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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

Vietnam Veterans visit SOI

By Lance Cpl. Damien Gutierrez | | September 10, 2009

More than 50 Vietnam veterans from various Camp Pendleton units gathered at Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry Sept. 10, to relive the time they spent in the Corps and observe the modern-day war fighter.

“Coming back to Pendleton really helps a man my age remember the good old days,” said Alfred Davilla, Vietnam veteran. “Pendleton will always be home to me.”

The day began for the group by watching an eye-watering photo slide show of the veteran’s old units and lifestyle when they were called to fight for their country in Vietnam.

The pictures revealed the daily routine for the men in the jungles of Vietnam, from digging trenches to eating chow in such places as DaNang and Dong Ha.

“Looking at those photos brought back so many memories of the life I used to live,” Davilla said. “For a second there, I actually felt like I was (in Vietnam) once again.”

This was a great time to pay respect to the veterans and hear some history directly from those that were there to experience it, said Maj. Jason C. Vose, operations officer, SOI.

After the presentation the veterans were introduced to some of the new weapons that the Corps uses today. The visitors got to hold some of them, such as the M-16 assault riffle, MK-19 40mm machine gun and M224 60mm lightweight mortar. SOI’s weapons technicians were on hand to answer all the veterans’ questions.

“I’m not quite sure if Marines these days know exactly how fortunate they are to have these weapons,” said Robert Bellmont, Vietnam veteran. “If we had this type of arsenal when we were in, the war would have been over in a day,” he said jokingly.

After the war fighters learned about the weaponry, they fired a simulated version of them in the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer.

The ISMT is an interactive videodisc based system that employs the latest technology to accomplish the realism and accuracy needed for effective small arms training.

The veteran’s time at the ISMT allowed them to experience firing scenarios Marines utilize during pre-deployment training.

“This was an amazing experience,” said Bellmont. “I never thought that I would get the chance to stand behind one of these weapons again.”

SOI will also be conducting a similar tour Oct. 5, for Korean veterans.