Updated: Jan 21, 2019
1969, Phu Cat Re-Visited
We quickly left the housing area behind as our deuce and a half lumbered down the pave street towards the kennels. We would pass our bomb and fuel dumps on the way. Both were enclosed with chain-link fence and several empty guard towers were visible. I pointed out to Joe a fence line that was all but falling down, this fence would keep no one out. I could see no other fence line, this made me nervous.
Our first day at the Cat and we would be issued our dogs and equipment. But first thing first, finally a we were issued weapons. Our weapon, was a little thing, that looked like a full-grown M-16 but shorter. We are loaded up again, and this time we be going to the range to sight-in our CAR-15’s.
The Colt AR-15 Commando assault carbine represented a handier Close-Quarter-minded version of the original full-Colt M16 assault rifle. The CAR-15 was 26 inches long with a retractable buttstock. The barrel is to short to mount a bayonet so the SMG had no bayonet lug. The CAR-15 was the exclusive weapon of U.S Air Force Sentry Dog teams, at least it was during the year 1969. We took our time ‘sighting in’ our new weapons. As we got comfortable with the small weapon we realized if packed very lethal firepower. Took about an hour for the nine new handlers to complete ‘sighting in’.
We then loaded up for the trip to base supply where we were issued two sets of BDU’s, two sets of camos’, two set of boots, poncho, web belt, 2 canteens, ammo pouches, bug spray, k-bar knife, flashlight, helmet, and flight vest. When we returned to the kennels, we were issued our new dogs and the equipment to handle the dogs: a six-foot leash, muzzle, collar, choke-chain, brush for grooming. Did I forget anything?
But before we were issued dogs and equipment, we first had to clean our weapons. Most mornings, before leaving the kennels we had to clean our weapons, and we all got really good at cleaning and doing it quickly. In the early days of Vietnam, the M-16 was not a well-liked weapon system, a little rain, mud etc. and your weapon would jam. This cost lives. The government and military playing games with our lives. I’ve wondered how any lives this critical mistake cost the US. Our enemy had no such concern, the Kalashnikov almost never failed, and loved the mud and any kind of weather you could through at it.
Weapon cleaned, we moved to the kennels and started the introductions process and getting said Noble beast out of his kennel. I was the first to get his K9 out of his kennel and out to the enclosed exercise area. I changed Duke from his choke-chain to his working collar. Collar, leash and muzzle were not broken in yet. Linseed oil would do the trick with a lot of elbow grease.
I left Dukes muzzle on and ran him around the perimeter of the fence for about 20 minutes or until I was breathing to hard to carry on. Still no one else had gotten their dog muzzled and out of the kennel. We took our first water-break together, rested a few minutes, then I had Duke run the obstacle course. He didn’t miss a beat and I was excited to have a real military working dog.