The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Sergeant Erwin L. Kuling, U.S. Army 1967-1978


Just before graduating from high school, Erwin Lee Kuling (Lee) and other seniors took a week off from school and likely did some things they weren’t supposed to do. It significantly irritated the administrators of the school who told Lee and group that they would have to go through their senior year again if they wanted to graduate. Lee talked it over with his Dad. The options were to get a job or join the Army.

His father drove him to Casper, Wyo. His father signed the papers approving early admission, and Lee was enlisted. Next was a trip to Denver for the physical examination and more paperwork. After clearing all the requirements, Lee and others immediately got on a bus for El Paso, Tex. – where Fort Bliss is located. A ten hour bus ride, one stop for a meal and relief!

The welcoming committee was present when the new guys arrived. Lee picked up some new words then and many of they were stated loudly! The group of trainees was taken to a large room where the usual speech was given…”if you have any weapons or contraband, get rid of it NOW “. A line formed up and things were tossed into the amnesty barrel.

In-processing is quite a day for new people. Haircuts, a new place to live, a new place to eat, new clothes, and new friends. Lee was on the third floor of a three story building. He said fire drills were not so easy. (At this point, the Army was getting rid of the WWII barracks and building new brick facilities.)

In the basic training piece, everything went well. The rifle ranges were near White Sands, NM. The forced marches were brutal in the sun, but not so bad in the night. He still remembers the final tactical test of low-crawling along the dirt and under concertina wires while machine gun fire brings bullets over one’s self.

Lee graduated and was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, MO. This base trains new people in several disciplines, including engineering. Here Lee was familiarized with what heavy equipment looked like and what it could do. He trained on scrapers, bull-dozers, maintainers, big trucks, etc. He said that for being just a kid, he got pretty good at it. And, in time, graduation exercises were held and he was assigned to the Republic of Viet Nam.

On the plane trip, there was cold beer offered,. As the plane closed in on the landing site, the crew shut off the air conditioner to help the men adjust to their new climate. After arriving he became a member of the 62nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade.

In Viet Nam, near Lon-Bin, his unit did the dirt-work for several facilities including gymnasiums, roadways, etc. The schedule was sun-up to sun-down. He drove a water truck that sprayed the ground to keep the dust down. He also learned the water purification tasking. He then found out there was an opening in the administration area for a postal clerk, and he did that job as well.

After a year being in-country, he was sent back to the US and to Fort Bragg, NC. This is the home of the Eighteenth Airborne Corps. Lee volunteered for another tour in Viet Nam. He was back in the 62nd Eng Bn, Their assignment changed from being a construction unit to one responsible for land clearing. They cleared jungle and plowed through quite a share of Agent Orange. The unit would go out into the field for 6 weeks at a time. The dozers they used were huge and powerful. The cabs of the dozers we covered with steel and wire to keep the drivers safe. At one time, the men found craters that were in the area. The water in the craters was crystal clear. It was not unusual to see three dozers parked nearby and the operators swimming!

While clearing roads, a pre-planted bomb blew off near Lee’s dozer. When the smoke cleared and help arrived, both of Lee’s legs were broken. He got to a hospital and finally was loaded onto an Air Force jet and rode with a plane-full of other injured men and women to the US. One of the stops coming back was at Anchorage, AK. The plane carried cargo that had to be dropped off. When the plane landed and the back door dropped, the cold air hit the injured people…yikes!

At long last, he arrived back home in Wyoming. After some re-hab and healing he was deemed “good to go”. His enlistment time was up. One of his next stops was the recruiter’s office where he re-enlisted. And from Wyoming, he was sent directly to Viet Nam for a third time! He was again a heavy-equipment operator. This time he helped train local nationals on operation of the equipment. Fortunately, this tour was about 6 months long and he came back the America.

Following Viet Nam duty, Lee was assigned to a unit in Germany. He did the Engineer work, but soon got a chance to work in the orderly room of the unit. They were way behind on processing paperwork so he got a new job!

Lee went on to other installations. He re-enlisted again and served in Germany and in Alaska. For his service, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Commendation Medal (2), Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Lee works at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Cheyenne, WY. He continues to serve.

Lee, thanks for doing so many tours of duty, serving your Country!


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