SOG ‘Bright Light’ Mission – an unpublished account from ‘BlackJack’ – Lynne M. Black Jr.
I recently read ‘Whisky Tango Foxtrot‘ by Lynne M. Black Jr. I read it after Scott had regaled me with the tale of the amazing battle that RT Alabama had in ‘Oscar Eight’ in Laos as part of SOG recon operations. I had to buy the book and it is excellent.
I was able to get in touch with Lynne Black (callsign ‘Blackjack’) on Facebook and had the privilege of having a conversation with him. He is one of the legendary SOG One Zero’s from Vietnam. He was also kind enough to share with me some additional unpublished stories, which I will put up in a couple of separate blog posts.
A ‘Bright Light’ mission was a rescue mission for downed / lost / overrun missing / troops ‘across the fence’ in places like Laos. Recon Teams such as RT Idaho (Black’s team, where he was the One Zero, or team leader), would volunteer for these often incredibly risky rescue missions. The HF in the story stands of ‘Hatchet Force’ which was another SOG formation at greater strength than the Recon Teams, used for cross border company sized raids and such. I hope my description here is accurate!
Here follows the account:
“Black … Sergeant Black!”
“What? What time is it?” I ask, prying open my eyes.
“It’s 2250 hours.”
“11:00 p.m.! It’s the middle of the damn night.”
“They want you in the TOC, now.”
“OK, I’m on my way.” I close my eyes.
“You want to see me, Sir?”
“I need RT Idaho for a Bright Light mission … right now.”
“You don’t need to ask us to volunteer, Sir. We’re geared up and ready to go for a trail watch. We’ll dump the food and add more ammo.”
“I didn’t ask you to volunteer; I said I need Idaho for a Bright Light right now. We’ve been working on extracting an HF platoon. Their last extraction chopper has been shot down; several were killed on impact. No sooner had the chopper hit the ground than NVA swarmed it executing the wounded. The good news is there are survivors. The bad news is they’ve been overrun twice and can’t last much longer.”
“Do you have a fix on the survivor’s location?” I ask, yawning.
“How far from the downed chopper are they?”
“They’re approximately fifty meters directly in front of the chopper, waiting for pick up. That position isn’t defensible and we don’t have any gunship support to provide cover. Their shit’s flapping in the breeze. Be careful out there, to the east of them is an extensive NVA bunker complex. Don’t wander too far in that direction.”
“How many survivors?”
“Half a dozen, maybe less. Has Idaho worked at night?”
“Yes, Idaho’s good with night movement.” Where did that dumbass statement come from? Am I nuts? Maybe all that playing with C-4 has addled my brain.
“Great. Get your team and gear … load all of your heroes on one Kingbee.”
“Will the altitude allow us to put all five of us in one chopper?”
“Yup … by the way, you’ll have to rappel in; there isn’t enough LZ space to land.”
“Gee, this just keeps getting better and better. If it’s an LZ, why can’t we land?”
“It isn’t big enough for two birds. Get a move on, there’re survivors and they need your help, right now. Move it Blackjack!”
“That means we’ll all have to come out on strings … crap. Radio frequency … what frequency are we on?”
“Air Force survival freq … use your URC-10. Take a couple extra batteries, just in case.”
“Good, I don’t have to carry that heavy ass FM field radio. OK, let’s go.” A Kingbee begins cranking up its engine, coughing and sputtering its way to life. Lights around the compound snap on revealing flying hordes of critters fluttering in the brightness of the lights blue-halo. “Idaho! Get your gear and load up. Grab rappelling equipment, we’ll rig it as we fly! Come on, move! Wake up Point! Somebody wake up the damn point man!”
Idaho scrambles to life, grabbing gear, heading for the waiting Kingbee. The Mai Loc Ops is up on the Pilot side of the chopper, holding on to the flight cabin window frame with his right hand, jabbing his left index finger at a position on the pilot’s flight map; who’s nodding his head in understanding.
“Hey! Who are you,” I yell in the racket of startup. He’s standing with his back to the lights his face obscured in shadow.
“MEDIC,” he shouts. “I’m going with you. There are wounded.”
“Get on board then!” That’ll make six … an even number. That’s good; the Vietnamese don’t like uneven numbers. Superstitious little suckers.
I’m the last man to throw my gear on board grabbing the handrail next to the door and stepping up onto the first rung of the two-step ladder as the Kingbee springs from the PSP headed for Laos. Sau, Idaho’s VN team leader and the door gunner reach down and pull me in. Wind wildly swirls through the open door and windows of the ship; our clothes and gear erratically flapping and snapping. The Kingbee’s tail is up and its nose down as it moves at full speed chugging its way through the moonless night. “No moon … there’s no moon. It’s going to be darker than all hell on the ground,” I yell, pointing skyward, nudging Idaho’s interpreter.
“Sau say no problem,” Hiep the interpreter yells into my ear. “Much green tracer light,” he grins. “You go, we go.” Two Scouts are rigging the rappelling rope. I grab one of the extras, stuffing it in my rucksack.
“Fifteen minutes,” yells the Crew Chief. “Fifteen minutes!”
Idaho gets ready. Final weapon and gear check. Looking around the ship, “Everyone’s OK?” They’re all smiling … shifting around … nervous, ready for the fight. I sit in the door to be the first man out. Everyone lines up behind me in order of descent. Swiss seats, snap links ready.
I grab one of the aluminum ship spars with my left hand and lean out into the torrent of wind trying to get a fix on the downed chopper. There it is! The Door Gunner squawks in his helmet mic to the Pilot that we’ve spotted the LZ. “Take us down! Take us down,” I yell back over my shoulder. The gunner jacks a round into his thirty-caliber door gun, then leans into it and out looking for the LZ and any sign of muzzle flash.
Flickering spot fires flare around the downed chopper, which is lying on its side in the middle of an LZ. A silhouetted jungle reaching up into blackness jumps to life with each spontaneous blaze; shadows dance and weave, popping in and out of focus, giving a surreal life to the impenetrable black on black of the moonless night. From my doorway perch, I can see our people in the downed chopper. My heart jumps into my throat as one of them waives … “Oh God!” It’s just the fire reflecting off his freshly bloodied arm, his ghoulish death mask smiling, chilling me to the bone. How the hell did the Pilot find this little hole in the Laotian jungle in the middle of the night?
The Pilot turns the big exit door of the Kingbee to face the downed ship. RT Idaho’s guns are at the ready, poking out of every opening, ready for anything. Flying his ship sideways, the Kingbee pilot moves directly over the downed chopper, placing one of the Kingbee’s balloon tires on its shell. We’re approximately eight feet off the ground. “We don’t have to rappel,” I yell over my shoulder.
Struggling out of my rucksack, dropping it to the ground before jumping the eight feet with the other five following suite; the Idaho-6 form up in a defensive circle, each of us facing out, at the ready as the sound of the big Kingbee radial engine disappears into the inky night leaving us with the flitting, popping, dancing shadows. Pungent smells of fuel, oil, hydraulic fluids and exhaust saturate our nostrils. Occasionally fires pop and crackle forcing us into an even higher state of alert as we get used to our surroundings. Slowly I come to the realization that I’m fixating on the light of the fires and not on their encompassing darkness, that darkness holds our survivors. It’s under the cover of night that our survivors are for the moment hopefully safe. It’s in that impenetrable gloom the enemy waits for us.
An intense childhood fear floods through me with the memory of the boogey man in my bedroom … the unseen … the unknown in the night. “If you close your eyes and go to sleep it will go away,” my mother would say. My father, on the other hand, would say, “As you get older you will learn to face your fears. For now close your eyes and go to sleep, or I’ll whack you on your butt.” Time to grow up and face the boogey man. “Point,” I motion him to the ships front.
Sau taps me on the shoulder, waving a forefinger in front of his lips. Using hand signals, he motions the two Scouts and Interpreter to East, West and South security positions leaving Point at North. The Medic squats in the shadows, waiting for orders. Sau and I climb into the wreckage looking for survivors. All five on board have been shot in the head execution style. “Bastards,” I mumble.
Sau again puts a finger to his lips, signaling me not to speak. I nod my head in compliance. “Keep your cool. Listen to the experience. Don’t let the NVA psychologically get to you.” Sau shrugs giving me the what-next gesture. I point North beyond the nose of the ship, he nods his understanding. Back outside he motions the interpreter and Point to my side. He and the other two Scouts will remain with the ship along with the Medic. Sau pulls an Air Force Survival radio from his rucksack, turning it on, waving it at me as he plugs in the ear jack and whisper mic. Idaho’s interpreter reaches for mine, I hand it to him.
Point begins moving north, the three of us searching for survivors at the edges of glowing pools of light provided by the subsiding fuel and oil fires. Suddenly I become aware of moths and insects fluttering up and about intensifying my awareness of our surroundings even further. The three of us now online, Point to my left, Interpreter on my right, conducting our search forward; moving away from the firelight into the inkiness of night. The terrain is becoming unreasonable; it’s overgrown with a thorny vine that grabs and tugs at our boots and pants. Slowly we move through the blackness struggling with the demonic vegetation. A rush of wind … a swishing sound of unknown origin blows past my face. I turn back toward the last fire and … there it is again … and again. A fuel fire silhouettes bats swooping in and out catching the myriad of moths and flying insects that are attracted to its illumination. The three of us are unsuccessfully making every attempt to move quietly as we tear our way through the undergrowth; trying to dodge hovering bugs that are haphazardly flying into our eyes and mouths. I’m beginning to welcome the unintended protection afforded by the feeding bats. Focus … stay focused on what we are out here for … concentrate Blackjack. An occasional crackle from the fires snaps us to full auto readiness. Once again, I turn looking back in the direction of the downed chopper; no longer can I make it out. We’ve crossed over into the netherworld, unseen forces tugging and pestering us from all points on the compass. The further we make our way into this world, with our newly honed night senses, the more we become aware of the small eyes of thousands of animals peering at us between jumbles of leafy branches, and barbed vines. Snakes and small furry nocturnal creatures scatter under each footstep. This is like trying to work your way through Brer Rabbits Briar Patch blindfolded.
Instantly the three of us crouch, thumbing the selector switch of our CAR-15’s to full auto. Straining to listen, straining to see … Where the hell are they? In this position closer to the ground, straining to sharply focus my eyes, I can discern faintly glowing objects on the forest floor. I relax my concentration attempting to take in as much of the void as possible and am further surprised by small, constantly glowing lights that are floating down from the blackness of the forest canopy, hovering and bobbing like helicopters looking for a place to land. Millions of fireflies flash their signals from all strata of vegetation.
To my left, a low mooching sound; Point is calling me to his location. The unseen undergrowth grasping, tearing at me, I make my way slowly to his location. Seconds seem like torturous hours. Finally, I barely make out Point motioning me to him; reaching out into the darkness I take his hand and he guides me to his side. I turn to see Interpreter moving in behind. Point raises his hand, getting our attention, and then motions down directly to his front.
Three bodies. We cover one with a poncho. I fish a penlight out of my One-Zero vest and crawl under the poncho for a view. His hands are tied behind his back, he has been executed, a single shot to the head. Ops said there are supposed to be half a dozen HF, maybe less. There are five at the chopper and three here, that’s eight. The chopper crew would be four and add the six from the HF that would be ten. There might be two more bodies or two survivors somewhere in this blackness. Quietly we listen for any sound of life other than our own.
Waving my hand in the interpreters face, I get his attention and retrieve the survival radio; whispering, “This is Blackjack, over.” Nothing. “This is Blackjack, over,” I whisper into the mic a second time sucking a moth down my throat … choking … finally spitting it out.
“Blackjack, Covey, you ready for extraction, over?” Comes the low steady voice of Pat Watkins, the Covey Rider.
“Negative Mandolin, standby … this is Blackjack, looking for HF survivors, over,” I whisper.
“Blackjack, we can hear you above us.”
Whoa! … there you are. “Where are you from my locations, over?”
“I don’t know,” the survivor replies.
“Do you have a compass?”
“No. Where are you?”
Where are you? Sure, tell the enemy where you are. Oh what the hell it’s just as dark out here as it is with my head up my ass. “We are several yards out in front of the downed chopper. We have found three bodies, over.” That’s general enough.
“I will give you directions to our location from there. The nose of the ship is north. Turn ninety degrees, facing west and proceed.”
“Negative HF, you come to our location, over,” I calmly demand.
“Negative Blackjack, I have broken bones and am with three other survivors who are all wounded. We need help. Please come to our location. Be careful.”
Goddam it! How do I know this isn’t an ambush? We can’t see shit in this no-moon gloom. Goddam it! “Point,” I whisper motioning in our new direction of travel. “Be careful … maybe ambush.” Interpreter quietly interprets to Point. None of us like the odds. Point strongly objects to walking off into the darkness with only three of us. I take the lead. Thumbing my CAR-15 selector switch to SAFE, I use the weapon like a blind man’s cane to sound my way carefully, slowly forward. Fireflies advance before me, rippling out like a stone thrown in a pond, leading the way. I whisper into the mic, “HF, this is Blackjack, over.”
“Blackjack, we can hear you. I think you’re about twenty feet from us; be careful.”
Twenty feet … there’s nothing but pitch black in front of us. I can’t see a fuckin thing. Whispering into the mic, “HF, I’m on my way.” Twenty feet … just twenty feet. I position the Interpreter and Point to provide covering fire in case of an ambush. As I move into position to make the final advance, I sense a shadowy presence moving up on me from the rear. The hair stands up on the back of my neck as I thumb the CAR-15 to full-auto.
“It’s me, Medic. We’ll cover you.”
Where the hell did he come from! Scared the crap outa me.
Ever so slowly, tentatively, blindly searching for footing and a handhold I step into space sliding several feet down the face of the briar-covered cliff taking the skin off hands, knees and the right side of my face; sounding like a herd of elephants rampaging through the jungle. Crouching painfully at the base of the rock I listen.
“Blackjack, is that you,” a voice whispers.
Who the hell else would it be? I doubt even the NVA would be stupid enough to venture out in this god forsaken place at night. Straining my ears and eyes to determine exactly where the voice is coming from. I need a couple million fireflies to show me the way, where are they when I need them?
“Blackjack, is that you,” the voice pleads.
Listening intently, as he calls for help, for any indication of an accent … I just can’t tell. Suddenly, a frightened Cambodian voice cries for help in its native tongue. I hear Hiep the Interpreter tell him to shut the hell up or he’ll grease him.
“Blackjack, is that you?” comes the plaintive voice again.
Oh what the hell. “Yeah, it’s me. Keep talking quietly while I come to your position.” I can hear weapon selector switches being flipped to full auto. FUCK ME! I do the same. In a crouching duck walk, I inch forward until I can barely make out the face behind the voice. He lowers his weapon and motions me into their position. Its four wounded men with their backs to a tree with weapons at the ready.
“Did you bring enough men to hold out till daylight,” he asks.
“Screw that, I ain’t sticken around here until daylight. We’re going home in just a few minutes. We’ll patch you up as well as we can and then take you out on strings. I don’t want to fight it out with only five of us and a Medic.”
“Five! You came in here to rescue us with only five guys?”
“Quiet down damn it. Five and a Medic, yes. You want to debate this or go home?”
“Get us the hell out of here. You goddam recon guys are crazy.”
“Mandolin, Blackjack, we have linked up with the survivors. Tell the Kingbee’s to rig two ropes on each chopper and be ready to take out four of us at a time, over.”
“Negative Blackjack, Kingbee’s rigged with one rope containing three snap links. It will take two trips to get you all out, over.”
“Mandolin, Blackjack, the wounded will go out first trip and then my team second trip, over.”
“WILCO Blackjack, ten minutes.”
“I’ll bandage their wounds,” the Medic quietly pushes his way past me.
“Goddam it, quit sneaking up on me like that, you’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Sorry man, I thought you heard me. Maybe you should get your hearing checked.”
“Just do your job and shut the hell up.” I pull the rope and snap links out of my rucksack and rig Swiss Seats and chest restraints for all the survivors. “You’re ready.”
“Blackjack, Kingbee One, need location, over.”
“Kingbee One, look for small light.” I grab my penlight, turn it on and stick in the ground facing skyward to mark our position. “Can you see the light, over?”
“Move light, up, down, right, left … yes I see light. Many lights.”
Fireflies, goddam bugs. Panel. Orange panel. I remove the orange panel from my survival vest and lay it on the ground with my pen light in the center.
“I see color light. Orange light. Many small fires.”
“Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over.”
Moment later ropes are dangling into our location. I get three of the survivors snap linked and the chest restraints tied in so they don’t flip upside down. “Kingbee One, OK to go.” Slowly up and up they go. That’s three.
Kingbee Two moves into position for the next survivor and the medic. “Kingbee Two, OK to go.” Slowly up and up they go. Green tracers and rockets light up the midnight sky, illuminating the survivors dangling under Kingbee Two, hanging on for dear life. Antiaircraft fire begins to punctuate the moonless night. The Kingbee applies full power to it engine swinging a wide arc in the direction of safety. Bright Light accomplished. Now for Idaho.
Sau and the two indig have joined up with Hiep and Point, holding their position, not returning fire. I toss a rope up to them, and scale the small rock face, joining our little four-man force on the rim.
The NVA fire shifts from the out of range Kingbee’s to the downed helicopter and then generally sweeps across the landscape. From the firing pattern, we quickly realize they don’t have a fix on our location. “Thank you God,” I whisper.
“Buddha too,” says Hiep.
Sau puts his finger to his lips, “No talk. Numba ten.”
I have an idea. “Covey, Blackjack, over,” I whisper.
“Are you in the vicinity?”
“Yes, what can I do for you?” Mandolin asks.
“Did you see where the NVA firing is coming from?”
“Roger that. As soon as we get first-light I’ll have assets go to work on them.”
“Circle to the south of the downed ship and fire rockets in a southerly direction. Try to make the NVA believe you are over us and are providing covering fire. That way the Kingbee’s can come in here and pick us up while you run the distraction, over.”
“It’s worth a try. I’ll time the distraction for the return of the Kingbee’s, over.”
The six of us bury ourselves beneath the fireflies in amongst the brambles waiting for the Kingbee’s return. An hour goes by, then another before we can make out the sound of those big radial engines. Circle up, snap links ready. Sau, B-Team on the first ship and me and mine on the second.
The Kingbee’s are flying at tree top level. I twist on the penlight shining it in the direction of the first ship. He swoops in drops a rope with three snap links about six feet apart. B-Team snaps in, up and away they go, the rope end dragging through the treetops.
At the crack of first light, Hiep, Point and I are dumped unceremoniously onto the PSP at the launch site. The extraction rope is detached from inside the hovering Kingbee and piles down, burying us under its 100-foot length. Lying there, we watch as it disappears into the first reaches of morning light in the direction of its Phu Bai base.
“Blackjack,” the CO yells as he approaches the three of us buried under the pile. “Damn good job!”
“Thanks. Can we get some, water and food. I think I’m going to sleep the rest of today.”
“I don’t think so. The Marines are binging in a Sikorsky Flying Crane and a recovery crew. CCN has ordered me to send you back out there to secure the LZ so they can bring home the bodies and the downed ship. You and your team have just enough time to get something to eat and get your gear ready.”
“Where’s the mess hall.”
“Come on, I’ll show you.”
“We’re going to need body bags and rigging for the ship in order to get it ready to be lifted out.”
“The Marine’s will take care of all that stuff. They just want you to secure the LZ for their work teams.”
“I don’t know if I can secure the LZ with just the five of us. We could use the help of The Shadow.”
“The Shadow? Who the hells The Shadow?”
“The Medic who went out with us last night; he did a good job by the way. Covey will be running air strikes in the surrounding area while we’re onsite. You’re aware of that, right?”
“Can’t do that either. Covey will be running extractions for the four teams we have in the field and The Shadow is scheduled for duty in the dispensary. The Shadow, he’ll love that.”
“The LZ’s going to have to be made larger to get the Flying Crane in. I’ll need blasting caps, a spool of det cord and a case of C-4.”
“There’s a Lieutenant from CCN who’s bringing in Tetratol, he’ll take care of felling trees on the LZ. You’re not to screw around with explosives, remember?”
“Sir, Tetratol won’t do the job on those trees.”
“What do you mean? It’s the most powerful military explosive in the world.”
“Tetratol is a solid, a brick. Those trees are heavily barked and fluted. Tetratol will do nothing but blow the bark off. He’ll need to use C-4 and create shape charges in the crevices of the flutes. Then wire all the shapes together with det cord cutting the tree off at the base. If he wants it to fall in a particular direction he’ll have to put a kicker charge at least half way up which goes off after the cutting.”
“You’ve been hanging around that damned Supply Sergeant too long. The Lieutenant will take care of clearing the LZ. You stay away from the explosives. That’s an order.”
“Yes Sir. That stuff gives me a headache and makes me talk funny anyway.”
“Hiep, take one of the other guys and go get what we need from the Ammo Dump and distribute it amongst the team.”
“ALL the stuff we need?”
“That’s right … ALL the stuff we need.”
While eating breakfast, we hear several helicopters land on the PSP. Marine flight crews and a Lieutenant wearing a green beret saunter into the mess hall. The LT looks around sizing up everyone in the room. “You Sergeant Black,” he asks me.
“Yes, Sir?” I smile.
“I’m taking over recon team Idaho. We’ll be securing the LZ so the Marines can get their helicopter back and we all can bring out the dead you left in there last night.”
You sorry sonofabitch. “I don’t think so. You might be going with Idaho, but you are not going to take it over. Right now I’m the One-Zero. Your role is demo and mine is team leader.”
“You want to be a Private?”
“WHAT! You want to ride with Idaho… FINE! You’re not going to be the team leader, get that through your thick skull right now, SIR!” Jesus Christ Black, that’s a little over the top. Calm the hell down.
“Lieutenant,” yells the launch site operations officer.
“Yes Sir,” the LT testily replies.
“Blackjack is the team leader of Idaho. You have responsibility for clearing the LZ and that’s all, do you understand?”
“Lieutenant, how bout I buy you a cup of coffee,” I offer.
“How about I Court Martial your ass when this is all over, soldier?”
“Wonderful, Sir, just fucking wonderful,” I sarcastically reply.
“OK, you two knock it off.”
“Yes, Sir,” we both reply.
This asshole is out here to do nothing but get his CIB … REMF prick! Hiep pokes his head into the mess hall giving me thumbs up. “Excuse me, I have to get ready to go to work.”
“Insubordinate recon prick,” mumbles the Lieutenant as I brush past him.
Hiep has procured everything Idaho needs, enough to take down several trees. We check our gear, weapons, and fill our canteens with fresh water. “There’ll be no fire support, so tell everyone to bring extra ammo. This time we go in extra heavy.”
“OK Black,” replies Hiep. “If we have fire fight, Sau say he kill Lieutenant for you?”
“Lieutenant? No, don’t do that. He just needs to do his job and we need to do ours. When he’s finished screwing around we’ll do his job as well.” Fucker might have the education, but not the experience. He’s one of those assholes you might want to salute while an enemy snipers looking at you.
1000 hours we are standing back on the LZ. Sau and I survey the area to determine where we’ll be most vulnerable to attack. We set the team up in that area, with claymores, toe popper anti-personnel mines, hand grenades at the ready, and 40 mm grenade launchers loaded with tear gas and fresh magazines in our CAR-15’s. The Marines are busy bagging the dead and rigging the downed chopper for extraction. I grab Point and we strip the chopper of its two M-60 machine guns and all the ammo, carrying them to the two ends of our security position. Boy that was dumb. I should have taken these guns last night. We’re damn lucky the NVA didn’t rush in and use them on us.
I sit back watching the Lieutenant rigging Tetratol at the base of three trees. “Fire in the hole!” BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Large chunks of bark fly hundreds of feet in all directions. Leaves, twigs, branches and bark rain down on all of us. None of the three trees topple. Each of them is still standing waving in the morning light.
“Damn, I’ll bet we killed every enemy soldier for five miles with flying bark,” I say to Hiep. He starts laughing and spreads the word down our perimeter. Pretty soon we’re all laughing.
Sheepishly the Lieutenant inspects his handiwork. “I don’t have anymore Tetratol, we need to come back tomorrow for the chopper.” The Marine Recovery Crew is pissed; complaining the NVA will burn the chopper in place before it can be recovered.
More than likely they’ll move a larger force into the area and wait for us to return. I don’t think I want to come back tomorrow. “Sir, now that you have debarked the trees it will be easy to take them down. I’ll give you a hand.”
He storms to my position, “What the hell are you trying to do make me look stupid.”
With a big smile on my face, trying not to laugh, “No Sir, just trying to help.”
“What do you think you can do that I couldn’t,” with his hands on his hips he bitches.
I collect all the explosives into two rucksacks. The Lieutenant and I begin rigging each of the trees with shape and kicker charges. Then I serially wire one tree to the next and finally the entire series to one hand generator. The Marine recovery crew has finished bagging all the bodies. “Here you go Sir. Phase two ready. Fire in the hole!” The Lieutenant cranks the generator, each tree jumps up clean from its base; cut clean and its top kicked outward from the downed chopper allowing enough room for the Flying Crane to do its work.
“Will you teach me how to do that,” the Lieutenant asks as he hands me the generator.
“I just did, Sir.”
“I’ve heard about you. They say you’re a good field soldier but have a tendency to cause trouble in garrison when you get bored. They say you spend a lot of time in the club playing dice and debriefing recon teams.”
“That’s a fair assessment.”
“I’m glad you and your team are here.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“You get the job done; you look out for your team … you protected us and taught me something new. I shouldn’t have been such a bulldog.”
“Bulldog kiet roi,” interjects Hiep.
“What’d he say?”
“I don’t know, Sir. I’ll have to ask my interpreter.”
“Isn’t he your interpreter?”
“Him? That’s just some dumb indig,” I respond with a straight face.
“I’m tired. I need sleep,” I complain getting off the chopper at Mai Loc.
“Not yet, Blackjack,” gruffly states the Mai Loc Ops officer.
“Man, you guys sure beat the hell out of your backup Bright Light teams. What’s next?”
“Get the hell back on that chopper and out of my launch site. Your job here is finished,” the Launch Commander smiles.
I wonder who that American is we extracted last night? Hope he made it … later. Not now, I need sleep.
Blackjack sends this as part of the intro to this story:
The rescued office was Lt. David Gordon. He lives in California. Before he retired Dave was a Fire Chief. I met him at a reunion several years ago. He walked up and introduced himself, grabbed me and we both had an emotional moment. Today Dave is a landscape and underwater photographer who’s enjoying life.
The medic is now Dr. Ron Williams. He lives in Texas. He introduced himself to me at another reunion where my wife and I had dinner with him and his son.
The launch site commander is Major Clyde Sincere. He and his wife live in Utah. Highly decorated career soldier, great leader and friend.
This is a really great book, and set me off on my current reading-frenzy on anything SOG-related.