Cacti War Stories


Edited by Wiley "Tiny" Dodd
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How I met Lt. Thode

by Jim "Doc" Hall
1970

How I met Lt. Thode

It took a while after I entered country to go through the processing and orientations. I came in to Ben Hoa and spent a couple of days there and finally got assigned to the 4th Infantry Division.

Several of us were put on a flight from Ben Hoa to Pleiku. I'm not certain of just what type of prop plane but I think it was smaller than a C-130 but it was one of those with the red cargo nets for seating all along the walls.

After arriving at Pleiku (Camp Enari) we were all bussed to the orientation center for the 4th Division. Here we went through a variety of processing and tests and was issued a weapon. At some point I joined an orientation patrol along the outside of the perimeter. Of course, they made this out to be some sort of a real serious affair but then later many of us would learn that it was really rather tame.

Within a couple of days I was further assigned to the 2/35th Infantry and transported to the rear aid station at Camp Enari. They seemed to be quite busy there with a lot of hustle and bustle. I was assigned duty helping them to pack up supplies and equipment. As I was to learn shortly the entire Battalion (and Division) was in the process of moving from Camp Enari (Pleiku) to Camp Radcliffle (An Khe). So they kept me busy for a couple of days helping them pack and get ready for the final move.

They had already begun to establish a Battalion aid station at Camp Radcliffe and I was told one day that I needed to get ready to join a convoy from Enari to Radcliffe.

So the next morning I gathered my rifle and my duffle bag and someone took me to a truck that would be taking me to Camp Radcliffe. I had little concept of just what this trip would be like and how long it would take so I climbed on the back of the truck a bit apprehensive and a bit excited for the adventure.

The ride was spectacular. It was rather flat somewhat open country as we headed out of Pleiku and it soon turned to more mountainous and terrain with much more vegetation along the route.

Soon I got my first glimpse of the mountain passes as I convoyed through the Mang Yang Pass for the very first time (I was to travel this route 3 more times during my time in country and it was always awesomely beautiful while feeling at the same time to be deadly dangerous.)

The convoy was uneventful and in a few hours we made our way into Camp Radcliffe.

I was dropped off at the Battalion Aid Station along with several boxes of supplies. At this point I don't remember any other medics being with me during this trip.

Again I was a stranger and uncertain of just what was to be next for me. I met another array of medics at the aid station, all of whom had completed their time in the field and were on the downward part of their tours.

I helped unpack the supplies and was assigned some other mundane duties while waiting to find out what was next for me. At this point I was issued an aid bag and told pretty much what to pack it with. But how much and any placement within the bag was left up to me.

I was also issued a couple of bottles of Ringers Lactate and a couple of cutter sets to use with them but was never really told just how to carry these.

It was here also that I checked in my duffle bag to supply for the duration of my time in country and I received such things as a ruck sack and frame and a couple of regular canteens as well as a 5 quart water blivit and actual ammo for my M-16. Additionally I received a poncho, a poncho liner and an air mattress.

A towel was added to my supply group (though I had no idea just what it was for. Silly me I thought it was for bathing.). I think I got to rummage through some other gear that was laying about (but my mind is now fuzzy on this. It could be that I got the extra equipment later when I joined my platoon) In any case, somewhere along the line I came up with a couple of extra 1 quart canteen holders which I utilized for my ringer's Lactate as I hung them from my hip on an ammo belt that I also scrounged up.

I also came up with a couple of extra ammunition bandoleers that I used for extra compressed bandages as well as a utility bag with a long canvas strap that I could use to hold my cutter sets.

I'm sure that there were other additions to all of this that I no longer can remember but this is the basic issue that I was given at Camp Radcliffe before I got my assignment to join Bravo Co. 2/35th.

All of Bravo Company happened to be at Camp Radcliffe for some sort of a short stand down when I got there. So someone walked me and my Rube Goldberg collection of equipment over to Bravo Co where we somehow found 1st platoon.

I was introduced to the platoon leader (Lt Neil Voss) and the platoon sergeant (Jack Adami) and also to the man who I was to replace (Doc Bert Clarino)

Basically Doc Clarino said "glad to see you" as he shook hands with me and then with everyone around the area and he got his stuff and cleared out of the area. I never really had a discussion with him as to what I was getting in to or what my responsibilities were or how I was to approach doing anything at all. He was just gone.

The platoon leader's RTO (a skinny scrawny fellow by the name of Mike Slyck) sort of took me under his wing at this point. Little did I know what this would mean. I met a blur of platoon members after this but my focus was on staying close to my new mentor , Slyck.

I had the greatest fear at the time of losing him as we were off to various places around the AO during this stand down. I specifically remember attending an outdoor movie the first night with Slyck and some others and how I was scared to death of losing sight of him as I didn't even know how to get back to the area where we were sleeping.

Somehow we made it to and from the movies without me getting lost. I was fortunate that night that Mike didn't have any other schemes or plans that might shake me from his side. He was famous for small little diversions from the normal regulations of army life but I was not to learn this until later.

Over the next couple of days I got more relaxed and accustomed to my surroundings and the other people in the platoon. Then we were sent on our first little mission (which is a story unto itself -- the great Cattle Rustler incident)

A day or two following the Cattle Rustler Incident we were taken out to the helicopter pad and airlifted to a new firebase that was being built (FB Hooper, I believe).

Here my path crossed again with Doc Clarino. He had been assigned to the FB aid station and when we arrived he came over to our area to greet his old friends. At some point it was decided that he was going to show me how to do something. (At this time I honestly don't remember what this was but it was probably something like how and where to set up piss tubes on a firebase.)

As I sat there waiting for Doc Clarino to show me, whatever it was he was going to show me, he was sitting on a bunker and talking on the radio. Suddenly he threw down the receiver and stomped off heading I knew not where.

Well he was supposed to show me something so I followed along with him as best I could. After walking more than halfway around the perimeter I finally was right on his heals when he came up to an officer standing outside another bunker. He walked up to the officer and said "I was going to tell you to get F____k'd over the radio but decided to come here and do it in person" At this point Doc Clarino turned on his heals and stomped off the way we had come and I found myself standing in front of this officer and kind of perplexed on what my next move should be.

I was new in country and fresh out of training and certainly I had never encountered any enlisted man talking this way to an officer. So for the moment I was frozen there and entirely uncertain of what to do. But I finally I figured my only option was to follow suite and I turned around and followed Doc Clarino who by this time was nearly out of sight.

I never did learn whatever it was that Doc Clarino was going to show me but I sure never forgot this day. It is always remembered as the day I met Lt. Thode.