It sort of resembled the wild west. Only the faces of the soldiers were Vietnamese. There was a strange air that filled the plane. Closer the stark naked realities of war began to fill each of us. The first roots of the seed was taking in the surrounding nourishment. Each person had an up tightness to the new surroundings. Sort of a thrill that was a mask for fear.
The plane left the ground and that fine cushion of air could be felt. The plane seemed to be gaining altitude in a circling motion. We had climbed five or six thousand feet and proceeded west. It seemed as if the pilot wanted to be at a substantial altitude before he would venture inland. Funny, but real, it was the precautionary measures of the war. Looking out the window, there could be seen mountains as far as the eye could see. There was just virgin forest land for miles. Slowly the plane lumbered along at its cruising speed. We were headed west and the plane seemed to vanish for the moment. Inland away from the coast.
There was a hypnotic trance that seemed to transfix each one of us. The smooth vibration seemed to rock each one to sleep. This seemed to last for about ten minutes. Then we began a fast decent from an altitude of about five or six thousand feet. Looking out the window, I caught my first glimpse of AN KHE. There was a large mountain protruding out of the center. It was named HONG KONG mountain. On the side was the patches of the FIRST CAV. and the 173 AIR BORNE BRIGADE. There seemed to be a winding snake that went around the mountain. This was the green line or perimeter of the base. It seemed to be the protection point for the mountain. On top of HONG KONG mountain was an assortment of antennas and radio shacks. It was some sort of transmitted point for radio waves. Most if not all the land around the base was forest. You looked as if to be looking for paved streets or developed houses. Further you strained your eyes, to see if there is some sort of semblance of domestic life as in the UNITED STATES. Soon you realized AN KHE is located out of the way from any sort of life. It was a fairly large base, with most of the area inside the wire undeveloped.
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The runway and airport were off to one quarter of the base. It was isolated from the rest of the base. There was a river that flowed through the base itself. We were located on one side, while the mountain remained on the other. The highlands of Viet Nam were beautiful to the eye.
Soon the wheels were touching down on the runway. There was that familiar chirp to the wheels as they touched the cement. The plane stopped and made a one hundred and eighty degree turn. Looking out the window I noticed that there was still construction being done to the taxi way. There was only the remains of the original runway off to the side of the new concrete runway. This was made from the perforated steel partitions. Now it was being used as a taxi way. There was a single strip of concrete about four thousand feet in length.
The airport was rather simple but there seemed the movement of life. Off to the side, there was a new control tower which was being constructed. There were two building that were used as terminal area buildings. They were made of wood and had there own simplicity about them. To the left was a green house that seemed to be of an early design. On top of this was a makeshift tower. It was shabby and had seen better days. It was small an seemed to be like a birds nest.
The plane taxied to the ramp and proceeded to shut down the engines. A couple of fuel trucks were headed out to the plane. There was a whine coming from the hydraulic pumps as they worked to allow the door to open. Slowly the back ramp door lowered to the ground. Everyone stood up and stretched their legs. The moment had arrived, that brought me to the point of my destination. There was a trying second of not wanting to get off the plane. This was the moment, the reality of the war. Each step was the new reality being created in your memory. Slowly the procession of people began to unload the plane. At least this wasn't done in the typical army fashion.
Me and another guy bother had orders for AN KHE. Right there our friendship had begun. We both walked toward the terminal building. The temperature was hot but the humidity was of a lesser degree. At the terminal we were told to go to the green house and report to the operations clerk. We picked up our gear and followed a path cut in the dirt, that led to the green house. To the left of the path, was a mammoth sand bag bunker, that seemed like a miniature mountain.
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