The Writers Voice
The Other Casualty of War - Chapter Nine
I was scared to death! The closer we got, the more intense the fear was. A million thoughts were going through my mind! What was going to happen when they opened the door of the plane? Would someone be shooting at us? I don’t have a weapon! Where do we go? My mouth was dry, and my hands were sweating. What the hell do I do? Where do I go? Am I going to die?
The door opened, and the first thing that hit me was a blast of heat! Then a certain kind of smell, one I cannot quite describe, but there was a distinct aroma. There were a lot of soldiers carrying M-16’s walking around, but no shooting. I think my eyes and my mind were going a hundred miles an hour. I was trying to take everything in and praying I would remember all my training. I didn’t want to die.
The heat was incredible. I wondered, “Man, how will
get used to this heat?” We were escorted to the
Replacement Battalion and waited there for orders.
During my time there, I remember walking around, but I never went too far. I was afraid of what would happen if I got lost. Once I went to a club with a couple of guys. I think I had one, maybe two beers and went back to the barracks. Other than that, I listened to a radio and just waited.
Three days passed before they called me. I was being sent to the central highlands of Vietnam, to a place called Phu Tai Valley. It felt like all eyes were on me looking for my reaction. I remember a couple of green berets getting orders to Vung Tau. When they were handed their orders, they smiled. I didn’t realize until much later that Vung Tau was an in country R&R station. The next morning, I boarded a C-130 to fly up to Phu Tai. There were no seats on this plane, only a cargo strap that went from one side of the plane to the other. We sat on our duffel bags and held onto the strap. Then the plane took off, I thought I was going to roll to the back, it felt as if it took off straight up like a rocket.
I guess it was about an hour or so before we landed. When we got off the plane there was a 2-1/2 ton truck waiting to take me to my company. I was the only new guy that day. It was about another hour or so before we made it to Alpha Company.
I was shown where to store my gear, issued a weapon and some other stuff, fed, and was assigned a temporary job. I was assigned to the company honcho. (The Honcho was the one who was in charge of all the Vietnamese that worked within the compound.) I would have to go with him and pick up all the Vietnamese, assist with searching them before they could come into the compound and search them again when it was time for them to leave. While they worked, we would go around and continually check on them because of security reasons.
The Honcho asked me one day, to drive the Vietnamese back to the village, which was the drop off, and pick up point. When I told him I didn’t know how to drive, he said, “Well, you’re about to learn.” I got behind the wheel of this 2-½ ton truck and asked where is first gear. He told me where it was and said he would tell me when to shift and show me where the next gear would be. By the time we were about 1 mile away from our compound, the Vietnamese were yelling and screaming, “G.I., you Dien Cai Dau! You number 10!” (Dien Cai Dau means crazy and being number 10 sort of meant you were a low-life) The Honcho was laughing at me. I was sweating uncontrollably. I was finally told to pull over and he would drive. When we got back, he taught me how to drive. It took a few days, but I finally was able to get the hang of it well enough to do what was necessary.
It was right after that when I was transferred to Supply. I still didn't know anyone, other than the Honcho. Most of the guys just asked me where I was from. Other than that, not much was said. I quickly found out that FNG's (F***ing New Guys) were not the most popular people around.
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