Sergeant Tibbets and I spent time together every day rebuilding an abandoned bunker. It was small and would only hold two people; it was a safe place during a mortar attack. We filled and rearranged sand bags during the two weeks since we first met.
Tibbets’ job as the Comm Center NCO kept him safe underground in the FDC bunker, but when off duty he slept in our sandbag hooch. It was originally his belief that Kilo battery would be on Hill 65 temporarily, and little effort was made to improve bunkers for safety during an attack. His advice to me now . . . “Don’t believe the rumors.”
The day Tibbets left Hill 65 we posed for a photo, sitting on our handiwork. The arrow in the photo points to a stone structure which was the headquarters for the local PF (Popular Forces) unit. PFs were local militias who protected their home villages. They were poorly trained, under equipped and ineffective. The concrete headquarters was about a thousand yards from us.
After seeing Tibbets off, I went back to the hooch and folded his cot against the sandbag wall. There was a folding aluminum lawn chair stored in the corner, and I claimed it as “Finders Keepers.”
With two of us in the hooch, Sergeant Paige and I got better acquainted. I thought of him as “Brainiac” (a super intelligent alien). He was a whiz at mathematics and could do incredibly difficult calculations using a slide rule. There were no computers, everything in FDC was done manually and recorded in journals. I asked him, “Do you ever worry about making an error?” He admitted to having nightmares about it . . . a recurring dream of reversed coordinates: friendly vs. enemy positions. Friendly Fire was not uncommon in Vietnam.
Paige was always a pessimist and often ridiculed the food in the mess hall. His mantra was, “I eat for survival.” The concept of three hot meals a day being part of the unit morale was just leadership propaganda to Sergeant Paige. Finally I told him, I respect your right to have this opinion.” Privately, it became my goal to prove him wrong.