Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vietnam -- FSANGC Raids

My experiences in Vietnam would not be complete without a few encounters with mela drama. I mean, after all, why would you want to writer about Vietnam if everything you did was routine, on the up and up and didn't add a single line to someone elses day of infamy?

So what does FSANGC stand for? Find, Steal And Not Get Caught.

Wait, wait, before you go sigh and turn me off, we had perfectly good reasons to want to perform these mini raids.  They just wouldn't hold up in a court of law.

But then our primary targets weren't exactly maintaining straight ledgers either.

Suppose, for example, you were looking for the newer, thicker skid pads for your 12 AH-1G Cobras and knew a set -- just one set, mind you -- would mean the difference between having 4 sections up instead of three.

So, you go to your parts manual, get the part number, fill out the request card and drive over to the helicopter parts supply center. You just spent a an hour doing all of this and the E-6 behind the desk has got an attitude problem, sizes you up and tells you he's fresh out.

Now, as a SP-4, you're not exactly in the driver's seat to tell this dip shit to get off his dead ass and look at his parts list to see if the part truely does or doesn't exist. And when you can actually see the parts just feet away from you and you have a Cobra down because of this...its time for Batman and Robbin to appear in the raw black ink of a red dust filled night.

It was time to give that E-6 and attitude adjustment.

It was time for a FSANGC raid.

Understand we really weren't trying to do anything legal.  Technically we were just trying to keep an Aviation unit flying and combat ready.  So consider the following peeves.  One, all parts supply centers had excess parts on hand for their local units. Even when a Red Ball order -- one that is of the highest priority and requires immediate attention -- comes in, the E-6 has the right to not take his last one off the shelf.

And when I'm looking right at those skid pads and its June 18th when we were flying every Cobra that was able to fly to support our soldiers from being massacred up at Fire base Ripcord, I'm sorry if stealing those pads could land me in jail, I'm going to get those pads and I'm going to make damn sure they're on that Cobra no later than the dawn of the next day.

So, Lt Geis and I went over to the same same supply center and I dropped him off on the side of the building. We had done this twice before so I was pretty well versed on what I was supposed to do next.

I walk in the supply center and said, "I'm back!"

"Okay, what do you want this time?"

"Grab some coffee and just chit chat about Ripcord."

"Ripcord?? Yeah, every one's talking about Ripcord like its some big deal."

"I know, its horrible. Chinook goes down, the fire base is pretty much destroyed and they have to live in the CS gas while constantly getting shelled by Viet Cong mortars", I said as a matter of fact.

About then, Lt Geis slips producing a horrendous clamor the dead would have been woken up by.

"What was that", asked one of the parts clerk to the other.

"Well, it wasn't incoming," I suggested, "So maybe the wind knocked something down."

Okay, so this wasn't working. So, I did something I used to do as a kid.

"So, here's the real reason why I'm here tonight. And hear me out before you say no, okay?"

They were both willing to listen. That was a good thing.

"I really came down here for one thing. Now, you can tell me no. But I can see what I need from here. So, I know you have the part.

"I could go through normal channels and get those Cobra skid pads by placing the order with you for them in three days. The men up at Ripcord don't have three days to wait for additional support from us or for that matter, from anyone else.

"So yeah, you can tell me you're out.  But I'm going to tell you that without them, two Cobras won't be flying tomorrow and when you're flying 24 hour missions 7 days a week, these additional Cobras will become instrumental in saving the lives of our fellow soldiers.

"So, think about about the decision you're about to make and realize that part isn't just a part, it represents the loss of American lives."

I got two pairs of skid pads, tied them to the back of my jeep and picked up Lt. Geis near the corner of the building.

"Sir, are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Dick.  Jesus Christ, how did you pull that one off?"

"Just told them the truth, Sir.

"Our Cobras are saving lives up on Ripcord. Having two down due to skid pads would mean the loss of more American lives. I'm sure, they didn't want that kind of guilt on their conscious."

Our 4 sections continued to fly and support the efforts to soften up enemy strong holds. When you're out numbered 40 to one, our Cobras played a vital role. The following is from the After Action Report from Firebase Ripcord:

Heavy 12.7mm anti-aircraft fire was directed against the aircraft flying into the firebase.

Air, artillery, and ARA destroyed several enemy mortars and 12.7mm machine guns.

In addition, numerous enemy driven into the open by CS were killed by air, artillery, and ARA.

Sometimes, just explaining the impact of a decision can make all the difference.

We never did another FSANGC raid again.

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