The First Patrol
Milton C. W. Pearson, the CSM of 106 Field Workshop, 1968-1969
The briefing at the 4 Bn CP was very simple in that there would be no friendlies in the TAOR area. Much to the indignation of the officer conducting the brief I spent some time gathering background information by checking the battle map. I also checked the codes given only to discover I had been given the wrong set.
My own personal knowledge of the enemy was when they moved at night they would meet up with a local guide to enable them to navigate through areas not familiar to them. The TAOR system would position patrols on such likely routes.
Craftsman Dick "Shorty" Sansbury was the forward scout when after having gone some 2000m he heard a noise up ahead. I quickly placed the patrol into all round defence and went forward to check out the noise. The noise turned out to be some chooks. However, Shorty and I crawled forward and could see off to the right of our line of march quite a few Vietnamese.
I got the Patrol 2IC Sgt Noel Crawford to position the patrol off at right angles to my anticipated approach to provide cover for myself and Cfn Sansbury. We entered into a rice paddy and crawled to within fifty metres of the group. I now converged on the group speaking the few words of Vietnamese that I knew. The M203X that I was pointing at the elder of the Vietnamese stopped any movement from the group of women and men who tallied seven when rounded up.
By this time Sgt Crawford and the rest of the patrol were visible to enforce the situation.
I radioed the Bn CP for advice on what to do with the now captured group (given that my brief said no friendlies). I was told to check their papers and let them go if nothing suspicious was found.
I started checking papers to see if the village listed was within walking distance of their returning by nightfall in view of the local curfew time imposed by 1 ATF.
I addressed the elder of the group in Vietnamese and motioned for him to take off his shirt. A routine search of the area had only revealed a knife. On undoing the buttons on his shirt I noticed a seething weeping mass of sores on his chest (all I could think of was Leprosy).
I needed to get rid of these people so as not to compromise my own night location. When I gave the order of "Chung Toi Di Di Mau" (roughly translated it means POQ) the reaction was instantaneous. One ran into a banana grove with his woman cranked over a motor bike and rode off, another pulled a push bike out of the nearby creek and rode off. It appeared that they were food gathering in this area and something like water cress was growing on the stagnant bend in the creek.
The rest of the patrol was smooth, just rotated the scouts at intervals. The wild pigs grunted away doing their mating calls and charging around for hours on end. The defensive fire task landed where I called for it to go and morale was quite high on navigating back through the Battalion lines at patrols end.
Patrols were very regular between January to September in 1969.
I would dearly like to hear from anybody else who was on that first patrol and learn how they experienced it.