Monday, August 5, 1968
When the road was clear Fernando drove us to Da Nang. He was a more aggressive driver than Wilson and seemed comfortable with the truck. We dropped a couple Marines off at Battalion Headquarters and headed to Freedom Hill. *
I had one of Reb’s tropical shirts to be turned in for cleaning and sewing on new Lance Corporal Chevrons. Fernando would be doing this for other Marines so it was an opportunity for him to learn the routine. As we exited the exchange, a familiar Marine caught my eye.
“Bob, is that you?” It was Bob Stanek, a clerk/typist from MCAS El Toro. He had worked in Major General Leek’s office at the Third Marine Air Wing with my friend, “Mac.” ** I only knew him from hanging out in Laguna Beach with my Steward buddies. Stanek had been “In Country” for a month; he hitched a ride with us, and we dropped him off at Wing Headquarters.
Sergeant Stanek invited us for a quick tour and Fernando said, “You go ahead, I’ll stay with the truck.” Bob and I went to his quarters, and I was shocked to see a squad bay with bunks (mattresses). After storing his stuff (in a locker), he guided me to a corridor with a sign, “No Entry Without Clearance.” I hesitated and he said, “Oh it’s OK, don’t worry.”
We entered a darkened area and stopped to adjust our vision. It was a circular room full of radar monitors. Each green screen was manned by an operator who had a specific sector. This was the hub of I Corps Air Command. The air space was constantly scanned by radar and AWACS reconnaissance aircraft. I was a little uncomfortable with the “intelligence” aspect of this facility, but Stanek brushed it off as, “No big deal.” After a few minutes we went back to his barracks to talk.
Later, he walked me back to the truck and expressed interest in Hill 65. I described it as, “a firebase, 20 miles southwest of Da Nang.” Bob was always ready for a new adventure and said, “Can I come out to visit for a night?” I explained how long a trip it was, but he was up for the experience. We arranged it for his “day off” on Thursday.
As we were about to leave, I noticed a neatly stacked pile of corrugated metal siding. Bob saw my interest in the siding and said, “If you need some, take it.” We loaded 10 sheets into the truck and promised to meet him on Thursday.
Fernando drove through the FLC complex as I defined each stop. We picked up 2 cases of frozen whole chickens at the surplus food dock.*** He was excited to learn about this location as I detailed the importance of stopping here every day. He was eager to make these decisions for the benefit of the mess hall.
We retrieved the mailbag and returned to Hill 65 on Convoy Road. Fernando talked all the way back, and it was obvious he was going to enjoy this daily trip. After arriving at Hill 65, we unloaded the supplies and metal siding. Reb was waking up from his daily sleep routine, and he inspected the corrugated sheets. I could tell he was wanting to finish the burner shack soon.
Sumo started soaking the whole chickens in saltwater, and he announced they would be served as chicken pot pies with biscuits. It was a productive day, but Fernando would need follow-up training.
* See previous blog, “Freedom Hill” April 8, 1968
** See previous blog, “A Thanksgiving to Remember” November 1967
*** See previous blog, “Trip to Da Nang” February 6, 1968
Next Edition: Burner Shack Completed