Viet Nam Dog Handler Part 1

Viet Nam Dog Handler Part 1

Posted in the Decatur Forum

Dog Man

South Haven, MI

#1 Jan 16, 2013
This is a narrative history of my experiences in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) with the 42nd Infantry Platoon Scout Dog. Very few names are known, and even fewer dates can be recalled for this narrative. It was a long time ago; nearly forty years, and a lot has been forgotten, or pushed out of memory. I am sure that some of the memories I am writing about here are erroneous in some ways, but I will write as truthfully as I can.
I arrived in Vietnam after going through Scout Dog Training School at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was toward the end of April as I went through Indoctrination Training (Indoc) at the Tan Son Nyut Air Force Base near Saigon. This was a week-long training session to acclimatize and indoctrinate incoming soldiers. After about four days, I noticed a bloody jungle boot in the 1st Sgt's office. It had a large gaping hole where there used to be someone's ankle. This reminded me that we were told back in Ft. Benning that a handler named Bost was just recently killed in action (KIA) from the 42nd IPSD. Vietnam was indeed a dangerous place, and my training days were over. I asked what happened to the man with the bloody boot and was told that the owner shot himself with an M-16
Phu Bai is the village next to Camp Eagle. Camp Eagle was the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division. The 101st became the Airmobile Division at some time in history, but I don't remember when. The 42nd IPSD was assigned to support search and destroy operations of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Dog teams from the 42nd usually traveled with the point company of one of the battalions, providing silent, early warning in the direction of movement.
A dog team was composed of a handler and his dog. A "slack man" was usually assigned by the host company to follow the dog team and provide small arms support for the team since the handler has his weapon shouldered, and his attentions on his dog, and is fairly defenseless should a fire fight break out.
When I arrived at Camp Eagle, Sgt Woods was platoon sergeant. Staff Sergeant Woods rotated (DEROSED) to the U.S. a couple months later. It seemed that I would just get to know the soldiers and they would rotate and be replaced by someone new. SSGT Woods had an assistant, SSGT Wallace who received a field commission, was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and went to the U.S. for training and further deployment.
Platoon SGT Woods was replaced by SFC Armijo (pronounced Armeeho), who became "Army-Joe" to those who knew him. He could play a mean harmonica and could get more things done using a fifth of Jack Daniels for bartering than anyone I knew.
The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) made a huge combat push starting in February, 1968, that involved all of South Vietnam, from the Northern I Corps, to the Mekong Delta. Little did I know what was going on until one night we were playing cards, and I heard this "wooshing" sound go overhead. It sounded just like the underwater propeller sound a boat makes when it drives by. The wooshing propeller sound was in the air and could only mean one thing: Incoming! My card-playing partner, a Chief Warrant Officer assigned to the Brigade, said "No way," and I thought he was right because I couldn't hear any thud, or explosion, until about 10-20 seconds later. Then, BOOM! We grabbed our helmets, weapons and clothing and headed for the bunkers. The next day, there was a large crater in the Brigade area.
Our bunkers were trenches dug with a back hoe, then covered with metal corrugations, and then covered with sand bags. I was in Saigon while the work was being done on the bunkers. When the back hoe severed the main land line between I Corps and the rest of Vietnam, all hell broke loose. I guess there were Generals and Sergeant Majors, helicopters, MP's, and construction workers all over the place trying to figure out why there was no communication in all of I Corps. There was never a dull moment in Vietnam,....Dog Man Lewiston Mi.

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