Veteran vet encourages enlistments

Ann Cousineau

As tough as it was to get through two challenging tours of duty in Vietnam, Bob Kinstle believes military service is a good idea for today’s young Americans, especially those looking for a technical education.

“Military training teaches a higher level of responsibility and discipline than what will be found at home with Mom and Dad [after high school],” Bob said. “Almost everyone comes out with a trade now; there are hardly any ‘swab jock’ jobs anymore.”

He wasn’t looking for an education when he received a draft notice during the early days of the Vietnam War. Rather than join the Army, he followed the route his dad had taken during World War II — he volunteered to join the U.S. Navy.

He entered the Navy in 1965 and put in two tours of duty in Vietnam, serving on a small craft as a gunner’s mate responsible for firing small arms. He was also responsible for the operation and maintenance of guns on the ships he served aboard.

“We were called in to drop off UDTs ([Underwater Demolition Teams like the SEAL teams of today] and/or pick them up at prearranged locations,” Bob said.

“We were also involved in ‘Operation Market Time’ to stop Viet Cong boats bringing troops and supplies to South Vietnam.” He also completed inland operations during shore duty assignments in Da Nang on the south central coast of Vietnam.

“It was hot, sweaty and nasty there. It rained every day in the dry season; heavy rain all day in the rainy season,” Kinstle recalled. “Our clothes were wet and mildewed, boots rotted, and many of us had skin diseases including ‘jungle rot.’”

He got out of the Navy in 1969, just 11 days short of four years. He had moved up to Petty Officer Second Class by then.

“It was very hard to get through my time in Vietnam, but it was also an extremely rewarding experience. Sending our military ‘there’ keeps ‘them’ from coming here,” he said. “We did well in World War II because we made more planes, weapons, ships, boots, etc.; the U.S. wasn’t bombed.”

Unlike a lot of veterans returning to big cities in America after the Vietnam War, Bob Kinstle did not have big problems resettling into his small hometown of Ridgecrest. He came home as a proud and welcomed veteran, the son of a WWII veteran.

Although Bob Kinstle’s 1946 birth certificate says he was born in Inyokern, he confirmed that he was born on the base, known as the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station then. His parents, Bob and Geraldine “Gerry” had married here in 1945.

“My parents didn’t know I was coming home,” Bob said. “They were both active in the VFW and that’s where my dad was when I showed up around eight in the evening. He and everyone there were totally speechless when they saw me.”

Bob Kinstle still lives here and in June he became the new head of the local VFW. He’ll be one of many serving dinner to veterans on Veteran’s Day, Sunday, Nov. 11.

Story First Published: 2012-11-07