More from the Rev. Mike Thesier

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My Colonel was the MACV Provincial Commander. We lived in a fortified compound in a provincial capital. I was a kind of staff officer (Sort of like a Department head) I don't think I was as important as I may have thought I was at the time. There must have been another Supply officer in charge of day-to-day supplies. I only remember being involved in emergency situations requiring an immediate response. Things like: Out of fuel. Generator does no work. Stove has failed. Out of ammunition. The Team Leaders came in to the HQ Compound fairly routinely. They always stopped to see me but rarely on anything simple. On those trips, they met with the Colonel on tactical matters. Those trips may have been when they picked up their routine needs (food, fuel, mail, got hair cuts and collected medical supplies) Also, I don't remember having much to do with vehicles. We must have had a motor pool that dealt with jeeps, trucks, boats and helicopters. I also remember that they were always at risk. They developed and conducted patrols that they taught the Viet Namese how to do. At night, they were always subject to attack. I think they liked me because I did not see how I could help them if I did not stay with them in those awful little forts so I would know what they needed. Also because I was smart enough not to pull rank. ( They were Infantry - I wasn't. So I went where I was told. ) My favorite team was led by two street smart Lieutenants, one from New York the other from Chicago. The team got a craving for steaks, real potatoes and corn. So they came into town, went to a Navy Barge tied up at a dock on a river near the city. The Captain said he had steaks, potatoes & corn (the Navy always ate better than we did) but that he needed a truck load of plywood and sandbags. So the Team drove to Saigon. They spotted an MP Jeep outside a bar with the helmets and armbands on the seats. They stole the jeep. Dressed up as MP's. Then they went to another base, commandeered a 21/2 ton truck (and driver) which they took to an even bigger base. The truck was loaded with plywood & sandbags, driven to the Navy Barge. They got the steaks, potatoes & corn. Took the truck & driver back, returned the MP jeep, got their own jeep and went home to a great meal. They were kind enough to stop & see me on their way home, just to let me know they had gotten away with it.

The day I got the job was like moving from indentured servitude to absolute independence. All I could hear in my head was: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, Free at last!" I may have had the smallest command in history, but it was mine. I could decide when and where to start each day. I could decide when my day was over. I knew what to do and I had the support I would need to get it done. And I knew that while the war was real, the climate still was terrible and I had not gotten used to sharing my house with a lizard, I had something useful to do. I do not know what the Colonel thought. I know that he cared a great deal about the lives of his "kids". I also know that when he gave me the job and the promise of his support, he never said an unkind thing to me again. It was as if at least one of the things he had to worry about left his desk. But we were not friends. He was the Colonel. I was not. I have never been good at forgetting about who outranks who. From my father, I learned that if you are not proud of what you are doing, you should not be doing it. I also learned that if you are proud of what you are doing, you need to go public - you need to be visible. So on the first day, I called for a helicopter (Your tax dollars at work) and was flown to a little triangular fort in the wilderness. I surprised the Team Leader (Who I had met but who had never seen anyone from HQ at his place before) announced that I was staying overnight and that I was there to find out what he needed. We worked on a list (Three pages long) and I quickly learned that he had no reason to believe that I was going to take care of it. He was taller than me but we weighed about the same - he was almost 100 pounds underweight. His fort was so remote that he only had one way out. It was a canal. He had a Boston Whaler with a powerful outboard motor. If he went really fast, they might not get shot. He was from New Jersey. His father had an Ad agency in Manhattan. His wife's father was Treasurer of Exxon. Three generations of his family were presidents of Dartmouth Alumni. He was next. As I was about to leave, he added one more thing to the list. With his sarcastic New Jersey upbringing, he suggested that it might be nice to have a schlollum waterski to run behind his boat. I flew away. The next day, I asked my first Sergeant to go to Saigon and not come back without a waterski. He was back in less than 24 hours. I put everything on the list on one helicopter, held that one for 15 minutes, put the waterski on one by itself with a note "Compliments of Captain Thesier" and sent it off. After a while, it became known that If I said I would take care of something, it would get taken care of. The rest of my time there was like a continuously running episode of the Mash television show. The war was awful, the weather was awful -but the comedy went on

Rev. Mike

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