Updated: Jan 21, 2019
1969 Phu Cat Re-Visited
The sun set late tonight around 0900 but the K9 barracks had been like a ghost motel for the last 2 hours since second shift had left for the kennels and work. We stood around the barracks having nothing to do with ourselves wondering what the night would bring.
The temperature had only changed slightly, 100 degrees. The steady wind coming into our valley from the cooling ocean 25 miles to our east made a difference. Wind on sweat was always cooling and it was strange seeing men walking around the Cat in skivvies. Really, I’m not kidding! There were no American round-eyed women anywhere near Phu Cat AB, not even a nurse. Good news, Joe informed us that Red Cross Donut Girls drop in several times a month, so we might get see them. But seeing grown men walking around in underwear was a habit I would avoid. In time regulations were changed requiring proper dress code was to be followed. Maybe that meant, if the men wore clothes? will we be seeing more of the fabled round-eyed girls? I think Joe said that. He was quick when it came to the ladies!
Around 2330 hours the biggest ‘boom’ I had ever heard went off, ‘What the hell was that, run for the bunkers.’ “Are we being hit,’ I yelled, as I run out into the yard. A group of our nine handlers was standing around talking with the first shirt, who just happened to be returning from the NCO Club.
“Don’t worries boys, just flairs going down-range. Lighting up some part of the base.”
The First Sargeant stopped and asked if we were settled in and ready to go on duty tomorrow night. He said, “You want be working your dog’s tomorrow night. Instead, you will be teamed up with older-experienced handlers who know the ropes for some one on one instructions, so get to bed, and be at the kennels at 1000 hours and work with your dogs.” And with that he disappeared into the first floor of the K9 barracks.
I was up early next morning as a group of us wanted to get to the base exchange before 0900 hour and buy a fan. Fans are big in Vietnam and after trying and falling to sleep due to extreme heat, we were ready for our very own fan. The base exchange was a different world. It was like Disneyland in the Central Highlands. Everything was for sale. Watches, T.V.s, tape reel to reel recorders, clothes, beer, hard stuff, sodas, can and package food like, chips, crackers, sweets, magazines, like Playboy and Penthouse, I even found drumsticks and bought a pair. Buy a car or have suits tailor-made. It was so unreal to see so many things to spend what little money we made. But mission accomplished so by 0930 hours we were back at the barracks and all fans were plugged in and running at full speed. Would these little wind pushers make sleeping easier, I sure hoped so, last night was miserable?
We would spend the better part of the day at the kennels. I had invested three hours working with Duke. I had started calling him Duke II. He looked a lot like Duke of Lackland fame. Duke II was friendly enough, but he didn’t pay any attention to other dogs or handlers, which I thought was a little strange. Dogs didn’t like being tested by others coming into their space, but Duke II just didn’t care. Is he very independent, like a cat or was there something I needed to look for?
But at this moment, I was in hog-heaven and just loving the hell out of Duke II. I was a working dog handler of a highly trained and physically aggressive military working dog located on a combat air base in war torn Vietnam. Sixty-two dog teams surrounded Phu Cat at night, and everybody rested, in peace, if, they had a fan, at full blast.
I was happy, earning may way in the U.S. Air Force. Jimmie – Noble Canine!