Danger in Dau Tieng

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., January 4, 2014 – In November 1966, the Third Brigade, 4th Infantry Division moved to the hamlet of Dau Tieng in Vietnam to set up a base camp. This new camp was located in Tay Ninh province, northwest of Saigon in War Zone C. The Brigade was operationally managed by the 25th Infantry Division based in nearby Cu Chi, it would later be officially made part of the 25th ID.

The Brigade had arrived in country on October 12, 1966 in the HMS Walker troop transport and had been moved temporarily to Bear Cat, a 1st Infantry Division camp east-northeast of Saigon. After several weeks of acclimation, training and short forays to the adjacent rural and jungle areas, the unit had had only a few casualties and even less action.
3rd Brigade Headquarters with the French Manager house in the background/ Triple Deuce

Casualties so far were a soldier felled by friendly fire when he decided to stand up to relieve himself during a night ambush patrol, and an enemy sniper who had been killed during one of the short forays outside the camp.

In Dau Tieng, the Brigade took over an Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) outpost that had been heavily attacked throughout the war, as it was located in a main infiltration route for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Regulars. It abutted the Michelin Rubber Plantation, rumored to be the largest in the world at the time.

The scuttlebutt was that it had been overrun several times by the enemy and that the French managers of the plantation had an agreement with the enemy so that they and their property would not be harmed. No evidence ever surfaced of the latter.

The camp was located adjacent to Dau Tieng. Its main entrance was literally next to the outlining huts of the hamlet. The hamlet was estimated to have less than five thousand inhabitants. It had a small airport that was essential for resupply and support. Prominent in the camp was the edifice that, rumor had it, housed the French manager of the plantation and his staff.

We never saw them. Some said they never existed. Soldiers usually gossip worse than a sewing circle. In later months, this residence and its adjacent swimming pool served as a recreational area for officers and non-coms.

Units were assigned areas and most were directed to create defensive bunkers in the periphery of the camp. In the meantime, support units built mess halls, an infirmary, unit command tents, latrines and most importantly a Post Exchange (PX). In the following months as combat units left and returned, the camp became a city with all possible reasonable amenities.

In those early days of Dau Tieng only two events occurred that were out of the ordinary. The first was the accidental explosion of a mine that caused several casualties. Apparently the ARVN had set up defensive mine fields and forgot to retrieve at least one “bouncing Betty”. One of our Jeeps found it and several troopers riding in the back received shrapnel wounds.

The second event was even more dramatic. As we dug defensive bunkers in the camp perimeter next to a dry rice paddy, we spotted a resupply plane heading for the airfield. Since it was the only event that broke the monotony and heat of midday, we all stopped and looked at its approach.

As the plane descended to just above the rubber tree tops, we all heard the sound and saw the tracers of a 51 caliber machine gun. These were only used by the enemy, cleverly they could use our ammunition (50 caliber), but we couldn’t use theirs. Their sound was hollow as the rounds contained less powder that ours. The shooter appeared to be less than one mile from the camp.

While the shooter had had only a very small window through the tree canopy to fire at the plane, he got lucky and hit it. We soon saw the plane lose even more altitude and appeared in danger of crashing in the rubber plantation.

While we stood open-mouthed, unable to move or stop looking, something almost incredible happened. Somehow the pilot was able to skim the tops of the trees while turning. The plane came directly at us to parallel to our defensive perimeter and in a question of seconds, the plane crash-landed in the dry rice paddy in front of us. It seemed impossible that he had managed to land the plane between us and the rubber trees in a strip no wider than a football field.

As emergency rescue arrived, we saw the crew of the plane evacuate the plane. Only two of them were taken away in stretchers. Eventually we found out that everyone had recovered.

We left on an operation that lasted a couple of weeks and by the time we came back the downed plane had been taken away.

After these two events, we became even more vigilant, as we realized that danger was even closer than we assumed.

It is good to be afraid in a combat zone.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist is in Facebook (Mario Salazar) and Twitter (@chibcharus).

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How long will it take before we stop the gun lobby?

AP-Shooting-Military-BuildingAnother massacre, this time only 2 miles from Congress. Will they notice?

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., September 16, 2013 – After another mass killing, this time only one mile from the legislature that doesn’t want to take notice, we are losing hope that rational gun laws are coming. Twelve workers at the Washington Navy Yard were killed by apparently a disgruntled contractor that had “anger management problems” and PTSD. According to NBC, the gunman was killed by police, but not before he did his deed that also wounded another eight.
This comes at the heels of two legislators recalled for voting for stricter gun laws in Colorado.
It is easy to predict that the gun lobby will retort that if more people would have been armed, the killings would not have occurred. In fact, the killer apparently used at least one gun that he took away from armed officials. Even trained law enforcement officials can be victims to a resolute killer. One wonders what would have happened if others would have been armed, one can speculate that the casualties would have been greater. A chaotic shoot out in a building with thousands of possible collateral damage victims provides an unacceptable scenario.
Maybe we have to look at the reluctance to legislate more rational gun laws from a different perspective. A global view may provide some answers.
Searching for global arm sales statistics in the Internet is confusing. Numbers vary widely as there is no normal way to define what constitutes a weapon (is an attack helicopter a weapon, or just the machine guns and rocket launchers installed in it?). Regardless, it could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. One fact that appears clear is that the U. S. remains as the leader in this field and our weapon sales constitute an important and very lucrative part of our exports.
Even President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize honoree (Alfred Nobel invented dynamite), has become our salesman in chief in promoting U. S. arms sales. Seeing a big market in up and coming countries like India, he may ask for regulations that expedite international arm sales.
Some may say that trying to restrict arms sales internally by enacting new laws may provide a schizophrenic or a hypocritical image of the U. S. Others may point out that the issues involved in domestic and international arms sales are very different and unconnected in a dangerous world.
The fact is that both the domestic and international arms commerce have a winner, the weapons industry. Another factor is that weapons are mostly used to kill human beings or to deter by threatening to kill. May we benefit by seeing the whole picture?
Ultimately, we may think of how we would like history to see the U. S.; as the ultimate merchant of arms or as a leader of disarmament.
Unfortunately it is apparent that the weapons industry is one of the few industries in which the U. S. still has a clear supremacy both in the domestic market and internationally. With respect to domestic sales, can we find a balance between the success of this consumer product and the atrocities that we have seen throughout our country in the last 20 years? We have found ways to solve this type of dilemma in the past and should be able to do it again.
We need less rhetoric and more action in trying to find a balanced solution to the super abundance of fire arms and the people that are willing to use them and the rights under the second amendment as interpreted by our courts and supported by many Americans.
Most gun owners are law abiding citizens and it is difficult to believe that they would not support the idea that fire arms don’t belong in the hands of persons that may use them criminally. For this to have traction it is necessary to get past the paranoia of those that believe the government wants to ban private gun ownership altogether.
The gun lobby does not want this dialogue to take place. After all it is funded by the gun industry that wants unrestricted gun sales to continue and the profits that it entails. While corporations may be people according to the Supreme Court, humanistic feelings are not included in their persona. Their only job is to make profits for its investors.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist is in Facebook (Mario Salazar) and Twitter (@chibcharus).

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Governor Perry, it is time to protect the citizens, not just businesses

The aftermath of the explosion AP photo

The aftermath of the explosion AP photo

WestTexasDestructionLesson of Texas explosion: Gov. Perry needs to call for regulations

Originally published at: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/21st-century-pacifist/2013/apr/27/lesson-texas-explosion-gov-perry-needs-call-regula/#ixzz2Rh8ZWPmk Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter Read at Communities and leave comments

Libertarian attitudes towards regulations often endanger residents of Western states. Photo: Blast at fertilizer plant in West, Texas AP photo

Saturday, April 27, 2013 – 21st-Century Pacifist by Mario Salazar

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., April 26, 2013 — Last week, among several newsworthy events, notably the terrorist attack in Boston, we learned of the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The explosion killed 14 and destroyed a significant portion of the town. Most of the victims were first responders. While the investigation is still being conducted, there appears to be some facts that make many scratch their heads and wonder whether this is the 21st century.

Twenty years ago the United Agency for International Development (USAID) was asked by the city of Quito, Ecuador to conduct a risk assessment on a liquefied natural gas storage facility within the city limits. The experts sent by USAID presented a report that indicated having such facility within the city limits was dangerous and that the facility should be relocated.

Destruction in West, Texas that cost lives of first responders Photo: AP

One of the factors was that there were residences, shops and schools within the blast area of the LNG storage facility.

Typical of urban sprawl in the absence of regulations and/or enforcement, a very densely development had grown around the facility after it had been constructed. One speculates that workers wanted to live near their work. Ecuador was and still is a developing country, but it implemented measures to prevent explosions and fire risk to its citizens.

On April 16, 1947, in the port of Texas City, Texas near Galveston, a ship full of fertilizer (NH4NO3, ammonium nitrate) exploded. The blast and the subsequent fires killed around 600 and injured an additional 3,500. To this day it remains the worst industrial disaster in U. S. history. Yet the state of Texas does not appear to have learned anything from the infamous 1947 episode and appears even more backward than a third world country.

The explosion in the town of West and what it reveals about its zoning practices is nothing short of disconcerting. Not only were there residences, but also a nursing home and three schools that could and were impacted by the blast from the fertilizer plant. To paraphrase a couple of old movies, “Nukes? We don’t need stinking nukes in Texas, we got plenty of fertilizer plants.”

WestTexasDestructionAnyone that has visited our country’s Western states knows of their libertarian attitude toward restrictions to the lives of their citizens, especially the use of property (e.g. zoning laws). In many places there is either the absence of zoning regulations or the absence of enforcement.

While there is always the possibility of going too far with them, zoning regulations are designed to take advantage of geography, topography, special features, and other natural and manmade local characteristics. The intended result is a more logical use of the land, beautification of the surroundings and most notably safety.

In the East, there is no way that a munitions factory or any other dangerous plant can be placed in the middle of a residential area. Having a fertilizer plant with tons of explosive fertilizer and other dangerous chemicals is similar to having a munitions factory.

Individualism and friendly attitude toward business are well-known characteristics of the state of Texas. These have served the state well during hard economic times. Statistics from the recent economic depression show that Texas gained more jobs than any other state during the current recovery. Governor Perry boasted about this fact during his failed campaign for the GOP candidacy.

What we haven’t heard from Perry or any other Texas official is what the state is going to do to prevent an encore to the fertilizer plant explosion. Chances are that in the improbable case that the plant owners are legally punished for their role in the catastrophe, business as usual will continue in the state.

It is possible that the cause of the fire and explosions will be attributed to violations by the plant operators or even an Act of God. Don’t expect that Texas will violate its long history of individualism, friendliness to business and libertarianism and actually blame the state’s practices and poor safety procedures by the plant owners for the catastrophe.

If governor Perry wants to leave a lasting legacy in the state after he leaves office, he should ask the state legislature to make sure all urban centers in the state, small, medium and large, have zoning laws that protect the citizens. Additionally, that all environmental, zoning and job safety regulations be fully enforced. It’s one thing being friendly to business, but it’s another putting the safety of its citizens, especially first responders, at risk.

Also read:

READ MORE: A common sense solution to gun registration.

READ MORE: Rated most effective in Washington: the gun lobby.

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Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook?

Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook?.

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Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook?


MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., December 14, 2012 – Earlier today we heard that a young man, informally identified as Adam Lanza in his early twenties, shot and killed 26 in an elementary school in Connecticut and at least one other person at a location outside the school. Most of the dead are children. As I write this article with CNN on, we are all learning details of the horrendous crime. If you are keeping count, this is the second such episode this week. A gunman in Oregon killed two persons on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

While we are still sorting through the news, there appears to be some facts that contributed to these mass killings. Regardless of the evidence that will be unearthed in the days and months ahead, there are some facts that are irrefutable.

We are a violent society (sorry for stating the obvious)

Other countries in the world have similar gun laws as we do. Northern European countries depend on a reserve force in case of national emergencies. For that purpose, every able male has to serve in this force, learn how to use fire arms and keep fire arms at home in case he is called. Violent crime and specifically murder by fire arms is a very small portion of what it is in the U. S.

However, there is no other country in the industrialized world that has the rate of crime that we have. We also have very strict laws as proven by us (U. S.) having the highest rate of incarceration (1% of the population) of all these countries. We also are the leading country with regard to people being executed for their crimes. There appears to be no direct correlation between punishment and its deterrence of crime. The perpetrators of mass crimes are obviously not influenced by punishment as they usually take their lives after their massacre.

Some would point out that violence in video games, movies and television may be one of the reasons; however, the same elements exist all over the world except for very poor countries. Others have speculated that our individualistic culture may provide a reason for discrete actions of this type.

Even others have pointed out that the disregard of traditional values has led us into a lawless society in which there are no limits to antisocial behavior. Other countries have also taken actions that disregard traditional values, including religion, without the same results.

Mental and emotional reasons have in the past proven to be the trigger that started some of these episodes. Ironically, our health insurance system is geared to treat mental health as a much lower priority.

Fire arm availability

We are the most armed country in the world. We own over one hundred million fire arms in this country. It is easier to get a gun in some places than to buy a car. While most states have limits on who can buy a gun, the ready availability in the black market defeats these restrictions. Many gun owners keep their guns locked up, but this is not a deterrent to a thief or even a child.

I knew a man that owned many guns. He was a hunter, but overall he was just fascinated with guns. One day he came home and realized he had been robed. He immediately looked at his gun locker and found it still locked. Several weeks later when he was going hunting he opened the locker and found it empty. The thieves had removed the back panel of the locker and had removed all the guns.

So what do you expect? — Hundreds of millions of guns that may be ready for the taking.

What has created this availability of guns?

That question has a very easy answer. The culprits are irrational gun proponents and their champion the National Rifle Association. They oppose even the mildest proposal for gun control.

Being from a different culture, I can’t understand the American adult fascination with fire arms. We all were fascinated with guns when we were children and even young adults, but most of us got past it, like playing with model trains. To me the second amendment should be deleted, like prohibition.

Every time I start thinking about buying a gun, I revert back to what the purpose (and the only purpose) of a gun is, to kill or maim.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, civil engineer, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles – ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket – in 21st Century Pacifist <http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/21st-century-pacifist/> at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.



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Am I missing something? I have been a computer user, programmer, assembler and fervent follower; however, for the life of me I can’t figure out why people have flocked to Facebook. This service today has almost 1 billion registered users.

I asked my wife why she found Facebook so compelling. Her answer was that it provides an easy way to keep current of one’s friends activities, photos, happy moments and sad ones. It is like someone had a bulletin board that everyone can read. I guess this is good reason, but….

I can’t understand how all of sudden the worth of this service, with the upcoming IPO later this month, will become one of the most valuable companies in the US. If I buy stock in this company, what am I really buying? Is there anything tangible that I can point out to that I would get for my investment? Well, some would say, it is the confidence of others that believe that Facebook is a good investment.

I remember in the old days people would ask you to come to their home for dinner and after a few drinks, just when you were getting hungry, they would tell you that they had something extremely valuable to show you. One of the hosts would bring out a towel and a pail of water, at this time you would start thinking that this was some kind of religious ritual. Only after they would dunk the towel in the water and asked you to look in the pail, you would start discovering why you were invited. The water in the pail appeared cloudy, even though you had been told the towel had been laundered with a popular detergent.

At the end you were told that the cloudy part was the residue left by the detergent after the Amway detergent had been used to REALLY clean the towel. At this moment you were supposed to ask the dinner host how could you get into this new marvel of cleaning product, and they would reveal the famous pyramid scheme that many of us were introduced to in the late 70s and early 80s. The idea and value of this scheme was to get many people interested so that they could provide many people selling the product, while you sat on top and collected a percentage.

The Facebook pyramid scheme is a lot more sophisticated. You hear that a friend is in Facebook and if you want to see how they bungee jumped, you would have to join Facebook and become their friend. When you join they collect as much information as they can, and make relations to the other users. You then get a list of the people who belong to Facebook that have one or more coincident experiences with you. Then you are asked to “friend” them. Notice that so far you haven’t been asked to sell detergent; however, your data are now being used by Facebook to expand their worth. As the number of members increase there is more people to push tooth paste, cars, electronics and every type of consumer product. The only thing of value that Facebook has obtained and then mined has been the information that you and the other almost 1 billion users have given them.

I guess that is a good deal if you can get it. It is a win-win situation. You reunite with your high school locker mate and they keep increasing the membership geometrically. The bait here is not a product that you can sell and make money with, but an emotional reward. It doesn’t cost you anything, just your data, and it cost Facebook very little. The “detergent” in this case is provided by you…

The question here is for how long will we continue providing Facebook with the information that makes it so valuable. Read my articles on this subject at http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/21st-century-pacifist/

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Should we learn Chinese?

Should we learn Chinese?.

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Should we learn Chinese?

I recently read an article that while authored by a liberal; it is based on a study done by a conservative.  The author looks at history and statistics for the last centuries, especially the last 40 years to make a parallel between the rise of China after they started implementing a rational economic program and the decline of the US. The result is that we they have caught up and will surpass us in less than 10 years.

While the standard of living of the Chinese populace has increased over 1,000%, ours has remained flat. The blame is put on parasitic economic system in the US. While it also finds that there are some of the same indicators in China, they have appeared to overcome them.

I would have to say that to me the biggest contributors to the apparent decline in our country are the same elements that conservatives hail as the “bases for our affluence”.  For the last 40 years we have given free rein to our corporations and have based our international trade policies on what is good for them, not the workers and the middle class. Open war against our labor organizations (Unions) have also made the contest completely one sided.

We have to return to a manufacturing economy with enough protection for our workers. We also have to provide affordable education to our youth so that they can aspire to the American Dream. Conservative policies that have dispossessed our public universities should not be allowed to continue in the name of free enterprise. Free enterprise only works if citizens are fed and educated. Giving more money, political power and fiscal advantages to the few will not help the many.

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