November, 1969

We had been begging for a stand down. All we wanted was a few days in base camp or Mary Lou to maintain our tracks and weapons. Sgt. Fox was complaining about working with crew served M-16ís when so many of our weapons were inoperable. If one quit working, we would rob parts from another bad rifle until we had a working rifle.

Sgt. Poole explained my track was needed to escort some trucks to Bambetuit. This was my reward for commanding one of the few tracks that could actually make the trip. The round trip was to far to complete in one day, so we would spend the night in base camp (Camp Enari) before returning the next day. The helmet was passed around the company and I was given $120.00 to buy beer and soda at the PX in base camp.

The escort mission was thankfully uneventful. We were into the dry season again, and the dirt roads were turning into a light dusty powder. After a twelve hour day of catching dust and smelling exhaust fumes we were completely coated with dirt. Although dirty and tired, it was looking promising that we would complete our primary objective for the day, which was to get to the PX before it closed.

We arrived at the PX with a good fifteen minutes to spare. I walked into the PX and a MP (Military Police) stopped me and informed me I was to dirty to go into the PX. I tried to explain how I could take a shower after I bought the beer and soda, but if I took a shower first the PX would be closed. The MP reaffirmed his position that I would not be permitted to enter. I do not remember the exact conversation I had with the MP from that point, but I was furious as I climbed back up behind the 50 caliber machine gun on my track.

Many stories have been told about the berserk infantry soldiers in base camp. Apparently word was out that I was about to become the next chapter. When we drove up to our base camp headquarters there were eyes peering out from behind every bunker in sight. The Major bravely stepped out and ordered me to get down from my track. I explained to the Major I wanted a shower, but I wasnít looking forward to telling a bunch of men in the field who needed showers, that some MP with spit shine helmet and boots thought a shower was more important than their beer and soda. The Major sent me to the showers.

I showered and was given some clean clothes. I went to the mess hall to eat a hot meal. While I was eating, I was told to report to the armory when I was finished eating.

I reported to the armory. I was told my APC had been inspected and they found a few problems. The B40 rocket hole in the side was unacceptable. I explained the hole was months old and did not hurt the operation of the track. If our best track was unacceptable then all of our tracks needed to be brought in for a stand down.

I was told they had found rifles with serial numbers that were not assigned to my APC. I was informed that we should not keep the rifles of wounded men but should send them back to the armory. I explained if we returned every rifle we had a problem with, we would be weaponless out in the field. I again argued we needed to be brought in for a stand down to repair all the M-16ís and do the paper work.

As a final insult I was presented with my own rifle so I could see how dirty it was. It seemed senseless to explain to the base camp commandos that twelve hours on a dirt road resulted in a dirty rifle on the outside. I took the rifle and explained I had risk my life that very day on the fact the rifle was clean enough on the inside and asked if they would like to see a demonstration. Again, the men in the armory seemed more interested in finding a hiding place than seeing my demonstration.

I went to bed wondering how the people whose job it was to support the men in the field, could make our lives so miserable. After a good night sleep in a real bed I was looking forward to getting back to the field and away from the base camp madness. When I went to my APC the next morning, it had been cleaned and topped off with diesel fuel. The top had been restocked with fresh ammo cans. Our rifles had been cleaned and oiled. I looked inside the track and it to had been restocked, including $120.00 worth of beer and soda.

An apology was given, but I was still ready to go back to the field where I understood the insanity.

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©1997 C. Warren Gallion

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