Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chapter 4: The Typical Day

Before I get into more of my adventures, I thought I would give you an idea what a typical 24 hour day was like for me.

Most days and nights were uneventful. We’d get up, eat breakfast, walked patrol during the day, stand watch for a couple of hours at night and every few nights, go out on night ambush. Well, except for the almost nightly rockets or mortars while I was at FSB Pershing, but I already told you about that.

First let me tell you about a patrol.

Pa·trol n 1: a detachment used for security or reconnaissance 2: the activity of going around or through an area at regular intervals for security purposes 3: a group that goes through a region at regular intervals for the purpose of security v : maintain the security of by carrying out a control [syn: police]

We’d get up not too long after it got light out, clean up, eat breakfast and get a briefing on what we were going to do that day. Then we’d pack up a day’s worth of the supplies we’d need and then head off on patrol. We’d usually just start walking the patrol, but sometimes we’d have to patrol somewhere too far away to walk to, because enemy activity was observed in an area or something like that.. In that case, we would taken by helicopter and then be dropped off and then we’d walk patrol.

Chopper ride

Patrol consisted typically of walking around searching for things and looking at stuff (search and destroy). We’d walk for awhile, stop for a short break and then walk some more until it was time for lunch. Lunch was always a picnic of the always delicious box of C rations. After lunch we’d walk around somemore, take another short and then head back to base camp. Patrol kind of reminded me of exploring the woods and swamps like I did growing up in Florida except in Florida I didn’t carry a rifle and all that other stuff I described in the last chapter.

Walking Patrol

Heating up the C-rations over some C-4 if you could get any

Once back in camp, we’d spend the time getting cleaned up, cleaning our weapons and writing letters and stuff like that until dinner. Dinner was always really very good (but then I liked cafeteria food in school so maybe I’m not the best judge). It was always hot and there was plenty of it. We always each got a quart of milk to drink. After dinner we’d retire to our bunkers and hang out before bedtime.
Hanging out

Then there was watch.

Watch v. watched, watch·ing, watch·es v. intr. 1. To look or observe attentively or carefully; be closely observant: watching for trail markers. 2. To look and wait expectantly or in anticipation: watch for an opportunity. 3. To act as a spectator; look on: stood by the road and watched. 4. To stay awake at night while serving as a guard, sentinel, or watcher. 5. To stay alert as a devotional or religious exercise; keep vigil.

When it started to get dark, we took turns standing watch for the night. First watch was always the best because once it was over, you got uninterrupted sleep for the rest of the night. The last watch sucked the most because you had to get up two hours early. Not much else to say about standing watch except it was usually boring and hopefully no one fell asleep while on watch.

My least favorite thing to do was go out on night ambush.

Am·bush n. 1. The act of lying in wait to attack by surprise. 2. A sudden attack made from a concealed position. 3. a. Those hiding in order to attack by surprise. b. The hiding place used for this. 4. A hidden peril or trap.

I hated night ambush more than anything we did. Every few days after we got back from patrol, one of the squads in our platoon (a squad is about 10-12 men), would go out on night ambush. After supper, we’d pack our poncho liner (sort of a small comforter used like a blanket to keep warm), restock anything we’d used during the day like water, ammo, etc, just not food, and head off to set up an ambush.

Officially we’d go to the assigned place, set up a few claymore mines all around us and wait for the bad guys to come by. If they did, we’d shoot at them. Unofficially, we’d usually just go to one of our favorite hiding spots, which was anywhere where we hoped the bad guys would not show up. Then we’d set up the claymores and for the rest of the night be real quiet until it got light out. I was told to never shoot first if I saw anyone. That way, hopefully they’d not see us and just walk on by. The reason we did this was because you never knew if the guys you saw were just a small patrol or the point for a battalion of NVA soldiers. See why we stayed quiet? We’d take turns sleeping and then just after daybreak we’d pack up and go back to camp and spend the rest of the day off duty doing pretty much what ever you wanted to do.

Look, I know I’ve over simplified this whole thing and many combat veterans will find fault with my descriptions, but that really was pretty much what it had been like most days for me. Mixed in amongst those days were the days that I’d wished had never come or would hurry and be over. The days I feared for my life and the lives of those around me. The days I trudged through the rice paddies in the muck and mire. The days I baked in the hot sun or shivered in the cold nights. The days and nights the rain drenched me. The days I was shot at and the days someone was wounded or killed. There were also a lot of good days too. Like the day I took a trip into the division base camp at Cu Chi for the fake tooth ache and the day we bought some scotch from a local and drank it with grape soda. Those are the days I will try to relive for you in the coming chapters.


anocsanamun said...

I could tell you that - I am way ahead then where I am choosing to comment, but I was showing this off to someone. I am so fascinated with the vietnam war. I think I am the reincarnated soul of a soldier or something. There is something about the war, any story of it - I eat it up like crazy... I feel so bad that you had to go.