The Vietnam War – Jim Keul – with the Army Medical Services Corps | News, Sports, Jobs
We learned about Jim Keul from Tracy, his life before the army and his service in Vietnam. Jim grew up in Tracy, Minnesota and graduated with the Tracy High School class of 1962. He attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating in 1966 with a degree in sociology and an ROTC commission as a sub -Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. .
Jim returned to Tracy and worked until reporting for the Basic Medical Service Officers Course in January 1967.
“Went to Fort Sam Houston, Brooke Army Medical Center (San Antonio, TX). I spent about three months there. They lined me up for combat work. It was called an assistant battalion surgeon. It prepared you to be a medical platoon leader and treat and evacuate the wounded.
Jim described his field-based training at Fort Sam.
“We did field work: starting IVs; to kick. We did practical work. We even simulated Dust-Offs – charging helicopters and that sort of thing.
He smiles as he remembers living in the single officers’ quarters (BOQ) at Fort Sam with the other new lieutenants.
“A lot of my buddies had fast cars. It was like an office job. We finished at five o’clock. On weekends, we went to the Officers’ Club; jump in our cars; get off at Padre Island; camp on the island all weekend; and come back. (Jim laughs) It was great to live!
The Army assigned Jim to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
“I got a great job at Fort Monmouth. I was like a low-level hospital systems administrator in Monmouth. I had the Ambulance Section; I had the outpatient department; and I had rural dispensaries. I had maybe forty-five people. It was an eight to five job, although some nights you had to stay in the hospital all night.
He explained that his new assignment involved a lot of on-the-job training.
“Some of them I didn’t particularly like. I was locked in an office and had to write a lot. I came out, however, and thought I could help motivate people. I had some good sergeants. They educated me quickly, ‘Hey, Lieutenant, you don’t mess with us and we’ll cover your ass.’ I have never had a problem. So, I learned the enlisted ranks very early.
Jim’s responsibilities included the outpatient clinic at the Patterson Military Hospital in Fort Monmouth.
“The people I was very close to were at the outpatient clinic. We have taken care of many retired army or military personnel in this region. So a lot of the work was making sure they were comfortable and that we were taking good care of them.
Other responsibilities took Jim and his people to areas off Fort Monmouth.
“I would go out and check my two dispensaries. One was on a small island where there was an anti-aircraft missile site (to defend the New York metropolitan area). We also had to transport people for specialist outpatient care. We would drive a lot of people to Fort Dix. It was part of our ambulance section.
Jim loved his job, but enjoyed his free time even more.
“It was right on the shore of New Jersey. My best friend was a vet there, smart as a whip. Like me, he liked to have fun, (Jim laughs) so we got on well. We had a great little cabin on the shore. We couldn’t afford it, (Jim laughs) but we were great players.
Their apartment just by the shore has become party central.
“There were lots of places right next to our house along the beach. There were all kinds of activities. Asbury Park was just south of us. It was a hot spot.
Sometimes the party left the beach for the nearby big city.
“We went to New York for a bit. We would have free tickets; make an appointment; and go to a Broadway show. We were going to a horse trail and down to Atlantic City.
But all good things must end. Jim’s assignment at Fort Monmouth ended ahead of schedule. He arrived in March 1967 and received reassignment orders in November 1967.
“The colonel could say sometimes that I was having too much fun. When I received my orders from ‘Nam, he said, ‘You know, Keul, for every action there is an equal reaction. You go to ‘Nam.’ (Jim laughs)
Jim wasn’t scared off by orders in Vietnam because he was young and thought he was invincible. He described his trip abroad.
“I had a little home leave and then I took a commercial flight to San Francisco. That’s where I flew from. We were on a commercial flight with some lovely flight attendants. We refueled in Hawaii and then Tan Son Nhut, just outside Saigon.
He remembers landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in early January 1968.
“Oh, the heat and the smell. It was a revelation, let me tell you. They sent us to a replacement depot. We were just hanging out, waiting for orders. When I read mine, that little old lady, sweeping the floor, said, “A lot of VC.” (French for ‘Many Viet Cong’) Of course I didn’t know what”a lot” supposed.”
By the end of January 1968, Jim had learned what “Many VC” could do to his new unit.
The Departmental Museum of Lyon is organizing an exhibition on the impact of the Vietnam War on the department of Lyon. If you would like to share experiences in Vietnam or help with the exhibit, please contact me at prairieview [email protected] or call the museum at 537-6580.