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Alan Burke Buckelew

biography

I was born in Long Beach, California in December 1948. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood with lots of kids to play with. At 5, I met what was to become my best friend; we are still close to this day 67 years later.
I attended Millikan High School in Long Beach and then UCLA. After my first year at UCLA I decided to enlist in the Army. It was a difficult decision, but one that I am proud of taking. I volunteered for the draft, so my service was for two years.
My Army career began in early January 1969. My basic and AIT training was at Fort Ord, California. Like all new recruits I took a number of tests the first week in the Army. As the tests continued, the number of participants dwindled until there was just me and one other new soldier left. Having done well on all their tests, I began to anticipate that I might have an interesting assignment (MOS) after basic was completed.
When the time came at the end of basic to learn of our next assignment, I read the list of names of my platoon mates and was disheartened to learn that the advance training assignments had been determined, not by the initial testing, but alphabetically – “A” through “S” were assigned to 11B (infantry) and “T” through “Z” with other assignments.
Following advanced infantry training (AIT) I was sent to Cam Ranh Bay for my next assignment. After three days of processing I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, 1st of the 14th Infantry, Company B. The 4th ID was centered near Pleiku in the central highlands of South Vietnam. Pleiku was near the boarders of Laos and Cambodia. I spent one week with Company B before being reassigned to the battalion RECON platoon, call Fox Force. My Company B teammates warned me that the Fox Force guys were crazy as they always wore bright Red scarves. I soon learned what an honor it was to be given a Fox Red Scarf; like all my teammates, I still have mine.
I was apprehensive about joining Fox Force, but soon realized that they were an elite group of soldiers that had a stellar record. In the year I spent in Vietnam, Fox suffered no KIA’s and only one WIA. We were careful and stealthy; we were never ambushed, and successfully carried out our missions.
Our most memorable battle was the battle of St. George when on November 6, 1969 a group of over 30 NVA sappers attacked firebase St. George. Many of the Fox team were directly involved in repelling the sappers and a number of us received commendations for our efforts. Just one month later we found a NVA bunker complex while on an Eagle mission. While we were evaluating the scale of the bunker complex, a spotter plane informed us that a full regiment of NVA was closing on our position. With only 20 of us against 150 NVA, Air Force jets were called in to give us the opportunity to escape. We directed the jet’s bombing runs. The NVA were so close to us that the bombs dropped by the jets covered our team with dirt. We were fortunate to escape with our lives that December day.
I departed Vietnam in early June 1970, arriving home a day after my father’s birthday. I was awarded the CIB, Air Medal and two Bronze Stars. Following a 30 day leave, I was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado where I finished my two years, leaving the Army on December 23, 1970.
In January 1971 I returned to UCLA and completed my undergraduate studies. It was an interesting time, as anti-war demonstrations were still very common. I found it best to look forward and not focus on my time in the Army. I found that I could compartmentalize my military experience and move on.
Following graduation, I was accepted to the Graduate School of Management at UCLA, where I received an MBA two years later. I was fortunate to find a great career in the cruise industry that lasted for over 40 years.
Twenty years after I returned home from Vietnam, I received a letter from one of my Fox Force teammates. He had located about 15 of the Fox team and in August 2000 he hosted our first reunion. I remember that a few weeks prior to the reunion we were having a party at our home. My wife mentioned that we would soon be going to my first reunion. Most of my friends didn’t even know I had served in the military and when asked what it was like I replied that I had a very uneventful tour of duty with few enemy encounters. When the reunion finally arrived I was shocked to hear my old buddies talk about the many firefights we had – they all came back to me as we discussed them. Before the reunion I truly believed my tour was an uneventful one – the power of the mind to shut away the uncomfortable!
We have been meeting annually ever since. We are a disparate group of individuals that have one thing in common – our military service and our time in Fox Force. We are all great friends and true brothers.
While I wish all the losses and damage caused by the Vietnam never happened, I’m proud of my service and am happy to have served.

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