CW 4 Robert "Heavy" Boyles
My Vietnam Mentor and Friend
By Joe L. Talley

Long before the US Army had a "fat boy" program, they had fat boys. One of those was the mentor for a new warrant officer beginning in 1967 and continuing even until this day, many years after we have long left the service. When I met him he was a CW2 and had been in the army much longer than I and took me under his wing. He was the maintenance warrant officer and I the PBO of the new unit that was being organized at Fort Sill to be deployed to Vietnam. We had several months of preparation before departure and he used this time to keep me humble by telling me all the things I was doing wrong and how to correct them. The most memorable event during this time was when he helped me get my dress blues ready for the officers "formal" party. I was so proud and looked quite good until arriving at the party and being told by the battalion executive officer that I did not have my brass on correctly, when in fact I had completely forgotten my rank insignias.

When the equipment was ready to be shipped, he along with several of his mechanics, took it to the port and accompanied it to Vietnam. I really missed him during that month, and was relieved to see him waving from the deck at Danang. He got the equipment off loaded and shortly afterwards we made a "show of force" road march to Dong Ha.

The monsoon seasons was upon us when we arrived at Dong Ha and we lived in the mud for the first couple of months. Each day our position improved and after we got the "troops" in shelter he and I started working on our "hooch". He was the architect, on site engineer, and construction foreman, and I was the procurement specialist and "holder" of the boards, tape measure and his "boy", but soon we also were in the dry and it felt good. The third occupant of the "hooch" was the personnel warrant and the best I remember he did nothing toward the construction but came by daily to check on the progress.

After 6-7 months we were living fairly good and had obtained a few item's to make our lives tolerable in the hostile environment. When I went south to obtain supplies for the battalion I tried to bring a little extra for him and while I was a away he improved on the hooch. And of course when his wife sent us the melted fudge he shared that with me. However I well remember how he rationed it (fudge) out so it would last longer.

On several occasions we went to Danang together and took turns being the lead vehicle with the standard joke that the lead was clearing the road of any mines, and even on one occasion we passed the mine sweep team as we were in a hurry and could not wait on them.

After the Tet offense in 1968 he and I went to Quang Tri to see the destruction and take pictures without any regard for our own safety. I suppose we had the mind-set that we were infallible even though death was all around us. There is no telling how many times we were in the "cross hairs", missed the mines, or dodged the rockets. Crazy warrants will do most anything, I suppose.

Our long talks late into the night, coupled with the day to day activities made us a team and inseparable for those 11 months, and of course you are wondering why only 11 months -- it was because he got to count his trip on the equipment ship as duty in country and was able to leave one month before me. The longest month of my life and probably the most scared time as my friend "Heavy" was not by my side. When I ran for cover he was not waiting for me in the bunker to tease me or chastise me, depending on his mood, as he had done for the previous months. No more fudge, no more talks and no more advice. It was just me and the elements and the short-time calendar to mark the days when we would renew "old friendship".

Today he lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and we talk regularly on the phone. He is still dispensing his advice and still laying claim to my success in life. He will not be at the reunion this year as he has another commitment, but those days that we spent together will never be forgotten.

Thank You, CW 4 Robert "Heavy" Boyles, for being what you are. A true friend through the ages.

CW 4 Joe L. Talley