There was a random sluggishness to the forming formation. The under current was that of the young child taking his first dode of medicine. The fears that were building were looking for that friendly reassurance. Usually about fifteen minutes before the assigned time there would be the final stragglers arriving. Soon a second lutenant came to the podium and started the movement with a few standard jokes, that were probably used a hundred times. His mannerism was that of a cool, I dont give a shit attitude and this is my job. Although he still presented himself and his uniform in a distinguished mode of military fashion. It had that starched crispness that always followed cleaning. How this was maintained with the humidity and the heat was a merical of the space age.
For about twenty minutes he would read off names of different personel. They would go to the podium as if in a graduation ceremoney. Orders were folded and placed in the pants pocket. Others would cherish them as if new born babies. Then there were the brave ones, who opened them immediatly to find out there new home. After the orders were received, there was the massive rush of questions that dominated any conversation. Points of location, M.O.S.type, north - south,anything that would give some semblence of security. Then the main question of enemy action in that area.
The air at CHAM RHAN BAY was very lax. It was termed a secure area, what ever that ment in Viet Nam. A person usually stayed there for three or four days. When you got your orders you usually left the next day. That person then became a memory to you for the rest of your life. At the end of three and one half days,I received my orders to report to the First Aviation Brigade in VHUNG TAU. This was located about twenty-five miles north of CHAM FHAN BAY. It was about at two thirty in the morning that they were given to me.
It seemed then that there was some sort of peace or security starting to build in my life and the souls of others. We went back to the barricks after the formation was dismissed. Along the way my own flurry of questions flowed as I had seen others do.
I had met one returnee who had been to VHUNG TAU on his previous tour of duty. He said, that it was a good duty station. With being an Air Traffic Controller,I would have it good at that place. There was a good feeling of excitement within me. In the barricks the talk perpetuated about the new orders and the duty it presented. Everyone was caught in the frenzy of the new. Then it seemed like a strange calm filled the barricks.
In the night there was a tension that filled the space the heat and the humidity left dry. It was the thought of leaving CHAM RHAM BAY,its security and safety. Yet, the desirer to get where you were going also seemed to be the major motivating factor. Then the thought reversal to the sheet of white paper that you received only a short while ago.
On it was the fate of each person. A new story and future for that person. Sometimes it was a written death notice, with no chance of repreive or execuative order. There it was shinning and staring at you in the face. Most of the time new orders were just army routine and formality. Yet, this held the question of life or death. Most of the guys were too young to comprehend the full meaning. The thought would dance through your mind but death was still a stranger to most guys. The whole concept of legalized murder was way beyond the scope of many. You had to analyse the orders and look at the demands that would follow that set of orders. They were all written there in black and white. For some it was in a perectly clear language, for others it was the tunnel of darkness. INFANTRY - RADIO OP - COOK - DRIVER - ARTILLERY - GUNNER - CLERK - etc. Some held the prospects of a safe return in one piece. Others were just written death in cold black ink. Strange sometimes, you could see a shadow of death emerge from the paper and actually touch the person. There would be that palor of color, that had no name or sight.
There was the whole spectrum of human emotions to be played out to the full bounds of existence. Most guys held that the pride and dignity of that new found manhood. It was sort of everyones graduation in the fact that they were being given their jobs. Under the skin you could sense the trembling thughts of war starting to plant its seeds. Some began to see the orders as a reality of life.
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