If you are already in Vietnam, in a line company, an FNG and the monsoon season is about to begin, I didn’t think that things could get any worse. I had been in country for about 45 days and been humping the boonies for about 35 of those off LZ Vivian in north central III Corps. A FNG in a line company is nameless and walking drag so as not get anyone in trouble. We were not given any instructions and pretty much learned what not to do by watching someone else screw up. I had already been in several firefights, in which I was told to stay out of the way, and participated in a night time walk-off of a Fire Support Base, in pitch darkness, which ended up in mass confusion. Nothing was well organized.
This day the platoon sergeant was walking straight toward me during re-supply day. “Mother, we need two volunteers for Recon and you and Springer just volunteered. Saddle up and get on that re-supply slick.” I looked at Springer and he looked like he had just swallowed his canteen cup.
Echo Recon 1/5th 1st Air Cav was well known by their reputation. They were comprised, at full strength, of about 25 guys and their platoon leader, Lt. Denny MacVittie, was a West Point Graduate. Instead of breaking bush where the bad guys were not, they walked on the trails where they inevitably found some. Instead of wearing helmets, they wore boonie hats or head bands, suggesting that helmets make too much noise. Their missions often were to find trouble not hide from it. Occasionally they found more bad guys than they had anticipated.
Too soon we were over the Landing Zone in the middle of an open field. It was only big enough for one chopper at a time which meant we were going to draw a lot of attention getting all the re-supply in and off loaded. While the others hovered waiting for their turn, we went in on the first bird. We were dumped off with all the soda pop and C-rations right in the middle of the jungle. In a line company, which is comprised of about 125 guys, there is always someone to follow. Here we couldn’t even find the other guys. As we headed for the triple canopy for cover, Recon guys started popping out of the tree line. They had been pulling security for the choppers to land. Some of them actually took the time to shake our hands and introduce themselves. We were told we were in Bob Cossey’s squad and he motioned for us to follow him. Later we found out he was a Mormon with a degree from Brigham Young. What the hell was he doing here?
And then we were off, we had to put some jungle between us and that noise from the re-supply. As we soon found out, this unit was too small for mistakes. Everyone had a job responsibility and no margin for error. About an hour later the point man signaled for a halt for the night. There was no digging of fox holes, too much noise, besides they never worked well anyway. Some guys went to work setting up trip flares for security around the perimeter while others went out on a “Poppy” to look around the area, in order to eliminate any surprises in the middle of the night.
As I laid down my poncho liner to sleep on, I had this strange feeling of being frightened and feeling secure at the same time. As the day in the jungle disappeared into night fall I found myself feeling a little bit lucky. Little did I realize then, all that we were about to experience, but every time we got into trouble, we had each other’s back. We went through the scary times together. When we came out the other side, we came out as brothers. It was unspoken, but I was uniquely aware that if things got really rough, my brothers would be there with me. I was forming a bond that would never be broken.
It is now 48 years later and I see the guys ever so often. Even though the twilight of our lives is upon us, when I look in their eyes, I can still see that bond from so long ago, when I was an FNG with Echo Recon.