“You the guy come in from Saigon on AA this morning?” asked my table mate. He was a muscular fortyish man, clean shaven, with a nearly blond crew cut, sun glasses propped up on his head.
“Uh, yeah, yeah. Interesting trip.”
“So I heard from the crew. You guys took some fire on the way in. I ordered the M50s to cover you but just the same…… Glad you made in down.”
“You the gunnery officer?”
“No, I’m Lt. Col. Stockton. I run the place. We’re expecting two guys from Saigon, you’re the guy Shackley recruited to fix the mortar locator?”
“Sir, I work for Col. Suel on one of his advisory teams………..”
“Then you’re the guy. I’m glad to see you. That radar unit is sorely missed.”
“Yessir. Glad to be here.”
“You get your housekeeping squared away yet?“
“Yessir. Just finished.
“Good. I’ll send Capt. Fiori out with you after lunch to have a look at the unit. I saw the ground crew unload what looked like equipment cases. You got everything you’re supposed to have?”
“Sorry sir. I haven’t checked yet.”
“Make sure you do that pronto. If anything’s still on board we can get AA to drop it on their way back. Otherwise it’ll be a week.”
After lunch the colonel introduced me to Capt. Fiori, a darker compact man with a full head of hair and a large mustache that would never have passed a stateside inspection. He was the site’s radar, avionics and communications maintenance officer.
“So first thing, lets go over your check list. Make sure AA didn’t short you anything.”
“I checked it all aboard this morning, sir.”
“Well let’s make sure they didn’t hold anything back for a little backsheesh along the way.”
“They would do that?!”
“No, but they might forget you never know. On second thought some of those cowboys might. It’s called informal appropriation.”
We checked the list against the cases sitting on the ground where the crew had left them. Everything was there.
“Ok. let’s walk over to artty’s spot and have a look at your unit.”
Among the artillery pieces mounted on their rubber tired caissons was a nearly as formidable unit consisting of a 12 by 16 foot radar reflector attached to a conical drum and backed by a refrigerator-sized box containing the computer and transmitter circuitry. It contained well over a hundred vacuum tubes and was cooled with filtered air driven by a gang of noisy fans. The power supply was a transportable, trailer-mounted generator driven by a 4-cylinder jeep engine. When it was running it was suggested that you wear ear plugs. Any VC within a hundred yards probably wore ear plugs too.