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Operations becoming what they were in Laos, a requirement for new Navaids developed.
After I had done a topographical survey in the area of Northeast Thailand, it was determined that an NDB (Non Directional Beacon) would be installed in Chaing Rai or Lom Sak.
Site surveys had to be conducted at both locations to make the best choice. Yeah! They dropped me and a second troop off on a hill in the middle of nowhere. There were no people, goats, monkeys or any thing.
After the chopper left the area, with a prearranged time to come back for us, we tracked off up along a winding ridge. There was not much undergrowth, and we wound up on the hill we had in mind.
Meanwhile overcast started coming in, it was actually a cloud, moving over the mountain ridges. Shit, we were in for it now. We couldn't follow the ridge back to our pick up point and would have to take a compass heading. All the protection we had was two thirty eight revolvers. Worthless, unless you met someone that was unarmed. Cuts, scrapes and bruises later, after cutting through some bamboo thickets, we climbed back up to the ridge. The pickup point was still socked in.
But, just as fast as it came in the cloud cleared up. Pony Express was, as usual, on time.
Next stop was the airport at Lom Sak. We met with the Thai Border Guards and their commanding officer and he showed us around. He placed a restriction on the deployment regardless where we located the site. It would be a discrete deployment. They thought it would be easier to provide security support if none of the locals knew we were there.
We considered Lom Sak was the most advantageous for the beacon. Additionally, it would provide the airport with navigation support. Also, we would be able to get augmented support, if needed, from Pitsoniluk, where there was a large Team on another assignment.
Some time later, the equipment, spare parts kits, James Way living quarters and personnel were identified, assembled and transported to Udorn.
The equipment and personnel were to be airlifted in to Lom Sak by C-130s. The senior pilot wanted to make a dry run the day prior to the deployment, to have a look around the airport and see the compatibility for his aircraft. Every thing went off good and we returned to Udorn for the night.
Little did we know that it rained like hell that night. The first of three loads made the landing without incident. However, as the aircraft taxied off the runway, it sunk in the mud of the soft apron. One wing was blocking the runway preventing the other aircraft from landing.
For a picture, click here: Lom Sak 1 '69
Needless to say, discrete deployment went out the window or better to say, went to town. Because, that's what we did. The Thai Officials decided we could go downtown, be put up at the local hotel and eat on the local economy. HURRAH! "C" rations stay in Udorn, thank you.
The Thai Border Guard commander booked us all in the only hotel in town, right next to the town square. In the square there was a bell tower with speakers on it. Promptly each morning, it blared out Oriental music, what an experience.
The situation was that, the first aircraft was blocking the runway preventing the other aircraft from landing. That aircraft had carried all the personnel and the team vehicle. But, we were left without the Radio Beacon, power generators or any of the other support equipment.
Needless to say it took several days to clear the runway, so the remainder of the equipment could be brought in. After many attempts, with the help of the local militia and their APCs, the Air Force brought in air bags and was able to clear it. We immediately began building the site.
This is about the local economy. HA! have you ever read a Thai menu? We hadn't either.
The only way to order was to observe what was being served to other customers and order what you visually wanted. If you liked it, you learned the name of the dish so you could order it again. Paying special attention to the "If you liked it," because all meals in Thailand are not created equal.
One dish attracted our attention. It looked like a hot dog, crisscross sliced on each end and deep fat fried. We dipped it in four alarm hot sauce. We tried for several days, to find out what the Thai name for them were. About to give up, we discovered they called them "hot dogs," because it was an American dish without a translatable name.
Now, comes this translation thing, you must be very careful about the words. Nam is water, Kane is Ice, Nom is breast, needless to say when ordering a glass of ice water you must be very clear on the pronunciation, as you could draw a curious look if not a slap.
We did have an incident, where the smell of some of the local foods caused a casualty to our officer force. We had all finished up a day of labor on the site, and came to the local restaurant for our chow. Unable to park close the place, we found a spot about a block down the street. While walking to the restaurant, we passed another more traditional Thai eating establishment. A slight breeze was coming out of this restaurant, accompanied with a horrendous smell. Well a newly arrived lieutenant, got his first whiff of down home cooking Thai style and began to gag. We had to transport him back to our quarters, hopefully for recovery. I think he was a finicky eater anyway. He didn't even like C rations.
We took our first trip over to Pitsoniluk, in an attempt to acquire some more wholesome food for our stricken lieutenant. Those folks helped us out a lot and provided us with a large ice chest with frozen strawberries and other goodies. But, a day or two later we airlifted the non-outdoorsman back to Clark Air Base. I figured I would catch it from Colonel Faulk when I got back, for not taking care of things assigned under my care and guidance.
Oh well, on with the story. Following initial deployment and reduction of the number of people assigned to the team, we moved out of the hotel to a more rural setting. This was to a chateau where we would be more discreetly availed on the local populace, as well as the inquiring eyes of foreign intelligence.
We moved the KWM-2A in and acquired a generator from Clark for reporting progress back to Clark. This was also our only communications for support and for requesting a flight check.
We had run into problems with ground counter poise and could not radiate much power.
I determined that we had sited over an iron ore bed and could not penetrate it with the normal methods.
We sent for more grounding rods and acid. We put the rods in a circle every ten or fifteen degrees apart, out about two hundred feet from the center rod. Then we connected all rods to the center rod and around the circle. Finally, we poured acid on every thing and fired her up. That proved to be the solution, as we passed flight check with no restrictions.
Later on when I was returning to Clark Air Base from Bangkok, I asked the C-141 pilot to check our beacon frequency and see how it was transmitting. While taxiing out to the runway on Don Muang, he stated it was coming in with his needle pointing steady. It was quite a feat for the old navaid, well beyond range and altitude specs.
A small cadre of maintenance people remained to keep the facility on the air.
Many other events accompanied these experiences, not forgotten but a little less memorable. Such as, we had a lime tree in the yard of our cabin on stilts. Near by there was a little local coffee shop that could make a cup of coffee that would make your hair stand on end. They also sold a local wine called Hasip Degree that tasted just like Tequila. Needless to say, the limes and Hasip Degree found each other on a few occasions.
Another memorable occurrence was when I had just arrived and we were waiting for the runway to be cleared. We were still living in the hotel and with nothing much else to do, I did a little shopping. I found this Seiko wall clock, real cheap, having a hard time passing up bargains I purchased the thing. Of course, wanting to make sure the thing would keep running for a while, I wound her up and set it. You know those things bong every hour and the later the day, the more bongs occur. Now the room I had was right next to the side of the hotel where the music tower was at and the acoustics in the hotel allowed noise not only travel well but I think it amplified some too. I finally put rubber bands around the gongs and let the clock finish its flight check. Still have that clock hanging on the wall in my house now.
On learning the cuisine of Thailand, we found some things are called by the noise they make, such as fried rice. Cow Pot is fried rice, ok we got that far, now what kind of meat do you want in it? We have already assigned the cow word to the rice so what would beef fried rice be? Cow being beef and the sound it makes is moo, thus we have Cow Pot Moo for beef fried rice. For chicken, it is Cow Pot Ka. Now, I have never heard a shrimp make a noise, but they must, because they call it Cow Pot Cha and my memory being in the fourth quarter, can't remember what pork fried rice is called, but I'll be willing to bet it could be oink.
1966-1967 and 1968-1972 and 1974
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