Thursday, August 28, 2014

28 August 2014 The women are smarter


          It is interesting to connect with men I served with in VietNam.  The  bits and pieces of our every day existence , which we assume would match fairly closely, seem to have been less well matched than we think we recall.  Even within a company sized unit the discrepancies are much more evident to me today than they were then. 
          The EM, once assigned, tended to remain with  the same subunit.  The Officers were shuffled around more frequently.  They needed both staff and field assignments to further their career goals.  I can recall that I served under three company commanders.  Yet I can only put a name and face to one of them. 
          As a medic, I had far less negative or confrontational with African -American troops than  others did.  The major confrontations occurred between the senior NCO’s – men with WWII, Korean, and Vietnam experience – and the young African Americans who were draftees and too often unqualified for any of the military occupations specialist training slots, other than 11Bravo – Infantry.  They wound up in line companies for the larger part of their tours.  They might wrangle a short period just before DEROS to fill guard posts, push LIP day laborers, help with camp sanitation, etc. 
          My job was to take care of everyone in the company, not just those who shared my lack of melanin.  In doing that I had to be able to triage on the fly and reassess the situation as necessary.  I also had to listen to what people were telling me on the surface and deeper down.  People who were sent to enlist in order to avoid being sentenced to jail did not view their participation in the South East Asia War Games as necessary to advance their futures in the “world.”  They made it clear to the Senior NCO’s that they had not respect for their authority and no intention of doing anything not necessary to their own eventual DEROS and ETS.  Inside the wire, racial relations were iffy among younger troops.  Outside the wire, the hostilities were usually in abeyance.  Cooperating with the leadership group tended to make one more secure in their chances of a safe trip home.  More later



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

26 August 2014 Stir the memory pool and see what remains



          From 1968-69 only a few names made the journey back with me.  I spent much of my tour avoiding friendships and even casual acquaintance. 
          This month has been unusual.  Two names have floated to the pool’s surface and I’ve been able to make contact with them in one manner or another.  It’s been a very interesting period of reconnection.  One of the names belongs to a Sgt who worked in the S-3 shop, doing 12 hour days.  The other, to a Lt. holding multiple responsibilities that kept him sleepless. 
          Though we three were all assigned to the same company, our duties kept us largely separated.  The nature of the company was that it had more officers than most companies in an infantry company.  The brigade commander and his staff expected to be served by the non-staff EM and officers.  The company HQ personnel were responsible for the needs of the entire company as well carrying out the  security, communications, logistics, motor pool, health care, and other tasks that keep a military unit operational. 
          The Sgt. and I got along well.  The Lt. and I got along well.  The Sgt. and the Lt. don’t recall each other.  Although we lived within meters of each other, we were, at any given time to be at three different parts of our AO, depending upon what the Brigade was doing under direction from Division.  Neither the Sgt or I recall many names not related to our duties.  The Lt., by nature of his duties, probably had more contact with the EM and NCO’s than either the Sgt or I. 

          It will be interesting to see what these contacts lead to.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

24 August 2014 Safe all weapons before entering


          In 1969 I was nearly done in by a M134 minigun mounted on the back of an M37 ¾ ton truck.
The gun malfunctioned and expended 40 or so 7.62 mm rounds in my direction inflicting multiple shrapnel wounds on me.  There was no one at the truck when the gun found it necessary to execute a solo performance.  I am interested in finding other incidents of spontaneously firing M134 miniguns.  
From this image, it is apparent that physically rotating the barrels will cause unintended firing.  I have to wonder if severe repetitive  vibration could cause the same malfunction.  At the time I was wounded our 8 inch howitzers were executing a fire mission from Dau Tieng RVN. According to the operators manual, the M110's typical rate of fire was 3 rounds per two minutes when operated at maximum speed, and 1 round per 2 minutes with sustained fire.
          The concussion generated by firing these howitzers was incredible.  Buildings, bones, and teeth were rattling from the overpressure. 
         


            “In the M134D the internal clutch ass­embly feeds ammunition into the feeder/delinker only while the gun is being fired. Upon releasing the firing circuit, the gun continues to rotate briefly, thus expending and ejecting all ammunition remaining in the chambers. This ensures that no ammunition remains in the chambers, thereby mitigating the risk of a cook-off in a hot gun or an accidental discharge during servicing. Dillon’s innovative design also negates the need to remove five separate components, in order to ensure that the gun is clear of ammunition (as was required with the old M134 system). They achieved this with a two-piece safety sector/top cover allowing easy access to the internal components, as well as physically interrupting the mechanical firing mechanism. By simply removing these two inter-connected components, the gun is then rendered completely safe and can be easily inspected.”

If anyone knows of similar minigun incidents, please let me know


Friday, August 22, 2014

22 August 2014 No mud little manure lots of heat


          Yesterday’s excursion to the fair is behind us. 
          We found a very close parking space but had to pay an addition 2 dollars above the public parking.  We wound up in the parking lot of a Masonic lodge that appeared to have been, formerly, a church of some brand. 
          We wandered through some of the commercial and 4-H exhibits.  All the baked goods were secured behind glass doors in display cases along the walls.  I did wind up being offered a sample sugarcoated pecan.  One of my least favorite nuts, but I smiled and ate it.  The TN Wild life resource agency has a great permanent exhibit there.  The display path enters a cave high in the TN mountains. When exiting, the topography and biosphere is what is found bordering the Mississippi river. 
          We’d planned on an early dinner, finding sustenance either at the philanthropic organization booths or from the midway venders.  By the time we got to the far end of the fairground, we were hot and dripping sweat, tired of standing on concrete, and not able to justify paying for greasy food that neither of us wanted or needed. 
          The fairgrounds were much cleaner than I expected.  There was no mud, very little manure except in the animal barns, and the midway was just warming up, so that the combination of velocity, g-forces, caffeine and grease had yet to have affected many riders. 
          There was no rain yesterday.
Today, woke up to 70°F temperature at 0630.  Dog days are back.  The morning hike with Mike was like walking into a steam bath.  I did find sufficient energy do all the mowing.  Trimming remains for tomorrow.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

21 August 2014 Mud, manure, and grease


The Appalachian Fair, Washington County TN’s end of summer celebration of children returning to schools that are too hot to inhabit is in full swing this week.  The return to school dates are a hold-over from the days when children were required to help with planting, harvesting, haying, and the other tasks that kept farmers busy.  This anachronistic practice is now slaved, not only to agriculture, but also to high school and college football programs.  With local schools trying to match college semester and break calendars, the school years are now impacted by how many days football teams are allowed to practice before fall semesters begin. 
          IN most parts or the U.S. county fairs take place in late July and early August, with winners in the various competitions progressing to state fairs for further judging. 
          This scheduling usually results in such fairs taking place in sweltering heat and humidity.  The local weather will determine whether dust or mud is the determinant ground condition.  Even in devastating drought conditions bringing ankle-deep dust, there will be isolated areas of mud that result from animal care chores.  Mixed with both mud and dust, the amount of manure created by the livestock exhibits is sufficient to guarantee that it will be tracked all over the fair grounds to ensure that every attendee will carry some home on their shoes, even if they did not view the animal barns. 
          The midway with its neon, loudspeakers, and mechanical amusements carries its own aroma.  Mixed with the barnyard miasma is the airborne grease that boils off from countless deep fryers that provide the unhealthy breaded products that pass for midway food.  So factor in the smells of dropped or discarded food, spilled soda, and the vomitus found beneath the carnival rides.  Suddenly the animal barns don’t smell as bad.
          We are bound for the fair this afternoon.  We’ll take advantage of “Seniors” day to half our admission price.  We’ll wander the grounds, view the beasts, look for something less noxious than the norm to provide some sort of dinner, and avoid walking near or beneath the rides. 
          There is a large slate of local and more widely known performers.  We don’t recognize any of the listed performers and won’t be paying to attend outdoor music events.  We’ll skip the monster truck races (cancelled last night due to thunderstorms), the monster truck and tractor pulls, and the demolition derbies.  When one considers that this is a race week at Bristol, every trip onto the public roads is too likely to result in demolition. 
          The forecast for this afternoon calls for highs in the upper 80’s and a 50% chance of thunderstorms.  The uniform of the day calls for shoes that can be washed if necessary upon return.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

19 August 2014 Which wire do I cut


          The Xterra goes back to the shop tomorrow.  The monitor for  the reverse cameral has to be fixed so that it is either on intentionally or non-active.  I do not want the bright blue screen it displays telling me that there is no video feed.  Driving at night with that either in my face or reflecting off the windshield  is frankly dangerous. 
          I received no information from the seller about returns, repairs, problems with installation or any other matter.  What I did discover was that Amazon regards them as a third-party seller.  In order to get a replacement unit I must send the entire unit to Amazon so that they can return it to China.  Since I paid more than the unit is worth to have it installed, I have no desire to pay to have it un-installed so that I can pay return shipping.  I received e-mail from the seller thanking me for my purchase, offering yet more worthless connection tips, and telling me that all problems can be resolved in a friendly manner. 
          They have provided me no way to contact them.  Amazon has no way to contact them here or in China.  We are not amused. 

          Our mechanics think that they can insert a switch or relay to provide a fix.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

16 August 2014 Beware the ides of august


          Forty-five years ago, in the wilds of New York, the Woodstock music festival took place.  While 400,000 people attended, closing roads to the site, and creating national news, I and about 400,000 – 500,000 others were far more concerned about the war in VietNam.  I was in the last month of my tour, sweating out the days at Dau Tieng.  I knew nothing about the music festival until I saw a very small item in “Stars & Stripes” just before boarding a plane out of Bien Hoa.  
Compare and contrast, if you will, the two groups: festival attendees and troops.  The two populations were roughly equivalent in numbers and mean ages. 
Woodstock is recalled for the size of the crowd, for recreational drug use, for unprepared attendees, for ferrying performers in and out of the venue by helicopter, for on-site medical care, for torrential rain and mud slides.
Vietnam was notable for recreational drug use, helicopter transportation, on-site medical care, for torrential rains and mud. 
In VietNam the preferred drugs were ethanol and pot.  The military has a long history of tolerating ethanol abuse.  Pot use was likely to get one a court martial and a trip to Long Binh Jail (LBJ)  At Woodstock, LSD, pot, ethanol, and almost anything else one can imagine was at least marginally available.  T
Most of the 80 arrests at Woodstock were made on drug charges involving LSD, amphetamines and heroin.  Marijuana smokers, estimated to be the majority of the audience, were not arrested at Woodstock.
          Helicopters ferried the performers to and from the stage and their off-site lodging. 
          Helicopters were our lifeline in VietNam.  Everything moved by rotary wing aircraft.  We were picked up for insertions, provided close air support, resupplied with ammunition, food, and water, medevac,  and sometimes extracted by those marvelous vehicles and their heroic crews. 
          Medical care at Woodstock was mostly minor ER in nature.  There were three births, three documented deaths, and not a lot of other documented injuries/illnesses.  In VietNam, the gamut of injuries and illnesses included malaria, dysentery (amoebic and bacterial) intestinal worms and othe parasitic infestations.  Battlefield injuries were immediately infected, including burns, blast trauma, lacerations, gunshot and shrapnel wounds that harvested parts of young men without concern for their lives.  The use of helicopters as air ambulances was responsible for saving many injured who would not have survived any slower means of transport to surgical hospitals. 
          At Woodstock, there was heavy rainfall catching many attendees with no rain protection or insulation from the resulting water and mud.  Large mudslides were created and provided communal amusement.  In VietNam the SW monsoon was still in effect.  Troops lived and worked in mud, ankle-deep or deeper.  Rain was always a factor during the SW monsoon.  The troops in the field were always uncomfortable, hot,and wet or cold and wet until the monsoon direction reversed and the conditions changed to hot and dusty.  No one in the field would have enjoyed mudslides. 
          The festival ended after 3 days, leaving a mountain of trash behind for the promoters to clean up.
.  In VietNam the war was ongoing.  The process of “Vietnamization,” shifting the burden to our unwilling and often incapable allies was beginning.  The drawdown was initiated, making it even more likely that some small action somewhere might interfere with our departure..

 I was treated to a ten day drop, courtesy of Nixon and Kissinger.   I prided myself on being resistant to superstitions.  However, after some shrapnel injuries early in August, I stayed close to a bunker at nearly all times.  I avoided all crowds except a ETS party held for a flight warrant officer on the roof of Michelin plantation building where we consumed champagne and watched the fast movers work over Nui ba Dinh.  That, to the best of my memory, took place during Woodstock.  We had great fireworks to watch.