This article describes my initial two days in Vietnam at the 90th Replacement Battalion, Long Binh.
Continuing from my last article we arrived at Saigon’s Ton San Nhut Airport about two hours after sundown. We were scheduled to land in Binh Hoa AFB but had to deviate to Saigon as Binh Hoa was receiving mortar fire. After deplaning and clearing customs we boarded air conditioned buses for the trip to Binh Hoa. This would be the first time and last time that I would ride in such a bus in Vietnam. The windows on the bus were opaque for some reason so we really could not see Vietnam on the way to the replacement depot.
We arrived at the replacement battalion after 10:00 p.m. and the first thing we did was change money. We had to give up our green dollars for military payment script (MPC). We were told we could not have U.S. money in Vietnam because it somehow helped the enemy. This was not the truth but the deal on this con job is for another article.
After changing money we went into a wooden building and received our in-briefing. We were soon told we were a guest in Vietnam and that we had been invited by the government of South Vietnam to help secure their country from communism. Another bunch of bunk but it was accept this or resist and end up in a lot of trouble. After this briefing and filling out a lot of paperwork we were assigned to barracks and allowed to sleep. What I really remember about the first night was the smell of the place and all the distant artillery fire. No, I did not sleep. My body clock was 12 hours off cycle: this was jet-lag at its best.
The next morning we went to another briefing, this time outside. We were told how the replacement battalion worked and what facilities were available to us as Soldiers. I can’t remember exactly what I did for the rest of the day other than wonder around this camp. One thing I do remember was the drinking water situation. Thirsty, go use the common cup tied to the canvas lister bag and drink after many. No, you could not buy a bottle of cool water.
The next day I got stuck on morning KP. During a break we replacements gathered for morning formation where we waited to go to out permanent units. That morning my name was called and I was assigned to the 40th Signal Battalion. This battalion was headquartered in Long Binh. This unit had a ¾ ton truck waiting for me a several other replacements. We hopped in and to nobody’s regret we left the replacement battalion. You would not see this place again until you were ready to finally leave country. In my next article I will describe what happens when you show up to your unit the first time.