Like most guys who ended up in the 1/9th the Cav was not my first choice, however like all the men who served in the Real Cav I am immeasurably proud to have been a part of the finest unit in Vietnam.
By the time I got in-country I had discovered that there were units in the rear where Spec 4's drove ice cream trucks around the compond, swimming pools were common, and emergencies consisted of malfunctioning air conditioners. Since my mama didn't raise no fools, these were the units I volunteered for. But the war gods, realizing my steely resolve, finely honed fighting skills, not to mention charm, witt, and good looks, influenced the Army's hand in sending me to the Cav.
Cursing my bad luck I arrived at Cav rear. There, nestled among the air conditioned, round-eyed women infested, strap hangers paradise, was the Cav's offering to the good life; dusty, dirty barracks, with holes in the screens (for mosquito acclamation), piss tubes, outhouses, and not even a fan, much less an air conditioner. If this was the rear facilities I was in no hurry to get out to the field.
The first guy I met was Bill White. Now if you look up the word crazy you'll see a picture of Mr. White, Cav patch on the left sleeve, 101st patch on the other, with a faded outline of another Cav patch under the one oh worst tag. And this was still his first tour. Bill had been in-country for three years, serving first as a slick pilot for the 223rd, then a gun pilot, then an extention and a move to the 1/9th as a cobra pilot, another extension and a tour as a cobra pilot with the 101st, then a Scout pilot with 2/17th 101st, more extentions, and now to cap off an illustrious combat career he was extending one more time to fly Scouts for the 1/9th. Can you say "Death Wish".
Taking nothing away from the 2/17th, they were class act in Nam, but I got to tell you Bill's face would light up when he'd talk about finishing his tour as a 1/9th Scout. To him there was no finer outfit.
I remember Bill's sterling advice after sizing me up, "Whatever you do don't volunteer for the 1/9th. Go get some experience somewhere else first". Sage advice, but the war god's weren't finished screwing me over yet. A couple days later I found my name on the assignment roster for C Troop, 1/9th.
So there I was, standing at attention in Colonel Burnett's office, cursing my bad karma and sizing him up for a transfer to the Quartermaster Corp. After praising Bill for volunteering to fly Scouts he turned to me, "And what would you like to do"?
"I sure as hell don't want to fly Scouts", I muttered under my breath. "Well sir, I'm right out of flight school so the only thing I know how to fly is Huey's, but I cook a superb omlet and know I'd fit right in over at the mess hall".
"You married Bill," he asked, looking like a Condor eyeing a field mouse.
"No sir", I answered, figuring he might spare me so I could eventually sire an heir. Just as I was thinking, "Gee what a great guy", he came from behind the the desk, put his arm around my shoulders with a broad smile, and began telling me how he was going to do wonders for my career.
"What career, I ain't no lifer", my mind said though my military mouth was sealed.
For the next ten minutes he told how I'd leave Nam with a chest full of medals, and my career made. He failed to mention that during the past ten days seven Scout pilots had left on stretchers or in body bags.
Yea, thanks for the help.
Later that evening Bill and I made our first Scout meeting, him drooling like a dog in a butcher shop, me wondering if I could see to fly with two holes drilled in a chicken plate. But the best part was after we went back to our houch.
Two wild looking characters came over to greet me. "Hi Mr. Frazer, I'm Rankin and this is Neff, could we get your initials please."
"Uh huh", he said while writing it down. "Would you mind standing next to the wall for a minute".
"Sure, why not".
Neff pulled out a tape measure and gave Rankin my height.
"Could I ask what you're doing."
"We're making you a custom body bag. You ain't goin to make it." Then they left.
Along with the rats that ran through the houch all night, that parting statement finished any chance I had for sleep.
(to be continued)
Facts & Faces
Kurt Schatz's webpage (You'll throw rocks at mine after seeing his)
Walker Jones' "Charlie Troop Webpage" (His is better too. I feel so inadequate.)
You'll love this. AFVN: The heroic men and the brutal sacrifices they made to bring you the tunes. Some great memories and music.
Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association
Fort Wolters / The Old School
1st Cavalry Division Association
Lots of military links