A Story from the Left Lane
The year was 1968 and I was a 19 year old army trucker with the 569th Transportation Company in Thailand during the Vietnam War things were happening all around us. Our convoys out of Camp Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand ran 24/7/365 in order to get the necessary supplies where they were needed.
Typically were up at 0300 so we could depart Camp Khon Kaen (kick the gate) by 0500 and as we went deeper into the northeast we traveled north to Udorn RTAFB, then southeast to Sakon Nakhon (SKK) and on to Nakhon Phanom (NKP) RTNB in a convoy going roughly 25-30 mph while driving in the left side of the road getting in mid-late afternoon. We stopped about every hour to tighten up our loads and check for flats. Lunch on the road was usually a sack lunch from the mess hall, a c-ration and/or a coke and some fried rice at one of our rest stop areas. The locals (kids) usually showed up begging for candy, cigarettes and unwanted food items.
As we neared Sakon Nakhon the road turned into that red dusty, bumpy road surface that jarred our bones, vibrated our trucks apart and covered us with that red laterite dust by the time we arrived at NKP. Once there we dropped our trailers to be unloaded while we refueled the 2 diesel tanks and fixed flats or performed maintenance. Then we went to billeting for bedding, the mess hall for a meal and ended the day at the club or in the beer garden. Sometimes we were able to go to the Mekong River where we’d see the RTN gunboats that patrolled the river. It was not unusual for us to arrive before, during or after a rocket attack from across the border in Laos. That really gets your heart pounding.
After a restful night of sleep, we’d eat breakfast and grab something for the ride home usually just another c-ration. We were sent back pulling empty trailers in one or two truck convoys. On one such convoy I was alone and before I had made it back to Sakon Nakhon my truck broke down with not enough air pressure. So I sat there on that bumpy dirt roadway trying to figure what had caused the problem and what could I do to get to the nearest military camp?
It turned out there was a pinhole in the airline near the air compressor. I had only a rag to wrap around it to slow the leak enough to build up sufficient air pressure and limped in to Camp Raum Chit Chai where the 809th Engineer Battalion was headquartered. While the mechanics worked on changing out the airline I went over to the club for a burger and coke. When I returned to the truck they were done and I was soon on the road again (sorry Willie) and the rest of the trip back was uneventful. Pulling into Camp Khon Kaen there was the trailer inspection, refueling at the POL trailer and to the tire shop to repair all the flats from the trip and to the maintenance shop for any needed repairs and then to the mail room, then the barracks for a shower to remove that red dust, clean clothes and to the mess hall for supper.
The routine seldom changed when you were on the road. Evenings or weekends were spent on base unless you got a pass to go off base with a curfew of 10pm. Bed check was midnight. – I am the Real Truckmaster!