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MISSION STATEMENT

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you.

 


Turn Back The Years

The following article is reprinted from the July 21, 1944 edition of the Fort Monmouth Message newspaper.  It's bound to give you nostalgia, even if you are not
a WW2 vet.
 

Contributed By Don Mehl, Class 44-35

                     

So... You Yearn to Tackle OCS?

Read This... You May Weaken!

By Cpl W. Paul Thread

(Bloody but unbowed OCS editor for a day)

So!...you’re thinking about going to OCS. 

You just know that you would make a swell lieutenant. You’re sure that that officer’s uniform would look just dandy draping your figure. You visualize all the attention you’d get as you walk down the street of your home town. And of course you’re thinking of the wonderful reception you’re going to get when the favorite girlfriend gets a “gander” at the resplendent uniform with the gleaming gold bars. And didn’t you get over 110 on the AGCT. Why it’s a snap…you think!

With the increased quota for the Officer Candidate School and the subsequent interest shown by the men of this Post the MESSAGE editor thought it would be a swell idea (he would!) if one of his hapless and helpless minions would spend a day as a student at OCS. Selection of the reporter was calm but firm. A pointed finger and the word “you”!)

At 0545, as the grey mists of the morning to come gently swirled about the sleepy head of your reporter, he arrived at the area to begin his day as an Officer Candidate. Complete wakefulness came soon enough. The OC’s day begins with all the fury of an artillery barrage. Caught between rushing candidates, barked commands and snappy salutes’ your reporter felt like a featherless pigeon caught in a hurricane.

A Gig For A Gig

From the moment that candidate opens his eyes the “Mister” is fair game for a ‘gig from one of the eagle eyed tactical officers. However, in OCS a “gig” is not a “gig”; it’s a delinquency and to even call a delinquency a “gig” is only to be “gigged” again. Confusing…isn’t it?

Breakfast is downed with gusto and policing the bunk area is dispatched with neatness and speed. Trained to adapt oneself to any situation the art of coordination is stressed to the candidate. And that he has learned to coordinate and is coordinated was very obvious to this reporter who watched the candidates perform their duties and tasks rapidly and with apparently effortless ease. Your correspondent in attempting to keep up with them and emulate the candidates got lost in the shuffle.

Class periods sometimes run to two hours. It’s a serious business this learning all the intricacies of being a Signal Officer and rapt attention to the instructor is the rule. Instructors deal with their subjects in straightforward fashion to and to the point,  but always allow their students to voice a blunt counter opinion.

Army Signal Corps OCS Training... you're in the Army now!

The cross country runs and the difficult obstacle courses would do full justice to the physical ability of a seasoned mountain climber. Even your scribe who has had some of this experience in the rugged terrain of Alaska did his share puffing and grunting as he labored over the trails and mazes and finally  made it successfully. Some few of the more obese future officers did not. But if you are no muscle man, the ubiquitous and omnipotent tactical officer may well appreciate a display of plain "guts’’ with no attempted short-cuts.

IDR For Superman

If you are contemplating exchanging your stripes (if you have any) for the orange arm band of the Officer Candidate you had better start clearing your throat and cultivate your commanding presence. Graded drill is your chance to take over the unit and put them through the paces of close order drill. If you are prepping it would behoove you to substitute the IDR for Superman comics as reading matter. And as another suggestion for a would-be Officer Candidate, try to persuade your top-kick to let you take the outfit over for that W. K. practical experience. 

Button, button, button your buttons or your name will adorn that ominous sheet of paper with the rest of the delinquents. If you are the type that once dashed down Main Street with your camel hair coat fanning in the breeze you may sometimes think that the entire United States Army is concentrating its efforts on the proper employment and placement of the lowly button.

Another simply ducky way to get your name posted is to have your arm band slightly askew, move in ranks, strike a stoopy stance, give a sloppy salute, have a bit of dust on an otherwise shining shoe and so on ad infinitum. Three delinquencies in one day and it is your high privilege to meet face-to-face with the senior tactical officer. A total of ten and the conversation is likely to become downright personal.  

Steady Pressure

It’s a serious business though, this OCS; and the man who makes it really deserves the appellation. Men put in about 15 hours a day doing their role of Officer Candidate. There is the highly accelerated march, the frequent double time, and the pass is something you remember from those dim days as a non-com or private. Pressure is continuous and the man who can take it in his stride and in perfectly coordinated manner is the man who gets the brass bars. Many fall by the wayside but many make the grade. Think you can do it?


 

 


 

1966 The War Begins In Earnest

1966 - Close Quarter Napalm Drop

1966 Napalm Drop - "Smoking Charlie From The Tree-line"

A Vietnam Retrospective - The Signal
Corps In Action

The war in Vietnam did not get up to speed as rapidly as some might think… combat wise things got off to a slow start. Up until 1965 combat operations just sort of bumped along. But around about the end of 1965 it all began to change, as more and more units began arriving in country, with their commanders anxious to get it on.

To be more specific, America's military involvement in Vietnam began with advisors sent to assist Ngo Ding Diem’s rookie army in 1954. Between 1961 and 1964 their number grew from 900 to 23,000. Yet while the number was significant, the involvement of these advisors was minimal, being relegated to a narrowly defined instructional and training role. It wasn’t until February 1965 that the U.S.' first independent combat operation was mounted in what would become known as the Vietnam War, and that involvement centered around a series of retaliatory strikes after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Being what it was, no ground troops were involved, as the strikes were carried out by the U.S. Air Force and Navy. Strange as it was however, neither this independent action on the part of the U.S. to escalate the war, nor a decision made in February of 1965 to increase the number of ground troops in-country by sending 3,500 Marines to Đà Nẵng, was shared with the South Vietnamese government. Except for a trifling last minute request to the South Vietnamese Premier Dr. Quat the morning of the Marine's actual arrival on the beach—to issue a press statement supporting the U.S.’ efforts—the South Vietnamese were kept in the dark until it was too late for them to do anything about it. Instead, miraculously, the Marine's amphibious assault craft simply appeared on the horizon, world press just as miraculously appeared on the beach, as did dozens of pretty young Vietnamese girls dressed in áo dàis, ready to drape the advancing Marines with leis. Does anyone sense an ego at work here?.[1]

Marines land at Da Nang, 1965That was the case for the 3,500 Marines that landed at Đà Nẵng on March 8, 1965... and it was also the case for the 20,000 support personnel that were ordered to Vietnam on April 1, 1965, as well as the order issued on April 14 to deploy the entire 173rd Airborne Brigade. For a war that was supposed to be about Uncle Sam working hand in hand with the South Vietnamese government to gain control of the country, upgrade the skills of the ARVN, help the ARVN oust the NVA and V.C., and set up a democratic system of government, Westmoreland sure was keeping his "partner" in the dark about his intentions.

One wonders, if the government and military of South Vietnam... even in those early days... had a greater involvement in planning and prosecuting the war, or at least understanding the logic behind America's actions, might they not have been able to go it alone when the time came? And if not... that is, if it was not possible for the South Vietnamese ever to go it alone... then what were we doing there in the first place? Was the plan to stay forever? No? Then why wasn't the South Vietnamese government and its military brought into the equation day one and taught what they needed to know to run their own country... including the knowledge that we weren't going to stay forever and that they had better get on about building both a democratic country and a military that could defend it, instead of wasting their time fighting internecine political wars for power while we pursued Charlie in the boonies?

To this author it's amazing the stupidity with which America fights its modern day wars to free nations. Yes, it's o.k. to send our men into battle to help free the people of another country... but if we are going to do so then we should demand that the leaders of that country step up to the task of creating both a functioning government and a capable military. If the leaders they pick don't prove up to the task, then we should pluck them from power and tell the people of the country to pick another one... and keep doing this until some local George Washington steps forward and shows that he understands his role is to be that country's George Washington, not its Napolean.

Regardless, as the summer of 1966 approached things really began to “hot up.” By August five new major combat units had arrived in country, and with their arrival serious combat operations got underway. Technically, 1966 represented the second year of serious combat for the U.S. Army, but in reality it was the first year when the Army had enough men and materials to mount a vigorous, forceful, coordinated effort. So in 1966 the war began in earnest, and with it the Signal Corps was put to the test.

Since most of the training of the newly arrived Signal units had occurred in Europe or the U.S., where methods of communication between combat units had already been codified into a science for some 20+ years, it came as a surprise to those setting up the systems in 'Nam that these same approaches to the use and application of communication technology were not operating as expected. Instead, rather than finding that their deployed gear worked swimmingly, what they found was that things that had worked back home simply didn’t work in Vietnam.

Vietnam Jungle - 1966One of the reasons, as they quickly learned, was that while the terrain back home and in Europe was benign and conducive to the kind of communication architectures and equipment the Army employed at that time, Vietnam was proving to be different. More to the point, what they found was that whether because of the unique tactical scenario the enemy presented in Vietnam, or the climatic and geographic conditions that existed, getting reliable communication up and running was not only proving difficult but often times impossible. Overall, getting communication links in place to support tactical combat field operations was turning out to be a real problem for the Signal Corps in the early days of 1966.

To make matters worse, while many units, like the 25th Infantry Division, had trained for jungle operations in climates similar to that of Vietnam, and had learned something or two in the process, the combat similarities they internalized didn’t carry over to the Signal support personnel that trained with them. That is, while for the infantry boys combat simulation in a hot climate proved to be similar to what they found in Vietnam, this same training regimen was proving to be of little value to the Signaleers arriving in Vietnam. The reason was that what the combat boys were up against was heat, while the Signal guys were up against something entirely different: a topographic environment far different than either what they had trained in or that which their equipment was designed for. It’s one thing to learn to take a few salt tablets and keep yourself hydrated, it’s another to learn how to bounce a ridge line signal over a bunch of hills and then aspirate it through a jungle canopy until it hit the FM radios on the other side.

173rd Airborne Brigade - Casper PlatoonThis became evident when the first major combat element to arrive in Vietnam, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, discovered that it was having a devil of a time communicating over extended distances of any kind. In this case both local terrain conditions and unit dispersal proved to be the problem, for while the 173rd's troops were in Vietnam their logistics base was in Okinawa. All told, communication between the units HQ, their logistics base in Okinawa, and their forward bases in the field proved to be a bridge too far for the signals equipment being relied on.

For these guys, where normally voice communication would be established around the use of the standard single sideband radio equipment the unit normally employed, in this new theater of war this SOP approach was simply not working. Paramount in this was the fact that the distances involved were far beyond the designed range for the assigned equipment, and even when they weren’t the topographies involved defeated the system’s ability to carry the signal over the route needed. From day one then, the Signaleers found they had to scramble to figure out how to get voice communication up and running.[2]

Part of the answer was found in an expedient solution invented early in 1965, when some Signal guy somewhere mounted an FM command and control console in a UH-1D helicopter and took to the skies with it. This improvised platform was then used as an airborne relay to help get the message up and over the obstacles involved, and the distances too, until it reached the intended party. It proved to be so effective that almost immediately the idea was copied by other units throughout the country.

At the same time the Signal Corps itself began designing a communication system to fit in the Huey, so that combat commanders like those just arriving could take to the air and control their air assaults in real time, rather than sit back in an office somewhere in Nha Trang and try to second guess the troops on the ground.

Continued at top of page, column at right


This page last updated 1 February 2013. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Posted 1 February 2013 A new movie about the early days of the Korean War is available for viewing in our Video Archives. Called The Summer Storm of 1950, it includes video footage shot by the Army Signal Corps. Running only 28 minutes in length, it is well worth watching. To get to our Video Archive, click on the link in the column at left. Enjoy!

U.S. Army Signal Corps 1st Signal BrigadePosted 6 January 2013 Know about the 1st Signal Brigade? Did you know they are organizing a trip to Vietnam and Korea? In September? Well, now you do, and there's room for you! Click on our "Reunion Info" link in the upper left column, scroll down the page and then read more. 

Got an association of your own? Formal? Or just a bunch of old Army buddies? It doesn't matter to us. Send us your planned get together schedule, meetings, outings, reunions, or whatever, and we'll post them on our Reunion Info page too.

Got pictures of you and your buds getting together? Send them to us and we'll create an album for them and post them on our Reunion Info page too!

Now how about that!! 

Posted 1 January 2013 New picture of Brigadier General George Snead, OCS Class 43-27. Taken in 2000 by Don Mehl (see article above also written by Don, Class 44-35), General Snead was a VMI graduate and served with Don in the Pentagon, in the 805th.

 

Continued from left column... 

The first of these was designated the AN/ASC6. It included a basic console, two FM radios, one VHF radio, one UHF radio, and one high frequency signal side band radio. In essence, it tried to duplicate what the earliest Signaleers had patched together as an expedient to provide both airborne relay and airborne command and control.    

Historical Signal Corps documents claim that the AN/ASC6 was brought to the field in 1965... if so, it must have been a well kept secret as there are no contemporaneous accounts of its use, while there are dozens of stories of kluged airborne relay systems being  built and launched by eager, creative and driven E3 - E4 Signaleers. Instead, the earliest accounts of it begin to pop up in early 1968, by which time the AN/ASC10 was hitting the field, purportedly to replace the mysterious and unaccounted for ANA/ASC6. As for the difference between them, the AN/ASC10 provided an internal intercom system for the command group onboard the helicopter.

AN/ASC15 Radio Communication in Huey 1DBy 1968 every airborne commander wanted his own command and control chopper, outfitted with every radio he could get his hands on. It was as though every LTC and above had discovered the thrill of Ham radio. And of course, the Signal Corps obliged, by introducing the AN/ASC11, followed by the AN/ASC15. About the time the war started to go flat again (19701971 and onward) hardly a commander of any stripe didn't have his own little 'com center' following him around at all times.

But back in 1966 those days were still a long way off, and  the Signal guys on the ground were struggling to get basic communications up and running.

While the kludged airborne communication relay was a step in the right direction, and something that clearly worked, the concept still depended on bandaged together commo equipment that was proving to have inherent limitations. For the most part, the limitations found stemmed from reliance on older, WWII series FM radio sets… equipment that simply didn’t have the horsepower needed to deal with the environment Vietnam presented. Worse, as more and more units arrived in Vietnam they too ran into the same problems. Within a short while it became painfully obvious that with or without the airborne relay concept, a more permanent solution was badly needed, and its use needed to be turned into a standard operating procedure quickly.

AN/VRC-12 in M151 JeepFor the 173rd Airborne Brigade part of the solution came in late 1965 when the Signal Corps replaced the older series of radio systems the unit was using with the AN/VRC-12 family, along with AN/PRC-25 radios. For radiotelegraphy (i.e. high frequency radio teletypewriter service between the battalions and brigade) two AN/VSC1 sets were made available to each battalion, while back at brigade headquarters a shelter-mounted AN/GRC-46 was provided to interface with them.

Hot on the heels of the 173rd other units began to arrive in Vietnam. Among the other units that arrived during this period was a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, a brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, and another from the 25th Infantry Division. These units too saw their commo systems upgraded—and none too soon, as major combat operations began almost the instant the troops from these units hit the ground. In fact, by late 1966 six major combat operations involving the soldiers of these brigades were either underway or had already occurred, with five of the six happening in the II Corps central threat area.[3]

Major General DePuyFor one of these campaigns the 1st Infantry Division (commanded by Major General William E. DePuy) fielded an operation called EL PASO II. It began on 2 June 1966, and depended for its success on the solution to some weighty communication problems… of both a logistical and operational nature.

From the get-go the 121st Signal Battalion had problems deploying what was needed to support EL PASO II, as both the men and the equipment it normally would have used were tied up supporting the base camp complex at Dĩ An. Both men and material were dedicated to this large base camp, and so it was necessary to find a way to extract the 121st from this duty so that it could focus its signal duties on providing combat support for the 1st Infantry Division, which was its normal organic role.

This was accomplished by reassigning the 595th Signal Support Company to Dĩ An, attaching them to the 69th Signal Battalion, and giving them responsibility for most of the 121st’s duties. An expedient, looking back now, one can see that this quick fix was the beginning step in the never ending game of “unit swap” that saw so many Signal Corps units assigned, reassigned, and reassigned again throughout the Vietnam War, until the TOE at the end of the war looked nothing like it did at the beginning. Whether a mark of typical American ingenuity or poor planning to begin with, the flexibility the Signal Corps demonstrated as it moved its units around the world to support operations in Vietnam, as though they were pieces on a chess board, was a stroke of genius. Come hell or high water, people and equipment were going from where they were to where they were needed, the TOE be damned.

While the 595th helped free the equipment required for EL PASO II, it didn't solve the problem of getting the equipment to where it was needed, and making sure it could be moved in real time as the troops moved. To solve this problem the 121st copied what they had seen done by the 25th Infantry Division. They modified the vans that carried the VHF multi-channel AN/MRC-69 equipment by removing one stack of AN/TRC-24 radio equipment and one stack of AN/TCC-7 carrier equipment (one-half the capability of the AN/MRC-69).

MRC-34Y2 - Vietnam 1965These were then remounted in a 3/4-ton truck, or more usually simply boxed in wooden crates that could be stacked together on arrival at whatever forward base they were headed for, wired back together, switched on and quickly operated while the rest of the Signal squad built sand bag barriers around this unattractive but all important pile of boxes. To make the whole kludge look and sound like an authorized piece of real Army equipment, the entire modified ensemble of commo gear was given the name MRC-34Y2 and deployed. It proved extremely successful in establishing VHF links in the field, typically from a forward fire base back to a base camp. Best of all, because the entire system weighed much less than the AN/MRC-69 it was replacing, each individual wooden boxed component could be hand carried by two men, slid inside the belly of a UH-1, and transported along with the combat teams as they moved from one forward base to another.

In the case of EL PASO II this proved invaluable as the division and brigade command elements involved were spread all over the tactical combat area, with ten distinct command post locations operating at the same time. Many, being expedient helicopter supported forward bases, were inaccessible by any other means. Without the MRC-34Y2 being Huey UH-1 helicopter-transportable, EL PASO II and the other four combat operations that got underway in the summer of 1966 would have been in big trouble. Sure, bigger lifting helicopters were available, but not in sufficient numbers to support fluid combat operations where a forward operating base might be changed every day of the week, and sometimes twice on Sundays. Being able to rely on UH-1s made the job of getting communication in place as the troops themselves deployed doable. When the troops moved, their commo gear followed them, in the same choppers that they rode in.

But that wasn’t the end of the problem. Unbeknownst to everyone a new form of combat was in the process of being invented, and this new form required that the Signal guys that supported field operations had to invent new signal solutions to cope with it.

How to build a Fire Support Base...Major General DePuy turned out to be an aggressive combat leader. Unlike General McClellan of Civil War fame, who couldn’t get out of the way of his own shadow, or more precisely, preferred not to, DePuy had no intention of letting grass grow under his feet, or rice as the case may have been. His plan was simple: move fast, hit hard. As a result he initiated 1st Infantry Division tactics that rapidly expanded the pace and scope of combat operations, more quickly and intensely than any prior Vietnam Army commander had. His troops moved as fast as the famous Generals Sherman (again, of Civil War fame) and Patton (WWII), and possibly faster, even without taking into account the fact that DePuy rode on choppers while the best they had were horses and a tank.

With DePuy it was not unusual to see a command post and a few fire support bases appear one day, only to be moved the next. DePuy’s approach correlated his troops physical presence to the potential for action, putting his men in the line of fire whenever he could, rather than waiting for the line of fire to come to him. It may be an old infantry adage that if you hear the sound of gunfire, head toward it, but if it is, DePuy lived these words. He wanted to engage the enemy and he expected his troops to move to do so whenever the opportunity arose, even if that meant fighting while on the move.

With this kind of an attitude what could the Signal boys do but find new ways to not only keep up with him but prove their mettle too by outpacing the ground pounders. This caused them to have to come up with  even more rapid ways to deploy the communication assets at their disposal and get them up and running quicker. In this case though the problem wasn’t lack of equipment, it was the pace of tactical combat change. In particular, the unique Vietnam environment simply made communication at this pace anything but reliable. The standard process deployment approach that had been developed simply did not work. To fix the problem the Signal boys turned to innovation again.

 


Signal Corps Army Strong


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You've heard of it, but if asked, could you give a lucid explanation of what it is? Its symptoms?

Back in the Civil War it was called Da Costa's Syndrome, soldier's heart and cardiac neurosis.

People who have it live in a state of elevated adrenaline, their bodies constantly trying to adapt to normal life but usually failing.

This is accompanied with bouts of grief and guilt, along with traumatic bereavement over things they either did, or worse, things they didn't do. The people who have it often break into tears, for no reason at all. These factors combine to cause a rise in guilt until overwhelming grief hits, at which time the cycle repeats itself... over and over again.

In 1980 it made its first appearance in the American Psychiatric Association's edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness.

After the Civil War the terminology for it moved on and it was no longer called Da Costa's Syndrom. By World War I it was called shell shock. By World War II it was being called war neurosis. In Korea it was referred to as gross stress reaction. Today it's called PTSD.

The best treatment for it seems to be cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of exposure therapy using virtual reality. Sometimes narrative therapy seems to work too.

When treatment does not go well, or when there is no treatment at all, relationship problems rise to the surface, accompanied by misdirected and uncontained behavior, and often violence. And as though this is not enough, employment issues usually walk in lock step with each of these things.

According to the VA, 30 percent of Vietnam vets have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, compared with 10 percent from the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm. The VA's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder predicts that 11 to 20 percent of veterans of the current wars will be affected.

And it doesn't go away. Last month while finally getting around to signing up for the VA's Agent Orange Registry program a doctor at the San Diego VA facility diagnosed this author with PTSD. Forty-four years after returning from Vietnam some hack with an MD after his name tells me I have PTSD? Seriously? Is he kidding? You mean that's the explanation for the alcoholism, endless family fights, multiple marriages, DUIs, driving to endanger, nightmares, persistent challenging of authority, lack of satisfaction with life, constantly taking my anger out on friends, excessive acting out over the most trivial of issues, ability to shut people out of my life in an instant, extreme cynicism, overall ugly disposition, and curmudgeonly attitude? PTSD?

Heck... and I thought those were the character traits that made me loveable.

Pssst...

 

 Psssst... if you've got it, get help. Even after all these years it's not too late.


Even after 44 year, you can have it too. 


February's Crossword Puzzle

Army Signal CorpsTheme: 1st Signal BrigadeArmy Signal Corps

Hint: Join 2 and 3 word answers together as one complete word.

 For answer key to this month's puzzle,
see icon at bottom of page




Footnotes:

      [1] Sources and cross check for comments about non-notification of government of South Vietnam:

       — Neil Sheehan, Hendrick Smith, E.W. Kenworthy, and Fox Butterfield, eds., The Pentagon Papers (New York: Bantam Books, 1971)

       — William Bundy’s unpublished manuscript, chapter 19, as read and commented on by Bui Diem, member of the delegation to the 1954
           Geneva conference, Chief of Staff to the Premier of South Vietnam, 1965, et al.

       — U. Alexia Johnson, The Right Hand of Power (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984) 

       - To return to your place in the text click here:  

      [2] For a well written, brief history of the 173rd in Vietnam, see this Wikipedia article: Wikipedia - 173rd Brigade  - To return to your place in the text click here:

      [3] EL PASO II, HAWTHORNE, PAUL REVERE, SILVER BAYONET, MASHER/WHITE WING  [Click here for map of combat operations] - To return to your place in the text click here:

 

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Click for Augusta, Georgia Forecast Answer to this month's crossword puzzle

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