Packin Up and the Sea Voyage

I trained at Fort Irwin, California in 1967 and early 1968 to deploy to Vietnam with the 6th Battalion 84th Artillery.  It was a battalion of 155mm Howitzers that were towed behind 5 Ton Trucks.  The build up and training phase went fairly well and I stayed at Fort Irwin over Christmas so I could take my leave right before we loaded up and deployed.

One of my additional duties was as the battery Supply officer.  That meant that I was the guy that became the expert on how to pack all our stuff into Connex containers.  The Army found that those metal shipping containers were just the ticket when it came to shipping our stuff up so we could send it on a boat and hope to find any of it where we stored it when we got there.  I don't remember the Technical manual's number but there was one that showed how and where to pack them.  I am sure that we also built about a thousand boxes that fit in the beds of the trucks to meet the standard.  When we first read the instructions, we thought that it was impossible to meet all the standards but when our vehicles got to Long Beach to load the equipment we found that our preparation was good as they were crazy sticklers for having everything had a place and we had everything stored there.  We even figured out how much fuel to put in our trucks so they didn't arrive there with more than 5 gallons of diesel in them. 

On my leave Barb and I got married and we had about a week or two left together prior to my leaving for Vietnam.  We found a small cabin there near Barstow that rented by the week and we booked our little love nest. I don't remember much about that time except that I was glad to have married prior to deployment.  Barb was going to move back to her parent's house when I left and then go to San Diego State while I was gone. 

There was little time left over once we had everything loaded and we spent it as well as we could.  The last day was spent saying goodbye and taking a bus trip to Long Beach.   I had no idea what Vietnam would be like in reality, only an impression that there were people there that would kill me if the could.  It was my goal to return that favor and arrive back home in a year safely.

When we got to Long Beach, we were lined up and put aboard the ship.  MP's were on the gang plank and no one was allowed to leave the ship once safely ensconced there.  The highlight of my day was to stand there and watch as one of our AWOL's was brought to the boat in handcuffs.  That meant that 100% of our unit was finally aboard.  That guy who the MP's brought on board had on a pair of blue jeans and none of his gear was with him.  He spent the first week in the brig and then loaned a uniform so he didn't stand our too bad. 

On b0oard the ship, we were told to wear tennis shoes because the boat would do a rock and roll that boots just weren't good at.  I think I read Hawaii, The Source and played a hundred hours of 10 point pitch and learned to play cribbage.  I managed to visit alm0ost every part of the boat just wandering around.  No, it was not a ship, because it wallered like a row boat out there on the ocean.  Instead of going up and down like a ship, it rocked back and forth as it settled down.  Can we spell sea sick boys and girls?  On the first day our, we were directed to go to our abandon ship stations.  We went there only to find that one of my cabin mates was so sea sick he had to carry a sack.  He would shout "Ralph,  Buick" over and over.  It just cracked us up and we found out later that he was taken to sick bay and there he stayed the entire time we were out.  I think they plugged in an IV line and inserted a catheter and he stayed in bed for the next couple of weeks.  By the time we got to the Philippines he was taken off the boat on a stretcher and flown on to Vietnam. 

Tomorrow I will tell you about Olongopo there in Subic Bay and perhaps the tale of the midnight surfer.

Bored boatman

No comments:

Post a Comment