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Brian Becker recalls time spent in Vietnam

Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 12:12 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 12:25 p.m. CDT

For Brian Becker, college was a confusing time. He was in school for two years, and soon realized it was not for him. He knew what would happen if he dropped out — he would be drafted.

“I kind of wanted some choices,” Becker said about enlisting into the Army. “As a draftee, they might do anything with you.”

After singing up, Becker was sent to Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.

“I was selected to take a three-week course at the NCO academy, prior to basic training, for a temporary sergeant rank,” Becker said. “I was a platoon guide, and I was squad leader in Advanced Individual Training.”

After basic training, he signed up for Jump School and was off to Fort Benning, Ga. While training, he met a Special Forces recruiter. The recruiter made an impression on him and he decided apply for Green Berets. After several tests, Becker was accepted for training.

While in training, he specialized in communications. decrypting Morse Code. Becker was able to receive 18 words per minute. Although the course was only 18 months, he said it was one of the most difficult aspects in his military career.After training, he was assigned to the U.S. Army’s Sixth Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“In the year I spent there, we cross trained — almost constantly in North Carolina, as well as Fairbanks, Alaska, Fort Bliss, Texas, the Everglades in Florida and in Norfolk, Va., where we trained with the Navy SEALs team based at Little Creek,” Becker said.

He had a little more than a year left in his enlistment, and decided to sign up for Vietnam. He attended training in the Seventh Group at Ft. Bragg. He was able to celebrate Christmas before being shipped off to Vietnam in 1965.

Unlike other troops arriving in Vietnam, his group flew in on a C-130. Most troops, during that time, flew in on commercial airlines.

“After about an month there ,I was assigned to the Special Forces Green Beret A-Team at an outpost,” Becker said. “I joined the 11 other team members as an assistant team radio operator.”

During his time in Vietnam, he saw a lot of action, and at times, he did not know who was the enemy.

“A lot of the times you didn’t know who was the enemy,” Becker said. “You could be down at the local village area getting a shave — the barber using a straight razor on you could be a Viet Cong at night.”

“Most of our activity was against the Viet Cong during that period,” Becker said. “Although the Viet Cong were not as well equipped as the N.V.A. [North Vietnamese Army], they were indigenous to the local area of our operations — knew the countryside better than we did. (They) had local support, as the Quang Ngai Province had long been a communist stronghold going back to the Indochina War against the French.”

His team in Vietnam was made up of soldiers who served in a variety of wars.

“In my team in Vietnam, I had a couple of old sergeants that served in World War II and Korea,” Becker said. “It was very informal, but everyone pulled their weight.”

From 1961 to 1966, the U.S. saw a large amount of causalities. In 1966 alone, the U.S. saw more than 6,000 deaths. Over the next seven years there were 50,000 more — not including the wounded.

“My enlistment was up in Dec. 1966, and they let me out a couple of weeks early,” Becker said, “I got home to Newton for Christmas with my family — a mere three days after my last combat operation. In recent years, I have been able to reconnect with five of the brave, dedicated men that I served and bonded with, 47 years ago, through Facebook.”

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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