Vietnam Personal Accounts


In The Chow Line
by Lloyd "Pappy" Reynolds ©


    To set the seen, I was with Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, and in mid 1967 our Company Headquarters was at a place called Camp Carroll.  This was a big artillery base between Dong Ha and the “Rock Pile”.  We would run road sweeps, do convoy escorts and run operations out of there.  I believe the place was under the command of the 13th Marines (Artillery) Regiment.

     As a tank company we did not rate a mess hall.  So when we were at Camp Carroll we ate at the 13th Marines mess hall and could occasionally get some beer at their “E” Club.

     Any way this one time we had been out on an operation for about two weeks and pulled in to Camp Carroll.  As it was chow time, and remembering that chow hours were set in stone, as soon as we shut down the engines, we grabbed what mess gear we could and headed for the mess hall.

     The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant headed for the Staff and Officers side and I guess had no problem, but.  Us peons going to the enlisted line found a guard on the line.  We were told that the new Sergeant Major had ordered that any one eating in his mess hall would be in the proper uniform, and that we were not and the mess hall chow line was closing in five minutes.

     Now here are eighteen marines wearing bits and pieces of what were uniforms that the homeless would throw away.  Some of us had on old stateside sateens, or parts there of, some had the (then) new jungle utilities, some had bits of both.  We had upon occasion cleaned our weapons with our clothes and then put them back on.  Some of the sateen utilities had the sleeves cut off.  If we had skivvies shirts they were very religious  (holey).  The word was, complete sateens or complete jungles, sleeves down and buttoned or properly rolled up.  Boots weren’t mentioned, but some of us had the old stateside leather and some the (new) jungle boots. 

     Well right there in the chow line we started to strip and swap uniform parts so most of us could have either complete sateens or jungles.  We were tired, hungry and now pissed off.  Some couldn’t get a complete uniform, buttons were missing, sleeves were cut off, ect.  About this time our Platoon Leader showed up (he had noticed that we didn’t appear in the mess hall) to find out what the hold up was.  When he found out he was pissed and told the guard “my people are going to eat, now”.  We were about dressed as good as we were ever going to be any way.

     I had ended up with a set of sateens, had my sleeves rolled up, blouse tucked in, no cover, no belt and was pissed off.  Had my fly undone and was airing out junior.  And with mess kit in hand looked the guard in the eye and said “well”?  He said “go for it, but watch out for the mashed potatoes there hot (they weren’t) and the mess man is a bad shot”.  I put junior away before I sat down to eat (didn’t want to spill anything on him).

     After eating we did our vehicle maintenance, cleaned ourselves up and scrounged uniforms so we wouldn’t have the same problems at breakfast.