In the submarine movie U-271, there is a quick change of command during wartime circumstances. The first officer becomes the Captain. His start as Captain is somewhat shaky. He delivers commands and actions that are indecisive. The Chief of the boat senses this, and confronts the captain with some startling words. He is straightforward and says, “Captain, if you are going to lead this command, then lead with precision and decisiveness. No in-between.” After that, the Captain rose to his command potential.
The First Sergeant of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 199th at the forward headquarters north of Saigon was a Sergeant who showed the essence of taking hold of your command. As the First Sergeant asked for my MOS (“Military Operations Specialty”), I explained that I had two: 11 Charlie, 11C (this is an indirect fire specialist, that is, “mortars”), and 11 Bravo, 11B, which is a line platoon infantry specialist.
He decided to place me with the 4th Platoon–the mortar platoon. The First Sergeant said, “Sergeant, we need you in the 4th. There is no qualified NCOs with your 11C MOS. Sergeant, head up the hill to the right you’ll find 4th platoon area up there.”
Stay the Course
Walking into the 4th Platoon area of operations was like walking into a bar that you have never been in before. Somewhat unsure of your surroundings, the people inside size you up to see how you walk to the bar. How you walk in those moments will determine how you earn a space at the bar. As I learned, being with the 4th Platoon 199th soldiers, courage under fire was the norm. Their skills and bravery as weapons platoon soldiers was second to none.
I was put in charge of first squad, and was also made Fire Direction Specialist, responsible for directing the elevations, charges and accuracy when the motors fired into the planned targets. The guys in my squad were very accepting of me. One soldier said, “Sergeant, we all were praying for a Sergeant for our squad–a leader that would really show up.” My response: “First squad, I am here. I am your Sergeant. And, I will lead you.”
The VLP Team