Was a forester by education,
and worked my way through forestry school
with a private forest consultant firm. They paid the bills and I
ran tree-planting crews, hired college kids to do timber stand
mist blowing, timber cruising and logging. Quit college between
junior and senior year to spend two years hitch-hiking around the
Worked for the Austrian Forest
Service then hitch-hiked across Asia.
Ended up living with a band of nomads and rode camels across Syria and
Iraq. Ended up in my first fights for life in the slave markets of
and escaped aboard a Pilgrim Ship bound for India. Sold my blood,
sold liquor licenses to the Moslems, and turned into an outlaw
packages between India and Ceylon.
Ended up broke and sick.
Was a bag of bones, but eventually got
out of Asia on a banana boat headed for Australia. Landed in
totally broke and in the country illegally stayed for some nine
First hitch-hiked across the Aussie outback. Ended up living with
hobo types in Sydney, then hitch-hiked up to Queensland, and got a job
with their Forest Commission. Fought fires and did some real outback
stuff. Later hitchhiked to Victoria and was an Assistant Park
with their National Parks Authority. Finally the Immigration
got on to me, and gave me two days to leave the country. I ended
up in New Zealand and talked my way into another classic job. I
a deer culler. A professional hunter. My only task was to
as many deer, pigs, Chamois, Thar, and goats as I could. Deer were the
most important of the animals hunted. I'd shoot anywhere from two
to twelve deer a day. For sport the government hunters would run
down wild boars and kill them with only a knife.
It was a great period and I
made some life long N.Z.friends who would
one day come up to visit me in Alaska when I'd work for the U.S. Fish
Wildlife Service and shoot some mighty big moose.
Then one day in the wilds of
New Zealand, a helicopter came in to deliver
mail, basic foodstuff and ammo. A letter saying I was selected to
start smoke jumper training in Oregon was in the mailbag. It was
then I had to make a fork in the road type decision. My New
hunting pals told me to stay. My partner said, "Troop you go back
to America, you'll end up getting drafted, and have some dumb asshole
you to go die needlessly in that Vietnam thing". It was
The option I considered other than smoke jumping was to go to New
and hunt crocodiles.
The ice was forming on the
edges of the New Zealand Rivers making them
very dangerous to cross. So, I ended up in Oregon, as a rookie
Then I decided to go back east to finish my last year of forestry
As spring came the Army sent me my, "come and get your draft physical",
letter. At the physical they told me to expect to get drafted on
June 7th 67, because I was graduating from college on June 6th. I
was all signed up for my second season of smoke jumping. I told
that I didn't mind getting drafted, but could they draft me in
Anyway the only way to beat
the draft was to join some military service
that agreed to let me have a delayed entry date. The marines were
the only ones willing to do this. Hence my first good deal.
I got to jump the summer of 67 and entered the crotch that fall.
There is no way I would have
just gone down and joined the Marine Corps.
It took the furry of the sixties, and complete ignorance of anything
Vietnam. It was a blind trust, that the U.S. Government was a good
and must know a hell of a lot more about what they were doing than the
college kids with big cars and well-rehearsed opinions.
Well, it ended up being the
most interesting of all my life's experiences,
even though I really did have a great life. After the war I went
back for 25 years of smoke jumping, some 524 smoke jumps, and I built
Most, looking at my lot in
life would probably conclude, that I haven’t
amounted to a hill of beans. However, I feel like I never did do
a days work in my whole damn life. It always was a great
and of all the folks I know I honestly think no one laughed more or
had more fun with all the strange characters, that I got to hang out
I'm presently married to a
young South East Asian lady, 30 years younger
than myself. We have a great little boy; 18 months old. I
this is my favorite of all times in life. I thank her each and
day for marrying me, and she is such a sweetheart. She
everything, and we laugh hard every day. In four years of marriage, not
one bad day yet.
As far as Platoon Commanders
go: Lt. Wayne Halland was the head
of the 2nd Platoon when I got there. Lt. C.V. Taylor was the
Both those guys were good and the troops really respected and liked
Wayne Halland was a little rock of a guy, tough as a nail and really a
Lt. Encinata was the Plt.
Cmdr. of the 3rd herd before I got there.
The troops used to tell me how they tried several times to frag
They really didn't tell me this for quite some time, so I don't think
were trying to tell me a big story or lay out warnings for anything or
me like that. It was always a funny story, and the whole platoon
roared when they'd tell me the stories. He was gone before I got
there, so I really would have liked to meet him, but never did.
S/Sgt. Millsap was my Plt.
Sgt. and he was the Plt. Cmdr. just before
I showed up. He was certainly the real leader of the
Sort of a tough, but look out for the guys, old mother hen type.
I was just out of the Basic School and was certainly nothing to write
about. In fact I graduated either 3ed or 9th from the bottom of a
class of some 300. So I was real doubtful. S/Sgt Millsap
a great molder of officers. For whatever reason he assumed I must
have been smart or was at least what the Marine Corps had screened to
an Officer, and he treated me as an officer. I liked and respected him
and we sort of ran the platoon together. The troops liked the way
we were together, and I think that everyone felt comfortable. It
was a very easy on me type situation.
When Sgt. Millsap left, I
remember I really felt lonely, and worried
a bit about things for a while. But!!! Tom Millsap had trained me
well and I actually felt like an officer after two months with
After a month or so I got another great Plt. Sgt.. S/Sgt. Joe
McKnight. He became a very, very good friend of mine and the
was a very at home place to be. He eventually made Sgt. Major.
After Wayne Halland left Lt.
Phil Messer took over the 2ed Platoon.
Lt. Sam Meale had the 1st. Plt. What few men realized is that
Sam and Phil were All State basketball players during their high school
days. Both great, great friends of mine who I treasured each
When Phil Messer got wounded,
Lt. Doug Bergeron took over the 2ed Plt.
Lt. Bergeron was killed fairly quickly. A Corporal Watkins took
the 2ed Plt., and I must say he handled that Platoon as well, if not
than any officer I ever met. I took him aside one time and
begged him to put in for the officer program. If anyone ever
have been an officer it certainly should have been him.
Messer came back and took over the 2nd. Plt. after he healed up from
Lt. Mike Brock took over the
3rd herd after I left. Then a Lt.
Gardener fairly soon after that.
Phil Messer became a Marine
Jet Pilot after Vietnam, then stayed in
the Reserves, and ended up A full Bird. Mike Brock stayed in and
was a Lt. Col about ten years ago, and may have made full bird.
Sam Meale, as you know has
had a very successful career with the DEA.
When I had returned to be a smokejumper some fed came and asked for a
for Sam. He was trying to get on with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and
folks in 1970. Easy to see how that guy was so successful.
He was just smooth and a darned straight shooter.