Fort Carson Colorado
Having spent all of my thirty-day leave, it was now time to go to my next duty station, which was Fort Carson, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My last day home. I had car trouble just before I was to leave. I had to replace my camshaft. I was leaving home on the day I was supposed to report in to Fort Carson. I had six hundred and thirty five miles to drive. I was going to be a day late and was probably going to get into trouble.
Leaving early in the morning of my reporting day, noticing I had driven only about one hundred miles, my oil light came on. I pulled over and checked the oil and it was three quarts low. Looking under the motor and realizing the timing chain cover gasket was leaking. I didn’t have time to fix it, so I went to the nearest auto supply and bought a case of oil. Every one hundred miles or so I had to add three quarts.
As I approached Amarillo, which was about half way to Fort Carson, I pulled into the Air Force base there to use their telephone to call ahead and let the Army know I was going to be as day late. The Security Police at the Air Force base told me the military allowed a day of grace when traveling, thus allowing me to be there the next day and not be in any trouble or AWOL as we called it.
Leaving the Air Force base around four o’clock that afternoon I proceeded on to Fort Carson arriving there at five o’clock AM the next morning.
I checked into the reception station and got about three hours of sleep. After eating breakfast I went to get my orders for the 158th Aviation Battalion. That was where all my classmates were and I was anxious to see them all again.
When I got my orders, they read attached to the 518tc Detachment, Fort Carson, Colorado. I told them there must be some sort of mistake. I was supposed to be going to the 158th Aviation Battalion in a build up unit for Vietnam. They told me all the billets were filled the day before and I was to proceed to the post aviation company.
I was upset with the whole situation. I thought the Army doesn’t care of anyone’s situation. I was only a number and my number was not needed anymore for the 158th. I did not know at the time just how the Lord was working things out in my life, all I knew that I was not going to get to go to Vietnam with my friends from aviation school and be associated with the 101st. Airborne Division.
Here I was, stuck on post with the 518th TC Det., an aircraft maintenance detachment attached to the 283rd aviation company, post aviation. I was multi- talented or let’s say I had other skills other than flying. When checking in the First Sergeant asked, “Do you know how to type. I told him, “yes.” I took typing in high school. He asked me if I would prefer to work in the unit supply room instead of going to the airfield and working on helicopters. I said, “I had never worked in supply, but if you need me there, I’ll go.”
For the next eight months I learned the in’s and outs of the Army supply system. Actually being in the unit supply was a good job. I was always in the company area, the chow hall was across the street and my barracks were next door.
During the winter months of 1968, being in a warm supply room was nice and I was thankful not to be out in the hangar where it was cold all the time. I never knew there was so much to learn. I had a good teacher. The old supply sergeant had been in the Army for over twenty years and he knew everything about the supply system.
About three months later all my friends told me good by for it would be the last time I would ever see any of them again. They packed all their helicopters and other gear and were shipped off to Vietnam.
Tears were in my eyes as I saw the last C-141 lift off from Fort Carson airfield. I felt lonely, all my buddies gone off to war and me, left behind to put up the lifers at Fort Carson. I thought it just wasn’t fair.
I went back to my job at the supply room. I wasn’t interested in doing anything the rest of the day. I asked Sergeant Mitchell my supply sergeant if I could leave early and he said sure take the rest of the day off. He really was good to me and I always appreciated him, he was a good man.
Going back to my barracks, I asked my bunkmate who was already a Vietnam veteran, “How does one ask for a transfer to go somewhere else.” He told me that I would have to submit a 1049 form.
I obtained a 1049 form and filled it out. The place where it said to transfer, I put Vietnam. I came to Fort Carson to train and to go to Vietnam to fight for my country. I did not want spend the rest of my three-year enlistment stuck at Fort Carson or any other base in the U.S.
After one week I got a reply from my 1049. It was denied. I thought I couldn’t believe the Army denied a transfer to Vietnam, especially a person with a critical MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). It just didn’t make sense. Again, I was upset with the Army. Now I knew why I made the decision not to go to West Point, it was crap like that I did not like.
Upon getting to Fort Carson, I still hadn’t received my official orders promoting me to SP/4. I told my company commander. He didn’t give me any results on the matter. I decided to go over his head and go the post IG (Inspector General).
In the Army one is not supposed to go bypass his superiors without permission, and since I was not too keen on my superiors, I went anyway.
Going to the Post Inspector General is about as high as one can go to get results in the Army. I told the IG about the Army losing my orders for my promotion to SP/4. I told him that I was in the top ten percent of my class, and that was an automatic promotion. I went back to the IG the next week. I went into his office and he handed me my orders for SP/4. He told me that the Army had misplaced my class records, but everything was in good order now. I thanked him and went to the Base Exchange and bought me a pair of SP/4 patches When the formal orders came down thru channels a week or so later, I was called into the first sergeants office. He commenced to chew on me for going over the head of the CO. I told him that I hadn’t received any results from him or the CO. He was furious with me. Funny thing, the next night, I had guard duty for the first time. I knew what was going on.
The next day after I got off guard duty I put in another 1049 to Vietnam. It was denied also. The next week I put in for another 1049, denied.
I was then put on KP (Kitchen Duty). I thought this thing has gone too far. I decided to go on sick call before I reported for KP. The army cannot deny you to go on sick call nor deny you to go to church. I went directly to the dispensary and did not tell the head kitchen cook nor anyone else what I was doing that morning.
When I finally got to see the doctor, I told him what was going on in my company, and I was sick and tire of all the crap I was receiving from the First Sergeant and CO. To my surprise and luck, the doctor told me that he was getting out of the army in a month. He told me he would give me a doctors form stating, I was not to pull KP and no prolonged standing, which would keep me off guard duty. He in fact ordered me a second mattress for my hurting back. I thanked him, he laughed and told me if they give you any hassle just let him know, he would bring the wrath of the Army down on them. He even gave me a prescription for the pain in my back; to me it was more for the pain in my neck for the idiots I was subjected to.
It was around eleven o’clock a.m. that I made my way back to the First Sergeants office. When I walked in he commenced to threaten me with an article 15 because of insubordination, not going to the mess hall for KP duty. I handed him my yellow sheet from the doctor. As the first sergeant read it, his face turned three shades of red.
It read: Specialist 4 Strait is not to preform KP duty nor guard duty because of his chronic back pain. No prolong standing and no heavy lifting. He is to have a second mattress with a support between mattresses.
He looked up at me and said, get out of my office. With a slight grin, I turned and went out.
I had been at Fort Carson for about eight months by then, and the doctor’s report was the final straw, because the next time I put in for transfer for Vietnam, low and behold it came thru. I was elated, finally I am going to get out of this sorry company and away from these incompetent idiots who are in command.
I didn’t get up the next day until around nine a.m. I had never got to sleep in like that before, but now I was officially out of the 518th TC Det. And starting my out-processing. I was in limbo; I didn’t belong to anyone at the time. Being on my own and not caring how long it took me to out process.
On the third day of my out processing something happened that I just could hardly believe. The whole 518th Detachment got its orders for Vietnam as a unit. I thought by the Grace of God I would not be going with them. I laughed when I found out they were all going together. I figured the First Sergeant and company commander didn’t want me going with them and that is why I finally got my transfer. I really didn’t care, I was going as an individual replacement and they were going as a unit. One week later after receiving my orders I was off to Texas for my thirty-day leave.
Upon arriving back home, I did the usual. I visited all my kinfolks in the area. The next week I went over to Mississippi to visit my Dad and my little brother Randy. My Aunt Pat prepared a special dinner in my honor. I thought what a nice thing to do. I have never forgotten her for having a special meal for me.
I stayed in Mississippi for one week and went back to Texas. I goofed around with my friends several more days. My last day at home I went back to my mothers for the last night home.
Leaving the next evening, riding my brothers 305 Honda Scrambler, I pulled up to a stoplight. While at the light I looked over to the car next to me and nodded at the guy. He knew what I meant. When the light turned green, we both took off like a bat out of hell.
I basically ran off and left him behind. Speeding down the boulevard, I turned to get upon the expressway to go thru downtown Dallas. With the motorcycle exhaust baffles wide open and my head ducked down, I looked to my left side and realized a police car with red lights flashing was beside me.
I slowed down below the speed limit and I noticed the policeman waving me to pull over. When I stopped on the shoulder, the policeman pulled in behind me. He jumped out of his car and proceeded to jump all over me. He was a tough talking Sergeant and I thought, “I’m going to jail.” The Sergeant told me that he had radioed ahead for a roadblock. I said, “What for.” He then listed the violations. “Contest of speed, speeding, no drivers license, anti-noise, failing to stop, not giving proper hand traffic signals and wreck less driving.”
I told him I did not know he was behind me. He said, “Hell, I wonder why with those loud exhaust pipes you couldn’t hear my siren. After he chews me out, I told him I was sorry to cause so much trouble. About then the other police car pulled behind his car. He went and told the other officer to go on.
When he came back with his ticket book in his hand, I commenced to tell him it was my last night home before I was to be shipped out for Vietnam. He asked me if I had any orders. I said, “As a matter of fact I do.”
He read the orders. And his countenance changed. Instead of being this raving mad cop about to throw the book at me, he changed into the nicest person I could imagine.
We were on the side of the expressway having what seemed like a father to son conversation. He told me that he was proud of me going to serve our country. He then told me that he was not going to give me a ticket. I sure was relieved. After thinking him, he told me to be careful over there and to drive the rest of the way safely. I started the motorcycle and drove the rest of the way obeying the traffic laws.
The next day I was off to the airport to catch a flight to Vietnam, via Fort Lewis Washington.
My other two Chapters are at the beginning of the blog. If you haven’t already read them.
Thanks for taking the time to read.
God Bless You.