SPIT SHINE GUARD MOUNT

In February of 1970, H.H.B. 6/27th moved from our home at Quan Loi to Phu Loi. This was a move I wasn't looking forward to. I had a feeling that for me nothing good would come of it. I guess for those that were relatively new to Vietnam this was just part of being there. For those of us that had been through the incoming and ground attacks at Quan Loi it meant leaving a part of who we were behind. Part of me welcomed the new challenges that lay ahead, but another part was unsure of what to expect. I did know Phu Loi was a much bigger base and with that would come a stateside mentality. I was right.

Fortunately for me, not long after we arrived I was sent to set up the radio relay station on Nui Ba Rah. This is what I needed; a place where I could do what I had been sent to do. No more morning or noon formations, no one looking over my shoulder with every move I made, and the freedom to go shirtless while on my watch sitting at the radio. I know these sound like small things, but at the time they were important to me. Along with my newly regained freedoms came some more unpleasant things.

For starters, water was rationed, which meant no real showers. I did however get good at giving myself a sponge bath. There was one time we had an extra water bladder delivered, and I got a somewhat real shower. We had a shower there that consisted of a 55gal. drum sitting on top of a makeshift shower stall. I took my extra water and poured the water into the drum, then got inside and opened the valve to a trickle until I was damp. I then shut the water off and lathered myself up real good, then turned the water back on a trickle and rinsed the soap off. I then opened the valve and put the rest of the water back in my can. The water was cold, but I felt refreshed.

Because we had no extra water, we could do no laundry. All our clothes were filthy and we went as long as we could stand before changing. My bed was a litter set on 2x4's, my pillow was my flak vest, and for covers we used our dirty shirts. Ahhhh, yes the price of not having to deal with those back at Phu Loi. It was wonderful.

From time to time I would get relieved, and spend a few days down at Phu Loi. The only upside I could see to this was hot showers, getting my clothes cleaned, and hot meals. Oh yes, the EM Club was a good thing too. On one such occasion, I was relieved early in the day. I had been off duty for only a short time when my relief arrived. I threw my things together, grabbed a chopper to the bottom and picked up a flight from Song Be to Quan Loi. From there I was just in time to hitch a ride with a convoy going to Phu Loi. The convoy rout was long and dusty, and by the time we pulled into the battery I was hot, tired and dirty. The dirt wasn't only from the convoy; I hadn't had a shower in about three weeks. My clothed looked pretty bad, and my M16 needed a good cleaning too.

As I headed for the hooch where my bunk was I started thinking of how good a shower and hot meal would make me feel, when someone yelled out, "Hey Mallory, you got guard tonight and guard mount is in about 15min. "I stopped, looked at who was speaking, then went to the bulletin board to see if in fact it was true. It was. They had crossed some other soldierís name off and put mine up in his place.

Now I was starting to get pissed. I had been up for around 20 hours and I was hot, hungry, and in no mood for this. I knew it would do no good to bitch at this late time, so I threw my stuff on the bunk, the bunk I would not be sleeping in tonight, grabbed my trusty dusty rifle, helmet, and flak vest. Then I headed out the door cursing everyone that I saw on my way to guard mount.

When I reached the formation area, I knew I was in trouble. Everyone had on clean fatigues, their boots had been introduced to polish, and their rifles looked like they had just come out of the box. I tried to hide as best I could, so I got in the back row. Then the officer of the guard walked up. He was a lieutenant (a gold bar). His boots were spit shined; his fatigues were really green with creases. His helmet cover looked like it had just been taken off the fabric roll. There wasn't a speck of dirt on him, and for that, matter not much sun. I could tell right away that this wasn't going to be pretty.

I watched as he went soldier to soldier inspecting each manís weapon. After each one he would say something to them. As he got closer, I realized he was telling each one what he expected to be changed by the time that person got to his assigned bunker. Then it was my turn, I snapped to attention, brought my trusty dusty rifle to port, locked the bolt to the rear, looked to make sure there were no rounds in the breach, and started to hand it to him. At that moment, he stepped back and gave me a good once over. Then he started in on my appearance.

I don't recall exactly what was said, but I know it wasn't very nice, and I wanted to drop him right then and there. After about one or two minutes of abusive language he told me that before I went to my bunker I was to shower, shave, get some clean clothes on and clean my weapon. At that point, I wanted to get in his face and explain to him, in the same tone he used on me, just why I looked so bad, but I knew that no amount of explaining would get me off the hook. So I looked him strait in the eye and said, "Sir ,there is nothing I would rather do right now than get a shower and into some clean clothes." I don't know if he was expecting an argument from me, but he seamed surprised at my response. His come back was "see that it gets done."

After guard mount, I got myself a good long shower, found some clean fatigues, had a hot meal ,and cleaned my trusty dusty rifle. It was experiences like this that made me volunteer for every convoy or whatever to keep me away from those people at Phu Loi. I am sure there were those that thought it was a great place, but they were probably the ones that had never experienced the thrill of incoming, or the uncertainty of being in a unsecured area. Those are the things that build character. Those are the memories that mean the most to me.

Roger Mallory     Then  and 
Now
 

 

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