Schelling recalls the good and the bad
Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.
Serving almost two years to the day during the Vietnam War, Jim Schelling of Marshalltown recalls both good times and bad times during his Army service with the 444th Transportation Company. While there he served as a tractor/trailer driver, a gun truck driver and a dispatcher.
“Good times include the many new friends you make — guys your same age that are thrown into the same situations you experience during a war,” Shelling said. “I have two close buddies that I stay in touch with each year — one from California and the other from Colorado.
“It also includes the fact that I made it safely home, and that I am glad my grandkids have not had to experience what I did,” he added. “I was also glad that I never missed a Christmas at home.”
The bad times included not going many days without being shot at; being a camp only two days a week and on the road the rest of the time; and living on C-rations when they were supposed to be given one hot meal a day.
“Vietnam was bad, but Cambodia was even worse as they did all they could to stop ammunition and food from getting in,” he said.
Drafted on Aug 21, 1969, Schelling took his basic training and AIT at Fort Polk, La. He then reported to the replacement station in Oakland, Calif., and was in Vietnam on Jan. 2,1970.
There he was assigned to the 444th Transportation Company (or Triple Four as Schelling said they called it). He said his unit was a heavy lift outfit that hauled small tanks and plenty of ammunition. He drove one of the tractor/trailers in the convoy that went west through Vietnam for four months.
“Every platoon had a gun truck that had large guns on board the five-ton truck and the driver had an M-16 rifle and a M-79 grenade launcher with him at all times,” Schelling said. “I was the non-commissioned officer in charge that drove our platoon’s truck for six months.”
Most of the time was spent between delivering food, supplies and ammo to the 4th Infantry Division that had relocated to An Kee from Pleiku. The trips to Cambodia were made for at least a couple of weeks — back and forth.
Schelling’s last two months in the Army were spent as a dispatcher for the transportation division. He said it was his job to keep track of where trucks were going; the miles driven, accidents, tonnage of cargo, etc.
“To get a day off our company had to drive 100,000 accident free miles,” Schelling said. “I’ll bet we went 2-3 months without day off because something would happen.
“Finally I guess they just felt sorry for us, and gave us our day off anyway,” he laughed.
“Being there was our duty. The army gave us a job and we did it — even though we may not have liked what we were doing,” he said.
Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: email@example.com