Jerry Adams, Sr. and I would be part of 7th Air Force headquarters (Saigon) consolidation. Sending available Security Policemen from airbases in South Vietnam. We meet sometime after March 14th, 1970. Jerry had been assigned to the 3rd Security Police Squadron, Bien Hoa airbase. Little did he and I know our shared experiences “In-Country” would form a brother hood?
We share floor space in open bay barrack’s cordon off by metal lockers and plastic screen divider’s we would purchase from the Mama San’s. Our commonality was our service, Motown music and with luck “DEROS” (out-of-country) back to the “World” (USA).
Little did we know of the North Vietnamese Army presence outside of the base perimeter or their capability with direct mortar, rocket, sniper fire and occasional small arms fire? They would direct friendly fire mission on the base in late June, 1970. Several weeks after the Cambodia Incursion had begun on May 1st, 1970.
Racial minorities compromised nearly 50% of our “Flight=platoon.” This diversity helped cemented our mutual perspective about civil rights, minorities serving in the military and about the Vietnam War.
Without fanfare during the last days of April, 1970. Element’s of the U.S. Army arrived on base to bivouac (set up sleeping area’s). Prior to launching operations, Pleiku airbase became the staging area. Army troop’s numbered in the hundred’s with their support vehicles, gun truck’s, M-113 (personnel carrier) , etc.
Those of us who had the unpleasant exposure to small air fire or sniper fire. Realized the importance of what these Army personnel would be part; and of military history and would forever changed politics in modern times.
So we supported these grunts and others with girls, pot, and all the liquor/beer we could buy for them. This resulted in BBQ’s, partying like there was no tomorrow! They very much appreciated what we did for them and could only begin to fathom their journey into the unknown of Cambodia.
We would never see them or the likes of a military operation again in South Vietnam. Pleiku airbase was a “forward operating base,” the 633rd Special Operation’s Wing had been reassigned to Thailand, Nankon Phanom airbase across from Lao’s. PACAF Headquarters and 7th Air Force activated the 6254th Air Base Squadron on March 15th, 1970. If you do a search on the internet, you can’t find very much information. It’s almost like Pleiku airbase didn’t exist ?
Though the mission of the base had changed, Air America would continue to fly in and out. They had their own helicopters (without identification) that would fly out at night. We still had Forward Air Controller operation’s supporting Army operation’s in the Central Highlands.
The U.S. Army left sometime on May 1st toward Cambodia; early in the morning, quietly as they had arrived! That day… Jerry had the day off and I was on perimeter duty –that was my job. The base received a couple of rocket’s into the very area the Army troop’s had bivouac. He told me where the rounds had landed not far from our barrack.
The day the Kent State student’s were shot and killed, while protesting President Nixon’s escalation of widening the war from South Vietnam into Cambodia and later during 1971 into Lao’s. Tiger flight would forever change; those who supported the killing of students. And those of us who recognize their inalienable right to Freedom of Speech. This was the Beginning of entrenched skepticism, cynicism of American politics!
Some of us knew that politician’s in United States and the world; would sell their mother for personal gain. They only serve themselves and leave the rest of society to fend for themselves (personal opinion).
Those of us who served as perimeter guards at Pleiku that year became more radicalize by the war. Early June, 1970; Jerry and I decided to go on R & R (rest and recuperation). We got our travel orders to depart from DaNang airbase to Sydney, Australia. When we arrived we could not get a ride to the U.S. M.C., III Marines compound. An Air Force office gave us a ride and we checked into the transient barracks. Lot’s of the Marines were talking trash, and then a squad of RECON walked in.
You could hear a pin drop; all these men wore necklaces of ears they taken from the enemy in quiet ambushes somewhere along the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Jerry and I looked at each other and the Marines slept quietly that night.
In the weeks and months that followed; Pleiku airbase enemy activity decreased, until North Vietnamese Army radio operator’s intercepted Artillery Hill FSB (fire support base) with coordinates for the base. The first incoming rounds started around 1:30am at first, this would be over quickly as we had scrambled into bunkers. After the first 15 minutes of artillery rounds landing around us. We realize how serious this was. We could hear artillery rounds landing away from the compound to other parts of the base. This continued until almost 4:00am.
Some of the airmen in Tiger Flight, who had not experienced the small arms fire or sniper fire. Where shaken up and visibly scared! And could not understand while those of us who experienced the North Vietnamese trying to kill us. We said “Screw it!” If we’re going to die. At least go out having a good time!
Here are pictures of the airmen of Tiger Flight we served with:
More pictures of my fellow Air Force Security Policemen:
All of us are witness to history and honor all those American soldiers who we knew and didn’t know.
Some special guy’s and the horror we experienced together on my 21st Birthday ! Love these guys and haven’t seen them since September, 1970.
Jerry Adams, Jr, May, 1970
Mark Arguello, May 1970
Jerry Adams, Jr. and Mark Arguello, February, 2016
Who would have guessed … we are here to tell our stories. Of all the guy’s I served with in the Air Force over my seven years. That Jerry and I can only share our LOVE for Life. Grateful to GOD !