MILITARY CIVIC ACTION IN THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
Editor's note: This is the fourth article from the field in a continuing program begun so that the voice of the field operator can be heard. This month Mr. Nguyen Van Thanh, Civic Action Liaison Officer at Phan Rang AB, expresses his views and a few do's and don'ts when initiating a Military Civic Action project.
Civic Action was started in 1962. At that time, the US Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam established their medical teams in each province. About 1966, a larger number of US Forces were sent to South Vietnam at the request of the Vietnamese government, to assist us in this war. In other countries, such as Turkey, Thailand, the Philippines and Korea, all assistance was given after the war was over, but in Vietnam, the US military reacted differently. The US Forces were asked to help while fighting a war. This was called Military Civic Action.
What is Military Civic Action? It is the use of military forces on projects benefiting the population and enhancing the relationship of the military forces with the Vietnamese civilian community. The projects are in fields such as Education, Public Works, Health and Sanitation, Agriculture, Sports, and others, contributing to the economic and social development of Vietnam.
Why do we need your help? In the US military, we have found certain capabilities, which we do not have, and which are necessary for development of national resources, leadership, technical skills, and people who are willing to do the job in Civic Action. We cannot do this job alone. But, we do not wish you to change the Vietnamese way of life. You can improve it, if the Vietnamese people desire to improve, by the strength of your intentions to assist them, and by your sincerity to work with them. This will help to improve your relationship with the Vietnamese people.
How are Vietnamese people involved in Military Civic Action? They are involved in two ways: First, and most important; if they are able and desire to, they can participate in Civic Action projects. Second, if they cannot participate for any reason, they might suggest ideas as to how Civic Action can help. But, in this respect, the US Civic Action personnel should be kept to a minimum. The projects must be initiated by the people, and the Government of Vietnam. US personnel should only be assisting in the background.
The US Air Force Civic Action Program has progressed from nothing, three years ago, to a very influential factor in Vietnam today. Not only is progress being made in national development around the air bases, but all over South Vietnam.
To complete a Civic Action project, there are four basic principles which can be applied everywhere.
1) The Base Civic Action project should be part of the Government of Vietnam's Pacification Program.
2) The project must be kept simple, so that the local populace can handle it by themselves, and carry on the project after US Forces depart.
3) The local populace must participate in the project, and no project should be initiated and then not completed.
4) Beware of the corrupt, the individual who might take advantage of a Civic Action project for his own benefit. The project should be beneficial to a larger number of the population.
Mr. Nguyen Van Thanh
Civic Action Liaison Officer
Phan Rang Air Base
Republic of Vietnam
FROM THE FIELD
Tuy Hoa AB
Acting for the Tuy Hoa MCA Team, the 20th Special Operations Squadron continues work in the Ban Me Thuot area with the construction of a three room addition to a school at Buon Ea Niaeh. The Tuy Hoa Team is supplying most of the materials for the school, while the Vietnamese are providing the majority of the labor.
Work on the Dong Xuan irrigation canal continues. Final revisions seem to have been concluded on this project and all materials have been supplied by the GVN, US Army and Tuy Hoa MCA. The local Vietnamese should begin work shortly on the 700 meter canal which will irrigate approximately 110 hectares of land. Presently the land yields one rice crop per year. Upon completion of the canal, the land will be able to yield three crops per year.
Additionally, work began on the Tho Vuc dispensary. This is a joint project in every respect; both the GVN and the people of Tho Vuc hamlet have provided materials for construction along with the materials provided by Tuy Hoa MCA. All labor will be provided by local Vietnamese.
Rounding out activities in the area of health, the MCA Team supplied the Phu Yen Province hospital with a large quantity of medicines -- another step towards improving the health of the local Vietnamese as well as enhancing community relations.
Good news at Pleiku! After a long, anxious wait, the three rice mills destined for selected Montagnard hamlets have arrived. The mills are a part of a joint GVN/CORDS/7AF project to help the Montagnards become more productive in their food production techniques. By using the machines to husk and clean their rice, the Montagnards will increase their production efficiency by 300 - 500 percent both in working time and quantity of usable rice. The houses for the mills are presently being built by the Montagnards at each of the three selected villages. The Pleiku MCA Team is providing cement and lumber for the houses. The rice mills were bought in Japan with funds from the sale of Montagnard cross-bows.
Another big Vietnamese effort continues with additional construction of 68th Regional Forces housing. Two more buildings with latrines were completed during March by members of the 68th. Pleiku MCA is providing cement, roofing and lumber. The main dependent housing is at a standstill due to a lack of cement. This problem should be eliminated in late April when the Tan Son Nhut Team ships 6,000 bags to Pleiku.
Rounding out Program activity is the completion of the Ethnic Minorities building. The building will serve as a headquarters for the League of Montagnard Peoples, a recently formed group of Jarai tribesmen who are acting to form a channel of communications between the Montagnards and the GVN. Thus the completion of another Vietnamese initiated and US assisted project moves a step farther in making the Montagnards a part of the greater Vietnamese society.
Phan Rang AB
The Thap Cham water system drew closer to completion when the MCA Team delivered two 350 gallon per minute, gas driven water pumps to the An Son Village Chief. The two pumps were the remaining critical items to be supplied for project completion. However, problems are plaguing the villagers in their efforts to dig a well for the water system. At the bottom of the well is a layer of rock. Despite blasting by MACV Team 45 engineers, the rock has not been completely penetrated. It appears that a canal from the river to the well may be the only practical solution.
In addition to the water system, hamlet administration, education and youth projects head the active program areas. In a move to help strengthen local government, the MCA Team is providing materials to build eight hamlet headquarters. Additional classrooms and school furniture accounted for another eight projects. In activities with youth groups, cloth was given to RD Cadre officials to make uniforms for several hundred RD youths. Construction of a Boy Scout clubhouse and two Information Centers at Phuoc Dong Hamlet and An Hoi Village rounded out an extremely busy month for the Phan Rang Team.
Phu Cat AB
Plans for refugee assistance in fiscal year 71 include construction of 150 houses in areas around Phu Cat AB. In preparation for such a project, the Phu Cat MCA Team has provided materials for a model 7-house unit. Local Vietnamese are providing the labor as they will for all 150 houses to be built in the coming months.
Additionally, two brick presses and 100 bags of cement were airlifted to Vinh Quang Island in Tuy Phuoc District by the Qui Nhon Support Command as a part of a training program to teach RD Cadre and villagers how to make cement-clay bricks. The bricks will be used to build a school at Vinh Quang. Skills taught the RD Cadre will be used along with the brick presses many times again in projects throughout Binh Dinh Province.
Construction of a 200 man barracks for the Binh Dinh Peoples Self Defense Force Training Center began in late March. Materials to be provided are cement, lumber, rebar and brick presses. PSDF members trained at the Center will be converted to Regional Forces after completing training or used to guard GVN offices.
One continuing and very important project at Phu Cat is the nurse's aid training given at the MCA dispensary. Such a training project has a great deal more meaning than simple humanitarian gestures. It reaches the heart of the problem confronting MCA -- teaching the Vietnamese self-reliance.
Bien Hoa AB
Education is the main area of activity in a real busy program. Additions to schools, a comprehensive program of general repair and an expanding Dollars for Scholars Program make for a full day for the MCA Team and a host of Unit Coordinators.
Additionally, work with the Chieu Hoi Center continues; Vietnamization of MEDCAPS is progressing satisfactorily; 2.5 miles of road repairs were accomplished by Red Horse members and ARVN Rangers; and water supply projects in Bien Hoa Province and at Song Be will provide a source of clean water for the people of two hamlets.
Of special significance is a project to build 54 homes for Armed Propaganda Teams and their families. The project began in early March and, to date, 12 houses have been completed. The MCA Team will furnish lumber, roofing and paint. Members of the Armed Propaganda Teams will provide part of the construction materials and all the labor. As at other bases, the MCA Program at Bien Hoa is expanding. This expansion is a continuing effort to reach a greater part of the Vietnamese society in teaching self-reliance.
Da Nang AB
Improvement of VNAF dependent housing continued, bringing the total of houses under construction to 21. This is a self-help effort by the VNAF with the MCA Team providing much of the materials.
Along with the VNAF housing, homes for refugees is a growing program area. During March, 75 names were submitted to the Village Council as prospective recipients of aid. Five have been approved to date with the Vietnamese providing labor.
Additionally, education and youth programs round out the more active program areas. Youth scholarships, new classrooms, and school repairs due to battle damage account for a great deal of activity at our northernmost area of operation.
The 4T Program is progressing even better than anticipated. The 4T training school at Hoa Phat is nearing completion while in Can Dau Hamlet plans are firm now for a club house and a basketball court. Youth programs are on the increase throughout the RVN. The 4T efforts at Da Nang are a few of many of the positive efforts toward building leadership for Vietnam's future.
Tan Son Nhut AB
Construction of a 2.5 mile road at Cho Hiep heads the list of projects for this month. The Cho Hiep road leads into the pineapple growing section of Binh Chanh and is the principle route to market. Since the GVN is relocating several thousand people into this area, a usable road is doubly important. Presently the road surface is so poor that its use as a route to market is impossible. Tan Son Nhut MCA will get the project moving with crushed rock, laterite and asphalt petroleum. The ARVN will provide all labor and heavy equipment.
Additionally, completion of the Saigon Chieu Hoi Center and the Xuan Thoi Dang hamlet office, a land improvement project for a recreation area and equipment for six volleyball courts highlight this month's activities.
The outlook for the Tan Son Nhut Program is one of considerable expansion. The Civic Action Council recently approved 80 projects to begin in the final quarter of fiscal year 70 -- an aggressive program aimed at greater involvement of GVN and RVNAF officials.
Cam Ranh Bay AB
VNAF efforts to rebuild 70 of their homes destroyed by fire during Tet at Nha Trang are progressing well. Manufacture of concrete blocks is underway at the housing site. To keep the block crews working it has been necessary to move 2,000 bags of cement from Phan Rang to Nha Trang in VNAF trucks. If all goes as planned, all 70 houses will be completed by 1 November 1970.
Additionally, the education program continued with a "Dollars for Scholars" drive to provide scholarships for the 70-71 school year. The 608 MASS will direct the program.
Education got an added boost both in Cam Ranh City and Dalat with additions to the schools as well as a potable water supply for the high and elementary schools in Dalat.
The most recent assist to education at Cam Ranh is a five classroom school in Ba Ngoi. Materials will be provided by the Base MCA Team; all common and skilled labor will be provided by the Vietnamese. The school will serve the special needs of refugee children.
Binh Thuy AB
The accent is on youth at our southernmost base. Long standing plans for a scouting unit in the Phong Phu District reached fruition in March when the District Chief officially established a scouting unit for over 600 boys and girls. The Binh Thuy MCA Team provided lumber, cement, bricks and paint for a meeting house; the GVN provided the land and roofing. Three weeks after the unit was established, the scouts were working in a new meeting hall complete with tables, benches and a ping pong table -- thanks to the good efforts of local Popular Force soldiers.
Work with youth continues at the Renaissance University Student House, An Thanh hamlet, where students are installing lights in study rooms. The VNAF and the MCA Team will provide the wiring and electrical fixtures. The students will provide all labor with technical advice from the USAF.
Also, Red Horse participation in MCA may have literally been a "lifesaver." The Red Horse commander inspected the dormitory at Can Duc Ba Orphanage and determined that the building lacked structural integrity. Braces were immediately made and installed to strengthen the walls. The roof is being redesigned and will be rebuilt from excess materials. Assisting the Vietnamese laborers are men of the 1880th Communications Squadron, who donated monies to pay Vietnamese skilled labor.