“In country” can mean many different things. In 1968 it meant one thing across the world: “NAM.” The civilian jetliner that cruised across the pacific stopping in Alaska then Japan, following the polar route landed on the east coast of South Vietnam at the U.S. Air Force Base Cam Ronh Bay, South Vietnam. There are no special treatments when you move through military channels. The good news is you always get fed and are always given a place to bunk for the night. That next day the transition NCO that handled the flow of personnel through Transitioning from Cam Ronh Bay Air Base to their assigned orders says, “Sergeant, you’re on the morning flight tomorrow at Gate 5. The flight will be taking you to Tan Son Nhut Air Base right into Saigon. Your orders say the 199th light infantry brigade. Sergeant I will tell you this much: the 199th is stationed at Long Binh, north of Saigon and it’s a tough, rugged outfit—always on the move.
Keep on Moving
Landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, we are met by MPs fully armed to the hilt with directions to get us to the 199th. A half-hour ride in a Deuce and half Army truck on Route 1 placed us into the base camp compound of the 199th. Standing in the heart of the base camp by the welcome bunkers waiting for the our next direction, out comes a NCO sergeant first class looking like he had been born and raised right there.
Here is the best part: as he comes out of his hooch to greet us, on his left shoulder is a little monkey. The sergeant’s shoulder, as far as the monkey was concerned, was the monkey’s home. In between looking at us like we had messed up his day, the sergeant fed his little pal on his left shoulder with, yes, bananas. For the week that we stayed in base camp to get our bearings, this wonderful NCO gave us all brilliant insights and tips on the local terrain and culture that I know served us very well during our duty In Country.
—Coach Chris, VLP Team