Ft. Riley

326th ASA

January 1969-September 1970

After a great 30 day leave, I arrived at Ft. Riley with an assignment to the 326th Army Security Agency. This Unit was attached to the famous "Big Red 1". I can't honestly say that I truly enjoyed my time with the company. The unit didn't have the same cohesiveness as that of the 265th. It was made up of a mix of people of varying experiences: Some new, some returned from Germany and some returned from duty in Vietnam. After serving in a combat zone, garrison duty was a real let down.

Those who had risen to ranks above that of E-5 were all from duty stations other than assignments in Vietnam. I felt like the Nam vets were the odd men out of the unit. We seemed to get the details that one might think of as less high on any given list. I had been given the daily barracks assignment of cleaning the urinals which, in itself, would not have been any problem as all of the maintenance jobs were required had they been rotated. Personally, I didn't see this as being appropriate and I rebelled! I told the E-6 in charge that if he wanted clean urinals that he could clean them himself. On that note, I was told to report to the First Sergeant.

Our First Sergeant asked me if I had, in fact, been insubordinate. I told him that I had and why. He explained that he would have to give me extra duty as punishment for my actions. I acknowledged that I understood his position and reported to the orderly room that afternoon. My assignment was to type up some reports which took me all of about five minutes. I turned them into the First Sergeant and was dismissed. Life was better after that.


Here's my dog-tag that was issued to me upon my return from Vietnam. Initially, my dog-tag was in the form much like that of my father's that may be seen on his page. There are two big changes: My service number RA16914947 was replaced with my social service number and there is no reference to any family member or hometown. The "AB" refers to my blood type and "NO PREF." to my religious leaning.

Most of us that were returning from Vietnam had saved our money for a year and were able to own a new car. We had some very nice ones in our company. I had purchased a "sleeper" Mach I Mustang with a 351 cleveland but no Mach I markings. For a few months it would receive a lot of looks. That's Russ Guinther's car next to mine. It was the era of the muscle car and we were living it.

Some of the other guys had cars like the Oldsmobile "Judge", Plymouth "Roadrunner", Chevy Camero, Chevy SS to name a few. I have taken the liberty of using a few misc. photos as there are those that wouldn't recognize just the names of these cars.


The Judge                                     68 Camero         


69 Chevy SS                                            Roadrunner                


Here's our parking lot. Oops! Did I spot a Corvaire?

Having two more years to serve, I had to resign myself to making the best of a perceived bad situation. We had to keep our vehicles and skills honed as best we could given the fact that our mission was miniscule compared to our past duty. Much of our daily routine was just that: routine. We would report to the mess hall for breakfast, report to the motor pool, report to the mess hall for lunch, report to the motor pool, report back to the company area, report to the mess hall for dinner etc. etc. etc. I'm shocked that there was any paint left on any of our vehicles considering the number of times they were washed. The problem with this duty was that by messing with things, more of them were broken than if we'd have left them alone.

I believe that it was here that I developed a love for reading. I would get what's called a "creeper" and position myself under a truck like I was working. I'd clank a few wrenches once in a while to give the appearance of some kind of productivity. However, mostly I'd just stay out of everyone's way and read a book. I probably wasn't fooling anybody, especially Mr. Gaw our Maintenance officer. I think that it was a don't ask, don't tell situation.

Speaking of Mr. Gaw: He had purchased one of those new citizen band radios and was quite proud of it. At the time, they were new on the market. He had a nice stainless steel antenna on the back of his car. Anyway, at some point, somebody bent it. I somehow got the impression that he suspected me as being the villain. It was NOT, repeat NOT, me! As a matter of fact, I don't think that anyone got wind of who committed the crime.

We were assigned several M113 ACAVs (Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle) that were equipped with the radio surveillance equipment required for our mission. I somehow don't remember ours having been mounted with a weapon on top. Just a lot of antennas. I found these to be quite the toy. Every once in a while, we'd have the opportunity to take them out and run them on the many tank trails. Again, probably one of those useless activities that would lead to more washing of vehicles.


M113 ACAV

We learned of a regulation that stated that our fatigues did not require that they be starched or pressed....only that they must be clean. So, while most of the company would "break starch" on Monday mornings, Teddy Castillo and I would "break wrinkles" in protest of the army. The NCOs weren't very happy with this but couldn't bust us. Our uniforms were tailored so tightly that we'd actually press them out by wearing them for a few hours.

From reading the above, the reader might get the impression that my two years at Ft. Riley, Kansas was spent only in the company of Lucifer. That would be the farthest from the truth. The area around the on and around the fort was quite interesting and attractive.

RECREATION

It was in this location that I learned to water-ski. One of the guys in the company had purchased a ski boat and we would take off after duty hours and spend many hours on Milford Reservoir. It worked out to all of our advantage. We didn't have to own a boat to enjoy the pleasures of being on the water and our friend didn't have any gas and oil expenses. None of us really had a care in the world except to put in our time and dream of going home.

LOCAL PERFORMANCE

I started playing music immediately upon my arrival at Ft. Riley. There was a small town between the base and the city Manhattan called Ogden. As it was located just outside the East gate, it was a good place to hang out and not be too far to travel. I started sitting in at the open jam sessions that were held at one of the local watering holes. It wasn't long until I was playing in the house band - The King Bees. We also had our resident Go-G0 girl, ANGEL!


Angel

This next story is interesting. There was an old guy that played drums in the house band that looked as if he had just arrived by space ship from the 1940s. He always wore a worn out dark suit, (off) white shirt and tie. He was a nice enough fellow but was never clean shaven and had a bit of body odor. He actually played pretty good jazz style drums. He lived in a very small house to the north of Riley Avenue that was owned by the owner of the club whose name escapes me. I asked about the history of our drummer at one point and was told that he just got off the bus twenty years ago and never left. I can only assume that our drummer friend was playing with a band that was on the road in the late 40s or early 50s.

While playing as a house musician, my reputation as a guitar player spread. There was a Kansas band that had aspirations of making the "big time" in the rock industry. They approached me about perhaps joining their group but that didn't pan out. I think that they felt that I had too much time left in the army to be able to be added. The group was called The Dinks. They had a very contemporary and loud sound with the biggest PA set I had ever seen up until then.

With two other soldiers from our company, Jim Roberts and one of our cooks, I put together and had a band going. A big board game at that time was called RISK so our band became The Risk. I was playing guitar, Jim was on bass and our other guy played drums. The drummer was married and lived off base so we practiced at his place a lot. Somehow, the threesome didn't work as well as we might have liked so we
went in search of a new drummer.

.
Our original drummer with Jim Roberts

Enter Bill Jordan who would later become known as "Cornbread" as he had a southern accent and came from Alabama.

Bill was the most accomplished vocalist in our group. We wanted so desperately to sing Crosby, Stills and Nash but Jim and I weren't in that league. It was Bill that taught me the basics of singing harmony. Anyway, he had rented a farm house just a few miles east of Grand view Plaza on old road 57. It was a great place to hang out. I made a room for myself in the tornado shelter which was a bit damp but better than the barracks for just getting away from it all.

FARM HOUSE

The farm house was located on a creek and I believe that it was just off Kansas Road #18. The grass is always greener where the cool water flows. Notice the foliage in the following pictures. The second one was taken on a slant to get the full height of the vegetation. There were spots like this all over Ft. Riley. Once, while on maneuvers, we camped in the midst of a field of clover that was just like this one. We went away for a special services tour in the summer of '69 and when we got back the whole crop had been harvested!

I made a trip down that particular lane in 2008 to see if I could relocate the house but my best guess is that it was gone.

.


Jim Roberts/Bill Jordan                                                                     Dan Johnson/Bill Jordan


Jim Roberts                                                                                               The Creek


Dan                                                                                                           Bill

GO TO: ACTION SHOWS


The Action shows were two seasons of being on the road with 5th Army Special Services: 1969 & 1970. I've given them a page of their own as they fall into the category of groups and the Ft. Riley time frame.

HARVEST OF SOUL

During the holiday season of 1969, special services put on a talent show. For some unknown reason, we had changed our name to Yellow Fever. I never did like that name but that's what we used. I don't have any pictures of us during that show but I think the picture of the soldiers in fatigues were part of that production.


Soldiers at" Harvest of Soul" show

STACY'S RESTAURANT

We used to hang out at a place called Stacy's Restaurant that is still there as of this writing and still owned by the same lady, Mary. I took a motorcycle trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio in August of 2008 and stopped in for breakfast. While waiting for the best breakfast within 500 miles either direction, I was talking with a local guy that said that the place just wasn't the same without her. It seems she's sold it several times and gotten it back. I told her that I only came through Junction City every twenty years and always stopped at her place. She remarked that I'd better make it a little more often if I expected to see her there.



Mary & Dan, August 2008

Stacy's was our club house so to speak. We would often times choose to have dinner there rather than eat in the mess hall. I won't go on about it all but there was some theft going on by those in charge of providing good food for the troops. They were found out and the problem was eventually fixed. The waitresses always went out of their way to take care of us. One of the ladies even came to my wedding in Denver in 1971. The restaurant was always the last stop of the day when we would go dirt riding by the rock quarry that was just across I-70 by the river.

It was also a meeting place for my dad and me. While I was in the service, my father, having retired from the army, drove for Mayflower trucking and later for International Transport. Whenever he would be passing through, we'd meet for a meal and just enjoy each other's company. One of the standard laughs we had was my telling him that I owned a shirt just like the one that he was wearing. We always mixed our shirts.

CANADA TRIP

My friend and fellow Vietnam Vet, Russ Guinther, took a trip to Canada to visit with the ladies that I met while on R&R. We stopped off in Denver and visited with a few of my friends and then left for Vancouver, BC. Along the way we had some interesting happenings.

       

          

Stein (Russ Guinther) and I were driving through a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. I was at the wheel at the time and noticed some very attractive ladies in a new Camero. They showed that they were interested and I increased my speed. I woke up Russ and told him that there were some girls that were chasing us. He told me that I was totally full of "stuff". I told him to watch my next move. I pulled into a school parking lot. Guess what? A blue Camero with a couple of girls pulling in right behind us. It was a very nice compliment but we had places to go and things to do. Oh, Yeah. I forgot to tell you that they were high school age and at the time...TOO YOUNG TO BE BOTHERED WITH!!!!


US/Canada Border


Fay getting in car

DISCHARGE PAPERS

Here's a soldier's favorite piece of paper. I know that I haven't finished my story if you're reading at this point but come back later for the in-between. I just happened to notice that the dates are wrong. The year should be 1971. I actually drove away from Ft. Riley with ETS orders in my hand on September 20, 1971. That's another story!

I had been trying to apply for an early-out as soon as the word came down that "early-outs" were authorized. I guess someone figured out that the last three months of one's enlistment equated to the productivity of the last hour in the ten-hour day. Nada! I kept up my efforts and the army kept up its refusal. I do feel as though it was a let's get even with this civilian minded so-and-so.

It just so happened that one of our Brass from whatever battalion were assigned to came on an inspection tour. I feel confident that the "army guys" that kept turning down my early out felt that I'd just go along with the program and keep my mouth shut. Well, surprise, surprise! The colonel that was the inspector turned out to be a straight-shootin' guy and no dummy. I think that there were leaders amongst us that thought that they'd "pull-the-wool" over on the inspector and he'd just go away. We were all coached on being in our proper places and looking busy, busy, busy.

I was in my assigned spot in one of the maintenance vans. The door opened and in walked the colonel with his entourage of vassals. The first words out of his mouth were: "How do you like it here, Johnson?". My reply: "It sucks, sir". A dead quiet came over the immediate area. He asked me to explain my position with all standing by and I did. His response: "Have your request to me by Noon and I'll personally approve it".

Since my request had to be typed, I made it straight for the signal maintenance office where one of our warrent officers was staying out of the line of fire. As I typed my discharge request, the warrent officer, with whom I never had any difficulties, said: "Why didn't you tell me you could type like that?" I answered: "You never asked me, sir." He just shook his head and that was the end of the matter. I made my deadline and got my discharge.

As Ft. Riley was my last official duty station, I add this last item as it pertains to my reintroduction to civilian life and the termination of my military service.

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