In Country - My Vietnam Experience

by Billy Norman

I did basic training in the Army National Guards in 1965 after high school graduation. I came home, tried college, hated the Guards, drank, and felt guilty for getting out of Vietnam. So, one year later, I went down to see if I could volunteer for the draft out of the National Guards. They said yes, so I did this so I would only have to go two years instead of three. When I went active they wanted me to go to basic. I had a hard time convincing them that I had all ready been through basic, but I eventually got out of it. I volunteered for Vietnam and they sent me to Germany. Each month over there, I 1049'd to go to Vietnam. It took seven months and then they sent me home on a 30-day furlough and said my orders would be sent to SD to my home. However, they forgot about me and it took 90 days before my orders came through for Vietnam.

I had volunteered to be a helicopter doorgunner, but my MOS was tank gunner. When I got to Vietnam, they sent me to a tank battalion which had three companies of tanks and one of helicopters. I went to see the Battalion commander and asked if I could go into the helicopters. He said a Major sitting in his office was the helicopter company commander. He said, "If he says okay, then I am okay with it." The Major says, "You're welcome to, but you will have to go into the doughboys" (which is a six-man squad dropped into the jungle for recon). I did this for 60 days before a doorgunner slot came open on the Huey gunships. After writing a story about Vietnam on my website, another Vietnam Vet called me on the phone and said that his dad was the Colonel of the 3rd of 5th Cav and later told him about the young private wanting to be on gunships. His son was in Vietnam after that and is now a Continental Airline pilot.