Updated: Jan 21, 2019
1969 Phu Cat Re-Visited
It seemed like I been following Jack and Rusty for hours. I was tired out and tired of falling on my butt. That shit hurts! All Jack did was stare at me, grinned a lot and keep going. Finally, after what seemed for hours, we took a break. I watched as Jack watered his dog, and broke out a can c-rations he pulled from his bucket and made himself comfortable setting on this bucket. I got to set on the ground and this night the ground wasn’t wet, but I would have a bucket this time tomorrow night. I set down with Jack between me and Rusty, and he started to talk about the business of protecting the base.
“You never see the enemy out here, but we know the VC are very low to the ground. The wind picks up, and dogs alert on their scent and we have to investigate. It’s that simple, and it scares the shit out handlers. Worst, when it rains, damn trip-flairs start going off, you got it, you investigate. Some of these posts there is absolutely no cover, you know, nothing to hide behind. So, your left with walking in the wide open, naked.
Checking a flair out along the fence line. It’s nerve racking and it takes balls. Many a time I just stand as far away as possible and watch for any movement until the flair goes out. Then you can move in for a closer look. I’ve never heard of snipers around the base, but if the ‘gook’ army figures it out, we handlers would be in a world of hurt.” Jack had managed to eat a can of peaches, keep his dog in water and converse about base security. What a man!
Me, I was bored, tired and wanted nothing better than sleep and it was only 2230 and a lot of hours of work yet to come.
Jack continued, “We are manning Kilo 6 tonight. This one post and about ten others, they take the blunt of attacks. This is the famed Northside and every attack, always come through these 10 or so post. Our bomb dump and fuel storage facility are located just down the road, you past them getting to the kennels.
If we are hit and you’re located somewhere other than these ten posts, you can relax a little, but never, never ever drop your guard…Moore, is there any place in Vietnam that is safe for Americans, hell no there isn’t! Fuck Vietnam!
Moore, I’m a short-timer, less than 60 days to go! I’m ready to go home, its not been bad duty for a war zone. I’ve enjoyed most of my time here, but I’m ready for a freedom bird!” With that, he secured is canteen and cup and then stood. “Moore, this heat is hard on these dogs, kept your dog rested, and think hydration. These dogs are supposed to adjust to this insane heat, problem is, some dogs just handle the heat better, but my opinion, most don’t handle heat well. The want an animal, a well trained animal, we can agree, but the Air Force ships Germen Shepherds to Korea, then a year later they ship dog and handler to anywhere SEA, but mostly Vietnam, right?
The nights are long, its alright to go slow and easy. The walking is tough, only time and a lot of walking will cure that. Go slow, you’ll save ankles and knees. When it rains, this clay turns to snot, and walking is even harder. Better to set still, let it rain, save your legs, just be still, ‘watch em boy’, this is why we became dog handlers.”
“I know what you mean, we call it ‘our edge’.”
In tough weather these dogs earn your respect. But you have to pay attention and that’s hard to do when you can’t see a damn thing. Learn to read your dog. Learn to follow the ass-end of your dog when it’s to dark to see, take smaller steps, but on those many, many nights of bright moonlite and starlite nights, this is the time to study your dog, you don’t have to watch his ass tonight, so study how he moves through brush and grass, Oh yah! you’re going to find very little concealment on most of these post, that takes some getting use to when you can’t find a respectable hiding place to spend the night.
Study your dog, you know? How he moves his head, does he point his nose up in the air when he searches for that scent, what are your dog’s ears doing, do the ears follow his nose, or does his nose follow the ears. Human alerts verses animal alerts are different.
But snakes will turn your dog around in a minute and he’ll pass you out as he exits stag left, and you need to follow, quickly. Snakes hunt rats at night, there are plenty of rats to eat because dumb-ass handlers leave their empty cans on the very post they will one day occupy again, rats and all.
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Noble Canine ~ Jimmie