I asked around to find out where new personnel should report. I was told to go to the First Division Replacement Detachment and given directions. It was kind of like a minnie 90th Replacement. I reported in and was told to wait for further assignment. At the replacement company I was issued a complete set of new clothes -- from skivvie shorts to steel helmet. I could have stepped off the plane naked because they issued me everything I needed. The 88 pound duffle bag I had lugged across half the world was a waste of effort.

That evening I wandered into a little bar near the replacement barracks and made myself at home. After I had downed a few beers my name was called. I acknowledged and was approached by an armor 1LT. He said that he was glad to see me because I was his replacement. That struck me as odd because I was a grunt and not a tread head. I asked him what his job was and he replied that he was the executive officer of 1st Admin Company. "That the hell's that?" I replied. He told me that I was in the 1st Admin Bar and welcomed me again.

First Admin Company consisted of about 650 troops. It was commanded by a captain but he was not the senior man in it. Everybody in a regular army unit must belong to a company. In most companies the commander is the senior man. There are a few exceptions. For example, a LTC battalion commander is assigned to headquarters company of the battalion along with his staff. The company is commanded by a captain but at least three members of the company are senior to him. This causes him to resort to diplomacy more than your average commander.

1st Admin was like a headquarters company but worse. The two main subdivisions of the company were the Adjutant General Section and the Finance Section. Both had LTC section heads with an attendant number of Majors and a bevy of company grade officers, most of whom out ranked me. The commander commanded about 650 people but directly controlled about a dozen. Whenever he needed to use AG or Finance soldiers for guard duty or work details, the section chiefs would complain.

The company headquarters and most of its personnel were located at DiAn. The Adjutant General himself and his immediate staff were at Division headquarters at Lai Khe, a rubber plantation north of DiAn. All together the company had people and property in five different places, including the postal detachment in Saigon. 1st Admin occupied a several hundred meter portion of the DiAn perimeter and consisted of numerous tropical buildings, some in a barracks configuration and some as offices.

When I asked the 1LT why they picked me as his replacement. He told me that I was the only 1LT that had arrived recently and that a more senior guy was preferred. He said that they picked a combat arms type as the XO because one of his major duties was perimeter officer responsible for base defense. I thought about protesting this malassignment but I didn't want to tempt fate. He told me to report to the orderly room the next day to meet the CO.

CPT Chubb was an Adjutant General Corps type. He told me that he had been detailed armor for a few years though. He was short and balding and had a great sense of humor. When I asked him if the job was difficult. He said he didn't know about that but he had sported a full head of hair when he started. He paused and then said that the thing that really bothered him was that he had been six feet tall when took command. I came to like and admire CPT Chubb. He took his job seriously but not himself.

A new officer in any unit is generally assigned extra duties. Evidently there was a policy not to assign these duties to any of the AG or finance officers, so I wound up with them. I was put on orders for forty-four extra duties. If I really had familiarized myself with the regulations for each one, it would have taken my whole tour. Only a few were of any real significance.

The Army Times used to have a column called "Stake Your Claim" in which readers challenged each other to top their claims. Some of the claim were ridiculous others serious. It was kind of like a military Guiness Book of Records. I sent in copies of my orders and made the paper. My claim stood for a while until some poor Lieutenant produced orders that made me seem underemployed. How fleeting is fame.

My living arrangements were really good. I has a small room, more like a large closet all to myself. When a finance major left, I was quick to appropriate his bed, a 3/4 bed with a wooden frame and innerspring mattress, just like they used in the BOQ's in the States. We called our quarters "hootches", a generic term meaning small house or home. The vietnamese girls who kept them clean and did our laundry were, of course, called hootch maids. I was pleased with my accommodations, classy digs for an infantryman.

My favorite job was as the officer in charge of the perimeter. Since the division had been there for several years, I thought that the perimeter would be all but impregnable. What a joke. As inexperienced as I was, I saw that our defenses left much to be desired. The wire was rusty and broken down and it didn't seem to be laid to any plan. We has a high wooden tower and several bunkers, both 2 man fighting positions and machine gun bunkers in our sector. I eventually replaced all of the barbed wire with single and double apron emplacements along the final protective fire line of each machine gun. If the shit hit the fan all the gunner had to do was swing the gun until the barrel hit a wooden peg and shoot like hell. The chances were 50/50 that he would swing it in the right direction.

One night I was hitting on a Red Cross girl (doughnut dolly) in the officer's club. I thought it would be romantic to take her out to the perimeter and let her look through a starlight scope. The starlight scope was a night vision device that was pretty high tech for the time. We went out to the perimeter and climbed the tower. I relieved the guard and told him to take a break. He went down through the trap door with a smirk on his face and left us alone. After a few minutes a tremendous explosion went off in front of the tower. Oh my god!! My ass would be grass if the girl got hurt. I almost threw her down the ladder, pointed her toward safety and went to investigate. It turned out that one of the guards thought he saw something and popped a claymore. He was probably just bored. At any rate my ardor was definitely cooled. I took a little flack about getting caught with my pants down but managed to live it down

Every night I would check the guard before going off duty. We had a duty officer every night. All of the officers, major and below, shared that duty, but I wasn't going to depend on finance and AG types with our safety. The first night I could see why they needed a combat arms type as XO. The troops were administrative types and didn't know the first thing about machine guns and the like. Some of the sentries would load the MG ammo backwards or would sight the guns so thy wouldn't hit anyone under seven feet tall. I did my best to teach them some basic infantry skills.

We had a nice little officer's club in our company area. The bar adjoined our officer's mess. The mess hall served as a movie theater for both normal movies and the occasional showing of what we called "special" movies. Of course they were porno flicks that our club NCO Sergeant Garvin occasionally got from the enlisted men's club. One memorable night just as Sparkie the Dog was doing his thing, in walked the Division Chaplain, a Lieutenant Colonel. He turned on the lights and said that he was ashamed of us and asked what the enlisted men would think. An anonymous voice informed him that it was OK since we had gotten them from the enlisted men. That ended the special movies until the chaplin rotated home.

Sergeant Garvin kept the essentials of a bar on a tray so that in case of a rocket or mortar attack, he could just move the party into a bunker. One night there as an attack and he hurried into the bunker. He was wearing shower shoes and stubbed his great toe, ripping off most of his toenail. When things quieted down and we were back in the bar, he placed his injured foot and his severed toenail on the bar to solicit our sympathy. Such was the Viet Nam war that he actually got a purple heart.

The Finance Officer was a white-haired lieutenant colonel who seemed to feel that the primary job of the company commander was to ensure that the shower water was hot. Two of my favorite war stories involved him. One morning as I was nursing my first cup of coffee, he stormed into my office naked, except for a towel around his waist. He didn't say good morning or anything except, "Come with me Lieutenant Heller."

He led me to the officer's shower, a small corrugated metal building with two jet wing tanks and an immersion heater on the roof. He marched into the shower clutching his towel as if it were a toga, turned on the water and curtly demanded, "What's that??" I saw a red liquid running from the showerhead. My initial impulse was alarm as I at first thought the liquid was gasoline. My shock subsided when I realized I didn't smell gas. "Well? the Colonel impatiently exclaimed. I cupped my hand under the stream, brought it to my mouth, sniffed it and ventured a taste. "Cool Aid, sir, I matter-of-factly announced, trying to keep from laughing.

Another time he marched a soldier into my orderly room. The soldier was a field trooper who came into DiAn to get paid. He had the biggest Afro I had ever seen. It must have been about two feet wide. The Colonel asked if he could use my company barber. I naturally said yes and followed them as they walked up the company street. All the while the soldier kept saying that "I don't need no fuckin' haircut, sir." The Colonel ordered him in the barber chair while some of the guy's friends and I watched the show.

The two of them argued for about five minutes. "I order you to get a haircut, soldier" was followed by the inevitable "Don't need no fuckin' haircut. The Colonel got redder and redder and louder and louder. All of a sudden the soldier grabbed his hair and yanked. It was a wig!! He threw it over the head of the Colonel to one of his buddies who immediately disappeared. I thought the Colonel would have a stroke when the guy said, "See, I tole you I don't need no fuckin' haircut."

"Get the Red Book he hollered at me, meaning the Manual for Courts-Martial so he could read the guy his rights. I ran to the orderly room to get it, laughing all the way, and when I got back there were four M.P. machine gun jeeps at my barber shop. We searched the area but the wig was never found. I never heard about the episode from the Colonel. I suppose he was happy that the M.P's found pot on the soldiers and hauled them away.

McNamara's One Hundred Thousand was the derisive term for another one of our illustrious Secretary of Defence's great ideas. Evidently the pool of draftable men was drying up so rather than end student deferments Secretary McNamara ordered selective service to accept 100,000 "Cat fours" Category four referred to a ranking of intelligence that had been previously been deemed untrainable and unacceptable for the military. We're talking dumb as you didn't exactly need to be a rocket scientist to fall into the acceptable category three range.

Everybody called our company armorer Hector. His last name was hard for non Latino's to pronounce so he was Hector to everyone. Hector was a character. He never wore a shirt and we got tired telling him to put one on. I knew Hector wasn't very smart but he did what he was told and had a way with guns. One day I was in the arms room while Hector was working on some paperwork. He was alphabetizing something when he asked me if "C" came before "D". I helped him, half suspecting he was pulling my leg.

One of his jobs was to inspect the machine guns on the perimeter to see that the sentries hadn't screwed them up too much. One morning while Hector was on his way to the perimeter to check the guns he was accosted by a sergeant new to the company and was told to help on some detail. Hector flat refused, saying that he had to check the guns. The sergeant gave Hector a lawful order but Hector still refused. He was unaware of the proper way to handle the situation and the NCO was inexperienced and didn't know Hector. He pressed charges for disobedience, demanding that I administer an "Article 15" or non-judicial company punishment. I was in a quandary, on one hand I had to support my NCO's and on the other I didn't want to punish Hector for doing what he thought was right.

I decided to give Hector an Article 15 but the punishment would be a "wrist slap" and would disappear from his record. Hector would not be hurt and discipline would be served. The problem was that Hector refused the Article 15 and demanded a courts martial. I tried to get the First Sergeant to "splain" it to Hector so the whole thing would blow over. Top succeeded and Hector agreed to accept the Article 15. I handed it to him and told him to read the charges and his rights under the law. He told me that he couldn't read or write. I didn't know what the hell to do.

It came to me in a flash. I "sentenced" Hector to attend reading classes at the division education center until further notice. Of course none of this appeared on his record but the Sergeant felt his honor was appeased. The next day I saw Hector with a shirt on and his hair combed. I asked him what the big occasion was. He smiled and said, "Gotta look good for teacher." I felt pretty good about the whole thing, Maybe I had made a difference.

A highlight of my military career occurred while at First Admin. A Dental Corps officer came to see me and told me about a new prophylactic dental care program. It involved applying some sort of special coating to the teeth by brushing with special tooth paste. There was a special way to brush, taking care not to swallow any of the stuff. I decided to do this the military way and told the first sergeant to fall in the company with tooth brushes and canteens. It was great. About five hundred soldiers brushing their teeth. When it was over and the men were dismissed the company street looked like a foamed runway. It was like something from M*A*S*H. It must have worked because I didn't get any cavities in eighteen months.

One day I ran into CPT Basil E. Blue at the Admin Company Bar. Cpt Blue had been my company commander at Ft Carson and was a pretty good guy. He was older than me and had served several years as an enlisted man. I asked him what he was doing in the Big Red One as I thought he had stayed with the 5th Mech when our brigade went to VietNam. He explained that he was part of the "infusion" program whereby a good part of a unit would be transferred throughout the first year of the unit's arrival in country so that everyone wouldn't transfer at once when the year was up.

I was glad to see him and asked if there was anything I could do for him. He said that all he wanted to do was command an infantry company. Under the circumstances that was not a difficult request to honor. I told him that I would take care of him and did some checking with the officer assignments branch. I soon had him fixed up with Company D, 2nd Battalion 18th Infantry (the Van guards). Delta 2-18 Inf was part of the 2nd brigade and had its company rear in DiAn. CPT Blue thanked me and went off to fight his war. I was to see him again in a few months.

Our supply sergeant, Larry Huddleston, was an interesting guy. He was a premier scrounge -- he could get anything if he had enough time. Like an infantry company needs bullets an admin company needs paper. For some reason we had a hell of a time getting any. The supply sergeant always managed to pull of some last minute trade before we ran out. He was really something. He got me a jeep by trading a typewriter. Once he asked me if I wanted a helicopter but I was afraid to call his bluff. When I signed for the company as property book officer, SSG Huddleston said that I was covered and showed me sub hand receipts in which all of the property of the company was signed out to other people. He also told me that it was impossible to physically inventory everything since it was in at least five different places and would take months to inventory right. I was dumb enough to believe him and lived to regret my naivete. He may have saved my life though as events would reveal.

When SSG Huddleston left, he was replaced by SFC Jesse Horn. SFC Horn was as colorless as Huddleston has been colorful. He believed in doing things by the book and refused to scrounge. We soon began to run out of paper and all he did was fill out requisitions. Things got desperate but he still wouldn't scrounge. I was disappointed in him and wished SSG Huddleston hadn't left. All of a sudden a "miracle" happened. We began to get all of the things we had requisitioned. Soon we had all of the paper we could hope to want and all sorts of other previously unavailable goodies. How had this miracle happened?

SFC Horn made the system work. The army supply system is demand driven -- if you didn't ask for it you wouldn't get it. His predecessor had used the system, relying instead on scrounging. It made him look like a miracle worker. The real miracle man was SFC Horn. He was the true professional. I learned a lot from him. Too bad it was too late.

A reader with military experience may have deduced that some of the things I tell about doing were the prerogatives of a commander and not an executive officer. When CPT Chubb left, the Adjutant General (AG) asked me if I would like to be the company commander. The thought was about as appealing to me as a dose of the clap and I said so. I told him that it was time for me to return to the infantry. He felt otherwise. At least I had the last word -- yes sir! I did ask him if he would consider me an interim appointment and keep his eye out for a replacement. He agreed and I had my first command.

When my replacement as Executive Officer arrived, I was eager to bless him with all of the extra duties that I was on orders for, especially conversion officer. He had better advice than I had regarding the hand receipts and soon the discrepancies arose. All of the stuff was sub hand receipted but many of the people were long gone from the unit. We began the first complete inventory of the company since it had arrived in Viet Nam. The initial shortages were over $200,000. I began to whittle them down with the able assistance of SFC Horn. After a few months we got it down to about $10,000. SFC Horn actually stooped to scrounging to help me. Jesse said that we had better stop before we got to an amount I could pay. The Report of Survey found me pecuniarily liable but recommended that payment be waived because of the mitigating situation.

You may wonder how my troubles saved my life. Like a fool I had volunteered for a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol "LURP" Company. I had orders in hand for F Company, 75th Ranger Regiment but they were rescinded because of the pending inventory. The Lieutenant that went in my place was killed by friendlies as his patrol tried to enter the wire at the wrong place. Maybe I was a better map reader, maybe not.

When the survey was over, I was sick and tired of Admin Company. I put my name in for a vacancy in the 2nd battalion, eighteenth infantry and the AG approved. Most of the AG and Finance types were convinced that I was crazy for volunteering for the infantry but I was happy. There was a little ceremony for me at the officer's club. Was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service and was given a plaque. It was somewhat unique because it was presented by a movie star.

Joey Bishop and Tippi Hedron were touring the country on a morale visit. As luck would have it they were at our little club the night I left. Tippi gave me the plaque and a big kiss. Joey was quite an entertainer and played the guitar and sang for us. He took great delight in telling us about the time he kicked Pernell Roberts off of his talk show because of Robert's vocal opposition to the war. The next day, with a light heart and a heavy head I hitched a ride across DiAn to 2-18 Inf's rear area. I was told to get ready to go to the field and that I would be assigned to Delta Company as weapons platoon leader. Guess who was the commander of Delta -- Basil Blue!

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