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Welcome to The ‘Nam. Just think, only 365 days and a wake-up until you kiss this tropical craphole goodbye and get on that freedom bird to take you back to the land of the Big PX.

Anyhow, here’s how it is. You’ll be sent to a gaining unit, where they’ll probably put you on point for the first few weeks. Hey, don’t look like that. It’s a favor to you. Better you get killed or maimed early before you suffer like those guys in your squad who have been here for almost a year. Once it looks like you might survive, they’ll accept you, unless you seem like one of those gung-ho motherfreakers who are likely to get themselves and their squadmates killed. Do your best to fit in. The men in your platoon have been here a lot longer than you and have seen stuff you really don’t want to see. Cut them some slack if they seem to drink too much or use some of the local dope—as long as they don’t do it on patrol its all good.

You’ll likely go to an infantry unit, unless you’re slated for the 101st or 173rd. Even then, you’ll most likely never jump, but you will see plenty of countryside from the back of a helicopter. No matter if you’re on foot or in the back of an armored personnel carrier, you’ll learn fast that mines are a fact of life around here. Mines, booby traps, ambushes. What a crappy way to run a war. Occasionally you’ll run into a North Vietnamese Army, or NVA, unit. You’ll be in for a hell of a fight then. Those gooks are well armed and well equipped. A friend of mine was in a firebase that got wave attacked by them for hours before the Spooky gunships and Skyraiders drove them off. Hundreds of dead in the wire and they kept coming!

Anyway, you’ll hear two big things while you’re in-country. The first is hearts and minds. The brass has decided that the only way to win this war is to get the South Vietnamese on our side. After all, most villagers you see are so poor that Commie crap sounds good to them. This program is designed to help them out of the crap they live in. You go into villages, make nice, maybe escort a civil affairs team of doc, dentists, and engineers to give them shots, build a school or well, or some other BS like that. Sounds good to the eggheads in DC and Saigon, but I’ve never seen the boobytraps in the areas we visit get any better.

Vietnamization is the other big catch-phrase. This means getting those piece of crap ARVNs to pull their own weight so we can get the hell out of here. We’ve been replacing their World War II style weapons with modern stuff, and even given them tanks, APCs, and aircraft. Those Special Forces guys have been training up their natives, and MAC-V has advisers in the field also, along with the CIA. All in all, some of the Marvin units are getting better, but I still wouldn’t trust most further than I could throw them. Our other allies in this war are a bit more reliable in a fight. The South Koreans are good guys to have around. I hear tell they collect heads, and when they show up in an AO the VC all di-di mau. The Aussies and Kiwis are pretty tough also, and good soldiers. The Thais hold their own, and while they might not be as fierce as the Koreans, I’d much rather have them beside me than the ARVNs.

Speaking of the CIA. Watch yourself when you run into civilian men in the field, or guys that are dressed in uniforms without insignia. The spooks are out and about doing their own thing, and sometimes it conflicts with what the military is doing. I’ve heard tell of all kinds of weird stuff they’re involved in, but some guys say they have the best dope, so maybe they’re not all bad. The Phoenix Program is another “black” operation that you might hear of. No one knows for sure what they’re up to, but I’ve heard rumors they’re assassins sent after the VC leadership. Hey, that’s cool with me as long as they leave me and my platoon alone.

Reporters are another thing you’ll see in the field. They’ll get in your face, and the coverage I’ve seen back home ranges from good to poor. While it may be cool for your family to see you on the television back home, don’t get too wrapped up in your 15 seconds of fame. Some of these pukes have pretty loose lips, and unfortunately I’m not talking about the female reporters.

Well, that’s the ‘Nam in a nutshell. Keep your head out of your ass, listen to your NCOs, and you just might live to tell your grandkids how you were too stupid not to move to Canada when you turned 18.