My First Two Months In Country - Jim Wambold
Way back in 1967 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, the 11th Light Infantry Brigade was formed. All efforts were directed toward building a cohesive and professional unit.
As a young 23 year old 1LT I was fortunate enough to witness this process of blending combat, support and supply operations over a 9 month period. We all worked hard and learned our lessons well. When the command was given to “move out” to Viet Nam we were as ready as any unit could have been.
I left Pearl Harbor on the evening of 4 December 1967 aboard an M.S.T.S. (Military Sea Transport Service) ship, The Gordon. The voyage lasted 14 days and ended at the port of Qui Nhon, Republic of Viet Nam.
We were all astonished when, after disembarking, no weapons were issued to us and yet there were hundreds of Vietnamese at the port running around in black pajamas! In retrospect, that was just the first of many events for which we were unprepared.
After many hours of waiting in the baking sun we were finally loaded on transport vehicles (deuce-and-a-halves) to motor north along Route 1 (still with no weapons) to our initial site named Carentan. We remained at this location unitl all elements were “in-country” and then, after Christmas, were moved to Fire Support Bases and Landing Zones which would become our base of operation and “home”.
I, as the Artillery LNO (Liaison Officer), was assigned to LZ Thunder where I was the interface between the 1/20 Infantry and C Battery, 6/11 Artillery which shared the same hill. Mainly, my position was to accompany the Battalion Commander, LTC Beers (yep, his callsign was Budweiser 6), in the Command and Control chopper (referred to as the “CC Ship” or “Charlie Charlie”) and provide any Artillery support he deemed necessary from my unit or any other that could provide coverage.
Because the entire Brigade arrived in-country together, a program of “infusion” was initiated in January 1968. This sent a percentage of us to other units so as to not have the whole Brigade rotate back to the United States at the same time; those who left because of this were replaced by the “fresh meat” of new arrivals in-country and by more seasoned troops who had been in Viet Nam for a while.
I was one who was reassigned in my same capacity to an Americal Division unit near Chu Lai and, after 6 months there, volunteered to become an Advisor to the Vietnamese RF/PF (Regional/Popular Forces); probably the worst trained, worst disciplined, worst equipped and worst fed of any troops on earth.
It was from that point that my “war stories” began to evolve….but that’s another chapter.
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