It seemed incredible the things the human mind could fabricate in times of necessity. There was trouble in lighting the burner, one now FUCK came from that area. His favorite expression. He was cursing the officers, the army and the dirty work that was passed down the line. Suddenly the burner burst into flames with a whooshing sound. There were flames that burst out, which seemed like they were ten feet tall. It seemed like a very dangerous to have on the top of a roof. The more one looked at it the more it took on the semblance of a gas-cocktail in a bottle ready to explode.
We both went back into the now warming tower, to answer the call of an aircraft that was approaching ANKHE airport. The subtle whine of the radio blended into the background of movement. The planes transmission was coming over the radio speaker in a very crackling, unauditable flow of words." SOUL 226,ten miles east of ANKHE for landing. It was just like the words, that were learned back at KEESLER Air-force Base school. Though now, the reality was there, the runway and all the facilities that were needed to operate a real airport.
My friend pointed through the dull plexiglass of the tower, to a small dot in the horizon sky. He said, that was the plane that we were just talking to on the radio. This was true reality and the just cause of all past learning and the present moment. It gave one a feeling, that there was not that isolation that surrounded the base at AN KHE. Slowly the dot approached the airport. It became more visible as an aircraft and not a dot in the sky. The tower usually got busy in the mornings. It was always better to fly during the day and not at night time. It could afford the use of day light if a plane did get shot down or was late on its arrival time. Then the search and rescue would have a greater chance of locating the downed aircraft.
SOUL 226 downwind for landing. The response "SOUL226 report your short final". That was the next thing to clearing to land. It seemed like this was a ritual pattern with AN KHE airport and its procedures. Lax from school teaching but very real in life. The plane was fully visible in the approach pattern. It looked like a giant albatross lurking in the supporting air. It was this type of aircraft that gave flight beauty. It was a C-7A, it was used as a workhorse and transport into remote small airfields. The assets were a short takeoff and landing distance on all types of runways. Especially in remote landing fields set up out in the back bush country. They were constructed of the metal P.S.P partitions that were prevalent all through VietNam. Soon the plane was on its short final, that it reported in a religious tone. "SOUL 226 your cleared to land was the response"."Make a one eighty on runway and your cleared to the ramp. The runway and taxi ways were only about 65-75 percent in full operation. The First Cav. moving north sort of shut down necessity of completion.
The taxi way had not been completed and the old P.S.P. runway of the past only serviced a part of the new concrete runway. This left only one access taxi way out to the runway main, which was configured as runway 32 & runway 04 for compass headings. The taxi way only serviced runway 32, 04 had no taxi way. It made for a very tricky situation, when there was more than one aircraft wanting to land or takeoff. At times we would land a plane have it hold at the end of the runway and land a second behind it. This procedure was totally against the Flight Rules of airport operations. I guessed under war times the rules had to be bent and broken. It was always better to have the plane on the ground safe, than holding over hostile ground where it could be shot down.
"Well that will be all the traffic for another hour". This was a standard flight that came in just about every day at the same time. The next stop would be to Pleiku, west of AN KHE. It was located near the Cambodian border. Then that lull in time which made VietNam an isolation for ones time in country. There was nothing to do but wait and look around. It seemed that everyone just sat around and rapped to each other. Soon the voices of the officers could be heard down the bottom shaft of the ladder entrance. They were waking to the new day, it was full of the noises of coughs from cigarettesand the movement of life.
The officers had it made for being in a war zone. Each seemed to have a private room and work for the company was delegated down the pipeline of army command. Rank did have its privileges, even in a war zone. It seemed at times that maybe I was in the wrong position or situation. In reality that was the truth but things could have worked out much worse for me as an individual. Like many of my friends from" the world", [a new word for the United States and civilization], I could have been assigned to an infantry position or some other hazardous duty. Fate and luck, had dealt me a good hand in war and there was no room for complaint, to the complaint department.
Soon the two of us got into a discussion about the war and the An KHE army air command, our company. My curiosity was starting to flow more and the nature of the base was starting to become known and familiar. One month at one place and you started to feel the vibrations of its life and character. He told me, like before, that AN KHE was a staging area for movement north. After the initial fighting,[which I remember on the evening news in 65], the First Cav secured the area supposedly.They protected the area with ground sweeps through the surrounding area. It was at that time the breaking of the egg and was important in the start of the increased presence in Viet Nam. Again reflections came to me and I could remember reading in the news and seeing pictures on Television news, about the central highlands. There were always reports of bloody encounters with the Viet Cong. It did have a strategic location AN KHE being in the middle of east and west Viet Nam.
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