Where’s Our Staff Car?
by Huard Libby, US Army Ret,
SP5, 221st Aviation Company, Apr 65-Jul 66
This tale begins with the 221st Shotguns in our infancy at Fort Bragg, NC, from March thru the deployment to RVN in July1965. I was one of the original on-post transfers to the 221st, and one of the few with a Fort Bragg military driver’s license. Don Smith, a recently appointed Warrant Officer with assignment as Motor Officer, and I “conferred” about the need for a bus driver for the Shotguns. Don, being the resourceful individual he was, and having former enlisted status, knew of a few maneuvers to get us what we needed. That being a bus and a driver (me) assigned for the duration of our preparation for deployment to RVN. Don pounced upon my driver’s qualification record, DDForm348, and my military driver’s license, and with the help of a trusty typewriter I was transformed into that bus driver! Don kept reminding me that about the only difference in driving the bus would be the requirement to stop for all RR crossings and to always open the door to make sure no traffic of the rail type was approaching. Otherwise, the same rules applied as to any vehicle.
Now, we must remember a typewriter was used. I am certain that computers of today would not allow this ingenuity to succeed. I went back to my former unit at Bragg, the 159th Engineers, and “borrowed” their rubber stamp at the Motor Pool to make this fabrication more realistic. The bus was assigned from the Transportation Motor Pool to the 221st, and was used until just prior to our actual deployment.
Due my being licensed to drive a US Army sedan, I was also designated a rear-party person. The whole of this group was the rear detachment commander, Lt. McMonegal, and…me.
As the days drew nearer, the rush to get all qualifications (POR) done was paramount. One of those little matters was the requirement for all personnel being deployed to Southeast Asia to receive a Gamma Globulin shot and it would be followed six months later with a booster shot. This was, I believe, to help us become resistant to hepatitis. To the best of my knowledge this requirement was dropped some months later due to updated information about the shot not really doing what it was envisioned for. Could someone of importance possibly have been in cahoots with the pharmaceutical industry?
The day of the dreaded shot arrived. In the Army, whenever you meet someone who’s already experienced what we were about to endure, the term “You’ll Be Sorry” comes to light. To set the example, officers were first to receive this immunization and to further set the example, the XO, Captain Ogden, led the charge. Now this shot was in a refrigerated state; I can’t remember if it was frozen or just very cold, but the procedure was to give each individual a vial to hold in your hand so by the time you presented the vial to the medic administering the “vile” content, it would be warmed to body temperature. Since the XO wanted me to be ready to transport the officers, he moved me alongside him as number two for the shot! We were then directed to a table, instructed to give up possession of the vial to the medic, lower our drawers, and bend over the table presenting a posterior view for target practice. It’s important to remember that the holding of the vials was extremely important to lessen the coagulation of the Gamma Globulin, thus causing the recipient to suffer less discomfort.
Apparently there was a miscommunication between the refrigerator staff and the needle presenter, for Captain Ogden and I were the first to receive this new wonder drug, and ours certainly had not received much warming prior to the actual penetration. I believe the needle used was quite large in gauge, something bordering on railroad-spike size, as most all who received the shot were prone to leave a lot of blood in their clothing! The XO and myself bent over and, Oh my! How it felt was not described in any Army field manual! The XO had a little room between him and the table and involuntarily flinched ahead causing the needle to exit, thus requiring a subsequent penetration of this most formidable needle! As my memory fades, so do the details, but I believe it required an injection in both cheeks due to the amount being administered. Now remember, the first in line had the coldest vials, and thus suffered the most localized pain from any known injection ever received! Sometimes I think there must have been ice crystals still present upon injection. I’m certain there were many after-injection stories told by medical personnel to one another; I can hear it now, “Man, you should’ve seen the look on the face of that one!” I firmly believe the Army’s “God of Pain” worked overtime to create this moment in a soldier’s life!
After all present were safely returned to the bus for a return trip to the Shotgun encampment, we commenced our movement. Horror of horrors! This was a standard transmission vehicle! Consequently, this required the movement of the left foot and leg to depress the clutch and the right foot and leg for the accelerator. This caused more discomfort due to the pressure placed on the cheeks of my posterior against the back of the seat. Everyone else sat gingerly on the edge of their seats hoping for less discomfort. I do believe I may have started off rather abruptly several times, causing all in place to move against the seat back, delivering even more pain! I didn’t intentionally cause this jerking; I just remember that it hurt me personally too much to smoothly engage the clutch each time and that my foot slid off sideways causing the jerking motion. Once moving, the discomfort wasn’t quite so bad.
After returning to the Company Area I believe we were all then released to take a break, as in, “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Once again, my being the bus driver required several more trips to get all transportation requirements out of the way for the day.
Perhaps the reader is wondering what all the aforementioned has to do with a “staff car.” Read on!
The precise orderly movement from Fort Bragg to Pope AFB, the subsequent loading of the C-130 aircraft, and the entire company loading had been thought out, well planned, and put into a plan of action, or “op-plan.” The USAF could not have read the same plan, nor was any of this information relayed to the crews of the C-130s assigned to move the 221st.
If memory serves correct, the USAF Reserve Wing that was to fly the 221st from Pope to Travis AFB in California for the first leg of our journey, was placed on alert (remember the term?). Subsequently, these folks decided instead of blowing big clouds around they would arrive early at Pope, load up and get going! This lead to a little mix-up in the order of loading and launching the C-130 airplanes.
I had delivered all the folks I could carry by the bus, and was then to return to the TMP to trade the bus for an Army Sedan. The “rear detachment” would use the sedan to clear post, which meant transferring the barracks borrowed for initial use by the 221st, and clearing all administration procedures between Fort Bragg and the 221st. All went smoothly except the “rear detachment” C-130 landed somewhat earlier than planned, and the rear became the middle.
In between all of this happening, my new bride since April 16, 1965, arrived with her parents. Purely by chance, we met on one of the four lane roads on Bragg; I flashed the lights and my wife went from being a passenger in her parents’ auto to a passenger in the Army staff car that Lt. McMonegal and I were in!
As the “rear detachment” scrambled to do all that was required to get ourselves personally ready to load, all the paperwork was completed on the fly. A lot of understanding folks helped clear the 221st from Fort Bragg. One small thing remained—we were to turn in the Army staff car to TMP, and they would then get us back to Pope AFB. To the best of my recollection, that staff car was left at Pope AFB with keys over the visor, and the “rear detachment” departed Pope on schedule. I even got to spend about an hour with my wife as Lt. McMonegal and I went about preparing to leave. Since the 221st was the first unit to form and deploy in this manner from Fort Bragg, I’m certain the car was returned to the TMP there. If our CO, Major Modica, ever received any notification about this, he never acknowledged any of it to myself, or as far as I know, to Lt. McMonegal. The log book and dispatch papers were left in the car.