Metheny served in Vietnam, Desert Storm
Editor’s note: This article is the first of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2018, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service. The series will be published each Monday through Veterans Day.
ELKINS — A lifetime Elkins resident entered the military for the first of two times less than two weeks after graduating high school.
Carman Metheny joined the United States Air Force on June 11, 1964 — 13 days after his graduation from Elkins High School — and served until 1968, including two tours in Vietnam.
In October 1977, Metheny re-enlisted to the Army National Guard, where he served for 23 years until his retirement in 2000. His highest rank was United States Army Master Sgt.
“I had two tours in Vietnam, 1966 and 1967,” Metheny said. “Then December 1990, I activated for Desert Storm.”
During his service in Vietnam, as part of the 306th Heavy Bombardment Wing – Strategic Air Command, Metheny was involved in Operation Arc Light.
“I was with Arc Light in 1966 and 1967. Arc Light was the B-52 bomber’s that bombed North Vietnam and Vietnam,” he said.
He added the extreme heat in Vietnam is a memory remains with him today.
“When I was in Vietnam, I left in November. Of course it was miserable hot, miserable hot,” he said. “And, coming back we took what was called the ‘Northern Route’ and we landed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, and I thought I was going to freeze to death. I just couldn’t get warm. I was so climatized to hot that when I got to cold weather I just couldn’t even talk, I was so cold. I never forgot that.”
In Operation Desert Storm in 1990, Metheny was a member of the 201st Field Artillery Unit.
“I was Battalion Fire Direction Chief,” Metheny said. “We coordinated all the information needed to fire upon these targets and we put everything together to give coordinates and necessities so the weapons could fire. Most of that was done with manual computations but when the computers came on that was a whole different world. We used to do it with slide rules and manual computations.
“In Desert Storm we (the 201st Field Artillery Unit) held the record for most rounds shot and the most miles traveled,” he added.
He recalled sleep being a scarce commodity while during Desert Storm.
“In Desert Storm you were lucky to get two hours of sleep a night, lucky. We traveled all the time,” Metheny said. “We shot, we traveled, we shot, we traveled. Even though it was a short war, the haste of it was remarkably fast. You didn’t stop what you were doing. You may have stopped when you couldn’t do it any more and rested but then you were back and did it again.”
Metheny said while serving as a Master Sgt., he was in the Intelligence Corps and taught military academics.
“I taught about five years at several different military academies,” he said “Non-Commissioned Officer Educational System and Officer Candidate School. When I actually retired I was in intelligence or intel.”
Metheny said his time in the military taught him numerous “life lessons.”
“It was the best education you ever got. Life, it gave you education about life,” he said. “It wasn’t always about the numbers or reading, writing and arithmetic. It was about who you could trust, who you couldn’t trust, who you ran around with, who you didn’t run around with, who would take advantage or you and who didn’t take advantage of you. Those were life lessons that are hard to learn today.
“That’s why I really think the draft ought to be reinstated because it gives you that two years of military education that you will always value, but a lot of people have objections to that,” he continued. “But, it’s the best lessons I ever had in life and I got to see a lot of the world.”
He said his decision to re-inlist was a good one.
“I just absolutely loved it — I loved artillery, I loved the camaraderie of it. I loved math when I was in high school so I took about every math course I could get. Well, I had been out for 13 or 14 years and I went back in and everything that you are learning is either algebra or geometry,” Metheny said. “It came easy to me, even though I had to re-learn some things, but I loved it, I loved the challenge of it and I really loved the camaraderie of the units. They were very, very tight-knit, very selective and those are the guys you wanted to be with.
“They covered your backs and you covered theirs. A lot of people will never understand it unless they go through it — the camaraderie there,” he continued. “You were more like brothers than you were anything else.”
Metheny said he values the friendships he made.
“Twenty-five years and we still have our reunions every year. The reunion is great,” he said. “I always try to make my reunions. Every old face has a memory.”
Metheny was the foreman of streets for the city of Elkins. Afer retiring, he was elected in 2005 as a Third Ward Elkins City Councilman, a position he still holds.