|Why Are These Guys a Funny Orange Color?|
I am probably the only person who can remember where I was on Sept. 25th 1970.
After a flight from New York, I was sitting in the waiting room of the passenger
terminal of Travis AFB. I had about four hours to kill before boarding a Braniff
flight heading to the mysterious Orient.
There was little to do in that waiting room except to look out at the field. During my wait approximately three flights arrived. These arriving flights were what I soon would learn to refer to as freedom birds.
When the first flight arrived I looked out at the disembarking passengers, I couldn't put my finger on the reason, but they all looked strange. The second plane arrived sometime later, and I still had the feeling that these men looked strange. It wasn't the fact that they were all wearing jungle fatigues, it was something else.
My seemingly interminable wait continued and a third plane arrived. Due to sheer boredom, I decided to concentrate on the deplaning passengers. After the third plane load disembarked, I realized that each and every one of them was a strange orange color. I wondered what I was getting into. Would I too come down with some strange form of jaundice that would leave me in that condition?
Finally my flight boarded and my mind was occupied with other thoughts, such as will this flight ever end. I solved part of this problem on our first refueling flight in Honolulu. My solution was trying to establish a new world record for consumption of gin & tonics in one half hour. Whether or not I established the record, I did accomplish to put myself to sleep for a large portion of the flight.
After various stops along the way I was assigned to A Btry 6/27th FA. I reported to the battery at FSB Wade in Loc Ninh RVN. I looked around at the condition of the personnel who quite frankly looked like a bunch of unwashed, unkempt homeless people. Since this was the rainy season red mud was everywhere. I was an officer in the United States Army, and I was determined that under no circumstances was I going to allow myself to degenerate into that state.
I spent my first few days at Wade digging mud out of the cleats on my brand new jungle boots secure in the knowledge that I had my kiwi shoe polish. On about my second night the phone lines to the guns went down and Ken Kotiza (Sr FDO) sent me down to the guns to read the fire commands to the guns. I left for the guns making sure to stay on a path made of SSP. I arrived at the gun pad accompanied by I think Larry Cutter with a flashlight.
I arrived at the edge of the gun pad, where everything looked solid. I did not realize what a 175's spade did to the rainy season mud. I intrepidly marched forward to give the commands and immediately sunk hip deep into the mud. One of the gun bunnies, whom I later came to know as Skeeter, stood there shaking his head probably thinking here's another stupid Lt. that we have to put up with. He did however pull me out of the mud.
After the rounds were expended, I am sure that the gun crew spent the rest of the night laughing themselves sick at the new dumb Lt. (I must say that if they did they had good reason).
I trudged back to the FDC weighing probably 10 pounds more than when I left due to the encrusted mud. When I got back to the FDC and could see myself in the light, I came to the realization, that my can of kiwi would do no good. I then realized two things: first, that I too would look like the homeless and more importantly that I was about to turn that strange orange color that I had noticed at Travis AFB.
|Tom Hynes Then and Now|