As Featured On Ezine Articles I came into country at Cam Ranh Bay. I had been in country for a few days and had been through Cherry School. On the 9th day of September 1969, my name was called out as being assigned to E, 2/8, 1st Cav Div. We left for Tay Ninh. When we got to Tay Ninh we were told where our company headquarters was. When we got there I thought this is not so bad. I saw lots of sand bags and plenty of places to take cover. About the time I decided on what looked like the place I would want to be during an attach, we were told to come pick up our gear. We were shown the supply room where they gave us a pack, 10 empty M16 magazines, a poncho, a poncho liner, a soft canteen, and some bug juice. I packed the stuff into the back pack in the same order that it was given to me. We were then told that a Chinook would pick up in a few minutes. By then it was probably 4:00 pm. We loaded on the chopper.
After the chopper had been in the air for quite a while, it started to circle. I looked out a side window. There were people running around in what looked like a field of mud surrounded by a mud berm. It looked like a creek ran through the middle of the mud field. The chopper started a decent. Huggins asked the rear doorman what was down there. He said, “Your home.” Huggins turned and looked at me as he said, “No, Man!” Well sure enough, they made us get off the chopper and wade through mud into the LZ. We were met by Sgt Brown. He was a real jolly guy who started out by showing us a Chinese hand grenade. He said don’t be like the dumb ass we sent home yesterday. He pulled the string and blew his balls off. Brown never smiled. He said, “Now this is serious so you always listen to what I tell you.” We were all ears. I had been trained in mortars in AIT and in NCO School. I’m not sure Huggins had ever been in mortars. Brown told Huggins that he would be in FDC and that I would be going out with the Recon Platoon the next day. I said, “But all my training was in mortars.” Brown responded, “I don’t need any mortar men. You’re going with Recon.” I asked, “How many of these men have had mortar training?” Brown snapped back, “None of them, but that don’t matter cause I spent a lot of time in artillery.” I was reminded of the term “military intelligence”. Sgt. Brown showed us a small metal hooch that had a poncho on each end with a couple of sandbags laying on each poncho to hold it on. Brown said “now put 3 layers of sandbags on this hooch then you can go to sleep.” We looked at each other in complete amazement. Sure, we thought. Where’s the damn sand?
We put a few bags of mud on the hooch and then gave up, crawled in, and laid down to try to sleep. Shortly after we got in the hootch, all hell broke loose. We figured out that we were having a mad minute. Tried to go back to sleep, but I just laid there listening to the sounds on the LZ. Some time later, I don’t know what time, explosions started going off way to close to us. We sat up and looked at each other. We decided it had to be incoming. We started digging in our back packs to get the empty magazines that had been issued to us. About that time shrapnel came through the poncho and cut a large hole in my air mattress. I plopped down on the pallet. Someone yelled from outside, “Is somebody in that hooch?” We reluctantly answered in the affirmative. He said get out on the berm and start firing. I told him we didn’t have any ammo in our magazines. He told us there was plenty of ammo at the berm. I crawled out and briefly met Sgt Kilgore.
I crawled toward the berm. On my way, I crawled right into what had looked like a creek from the air. I thought I was going to drown. I hung on to my M16 and scrambled out on the other side. I crawled up to the berm and asked for ammo. Somebody threw several magazines to me. I loaded my rifle and looked over the berm. Right there in front of me was a gook about thirty feet from my location. On the trip to Vietnam, I worried that I would not be able to kill someone when faced with the need to do so. It had really bothered me, but I did not tell anyone about my concern. As my eyes fell on the gook I unloaded a twenty round clip into him. Oh well, some much for fear of killing. When the brown fecal matter hits the rotating wedge, training takes over and you do what you have been trained to do. Thank you God.
That night the squad leader of Blue 3 was wounded and medivaced. The next day Sgt. Brown assigned me to that job. He said, “Now I need a mortar man.”
Posted by Randall at 8/12/2008 12:30 PM
Categories: Mortar, 1st Cav, Vietnam