Goin’ up the country — paint my mailbox OD green
Friday afternoon came. I’d spent every night this week with Agnes at Su lin’s apartment. In the morning, I’d told her that I wouldn’t be back for a week or so and I was going up country to make a house call for Col. Suel. Agnes did not seem surprised but she looked concerned.
“Don’t take any chances,” she’d said caressing my face with her hand. “I want you back in one piece.”
I’d been a bit scared of the new situation including the morning rush to meet the truck in front of the hotel. But Agnes was very good to me in every way I could want. Su Lin gave us as much privacy as she could and spent at least one night with her boyfriend. The apartment superintendent was a bit nosy and watched our coming’s and goings while pretending not to. That worried me.
I’d finished the class sessions and given the final exam for my radar unit. The class had done well and I was pleased at the result. This was highly technical equipment and not everyone mastered it. But this group of ARVN soldiers had, if not mastered it, were well on their way. Nobody failed the final either written or practical.
I reported to Col. Suel’s office and his secretary said he was in office 3B. That, I remembered was Mr. Shackley’s office, so I walked down the hall to 3B. The Col and Mr. Shackley were huddled in conversation as I knocked on the open door.
Startled, the Col. greeted me. “Ah, Specialist Allen. Good to see you. Meet Mr. Shackley.” I was about to salute but Shackley stuck out his hand and shook mine.
“Ted Shackley. I’m a civilian,” he said, smiling broadly at my startled look.
Nonetheless, I saluted Col. Suel and he said, “At ease Allen. You’re among friends here. Mr. Shackley’s got some instructions for you. I hope your memory is as good as I’ve heard because they won’t be written down. I assume from the sort of machine you work with that you can remember coordinates.”
The Colonel had apparently been arranging delivery of my tools and equipment to the AA terminal. I’d given Col. Suel a list of the test equipment and tools needed to repair one of these whatever was wrong. It would amount to quite a pile of cases of various sorts.
“Allen, I was going to have another sergeant go with you to help with the equipment but Mr. Shackley tells me there isn’t room on the plane and the crew has a lot of other freight and they can handle it just fine. It’s a full flight so you’re personal baggage will stay here at the office. Think you can get by for a week or so with a toothbrush and a razor?”
“Wow. How ‘bout a change of underwear? Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so much this week.”
“It’s not that bad, is it Ted?”
“I donno, might be. They told me they put the new supercharged R2000 engines on it last week. Any more than that would pull the wings off. They’ll have to get it off the ground early before it gets hot. So don’t be late,” said Shackley grinning. I couldn’t tell it they were pulling my leg or not.
“Seriously, you need to be there and loaded at 0600 tomorrow morning. I’ll send a car. Suel will give you the checklist you gave him. Just make sure everything on the list goes aboard, even if they have to leave some of their other freight behind. Tell them it’s my orders but don’t call me before 0730.” As promised, the car was waiting as I left the Dai Nam lobby for what proved to be the last time.