The Recon Base
Later, the second afternoon, I stopped by Capt. Fiori’s office to continue our discussion about extra help with the waveguides.
“Specialist Allen,” he said as though that were the end of the sentence. He paused a second then said, “I’ve been thinking. Have you seen the handicrafts the Montagnard women make?”
“I’ve noticed the decorated clothing when they’re serving in the Mess Hall.”
“Well, they make things far more intricate than that and they sell them for cash at bazars when they make their annual trip. Anyway, not to be an advertisement for them, though they deserve it, but they are very good with their hands. They can do intricate, close work. For hours on end. So, I’m thinking we could hire several of them to dismantle and clean your waveguide.”
“Do they speak English?”
“I don’t think it matters. Some of them do. But they are very smart and if you showed them what you wanted done I bet they could do it. I mean, how much of an electronics technician do you need to do to clean the insides of tubes?”
“I see your point. It would speed things up a lot. If they could do it. I mean, it’s not their usual line of work. but would be good if we could pull it off.
“But, I was thinking of leaving the radar running while we work on it and I don’t think it would do to have a bunch of native women hanging around the artillery. Where else could you park the thing?”
“I think you would want to work on it under cover. It does rain here; like every afternoon this time of year.
“If it was in a building the VC couldn’t hear it run.”
“The part that makes all the noise is that conical drum. Maybe you could take it apart and leave that and the generator outside.”
“Actually, I think that could work but the transmitter cabinet is really heavy. I don’t think four men could carry it, at least not very far.”
“We have a forklift truck. It’s good for at least a ton. Is it delicate?”
“I wouldn’t say delicate but it would be good to cushion it a bit if we can.”
“How ‘bout some old airplane tires? We have dozens of those.”
“That could work. Hang them over the forks and set the cabinet on top.
“We could put the transmitter in one of the hangers while we work on it.”
“No. Too much coming and going with planes and choppers. The choppers require an incredible amount of maintenance.”
“Not just patching up bullet holes with duck tape?”
“No. There are more grease fittings on one Huey than you can count in an afternoon, much less grease. We’d put you in one of the warehouses. I think there’s space in one of them. The other one its stuffed.”
“Where are they? I hadn’t seen any from the air when we landed.”
They’e off to the side among the banana trees. The shade keeps them a little cooler.”
“Over there,” he said pointing. “On the other side of the mess hall.”
After dinner there was a movie in the mess hall. It was a B comedy staring Rosalind Russel and Stella Stevens as nuns chaperoning a cross-country bus trip at a Catholic girls school. Given the leading ladies it was a hit and packed the hall. Next Wednesday, the projectionist promised, would be a film starring Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch.
Someone quipped, “We don’t get USO shows up here but Raquel Welch in a movie is almost as good.”
“Naah, I want the real thing,” said someone else.