First Impressions - Jerry Swain

Tour of Duty Overview
I don't know if it was routine or just a manpower thing at a particular time but when I began my tour as a FAC in April 1971, I was initially assigned to NKP.  Arriving at NKP on the C-141 (Silver Samlar(sp)) and receiving leis around your neck, ala Hawaii.  Boy that was a location.  Almost immediately new guys were introduced to blow-hockey in the Nail-Hole.  And if you couldn 't eat lunch in a real O-club (the only downside being the limp Gomer lettuce) there was always the TUOC Kraut dogs.  However, when the monsoon arrived in South Vietnam and the weather pattern shifted a need dictated five of us Nail FAC's being sent to Da Nang.   A claim-to-fame soon developed as we announced ourselves as the "pros from NKP".   We soon introduced "Nail breaks" to the airport as we became Covey FAC's and flew out of Da Nang for several months.  At this unique location many pet peeves manifested themselves.  We were quartered on the west side of the base in the old French barracks area.  Nothing like having the water turned off in the evening,  if you got any at all,  and the only place to eat was the MAC terminal unless you could "procure" a jeep to go the East side of the base to the O-club.  An unforgettable person encountered during this period was "Daddy Land" and his suggestion for jeep washing on your day off.  Obviously one highlight of the tour  was three of us lucky ones going back to NKP after 3 months in Da Nang to finish our tours as Nail FAC's again.  But that wasn't the end at seeing Da Nang.  Since we had "in-country" experience and were familiar with Da Nang when the NVA made their big offensive in the spring of '72, we went back to fight around the clock against that enemy push.  There were many times I flew with a Marine in my back seat directing artillery fire from a Navy ship offshore while coordinating with fire-bases and Army troops on the ground.  Talk about melding of all the services into one effort. Things were really intense during this period of the war and pilots were assigned to the backseat of the OV-10 too, not many single -seat missions on those busy nights.  The Da Nang airfield reflected this same intensity.  One night while taxing back after exiting the active runway we came face-to-face with a B-66.  My front-seater, remembering his days at Hurlbert, actually tried to use reverse thrust to back up the OV-10.  We moved backwards a few yards but eventually did a U-turn instead and preceded the B-66 until we could turn out of his way.

Remember when?  I really miss not identifying landmarks by what they look like from altitude.  Even after flying stateside and in Europe, the ground identification never got in the mode of naming landmarks like the Catcher's Mitt, Fish's Mouth, Submarine Karsts.

Loved/hated about job & OV-10 -  The OV-10 was a good aircraft for the job we did.  It was somewhat new then and fun to fly. It seemed under powered for the fuel load and location of the mission.  It was said if you lost an engine and couldn't get the four rocket pods and center-line fuel tank off, the best you could do would be a slow decent.  On many hot days at NKP you would taxi into the overrun and then back over the arresting cable when taking the active so you could use every inch of available runway for takeoff.

I personally loved the job.  I felt like I was making a direct contribution to the war effort and was always "in the thick of it", on the front line.  I believe we were well respected for both the FAC and SAR missions we performed and have found that even with the passing years our mission was and is well respected by other members of the services.

I hated the many Rules-of-Engagement and political implications of the war and specifically what and where we could bomb.  Of course the whole war was like that and not just constrained for us FAC's.