We all continued to work for the next few hours. The heat continued to rise above the hundred degree mark. We were all in a good sweat and felt exhausted from the heat and work. It pounded in from every direction. Know I was beginning to know what the tropical climate was all about and its ramifications. Soon the Sargent came back to the area in a jeep and told us that we could go to lunch. This had seemed the best relief in the world. We picked up our remains and proceeded to the mess hall. We all walked over to the area in that slow shuffle that was common to the guys that were in country. It seemed that one had to learn how to work in this sort of environment. Yes the next year was going to be a trying one. Then there came that shattering of all illusion and reality. There was that possibility that I may never return to the world that I had left.
The detail had been completed in a two week time period. During this time, I had been assigned to the AN KHE main airport. This was the main airstrip in the AN KHE base. It catered to the larger aircraft in the area. This was the place where the guys were shipped up north to the D.M.Z. area. The reality of the war was becoming a reality to me more than I had really wanted to believe.
I had to work the night shift during my first round of work. From what information I had gathered in the past few weeks, all you did was sleep and read the Stars & Stripes newspaper. Which meant nothing. The flow of traffic stopped or was reduced to a bare minimum. That night I reported to the operations office which was located in the greenhouse. It was around eleven thirty that I gathered my equipment and proceeded to the tower. My M-16 was the first thing that went along. The second was a book that I figured I could read. Walking down the path that lead to the tower many thoughts entered my mind. There was a stillness that was almosta shattering calm. There was the illumination of the stars in the sky. It held a tranquil glow all its own. There was a string of lights that surrounded the green-line and gave a break to the evening dark. It seemed like a glowing snake that twisted and turned in the evening night. Well the adventure of Viet Nam had started its journey of time in the illusive night. This was when my normal sleeping hours were upon my mind. Now the torment of staying awake was upon me or the sleep that was allotted to ones person in the tower.
Finally the door of the green house was upon me. It was old and had the look of many years of ware. It held the coat of paint that said, this was the place of all. The all of the reality that existed. How many other people came through this door? The young eager faces that held that charm of youth and the future of war and death. With a forward movement Iwalked up to the door and pushed the screen that held the outside and the inside world apart. Inside it was cooler because of the air-conditioning and stone walls that held the chill. Upstairs the officers could be heard talking and telling a few jokes.
Proceeding over to the operation desk, there seemed that familiarity that surrounds all army posts. At the operations desk there were two guys on duty. They were young and strong, with that air of army routine implanted in there manners. I told them I was the new guy who was suppose to report for duty in the tower. He said, fine the other guy will be here soon. Well the army routine of rush and wait had still come over to Viet Nam. We began to rap and get into the typical army discussion that existed. All were curious about places and locations of each person. Where you from and when did you get in country. These all seemed to be on everyone's mind. It was sort of a game. The routine of when are you getting out and when are you E-T-S-ing out of the service. E.T.S. was enlisted time in service.
It seemed that both of them were air traffic controllers. They were doing the operations part of the job. This consisted of flight information for all the planes coming and going in the airport. Also reports were made as a standard procedure and reports of enemy action in the area. The arrival time of the plane at its destination was of paramount importance. This was forwarded to the destination airport. This was done for every flight. If a plane was shot down the search and rescue teams could be dispatched to the area or along the intended flight route. It was highly coordinated and required a great responsibility on the people involved. The minutes lost could mean a persons life and the rescue of he crew and its passengers.
The operations man asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. This was one of the benefits of the job. Along with the air-conditioning the world seemed to be at a semblance of reality. This was how one got educated on the people that ran the war and affected your life. This at times was the best thing to do when arriving in a new place. The operations man could tell a good story. He was young but had a mature demeanor. He himself was getting off duty at twelve. Then he was going back to the company to rest and get stoned.
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