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