I probably embarked on my “vacation” to the fun and sun spot of Southeast Asia (Republic of Vietnam) at an older age and later time than many of my VVA310 comrades. I was drafted at age 24 and didn’t join the military (U.S. Army) until I was 25 years old in January of 1970. I was at this point already married (but no kids) and a college graduate.It was a cold January day when I boarded the chartered bus in Ann Arbor bound for Fort Knox, Kentucky. We arrived there late on Friday, too late to be issued our army fatigues and jackets. All I had were the clothes on my back including only a very light weight jacket. I remember spending a weekend chilled to the bone in a WWII barracks that had holes in the walls and little heat. That soon changed as I was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for basic and advanced infantry training. I took the tests and was told I qualified for everything, so they made me a grunt. Fort Jackson had its mock “Vietnam jungle” where we received a fair amount of training. I was pretty sure were I was soon headed.It was July of 1970 when I flew to Nam where I was quickly dispatched to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) in I Corps. Chu Lai was the 23rd’s headquarters where I received a couple of days of “in country” crash course orientation.ralph3 From there I traveled to the Firebase 411, headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade near the village of Duc Pho in Quang Ngai Province.     

At Firebase 411 (right) I boarded a Huey that flew me out to join Charlie Company, the group of men with whom I would spend my next seven months. I was assigned to a platoon and for the next three days I “walked point.” My platoon leader then offered me three choices: I could continue to walk point; I could carry an M60 machine gun or carry a radio and become his RTO. I chose the 3rd option. I was the RTO for two different platoon leaders before becoming Charlie Company Commander’s RTO. In the next several months we dealt with VC, booby traps and several incursions with NVA regulars.

For almost the last five months of my Vietnam tour I scored a job working in Headquarters Company for the Public Information Officer. In this capacity I sent out press releases to hometown U.S. newspapers on soldiers in my battalion who received medals and promotions. I also edited a bi-monthly morale building battalion newsletter. Of course we omitted company names and exact locations, but otherwise reported on battalion victories and accomplishments.

During my tenure as editor, I had three or four stories picked up and republished by Army Times.I departed from the airport at Cam Ranh Bay exactly 365 days after arriving in Vietnam. I finished up my U.S. Army career at Fort Carson, Colorado with the 4th Infantry Division.Today I am retired after working 42 years (they credited me with my time served in the Army) for General Motors. I am married to Ginger and have two grown married daughters and five granddaughters.

 Ralph Winter, VVA 310 Life Member