Short Story Told in the Long Version

I was contacted by the editor of the news letter for the 1st Battalion, 92nd Artillery.  That was one of the two units I served in during my tour in Vietnam.  He asked me to write a short write up about my Military Career and the time I spent in the unit.  So put on your 5 buckles and sit down for a tale well told. (or at least as well as I can tell it.)

I was a Baby Boomer born in Wichita, Kansas about 9 months after my father returned from his tour in the Pacific.  When I was a child, we played war games almost every day.  We were the Cavalry fighting Indians, the US Army fighting the Germans and the Japanese and most of us were fairly well armed. Between the fanner 540s and bb guns, we thought we were a pretty well armed force.   I personally read about everything I could about famous warfighters.  I am not sure that helped me in my career, but it didn't hurt.  I also was in scouting most of my years growing up but I wasn't really in it for the rank, mostly the fun of camping with my friends.  I did learn to cook over a campfire and loved the friendships I gained there. 

I attended High School in Wichita and started my college career, at Wichita State in 1965.  I soon grew bored and only finished the first semester there before I went to work doing construction, drinking beer and basically goofing off.  In 1966, on your 19th birthday you either went to college with a Student Deferment or the Draft Board would pick you up and send you to places you didn't want to go or they wanted you to go and sometimes it was both.  In September 1966, I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood as a Private for Basic Training.  I had the same battery of tests that all other trainees and because of the score on my exams I was also given the Officer Classification Battery test to see if I qualified for OCS.  I took that test and convinced a board I should go, and was accepted in the Career Field of Field Artillery. "Go to the sounds of the guns" was the only Military Quote I knew.
Pvt Petty, Fort Leonard Wood, MO  Oct 1966

At Fort Sill, I was sent through the OCS Preparatory Training (13E) and then directly to OCS in January 1967.  23 weeks later, I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in Cannon Artillery and sent to Fort Irwin, CA to train up with a unit that deployed in February 1968.  I will skip the reports of the 6th Bn, 84th Artillery as it was not the highlight of my Military Career.  After 3 weeks in Country I was infused into the 1st Battalion 92nd Artillery. This was to keep the entire 6th Bn, 84tht from going home on the same date. They had been hit pretty hard in a mortar attack so they really needed a good dose of experience.  Four Lieutenants were sent to Artillery Hill, Pleiku.  I asked to be sent to a 155 unit as that was the kind of Artillery I knew.

The 1st Bn, 92nd Field Artillery was a 155 Toed Howitzer unit with their headquarters located in Pleiku and I was given the job as the Battalion Ammunition Officer.  For about a month and a half, we ran daily convoys from Pleiku to Dak To.  The ammunition dump there was blown up during Tet and we had almost all the 5 ton trucks from the battalion at our disposal to haul all the ammunition we could to put the Ammo Dump back to a normal basic load. I was either in the convoy or flying air cover for the convoy.   There were no truck companies available so someone had to do it. 

The first person I met in the 1st Bn, 92nd FA was the Battalion Commander, LTC Alfred J. Cade.  He welcomed me to the unit and asked me to take a tough job prior to moving to a Firing Battery.  That job was filling up the ASP at Dak To.  I did manage to have the duty officer job in the battalion TOC a couple of times during that month and a half and in the  evening LTC Cade would come in and read the daily reports and review the status of the unit.  During those times, I got to see a good example of what a commander did.  He would also talk to the duty staff and ask great questions that the reports didn't cover.  LTC Cade went on to be a Major General on Active duty before he retired.  I could never say anything bad about Colonel Cade and in fact he stands out as one of the finest officers I served with in any part of the Army. 

Somewhere near Pleiku

About the time we had the ASP in Dak To up to snuff, I was assigned to several small Forward Observer jobs and went out on trips with the ARVN's, a basic training company of Montagnards and a couple of weeks with an ARVN Cav unit just north of Pleiku as a liaison officer.  One day, the Battalion XO called me into the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and told me that I was going on a short assignment as a Forward Observer with the 1st Bat 503rd Rgt, 173rd Abn.  The XO and I expected it to be an assignment of at most a couple of weeks. I went to the unit as the only "Leg" in that unit. The Recon Sergeant and I compared pay one day and I found that he made more money than I did because of the jump pay and separation pay.  After a week, I expected to be told that the next week the Forward Observer would be back.  Nope, I found out that he was in the VA Hospital in Wichita with Malaria and my stint there was extended until they could find a replacement.  I spent over 6 weeks with them and finally returned to the 1st Bn, 92nd FA.  I was assigned as the FDO and then the XO of B Battery and remained there until I came home in Feb 1969.  We moved three or four times during my assignment with them.

My Recon Team with Sebastian Cabot on a Fire Base

As the Fire Direction Officer for B battery, I met a bunch of guys that had every right to be pretty pissed off.  They had been in Officer's Candidate School when the rules changed and because they didn't have a degree they were kicked out.  I didn't have a degree and they made sure that I knew they thought they were every bit as good at their jobs as I was at mine.  For the most part, they were right, with the exception that I worked about as hard as anyone could.  I can truthfully say that I never let one of my men or unit I was assigned to get hit by my artillery.  I did loose my Radio Telephone Operator to a mortar in the 6th Bn, 84th FA but there was nothing I could have done to prevent that.

When I came home from Vietnam. I went to Fort Carson, Colorado and was there until my 2 years ended in July 1969. They offered me a promotion to Captain but I knew that without a degree there was no way I could make a career and there was always a rift waiting for those of us without one.  I went home to Wichita and went back to school at WSU.  when my wife finished her degree in Education, we moved to Leavenworth, KS and I joined the National Guard and attended my last 2 years at KU. 

When I graduated from KU, I went to work full time as a Battalion training Officer in Ottawa, KS in the Kansas Army National Guard.  I spent about five years there and then moved to the State Headquarters and worked my way up through the ranks in the Plans, Operation and Training field.  I did have the opportunity to command the 1st Bn, 127th Field Artillery and took them through a successful ARTEP. 

In 1997, on my 50th Birthday, I retired from the National Guard as a Colonel, 06.  I retired to our farm here near the edge of Topeka and am the head laborer for a Master gardener I have been married to for 48 years. 

One of the things I took away from my time in the 1st Bn, 92nd Field Artillery was the skills that helped me be a good officer for the rest of my career.  We were an Air Mobile Unit and planning to move a Field Artillery Battery from one place to another took great skill and hard work.  1968 was years before we had computers and I had never had any training in planning.  I learned everything the hard way and found that attention to detail was more than a saying.  One of the things I will always remember was the great men I served with.  I hope we can all meet one day and share a cup of grog at Fiddler's Green and tell war stories and laugh till our cups run dry. 

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