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Subject: Fort Knox AIT

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 17:05:16 08/07/06 Mon

When I returned from Vietnam in May of 1967, the Army assigned me to the 13th Artillery Group (AD) located at Homestead Airbase, just south of Miami, Florida. I had three months left on my 2 year tour of duty. I spent most of my time in Florida drinking beer, going to the beach and the clubs in the Miami area. I accomplished very little actual work for the Army during those three months. I did an equipment inventory, a report of survey investigation and participated in a 4th of July parade and fire works celebration for one of the nearby towns. Another duty that we would get periodically was notifying the next of kin of KIAís in Vietnam. I was fortunate in that I did not have to perform that duty. After I got out of the Army in August 1967, the Army assigned me to an Army Reserve unit in East Point, Georgia. I had four years left on a six year obligation. I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, then to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then to Lincoln, Nebraska. I never reported for reserve duty. I was in a Government training program that required me to move every six months or so. The Army finally caught up with me in 1969, in Nebraska. They sent me, by registered mail, a letter stating that if I didnít locate and join a reserve unit on my own, that I would be recalled to active duty.

I located an Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) Army Reserve Regiment in Lincoln and joined. The unit consisted of a mix of University of Nebraska students and locals. This was at the height of the anti-war protests on the college campuses so the dynamics in the unit were testy at times. During the Vietnam War, unlike the Iraqi war today, reserve and National Guard units were a safe haven. Very few reservists were called up for active duty during the Vietnam War. During the summer of 1969, we did our two week reserve training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. There was an AIT school there that provided training for APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) drivers and gunners. During the first week we were in the field doing daylight live fire exercises. The trainees would drive a course and fire at pop-up targets along the way. Our reserve troops acted as school cadre and served along side the active Army cadre. The active Army guys loved to see us coming as it would lighten their load. A cadre had to accompany each APC during training runs. One day we saw the largest snake I have ever seen in the wild crossing a trail. It was an Eastern Diamondback rattler about eight feet long and about as big around as a football. Several of the unit members went after this snake chasing it in to the brush, including one dumb-ass Second Lieutenant. I was always taught to steer clear of snakes. Fortunately, for the snake and our troops, he or she got away.

The second week at Fort Knox was night live fire. We had to have an officer on site at all times. I volunteered to stay out in the field with the cadre and trainees for several nights that week. I had a lot of empathy for these trainees, because I knew where most of them were going after their training and I knew that some of them would not be coming home. I lay awake at night sometime thinking of those who did not come home. I think of my wife and children and my two beautiful grandchildren and how blessed I have been. And I think of all the children and grandchildren that will never be born because of that war.

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Subject Author Date
Re: Fort Knox AITGreg Chew18:33:13 08/07/06 Mon

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