CECOM SEC civilian recalls serving in Vietnam

By Rachel PonderMarch 27, 2024

Soldier poses with father before being deployed to Vietnam.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – From right, Pfc. Mark Clausen poses with his father Command Sgt. Maj. Alfred Clausen, in July 1970, a few days before he deployed to Vietnam.

(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo )
Vietnam veteran poses in a shirt dedicated to the fallen servicemembers of the Vietnam War.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Information Technology Specialist Mark Clausen, with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s Software Engineering Center, served in Vietnam from July 1970 to June 1971. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo ) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROND, Md. – March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This day honors all who served in the U.S. military between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of duty location. It also recognizes the incredible sacrifices the families of Vietnam veterans made.

According to the Army, Vietnam veterans represented nearly 10% of their generation. In honor of Vietnam Veterans Day, Mark Clausen, 74, an information technology specialist with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s Software Engineering Center, recounted his experience serving in Vietnam.

Clausen, a self-described “Army brat,” said he lived mainly in the Midwest during childhood. He decided to enlist in the Army because he received a draft notice and was struggling in college at the time. His father, Alfred Clausen, was an Army command sergeant major who had already completed two tours in Vietnam in addition to serving in World War II and the Korean War.

“I always knew I was going to go in the Army,” Clausen explained.

Clausen arrived at Fort Polk for basic training on Halloween of 1969.

“That was scary,” Clausen joked.

After basic training, Clausen went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to receive training as a cannon crewmember. Clausen said he was in Vietnam from July 1970 to June 1971. He was in the II Field Force, 23D Artillery Group, 7th Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, headquartered in Bien Hoa.

According to Clausen, when he arrived in Vietnam, because he was a “college boy,” he was tasked to type up award letters as a clerk.

“I didn’t know how to type, and I still don’t; I just hunt and peck,” he laughed.

Later, he became the battery commander’s driver. One day, his vehicle was hit, causing an accident. Although the battery commander received minimal impact, Clausen had a “bad cut” on the front and back of his head, right hand, and right knee.

Clausen was medevacked, his first helicopter ride in Vietnam, to the Army hospital in Long Binh. After he received medical care, he received a three-day “light duty” slip, medicine to treat his pain, and was told to go back to his unit. His uniform, which was worn from use, was cut off.

“They just gave me all new stuff, so I looked like a newbie again,” he laughed.

Clausen said after he found a ride back to Bien Hoa, he was permitted to recover for about 30 days before he was deemed fit to return to duty. Because the vehicle he used to drive the battalion commander was damaged, he was assigned to the Fire Direction Center, an element of an artillery command post consisting of gunnery and communication personnel and equipment by which the commander exercises fire direction and fire control.

After attending FDC school, he was sent to Fire Support Base Blue, located on the Cambodian border. An FSB is a temporary military facility used to provide fire support to infantry operating in areas beyond the normal range of fire support from their own base camps. During his time at FSB Blue, he participated in a  three-day raid.

“Raids were tough, but I never had death thoughts,” he said. “I just got up and did my job.”

While Clausen was away at the raid, FSB Blue was attacked. Clausen said half of the battery was away at the raid, but unfortunately, the attack resulted in some injuries and a few deaths. When FSB Blue was eventually deactivated, Clausen received his orders to go home. Clausen had less than 180 days to go on his two-year enlistment, so he was processed out of the Army as a specialist.

Returning home

Clausen returned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where his father was stationed. Clausen said he didn’t give much thought to the Vietnam War protests happening in the states at that time.

“There was only one group of people that I wanted to welcome me when I came home, and they were all there when I landed in Saint Louis, [Missouri], and that was my family,” Clausen said, with emotion in his voice. “I didn’t care what the rest of them thought. I just wanted to be home, and they were all there.”

Clausen said he was able to keep his morale up during his service for the most part. He attributes his ability to maintain a positive attitude to his location, the comradery he shared with his fellow Soldiers, and his experience being around the military as a child.

“I didn’t spend the whole time thinking I am going to get killed while I am over here,” he said. I did my time and did my job, and I came home okay.”

Eventually, Clausen returned to college, with the help of the G.I. Bill. When he was a junior, he became a member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. After college, he was commissioned as an officer in the Army. He served as an officer until 1989, leaving the Army as a captain. After his service, he worked at Operational Test and Evaluation Command at Fort Sill, as a security manager.

“They did tests on new artillery equipment or new artillery ammunition,” Clausen explained.

In March of 1991, his job was eliminated, so he went to work for CECOM SEC at Fort Sill. His daily duties include serving as a logistics coordinator.

Clausen said he appreciates that there is a day to honor Vietnam veterans and those “who didn’t get to come home.”

According to Clausen, serving in the military in Vietnam and later his experiences as an officer gave him a broader perspective.

“I think being in part of the world, being there as a U.S. Soldier in a time of war, gives you a unique perspective, just like all the guys who served in [previous wars],” he said. It gives you a wider perspective than if you lived your life in the States. You get exposed to different traditions, customs and religions and things like that. It rounds you out.”