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Old 09-16-2010, 02:49 PM
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Thunder Run

Here's my 4th Quarter Thunder Run article for our 11th Armored Cav paper, in case you'd like to check it out. [Remember that I love the Air Force, having served in it way back in time. But it's fun to make fun anyway]
Larry


HOOTCHES, BARRACKS, AND CLUBS

In the old days when I was draft age, I joined the Air National Guard. I was going to college part-time and didn’t want the military getting in the way, especially not the Army! Then, President Kennedy called up the Air National Guard for the Berlin Crisis and there I was, on active duty anyway. In the Air Force!


So you say, “Why are you telling me this?” I’m telling you my little tale because when I get to my main story, I want you to understand that I like the Air Force just fine, having been there. After I joined the Army and went to Viet Nam, I saw what a huge difference there was between how the Army lived and how the Air Force lived.

“What’re you talking about, Chaplain,” you ask? Well, think about it. We, the Army and they, the Air Force, sometimes shared the same piece of real estate, like at Bien Hoa. For us it was our rear base camp. For them it was their main base. I clearly recall certain ways of how we lived. Like Air Force guys lived in barracks! I kid you not - wooden barracks in Viet Nam. On the Army side we had hootches or GP medium tents with wood floors. Our hootches were made largely from artillery ammo pallet wood someone had scarfed up (not to be confused with barfed up) from somewhere. Supply got tin for the roofs and concrete for the floors which was just fine. Those Air Force barracks weren’t scrounged wood, they were wood from the States cut for that very purpose – to make barracks. You probably won’t believe this: the Air Force called them dormitories. Hey! (or hay!). Am I playing mind games? Nope. It’s true. They called them dormitories – just like in college. And they were two story! Would you want to sleep on the second floor in one of those nice buildings? I don’t think so. When they got mortared, do you know what direction the shrapnel would fly? You’re right, up. Right into the second floor, through those fine wood walls, and into their beds. Want to live in an Air Force dormitory in the Nam? Thanks, but no thanks. Comfort only goes so far.

Now to the paint. Whaaat? Yes, the paint. Do you remember what colors we had for painting our hootches? You’re right – gray, white, red, and black. That was it – we were hard-core Army. Well, what about those wooden barracks/dormitories? That was a different matter. They had all sorts of pastel colors – beige, blue, green (not OD!), yellow and some more that I don’t recall (I don’t think pink). That was just for their doors, real doors. Our doors were planks of wood that sort of covered the space. Ours were painted gray, except we were cav so some were painted red and white. Cool. Oops, I just thought of something – sometimes we hung those plastic strips in the inside to keep out flies. We bought them from the mama-sans. Remember?

Then came the hardware. Huh? You know – the gadgets that made the doors close. Oh, yeah. My recall isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but I still remember that a few of our hootches had a spring to close the doors. I think it was probably officers and NCOs that had springs. Most of us had a more practical door closer – old inner tubes cut into strips, then nailed with one end to the door and the other end to the door frame. Presto! – door closer. Our doors banged shut. No matter, it wasn’t the same bang as in the field which you know about. On the Air Force side, at least at Bien Hoa, those two story dormitories not only were painted pretty colors, but they had real hardware. “You’re puttin’ me on, Chaplain,” you say. “No, I’m not,” I reply. Real hardware – brass door knobs, brass hinges and whatever else the Air Force guys needed, just like at home. No matter to us; just kind of strange, what with being in a war and all.

There’s something else that goes along about living in the rear - the clubs! I vaguely recall the Army side having a tent where guys could go for a cold one or to sit and relax. That is, if you could get to the rear. The Air Force side had a real club – a place where Air Force guys could go relax after a hard day’s work. It was a place where the pilots could go let off steam after flying missions over North Viet Nam or supporting us in the bush when Victor Charlie was giving us some trouble. Their club was in an actual building, not just a make-shift place to stick a few tables and a keg or two. Their club was also a place where our troopers sometimes went to unwind - I said, unwind. You know what I mean when I say unwind. I doubt if Army guys were invited which didn’t much matter. They went anyway. The Air Force guys didn’t always cotton to Army guys coming out of the bush and making a mess of their club. Hey (or hay!), our guys, fresh from the bush, needed to unwind too! This they did by duking it out with the Air Force guys, only with fists and fun instead of firefights and fear.

Speaking of the club, our Army guys really got a bang out of watching the Air Force guys in their club when air raid sirens went off. An incoming round would land a mile up the runway and flyguys would high-tail it for the bunkers. I guess they thought the war had arrived. Our guys would just sit and laugh – the rounds weren’t in their laps, so what’s the problem? Depended on what you were used to. I wasn’t there, but I think the Army guys finished off a few cold ones while the Air Force guys were splitting for their bunkers.

Remarkable, isn’t it, how our needs got met – a place to crash, a place to relax and such. I learned a whole lot about what I really needed in my life and what I didn’t. I think you’re the same when you think about it, which you’re doing right now since I mentioned it. It’s like what Jesus had to say about taking care of whoever believes in him. He said, “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! And don’t worry about food –what to eat and drink. Don’t worry whether God will provide it for you. These things dominate the thoughts of most people, but your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” (Luke 12:27-31 NLT).

This quote from the Bible speaks for itself. I don’t always remember it too well, especially when I start wanting pastel paint and brass hardware when inner tube strips and gray paint will do just fine. Do you get my point? My point is that God takes care of me. Even sometimes when it’s just the basics which is all I really need. He’ll do the same for you. Comprende?

God bless you. God loves you. So do I.

Chaplain Larry Haworth

San Antonio, TX 78239
LEHaworth@aol.com
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