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Shootout at Long Binh Finance-East
Ready on the Right ...
Ready at the Clearing Barrel

The shootout at Long Binh Finance-East
© Copyright (1997) by Jay Brown

 

Phu Loi, 1971 - I was a W1 helicopter pilot assigned to HHT, 3/17th Air Cav, flying out of Phu Loi. During this time I was given numerous additional duties. From mid-October 1971 until I moved over to the Deans, one of these duties was Class A agent/Piaster conversion officer. I always considered that a classy sounding name for pay officer. This meant that once or twice a month I got to take my huey down to Long Binh Finance-east, collect three payrolls, carry the money and pay vouchers to such exotic places as Nui Ba Den and Dau Tieng and pay the soldiers and exchange MPC for Piaster.
      The usual ritual went something like, fly down to one of the airfields or helipads at Long Binh, hitch a ride or walk to Finance and check in with the clerks there. While they were putting the payrolls together I'd walk across the empty lot in front of the finance office to a Japanese restaurant, The Mandarin House, to enjoy a civilized meal, then come back and wait outside until they called me in to sign for a lot of money.
      The normal practice before entering any office type building was to walk up to a 55-gallon barrel filled with sand and planted in the ground near the entrance with a sign that said, "Clear all weapons here before entering." Of course, to most folks that meant, aim your weapon at the sand while removing any rounds from the chamber and unloading. I had just returned to the finance office after eating on one of my many trips and was lying in the sun on the concrete steps, feeling warm, comfortable and sleepy. I noticed a new in country "Tee Wee" walking toward the entrance. Everyone assembled at the finance office waiting for payrolls knew this was a new guy from the shine on his not even close to being broken in jungle boots.
      As the 2LT was about to enter the building someone off to one side said, "Sir, you need to clear your weapon before you go in," and pointed at the barrel. The lieutenant didn't say a word, just walked over to the barrel, read the sign, looked at the barrel, re-read the sign, then removed his .45. About this time my heavy eyelids were gaining the upper hand and I was drifting into a catnap when the air was split by the sound of gunfire. I, and everyone around, bailed for whatever cover was immediately available as the shooting continued at a strange, measured pace. I hit the ground next to the concrete steps, snuggled into the corner and peeped over the ledge forming the steps with trusty .38 drawn, cocked and ready. There at the gun clearing barrel was the 2LT, totally oblivious to the excitement he had generated, calmly firing his .45, sending each and every round neatly into the barrel.

Jay Brown

 
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