Most RVN arrivees are processed through one of a few replacement battalions scattered throughout the company. I had the dubious privilege of being a guest of the 90th Replacement Battalion, Long Binh, Republic of Viet Nam, a few times.

I first arrived at the 90th on a bus from nearby Bien Hoa AFB, on 13 July 1968. We went through the gate and there it was, just to the left. It was a battalion-sized area of what were called Southeast Asia huts connected with duckboard sidewalks. The SEA huts were about 30' X 50' and had a row of metal bunks along each side. The enlisted barracks were the same but probably had bunk beds. The buildings were rivetted with 55 gallon oil drums filled with dirt and screened from above the oil drums to the large eaves. I think they were painted green. Perhaps the color was a subtle attempt to prepare us for what lay ahead.

Before too long I felt the urge to answer a call of nature, so I walked out of the door opposite to the main area. I was shocked to discover that the perimeter wire began not five feet from the door. There were two man fighting positions spaced out along the wire. The stories of the Tt Offensive and the smaller May 5th Offensive were fresh in my mind. A Girl Scout sapper squad wouldn't have met much opposition as I don't think the perimeter was manned at night. Even if it was, a bunch of REMF's (rear echelon main force in polite society) and green troops wouldn't have been much opposition. I didn't even have a rifle and I definitely felt exposed. I took a leak on the bunker and walked back in the building with renewed determination to join the Big Red One (BRO) ASAP.

I stayed there a few day waiting for transportation. There was a bulletin board where orders were posted where the officers congregated to see what hand fate had dealt them. The consensus was that orders for "up north" were tantamount to a death sentence. There was much false bravado when the infantry butter bars (2LTs) saw the Fifth Infantry Division next to their names or when a surly clerk announced with a smirk that LT Smith was going to the A Shau Valley.

Most people arrived with orders to the 90th for further reassignment. As a volunteer, my orders specified the 1st Infantry Division. I was told that my orders didn't mean anything and that they would send me where they wanted. Piss on that. I saw some BRO patches and scrounged a ride on a Caribou to DiAn the 1st Division's base camp. What could they do to me ...... send me to Viet Nam?

My new comrades took me to Long Binh where we hopped on the plane which resembled a minnie C-130. It was a short flight. Not five minutes after taking off we began circling DiAn. My stomach tightened as I thought about entering the combat zone. My apprehension was heightened by many high columns of black smoke that rose from the ground. Oh my God, they're under attack. My Ranger tab was little consolation as we spiraled downward. When the ramp dropped I braced myself to race to the nearest bunker.

Being a wise 1LT and not a naive butter bar, I checked out the area before running for safety. There was no sign of anxiety on the faces of the troops on the ground so I thought I would play it cool. I waved at the pilot and headed to the operations building with an eye ever on the bunker. I casually asked a soldier what all the black smoke was. I think he knew my concern because he grinned when he said, "Just burning shit, sir, just burning shit. Welcome to the First Infantry Division."

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