“You Learn As You Go”: Service As A Combat Medic In The 173rd In Vietnam

Tim Shook


Tim Shook was born in February 1946 and grew up in Blissfield, Michigan, with his parents and two brothers. He enjoyed high school, especially his biology class. One summer, he spent three weeks at an Outward Bound course in Colorado, rock climbing and rappelling. One of the key lessons he learned from that experience was “to serve, to strive, and not to yield.” In December 1965, he decided to enlist. He had a young wife, the draft was increasing, and he wanted to take his future into his own hands. He joined for the “high school to flight school” program, but left aviation and ended up becoming an airborne medic (he picked medic as a job because he wanted a challenge). He deployed to Vietnam and landed at Bien Hoa, remembering the smell of the air in the hot, dark night. He drove to the 173rd Airborne Brigade camp and was assigned to 3rd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry. His unit was operating in War Zone C and Operation Junction City II was in progress. He attended jungle school for a week and met Platoon Sergeant Bill Watson, feeling “as well trained as I could be.” He describes patrols and setting in NDPs (Night Defensive Positions), remarking that his time was “mostly uneventful.” As a medic he carried an 85-pound aid bag, including 6 bags of intravenous fluid, a field surgical kit, and bandages. He generally walked in the middle of the patrol. He discusses treating a sucking chest wound using the plastic wrapper from the bandage. One of his most memorable experiences was working with the Montagnard people, both teaching and learning from them, and he enjoyed taking care of the children. He recalls finding booby traps and other hazards in the jungle, including punji stakes, booby trapped 105mm artillery rounds and grenades, and the deadly bamboo viper snakes. Once, he was writing a letter to his mother when a bullet went over his head. He remembers all the Soldiers in his platoon and shares specific recollections, such as crawling forward to treat a wounded Soldier, stating, “You know these guys, you love these guys.” After the war, he wanted to become a doctor and worked as an operating room tech for several years, but later he became a Police Officer in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state, serving on SWAT teams and bomb squads before becoming a pilot for the police force. In Washington, he served in the National Guard as an Engineer and deployed to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He has experienced Post Traumatic Stress, but is getting help from the Veterans’ Administration and feels that attending reunions helps because he can share his experiences with his buddies. Reflecting on his service, he remarks that he is very patriotic, and feels it was his duty to serve.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Injuries Military Techniques Life After Military Returning from War PTSD
interviewer David Siry
date 29 March 2022


name Tim Shook
service Medic
unit 3rd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade
specialty Airborne Combat Medic Hill 822 and Hill *23
service dates 1965 1967