From October 1971 to October 1972, I served as a Assistant Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (AROICC) for Vietnamese contractors in Vietnam under the Officer in Charge of Construction - Republic of Vietnam (OICC-RVN). Another young ensign managed Vietnamese contractors in II Corps (Central Highlands), while I managed projects in I Corps (Da Nang, Hoi An, etc.) and III Corps (Saigon). All of the other sixty (and more senior) naval Civil Engineer Corps officers at OICC-RVN supervised the construction program as a whole and the huge American construction cost-plus-award-fee contractor RMK-BRJ (more about them later).
The design for projects, the bidding, and the award of contracts were made by the OICC headquarters in Saigon. The awarded construction contracts were then assigned to AROICCs for management in the field. Management of these projects included expeditious contractor direction, design review and coordination, negotiation of change orders and claims, liaison with client agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or the Army Corps of Engineers, and supervision of Vietnamese civilian construction inspectors. Over the year, I managed 21 contracts to Vietnamese contractors (and one French contractor) including 360 units of family housing, a 240-bed hospital addition, two province supply centers, two reinforced-concrete bridges, and a 202-building school.
Although I had just completed an intensive construction contract administration course at the Civil Engineer Corps Officer School in Port Hueneme, California, I was a very young inexperienced architect. This assignment as an AROICC in Vietnam was a “sink-or-swim” opportunity, and I learned very quickly. Each of these projects had a Vietnamese construction inspector assigned to them, and I am very thankful for the construction experience they transferred to me. In particular, the Chief Inspector, Vo Van Thanh, was my mentor that whole year and I learned a lot from him beyond construction to Vietnamese life and culture. He made sure that I got out and sampled Vietnamese and French restaurants.
Unfortunately, I did not pick up on Vietnamese language because all of the Vietnamese contractors and construction inspectors spoke English very well.