30 March 2010


One of the functions that came under the purview of the S-4 was supply and armory. By Table of Organization, we were supposed to have a Supply Officer (MOS 3002), but we did not. Eventually, Mike Koch took over as Supply Officer until our rotation, but for most of my tour as S-4, the Supply Chief was acting Supply Officer and I signed any returns that required the signature of an officer.

The next senior NCO in the supply section was Sergeant Henderson. He had 19 years in the Corps and had just been promoted to Sergeant when he joined us. Sergeant Henderson was a very good sergeant, having been promoted to that rank six or seven times in his career! He was a sinner saved by Grace. . . or Susie, or Sally, or, in a Staff Sergeant Winston classic phrasing, “Scuzzy Maryann.”

The high point of the day was the arrival of the morning supply convoy from Danang. (When we heard the trucks of the convoy pull up, I always thought of “The Wells Fargo Wagon Is A-comin’” from The Music Man. Maybe they’ll have something for me!)

A word about supply. In addition to being the site of the Division Headquarters, Danang also hosted Headquarters, III Marine Amphibious Force (the senior Marine Corps Command in Vietnam , consisting of 1st Marine Division, 3d Marine Division, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and Force Logistics Command), Danang Air Force Base (a huge Air Force complex), Marine Corps Air Station Marble Mountain, Naval Support Activity, and a number of Army logistics units.

Force Logistics Command (FLC) was based at Camp Brooks located on the South China Sea at Red Beach just outside of Danang proper. It was a massive base, providing any logistics requirement of the III MAF and, for a time, major Army units operating in I Corps. A list of its subordinate units gives a broad example of its capabilities: 1st and 3d Military Police Battalions, 7th Motor Transport Battalion, 5th Communications Battalion, 1st and 3d Service Battalions, 1st and 3d Shore Party Battalions, 1st Supply Battalion, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Hospital Company, 1st Force Service Regiment (Maintenance Battalion, Supply Battalion), and H&S Battalion.

Maintenance Battalion, 1st FSR had several maintenance companies, including Motor Transport Maintenance, Ordnance Maintenance, Engineer Maintenance, Communications/Electronic Maintenance, and Supply Maintenance companies. Supply Battalion also had several companies organized by commodity: 7th Separate Bulk Fuel Company, Ration Company, Ammunition Company, and the Force Bakery.

If you needed something or needed something fixed—from a typewriter or a torn canvas tent to a complex piece of electronics—FLC could provide it or fix it.

The first time I visited Red Beach, I was stunned. There were miles and miles of warehouses, repair shops, strong-back barracks, and open supply storage lots. The centerpiece of FLC was the “RUC” line.

A “RUC” is a five digit “reporting unit code” assigned to each company, battalion, and Division in the Corps. For instance (as I recall) 15130 was Charlie Company. “1” (1stMarDiv) “5” (5th Marines) “1” (1/5) “3” (Company C) and “0” as a place holder. Battalion was 15100. Supply Section of H&S Company would use that place holder (15101) while Comm Platoon might be 15102. The RUC was used for personnel reporting and also for supply accounting.

At Red Beach, the RUC line was made up of several long rows of open platforms covered by a roof. Each row might be 300 meters long (3 football fields), for there were lots of supplies going to lots of units. Supplies and equipment which arrived had been marked with the requesting unit’s RUC when they were shipped from the US. Upon arrival, they were moved to the RUC line. At regular intervals, a sign was hung with each unit’s RUC painted on it, and newly received supplies were placed under the appropriate sign. When convoys were formed to move supplies, anything that had come in for a unit at the convoy destination was moved from the RUC line to the truck.

One morning,Sergeant Henderson came into my office. “I’m heading up to Danang, Lieutenant.”

“Danang? What are you doing up there?”

“Doncha remember, Sir? This afternoon is my court-martial.” I did remember. On a recent supply run to Danang he had made what was euphemistically called a “skivvy run” to an off-limits house of ill-repute. He had been picked up by the MPs and charges were filed and referred to a Summary Court-Martial.

A summary court was a one-officer court which tried offenses that were deemed minor, but which might warrant confinement or a greater reduction in rank than could be imposed by a company commander or battalion commander at non-judicial punishment under Article 15, UCMJ. In this case, the Sergeant was facing the possibility of reduction to Corporal, 30 days confinement at hard labor, and forfeiture of two-thirds of one month’s pay.

I wished him good luck.

Late that afternoon, he called. “Hi, Lieutenant, it’s me, Corporal Henderson.” He reported that his only punishment was reduction to Corporal. “It’s too late to get back tonight. Tomorrow,I'm going over to FLC to check out the RUC line and then I’ll come down on the convoy.”

About 1400 the next day, the convoy arrived. Trucks turned out of the line to their unit destinations, and one pulled up right outside the S-4 bunker. In came our newest corporal.

“Hey, Sir. C’mon out. We got some good stuff today.”

As I walked out through the six-foot thick layer of sandbags that surrounded our bunker, I could hear the sounds of boxes, crates and bags being off-loaded. One man in the working party was opening several wooden crates. Corporal Henderson walked over to one and pulled off the lid.

“Happy Birthday, Lieutenant!” It was a brand new 60 mm mortar, complete. We had been begging for several and now here one was. He pointed to three other boxes—three more 60 mm mortars, one for each rifle company. Godallmightydamn!

Then I noticed the crate lid. The RUC stenciled on the wood was 17200, 2/7’s RUC. I checked—nowhere did I find a 1/5 RUC. I called this minor discrepancy to the Corporal’s attention.

“Well, hell, Lieutenant.” He was exasperated. “ I said I was gonna check out the RUC line. I never said I was gonna limit myself to ours!”

The Old Man signed his meritorious promotion to Sergeant that afternoon. Grace is a good ol’ gal she is.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Reformed Catholic said...

Sgt Henderson was one heck of a scrounger ... upholding a tradition in the military services that goes back centuries !