Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vietnam -- Out On Patrol

It is hard to believe that a 67Y20 Cobra Mechanic would be part of a patrol venturing beyond the sanctuary of the outer parameter of Camp Eagle.

But I was.

While I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, it was a great opportunity to know what it would be like if my MOS was 11 bravo -- infantry solider. Even if it were for only one day and even if the area were were going out on patrol was just outside the outer parameter.

In-other-words, it was pretty much an extension of SERTS training. A touch scary since this isn't exactly the type of training one would think fitting for those performing helicopter support and making sure the weapons systems worked, the tubes full of rockets and the mini gun ammo box was topped off with chained 7.62 bullets.

Instead, we got briefed on how to walk, what to look for, how to spot trip wire and how to work as teams. Additional training on dealing with a wide variety of wounds, using the radio and how to call in a medical evacuation.

Short of wearing the ponchos, our band of a untrained lethargy looked more like decorated Christmas trees with Olive Drab hand gernades dotting ammo belts. I swear, if someone really did get shot, he most likely would have blown us all up!

Honestly, we looked more that part of extras for the movie the Green Berets then what we really were; anything but 11 bravos.

Of course, the tallest of the lot wore the radio.

Seriously, I was looking for those 2nd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry Cobra jockeys to be up above us just biting at the bit to roll right in on top of us and take us out of our misery should we come upon an ambush.

We sure would not have been prepared for or trained for any condition of combat the enemy would have dished at us. As for the enemy, he was probably laughing to hard to want to engage us.

The truth is, we were the enemy.

And having some wet behind the ears butter ball -- an first Lieutenant -- playing a seasoned infantry platoon leader was just as comical. Every time the rice paddy grass moved, he was on the radio calling it in.

There is nothing more inviting than a bunch of American soldiers out on vacation in Charlie Cong's urban rice paddies. We were a sorry looking lot. Not even the Water Buffalo charged at us.

I mused over the what if scenario:

Water Buffalo Attack After Action Report.

On the morning of hamburger from Water Buffalo Friday, A Water Buffalo made the fatal mistake of charging at 12 very Cherry Vietnam newbies.

The pursuant enbattlement, nothing more than hysterically comical, involved the use of 200 fragmentation Gernades, and 800 M-14 rounds bullets.

Most of the gernades missed their target due to adrelene surge and none got close enough to penetrate the beast's skin. The M-14 rounds just bounced off the rough skinned beast. In a state of panic, the Platoon leader, a 1st Lieutenant, called in an air strike on that Water Buffalo's exact position.

It was, well, denied.

For some reason, after that, the radio stopped working.

I wonder why.

This resulted in the 1st Lieutenant pulling out his 45 and performing a Blazing Sadels fast action from the hip shootout with the beast. As it turned out the injuries to his foot were self inflicted and not, as he claimed by the beast running over his foot.

While this did not bring the beast to his knees, a single soldier, risking his life to save his fellow soldiers from sure death, calmly and with exact precision, shot the beast between the eyes with an M-79 gernade launcher.

Casualties included:


12 men injured by their own fragmentation gernades -- court martialed for destroying government property

1 First Lieutenant who needed a fresh pair of trousers -- awarded a Purple heat for shooting himself in the foot under combat conditions

1 single soldlier who did not want to be identified with with this incident -- who had three tours of duty in Vietnam -- almost died laughing

What enemy?

Related casulaties:
1 Water Buffalo

The South Vietnamese civilian, was nothing more than really, really pissed -- in his words (translatted) -- you killed my water buffalio, prepare to die you pinko American pigs.

He was taken into custody for swearing and heated insults. Then given an ample supply of Hershey bars to give to his two wives and five kids.

End of report.

But seriously, this was indeed, a great opportunity for all of us for a variety of reasons:

Most of us would probably have never seen the way many of the people in Vietnam lived
Most of us would have never walked around rice paddies
Most of us would never have seen a live water buffalo that close
Most of us would never be given the opportunity to step into the shoes of an Infantry soldier
Most of us would never feel as vulnerable as we felt knowing a short man with an AK-47 could have easily picked us off less than 10 feet away behind some bushes and we would have never seen him
Most of us were never that up close and personal to the type of environment our infantry soldiers lived and died in.

As for me, while I was scared to death, I did enjoy going out on that patrol. Even if, beyond our sight were real infantry soldiers watching our backs.

Comparing this to going out on patrol with our Blue Platoon from the 2nd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry in 1974, I can safely say that while the group I was in that day in Vietnam did not come under fire, we acted professional and we did it by the book. But we did it durning the daytime hours.

Going out at night with the Blue Platoon, while we only had M-80 fireworks to throw at the National Guard, I knew from this experience that we were better trained than the Guard and much more serious about not getting ambushed in Vietnam than they were up at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

Vietnam is a pretty country and the people, while considered to be backwards measured against our own "normal", seeing them in their world made the tour in Vietnam an experience worth remembering.

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