Saturday, December 07, 2013

FNG and the Hasty Ambush

It was a sunny spring day in Vietnam, 1970, and we had spent the afternoon doing "A Walk In The Sun".  Just ambling along, not being particularly aggressive, patrolling our AOR (Area Of Responsibility).

We hadn't any recent news from other platoons in our Company that they had contact with VC, and we were all enjoying the sunshine after months of Monsoon weather.  

So the sun was still up when we stopped our patrol for the night.

The drill was, we got up early in the morning, wandered through the "jungle" which was in this area mostly bamboo thickets, high-grass fields, and the surrounding alder thickets.  If you didn't run across an adder or an eight-inch centipede or a booby-trap or a VC patrol, and you had plenty of water and your socks weren't wet, we considered it "A Walk In The Sun".

We were a little uncomfortable with the day because only a week ago we had lost Bruce, and "The Chief" had been wounded by a booby trap.  The memorial ceremony for Bruce was tough on us.  He was walking "Pace" and The Chief was walking "Point", when Chief caught a trip wire which was connected to a couple of hand-grenades, and .. well, the Chief was in the hospital with shrapnel wounds in his back, and Bruce was coming up on the buried grenades when they went off.

But that's another story.

Enough to say that we were down a couple of men, and we were trying to deal with their loss (Chief came back to the platoon after he got out of the hospital, and the memorial ceremony for Bruce was .. weepy).  In the meantime we had a replacement from the REPL-DEPOT ... Division Replacement company.  We weren't quite sure how to fit him into the company, so the LT had given him to the two squads I was leading on this particular patrol.

At the end of this day, we were tired from a long hike and I decided to take advantage of what was a beautiful, pastoral setting.  Surrounded by thin trees, the high grass offered concealment and with the onset of sundown we expected to have only another twenty or thirty minutes of daylight before we could relax in the concealing comfort of the night.

We had set up Claymore Mines (Command Detonated, directional bombs which projected 700 .30 caliber steel ball-bearings in the direction in which they were aimed) and had established a watch-list.  In the meantime, we were doing our pooping and peeing, eating C-rations, laying out Ponchos and Poncho Liners as our "beds" in the soft Spring grass, and generally getting ready for a night of "Hold Your Ass 'Til Daylight".

That was how we described camping out in an alder thicket where we knew that VC might possibly travel through.  Think "Platoon", where Charlie Sheen sits and watches a VC patrol walk past him while everyone else is asleep.  My favorite nightmare, and I was happy that I never actually had that happen.

What DID happen, was that just as we were getting settled in we spotted a 5-man patrol of VC walking by on the trail which we had chosen to 'ambush' that night.  A trail that we had been paralleling for the past few hours.

I made signals to the squad to hunker down and get ready, but the FNG  (F**king New Guy) was up on his feet wandering around, smoking a cigarette and trying to get acquainted with the rest of the half-platoon members.  When everyone was saying "Shhhhhh!", he was saying "WTF?"  He hadn't yet learned Situational Awareness, and when we were trying to get him to lie down in the tall grass so we could avoid been seen and shot up by the passing VC, he thought we were being rude to him because he was .. well, the FNG.

I was positioned, as always, by the initiators .. or "Clackers" as we called them .. which controlled the Claymores.  Each clacker was arranged in a circle, so I knew which clacker would detonate which Claymore.  I had clackers for the two Claymores which were pointed at that arc of the trail which the VC patrol was traversing, but I couldn't trigger them because the FNG was still standing up and arguing with all the guys who were saying "SHHHhhhh!" and making frantic hand-motion for him to lay down!

Understand, if you will, that while Claymores are directional, they are encased in a plastic body.  And with a pound and a quarter of Composition Four Plastic Explosive, the back-blast can be quite powerful .. and will blast small plastic particles back toward the party which sets them off.

That "party" was US, and especially the FNG who would rather argue than obey commands from his Platoon Sergeant.

It took a few seconds for the FNG to notice that he was the center of attention, and then he turned around and looked where we were pointing ... at the VC.

The VC had spotted him, and were starting to point their AK-47's in our general direction, so I blew the mines.  I had no choice; they were ready to shoot and all we had in the few seconds since we had spotted them were the clackers in my hands.  And the FNG was standing between the Claymores (and the VC), and the rest of is.

KaBOOOOOM!  Both of the Claymores went off.  The VC went running away and we never saw them again.  All I can say is that they got out of the Forward Kill Zone of the Claymore Mines before they were detonated.

The FNG, however, did not escape the back-blast.


When the smoke had cleared, and we determined that the VC had escaped without injury (due to the delay in initiating the "Hasty Ambush"), all we were left with was a wide swath of close-mown grass and a bleeding FNG.

A moment of silence, and then the FNG was back on his feet.  He looked at the bloody gash in his pants and starting screaming "WHAT THE F**K DID YOU DO THAT FOR?  YOU ALMOST KILLED ME!  LOOK, ANOTHER INCH AND YOU WOULD HAVE BLOWN MY BALLS OFF, YOU BASTARD!"

It hadn't yet occurred to him that he was perhaps the luckiest man in the Army.  He had caught just one fragment of the plastic Claymore case, and it hit his upper thigh just a few inches from .... yes ... his Family Jewels.

There was a little blood, a lot of pain, and it took only a few minutes for us to clean the wound and put a band-aid on it.

He should have been dead.  In fact, his squad leader later told him "I almost killed you myself, you sorry bastard, for standing up and giving us away to the VC!".

In the end, the VC got away probably a lot less damaged than our FNG.  HE never forgave me for almost blowing his balls off, and I never forgave him for being such a clueless ... person.

We tried to track the VC, but never picked up their trail.  We were running out of light. So we packed up and slipped away, and didn't settle down for the night until we were far, far away.

The next week, I got the FNG transferred to another company.  I didn't tell their Platoon Leader that he was an idiot, but I suppose he figured it out soon enough.


Anonymous said...

Every unit has them. Our team got one. He didn't last long.

Anonymous said...

Changing the subject slightly, will the Geek be having a lutefisk Christmas?

Jerry The Geek said...


Yah, fer shuuure...