Any Army serviceman, whether trained on the Duster, Quad, Searchlight, Hawk or Vulcan or not, that served in one of the various Air Defense Artillery Units in Vietnam is certainly a DQS Vet. Since some of the Duster, Quad, Searchlight (DQS) weapons have been around for decades, a DQS Vet can also have served in WWII, Korea and the Middle East. Variations of the HAWKs have been around since the 1950’s, both the Dusters and Quad-50s have been around since the 1940’s, and Searchlights go back even farther. It is the shifting from a purely anti-aircraft air defense role to a ground combat support mission that further defines a DQS Vet.
As a group, the 14 different Field Artillery (FA) and ADA units in the DQS Association were deployed to RVN for 6.75 years from roughly September 20, 1965 thru June 23, 1972. B-Btry SLT 29th FA was one of the longest deployed ground combat units in the war, spanning over 6.5-years. To the man we are proud of our service to our country. Over 200 men made the ultimate sacrifice and many hundreds more were injured and many thousands more continue to deal with the aftermath and legacy that was Vietnam. At peak deployment there were less than 200 Dusters, less than 100 Quads and less than 120 SLTs in the entire Vietnam theater of operations. Since Dusters and Quads were typically deployed in pairs, only the most important bases could be protected. There are many incredible testimonials to the bravery of ADA-men out there, but you have to look hard and ask around among the units we supported.
Without a doubt, the presence of Dusters, Quads and Searchlights in the field saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives during the war, whether it was as a deterrent to the VC/NVA to attack a firebase or convoy, or in the heat of battle with the devastating firepower of our potent armaments. The dedicated officers, young enlisted men and seasoned NCOs lived up to the motto of the ADA, being “The First to Fire.” And as we proved in Vietnam, we were often also – The Last to Leave.
The Association has a saying, “Together Then -Together Again”
The initial meeting of what was to become the NDQSA was made up of Duster Vets from C-Btry 1-44th Arty.
In 1984 the first meeting (in a hotel) occurred in Lansing, Michigan. It consisted of 6 Vets and was hosted by Darryl Hale. By this time, events and their participation in events had broadened the scope and knowledge of this core group. They had met Vets from other Duster outfits and from Quads as well. They became Dusters & Quads, informally. In 1985 the Dusters & Quads met in Cincinnati, Ohio. The attendance at this meeting, which was hosted by Richard Zinz, was 12 vets and the mix from the different units began to expand. We were on our way – even if we weren’t aware of it at the time. By the time of the next reunion in 1987, held in Indianapolis, Indiana and ably hosted by Steve Harris, the Searchlights had come aboard with 51 vets in attendance. We were now the National Dusters, Quads & Searchlights Association. In 1988 we officially incorporated as a non-profit Veterans Association under that title. It would be a few years before we became aware of our brother ADA units, the Vulcans and Hawks and welcomed them into the organization. We now proudly encompass all of the US Army Air Defense Artillery units that served in Vietnam.
What is our mission?
Why do we do these things?
First and foremost is to reunite DQS Vets who served in Vietnam. Nothing is more rewarding than playing a part in, or witnessing, the reunion of our fellow warriors! The emotions (the smiles, tears, hugs, shouts of recognition, exclamations of joy and more) are priceless!
Second, we want to share with one another and to ‘be there’ for each other. At some meetings we have had the unenviable task of telling a fellow DQS Vet that his buddy didn’t make it or that his buddy made it home but has since passed away. It is the same when we walk a fellow DQS veteran to “The Wall” to visit his friend(s) for the first time. Knowing arms around their shoulders, teary hugs, sharing the pain and gently telling them “It’s okay”, not only helps them get through it, it also helps us.
At other times, we have known the joy of letting a fellow DQS Vet know that his buddy made it home and that we know his address, his phone number or his e-mail address. This is good! When we share these with them, we get to share in the warmth generated by their hearts.
Thirdly, but not necessarily the least, we provide a singular identity for all of the various units and individuals to rally around and serve as a ‘gathering point’ for them. The nature of our missions led to our serving in small detachments, often far from one another, while supporting and protecting others. Some did not know or often see anyone from our own units. NDQSA provides a ‘Home’, a way to not only reunite, but to meet and come to know others who walked where we walked and lived as we lived.
The DQS Reunions have become a very positive focal point for more and more ADA veterans. Our roster of DQS Vets is close to 3500 names out of an estimated 21,000 men that served in ADA in Vietnam. The NDQSA is one of the most visible Vietnam Veteran Associations in the country and for many years has laid wreaths in honor of the three Duster Battalions, the four Quad-50 Batteries and four Searchlight Batteries at “The Wall” each Vets Day.
The bright jackets and hats that we wear are RED, the artillery color. We are not a Marine Association (they also wear red) but we do share a special affinity with them and every other branch of service and every unit our crews and weapons closely supported….and we supported them all.
Today we support our members and their families, providing information and a forum for understanding what we did and who we were. Although we lose a few members each year, whether or not to service-related conditions, new names and older faces that have only just now found out about the Association bolster our numbers. The fact is that decades later, many Vets are only now starting to come to terms with their service during the Vietnam War. Others continue to deal with it every minute of every day of their lives. We look to be a source of information, support and camaraderie now and in the future.
This website has a special role in preserving the heritage of NDQSA and honoring the men who served in the ADA units in Vietnam. It provides a home base of association information for our current members. It archives our Vietnam ADA history in the form of units, equipment, locations, and personal stories for military historians. It will be maintained in a static state by the Air Defense Artillery Association once we are long gone for our great-grandchildren to read our stories and find joy in knowing something about us that would otherwise be lost.