The Unit Assembles

I woke up late yesterday. I'd intended an 05:20 wakeup, with an 05:45 departure from my parent's house to Richmond for my official report date. I didn't get out of the house until 06:20.

I tore through the house grabbing toiletries and a day bag. I threw everything in my truck (which I have not sold yet), loaded with my duffles and black trunk. I almost started the truck when I realized I had not stopped in to give my mother and father a good-bye hug and kiss, even though they would meet me later in the day in Richmond for the commander's brief about the deployment.

I ran upstairs calling "Mom..... Mom you up?" Though my mother would have liked our good-bye to last longer, I had to cut it short in order to get on the road, which turned out to be a good thing since it left little time for her to break out of her slumber and really get going with the emotions of my departure. I practically fell down the stairs as I rushed to get on the road.

I'd intended to meet with my brother, Gordon, for breakfast once I arrived in Richmond. But my late start got in the way. I ended up meeting him just in time to have breakfast packed up in to go boxes, 07:46, and we hurried to the unit just down the street.


WO1 Derrick Kanouse stencils A Co 2/224th AVN baggage in preparation for shippment to Ft. Dix, NJ. (Bert Stover -- washingtonpost.com)
View Enlarged Photo

I kept looking at my watch wondering if I would make it in time for the 08:00 formation. I pulled through the gate at 07:52, 8 mins to park, grab a bag or two and lead my brother to the hangar where we would assemble. I expected a much more punctual start to this deployment, for myself and the unit.

So, it really was anticlimactic when I arrived. We eventually got into formation at about 08:15 and the commander casually disbursed some information about the day's schedule at the eventual.

The schedule included a series of briefings on benefits for dependent family members, who qualify for health care and legal services. Since my family members don't qualify as dependents, I was most interested in the Battalion Commander's rundown on plans for the next three months.

My parents arrived around 09:30, enough time for them to help me unload the rest of my bags and see the sea of olive drab green and black baggage.

The Battalion Commander announced that we'd depart to Fort Dix, N.J. on Friday, stay for a few days, and then depart for Yuma, Ariz. and further training. We'll miss the Thanksgiving holiday with family, but hoepfully be able to make one last visit home during the Christmas season before departing for overseas.


Lt. Col. Rob McMillin, Battalion Commander, 2/224th AVN, briefs soldiers and their families on the logistics of the coming four months leading to deployment. (Bert Stover -- washingtonpost.com)
View Enlarged Photo

My parents were relieved to hear they'll most likely see me again before I leave the country. After the brief, we post for a picture and said our goodbyes. As I've described before, my mother seems the hardest hit by the situation, but my father came out with the words "We love you." That caught me off guard, coming as it did from a man I've only see cry once, when his mother passed 20 plus years ago. Mom and Dad drove off.

We broke for lunch and then assembled in formation at 13:30 for the formal reporting in, without the distraction of family present. We all had to present a valid military ID and a set of 'Dog' tags. The company commander then gave orders for tasks to complete the rest of the day, using a respectfully stern voice I hadn't heard out of him before.

He wanted to adjust some of the packing we had done in the shipping crates, but changed his mind about loading all of the personal gear today since it was at least a tractor trailer's worth. I imagine there's no comparison between the amount of gear we pack and what the soldiers of WWI or WWII must have been allowed to take. But I'm not as sure of how we compare to soldiers deploying for Vietnam and Desert Storm. Can some vets comment?

By Bert Stover |  October 19, 2005; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Preparation for Departure , Work
Previous: Fallen Ill and Time is Running Short..... | Next: Fort Dix, Finally

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January 1970. Duffel with 7 ea. socks, shorts,T shirts. 2 pair all leather boots, flight jacket, two cotton flight suits, flight helmet, helmet bag. 2 pair Nomex gloves. Shaving kit, four bath towels, four washcloths,two bars soap, photo of wife and kid. Wore tropical worsted uniform enroute. One hundred dollars cash. Cash needed for chow, was 1LT. Nomex, fatigues, issued at REPODEPOT in country. Keep all in the green, and come back without the PH. I don't recommend it.

Posted by: D/3/5Scout | October 19, 2005 11:58 AM

Departed Oakland Army terminal with partial duffle bag filled with 3 sets of jungle fatigues, 5 pair socks, 5 changes OD green underwear, 1 field jacket and 1 "baseball cap". Also shaving kit, toothbrush and paste. Pictures of family and one book, and one or two other personal items. (E-5)

Posted by: Mortland | October 19, 2005 12:44 PM

All I took was my baby killing gear. Since this war is all about killing innocents also I can let you borrow it.

Posted by: VietVet | October 19, 2005 02:52 PM

Before everyone goes nuts on the last poster(which he deserves), I have to say at least it was short, sweet, and even mildly amusing.....if you're into dark humor that is....

ps If you are realy a Vietnam Vet who was forced to go to war there I take back what i said and you can say whatever the f you want...

Posted by: Snaps | October 19, 2005 04:45 PM

GodSpeed
GodKept
GodSent

Posted by: M | October 19, 2005 05:20 PM

Presidents Johnson's order; no more men for Vietnam (500,000) was the old limit and it stayed. Within a week I had my orders for Vietnam from the Fifth LAAM Btn. At MCAS Yuma. You are suppose to fit everything in a sea bag so I did. In Okinowa everything was stored but underware, boots and fatigues. No skivies they gave you a rash in the tropical heat. As soon as we were in country everyone started looking for Jungle Utilities, cause stateside Uts tagged you as a FNG. I was lucky my buddy Joe Black was in 1st MP Btn right there in Danang so I got mine right away. Then I was off to my tour of I Corps.

Posted by: HDM | October 19, 2005 06:11 PM

For those of us who didn't serve in the military, could you please describe for us exactly what government standard issue baby-killer equipment consists of?

Also, can you please tell us exactly how many babies you disposed of with the aforementioned gear? Thanks!

Posted by: Deuce Wang | October 20, 2005 09:28 AM

In 21+ years of active duty I shipped a lot of Soldiers around the globe but never really deployed. Who knows why?

Good luck to you and stay safe. Hope the situation gets better and you can come home soon.

Posted by: SCM | October 20, 2005 11:16 AM

It just occured to me that you are doing the exact same deployment as our pastor -- Fort Dix to Yuma and then to Iraq. So therefore our recently called up pastor must be your chaplain. Such a small world indeed. God bless you, Father John, and everyone else in your unit! And check six!

Posted by: Ret AF Lt Col | October 20, 2005 12:52 PM

One seabag stored on Oki. Then issued "jungles" (2 sets), 1 pair jungle boots, 3 drawers/3 tee shirts, 1 rifle (M14), 4 magazines, and duce gear. Nam-1966-68.

Posted by: RetMsgtUSMC | October 20, 2005 01:39 PM

I'm pretty sure Vietvet's "baby killing gear" included knee pads and vegetable oil. What a f***ing loser.

Posted by: Bill | October 21, 2005 12:25 PM

Desert Storm: Got sent to a unit out of state. Ended up send a lot of gear back home on a bus.
Bosnia: Ended up cutting my gear back. Sending it home with my parents.
Both times had a ten day time frame between mobilization and hitting our Area of Operation (AO) overseas.
Got money used in those countries. About $100 worth. International Drivers permit and updated passport.
Got on the plane and went to war. Military couldn't move fast enough to get us out the door.

Posted by: Chester | October 21, 2005 02:49 PM

USAF Vet - Phan rang AB - RVN. Luckily my brother was already in VN & (he left approx. a month after I got there) I read a book all the way over. Finished it when the wheels touched down. 19 years old and stunned by the swiftness of going from stateside to warside.
God keep the young men & women deploying now. peace

Posted by: Mike T | October 21, 2005 03:04 PM

Please keep posting what is really going on in Iraq so the people here can get the real story.

We want to believe in this war and support our troops and the mission at hand.

Best of luck for your speedy return. God keep you safe.

Posted by: Seeking Truth | October 21, 2005 05:44 PM

don't pay any attention to the negatives!!!
be safe.
"E"

Posted by: "E" | October 24, 2005 11:26 AM

I don't remember any clothing restrictions, but along with a couple of flight suits and one set of class A's, I always traveled with a set of civvy's. I flew with the 19th Air Commandos out of Tans Son Nhut AFB, Saigon. I lost some good pals, and occasionally I still miss them. Yet, except for long flying hours, weeks on end without a break and, of course, the daily, intermitten moments of shear terror, it was generally easy duty. At the end of the day I always landed back in Saigon. I then rode my motorcycle home to an off base apartment, which had been cleaned by a maid who also took care of my clothing.

I was privately against US involvement in Vietnam's civil war, yet I put it out of mind and did my job. Still, compared to the M.E., Vietnam was heaven, especially for those of us on flying status.

Regarding the situation in the M.E., I was for going into Afghanistan, but very much opposed to invading Iraq. Still, I'm %100 for the troops. Were I recalled, I'd once again keep my mouth shut and do my duty.

Posted by: Charles Munn | October 24, 2005 01:03 PM

For Desert Storm, I was in the 82nd Airborne Division. I was a Private First Class. We went through 3 full inventories of our deployment gear before we left for Saudi Arabia on August 18, 1990 (14 days after the invasion - and we were the second wave of troops - some of my friends left on August 7th). We packed a rucksack and a duffle bag. All Army issue gear. No civilian clothes. I don't remember taking any books but through the great support of the USA, I received many books and other R&R items while I was there.

In contrast, when I deployed to Kuwait on February 9, 2003, for the initial invasion of Iraqi Freedom, I was a Chief Warrant Officer-Two (CW2) and I packed two additional bags - as compared to Desert Storm. One was my flight gear, body armor, helmet and other flight related equipment. The other bag carried my Laptop and a few books.

Once we got into Iraq and our facilities were established, we started buying things like TV's, DVD players, XBox...etc. So more than anything, we left with a controlled amount of equipment but returned with much more than we left with.

Good luck and God's speed to all of you! Take care of each other and although being away from your family sucks, you will form some of the strongest bonds with those in your Company while you are gone!

Posted by: CW3 Gordon Cimoli; Blog: "Operation XXX" | October 26, 2005 11:55 AM

Be safe; be compassionate. Know that you are blessed and prayed for.

Your countrymen honor you and respect the work that you are doing.

Posted by: Irene Hoffman | October 26, 2005 12:00 PM

Hey can the author get me a email or phone number for Derrick Kanouse. we were at rucker together. m4187@yahoo.com

Posted by: Matt Lanese | October 26, 2005 04:40 PM

RVN 1967-70. A newby 1LT. I took only fatigues and a shaving kit. Lived in the Khai Minh BOQ on Pasteur Street, close to the Embassy in Saigon. Great tour till Tet of 1968. Second tour 1970-71. I was a "seasoned second tour vet", a 23 year old CPT with flight school hours under my belt when I arrived at Bear Cat. I took only issued flight gear and a shaving kit. I was called a "baby killer" both times when I returned. I think VietVet was being a bit sarcastic. He may have been spit on too and lost friends over there. Nothing worse than packing a duffle for the family of a pilot/crewman that goes home in a body bag. Some of us had it a lot better than most. My admiration to all who serve!

Posted by: Les "Mad Dog 6" | October 27, 2005 03:56 PM

WO Stover,

Fly safely and return healthy and well to your parents and brother. Your company commander is my son.

Posted by: Tata | October 27, 2005 09:19 PM

Desert Shield/Storm Vet: 276 MP Co DCARNG -- took two duffle bags of GI issue stuff, a rucksack, and MOPP gear. Limited amount of personal stuff -- wasn't sure where we would end up. Good thing -- ended up in Tent City for first four months -- didn't need much.

Advise: do your job -- watch out for your buddies -- stay focused -- trust your instincts. Bring everyone back.

God's speed.

Posted by: Big Sarge | October 28, 2005 11:58 AM

Hey Bert--Don't forget the most important thing we all learned from day one, hour one, minute one in basic training-
ATTENTION TO DETAIL!!! Follow that mantra and you'll come out ahead and you and your buddies will be home safe in no time. Stay strong!

Posted by: Jane Stein | October 28, 2005 02:54 PM

I deployed to Desert Shield/Storm with the 82nd ABN as an E-4 in my battalion's scout platoon. Gear; rifle, LBE, ruck carried and a duffle bag sent via conex I think. Personal gear was a camera and a pair of sunglasses.

Good luck.

Posted by: Al | October 28, 2005 05:41 PM

My prayers and thoughts are with all of you. My husband CW2 Virgil Hill is in your unit. You guys train well and complete your mission and return home safely. Tell Virg hello Barbi

Posted by: Barbara Leake Hill | October 28, 2005 08:27 PM

Went to 'Nam as "butterbar"...came back a "silver bar." Normal crap-no Class A's...don't remember much else. Three weeks after arrival in country my widowed mother died at home (age 67). Went home-took care of matters with then wife's great help...went back to 'Nam. I was in 12TRS-PPIF (RF-4C's). War was outside...on photos in front of me. I tried to keep it from getting inside me. Now I'm 59.

Posted by: Retired AF Major | October 29, 2005 07:17 AM

For Deuce Wang - so it's ok with you if the terrorist kill our babies and children. If you haven't been in the military, if you don't like your freedom to say the crap you say, then leave. Because of our troops defending your freedom, you have that right. If you don't like it, go somewhere else.

Posted by: barb leake-hill | October 30, 2005 03:37 PM

Hi Bert, Just want you to know you and your buddies are in our thoughts and prayers -
you are all so brave and we want you to know
how much we appreciate what you are doing.

I will watch out for your Mom.

Beverly at Seconds Unlimited Thrift Store

Posted by: Beverly | October 30, 2005 06:17 PM

What in the world gives you the idea I am ok will terrorists killing innocent people? My comment was in response to VietVet - read the whole page before you start firing off your mouth. Or you go somewhere else. Thanks!

Posted by: Deuce Wang | October 31, 2005 09:48 AM

{{{HUGS}}} to my brave soldier.
May God keep you all in his eyes,
and hold you in his heart.

We're all waitin' on you so hurry back safe a sound!

Posted by: Mrs. Malloy | November 2, 2005 12:03 AM

A soldier today, a soldier in Nam, the military has a job to do and innocent people get killed. Stop complaining about the military, whatever era it is or was.

Posted by: | November 2, 2005 11:37 AM

Wang if you didn't serve in Nam or the US military, you don't have the right to voice any opinion about what happened or didn't happen. We had a mission and we served our country.

Posted by: Viet Nam Vet | November 2, 2005 11:43 AM

You AND your families are in my thoughts daily, Think positive thoughts, keep the negative energy from getting to you. It does no good, don't let it win. Come home safe. Whatever religion you may look to, or not, may it always be at your side.

Posted by: Steve | November 4, 2005 03:59 PM

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