Updated: Jan 21, 2019
1969 Phu Cat Re-Visited
As 31 handlers stood around, with weapons hanging-from shoulders, some of us wore the tin pots (helmet), other wore boonie-hats, still other the baseball type hats. You either dressed in your finest BDU’s or the flashier camos, and no mixing the two, the Air Force way!
Staff Sergeant Frances calls us to attention and my first guard mount was underway.
“At ease, Men! Well the new arrival of nine new handlers has got everybody excited about getting some time off.” The men broke out in cheers. “
New handlers will be assigned to older handlers for orientation tonight. You new guys listen up, listen to what these old timers will teach you, may help kept you alive.
Tomorrow night, nine new handlers will be assigned post and nine of you will be off.” A huge rebel yell went up at the news. “All right! At ease!” Frances continued with the nightly report of Air Force bases who got hit the last 24 hours.
De Nang was hit the hardest and several aircraft were damaged, one airman was injured. 2 VC sappers were KIA. No American or allies were KIA . Other action centered at Chu Lai, Bien Hoa, both were hit with rockets. Certain elements of the 3rd NVA regiment have been observed moving into the mountains of northern I Corps. OK now that’s it for tonight. Stay alert, keep your dogs hydrated and rested.
“Attention”! Get your dogs and get loaded up, move-out!” Except for us new guys, everybody else went to the kennels and got their dogs muzzled and loaded. It took two deuce and a half’s plus a flat-bed truck to get all 31 handlers and dogs posted.
The ride was slow, on purpose. No one was in a hurry to get posted. I was seated next to Sargeant Jack Lott, we would be my mentor tonight. Lott was being teased about being a short timer, less than 60 days to go. I couldn’t begin to see the end of 365 nights I had left to go. As we moved onto the berm road, we dropped our first team off. I watched as the truck pulled away leaving the handler and Sentry Dog alone on the road. The team quickly disappeared in the dark.
“Airman, my name is Jack, and this is Rusty. Be careful around my dog, stay well behind me and be quiet. Walking in the dark is a real bitch, we go slow and easy clearing a post. There want be much moonlight tonight until early morning. Starlight is our main source of light and this cloud cover is blocking most of that. The wind is always a plus, helps the dog find Charlie, and cools us off. Oh yea? Wind keeps the mosquito’s at bay.”
We were next to dismount and I stood as the truck moved on down the road. Sargeant Lott was seated on his bucket, locked and loaded his CAR-15, then started to change over Rusty’s choke-chain to the working collar. Next the muzzle came off and we were ready to move out. Lott told me he was no lifer and not to call him Sargeant. “My name is Jack.” He stood and stretched, turned and looked at me.
“Moore, stay close, but keep your distance from the dog, he will bite you! The whole idea is to be quiet, listen to the night, and try to stay on your feet. Walking is difficult at first, in time it gets easier, be light on your feet.”
Sargeant Lott, I mean Jack turned and looked down at his post and stared for several long minutes and then went to a knee and whispered in Rusty’s ear, “watch him boy”! Jack moved out and I fell quickly in behind him. Eyes take about 20 minutes to fully adjust to night vision. I took my first step and promptly, wasted no time, falling on my ass. It was going to be a long night.
Stay tuned! jimmie-Noble Canine!