ROSE HILL, Kan. (KSNW) – On Valentine’s Day of 1968, Steve Trainer was deployed to Camp Evans in Vietnam—an area just a few miles south from the DMZ.
“We were the furthest most base that you could fly, fly aircraft out of,” Trainer said.
As a combat engineer, Trainer and his demolitions team served as mine sweepers searching for bombs that had landed but didn’t go off.
“The majority of the munitions that we were assigned to take care of were 250 and 500 bombs that were usually dropped by B-52s,” Trainer said.
Trainer says many of the bombs he helped detonate safely were issued during the Korean War.
“Our job was to go in and without moving them (because you never knew how sensitive those fuses were once they were clicked into the on position) set some explosive on ’em, and put it on a timer, and get out of the way,” Trainer said.
More than 50 years later, Trainer recalls the deafening roar of TNT & C4 destroying bombs like it was yesterday.
“Oh, it’ll blow your ears out. It’s hard to describe when your chest just heaves and takes the wind out of you,” Trainer said. “The pressure of an explosion: you have a sine wave, if you will, of pressure that goes out in an arc, and it blows the bark off the trees and does all kinds of crazy things, but, you know, it’s powerful.”
Trainer and his team clearing roads and hills within the dangerous A Shau Valley—oftentimes working while getting shot at.
“Everybody talks about Hamburger Hill and, and those infamous places that were out in A Shau Valley, and we were on some of those hills, and we went in,” Trainer said.
The A Shau Valley was an area also heavily deforested with Agent Orange.
“So, you couldn’t get away from it, you couldn’t drink the water in the streams, and you couldn’t get away from it. It’d, it would rain, it would wash off the trees and get on ya,” Trainer said.
Trainer’s company also worked to uncover booby traps, landmines, and other weapon paraphernalia. In the process, the company suffered heavy losses.
“It was the D Company, 14th Engineer Battalion…156 or so in our company…we went into the A Shau Valley at company strength and came out quite a bit less than that,” Trainer said.
Trainer says working against impossible odds to keep his cool, and sheer luck got him out alive.
“Well, you don’t have a choice,” Trainer said. “If you lose your cool, something may happen that you have no control over, but if you keep your cool, as you put it, a lot of times you can control the environment around you and make the best out of a situation, so that’s what we tried to do.”
Trainer would remain in Vietnam until February 1970. He would go on to serve with the WPD for 23 years before working at Boeing for 17 years. He and his wife live a peaceful life raising alpacas in Rose Hill.
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