"Banner Six called," he muttered. "He wants you to meet him down
there at the tank crossing," Phil added as he pointed to the creek
bed at the bottom of our night defensive position (NDP), a couple
hundred meters down the hill. "You want me too?" Phil asked with
much strain in his voice; elucidating the struggle his body had
each morning with the backpack burden, until his legs were able to
share their portion of the weight with his overworked shoulders.
"No," I said paternally; "drop your load here and wait. We
probably have a change in orders."
I asked that he gather my three squad
leaders and let them know I might have a change in orders for them
when I return. I thought surely we were going to fly into C-2
instead of humping for so long. That will save us about five hard
hours on the road. They must have other plans for C-1/61 and
A-1/77 companies. What a break for us!
As I reached the tank crossing I could see Captain Mac (Captain
James MacDonald West Point grad).
"What's up Captain?" I yelled across the creek as I gingerly
stepped from stone to stone across the shallow water.
"Bullshit, absolute bullshit," was his reply.
My heart dropped. Instant nausea.
"What!" I whined. "What the hell is going on? Don't
tell me we got Sparrow Hawk duty; that's crap. We had it last
time," I threatened half-heartedly.
(Sparrow hawk was the term used for a unit, usually platoon size,
airlifted to another location to bail out a unit in serious
trouble; always a dangerous assignment. And, to add insult to
injury, they always select a unit either on stand-down or close to
it as we were).
Our last stand-down was wasted when
our platoon was designated the brigade "sparrow hawk". We spent
three days running around looking for a new rocket site spotted by
some colonel flying around in a helicopter because he had nothing
else to do. It turned out to be just a shell casing from an
illumination round fired from the USS New Jersey off shore. Those
shell casements are so large they could destroy hooch just falling
from the sky. So we found this "new weapon" and reported back that
it was just garbage from the New Jersey. A wasted two days! Of
course they couldn't find transportation for us back to Charlie
Two and we wasted the last day of our stand-down swatting mosquitoes in the Cua Viet
River Valley while the rest of our company is whooping it up
getting smashed, eating real food, and getting plenty of rest.
Like a dangling carrot, I could see the hot turkey dinner, cool
shower, clean clothes and a drunken stand-down being grasped from
He gazed out toward the tank trail and noticed Wagner and Jarry
(second and third platoon commanders) walking and talking on their
way to meet us.
"Let's go," Mac shouted, "move out."
Wagner and Jarry had the same look of incredulity in their faces
as I had in my stomach. Something was very wrong and we were going
to be the recipients of the consequences.
Roger (Wagner) slowly crouched down shaking his head slightly and
doing his best to hold back any comment. Finally he succumbed to
the temptation sighing, "We're about to get screwed." With that he
fell back on his butt, wrapped his hands around the back of his
head and lowered himself to the sit-up position.
"Okay, before you guys crap yourselves, we're still going in
today," Captain Mac assured (though not quite so convincingly).
"They promised there would be a hot turkey dinner waiting for us
when we're done today."
"Done with what?" I thought.
"Here's the scoop," Mac said firmly, "I-77 and I-61 won’t be
picking us up this morning."
"That's a long fucking walk Captain," Jarry yelled, "We'll be too
goddamned tired to eat."
"No, we're not walking back," Mac advised. "We're going by chopper;
but not straight to Charlie-Two. A company of 1-61 has contact
near Marine Hill. We've been assigned as a blocking force as they
push Charlie into the Z. It'll be one big goddamn ambush. A
regular turkey shoot," he added with a wink (for the obvious pun).
It really wasn't much of a joke. At
least none of us were laughing.
"Alright, here it is," Captain Mac began as he unfolded his
situation map. He pointed to our location and then to a rather
flat area close by. "One-six, you secure a PZ (pick-up zone) for
the move. Send a squad patrol here, west of Hill 180 to cover any
movement there. Put two squads on Hill 162 and clear for six
Three-six, you pass through second platoon and board the first
sortie. You secure the LZ here on Hill 270 (our destination, three
kilometers south of Marine Hill below the DMZ). Get out two
patrols right away. Send them at least a click north and west of
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