News: Saying thank you one drive at a time
Story by Capt. Chad Ashe
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - I first saw the old Jeep and its owner of nearly eight years across the street from brigade headquarters; I had to get a closer look. It smelled like old canvas bathed in grease and exhaust. You can tell this vehicle stepped out of time. The owner, standing beside it like a proud parent, was more than willing to answer any questions about this nostalgic piece of Army culture. I can’t remember him not having access to the answer, and a good story to go along with it.
The owner’s name is Glenn Buckner. He is a Department of Defense contractor who has been serving the government and military faithfully for 25 years. He has never worn a military uniform but getting to know him you understand he is faithful to the mission and understands the soldier camaraderie better than most. Buckner works out of Fort Eustis, Va., with a team made up mostly of retired senior noncommissioned officers. He says he is considered part of “the squad” by his team that support range control operations, which means a lot to him. Recently, his job led him temporarily to Hunter Army Airfield, and when Buckner drives onto post, he doesn’t go unnoticed.
Buckner’s daily driver is an M151 Military Unit Tactical Truck, or MUTT. This vehicle was the principle combat vehicle of the Vietnam War Era and is still largely recognized in the formations of current soldiers and among local veterans in the community—it remained in the Army’s inventory until the early 1990s. Buckner did not leave out any details on his restored MUTT. It is even complete with radio and .50-caliber machine gun (demilitarized of course).
“For the men and women that serve, it’s kind of like a rolling billboard,” said Buckner. “It reminds people of the service. When they see a military Jeep and I’m driving it down the road, there are people that give me thumbs up as I’m driving. They may or may not be military, but they appreciate the fact that history is still rolling down the road.”
Buckner has an affinity for military restorations and a knack for resourcing hard-to-find demilitarized parts.
Buckner laughed and said, “It’s that scrounger instinct.”
He also volunteers his time at the Fort Eustis museum and has such adoration for the history of his vehicle that he is leaving it to the museum in his will. Along with the MUTT, Buckner has a journal of his travels that will also go to the museum. The journal is filled with photos, maps and memorabilia from all the stops where his Jeep has accompanied him. See, for Buckner, it is important to tell the story of where the Jeep has been, and he has met several people along the way who share his affinity for his ride.
Referring to those people met along the way, Buckner said, “These guys come up who have served in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War, especially some of the older generations that remember how the Army was in that period of time and how it is now.”
Buckner refers to an older couple who pulled up to the Jeep and recognized immediately that it was an M151. The sergeant requested to take photos. Of course Buckner says to take as many as wanted. The gentleman said that he learned how to drive a stick on this type of vehicle when he first went into the Army. The gentleman, at Buckner’s request, got behind the wheel of the Jeep for a photo. Buckner said that when the gentleman got in he had that “middle-age spread” (referring to his expanded midsection).
Buckner laughed when he recalled the man’s statement, “I remember these being a little bigger than this.” Buckner replied that over time the metal shrinks, jokingly.
“It made him so happy to sit in one,” recalled Buckner. “While they were in [service] they may have complained about the equipment, but after years go by there is almost a sad part of them that misses that. It is a part of their past and they can’t relive it, but for that split second when they are touching it and feeling it and remembering how it smelled, how it felt, how it ran and how it sounded, brought that back.”
When Buckner built up his MUTT, he didn’t take any dents out. He could have put new shifters and knobs to replace the ones with nicks and dents, but he didn’t want to.
“The little dents in the shifter are from wedding rings,” said Buckner. “The soldiers are shifting those gears; it’s pitted and scratched.”
Buckner doesn’t want to take anything away from the character and legacy of the equipment.
“All those dings, dents, holes - to my knowledge, were put there by a soldier,” said Buckner. “So they stay.”
“It’s kind of like a thank you,” said Buckner. “All of those Vietnam vets go to tears looking at it. Those guys really had a bad time.”
After talking to Buckner, it is clear that this restoration is a way to restore not only the vehicle, but also the hearts of past and present soldiers he lifts during his daily drive. Buckner says he is deeply thankful to various administrations for being able to drive his vehicle onto posts to share with soldiers he works for.
“It’s just a piece of rolling history,” said Buckner.