Seabee served two tours in Vietnam

Seabee served two tours in Vietnam.

Today’s veteran: Lannie Brant, 67

Born: Savannah

Residence: White Oak

Service: Navy, 2 years active duty, 4 years Navy Reserve

Duties: Construction mechanic

Rank: Petty officer 3rd class

Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal (with two bronze stars and fleet Marine Force combat operations insignia); Vietnam Campaign Media (with device); Vietnam Meritorious Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Army Meritorious Unit Commendation; Marksman Badge

Duty stations: Vietnam (two times); Gulfport, Miss.

His story: Lannie Brant decided to control his own destiny when his draft notice arrived in the mail in 1968.

He met with a Navy recruiter and explained how his background operating many types of construction equipment with his self-employed father qualified him to be a Seabee. He easily passed a test to qualify to serve for a Seabee unit based in Gulfport, Miss. and did such a good job he didn’t have to go through basic training.

After five weeks of training, he was assigned as construction mechanic with the rank of petty officer 3rd class. In April 1969 he was sent to Vietnam for the first of two tours of duty.

He was stationed near the demilitarized zone, where his unit built roads, dug wells, built bridges and medical facilities and took on other construction projects under the constant threat of enemy attack.

“The North Vietnamese, every time we built something, they destroyed it,” Brant said. “You had stuff blown up, burnt. Mostly what we did we did to keep the equipment running.”

When land mines damaged or destroyed heavy equipment, Brant’s team was responsible for going in the field to repair the machinery. The remote location made it difficult to find replacement parts for damaged equipment, he said.

While Brant and his unit worked at a minimum 12-hour shifts to repair and maintain equipment, they faced frequent mortar attacks in the field and on base.

“We took casualties. We took mortars constantly,” he said. “At times it was daily. There were lots of unsettling moments.”

At night, when they weren’t on guard duty, sailors assigned to the unit had bunkers dug under their cots where they hunkered down during mortar attacks.

Before they left the base for a final time, they destroyed any equipment that could potentially be used by enemy troops.

The unit returned to Gulfport in December 1969, where they stayed for four months before they learned their commanding officer volunteered his unit for another tour in Vietnam. The unit’s reaction was understandable.

“There was a groan. A loud one,” he said. “We weren’t expecting it. We thought we’d be rotated somewhere else.”

The unit was sent to Da Nang, where Brant said his duties were mostly clerical and kept him from working in the field. While he was not facing daily enemy fire like his first tour in Vietnam, the job was still grueling.

“It was hot and miserable,” he said. “You had too much trouble sleeping.”

During his free time, Brant said he recorded music from all genres on a reel-to-reel recorder.

When his tour in Vietnam ended, Brant said his unit had to land in Mobile, Ala. because Hurricane Camille caused extensive damage in the Gulfport area. His unit helped with the recovery effort.

Brant was assigned to a unit in Glynco for the final 30 days of military service. He said his return home from Vietnam was unexpected and disappointing.

“We weren’t looked on like heroes,” he said. “We were the scum of the earth.”

He and others who served in Vietnam didn’t have a choice, he said.

“I did what I was told to do. I didn’t do what I wanted to,” he said. “It was an extreme learning experience.”

Brant, who has just started his first term on the Camden County Commission, said his military experience helped shape the rest of his life.

“It taught me respect for authority and respect for the dollar,” he said. “I have absolutely no regrets.”

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