By George ‘Rob’ Beam, Gen. George Custer Post 54, Battle Creek, Mich.
I kept in touch with a couple of guys from the unit over the years. But in about 2010 I got this bug to see if I could find any of the guys from the unit. I got a copy of the unit roster from October 1966, the first full month we would have been in country. From there I visited websites where I could search by name. I captured telephone numbers and mailing addresses on a spreadsheet I set up on my computer. I started with the uncommon names like Perugini, or Foister or Noll. Sometimes I would get a hit on the first telephone number I called. Others took several calls and even letters. Some I am still looking for. It was great talking with each of the guys I had located. Most said, “I’m sorry, George, I don’t remember you.” My reply was, “Don’t worry. I don’t remember you either. It’s only been 45-plus years, for heaven’s sake!”
It all began in late August 1966. Army soldiers, most just out of AIT, reporting for what they hoped was their first permanent duty station, Fort Lewis, Washington. A great post in the beautiful Northwest. A dream assignment. Unfortunately, Fort Lewis was just a stopping point to assemble the company and gather up the gear. Destination Vietnam. There was talk that we were originally to be a direct support unit to the 4th Infantry in Pleiku.
About 20 September the gear was packed and ready for shipping. Most of the unit traveled by C-130. I was lucky enough to be part of the advanced party with SFC David Neeson. We arrived in country a few days later in Qui Nhon. Upon our arrival, it seemed our unit was, well, unexpected. Not knowing what to do with 200 of us as yet, they sent us 10 miles outside town to Valley A, Phu Tai. Thanks to the Engineers next door, they bulldozed the brush and leveled the ground. We built floors for our tents, dug ditches to carry away the monsoon downpours and set up the eight-man tents. They even built us a nice mess hall. A week or so later we became extra hands working at the Qui Nhon depot. It was a major supply and storage facility, including fuels and ammunition. Qui Nhon sits on the shore of the South China Sea about midway up the coastline. A couple of months later the unit moved closer to Qui Nhon, where we started and manned a new smaller storage facility, later known as Area 40. It was a single level, stick-built barracks to bunk, with another good mess hall. I think I actually liked the tents better. Shortly thereafter many of us received orders transferring us to different units throughout Vietnam. Some went as far north as Dong Ha. Others went to Pleiku, An Khe and other smaller outposts. Each man fulfilled his tour, some extending a couple months to take advantage of the early-out opportunity rather than a short assignment back in the States. And each man has his own stories to tell about his personal experience in Vietnam. Some were good, some not so good.
After locating about 30 guys, I asked if anyone was interested in having a reunion? The response was a unanimous yes! This was the easy part. Like any event, for all the planning one does there are always snafus that arise. And so was the case for many of the guys. Some lived far too far to travel. Others had personal issues arise that caused them to cancel. But there were six of us who were able to make this first reunion. And it was a great celebration! We told our stories about our time in country; about our families and jobs over these past 45-plus years. And we met and talked with the spouses and significant others who came along.
The group wants to hold another reunion in 2016 to celebrate 50 years, so I guess it's back to the Internet to find more of the guys!