Marine Corps Base Quantico --
Noncommissioned officers from Headquarters and Service Battalion met at The Clubs at Quantico to for a professional military education event about the Vietnam War, which stretched from 1955 to 1973.
Bill Peters, a retired Marine major and docent at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, talked with the NCOs for approximately an hour, explaining the history behind the conflict, the difficulties of operating in a jungle environment and what it was like for Marines when they came home from the war.
“I don’t want to see guys hurt relearning this lesson,” Peters told the Marines. “Take training here serious s. It could save your life one day.”
Peters began the training with a brief history lesson of South East Asia, starting with the French’s involvement after World War II. He then explained to the Marines how U.S. involvement grew from a few hundred advisors to hundreds of thousands of troops after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, in which it was believed that North Vietnamese forces fired on U.S. Naval vessels. This incident prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to authorize aerial bombing of North Vietnam and the use of conventional ground forces to protect the fledgling South Vietnamese government.
Peters then went on to describe the tactical difficulties of operating in a rural Vietnam. After showing a picture of a wide open rice paddy on a projection screen, he asked the Marines what they would do if they took direct fire while traversing the paddy. While the Marines pondered the problem, Peters then showed them how one walks through a rice paddy in order to avoid getting stuck. Demonstrating the heal-to-toe motion, he again asked the Marines what they would do. Adding one final layer to the problem set, he told the Marines they could not call for fire because the field artillery unit was tracking friendlies in the area. Peters again asked what they would do.
Peters then went on to describe the living conditions for Marines in Vietnam and what deployments were like before the luxuries of cell phones and the Internet. It took two weeks to get letters from home Peters told the audience. Two weeks to resolve conflicts, two weeks to find out your little sister had gotten married or that your kid brother made the varsity soccer team.
The presentation closed with a description of the politically charged context in which the war was fought. Peters talked about he and his Marines reading about mass anti-war demonstration in Stars and Stripes and what it was like to come home to people calling them baby killers and spitting on them. Petters told the Marines its part of why he does these talks, to correct the record about Vietnam era veterans — telling them they were not what Hollywood choose to portray in movies.
The presentation the war a different perspective said Sgt. Clevon Clark, a fitness report screener at Man Power and Reserve Affairs. “It’s one thing to see pictures, but it’s different because he [Peters] took the pictures.”