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The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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An Artillery Surveyor in Vietnam

by Chuck Gall

I arrived in Vietnam the 31st of October 1968. After processing through the 90th Replacement Battalion, I was assigned to the Survey Section of the 8/25th Target Acquisition Battalion, 2FFV, in Long Binh. The Vietnam I imagined and the Vietnam I found at the 8/25th were drastically different.

Our primary mission was high echelon control surveying; similar to what the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey would be doing in the States. I had done the same job with HHB DivArty 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Remarkably, one of the guys I served with in Texas was in the 8/25th. This made for an easy transition. After a week or so, I realized I really had it knocked where I was, doing what I was doing. We had cold beer, steak BBQ and many other amenities. Plus, no one was shooting at us. I could certainly do this for twelve months. Unfortunately, there was a war going on up north, and Uncle Sam put out the call. I was reassigned to HHB 1/92nd Field Artillery IFFV, near Pleiku, in the Central Highlands. Two other Arty Surveyors would join me en route to the 1/92nd, along with 20 or so 13A10 gunners. I was beginning to have a bad feeling about this change.

The 1/92nd had its Base Camp located at Artillery Hill. We were mortared the very first night we arrived. Everything fell into the motor pool and luckily, only vehicles were damaged, not soldiers. Life in Base Camp was a mixed bag. You were afforded relative security and comfort with the trade off of personal freedom. We had the option of a clean bed. I opted to change my sheets the last day of January 1970 when I was clearing. They were very, very filthy with red dirt, and I'm sure were tossed as I left. In camp I chose to sleep fully dressed, minus my boots, under my poncho liner. Everyone who served in Vietnam knows to this day the sound of a 122mm Rocket coming off the 'launcher' (usually just a few sticks tied together and propped up), or mortars popping out of the tube, and inevitably, coming your way. I was a light sleeper, but even in an alcohol coma, you always heard it.

We also had a mess hall, not the best, but considering the circumstances, it was great. On the nights I wasn't drinking beer, I would relieve the mess hall of milk. Pretty bad stuff, it was reprocessed dry milk, but again, all things considered, it was OK. Naturally, the mess hall had its drawbacks. Someone had to pull K.P. and I hated that. Most mornings though, some fresh rolls were baked, and that was almost worth K.P. Another job situation at camp was Guard Duty. This again was a necessary evil. It was nice to have someone watching the perimeter all night, but why me? Many times we would pass the hours away lying about women back home or some other nonsense, but it made the night pass fairly quickly, and we were given the next day off to sit around and drink beer. There were many other miscellaneous 'duties as assigned' tasks to be accomplished in camp. C.Q. (Charge of Quarters) duty was the worst. If you were an E-5, you became General for a night. Lower ranks were the General's helper. We also pulled vehicle maintenance for our trucks, built some small structures, like our Survey Section equipment shed, re-fortified sand bag walls, and performed many more entirely stupid, but needed functions. One of these functions was the most important, and my personal favorite. Burning shit. It was a dirty, thankless job, but someone had to do it. It was the best of all worlds. It certainly wasn't hard to learn, and did not take very long to do. I spent several summers working on a dairy farm, so smells did not bother me much. I also have this thing about fire. I was actually getting paid to work about one hour, and the last fifteen minutes involved large quantities of Diesel fuel and gas. Yes, I used a secret Plastic Chuck blend to get that baby going fast and hot. Yes, one night there were no land lines working in the guard towers because I burned the overhead wires. I admit now it was a stupid place to have commo wires. Believe it or not, there was a down side to this duty. We had Vietnamese locals working in the camp, and they had their own latrine. They did not like the American way of sitting on the toilet-they would squat above it. Most times their aim was poor, not a pretty sight. I took the attitude, 'I did not do it, so I will not clean it'. I was only responsible for the cans pulled out from below. A fellow Surveyor had a better idea, or so he thought. Vic Cusworth just burned the whole latrine to the ground. Unfortunately, they had to use our latrine until they rebuilt theirs.

Every so often, we actually got to do the job the Army had trained us to do. My MOS was 82C20, and periodically, a team of us would accompany a firing battery on the move. We would normally move out in the same manor as the gun battery, convoy or airlifted. There was no set pattern as to what our final destination would look like. The LZ's and Firebases were sometimes shared with a group of Combat Engineers, and these guys would help our guys get set up and dug in. New sites were just 'cleared' by being bombed. This was very quick and effective, leaving just the stumps of trees and large boulders to be dealt with. Other sites were established mini camps, and the gun batteries would be placed in a fairly developed area. By hand or bull dozer, the guns had to be dug in, and parapets had to be built along with ammo, powder, personnel, and FDC bunkers. The Survey Section's primary function was to establish position and direction for the firing battery. In an established area, this could be as simple as using known control points as a starting point. On the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, we had to rely on Astronomic Observation, or 'sun shots' and an up to date ephemeris. Normally this would take less than an hour, and when we were finished, we would pitch in and help build bunkers, or do whatever needed to be done. Most times, we could put together at least two teams if needed, so we were not pressed for time very often. This made us available to the firing battery to help out as long as we were needed. I left humping 'jo's' and powder to the guys who knew what they doing, but I could fill sandbags, and fill I did. That was the Surveyors secondary MOS while out in the field. As long as there were no jobs holding for us, we remained under the control of the firing battery BC. When things were pretty much finished, we were finished also. If we stayed out a few days, I looked forward to leaving as I always traveled light, and only had the filthy clothes I was wearing and sleeping in. We would head back to Artillery Hill with the next available convoy or chopper, to wait for our next assignment-another firing battery needing survey control, or potatoes to peel at the mess hall.



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