Personnel PRAB memories courtesy of:
Capt. Jon Didleau
Material Control Officer
315th Special Operations Wing
Phan Rang AFB, RVN
4/69 to 4/70
I first arrived at Phan Rang AB in April of 1969. My job as Material Control
Officer was to serve as the liaison between Maintenance and Supply for the
Maintenance Officer and take care of any supply problems he had. That was
badly influenced by the distance material had to travel and climate problems.
One of the first problems I had concerned flashlight batteries.
I could never get enough of them and they were of very short
operational duration. Some mechanics were drawing up to 3 sets
a night and there were accusations that they were diverting many
of the batteries to boom boxes and other personal uses. I knew
that was nonsense but I was catching flak from several sides. I
proceeded to file a "Quality Control Deficiency Report" (QCDR)
with the AMA and they finally responded. They explained how
lucky we were to be getting the service we were in view of the
fact that the batteries were stored in pallets in the depot yard
until there were enough to make a shipment, then they were loaded
onto rail cars that took up to a month to transit the US. They were
then stored on the docks till they could be loaded on ships at which
point they started across the Pacific. Several months later they
would arrive at Cam Ranh Bay where they were again stored till they
could be unloaded and warehoused and then issued to the requesting
bases. I had a couple of old supply guys that thought they had the
answer so I said "Make it happen". Msgt Harry Dolan and SSgt
Olisky took a couple of cases of beer over to the Engineers where
they traded them for a couple of skids of plywood. Olisky got a
deuce and a half and hauled the plywood down to Cam Ranh and
traded it to some Supply guys for batteries. A whole two and a half
ton truck load of them. They only lasted about 6 weeks but our
mechanics got a lot of wheelwell maintenance done during that time.
Type II engine solvent was another tender item. It was basic to
inspecting engines while the bird was in docks. You'd spray down
the engines to start the clean up process and then wipe them down
inspecting for oil leaks and other deficiencies prior to making the
repairs. One bird hit docks and started through with a drum of
scrounged solvent. I believe they found 67 engine oil leaks. We were
critically short of this precious fluid and none of my numerous
requisitions to Base Supply were resulting in action. I got a new
NCOIC (MSgt Stinson) in to replace Dolan and he said he could pull
some strings to get solvent. It was several days later that a strange
airplane landed and taxied over to our side of the field, the back door
flew open and two drums of solvent were kicked out. The Chief of
Maintenance was watching and inquired as to where the airplane was
from and who it belonged to. Sgt Stinson volunteered that it was the
Indian Ambassadors airplane and the Chief of Maintenance said very
emphatically that he never wanted to see a repeat of that performance.
The problem remained prickly for some time until it was determined
that the prime AMA in the states had decided to use the refineries
in Singapore to save shipping time and expense and that was where
Supply should have been placing their demands.
Platinum tipped spark plugs were another headache. The old R2800-99W engine
needed 3 platinum tipped electrodes per spark plug per cylinder to operate
at maximum efficiency. They were non expendable due to their expense and
had to be recovered and returned to the AMA in order to get new ones. The
only problem was some jerk(s) were snipping off the platinum electrodes
and sending the now useless plug bodies back to the AMA. I guess they
made some ill gotten gains with their platinum thefts in spite of myriads
of investigative personnel inserted at all levels of the system.
Perhaps the most vexing problem surrounded the throttle
actuators for the J-85 jets (which were imperative for short
take-offs). Those throttle actuators were the second highest
canned item in SEA while I was at Phan Rang AB (69-70). For
some reason they were unable to procure more and as a
NRTS-1 item we were not permitted to attempt to repair them.
Engine mechanics had to spend way too much time cannibalizing
them and then replacing them ASAP. In spite of very high level
conferences involving tech reps from the AMA as well as
Maintenance and Operations personnel, it never was solved.
Cargo rollers were another challenge. Heavy freight and constant use
wore them down and like other household items, they received a relatively
low priority. Another no joy item. And they were imperative for low
level drops in a hot zone. A bird would come in 4 or 5 feet off the
ground, with the cargo doors open, and the load master would activate a
drag chute and the load would drop on the runway and slide to a stop. The
pilot would then hit the throttles to climb and hopefully keep from getting
hit. They sure needed good smooth rollers for those kind of operations.
One other item was that I had noticed that a lot of the maintenance folks
had trouble reading the D-18 report from supply. It gave a great deal of
information regarding each shop's priority requisitions and it was good for
planning purposes. I drew up a translator sheet that listed and explained
all the codes and passed them out to all the shops so they would know what
it was trying to tell them. It seemed to work pretty well but it didn't
always speed items on the way. Anyway the shop chiefs could find out the
status of their requisitions which I hope was of some benefit.
Anyway, those are some of my more vivid recollections of my duties while
assigned to the 315th at PRAB. Hope you enjoyed reading about them.
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