I’ve told this story a number of times. In late 1968 I was supporting a 33rd Platoon (Refer) convoy hauling refrigerated goods to the 809th Engineer Battalion at Camp Raum Chit Chai outside of Sakon Nakhon, last leg of the 300 mile trip out of Camp Friendship in Korat. I was a SP4 driver with the 569th Transportation Company out of Khon Kaen and filling in for a broke truck, this was my first time pulling a refer trailer.
We made it there without incident, and delivered our refrigerated cargo to places like the mess hall and the Officers and NCO open mess and after fueling up were released in what we called an infiltration convoy (single empty trucks) headed south, back to Camp Khon Kaen, some 170 miles south.
When we drove, it was strip down to t-shirts and stow our helmets and other gear under the passenger seat until we arrived back at the base. The drive from Raum Chit Chai to Sakon Nakhon was over a rather bumpy and dusty road with not much other traffic.
What surprised me were the three vehicles (two trucks with a jeep in the middle) I came upon them were traveling rather slowly (probably at the recommended speed of 37 mph) and I had been a bit faster as I approached from behind. I checked the road ahead and saw no oncoming traffic, so I simply went around those vehicles and continued on my way, until I looked in my rearview mirrors and saw the blinking red light of a Military Police vehicle, and he was coming after me.
I pulled over and jumped out of the vehicle. The MP was rather upset that I had passed him and the other vehicles, even though there was no oncoming traffic. He had me shut down the engine on the M52A2 5-ton tractor and lock it up on the side of the road.
He instructed me to get into the back seat of the M151A2 which had a Thai prisoner headed for the local Thai Police station in Sakon Nakhon. After we dropped him off, I didn’t know what he had done.
As we proceeded back to Raum Chit Chai I was somewhere down in the mullygrubs of self pity. I was taken to the Provost Marshals Office and told to sit on a bench in front of the huge MP desk. I was for a time lost in thought, until I began reading the names on the AWOL board behind the desk. One name in particular (don’t remember the full name), but it was a PFC Wilson who was AWOL from a unit in Vietnam.
I looked down and remembered that I was still wearing my T-Shirt stenciled PFC WILSON, it was a shirt that I didn’t get changed over after being promoted. My fatigue shirt with my SP4 rank was in the cab of the truck, under the seat. I hadn’t even been allowed to grab it. So my immediate thought they’re going to send me to VIETNAM, thinking I’m the AWOL soldier?
They must have realized I wasn’t that guy, so they gave me a DR (Delinquency Report) for speeding and reckless driving which would go to my company commander back at Khon Kaen later that day. I was hand receipted to the convoy commander, who would have someone else drive my truck back, and I had to ride with him.
This was one of the longest rides I’d ever taken. Our battalion policy (as I understood it) was anyone who received a DR for speeding would be automatically busted down a rank (company Article 15) and I knew for a fact that Captain Frank Durazzo was strict and followed the book, which he would promptly throw at me shortly! My squad leader had spoke to me about possibly going to the 519th Transportation Battalion’s NCO academy at Phanom Sarakham sometime in the future, so I guess that was off the table now?
Once we got back to Khon Kaen we lined up for fuel as we entered the motor pool. I told the convoy commander I would wait for him in the orderly room, and proceeded to face my punishment with the company commander.
I was apprehensive and it must have shown on my face, because the first person I ran into was the second platoon leader, my platoon leader 1LT Steven Koons. He asked what happened, and I told him the whole story of screwing up and being hand receipted to the convoy commander, who was to hand me over to the company commander for punishment.
Little did I know that the company commander was away for the monthly commander’s call, and LT Koons was the acting company commander and asked where was the convoy commander and I told him getting fuel. He asked if I’d learned anything from this incident and I told him I learned not to speed.
Shortly the convoy commander came over looking for me. LT Koons tore into him for not maintaining physical control over someone he was never to have let out of his sight. Chewed him out good and told him to get his convoy together and not delay in getting off the base and back to Korat.
After he dismissed this SP5 convoy commander, he turned his attention to me and I knew I was in big trouble. He looked sternly at me and said consider yourself to have been verbally counseled (as he tore up the DR), then dismissed me. Phew!
It turns out that in January 1968 I was promoted to SP5 and never looked back.
Following Thailand ended up making a career out of Army transportation and there were two people who influenced me and shaped my leadership style, one was Staff Sergeant Jerry Nienhouse and the other was LT Steven Koons.
Jerry Neinhouse passed away I believe in 2001, but Steve Koons has been a lifelong example and a good friend over the years.
There are good leaders and there are bad leaders, Colonel you sir are the best of the best and I salute you! – I am the Real Truckmaster