Illegally Sane 14
Cody was still in the head when I happened to notice Pat’s Rolex. “Is that real, Pat?” “My watch, of course it’s real, didn’t you ever see one before?” “Seen plenty of them, in fact I use to own one myself. I was just remembering the first time I ever saw one. It was back at the embassy in Santo Domingo; all of the Yale boys use to wear them.” “Yale boys?” “Yeah, the CIA guys who use to chopper in all of the time. It was part of their uniform, Khaki brush jacket, Khaki field pants, Jungle boots, mirrored pilot shades and the good old Rolex.” “How did you know they were CIA?” “One of the DSSS guys told me.” “What the heck is the DSSS?” “The badest guys on the block, Pat, Department of State Security Service.” Just then Cody returned, “I’m back; go on with your story, John.”
Let’s see, Yeah we spent a week walking around in the highlands looking for Charlie but he had boogied long before we showed up. All we found were some snakes, lots of birds and just about every type of bloody insect in existence. The next mission went the same, but the third one made up for the two freebees.
Some ARVIN outfit was getting its clock cleaned by a large VC unit. We ended up dropping in on a hot LZ and this time we got hurt. My chopper took some heavy automatic weapons fire on the way which blew off two of the crew chief’s fingers and we had to exit the chopper in the air about six feet above touch down. It was hot all right, and before it was over Blake left on a stretcher and Reese ended up leaving in a body bag.
When we got back to base camp, a terrible thought suddenly crossed my mind. What if Clark had set me up and this was going to be my permanent job for the next 11 months. I could just see him and Knox in his office laughing their heads off. Nah, I thought, I just couldn’t see Clark doing something like that. But one thing was for sure; I didn’t want to do this shit anymore. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we got the word we were going out again.
It was early November, about two weeks before Thanksgiving. In the morning, the 1st/7th got choppered out dee dee mei. By early afternoon, the casualties were choppering in on a regular basis.
We had heard earlier in the week that the sneaky Pete camp at Plei Me had gotten hit pretty hard. The word was that the 1st/7th was duking it out with the guys that did it.
That night in the tent, Snake Straced us up. He checked our equipment, weapons, ammo, extra socks; the whole nine yards. Then he told us to stay real frosty because we were probably going to get in this one for sure. Two days later, it was, “Second Platoon, right face, column of twos double time.” A minute later I was sitting in a chopper with the rotors spinning staring accross at Hernandez. He just smiled, "Got your ticket, right?" Then it was up, nose down, and we were on our way to hell.
We all knew in our gut that this one was going to be bad. But Snake told us it was pretty much over at X-Ray and we’d probably just be mopping up. He was almost right about that.
When we dropped in on LZ X-ray, there were still some casualties waiting for medevac and a little scattered gun fire in the distance, but for the most part it seemed to be pretty much over. Then somebody got the idea that we should take a little walk over to LZ Albany and cut off any NVA stragglers.
All I remember is that it was a nice day up until a few shots rang out up in the front of the column. Then suddenly a few shots from the tree line on our flanks. Then the whole tree line exploded and screaming little dinks with fire in their eyes came running at us through the elephant grass blasting away. The next thing I remember after that was sitting on my helmet smoking a cigarette. My fatigues were covered with blood, so was the bayonet on the end of my rifle and the smell of gun smoke and the stench of spent adrenalin was everywhere. The only good news was; the blood on my fatigues wasn’t mine.
When what was left of us got back this time, I decided to have a heart to heart with Snake. “I can’t do this shit anymore, Snake. It’s crazy, it’s Russian roulette and that round in the chamber seems to be coming up on me real fast.” ” Snake wasn’t the same guy either. Just like the rest of us that survived, he had lost his heart and soul in that damn valley. But I guess as an act of friendship, he dug deep down in his gut to come up with an answer. “What exactly do you want me to do Combat, kiss you on the forehead and make it better? I’ve been in this f…g hole for five months and you know what, its going to get worse, a whole f..g lot worse. That was Nathan Victor out there and there’s a whole lot more where he came from. So you just better get your ass ready to deal with it.” “How the hell am I supposed to deal with this shit Snake?” “I’ll tell you what you do combat. Just do your f..g job, man. Kill the bad guys and take care of your buddies. What goes down here goes down here, and we ain’t got dit shit to say about it. As long as you’re doing your job, you’re making it, man. If you start thinking about playing it safe, then you’re definitely out here in a body bag, guaranteed.” I knew he was right, but I still didn’t know how I could possible do another ten months of this stuff.
By now I had over three months in my line unit and I was starting to seriously consider the possibility that my mission, what ever it was, had been scrapped. Oh, I still trusted Clark all right, but I didn’t trust the army. I knew it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that if the mission was scrapped, someone higher up might have decided, “Well, why don’t we just leave him where he is for the next ten months.” What made it worse was, with all the new replacements, I knew sooner or later we’d be going out again.
Finally, reassurances came in one day, in the form of a CBR inspection. It seemed it was now time to evict all of the centipedes and other assorted little creatures that had taken up residence in our gas mask bags. When I saw who the inspecting officer from Maagv was, it took me back a bit. It was none other than Charlie Taylor, now Captain Charlie Taylor wearing crossed retorts on his collar. .
After the inspection, my CO sent for me. When I walked into the CP tent, he introduced me to Charlie and left. Charlie just smiled at me and asked, “Did you ever make it to For McClellan Moran?” “No sir, I ended up OJT in a chemical outfit at Bragg.” “What was your MOS, stud?” “534.10 Tech Intel.” “Were you any good at it?” “I thought so, sir.” “Well, what the hell are you doing in a line outfit over here?” “Beats the hell out of me, sir.” Then he stared at me for a second and smiled, “You’re dismissed.” I just saluted and left.
A week later I was on a sand bag detail when the first sergeant sent for me. When I walked in, he just smiled, “Moran, go back to your tent and pack then report back here with your gear.” “Am I going home first sergeant?” “Hell no, you’re being transferred, I’ll give you your orders when you get back. Now move it.”
When I got back to my tent, none of the guys were around so I just packed up and went back to the CP. The first sergeant handed me my orders and I read them. I was to report to Special troops, Maagv, Saigon. It seemed I was being reassigned to Charlie’s CBR inspection team. Top told me there was a jeep outside waiting to take me over to a chopper that was heading that way. I asked him if I could say good bye to my buddies. He just growled at me, “Why don’t you just write instead. Now get your God damned ass out of here Moran.” I guess that was Top’s way of saying, “Good Luck, we’re going to miss you around here.
Pat kicked in, “So you must have known Colonel Moore?” “Colonel Moore? Colonel Moore? Hmmm I smiled, “Did he have short hair and use to wear a lot of green and Khaki outfits?” Cody and Reed laughed. Then I gave Pat a straight answer, “I saw him around once or twice, but we weren’t really on a first name basis or drinking buddies. He was the CO of 1st/7th, I was in the 2nd/7th, my CO was Colonel McDade, and quite frankly we weren’t drinking buddies either. You got to remember, Pat, I was just there to be one of the grunts in the middle.”
Then Reed kicked in, “What happened when you got to Saigon?”
When I got there, I reported in, but Charlie was out in the field. So I handed my orders to Lt. Riggs. He just looked at my orders and smiled, “You better report directly to Sergeant Major Devlin. I do believe he wants to chat with you. Then he pointed to a closed door. I knocked and a loud boom came back that rattled the door on its hinges, “Come in.” I walked in stood at attention and reported, “Sergeant Major, private Moran reporting for duty. Then I handed him my orders. He stared me down and barked, “Sit down Moran.” Then he glared at me, “Moran, do you know what the one thing Sergeant Majors hate more than anything else in this world?” “No Sergeant Major.” “Well I’m going to tell you, its confusion. See confusion leads to disorder and disorder kills people out here. You’re arrival here has caused confusion. Not you’re fault mind you, and not to worry, because it’s my job to end confusion. Now the problem we have here is that Captain Taylor is confused. See, he is only TDY here and doesn’t have any authorization to form any Inspection team. The reason he is confused is because he thinks he can do whatever the hell he likes to around here. Actually he can’t. That’s because this is my headquarters and in my headquarters I do all of the hiring and firing, nobody else. Now I don’t want you to get confused, Moran, so listen very carefully. You and everyone else f….g reports directly to me and no one else. I give the orders around here and my orders are final. Do you understand that?” “Yes Sergeant Major.” “Good, now I have decided that you will best serve in this headquarters as an assistant supply clerk. You will report to Major Harris every day and he will assign you your duties, not Captain Taylor. Do you understand that?” “Yes Sergeant Major.” “Very well, now go report to Major Harris and if you see Captain Taylor tell him he needs to see me immediately.”
I left his office and walked over to Riggs. He just silently pointed to another door marked Maj. Harris. I reported in and the Major seemed like a nice enough guy. We talked for a few minutes and then he told his other clerk Link to take me over to the barracks and get me squared away. But just before we got to the stairway door, Charlie walked in.
“Hey Moran, where are you going?” “I’m going to the barracks and get myself squared away Captain.” “Good, when you’re through report back here I’ll show you what we’re going to be doing.” “Captain, the Sergeant Major has assigned me to work for Major Harris.” Charlie’s eyes widened and he barked, “Wait a minute, I’m a little confused here, didn’t you read your orders?” “Captain, the sergeant major said you might be a little confused and he wants to talk to you about it right away.” Charlie snarled, “F..k this shit, you come with me right now and I’ll get this straightened out pronto.” I was scared; I knew this was a loose-loose situation no matter how I played it. Then suddenly an angel of mercy appeared out of no where; it was Major Harris. “Captain, you take this up with the sergeant major by yourself, Moran doesn’t have anything to do with it. Moran, go get your stuff squared away.” It was like a noose was just taken off my neck.
I just looked at Harris and smiled, “Thank you sir.”