The units in the field just had to call and they would receive the support of the big guns,105 & 155 Howitzers. At night you could see the flash burst in the surrounding hills along with the explosions. It made one think of the person or persons on the receiving end. The shells would impact and shatter into many fragments. Some were of the anti-personal type, with a flare shell sent to illuminate the area. The flare shells would release a flare at about three thousand feet altitude. Then by parachute they would descend to the earth. The whole area illuminated as if the sun was brought out of sleep. It was a funny thought that modern tech improvised ways to continue the war at night with efficiency. Though this was the modern war of the20 TH century.
For about a week or more I did night shift duty. I remained in the tower, there was no Viet Cong action. Only the rhythmic firing of artillery through the night for harassment, or a sensor radar movement on a hill. There was a rotation of shifts, so each person got to work different hours. Along with this there was guard duty on the serpentgreen-line about every two or three nights. That took you off night duty onto guard duty. It was a night of sleeping under the stars. Looking up and praying to GOD the alien space man.
At other times it was long long conversations with each other. You just rapped and found yourself talking about strange subjects and any subject to make talk. The gauntlet of conversation would run its course and you took two hour shifts of guard. Letting the others sleep if that was allowed in Viet Nam now. You got to know the other guys more and more with fast knowledge. You were friends then closer feelings of brotherhood emerged. Each person was in the same boat more or less and was coping with the same problems to different degrees.
Lifehad emerged into a standard routine more and more each day. This gave more security to the situation and a foundation to ones self. The training I received at KEESLER air force base was now in functioning mode of operation. The actual feeling of accomplishment and the reward of a good job. Life was getting out of the pit of country shock and acclimation. I was getting known and we were one big bunch of friends.
The many pieces of the puzzle were all coming together for the first time, like the light at the end of a dark scary tunnel. On day shift I got more exposure to the tower and the real pressures of an air traffic controller. At times there would be many aircraft wanting takeoff and landing instruction. Slowly your mind began to think in complex maneuvers, along with the not completed taxi way and other if and or buts. It becamea game of timing, motion and placement of aircraft around the three mile control zone of AN KHE. Sometimes you had to have aircraft hold on the end of the runway because of traffic volume. You wanted to get the plane on the ground. If one of the planes landing, ever had brake failure while one was holding on the runway end. It would have been a very tragic accident. But war and accommodation had to allow for the breaking of rules.
At times it was against good judgment. Even sometimes there would be two or three holding on the runway end.
The days got hotter as the time passed in its mechanical motion now of routines. The greenhouse affect would drain the sweat out of one inside the tower with its enclosed plexiglass. It seemed you were sweat from head to toe in the noon time hours. Conversations would halt in the heat along with thinking in the heat of the day. Heat does have an affect on the cognitive function of the mind. What you did was sit and drink water till it was coming out of your ears. Along with that, it seemed you never urinated, you just "sit and sweat" was our motto. All drew down to a snails pace during the noon hours.
Looking out the plexiglass at the ramp, which was made of P.S.P. and some concrete trim areas, you could see heat vectors rise. The metal absorbed the heat along with the concrete. People waiting for aircraft clung and hid in any shade that was afforded. This usually consisted in the shade wall of the ramp terminal. The shadow of the building was really the only local shade available. There were very few if any trees in that area they were cut down in the building of AN KHE airport. The heat vectors seemed to be slow cooking any person who ventured out on the P.S.P. Movement was a rare commodity in the stifling heat. It could have easily reached one hundred and twenty degrees with that on the lower range of the scale.
Acclimation to the environment was really the first big problem to any F.N.G. coming in country. It took as long as your body needed to make the adjustments. This was all in the individuals makeup. You lost water at first arrival and slowly a loss of weight. The profuse sweating made the weight loss accelerate. You would see the F.N.G.s come into country with baby fats and muscle. Then the leaning process had its way of sculpturing your body. Sweaty pants and along with mixed dirt's made the new uniforms grow old fast. Then there was the extent of work that had to be done in the company. Along with a loss of appetite due to the heat and just not caring from fatigue. This wearing away of the person over time usually wore down to skin and bone muscle on most persons. Emaciation was sort of a sub plot to the loosing of body stature with the drawing down of energies. But, you got use to it, you wore your hat to block the sun, and found shade anywhere.
Viet Nam was becoming a twenty four hour a day tour of duty it seemed. There were always other duties with the building of the base. There was always a sandbag detail going out to make or repair bunkers. The monsoon rains would devastate any half built bunker, leaving it mud and tattered canvas. Only recently were the new sandbags being brought into commission. They were synthetic and didn't sub-come to the rain. Along with that duty, there was K.P. in the kitchen, with guard duty filling night hours. Then the shift in the tower asassigned.
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