CM2 Thomas L. Spratt -Vietnam Veteran
Of the 120 naval recruits in boot camp, only Tom and another guy scored high enough on a battery of tests to be selected for the Seabees. At the time Tom didn't even know what the Seabees were. This elite construction battalion was formed in World War II and responsible during that time for creating most of the Army Air Force air fields. In Vietnam the Seabees played a role in constructing roads, bridges and air fields for the American military and also for helping the South Vietnamese with construction projects for their country. It was a Vietnam War version of winning the hearts and minds of the people. Before deployment to Vietnam as a Seabee, Tom headed for military training at Camp Pendleton. Going through some of the same preparation as the Marines, Tom experienced SERE training: Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, where the last challenge was to live off the land for a week. The last day was spent in a
mock concentration camp, being subjected to some of the same treatment the Vietcong were known to use. Through two tours of duty in Vietnam, the first in Danang and the second in Ben Hoa, near Saigon, Tom worked as a construction mechanic. Highly skilled at his job, he was on call throughout South Vietnam, often hitching a ride in a plane or helicopter to the place that needed his help. He and his buddies also decided to put their mechanical skills to use for play, building go-carts and other toys for themselves out of parts they could salvage! With his exuberant good nature, Tom decided to put into the back of his mind the danger of his situation and to view his time in Vietnam as an opportunity to experience new things and new places. For him, being a Seabee gave him the chance to do that.
JoAnne P. Miller