But, today starts like any other. Itâ€™s monotonous, routine, predictable. We awake, sit in our holes, watch for the enemy who may come and hoping that he does not. Today, he does not. No screaming hordes of VC or NVA suddenly erupt from the brush just beyond our pile dirt. Well and good.
We fiddle with our stuff, searching through our over-burdened rucksacks for breakfast and tearing down our poncho tents, keeping a close eye on everything all the while. Is that movement there in the bushes? No, itâ€™s nothing. Is that noise suspicious? No, itâ€™s just an animal.
Iâ€™m not particularly hungry this morning, so I fish out a couple of C-ration packets of hot chocolate and dump them into my canteen cup. I mix in some powdered milk packets and a couple of packets of sugar (also from the C-rats) and try to make it as thick as I can. It seems a little lame and thin, but itâ€™s the best I can do. Breaking off a chunk of C-4 explosive from a 2lb block of the stuff, I drop it into a used C-ration can which Iâ€™ve perforated with a â€œchurch keyâ€? and use as a stove. Lighting the C-4, which burns almost invisibly, I sit my canteen cup on my â€œstoveâ€? and await the boiling, which wonâ€™t take long.
Just as it begins to steam, my Squad Leader, SSG Jerry Tucker, comes by and says itâ€™s time to go out and pick up our MAâ€™s. An MA is a â€œMechanical Ambush,â€? a Claymore mine rigged with a trip-wire which we use both offensively and as a defensive measure for our little NDP (Night Defensive Position). (â€œBooby trapsâ€? are illegal under the Geneva Conventions, so we call them â€œMAâ€™s.â€?) The night before, we set out a few of them to cover likely avenues of approach and we have to go and retrieve them.
Normally, this isnâ€™t something I would be involved in because Iâ€™m a member of the Machinegun crew. Dennis â€œChingâ€? Lau and I are the gunner and assistant gunner and our â€œPigâ€? normally stays right where it is when the other guys go out to pick up MAâ€™s.
But, today, I feel compelled to go, so I offer to take the â€œPigâ€? for additional firepower just in case. Tucker accepts my offer, but â€œChingâ€? declines to go. No problem. Nothing is likely to happen anyhow and itâ€™s no big deal.
I leave my steaming hot chocolate and join 3 or 4 others who have assembled for our purpose and Bob Jascek leads us to where he set out the MA yesterday at sundown. I throw my Machinegun up on a pile of dirt and aim down the trail toward where the MA is planted. Bob jerks on the battery wire, the Claymore tumbles backwards without incident, we retrieve it and return to the perimeter.
This is actually suprising. Weâ€™ve already had a couple of incidences of the enemy having sneaked up during the night, turning the Claymores around, and then making noise to encourage us to blow the mines in our own faces and at least one incident of a fragmentation grenade being placed underneath the mine. Today, though, nothing is remiss and I feel sort of foolish for bringing the â€œPig.â€? It wasnâ€™t needed and I only inconvenienced myself for nothing. As we said then, â€œIt donâ€™t mean nuthinâ€™.â€?
When we get back to the NDP, my â€œhotâ€? chocolate is cold, but I drink it anyhow. Itâ€™s just as refreshing.
Our Platoon Leader, LT Terry Haines, calls the Squad Leaders to a conference at his rucksack and the rest of us begin packing up. We know the routine too well: Pack it all away, walk to somewhere, hoping against hope that we donâ€™t get ambushed, unpack it all, set up a tent and spend another night on some other hilltop pretending we arenâ€™t going to die before sun up.
They decide that the platoons will split up this day, each squad performing a different mission, and re-joining later with the rest of the company. The CO has decided itâ€™s much too â€œhotâ€? around here for the under-strength platoons to be operating independently, so he wants the whole company together by days end.