That’s how most numbers are supposed to work and that is what is expected when a line combat company moves out for a search and seize, or any other operational directive that the combat company is assigned to carry out. The numbers of the march order should be: First, second, third, and fourth. Or so we thought. But that was not what the 3rd of the 7th Infantry Charlie company commander (usually a Captain) wanted on this particular day.
Disturbance Activity and Orders
(Military map reading) VC sightings in grids, from sun west 2.5. South 1, 5. Direction, 277 degrees for 15 clicks. The Captain’s orders were: “4th Platoon, you will be point platoon. Move out 277 degrees for 15 clicks.” Ah, being 1st Squad’s squad leader and in the 4th Platoon, guess who was leading the 3/7 combat company into this patrol? 1st Squad 4th platoon.
Positioning is Everything
The actual positioning for patrolling within this combat squad of 10 men (14 men is a full squad), looked like this:
1st Man: Point Man, 10 -15 feet in the front of the squad’s main body with a 277 degree direction.
2nd Man and the Point Man’s guard: 5-feet behind the Point Man.
3rd, Man: Squad leader.
4th, 5th, 6th Men: First fire team. A M60 machine gun operator and two riflemen one a team leader, one an ammo team guard with M60 ammo and assistant to the M60 gunner. When any contact arose, the M60 machine gunner is first into position to lay down fields of fire for any incoming threats. There’s nothing like a M60 for a squad’s protection.
6th 7th, 8th Men: Second fire team. Two riflemen and a M79 grenade launch operator.
9th Man: Medic.
10th Man: Rear rifleman keeping connection with Second Squad.
Terrain: Rice paddy fields with large jungle-type bush of terrain between rice paddy fields. You never walk on the rice paddy dike. The rice paddy dikes are easy to walk on, yet very susceptible to booby traps. First Squad’s line of patrol was right smack in the middle of the rice paddies. The middle part of the rice paddy usually holds about two feet of water. Movement that day for the company was good only snipers fire for some brief moments. The smart thing that took place within the company command was that no one would show their rank or insignias out on patrol, so as not to be the target of choice for any threating actions.
The Place to Be
You can be in a lot of places in your life that you really want to be, have fun, and enjoy. Patrolling right smack in the middle of a rice paddy in 1968 in South Vietnam was, for most people, the last place they ever wanted to be.
Or maybe not.
Sometimes in life it’s who we are with that really counts. It’s how we conduct ourselves in toughing it out in the places that we are placed. These places are what make us the heroes we all want to be. The integrity, valor, and precision of operations that took place that day and the following months with these heroic American soldiers was that moment in my life. Exactly where I wanted to be.