Vietnam: Processing

This is a CH46 Marine helicopter, used to transport Marines and cargo.

After my combat training in San Diego and my week off at home, my first stop on the way to Vietnam was Okinawa to be processed. During my week stay there I stored my extra military uniforms (that I wouldn’t be needing in Vietnam), and I was issued new combat clothes, boots, rifle, poncho and liner, and backpack—everything I needed for Vietnam. That didn’t take more than 20 minutes or so. So why were we there for a whole week? Good question. Nobody questions things like that. We were just glad to get a few more days off. Okinawa was beautiful compared to where we were headed. And the food was good too.

When we left Okinawa I kind of expected to go right to my new unit, but we had one more stop to make—Da Nang, one of Vietnam’s major cities. We stopped there for I think it was two days. I wasn’t sure what was happening there, but I suppose we were waiting to be assigned to our new unit and to complete any final paperwork. When it was finally time to go, we all got separated into different groups, according to what our particular duty classification was, and where we were needed. My duty classification was listed as 0311, rifleman (better known as “grunt”); and my new address was: Co K, 3rd Bn, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. So, those of my group, just a few of us, were directed to get onto a large green helicopter. I remember looking out the helicopter window as we flew over the trees and rice patties. It didn’t take long at all before we arrived at our destination—hill 52. Vietnam is a small country and my unit was only about 15 miles southwest of Da Nang.

The first thing I remember upon landing, was all the dust that the helicopter was creating, and a few dirty-faced Marines that were there to greet us. Though it was late February, in Vietnam it was warm. Questions raced through my head. What had I gotten myself into? Where was I? Where was the enemy? We all needed some direction.

Next blog: Meeting My New Squad