1/31/2012

6th Bn, 84th FA

Swoosh, was the sound of the doors opening on the first bus of soldiers arriving from Fort Sill.  The unit was filled by Lieutenants fresh from OCS and cannoneers just trained at Fort Sill.  We had a couple of NCO's that had been in the Army for a while but few if any with combat experience in Vietnam.  The Chiefs of Section were the one's that had been acting NCO's in AIT.  My battery (Alpha) had a Captain fresh back from Korea, a 1LT that had washed out of flight school and 4 brand new 2nd LTs.  I was assigned as a Forward Observer and the unit Supply Officer.


As the supply officer, I was the guy responsible for the issue of the entire battery's worth of equipment as it arrived by truck.  This was a new unit and we had nothing on hand until it was sent from some depot.  We worked hard to get some Connex shipping containers for each gun to secure their equipment.  Our motor pool did not have storage buildings built in with wire cages.  I don't remember how many pages of Microfiche it took to list the things on order and on hand but I do know reading one of the readers would give me a headache.  The trucks loads of equipment would arrive and we would have to figure out who to make sign for it.  

The 6th Bn, 84th Field Artillery was a 155mm Towed Artillery Unit.  That meant that we had a 5 Ton Gun Truck and an ammo truck for each gun.  When our unit went out to the field, we would stretch out for several hundred meters along the road.  The biggest problem we had was that the main reason our XO failed flight school. He was absolutely unable to read a map correctly or tell direction without help.  The first time we pulled into a firing position, we were facing entirely the wrong direction.  The battery commander was watching from up on a nearby hill and came down and chewed his butt big time.  They us-assed that position and drove around and came back to the same spot.  had one of the NCO's not remembered, he would have the put the guns in the same spots facing the wrong direction again.  That happened two more times and it was when the Post Commander came up over a hill and saw the battery pointing at Main Post that things got changed.  One of the other 2nd Lt's was put in the XO's position and things were fairly normal during the rest of the training.

It was a lot like the blind leading the blind there at Fort Irwin.  We knew what the books said about fighting but how the hell do you train for Vietnam in a place where  there is no brush over two or three feet tall and damned little of that.  We had no camouflage nets, no sand bags, no experience and darned little leadership. Somehow the battery managed to get ready for and pass what was then called an ATT or Army training Test.  A couple of mornings after that, when we all appeared for a Battery Officer's call, CAPT Alex Kocsis said, "Good morning Special Weapons Officer" to me.  I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. 


I was sent over to the S-2's office and read into the Nuclear Weapons Program.  I was told that in two weeks we would be given a courtesy evaluation by 6th Army and a week after that we would be evaluated for record.  I went back to the battery and was met by the First Sergeant.  He would not let me go in to the Commander's office and plead my case.  He calmly said that over there in that file cabinet was the records of every man in the battery and I could pick six of the best for my team.  I picked out the 6 brightest soldiers in the unit (or the one's with the highest test scores) and went out to meet them.  I think one or two were in the Fire Direction Center but the majority were on the guns.  I took them over to a Quonset hut and started talking about what the heck we were in for.  I am not sure how much of the training is still classified but mostly in a 155mm unit you assemble a round by the book and if authenticated you get to fire it.  We had a trainer and between the three battery teams, we shared it.  We would have one person read the manual and the others would help do what the reader said.  There was some stupid rule that there needed to be two people on hand at all times so we had to stagger lunch.  

The two weeks went by quickly with only one small problem.  On Wednesday of the first week, I was told to report to Battalion headquarters.    Who the hell had picked Stubbs for the training?  For some reason he did not have a favorable National Agency Check and would never be given a Security Clearance.  I had to send him to the S-2 office where they read him out of the program with a threat of Leavenworth if he ever uttered a word of his training.  We were down to five but the training went on.


One Saturday Morning, we all met the evaluation team from the Presidio and did our thing.  We had only one training round, so each unit did their thing in order and by the book.  We were told that in a week they would be back and we needed to do the same thing only next time for record.  A week later we did and we passed.  The 6th Bn was Officially certified as a Nuclear Capable Unit and on orders for Vietnam where there were no Nuclear Weapons.  Stupid is as Stupid Does.   That night, I invited my team over to my BOQ room to have a party.  When they showed up, they had Stubbs in tow and we partied until all the beer and Scotch was gone.  Somewhere in the middle of all the fun, I asked Stubbs what he could have possible done to not get a favorable National Agency Check.  He told me about his trip to the Peace Corps.  When they completed his training he was sent to Nigeria and the people there hated them.  They were not allowed to go into the villages or do anything they were trained to do.  He went to his camp director and asked to be sent somewhere else.  He was told that the only way out for the next two years was to be crazy and get sent home.  Stubbs said he took off his clothes and ran around naked for a couple of days acting crazy and they sent him home.  Works for me.  In 1967, no Peace Corps assignment and the Draft soon followed.


Right in the middle of the training for the Battalion level ATT, orders came down for us to send several officers to the Jungle Warfare school in Panama.  I will close this here and start the story again in Panama tomorrow.


MUD, Jungle Expert

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