History of Charley Company

709th Maintenance Bn.

from December 1966 until Jan 1967

By Capt Frank Szustak

The 709th Maintenance Battalion was activited in early 1966 at Ft. Riley, Ks.  Headquarters and A Company along with B Company, Aircraft Maintenance and E Company, Forward Support were the first companies activited.  Lt.Col. Sterling Post was the designated Battalion Commander.  His XO was Major Ivan Labree.  The material office was headed by Major Ed Chick.
In April 1966, Capt. Frank Szustak assumed command of Charlie Company whose mission it was to support the 1st Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division.  When Capt. Szustak arrived to take command of Charlie Company there was nothing there but himself.  Subsequently, he was given facilities near the First Brigade location and began receiving personnel and TO&E material.  Very early on it was rumored that the Division would be deployed to Vietnam.  This appeared an insurmountable task as there were very few cadre assigned to Charlie Company.  The First Sgt. was Joe E. Lee, a non-deployable E-8.  The next senior NCO was an E-5, also non-deployable.  The EM's being assigned to Charlie Company were mostly draftees who had just completed AIT.  These individuals for the most part were highly skilled soldiers.  Some others that were assigned to Charlie Company were "retreads" who earlier had gotten in trouble at Headquarters Company or E-Company.  During the months April 66 until mid-October, the company was involved in receiving and processing new equipment, establishing an ASL, training for deployment and providing direct support maintenance to the First Brigade.  Around August or Sept., Charlie Company was assigned an experienced maintenance EM by the name of Sgt. Radford Merideth, a career soldier with extensive experience who was key to the subsequent success of the unit's mission requirements in Vietnam.  By Thanksgiving time, all organic equipment was packed and shipped to Vietnam.  The new First Sgt., Melvin Conover joined the unit just days before its departure via train to Oakland Army Terminal in Calif.  Like Sgt. Merideith, First Sgt. Conover was a God-send and was considered on of the best First Sgt.'s around.

The deployment by train was a new experience for all the military.  The train pulled into the Oakland Army Terminal where we disembarked and went to our assigned berthing in the U.S. Naval Ship called the Upsure.  The voyage lasted about three weeks and some of the soldiers became violently seasick and vowing never to come back to the US by Ship. Subsequently during the next several  months, the Unit was involved in building quarters, shop areas, and improving the area.  The Unit was in direct srt of the First Brigade whose missions continually required them to operate in locations some distance from Bearcat.  Charlie Company always accompanied the First Brigade with all of its TO&E equipment including its full compliments of spare parts. 

All of the enlisted men and officers performed their mission in an outstanding manner.  There were few matters of discipline.  Some of the key officers and NCO's were as follows:  Lts. Jack Delong, Bob Gregoire, Steve Couch, and Jerry Swallows.  The Warrent Officers that were criticals were Charlie Hughes and Frank Neal.  NCO's who were instrumental were Sgts. Pedigo-supply, Chronister-mess Sgt., Carrothers.  Other enlisted men included Specialts Urso, Foley, Oconnel, Ferrell, Morgan, Curry and many others who performed in an outstanding manner.

Thank You Frank for helping the 709th Maint. Bn.

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Dean W. Ayres


page started February 27, 2005

Page updated