Remembering SSG George H. Fleming 981st 70-71

This was provided by Steven Dragovich, 981st 70-71.

August 9, 1937 – October 29, 2014

Those who knew or may remember SSG George Fleming will almost certainly recall his very straight posture, his pride in telling us of his Native American background, and his closeness to 1SG Ralph Hamblin. My recollection is that the two had worked together at an earlier post, where they bonded, and so were glad to see each other at Cam Ranh Bay in mid-1970 when SSG Fleming arrived. It’s even possible that Top may have had a part in facilitating SSG Fleming’s new assignment.

He was also close to SSG Anthony “Chuck” Eisenmenger and Operations SGT Monte Adams, and was a frequent habituĂ© of Top’s newly renovated Senior NCO lounge — the place to go for good liquor, relaxation, and a storied collection of stag films.

At CRB SSG Fleming became responsible for supervising handlers newly arrived in country in repairing, policing, and in general sprucing up the 981st barracks and other unit buildings and facilities. In this endeavor he was thorough, he was sensible, he was well-liked, and he was fearless.

One incident immediately comes to mind. Upon arriving in country four new handlers with their dogs inexplicably decided to separate themselves from the rest of their group of “new guys” and
explore the area surrounding the airport closest to CRB. This was while waiting for a 981st truck to transport them to their new living quarters. They wound up wandering off military property onto South Vietnamese territory, were nowhere to be found when the truck arrived, and so unwisely became AWOL on their first day in country. After some phoning the next morning, we located them and they finally arrived at 981st headquarters, this time having been picked up by a truck with SSG Fleming in it.

The four men, scared but not exactly in a repentant frame of mind, entered the orderly room while I happened to be up front by the entrance. Barely controlling myself, I lit into them for their poor judgment in being absent and endangering their own lives and the welfare of their dogs. I then sent them to Top’s area in the back, telling them how to present themselves to Top, and waited for the explosion. It never came. Top was very quiet and obviously was arranging for them to be supervised by SSG Fleming in a “punishment” detail. All was explained a bit later when I looked out the window and saw SSG Fleming and the four men on the steep second-story roof of one of the barracks buildings doing repair work there. One of the men was on hands and knees, the other three were probably not too happy either, but there was SSG Fleming standing very tall and proud, providing instructions to the men. He was absolutely unafraid and ready to lend a helping hand to the four men, and very quickly excused the most frightened of the four from any more time on the roof — with the promise of a later detail, this time on the ground.

As in all his other duties, in this one SSG Fleming showed fearlessness, reasonableness, sensitivity, and good judgment. His guiding principle here was: get the work done and do it well. From what I saw of him in my time in country, he succeeded.

Perhaps Monte Adams said it best when he told of SSG Fleming’s pride in the Army and in himself: “He was very proud to wear the Army uniform. He told me ‘The uniform is with me all the time, even when I’m not wearing it physically — it is still worn on my heart.’ He could be as tough as he looked on the outside but he also had a listening ear and a very good heart.”

I had one last look, so to speak, at SSG Fleming before I left Vietnam for good. One of the tasks I set for myself was to write up service award recommendations (Bronze Star for Service) for meritorious soldiers in the 981st who were set to go home. I wrote one up for SSG Fleming and I left a draft copy with Top, to be forwarded for approval shortly before SSG Fleming was to go home. I’m pretty sure his would have gone through without problems or delay. I hope so because I don’t think anyone ever did anything like that for him before in his entire life, or at least in his military career.

Sensing that the military was a very important part of his life’s work where he did well and where he served proudly, I believe that the only thing left for me to say is: George, rest in peace now for a job well done.

Submitted by Steve Dragovich, Company Clerk, 981st, 70/71

Photos are clockwise from upper left:
. SSG George Fleming self-educating in SGT Monte Adams’s office
. SSGs Chuck Eisenmenger and Fleming in relaxation mode
. SSG Fleming dressed for the Summer of Love, 1971 version
. Monte and George swathed in black plastic (don’t ask) and “gone for the day”
Photos courtesy of Monte Adams