Provide security for the Tuy Hoa Army Installation. In addition to perimeter guard, small nightly ambushes will be employed. The secondary mission of the Battalion is to provide a reaction force to any firebase in Military Region II that is in danger of being Overrun, and to provide security in the event that a military aircraft went down in Military Region II. One Company remains at An Khe opcon to Task Force 19, on a rotating basis, operating primarily from Fire Support Bases Buffalo, Schuller, and Action.
Near the end of April, I arrived at the Tuy Hoa Army Air Base. Once again, I found myself at a place where I didn’t know a single person, and once again, I had that homesick, lonely feeling. But I liked the look of that place. It had previously been an Air Force base before the Army inherited it. There were lots of helicopters and planes, and it wasn’t too far north. Soon I would discover that the base had all of the amenities that the lucky Air Force guys had before us. There was a post exchange (PX), a gym, an enlisted men’s (EM) club, and, most importantly, it had showers. The downside was the sweltering heat and humidity, even worse than our hottest sticky days back home. Upon reporting to the company HQ, they promptly assigned me as a rifleman to the 3rd platoon. The barracks were pretty shabby looking metal buildings surrounded outside by sandbag filled, plywood covered, reinforced bunkers. Inside, it looked like the guys threw up some wall partitions made out of plywood or blankets or bed sheets or whatever materials that they could scrounge up to make semi-private quarters for themselves. There were two to four guys per “room.” Each room had bunk beds to sleep in and lockers to store your clothing, personal belongings, and equipment.”
They guided me to a sectioned-off portion of the barracks that I would share with Delacruz, a Hispanic guy from Puerto Rico, I think. It didn’t take long till somebody in the barracks yelled out, “new guy!” The first thing they asked me was, “Hey man, how many days do you have left? “And they laughed. They were a little bit surprised when I said 330. Even though that’s a lot of days remaining in-country, most of the new replacements still had nearly 365 days left when they arrived at the unit. It was all good-natured, however, and the guys seemed cool enough. Maybe I lucked out with this assignment.
As I was unpacking my duffle bag in the room, that they called their hooch or area of operation (AO), I asked Delacruz what the base was like, was it dangerous here? He replied that it’s not too bad here, most nights are quiet, but we did get hit a few nights ago. He was kind of laughing when he said: “You came at a good time; we’re going out to the field the day after tomorrow.” I wasn’t sure what he meant and had no idea where the field was. He then explained that the company was going a lot farther north to An Khe…” You know, ‘the boonies,’ ‘the bush.’” He said that I should start getting my stuff together later today and tomorrow. I didn’t even know what gear was required. I asked how long we would be gone. He told me that they usually go to An Khe for about a month before returning to Tuy Hoa. Later that afternoon, I confessed that I didn’t know what stuff to get ready. In his Hispanic accent, he laughed and said: “no sweat man, we’ll find you some stuff.” Before the day was over, I had a whole big pile of stuff lying on the hooch floor:
- Four days of c-rations, (12 meals)
- Four canteens of water
- Air mattress
- Blanket (poncho liner)
- One claymore mine
- A block of C-4 explosive
- Two hand flares
- claymore wire and tripwire
- A machete
- 250 rounds of machine gun ammo
- Three bandoliers of M-16 ammo
- Two towels
- Three pair of socks
- And cigarettes, of course.
The next challenge was to pack all of that stuff into the rucksack, a large aluminum-framed backpack that you carry on your back. It took me several tries and some help from Delacruz to fit it all inside. And actually, a lot of the stuff didn’t fit inside, so it was hanging on the outside of the rucksack. Next, I decided I better learn how to wear a rucksack, and when I went to put the straps on my shoulders, I could hardly lift the damn thing. I wondered how the hell I would ever be able to walk around with all of that weight on my back. Delacruz laughed and said: “No sweat man, you’ll get used to it, and you’ll forget all about that rucksack when the shooting starts.” Now I was getting scared!
3rd Platoon barracks at Tuy Hoa.
(Hoochmaid flashing the peace sign.)