more. Long story short and against all odds and many long months, Airman Alvin walked out of the hospital talking to his parents. I have never seen the courage and determination that Airman Alvin displayed by anyone before or since.

Finally, there was Master Sgt. Jim Bratton. A practical man, he made sure the first things I did arriving overseas was to get my family there and settled. He rightly figured I would learn my new job more completely and quickly if I knew my family was settled. He helped me to understand what was important for both the Air Force and my personal life.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I had rich and varied career after leaving the Air Force, beginning as an management engineer for United Parcel Service (until the Teamsters Union went out on strike and closed down Eastern Pennsylvania).

Other jobs I held was an engineer for ACME Markets (American Stores) and in retail as an Operations Manager for J. C. Penney Company where I was in charge of all the credit, accounting, receiving, cashiers and both internal and external security. This was a lot of responsibility for a young man of 27 years of age. It is doubtful that without the experience the Air Force had given me, the success I enjoyed would not have been mine.

I returned to engineering at The Hartford Insurance Group in both the Claim Department and as a project manager in the Operations Department. I was responsible for seven to fourteen projects at the same time, making sure the design, testing, and installation at each regional office in the system. My Air Force engineering training and the experience of handling a class room full of people who all out ranked me was what had given me what I needed to succeed.

Over the years there were many times I would be called into a corporate officer’s office to explain where a project was or what had gone wrong to cause the project to be delayed. These officers were pussy cats compared to the officers I had to deal with in the Air Force. This lasted over 22 years. It is also where I met the woman I have been married to for over 40 years. She and I both worked for The Hartford and both retired early at age 50 and 52 respectively.

In all of these positions the impact of my service training and my experience of interacting with people (both good and bad) has taught me some very great lessons. The most significant of which was how to handle people with whom you do not agree. It helped me work toward the position of disagreeing without being disagreeable or coming to a mutual position of “agreeing to disagree.”

After retiring from the civilian working world, I have since become a real estate broker, real estate instructor, and Real Estate School administrator after having held a real estate license in three states with lots of experience in real estate investments.

But my military training was not only helpful in my work world, it also helped me succeed as ‘Guardian ad Litem’ (GAL) for the children caught up in the Florida family court system. We represent one or more children before the family court, making sure the court makes the right decision is in the best interest of the child while the system works with parents to overcome their substance abuse or child abuse issues. This has been some of the most rewarding work I have done since I have left the service!

Much of what the military taught me in organizing and sticking with the details has helped me handle as many as seven cases at a time and still keep on top of all the issues the children are having.

Though most of the Guardian ad Litem (GALs) are woman the need for some men in the program is constant. Many times you are dealing with unruly fathers who try to bully the woman GALs, so men work out better those cases. The program phrase is It take a special man to be a GAL. I also like to remember that a man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

As a young man straight out of high school the Air Force not only set me on the right path but gave me the training and the discipline to be successful. In the military I learned how to respect other people and how to act to be respected, especially in the medical career field where compassion and caring are critical for our patients at what may well be the most difficult time in their lives. Also, the engineer training I received showed up in every work situation I’ve been in as a civilian.

What I learned in the service about dealing with difficult people and problem situation has served me very well in my civilian careers. The foundation of military training such as attention to detail, doing things the right way the first time, and being satisfied when you know you have done your very best has been the guiding principle throughout my work and family life.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?

Try to find the part of the job you enjoy and capitalize on that area. Do not be afraid to change career fields if you find something more interesting and enjoyable. Strive to be the best in your duties, your job, and your career field. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you really enjoy a career in the military, find ways to overcome any distraction or interference with that desire. My biggest mistake in life was not staying in the Air Force.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

I have not been a member very long, which is not surprising then that I have not yet found anyone I served with through the site. Still, I know if I keep looking and use the many search capabilities of TWS, I will find old friends. I have however made friends of other service members of Together We Served and enjoy the interaction with them. Reading other members reflections, especially those with totally different experience in both war and peace, had made me appreciate their service and the things that they have been through.

1
Mar

Sgt Doug Woods U.S. Marine Corps (1968-1971)

Read the service reflections of TogetherWeServed.com member:

profile1Sgt Doug Woods

U.S. Marine Corps

(1968-1971)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/313295

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MARINE CORPS?

In high school I was rated 1-A by the Selective Service. My folks couldn’t afford to pay for college and I wanted a break from school, so even before graduating in 1968 I talked with the USN recruiter. With Vietnam in full swing I figured the Navy was the safest bet. When my AFEES test scores weren’t high enough for the USN, he had me talk with the USMC recruiter across the street since I made clear I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army. Sgt Greene was a pretty straight-shouter. I could enlist for two years, which likely meant being a grunt in VN. I could sign-up for four years for a USMC tech school, but there was no guarantee I could quality for it. Or I could opt for three years which made everything 50/50. I enlisted for three years.

In boot camp I took the standard USMC tests, plus an optional journalism test to basically avoid extra time standing in formation in the hot San Diego July sun. The night before graduation I learned I’d been selected to be a USMC military journalist. After ITR at Camp Pendleton I attended the Defense Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis IN. I was then assigned to MCB Quantico VA, where I wrote for the Quantico Sentry.

After six months at Quantico I applied for orders to WestPac. My orders came through in late August 1969. I was to report to the 9th MAB on Okinawa. Going through processing on Okinawa my original orders were cancelled and I was assigned to 1st MAW Vietnam. Reporting to 1st MAW ISO/PAO HQ in Danang, I was given the options of staying at HQ, going south to the Marine jet base at Chu Lai, or reporting to the large USMC helicopter base at Marble Mountain Air Facility four miles SE of Danang. I chose the choppers of MAG-16.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I never considered making the Marine Corps a career. I did endeavor to be the best Marine I could be and do the best job I could while I served my country.

Like the other USMC writers and photographers at MAG-16, I reported on and photographed, the men, their choppers and the missions they flew. I also wrote feature stories on various Marines at MMAF who worked on the ground to keep the aircraft flying. Most prized was to get temporary flight orders. Those orders allowed me to approach pilots and crew chiefs and request to fly with them on their mission(s) scheduled that day. I was never refused. I flew medevac, troop insert/extract, recon insert/extract and outpost resupply missions as well as a napalm drum bombing mission on an NVA HQ complex. Besides experiencing and reporting on the missions I flew, I took hundreds of photos of the people and events.

Before my VN tour was completed I was pulled-out as part of one of Nixon’s “Phased Withdrawals” and sent by ship (USS Denver LPD-9) to Iwakuni, Japan, a USMC jet fighter base SW of Hiroshima on the Inland Sea. Iwakuni was the HQ of 1st MAW REAR and they weren’t expecting me and several dozen other Marines. After sitting on the dock for several hours, we were finally trucked to a Transit Barracks. At Iwakuni I was a reporter for the base newspaper, the Torii Teller.

At Iwakuni I was able to journey to Hiroshima, where in September 1970 I visited the Peace Park and Museum. The central city was rebuilt. The A-Bomb park areas and museum were very somber.

My final duty station was with the 12th Marine Corps District Public Affairs Office in downtown San Francisco. There I participated in various honor guards (including the Miss California pageant), sent supplies to recruiters and was flown to Billings MT to do a story for Leatherneck Magazine on a Marine Corps Reserve unit’s winter training in Yellowstone National Park.

My 4312 MOS was judged ‘critical’ in 1970′ and I was offered a $7,000 reenlistment bonus and promotion to Staff Sergeant if I’d stay in. I declined the offer. I chose a different career and life path.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

As a combat correspondent with a Marine helicopter group my combat experience was limited to having helicopters I was flying in being shot at by the NVA and VC during medevac and Marine recon extract missions. I was very lucky; neither myself nor anyone in any of the choppers I flew in was ever injured despite several aircraft taking numerous hits during missions.

The most dangerous mission was an emergency extract of a recon team surrounded by the NVA in the Au Shau Valley NW of Danang. Despite USMC jets and chopper gunships providing suppressing fire around the zone, the chopper’s first attempt to land in the small jungle zone failed because of intense enemy fire. With the recon team’s survival at stake, the HMM-262 pilot of the CH-46 said he was going in again. With the jets swirling above us dropping bombs and strafing the zone’s perimeter, we came in straight and fast. While the port and starboard 50- cals. spit bullets, I stood in the large port side window and photographed the sequence of the recon team scrambling from the jungle and racing to the rear ramp. Our pilot gunned the turbines and the Frog screamed up and out of the zone to safety.

Because of their bravery, the pilots and crew of the chopper on that mission all got medals. I didn’t get a medal, but that was all right because I got the pictures! I’ve always been appreciative of the pilots and crew chief for letting me fly that mission with them. The photos and negs eventually found their way to HQMC’s Historical Division, where they where chosen by a publisher for use in a 1980’s Vietnam War coffee table book.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

I was very fortunate in that I had great duty and worked for and with wonderful people in several places. The highlight was being a writer/photographer at Marble Mountain Air Facility just outside Danang in South Vietnam. Following that I enjoyed my time at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. My final posting was to 12th MCD in San Francisco, there’s no way SF couldn’t be great.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Going undercover to investigate the training and operations of the Military Police/Shore Patrol unit at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. A month before my arrival a Marine had died in a riot at the base brig. The unit was accused of institutional racism and brutality. Because I was unknown when I arrived on base from Vietnam, the Public Affairs Officer and Commanding General asked me to accept a short assignment to the MPs and then report on what I saw and experienced. I lived, ate and drank with men of the unit. I did road patrols, stood entry gate watch, walked a beat in Iwakuni city and stood Sergeant of the Guard on a Saturday night at the brig.

My story was totally complimentary of the professionalism I saw the MPs/SPs operate under doing a hard, under-appreciated and thankless job. I saw no overt racism or brutality. Instead I saw and personally experienced the horrid effect alcohol has on people. As an MP I was kicked, spit on, pushed, punched and threatened with being killed.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

I’m most proud of the Air Medal and Combat Air Crew wings I earned recording, both in print and in photos, the exploits of the brave men flying helicopter missions in support of allied ground forces in Vietnam.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

There’s actually two and both are from boot camp. The first is Daniel Minor, my best buddy in the platoon whose maturity and understanding helped me deal with the brutal and confusing early stresses of the training cycle.

The second is the Platoon Commander, GySgt Roy Gallihugh, who kept me in the platoon when I warranted being dropped for being weak and overweight. The Gunny had to promise higher-ups I’d steadily improve by being on a stringent diet and by doing extra daily workouts after lights out. I proved his trust by losing 50 lbs in less than 10 weeks and graduating on schedule with the platoon, but there was a ‘bump’ along the way as I cheated on my diet. At lunch one day I ate an ice cream treat. Nothing was done right away, but in formation I was told to report to the Duty Hut that night after lights out. GySgt Gallihugh was there and he was none too pleased with what I’d done. He verbally lit into me as a liar, cheat and Em-Effer among other choice epithets, who’d stabbed him the back! Urged on by other DI’s in the hut, he then expressed his disappointment more ‘forcefully.’

Needless to say, I didn’t cheat on my diet again and nothing was ever said of the incident.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

The day before I got out of the Marines in mid-July 1971, Top Arnold, the Press Chief in the office had me sign a reimbursement form for mileage for use of my personal car on official business. No big deal. A few minutes later he and the other staffers in our Public Affairs Office ominously surrounded my desk. Top then handed me a fully completed USMC Reenlistment Contract for six years and at the bottom was my signature! They all clapped and congratulated me on my decision to become a Lifer. Then I noticed that my signature wasn’t a legally binding true original, it was a carbon facsimile. Top had slipped the contract’s last page beneath the mileage reimbursement form I’d signed earlier.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? 

As I’d enjoyed being a military journalist during my three years in the Marine Corps, I got a Journalism degree in college. When I graduated in 1975, however, there was another bad economic recession in the country and there were very few newspaper or other media jobs available.

To pay the bills I got a temp job with the federal government in San Francisco that eventually led to being a loan closer with the Small Business Administration. I enjoyed that work which entailed a lot of people contact, detailed research and paperwork. Over the next few years I applied for several media jobs, but was never hired.

I ended up spending 33 years in the residential mortgage business, where my journalism training and skills came in handy. For various companies I wrote and edited lending manuals and put together training programs.

Now I am retired. I was fortunate to be able to retire in early 2008 when my last residential mortgage employer closed down. I am currently doing much travel. The attached photo was taken June 2011 during a return trip to Vietnam (the location is on the south side of the Peace Bridge over the Song Ben Hai in the former DMZ).

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

* U.S. Marine Corps Combat Helicopter Association (has large reunions every 2 years of Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan chopper veterans and active duty Marines.
* MCRD San Diego Museum Historical Society.
* Vietnam Veterans of America.
* Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund-dues help to maintain The Wall and build a visitors’ center.
* Marine Corps Heritage Foundation-dues help maintain the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

I cannot imagine being the man I am today and have been for some 44 years if not for having enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. As a teen I was a stuttering, shy and overweight “momma’s boy”. When I came home after boot camp, no one recognized who I was. My Mom said, “What have the Marines done to my little boy?”

Military service taught me self-reliance, discipline, organization and the courage to face obstacles unafraid, as well as to not be intimidated by anyone or anything. It further taught me to more truly appreciate the courage and sacrifice of everyone who has ever served our country and to value the kinship and friendships of others who have served.

The values and mental toughness I learned in the service have served me well in my personal life, professional career and when I officiated high school and small college sports.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE MARINE CORPS?

Do the best you can do at whatever task you are assigned. Regardless of how the big picture military events turn out when they recede into history, i.e. Korea, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, be able to look back with pride in the knowledge that you and your comrades did what your country asked you to do. Let others debate whether policies and results are right or wrong. Always know that you did your country’s bidding and served it honorably.

Also that time goes by so fast! Memories quickly fade except for truly exceptional events. So although it may seem dumb and senseless at the time, make notes and take pictures/videos of the people and places you are stationed at and the events whether training or in combat you experience. They become a record as you proceed through life.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

Together We Served is a great place to not only find those you have served with, but also to honor those who have paid the ultimate price.

22
Feb

FTCM Lonnie Jones U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1956-1977)

Read the service reflections of Coast Guardsman:

13496_medFTCM Lonnie Jones

U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)

(1956-1977)

Shadow box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/12150

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
I graduated high school and was hanging out at the park and playing baseball for a church. One Saturday morning, I think it was the 16th of July 1956, I went into the kitchen for breakfast. Mother met me with a quarter and the want ads making the statement “Get a job or join the service TODAY.” I opened the want ad and there was the big advertisement: “Be a Life Saver”, “Join the U.S. Coast Guard”. Mobile recruiting unit in from of the post office today. God said to me, “Here you go. That’s where I want you.” I caught the bus went to the mobile recruiting trailer and took the test. The Recruiter told me I qualified and if I joined I would go to “A” school from Boot Camp. I called my mother, she came up signed the papers.

Monday I received a physical. Tuesday I was sworn in and put on a plane for Boot Camp.

I don’t ever remember hearing it was for just four years.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

In Boot Camp I made the Coast Guard football team and played that season. The Coach, Ltjg Hinds, got me assigned to Fire Control “A” School, Groton CT. in hopes I would be assigned to the Unimack and be available for 1957 season. I was shocked when I
arrived at FT School and found out I would not be a fire fighter but a Fire Control Technician operating the Ordnance equipment and controlling the fire power of the ship. I started the school, eight graduated and I was #7 of the 8. I received orders to the CGC Absecon in Norfolk.

I arrived at the Absecon as a SNFT. Promoted to FT3, 1 September, 1957, FT2 1 May 1958.

Transferred to the CGC Unimack Dec 1959 where I was promoted to FT1(E6) on 1 January 1960.

Transferred to the CGC Westwind 2 FEB 1963 and advanced to FTC(E7) 1 October 1964.

I was assigned to CG District 3, 5/11/64 till 10/1967, CG Eastern Area Inspectors 10/67 to 7/1/1969,

CG TRACEN, Governors Island, NY 7/1/1969 where I was advanced to FTCS(E8) on 1/1/1970 and FTCM(E9) 12/1/1970.the same year.

7/1/1972 I transferred to CG Institute.

7/1/71975 transferred to CGHQ-OMR and retired 10/1/1977. SR(E1) to FTCM(E9) in 14 years 6 months and 12 days.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

In 1957 the Absecon was on Ocean Station Echo, just north of Bermuda, Hurricane Carrie sunk the German Naval Academy training ship Pamir. We had to go in one side, through the eye and out the other side of the hurricane to reach the rescue area. There were only 6 survivors. I was in the CGC Absecon Life Boat crew that recovered one of them.

The next day the sea was like a sheet of glass, not a ripple on it. Like it had swallowed it’s fill and was now satisfied.

I can’t really say how it makes you feel, but it does change your life.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I never had a bad assignment. I guess I enjoyed the Eastern Area evaluator job the most. I got to travel from Maine to Brownsville, Texas evaluating operations on every type of Coast Guard unit ashore and at sea including aviation units.

I do not have a least favorite.

The Cadet Cruise’s to Europe on the Absecon, The port’s of call on the Unimack, The trip on the Westwind to Thule and the Arctic, Instructing students at the TRACEN,

How could you choose one over the other?

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

With the Pamir rescue, we had to go in one side thru the eye and out the other side of hurricane Carrie, which enforced the slogan “You have to go out, You do not have to return”. Training and supervising 6×8 reserves on the Unimack, my first FT3’s on the West Wind, all shipboard FT’s in the 3rd district, and FT “C” school students at the training center were the most rewarding.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS OR QUALIFICATION BADGES FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OR VALOR, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

I was transferred from the CG Institute to CGHQ-OMR for the main purpose of rewriting CG272, The Ordnance manual.I received the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for Superior Performance of Duty from June 1975 to March 1976. It reads:

“Master Chief Petty Officer Jones is cited for outstanding achievement and superior
performance of duty while serving as Chief, Technical Publications Section, Military Capabilities Branch, Military Readiness Division, Office of Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters from June 1975 to March 1976. Demonstrating exceptional administrative ability, Master Chief Petty Officer Jones was the primary editor, organizer,and expediter of the rewriting of the Coast Guard Ordnance manual (CG-272) which went to press in March 1976. Displaying excellent foresight and a clear understanding of the needs of the Coast Guard, Master Chief Petty Officer Jones applied himself to the task of updating this ten-year-old 590 page technical and administrative manual and successfully insured the the correctness of information and references and the deletion of outdated portions.

Working long hours organizing the material, he coordinated and cleared the project through numerous branches, divisions and offices in an effort that produced an efficient and useful document of 384 pages which will result in improved administration of the Military Readiness Program throughout the Coast Guard. Master Chief Petty Officer Jones’ diligence, initiative and unwavering devotion to duty in this assignment are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard. ”

I not only researched, assembled and laid out the material, I taught myself the 3M Word Processor and typed the whole manual with tables, charts and pictures properly inserted in the text which was dual column, I proofread the material and cleared the manual through all concerned divisions of Headquarters getting approval to go to print in record time.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

U. S. Coast Guard Achievement Medal described before. I am equally proud of my 21 years with Good Conduct Medals and the gold stripes I wore.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

GMC Hugh Brady, my first Chief on my first ship. He instilled the sense of duty to be where I was suppose to be, do what I was suppose to do, and complete the task to the best of my ability.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Swimming off the side of the CGC Unimack while berthed at Cape May I swung out on a life boat line which slipped, I froze and swung back into the side of the ship hitting an angle iron sticking out of the side of the ship with my right foot. Because this was against orders to swim off the ship in port we called our shipboard Corpsman back to sew up the hole in my foot instead of going to the base dispensary. Jerry came back a little under the influence and sewed up the toughest skin on the body.

The comments made by him while forcing a large needle thru the tough skin of the sole of the foot are not repeatable. We remain friends and have several more unrepeatable stories.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

After teaching myself the 3M word processor while writing the Ordnance Manual I became an expert on the word processing capabilities. I was sent to 3M to learn Assembler programming language to develop programs for the Coast Guard. While in school at 3M, they offered me a joband I immediately retired and started work for 3M Business Communications products. This lasted for 11 years with changes from Word Processing to Facsimile to “Whisper Writer” Electronic Mail Products.

In 1986 I was trained as a Service Technician and moved from VA to FL to service corporate units and expand the base by selling more units when not servicing existing units. 1987 3M dropped the product line and we ended up with Harris Lanier with a guaranteed employment for 90 days. After 9 months as a Service/Sale Representative for Lanier I was let go.

January 1989 I was hired by U.S. Navy Aviation Depot Pensacola as an Aviation Electrician. The depot was closed by congress and I went on the road for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, L3 and Crestview Aviation as a contract field team Aviation Electrician This lasted about 25 years.

My last job from 2011 to 2013 was with GE Wind Energy as an Assembler. I am now unemployed/retired.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association(Charter and Silver Life Member )
Fleet Reserve Association
American Legion
Sons of the American Revolution (Life member)
Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge
Society of the War of 1812
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Society of the American Colonist
National Rifle Association

Mostly a little life insurance, car and home insurance availability, health and accident offers and fellowship with members and the show of patriotism.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It has provided me with the security to do things I want to do with out worrying about money and health concerns. The commitment to fulfill the obligations to my employers, organizations, family and friends to the best of my ability were instilled by my military service.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?

Stay with it. Be in the right place at the right time and BE READY. You volunteered to serve and made the commitment to do you best. Keep the flexibility to go where and when the Coast Guard needs you without regrets. Follow orders to the best of your ability. Remember, You made the commitment to the Coast Guard and you need to bend with the needs of the service.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Immensely! Going through my pictures, books, certificates, and records brings back many memories. Remembering the Places, People, Activities, Stories and Accomplishments help restore my feeling of self worth. Cures some depression and restores passion for the future.

20
Feb

Crypto Duty at Rocket City

By William B. Leppert
When one hears the name, Rocket City, places like Titusville, Florida or Houston, Texas may come to mind due to their association with the NASA space program. Rocket City, however, had nothing to do with America’s space program. It was the rocket attacks name that was given to the U.S. Airbase at Da Nang during the Vietnam War in what was then, South Vietnam. Da Nang was one of the largest U.S. bases in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. During the years of 1965-1973, there were 87 rocket attacks with a total of 996 rockets fired against the Da Nang airbase by enemy forces. These 996 rockets inflicted injuries to 586 Americans and killed an additional 45 more. In addition to the number of casualties inflicted on U.S. personnel, a total of 256 aircraft were damaged and an additional 30 more had been totally destroyed.It was in February of 1967 when I was assigned to Naval Communications Station Philippines (NCSP), Det Bravo, at Da Nang, Vietnam for a six months of temporary assigned duty (TAD). NCSP, located at San Miguel, Zambales, Philippines, was one of the largest and busiest naval communications stations in the world during the Vietnam War.

My duties as a communications (cryptologic) technician would include flying missions, as one of 30 crewmembers, with VQ-1 that was headquartered in Atsugi, Japan. VQ-1 was a naval air reconnaissance squadron that flew in support of Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam from March 2, 1965 to October 31, 1968. Rolling Thunder was the longest bombing campaign ever implemented by the U.S. Air Force and Navy during the Vietnam War. The aircraft used by VQ-1 during Operation Rolling Thunder was the EC-121M, a converted Lockheed Super Constellation passenger plane that was commonly used in the 1940’s and 50’s. We referred to this aircraft as the ‘Connie’. It consisted of a crew of 18 to 30 personnel depending on the electronic tasks involved in our missions. During the time that I served with Det Bravo, I flew 38 missions with VQ-1.

Our flights were usually eight or more hours in length flying over the Gulf of Tonkin near and around the North Vietnamese port city of Haiphong. Our crews consisted of specialists in Morse code intercept along with Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese linguists who monitored voice intercept from the surface to air missile (SAM) sites in North Vietnam. Our plane also had the capability of establishing the coordinates of our downed pilots who were shot down during their bombing missions and relaying this information to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the South China Sea below. This information was vital to determine if a rescue attempt could be made.

During the six months that I served at Da Nang, there were three rocket attacks made against the airbase by enemy forces. The most severe rocket attack at Da Nang during the Vietnam War had occurred on July 15, 1967 when the enemy forces fired 83 rounds of 122mm and 140mm Russian manufactured rockets on to the airbase. There were 175 casualties during that attack and 44 of them were personnel of Det Bravo and VQ-1. Our barracks happened to be located about 50 yards from a bomb storage area that was ignited by one the rockets that had exploded there. The bunkers that we had constructed did not have roofs on them at the time, so the shrapnel from the exploding bombs rained down into our bunkers. Fortunately, no one was killed but our barracks was totally destroyed. After the attack, the personnel of Det Bravo were transferred to another area located near Da Nang Harbor called Camp Tien Sha. It was near the R & R area at China Beach. China Beach was a favorite place for many G.I.s, especially when the pretty American nurses were there. We referred to them as round eyes.

I was only at Da Nang for six months of my life but it was six months that I will never forget. Compared to the Vietnam combat veterans, I had easy duty while I was in Vietnam but I served with honor and felt that both Det Bravo and VQ-1 had performed their assignments with exemplary dedication in support of the U. S. war effort.

In conclusion, I would like to pay a special tribute to all of the Vietnam veterans and also to the VQ-1 crew that was shot down by North Korea over the Sea of Japan on April 15, 1969. I had flown with some of that same crew while I was at Da Nang, including the plane commander, Lt. Cdr. James Overstreet.

To view video of rocket attacks on Da Nang airfield https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDdIdT9pd3s

13
Feb

The Sound That Binds

By Keith Nightingale U.S. Army (Ret.)

Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH-1H helicopter. It was both devil and angel and it served as both extremely well. Whether a LRRP, U.S. or RVN soldier or civilian, whether, NVA, VC, Allied or Civilian, it provided a sound and sense that lives with us all today. It is the one sound that immediately clears the clouds of time and freshens the images of our mind. It will be the sound track of our last moments on earth. It was a simple machine – a single engine, a single blade and four man crew – yet like the Model T, it transformed us all and performed tasks the engineers never imagined. For soldiers, it was the worst and best of friends but it was the one binding material in a tapestry of a war of many pieces.

The smell was always hot, filled with diesel fumes, sharp drafts accentuated by gritty sand, laterite and anxious vibrations. It always held the spell of the unknown and the anxiety of learning what was next and what might be. It was an unavoidable magnet for the heavily laden soldier who donkey-trotted to its squat shaking shape through the haze and blast of dirt, stepped on the OD skid, turned and dropped his ruck on the cool aluminum deck. Reaching inside with his rifle or machine gun, a soldier would grasp a floor ring with a finger as an extra precaution of physics for those moments when the now airborne bird would break into a sharp turn revealing all ground or all sky to the helpless riders all very mindful of the impeding weight on their backs. The relentless weight of the ruck combined with the stress of varying motion caused fingers and floor rings to bind almost as one. Constant was the vibration, smell of hydraulic fluid, flashes of visionary images and the occasional burst of a ground-fed odor – rotting fish, dank swampy heat, cordite or simply the continuous sinuous currents of Vietnam’s weather – cold and driven mist in the Northern monsoon or the wall of heated humidity in the southern dry season. Blotting it out and shading the effect was the constant sound of the single rotating blade as it ate a piece of the air, struggling to overcome the momentary physics of the weather.

To divert anxiety, a soldier/piece of freight, might reflect on his home away from home. The door gunners were usually calm which was emotionally helpful. Each gun had a C-ration fruit can at the ammo box clip entrance to the feed mechanism of the machine gun. The gun had a large circular aiming sight unlike the ground-pounder version. That had the advantage of being able to fix on targets from the air considerably further than normal ground acquisition. Pears, Apricots, Apple Sauce or Fruit Cocktail, it all worked. Fruit cans had just the right width to smoothly feed the belt into the gun which was always a good thing. Some gunners carried a large oil can much like old locomotive engineers to squeeze on the barrel to keep it cool. Usually this was accompanied by a large OD towel or a khaki wound-pack bandage to allow a rubdown without a burned hand. Under the gunner’s seat was usually a small dairy-box filled with extra ammo boxes, smoke grenades, water, flare pistol, C-rats and a couple of well-worn paperbacks. The gun itself might be attached to the roof of the helicopter with a bungee cord and harness. This allowed the adventurous gunners to unattach the gun from the pintle and fire it manually while standing on the skid with only the thinnest of connectivity to the bird. These were people you wanted near you – particularly on extractions.

The pilots were more mysterious. You only saw parts of them as they labored behind the armored seats. An arm, a helmeted head and the occasional fingered hand as it moved across the dials and switches on the ceiling above. The armored side panels covered their outside legs – an advantage the passenger did not enjoy. Sometimes, a face, shielded behind helmeted sunshades, would turn around to impart a question with a glance or display a sense of anxiety with large white-circled eyes – this was not a welcoming look as the sounds of external issues fought to override the sounds of mechanics in flight. Yet, as a whole, the pilots got you there, took you back and kept you maintained. You never remembered names, if at all you knew them, but you always remembered the ride and the sound.

Behind each pilot seat usually ran a stretch of wire or silk attaching belt. It would have arrayed a variety of handy items for immediate use. Smoke grenades were the bulk of the attachment inventory – most colors and a couple of white phosphorous if a dramatic marking was needed. Sometimes, trip flares or hand grenades would be included depending on the location and mission. Hand grenades were a rare exception as even pilots knew they exploded – not always where intended. It was just a short arm motion for a door gunner to pluck an inventory item off the string, pull the pin and pitch it which was the point of the arrangement. You didn’t want to be in a helicopter when such an act occurred as that usually meant there was an issue. Soldiers don’t like issues that involve them. It usually means a long day or a very short one – neither of which is a good thing.

The bird lifts off in a slow, struggling and shaking manner. Dust clouds obscure any view a soldier may have. Quickly, with a few subtle swings, the bird is above the dust and a cool encompassing wind blows through. Sweat is quickly dried, eyes clear and a thousand feet of altitude show the world below. Colors are muted but objects clear. The rows of wooden hooches, the airfield, local villages, an old B52 strike, the mottled trail left by a Ranch hand spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recede as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1Hs coalescing in a line in front of and behind you. Other strings of birds may be left or right of you – all surging toward some small speck in the front, lost to your view. Each is a mirror image of the other – two to three laden soldiers sitting on the edge looking at you and your accompanying passengers all going to the same place with the same sense of anxiety and uncertainty but borne on a similar steed and sound.

In time, one senses the birds coalescing as they approach the objective. Perhaps a furtive glance or sweeping arc of flight reveals the landing zone. Smoke erupts in columns – initially visible as blue grey against the sky. The location is clearly discernible as a trembling spot surrounded by a vast green carpet of flat jungle or a sharp point of a jutting ridge, as the bird gets closer, a soldier can now see the small FAC aircraft working well-below, the sudden sweeping curve of the bombing runs and the small puffs as artillery impacts. A sense of immense loneliness can begin to obscure one’s mind as the world’s greatest theatre raises its curtain. Even closer now, with anxious eyes and short breath, a soldier can make out his destination. The smoke is now the dirty grey black of munitions with only the slightest hint of orange upon ignition. No Hollywood effect is at work. Here, the physics of explosions are clearly evident as pressure and mass over light.

The pilot turns around to give a thumbs up or simply ignores his load as he struggles to maintain position with multiple birds dropping power through smoke swirls, uplifting newly created debris, sparks and flaming ash. The soldiers instinctively grasp their weapons tighter, look furtively between the upcoming ground and the pilot and mentally strain to find some anchor point for the next few seconds of life. If this is the first lift in, the door gunners will be firing rapidly in sweeping motions of the gun but this will be largely unknown and unfelt to the soldiers. They will now be focused on the quickly approaching ground and the point where they might safely exit. Getting out is now very important. Suddenly, the gunners may rapidly point to the ground and shout “GO” or there may just be the jolt of the skids hitting the ground and the soldiers instinctively lurch out of the bird, slam into the ground and focus on the very small part of the world they now can see. The empty birds, under full power, squeeze massive amounts of air and debris down on the exited soldiers, blinding them to the smallest view. Very quickly, there is a sudden shroud of silence as the birds retreat into the distance and the soldiers begin their recovery into a cohesive organization, losing that sound.

On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevacs. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound.

Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don’t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life that only that sound can relieve. Often there is no landing zone or the area is so hot that a pilot’s sense of purpose may become blurred. Ground commanders beg and plead on the radio for support that is met with equivocations or insoluble issues. Rations are stretched from four to six days, cigarettes become serious barter items and soldiers begin to turn inward. In some cases, perhaps only minutes after landing, fire fights break out. The machine guns begin their carnivorous song. Rifle ammunition and grenades are expended with gargantuan appetites. The air is filled with an all-encompassing sound that shuts each soldier into his own small world — shooting, loading, shooting, loading, shooting, loading until he has to quickly reach into the depth of his ruck, past the extra rations, past the extra rain poncho, past the spare paperback, to the eight M16 magazines forming the bottom of the load – never thought he would need them. A resupply is desperately needed. In some time, a sound is heard over the din of battle. A steady whomp whomp whomp that says: The World is here. Help is on the way. Hang in there. The soldier turns back to the business at hand with a renewed confidence. Wind parts the canopy and things begin to crash through the tree tops. Some cases have smoke grenades attached – these are the really important stuff – medical supplies, codes and maybe mail. The sound drifts off in the distance and things are better for the moment. The sound brings both a psychological and a material relief.

Wounds are hard to manage. The body is all soft flesh, integrated parts and an emotional burden for those that have to watch its deterioration. If the body is an engine, blood is the gasoline – when it runs out, so does life. It’s important the parts get quickly fixed and the blood is restored to a useful level. If not, the soldier becomes another piece of battlefield detritus. A field medic has the ability to stop external blood flow – less internal. He can replace blood with fluid but it’s not blood. He can treat for shock but he can’t always stop it. He is at the mercy of his ability and the nature of the wound. Bright red is surface bleeding he can manage but dark red, almost tar-colored, is deep, visceral and beyond his ability to manage. Dark is the essence of the casualty’s interior. He needs the help that only that sound can bring. If an LZ exists, it’s wonderful and easy. If not, difficult options remain. The bird weaves back and forth above the canopy as the pilot struggles to find the location of the casualty. He begins a steady hover as he lowers the litter on a cable. The gunner or helo medic looks down at the small figures below and tries to wiggle the litter and cable through the tall canopy to the small up-reaching figures below. In time, the litter is filled and the cable retreats – the helo crew still carefully managing the cable as it wends skyward. The cable hits its anchor, the litter is pulled in, and the pilot pulls pitch and quickly disappears – but the retreating sound is heard by all and the silent universal thought – There but for the Grace of God go I – and it will be to that sound.

Cutting a landing zone is a standard soldier task. Often, to hear the helicopter’s song, the impossible becomes a requirement and miracles abound. Sweat-filled eyes, blood blistered hands, energy-expended and with a breath of desperation and desire, soldiers attack a small space to carve out sufficient open air for the helicopter to land. Land to bring in what’s needed, take out what’s not, and to remind them that someone out there cares. Perhaps some explosives are used – usually for the bigger trees but most often it is soldiers and machetes or the side of an e-tool. Done under the pressure of an encroaching enemy, it’s a combination of high adrenalin rush and simple dumb luck – small bullet, big space. In time, an opening is made and the sky revealed. A sound encroaches before a vision. Eyes turn toward the newly created void and the bird appears. The blade tips seem so much larger than the newly-columned sky. Volumes of dirt, grass, leaves and twigs sweep upward and are then driven fiercely downward through the blades as the pilot struggles to do a completely vertical descent through the narrow column he has been provided. Below, the soldiers both cower and revel in the free-flowing air. The trash is blinding but the moving air feels so great. Somehow, the pilot lands in a space that seems smaller than his blade radius. In reverse, the sound builds and then recedes into the distance – always that sound. Bringing and taking away.

Extraction is an emotional highlight of any soldier’s journey. Regardless of the austerity and issues of the home base, for that moment, it is a highly desired location and the focus of thought. It will be provided by that familiar vehicle of sound. The Pickup Zone in the bush is relatively open, or if on an established firebase or hilltop position, a marked fixed location. The soldiers awaiting extraction close to the location undertake their assigned duties – security, formation alignment, or LZ marking. Each is focused on the task at hand and tends to blot out other issues. As each soldier senses his moment of removal is about to arrive, his auditory sense becomes keen and his visceral instinct searches for that single sweet song that only one instrument can play. When registered, his eyes look up and he sees what his mind has imaged. He focuses on the sound and the sight and both become larger as they fill his body. He quickly steps unto the skid and up into the aluminum cocoon. Turning outward now, he grasps his weapon with one hand and with the other holds the cargo ring on the floor – as he did when he first arrived at this location. Reversing the flow of travel, he approaches what he temporarily calls home. Landing again in a swirl of dust, diesel and grinding sand, he offloads and trudges toward his assembly point. The sounds retreat in his ears but he knows he will hear them again. He always will.

Keith Nightingale is a retired Army Colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded two airborne battalions and both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade. He was a member of the Iran rescue attempt in 1981 (Operation Eagle Claw, better known to many as “Desert One”) and was the assault force commander in both Grenada and Panama.

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