I graduated from Dewey, Okla., high school in May 1956. Enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve six-month active-duty enlistment program. Took recruit basic training at Fort Chaffee, Ark. After two weeks' leave returned to Fort Chaffee to take basic artillery training for the remainer of my enlistment. In December 1956 I received a honorable discharge from active duty and rejoined a Reserve artillery unit, Bartlesville, Okla., at that time. I remained in several Reserve united for a couple of years. As I moved a lot and could not maintain regular weekly unit meetings, I was transferred to an annual training Reserve unit where I only attended two-week summer training at several Reserve and active-duty stations. At one active-duty training artillery unit, they did not have a slot of two weeks' training for me to train with the regular unit, so I spent two weeks as their dining hall orderly. Best summer camp I attended.
While attending college in Greely, Colo., in 1960, I ran very low on funds to attend collage. I re-enlisted in the regular Army under their Guaranteed Enlistment Program, which guaranteed I could attend the MOS school I qualified for.
I qualified and attended the Aircraft Airframe Repair School at Fort Eustis, Va. I graduated No. 1 in my class of approximately 25 students in March 1961. I was assigned to the 140th Cargo Helicopter Field Maintenance Unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.
When I arrived the 140th was way over their TO&E strength. Our unit supported the 8th Cargo Helicopter Transportation Unit. It had 21 CH21 cargo helicopters. The 140th performed all the 3rd and 4th levels of helicopter maintenance to keep them flying their missions.
The 8th Helicopter was a STRIKE unit which could deploy to anywhere in the world in 72 hours. They and the 140th received TDY Orders to deploy at the end of October 1961. Both units were sent to Oakland Army Depot, Oakland, Calif., to be deployed overseas. We were at the Oakland Army Depot two days and then went aboard a WWII (jeep) aircraft carrier (USNS Core) for deployment overseas. We did not know our final destination until we boarded the aircraft carrier. It was Saigon, South Vietnam.
It took 21 days to sail there nonstop; we arrived in Saigon on Dec. 11, 1961.(The first of two cargo helicopter units to go to South Vietnam.) Both units stayed in a unfinished hotel in Saigon until the end of January 1961 and then transferred to the Central Highland (2nd Core) area to QuiNhon on the China Sea. The town had a WWII airfield that was still operational with a STP (steel plated) runway. The airfield was expanded to incorporate taxi ways and a large parking, maintenance area for the 140th equipment, vehicles and the 21 helicopters and their equipment. The other Cargo Helicopter from Fort Lewis, Wash., stayed in Saigon.
In QuiNhon the enlisted men of both units (the 140th and 8th) stayed in squad tents located in a vacant block in the town of QuiNhon. We rode 2 1/2 trucks to and from the airfield daily. The officers stayed in a vacant hotel in town.
We were in the 5th month of our TDY deployment when we got a change of orders extending our tour of duty to 12 months. A lot of the men in the 140th did not leave as scheduled due to the Army not able to find aircraft maintenance men who had MOS' to work on the old CH21 Shawnee helicopter. All aviation maintenance training was for the new CH47 Chinook helicopter coming into service.
I got home back in Oklahoma seven days before Christmas 1962. After two weeks' leave I was assigned to the new Army Aviation Overhaul & Repair Depot located on the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas. The Army had just taken over from the Navy their aircraft overhaul depot which they no longer needed.
I completed my enlistment there and received an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio with a permanent rank of Specialist E-5. I had completed my seven-year obligation of military service.
Rev. Jerry K. Coldren