We were jolted awake at 0330 by the sound of mortars coming out of the tubes (Thunk, Thunk). There was a delay (15 to 20 seconds) as the incoming rounds arced to their target. The rounds landed below the perimeter gate, toward the village of Dai Phu. Sumo, Fernando and I were in the OP before the mortars detonated. The air horn finally sounded as Reb came from the mess hall. He was missing his helmet, rifle and flak jacket which were still in the hooch.
Scanning toward Arizona, I saw two distinct mortar flashes and could hear the echo of the mortars a few seconds later. They were coming from across the river. The second round of explosions was closer to the gate. As the third round fired, India Battery 105’s started returning counter mortar fire. Another detonation hit about 50 yards south of us, and the next round was a dud (Thump).
Kilo’s 155 guns fired a salvo of VTHE toward the mortar position, and then the incoming stopped. We waited until “clear and secure” came over the phone. It was our cue to start cooking breakfast.
Fernando was learning to make coffee. He had been getting up with us and wanted to be useful. Reb also taught him how to set up the pastry bar. All of a sudden Reb was throwing a fit and yelling, “You’re doing it all wrong.” It surprised us when Reb stormed out of the galley and headed to our hooch.
Sumo went after him and was gone for a while. Finally the two came back, and we opened the chow line. Reb was upset with himself for leaving his gear in the hooch and took out his frustration on Fernando. It was a wake-up call for all of us. We had not experienced any “incoming” in over a month and our guard was down. Reb apologized to us.
After breakfast I did some calculating and realized that my DEROS * date was in 99 days. I was now down to double digits on my countdown calendar. All morning I privately contemplated this situation of personal preparedness. Sumo noticed my dark thoughts and commented, “What’s going on Sarge?” My answer was blunt, “I need to get my shit together.”
We discussed the fact that the cooks never had any type of inspections or oversight. There was no accountability. The Gunny and/or Top Culverhouse didn’t manage us . . . we were left to take our own initiative. I needed to set a better example.
* See previous blog, “The SHARE Center” October 25, 1968