I remember flying into FSB Granite in what must of been mid-March, 1970. My first firebase, my first day assigned to Echo Co. 1st Battalion/5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry. It looked like it had been hacked and bulldozed out of the jungle, a rough barren circle in the middle of the all that green.
Echo company saw fit to put me in the .50 caliber squad. My MOS was “unit armourer”, earned OJT in Hohenfels, Germany, my first overseas assignment. I had attended a weapons maintenance class that included maintaining and headspacing a Browning heavy MG.
As I recall, my first acquaintances at Granite were Buynak, Bowsher, Mychajluk (Nick), Harold Davis (Ace!), McMichael (Kansas) and the guys from mortars. Kansas and I were in the 50’s, but I would be hard pressed to name anyone else in the 50’s at that time. The rest of the gang were in mortars obviously. Doc Shramm appeared in there somewhere, Wayne Roe of course, Sgt Sheldon is probably the first person I talked to when I showed up. Recon was in the bush, so I didn’t know what a crazy bunch they were, but I would learn that in due course.
I was issued an M-16 and Top walked with me over to the “range” they had there and I test fired it. I remember walking around the base and checking on the 50’s that were all mounted in bunkers. We would check them, test fire and then clean ’em.
Echo Co. had acquired a “minigun”, the electric gatling gun like on Huey gunships & Puff the Magic Dragon. I have no idea how this got started, but there’s a long story here which I won’t go much further with. Just to say the damned thing had been mounted to a tripod and Kansas and I were assigned to man that thing. Kansas was the gunner and I was the ammo bearer. It didn’t work out and I was glad. I had become especially apprehensive after out first “alert drill”, when Kansas and I threw the minigun w/tripod, thousands of rounds in big ammo cans, M-16’s and all on the back of a mule. Kansas was also the driver and he took off as fast as a mule could go across the fire base in the dark while I tried to hang on to everything as we bumped along. Like I said, I was glad when that idea was dropped.
It wasn’t long after this, the scuttlebutt going around said we were moving. Moving and building a new base. Guys were saying that we would frequently build a new base and turn it over to the S. Vietnamese. They were right on both counts. We soon were packing everything up and flying to a new base; FSB Ann, but before we build that one I want to mention the previous firebase for the 1/5 Cav was FSB Vivian. This base would be mentioned many, many times by the members of Recon after I joined them. Also, many stories about Lt. McVittie, whom I never did meet. So I hope someone ( ‘ol grunts) would comment on both those topics.
Oh sure, I remember Ann. That’s where Kansas and I filled so many goddamned sandbags and ammo crates with dirt. As I have recounted before, we rebuilt our hooch more than once. I was hardly aware Echo Co. had a recon platoon at this point in time and it must be here that I first saw those guys walking onto the base. Meanwhile, we still had that damned minigun, but the priority was obviously to get all the “fifty’s” fitted to the new bunkers, stocked with ammo, etc. The mood did change when Recon showed up. Guys were like, “Hey, there’s Recon!”, and hollered greetings. Recon was busy stashing their gear, taking showers and talking to all the guys in Echo. To the best of my recollection quite a few of them were drunk by the time the sun went down.
I was never much of a smoker or drinker, but the there was always a plentiful supply of cigarettes and beer most of the time I was in the Army. I would occasionally smoke a cigarette to pass the time. If you wanted beer, it was frequently available. Enlisted men were not allowed hard liquor. I could see how that could get out of hand. Yes, Recon was letting off a little steam. I had no idea how long they had been in the bush, but it seemed entirely appropriate that they would kick back and let someone else pull guard duty that night.
It seems they weren’t around long and walked back off the base one afternoon. Any recollections?
By the end of March life on Ann wasn’t bad all in all. We were done building. We were near the cook tent and their hooches, so we inter-acted with them. The chow was good as I recall. Probably spent most time off duty hanging out with the mortar crews, reading books, making tea. My parents sent me “care packages” with black tea, Pop tarts and the like. By the time April would end, I would be a part of Recon and headed into Cambodia where another new fire base would be built. FSB Zulu (North).
It just occurred to me that Arty would have been in the .50 caliber squad at that time. How did he get that name? What the heck is his real name?