D.O.V.E. Fund - Veteran
Roland Southard

 Clair Dobson

 U.S. Army - 1969-1971
 MACV in Quang Ngai Province,
 Vietnam 1970-1971
 Khanh Duong, Vietnam, 1969

 D.O.V.E. Fund member since 2000

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Roland Southard  
I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during graduation ceremonies from Penn State on June 14, 1969. I entered active duty on September 7, 1969 and my first stop was Fort Benning Georgia for nine weeks of Infantry Officer Basic training.

Upon completion I was assigned as a Platoon Leader of Company B, 4th Battalion 30th, Infantry Division at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Fort Sill was the Army’s Artillery Training School and our mission was to provide support for various field-training exercises. I reported for duty on November 26, 1969 and on June 22, 1970 received orders to report to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV).

On September 2, 1970 I arrived at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport and after a few days was sent to Advisory School in Di An, a small hamlet a short drive away. The course lasted about three weeks and helped ease me “in country”. Classes included survival techniques along with Vietnamese language and culture studies, all in preparation for my ultimate assignment to a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT).

Typically a MAT team had five members: a captain, a lieutenant and three sergeants each with a different military specialty. Their mission was to live with and support the People’s Self-Defense Forces (PF’s). These were soldiers living close to their homes and functioning much like our National Guard. This was one part of President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program to end our involvement in the war and bring American troops home.

MAT #17 and “the hill” became my home for the next several months. I was within site of Highway QL1 about 50 miles south of Danang in Quang Ngai Province. It was one of several MAT teams operating in the Son Tinh District.

“The hill” served as District Headquarters to all PF and MAT units. It housed a small platoon of PF’s that provided security to the District Chief, his wife, three small children and several American Advisors. My MAT team provided support for daily operations and also monitored training for PF units. Different PF units rotated in each week to a covered but open-air classroom to receive various types of military training. The Vietnamese provided the instruction; we simply monitored and offered support.

In early 1971 I was temporarily assigned as team leader to a different MAT team when their leader was called home. We lived with a company of Montangards in a portion of an old French citadel a few miles from “the hill” and very close to the infamous village of My Lai. The compound was tucked into one corner of the citadel and was protected by barbed wire and mines.

The Montangards, an ethnic minority from the mountain region, were very supportive of the Americans. This put them in constant danger from Viet Cong attacks, so for their safety, their complete tribe of men, women and children were relocated to this area. Like so many of the Vietnamese people I met during my tour they were hard working, peace loving and family oriented. They were well trained and I felt relatively secure.

My tour was cut short as President Nixon continued to pull out troops. I left Vietnam in June 1971. Fortunately my combat experiences were very few and leave no scars. I simply have fond memories of the hard working Vietnamese people who were struggling to exist in a wartime environment.

In March 2008 I made a return trip with DOVE. I was able to show “the hill” to my wife Jan. As we toured we enjoyed meeting the school children, teachers and parents. Everyone made us feel so welcome. The “American War” is in the past and the people are moving forward.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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