John Latham

This narrative was provide by John Latham of Combat Support Company 2-36 Infantry. 1976-1979

        I arrived at Kirchgoen in January of 1976 and was assigned 2/36 infantry. When I arrived, Capt Montgomery was the commander and SFC Bloodworth was the acting first sergeant. I was in the heavy mortar platoon where SSG McGhee was the acting platoon sergeant, Lt Wylie?  was the platoon leader and sergeant Velez was my squad leader.

        It was a difficult time for me there on the rock.
It was an unreal environment and you needed to watch your back at all times. The racial violence was diminished at the time of my arrival but I heard stories of some terrible riots not  too long before I arrived. Drugs ran rabid among the soldiers there and heroin(scag as it was called) was fairly common. This was before the days of the urinalysis so in order to get busted, they needed to catch you with the drugs on your person.

         I pretty much adjusted to the place. During my first summer there, I participated in a boxing smoker and tko'd my opponent in the first round. Although I never would enter the ring again, my performance gained me the respect of the old-timers and I was pretty much left alone as far as red bellies and initiations went.

        I worked hard, froze a lot in the field and
eventually was made squad leader. My driver was a SP4 Timothy Cole who hailed from Hickory, North Carolina. I'll admit, I was tough on ole Timothy and to this day wish I could take it back but that was the order of the day as the Army was transitioning from the days of the old brown boot to the new all volunteer force. By the way, although I was tough on Timothy Cole, he did leave the Army with an honorable discharge which was great considering the number of jobs he had in the company that he was fired from. Anyways, I hope there are no hard feelings  from you Timothy if you ever have the chance to read this letter.

      I did have my share of trouble though. My biggest problem was that I couldn't read a map for chit and was always getting my squad lost. As a matter of fact, I really didn't become an able map reader until several years later.

     I guess that's what happens when you become a squad leader with less than two years in the Army.

John S. Latham
ret SFC

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