I was a Senior majoring in wildlife management at the University of Georgia. I lived in Tucker Hall, a dormitory consisting mainly of Agricultural and Forestry students. The evening of the lottery, everyone was crowded around a radio. There must have been twenty guys all crowded into a small dorm room with me. We all knew our whole future was about to be announced over the radio. I didn’t have to wait long for my number. Like most, I just got up and left once I heard by birthdate called. The next morning the guy with September 14 birthdate posted a big number 1 on his dorm room door.
Until that December I had planned to enter graduate school immediately upon graduation. Instead I started looking for a way to keep from being drafted. I soon learned that the services were not looking for additional candidates for OCS without ROTC backgrounds. You really had to pull some strings to get into the National Guard or Reserves, and I didn’t have any strings to pull. Due to a severe bout with mononucleosis my graduation date was delayed until December 1970. I flunked my first physical in the spring of ’70 due to the mononucleosis, so kept my II-S student deferment until December. By October of ’70, I had passed a physical and knew I would be drafted immediately upon graduation.
Running out of options and not wanting to be drafted into the infantry, I went to talk to a recruiter. The Army had a delayed entry program that enabled you to join for 3 years and pick a military occupation specialty versus being drafted for 2 with no choice of specialties. After testing I asked the recruiter what I qualified for. He said, “Anything, just look at this list and pick one.” I picked several like soil technician and meteorology that seem to at least vaguely relate to my education but none of these had “slots” available. Finally, in frustration I just went down the list and picked the school with the longest training, hoping the war would be over by the time I finished training. The specialty I picked happened to be “Avionics Mechanic”.
Little did I know that picking that specialty guaranteed my trip to Vietnam. It seems all the Army’s aircraft were there at the time and any avionics work that was needed stateside was done by civilian contractors. By August 1971 I was at a small airbase in the middle of an old rubber plantation in Lai Khe, Vietnam. While I admit I never wanted to be there, I would take nothing for the experience (nor would I ever want to experience it again).