CANFIELD — Marine Corps veteran Paul C. Boucherle spent his military life working on black boxes as part of a specialized mission in Vietnam in the 1970s.
Boucherle grew up on the north side of Youngstown and attended Ursuline High School. He graduated in 1970 and had already committed to military service.
“As a middle three-year-old, I wanted to prove myself by taking on something tough,” Boucherle said. “I joined the Marines during my senior year at the Ursulines.”
Since he was 17 at the time, his parents, Charles H. and Nancy Boucherle, had to sign for him. His brother Charley and sister Mary were both college-bound, but Boucherle wanted to take a different path.
“School bored me,” he says. “I had more interest in seeing the world and experiencing it.”
On September 20, 1970, Boucherle headed for a training camp at Parris Island Marine Base in South Carolina. Entering with him was Al Bowman, who played football at the Ursulines. During recruitment, they were asked if they wanted to enter the buddy program where two people from the same community could serve together.
Bowman and Boucherle were an odd pair. Bowman was 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. Boucherle was the opposite, standing 5ft 6in and weighing 125.
“We were like Mutt and Jeff,” Boucherle said. “The Marines usually pick the bigger and the smaller, so we both got it.”
Boucherle and Bowman completed their training on November 30, 1970. Both were sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to begin their advanced weapons training. Because Boucherle excelled in electronics, he went to Memphis, Tennessee, for six months of training. From there he was posted to HAMS 14 (Headquarters Maintenance Service) and began working on the Grumman EA-6A aircraft.
Boucherle explained that the EA-6A had removed most of its weapons and replaced them with state-of-the-art radar jamming equipment.
“The converted aircraft’s job was to fly ahead of an Alpha strike or bombardment to jam enemy radars and communications,” Boucherle said. “Our planes picked up the signals from the radar and we could confuse it and, if they’re close enough, could melt their screens.”
Boucherle’s actual work involving the AE-6A was in “shop level repair”. He said each plane had 16 black boxes that controlled the plane’s functions. These boxes were checked using an analog computer to simulate what happens in flight. If one of the boxes broke down, it was Boucherle’s job to find the cause and fix it. Some boxes contained up to 50 replaceable modules.
Once Boucherle completed his specialty training, he was assigned to VMCT-2 – Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron Two – and was scheduled to report to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga in Florida. For 40 days, Boucherle was part of the ground crew aboard the ship as the pilots of his unit’s 12 aircraft were certified to land on an aircraft carrier at sea. That was in early 1972.
After the 40-day certification period, Boucherle’s unit was granted a 30-day shore leave, but this ended on April 14, 1972, when all leave was canceled and the unit had to return to Saratoga to leave for Vietnam – a 28-day trip. . The day before the ship’s departure, the Army made the decision to send its unit by commercial aircraft to Vietnam as AE-6A aircraft were needed immediately.
Boucherle said her unit boarded a Northwest Airlines commercial plane and headed to the Philippines, where she was married to VMCJ 1, the sister unit. Together, the two units were moved to Subic Bay Naval Port in the Philippines.
From the Philippines, Boucherle said the unit traveled daily to Da Nang, Vietnam, to work 12-14 hours on the AE-6A aircraft.
“Every day we flew to Da Nang on two C-130 planes with lots of replacement black boxes,” he said. “We were the ground support for every mission and we had to keep our planes in the air.”
He said that during daily work in Da Nang, the base was constantly attacked by rockets. The planes were severed in walled off areas which prevented the loss of several planes from a rocket. When the strikes came, Boucherle and his comrades had to take refuge in sandbag bunkers. He said normally eight to 10 rockets would come in a strike.
Boucherle helped keep American planes in the air for almost a year. On January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Accord was signed and the next day Boucherle’s unit left Vietnam and headed for a different world.
“When we landed at an airport in San Francisco, we were still enlisted, but we were told not to wear our uniforms at public airports due to harassment from soldiers,” Boucherle said. “I was spat on.”
He said even the people he went to school with changed their minds about who served in Vietnam.
“They didn’t want to accept our services,” he said. “I was just as angry as the next guy, but I put my energy into doing something instead of turning to drugs and alcohol like so many others have.”
In September 1974, Boucherle was honorably discharged and returned to civilian life. He immediately enrolled in classes at Youngstown State University to study electrical engineering.
In January 1975, Boucherle was hired by the city of Youngstown as a traffic light lineman. He said he enjoyed this job for two years before being hired by ADT in 1977.
“At ADT, I was an alarm service investigator,” Boucherle said. “I worked at night for five years. When a burglar alarm went off, I notified the police, then headed to the site (of the alarm) with my toolbox and armed. »
He graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering after 6½ years at YSU and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He said he didn’t have much time to relax because he worked 40 to 50 hours a week while attending YSU as a full-time student.
“All those 18-hour shifts in the Marine Corps paid off,” Boucherle said.
After graduating, Boucherle transferred to ADT in Columbus where he met a secretary – Jayne Duffett of Canfield – and later married her. The couple moved to Canfield and bought the house next to the house where Jayne grew up. They help her father, Daryl Duffett, who just turned 100.
After 21 years at ADT, working his way up to National Account Manager, Boucherle left to start his own business. He opened Matterhorn Consulting, named after his great-grandfather, Louis Boucherle, an immigrant from Switzerland.
Boucherle is also a writer and has a column in a magazine for the security industry.
He keeps photos from his time in Vietnam and has his unit’s patch, the head of a Playboy bunny. He said his unit was known as “The Playboys”. He said the logo was controversial in the United States, so it was only used on ships at sea.
Paul C. Boucherle
BRANCH OF SERVICE: United States Marine Corps
MILITARY HONOURS: Vietnam Service Medal
OCCUPATION: Enterprise Security Consultant, Certified Protection Professional
FAMILY: Wife, Jayne Boucherle; children, Brian and Lauren