Richard H Dick James
55 years ago, March 1966, I was a SGT E-5 assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam. I had arrive at my new camp, Cai Cai (A-412) on 23 January and already had become battle tested the following day. A study found that most American casualties occurred during the first and last month of a soldier’s deployment in Vietnam. Of course, to be truthful about it, I guess you could say EVERY American fatality occurred on the last day or two of a soldier’s time in Vietnam. It’s a case of semantics. The skewed casualty figures were probably due to the soldier’s inexperience for the first month and cockiness for the last month. After a long time in country, it was possible to think that since you made it that long, you were invincible. That could cause complacency. Many SF A-Teams had an unwritten rule that team members with only a month remaining in country, were not permitted to go on patrols. The day after my first patrol on the 24th was a lot quieter. I received a few pointers and a briefing about our general area of operations. I found out that during the time between 1100 (11am) and 1300 hours (1pm) there was no use in trying to get any work out of the Vietnamese. They religiously took “pok time” (ngu trua) then. “Pok time” was rest time and rest they did. It was in mid-day, the hottest part of the day. Even the Viet Cong tended to rest during “pok time.” Two boobytraps were found near camp that day, so I was sent out to blow them. I was also given a third team assignment, Supply Sergeant. Although we were supposed to be training and advising the troops, I learned that all the training for our CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, aka “mercenaries) and LLDB was “on-the-job” (OJT). They had already been thoroughly trained OJT. Patrols and camp duties kept everybody so busy, there was no time for training, even refresher training. All you had to do was go outside the wire (beyond the camp defensive outer perimeter) at Cai Cai, to get “on-the-job” combat training. The Cambodian outpost just across the border was within view of our observation tower. I was told that it was not a friendly outpost; in fact, not even neutral. To prove that assumption, they fired upon our camp occasionally with an artillery piece that, we later learned, was a British 25-pounder howitzer field gun artillery piece. The artillery piece was so named because the shell weighed 25 pounds. The range of the weapon was about 13,000 yards, making our camp well within range of it. The weapon weighed almost two tons, but was on wheels, making it easy to move and traverse. With a well-trained crew the weapon could be fired at a rate of six to eight rounds per minute. When I first arrived at Cai Cai, the Cambodian outpost fired on our camp every Sunday, without fail. Almost always, they would bracket our camp with rounds (one round to the south of camp, the other to the north), I guess to show us that they knew the correct range to clobber us, if they wished. They were also prone to giving covering fire for the Viet Cong, when we’d have the VC on the run between camp and the Cambodian outpost. The VC were well aware that we could not follow them once they crossed the border, and used it to their constant advantage. We always fired back at the Cambodian outpost with our 4.2-inch mortar, even though we were under orders not to do so, under the “Rules of Engagement,” aka ROE, for the Vietnam War. There was no way in hell we were going to let them fire at us, without us returning fire. The ROE are why we never requested covering fire at the Cambodian OP from Don Phuc’s 105mm howitzers. Such a fire mission would have been recorded, and reported, causing major backlash and trouble for us and for the Don Phuc personnel. Once a month the C-team pay officer would pay a visit to our camp. He was responsible for the pay of all SF personnel and CIDG. He would sign over Cai Cai’s allotment to the detachment executive officer, who would, in turn, pay the CIDG personnel and our SF personnel. From Book #3, of my four-book set of “SLURP SENDS!” Books #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”). # 2 (SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon, or from me.PHOTOS: Camp Cai Cai / Camp Cai Cai diagram / Camp Cai Cai observation tower (my photos) / Map of Cai Cai-Cambodian outpost locations (Google map)SLURP SENDS!