If it’s Veterans Day, “Don’t Thank me for my service”

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Basic Training Graduation Photo: Ft. Bliss Texas  Drill Sgt’s Annus (on left) Drill Sgt Semko (on right)   You never forget the names of your Basic Training NCO’s.

I joined the Army in 1969.  The Army has a battery of tests to figure out how to best use a new recruit.   One of the questions was “Which would you rather do? Go to the Opera? OR Go camp out in Yellowstone National Park?

42nd Infantry Platoon Scout Dog

Of course, I answered the Campout!!  “Yep.., He’s infantry material.“    I finished at the top of my class in Basic Training. And  the Top 2 % Army Wide in Infantry training. I took Basic at Ft. Bliss –went to Infantry School at Ft. Lewis and Scout Dog Handler  training at Ft. Benning. I landed in the 101st Airborne Division (I Corps) Vietnam 70-71. Vietnam was a defining experience for those of us who went, I”m glad I did. Combat Infantry.  At the Tip of the Spear. It does not get any better.

My unit was the 42nd Infantry Platoon Scout Dog / 101St Airborne Division)

Location: Camp Eagle. Just got in from the field.
Cleaning my M-16–the day before a mission. I changed to a CAR-15 (with telescoping stock). The CAR-15 was much smaller -(they cut the barrel length and chopped 3 inches off the Stock.) It was a much more manageable weapon in the heavy thick jungle terrain of I Corps.
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I was an Infantry Scout Dog Handler.

Scout Dog Teams walked “Point‘ on Infantry jungle patrols. The “mission” of the Scout Dog team is to provide “Early Silent Warning” of booby traps, ambush, cache’s of weapons, and evidence of enemy activity. The “Point” Man and his Scout Dog, (worked off leash) followed closely by the “slack” man. The “slack” position is filled by an experienced soldier to “backup” the “Point” team. NO CHERRIES! –My unit only had 3 CAR-15‘s (CAR-15 with shorter/telescoping stock ). CAR-15’s were issued to the 3 senior field opns soldiers in my unit. I didn’t get a CAR-15 until sometime in early spring of 71. — Photo above with M-16. I carried 23 magazines…. 2 (7) magazine OD green cotton cloth bandoliers across my chest. 2 Magazines on the weapon itself. (Taped in Reverse for rapid reload) 4 in a Pistol belt pouch on my right side — and 3 in an outer pouch of my Rucksack.– Carrying grenades was optional. My first few months in the field I carried 4 — I loosened the pin — which was hard as hell to first-time pull –– but I taped the spoon down so I had to remove the tape first. You only get one chance with a grenade. Improper pin removal, stance or throwing method could be fatal.— The Jungle is thick and lots of stuff grabs onto you. I didn’t want to chance any detonation with the M-26. I eventually dropped to carrying 2 grenades. I always started a mission with 18 quarts of water. That’s 2 lbs per quart =36 lbs of water alone Dogs dehydrate way faster than a Man. A Dog Handler couldn’t be sure his mission would be near the bountiful jungle streams. I always max- loaded water as if we would not be near a natural water source. In our AO (area of operation) there were many streams that fed the rivers., The Song Bo River out near the Ashau Valley was magnificent.

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“Fuck-that! I’m not superstitious!” 1st Bde LZ @ Camp Eagle. OUT Bound.

My  Scout Dog “Argo” his head over my leg as we lift off. Argo, loved watching the jungle below when we were flying on a mission, often at tree-top level. Sometimes his saliva would blow back onto the Door Gunner! ! They would always laugh! This was sometime in late 1970. My platoon Sgt. took me and Argo up to the LZ in a jeep. No one in my unit had their picture taken departing on a mission in over a year– according to unit lore.The last team to do so got hit on the mission. So there was this mystical belief about it. No one wanted to be photographed flying out-bound on a mission. After a few months I said, “fuck-that”, I’m not superstitious. If I get hit, having my photo taken won’t be the reason.  We “Argo” and I walked “Point”  in the Jungle.  I live today because of that small ( 58 lb. Shepard) Best pure “Combat Dog” ever. ( Ok– I confess to hypocrisy. I always wore my lucky headband in the bush. Either around my neck or on my head under my “boonie” hat.–

  My decorations: Among the most coveted awards in the US Army

CIB

     Combat Infantry Badge

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101st Airborne Division Base Camp Eagle. On the BERM
Bronze Star 2
No Ceremony No Hand-shake The Presidential Combat Medal. The Bronze Star
42nd photo
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mew taking photo in VN

Most GI’s in Vietnam got a 5-7 day leave for “Rest and Recreation”. Your choices were Thailand for debauchery, Hong Kong, Australia and Honolulu.  OR worst case. China Beach, an “In-Country” R&R.

I discovered photography in Vietnam and badly wanted a 35mm camera.  I could buy the 35 mm camera– but then I couldn’t afford an out of country R&R.  So I bought the camera and went to China Beach near DaNang. We surfed all day then got wasted every night listening to a Vietnamese Rock Band play American songs.  They were awful musicians.  We didn’t care!

China Beach is now a “hip” tourist destination.

Back in the World! After processing all night long at Ft. Lewis, Washington- we were released in brand new uniforms and officially out of the Army. The date was 2 July 1971. As we were getting on the Bus, I shouted, “Wait, we need a picture!” — The bus driver took my camera and then others and shot the group photo above. — Then he drove us to SeaTac International Airport– and off to civilian life we went! ( 11 days later I would be in summer school at the University of Texas at Austin )

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 Ft. Campbell Gander Memorial Service: Some 14 years later in 1985, I was working on a political story on Capitol Hill.  The news desk editor called and told me that members of my former division had been in an airplane crash in Gander, Newfoundland. He asked if I wanted to go to Ft. Campbell for the Memorial service. (As if there was any question?? Of course!) He said, “yes we figured you would want to go”. The soldiers, most of them from the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, crashed shortly after taking off from a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. All 248 soldiers and the plane’s eight crew members were killed.

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The Memorial Service was on Dec. 15/16 1985. It was bitter cold that day. In the 20’s with 9-10 mph winds. (I looked it up!) The division was formed on the parade field for hours. And we in the press stayed in the stands for hours. Above: A 105mm howitzer was fired every 5 minutes, marking the loss of one soldier

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Steeped in history, it is an honor to have been a  “Screaming Eagle”  of the  101st Airborne Division.

1995 Doc SHOOT copy

Above: Professionally  I returned to Vietnam in 1995.  We shot a documentary at the 20-year point of the war’s end.  It was an amazing trip. We traveled the entire country. Photo. Above: –POW/MIA recovery dig near Haiphong in the north

Above: Mike Whatley left, Vietnamese government official and interpreter in Center with Retired North Vietnamese Infantry Colonel Nguen Quoc Khan. He was a big deal. How I got to talk with him still boggles my mind. We stayed in his hotel in Hue. Retired at the time of photo–He was dressed in uniform for a military parade that morning, that was held in honor of General Võ Nguyên Giáp.

One of the most important photos I’ve ever taken.

I shot this photo of General Vo Nguyen Giap in Hue, on March 24, 1995.  It was pouring rain and he was under a reviewing stand roof. I was in the rain and I could not believe my good fortune. Security allowed me within about 20 feet of the General. Many historians regard Giap as one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. I knew that as I pressed the shutter. I had read Bernard Fall’s “Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu” in college. And this elderly soldier, in full uniform on the platform that rainy day was the Commander that defeated the French in 1954. He was a hugely important military figure in the lives of all of us who went to Vietnam. (I shot the photo in a downpour with my small point n shoot film camera and then I prayed the image would come out. — Image above is cropped.)

McCain

Above: The statue of now  Senator John S. McCain, where he was captured as his parachute dropped him in Trúc Bạch Lake in Hanoi. It was a pretty heavy moment to stand before this statue. I think of it often now as he lays dying of brain cancer in Arizona.



McCain was taken prisoner of war on October 26, 1967. I was a Senior in high school. He was flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam when his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile over Hanoi. He would remain in prison for 6 years. I graduated High School in 1968, joined the Army in 1969, went to Vietnam 70-71 and was discharged and back in college— And all of that time John McCain (tortured and beaten many times) remained in prison until 1973. Take a couple of minutes to think about that. What a sacrifice.
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Above: The young men in this photo were in their 20’s in 1995. Even then their posture, expressions and confidence showed.  I wish I could interview them now.

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Mike Whatley at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Wash DC with photo shown below given to me by Colonel Nguyen Quoc Khan.

ABOVE: 1986 Photo of Vietnamese General Võ Nguyên Giáp and Infantry Colonel Nguyen Quoc Khan. The day we left Hue in 1995, Colonel Khan gave me the photo above with an inscription on the back.

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The series  “20 Years since the Fall” won 2 Regional Emmy’s.

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Vietnam Dog Handler Association Decal

ln 1995 Jan Scruggs (President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund) hosted a luncheon in Rosslyn, Va.– It was held in the Key Bridge Marriott on the top floor. The view is fantastic, overlooking the Potomac toward the “Wall”. Those of us fortunate enough to attend were given this commemorative knife. In many ways to me– it represents the final act of the Vietnam War.

The increasing irrelevance of Ham Radio Emcomm.

Senhaix Radio edit

Remember Hurricane Harvey??— In Houston, a reported 95% of the telco cell network stayed up.  Houston area cell providers promised to harden the network after Katrina- and they did just that! —- As a result, nearly all communications with public safety agencies during Harvey were conducted on the working commercial cell and POTS infrastructure.

cell service in Houston Harvey

 

Zello ( is a push-to-talk app for mobile devices and PCs.) with 120 million users around the world.  Available wherever there’s WiFi or data service. And unlike  “walkie-talkies”, there are no limits to users, channels or category of use.  Over 1 million Houston area citizens downloaded the Zello app in a single day during Harvey.

In the Houston area, people got on Zello the “radio” and self-formed local networks—-Complete with map-based location identifiers—-Hurricane Harvey was what one media outlet called the first Social media Hurricane.  Citizens created “family” groups, “neighborhood” groups, “work” groups, “School” groups to name a few. And they had easy transparent communications between them all.

Press Coverage from Harvey:

                                                     
Time Mag

Time Magazine headline:  

‘Please Send Help.’ Hurricane Harvey Victims Turn to Twitter and Facebook

Coast Guard asks people stranded by Harvey to call them instead of posting on social media for help. 24 Hours later– the Coast Guard backed down and began using Social Media as well.
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During Harvey the ARRL Houston ARES PIO, Mike Urich, KA5CVH suggested  (in a surprisingly candid interview), that hams didn’t have much on-air work to do at the”EOC”.

ARRL South Texas Public Information Officer Mike Urich, KA5CVH, told ARRL on August 30 that “hardening” of the telecommunications infrastructure to make it more immune to storm damage has diminished the need for Amateur Radio communication support and altered hams’ traditional role there. Urich pointed out, however, that the Amateur Radio telecommunications infrastructure in South Texas has remained analog, as “the lowest common denominator” of technology — VHF/UHF FM, and HF — and has the highest degree of interoperability. “That’s what we train to, that’s what we teach, that’s what we practice,” he said.— SOURCE: ARRL Web site.

The  Senhaix 60 (at top)– is a radio entry to the network. Loaded with Zello it becomes an invaluable tool in communications that people used via smart phone (by the 10’s of thousands) with zero training during Hurricane Harvey and other events.

This emerging class of software and devices has enabled people to bypass the need for a “license” to communicate via “radio”. —- Harvey demonstrated that Ham Radio and even Local Government traditional EmComm models are obsolete.—- One Houston area Gov’t organization said early on in a bulletin to the public— Do not use Social Mediawe won’t get to you  Call us on the phone!—- Guess what?  The public ignored them. Within 24 hours the local agency changed their tune.  Even the US Coast Guard found it hard to break from the tired/linear model —They implored citizens to “Call us on the Phone” They too, backed off when literally hundreds of thousands of people in Houston were using various Self-formed networks made easy by apps like Zello and WAZE. One smart coder- soon after Harvey’s land-fall,  created a “crowd-source” rescue web site to aggregate rescues in the region. The data was credible in showing the status of rescues for all to see. Complete or Pending. (Or who is left out there needing help??!!)— The Web site was quickly seized upon as a real-time “live” Database for localities to determine who needed rescuing. Further, in the shallow yet flooded streets of Houston, Rescue teams in boats could not see where the streets were— so they used WAZE for accurate navigation to reach those needing help. Add the powerful GPS tracking app GLYMPSE  that many used —  the decentralization of communications is a far more efficient model than that of Ham radio.

KA5CVH, Mike Urich said the emcomm Hams assisted in the “EOC” as being “another set of eyes and ears”. He noted how a senior EOC official needed a specific trailer hitch and Mike got  online and researched it for him.– This was an example of the Ham Radio team’s contribution. “When all else fails” Urich noted that they go for the “lowest common denominator”  analog systems that work and have the widest interoperability.

This model uses the most rudimentary ham radio gear and skills.  “That’s what we train to, that’s what we teach, that’s what we practice,”    The many “digital modes” available to Hams are not used.

Ham Radio emcomm’s “rai·son d’ê·tre” is evaporating. The Newington propagandists will continue to promote the “When all else fails” myth But it won’t matter. They live in an echo chamber.  Technology and the public have left Ham radio behind.

QUICK!!   You live in California– Huge wildfires are licking at your door. The next few hours will be critical to your family’s safety.  You can pick up your smart phone or a 2 meter rig.  Which device do you take?

Yes, there will be events where the inefficient /traditional/analog workflow model of Ham Radio will still be useful. But as Networks become hardened, and as more devices like the Senhaix emerge, the relevance of Ham Radio emcomm will be exposed for what it is. An anachronism from the analog past.

Oh the gadget above:  The Senhaix 60 is the natural evolution of the Wireless Device environment.   More will surely follow.

Senhaix 60 Video Review One

Senhaix 60 Video Review Two 

The 3 apps below are in widespread use around the world. They are not “new”.

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Waze1
zello logo 1

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