I've pulled some less than brilliant stunts during my military career but an attempt to get the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) has got to be the all-time winner.
During my first tour in 1967- 69, I was a Warrant Officer flying helicopter gunships for the 48th Assault Helicopter Company (Joker 51). We flew out of Ninh Hoa and were in direct support of the 9th Korean (White Horse) Division. Because the Korean's like their gunship support very close, we generally flew with an interpreter in the lead gunship.
For three months I had the same interpreter almost daily (Captain Pak) and we become pretty good friends. One day Captain Pak told me that it was to be his last mission with us. He was going to take command of one of the Infantry companies in the 28th Regiment. The Regiment was also headquartered at Ninh Hoa. I immediately began to form a plan to get a CIB. What does a pilot need with a CIB you ask? I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do at the time.
So off I go half cocked. No need to check the requirements for a CIB right? All I needed to do to get a CIB is be in combat with a line Infantry unit I thought, right?
I waited several weeks for Captain Pak to get his feet on the ground and then went to see him. I told him I wanted to go out on patrol with one of his platoons (preferably the entire company because If I'm going on the hostile side of the wire, I want lots of company) but I had some stipulations. First, I would be limited to three days (amount of time I could get out of flying), I needed to get into a firefight but nothing really serious, and would he write up a statement to the effect that I had been out on patrol and that we had been in contact (If we really had.........I do have some integrity) after it was over. No problem on his end, he said.
Again, a wait for almost three weeks before Captain Pak came to the tent we called the officer's club and said he was sending a reinforced platoon out and was I still interested in going? Sure I was interested, but the patrol was scheduled to start at night (I wasn't too happy to hear that). I had sort of forgotten that a multi day patrol also meant we would be out at night). I had two days to get my stuff put together. My platoon leader said it was OK with him since I was near the 30 day, 140 hour automatic grounding rule anyway (this takes a little too long to explain so when you have lots of time to be bored, ask some old Vietnam pilot what it means). The patrol was to be a two night and two day affair. Captain Pak said they had reasonably good information that there was VC activity where the patrol was going. Reality suddenly slapped me in the face, but I was committed..........or at least I probably should have been.
I went to the supply room and with the assistance of several of the pilots and crewmen from the gun platoon, we began to put together what we thought was the correct outfit for a patrol. At the conclusion of this wardrobe and accessories affair I looked like a cross between John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Attila the Hun. When I showed up at Captain Pak's you should have seen him roll his eyes, but he was courteous enough not to laugh, or at least not while I was there. He took away almost everything I had on except my jungle fatigues. Gone was my .45 and in it's place he gave me an M2 Carbine, two more regular canteens and a clear plastic one, enough ammunition to start WWIII, five fragmentation grenades, Korean rations which looked like C-rations (I had completely forgotten about rations), three smoke grenades, and two Koreans who spoke pretty good English or at least one of them did. I think they were with me more for the protection of the rest of the platoon than they were for my protection. You know, kind of keep me from doing something stupid or at least not as stupid as what I was already doing. Actually the patrol was made up of almost two platoons plus three mortars. It took four 2 ½ ton trucks to take us to where we actually started the patrol.
We got to the area just at dusk and started the patrol. Talk about a keen sense of hearing and smell and the hair standing straight up on the back of my neck. After a while and the miles though I began to loose that keen edge except that I was still no shit scared.
For the reader's sanity, I'll condense it down and not go into all the details of the patrol. Let me say something here though about Korean rations which may look like American C-rations because they come in the same light brown cardboard box and OD tin cans, but they're not like American C's. The similarity stops, actually it screeches to a halt, as soon as the P38 can opener sinks into the first tin can. I didn't know I could go without food for two nights and days. I've heard it said that if you get hungry enough you'll eat anything. It isn't true. There just ain't that much hungry in the world!!!
So now, back to the patrol. Well, there were a lot of things that happed, like seeing the biggest damned snake ever and being scared, constantly adjusting the ruck to try and keep it from rubbing all the hide off just one place and being scared, wondering when or if we'd ever stop to rest and being scared, crossing rice paddies and a small stream and being scared, running out of water and being scared, seeing an air strike several miles away and being scared, finding two booby traps (I didn't find ‘em), and oh yes, did I mention being scared? To cut this short, we did shoot up a couple of what was probably abandoned huts but Sergeant Lee (one of my two protectors) said we were shot at first. I threw a hand grenade when the firing started but Sergeant Lee gave me a look that said don't do that again and I didn't. I did lighten my ammunition load though.
When we got back, I got my statement from Captain Pak, went in to see Captain White who handled the company's awards stuff and told him I wanted to be put in for a CIB. He stared at me for a few seconds like I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead, read the statement from Captain Pak and then started laughing. He asked me if I knew what the requirements were for award of the CIB? I said to have been in combat with a line Infantry unit I guessed. He pulled out the AR and read me some of the requirements. The first one sank my ship. I had to be assigned to a TO&E slot in a unit that was authorized to award the CIB. There were other requirements too but I didn't meet any of those either.
The bottom line was, I had been out in the bush, scared as shit for two days and nights, and all I was going to get out of it was a bunch of pilots laughing their asses off at me. So I don't have a Combat Infantry Badge. But then what the heck,.........Badges? I don't need no stinking badges.
Copyright 1997 © Will Stafford