Basic Training Graduation Photo: Ft. Bliss Texas Drill Sgt’s Annus (on left) Drill Sgt Semko (on right) You never forget the names of your Basic Training NCO’s.
I joined the Army in 1969. The Army has a battery of tests to figure out how to best use a new recruit. One of the questions was “Which would you rather do? Go to the Opera? OR Go camp out in Yellowstone National Park?
Of course, I answered the Campout!! “Yep.., He’s infantry material.“ I finished at the top of my class in Basic Training. And the Top 2 % Army Wide in Infantry training. I took Basic at Ft. Bliss –went to Infantry School at Ft. Lewis and Scout Dog Handler training at Ft. Benning. I landed in the 101st Airborne Division (I Corps) Vietnam 70-71. Vietnam was a defining experience for those of us who went, I”m glad I did. Combat Infantry. At the Tip of the Spear. It does not get any better.
My unit was the 42nd Infantry Platoon Scout Dog / 101St Airborne Division)
I was an Infantry Scout Dog Handler.
Scout Dog Teams walked “Point‘ on Infantry jungle patrols. The “mission” of the Scout Dog team is to provide “Early Silent Warning” of booby traps, ambush, cache’s of weapons, and evidence of enemy activity. The “Point” Man and his Scout Dog, (worked off leash) followed closely by the “slack” man. The “slack” position is filled by an experienced soldier to “backup” the “Point” team. NO CHERRIES! –My unit only had 3 CAR-15‘s (CAR-15 with shorter/telescoping stock ). CAR-15’s were issued to the 3 senior field opns soldiers in my unit. I didn’t get a CAR-15 until sometime in early spring of 71. — Photo above with M-16. I carried 23 magazines…. 2 (7) magazine OD green cotton cloth bandoliers across my chest. 2 Magazines on the weapon itself. (Taped in Reverse for rapid reload) 4 in a Pistol belt pouch on my right side — and 3 in an outer pouch of my Rucksack.– Carrying grenades was optional. My first few months in the field I carried 4 — I loosened the pin — which was hard as hell to first-time pull –– but I taped the spoon down so I had to remove the tape first. You only get one chance with a grenade. Improper pin removal, stance or throwing method could be fatal.— The Jungle is too thick and lots of stuff grabs onto you. I didn’t want to chance any detonation. — with the M-26. I eventually dropped to carrying 2 grenades. I always started a mission with 18 quarts of water. That’s 2 lbs per quart =36 lbs of water alone Dogs dehydrate way faster than a Man. A Dog Handler couldn’t be sure his mission would be near the bountiful jungle streams. I always max- loaded water as if we would not be near a natural water source. In our AO (area of operation) there were many streams that fed the rivers., The Song Bo River out near the Ashau Valley was magnificent.
Double Click or ZOOM in on the Chopper Photo above. You’ll see my Scout Dog “Argo” his head over my leg. He loved to watch the ground as we flew. Sometimes his saliva would blow back on the door gunner! They would always laugh! We “Argo” and I walked “Point” in the Jungle. I live today because of that small ( 58 lb. Shepard) Best pure “Combat Dog” ever. We (“Argo and I”) shared the Combat Medal shown below.
Among the most coveted awards in the US Army
No Ceremony. No handshake. The Presidential Combat Medal. The Bronze Star.
I went back to Vietnam in 1995 and shot a news series. Vietnam:20 Years since the Fall.
Above: Mike Whatley left, Vietnamese government minder and interpreter in Center, Retired North Vietnamese Infantry Colonel Nguen Quoc Khan. He was a big deal. How I got to talk with him still boggles my mind. We stayed in his hotel in Hue. Retired at the time of photo–He was dressed in uniform for a military parade that morning, that was held in honor of General Võ Nguyên Giáp. March 24, 1995. I shot the still of General Giap below.