Author's Name: Gene Hutchins

Title: "My First Day at Ohouc Vinh"

My Story of Vietnam I am Gene Hutchins.  A native of St. Louis, I joined the Army two weeks after my high school graduation.  I was deployed to Vietnam on 8 December 1968. I stayed in Vietnam  for the next two years.  A tour and two six month extensions. I served in  the Army Security Agency (ASA). In Vietnam, we had a “cover name” for ASA units, Radio Research (RR).  Officially, I served as a cook. Still, I did a number of roles as circumstances dictated. I had a Top Secret/Crypto security clearance, it was awarded prior to my dismissal from Basic Morse Code school at Ft. Devens, MA. I wasn’t able to copy Morse code at an acceptable speed with acceptable accuracy.  The ASA filled it ranks of support positions (clerks, mechanics, cooks etc.) from people such as myself. We had our security clearances, but were not going to be in classified occupations because of we did not master the skills for those positions. My deployment was sort of ‘ voluntar y’.  I had a serious row with my new Mess Sergeant at Vint Hill Farm Station. The row was decided to be “willful disobedience to a non commission officer’s lawful order”. The company CO cut me a break. He let we sign a request for assignment to Vietnam.  He also was aware this Staff Sergeant, newly minted to the rank. was loathsome. My first experiences were appalling.  The training for deployment to Vietnam did not tell about the shock on arrival.

When I disembarked the United Airlines plane, two physical events immediately effected. The heat and the stench. The heat, shot up my khaki pants, instantly causing heat rash. The sickening smell of Vietnam was staggering, especially breathing. I went to the 90th Replacement Bn., then was called out of formation, and picked up by 509th RR Group. My orders to Vietnam said I was to be assigned to the 371st RR Co, First Air Cavalry. After ten days, I had arrived at Phouc Vinh. This was on December 19, 1968. Phouc Vinh was the new base camp of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The commanding powers had decided the war was better prosecuted with moving the Cav from the Central Highlands to that southwest part of the country. It was nearly noon, when the C-130 landed at the air strip.  It was unnerving.  As it taxied to a stop, the crew chief told us to hit the ground running,  there was intermittent sniper fire. I found that running with baggage, a duffel bag and a B-4, was nearly impossible. But walking brought on some harsh call out from PMs.  To move at the double time. Later, I realized that my brand new fatigues were a tell.  My darkly colored fatigues told ‘short timers’, whose fatigues were faded, I was a ‘nug’, new guy. And, like any traditional male organization, you always hazed the nug.