Just yesterday (for Santi)

I saw you yesterday

You weren’t so far away

Not as far as most

But still, not so very close.

If I could have touched you

The ripples would roll through

To the end of days

And in so many ways

Make our spirits one

Our time would not be done

You wouldn’t be so far away

I saw you, just yesterday. 

 

Please remember my brother with me today.  Santi gave all on this day in 1972.  We all lost that day.

SP4 Santiago Herrera Escobar, US Army Scout and Patrol Dag Handler, 34th Patrol Dog Platoon, 3rd Bde., 1st Cav., Bien Hoa, RVN.  RIP Brother. 

Santi.jpg

Last Days (Written on the 18th)

Most of you know I struggle with remembering “those bad days“.  Today I had another revelation.  It so happens that this is the anniversary of my injury date.  As has happened the last three years on or around this date, memories jump out at me.  Sometimes they come at me in droves.  Sometimes just one.  This year, so far, just the one today, but it’s a big one…and it’s early.

45 years ago, today (about right now, I think.  I was either injured on the 18th at 0300 and transported to Saigon later that morning, or I was injured at 0300 on the 17th and managed to suffer through an additional day in Saigon before shipping out.  I think that last is unlikely.

3rdFieldHospital

Welcome to U S Army 3rd Field Hospital. I read the sign sideways and realized I wasn’t on Bien Hoa anymore.  I’m on a gurney entering 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon.  I didn’t know it was Saigon at the time. I was still trying to sort out the ringing in my ears.  I’ve been in and out of it since cracking my head on the Tarmac at the 11th Cav’s Heliport on Bien Hoa earlier this morning, so I don’t remember a lot, but I remember rolling past that sign.

I’m lying on my right side, holding my damaged left one.  There’s a group of young Vietnamese women (girls, maybe) sitting under a large tree, in the shade, sipping tea no doubt.  It seemed like they were inside the Hospital compound.  I smiled when one caught my eye.  She smiled back, drawing her hand across her throat, the smile turning into a death’s head grimace.  I laugh and flip her off.  She feigns disgust and turns away.  An NCO is in my face screaming at me for messing with the locals.  I laugh and flip him off too.  Fuck it, I feel gooo-oood!

I think I spent at least two days here, though I can’t be sure.  It could have been one overnight and then across the street to Tan Son Nhut and home.  I just don’t know and there’s no fekkin records, of course.  I lost the Army when I left the 34th in Bien Hoa and they didn’t find me again, it seemed, until they discharged me 2 months later.  Things were so messed up, they paid me twice for my last 4 months, then took it all back before they discharged me…all that in about 45 minutes while processing out at Fort Devens, MA.

I do remember snippets at the hospital.  I remember looking out my window, I think it was my window or a window near my bunk in the hospital, though I don’t think I was able to get up then.  I was on the second floor.  The view was of the roof of a portico that stuck out from the hospital below me.  There was a sandbagged fighting position there.  I was suddenly thrust back into reality and fear gripped me.  I had neither Prince, nor any of my weapons.

I remember moaning.  Mine perhaps until I wake, but often, it comes from the fellow next to me who has no feet.  They must change the bandages every few hours.  He’s out cold and he screams through the entire process anyway.  I catch myself screaming with him more than once.  He doesn’t realize it, he just reaches out.  I reach out and grab his hand.  It’s a mistake.  He crushes my hand and there’s no getting it back until he finally gasps one last gasp and surrenders to what counts for his respite…an unconscious, raging, nightmare that never ends…and never will.

I look up from my bunk and someone is turning away from me, saying something about “sleepy heads”.  I feel a weight on my chest.  This man says something and my next-door neighbor moans, loudly.

“Hey! Can’t you keep this guy calm? I can’t hear myself think. Come on, now!”

“Yes, sir. He’s just very uncomfortable, sir. We keep him sedated but the pain still leaks through and his nightmares are horrendous, sir. He’s struggling.”

“I see, yes…”

My neighbor screams as his bunk is bumped with all the traffic.  There’s people all around.  WTF, over?

“Oh, hell.  That’s it.  I’m done with this.  Let’s go.”  The man turns from my neighbor to walk away.

“Sir?”

“I said, I’M DONE!  LET’S GO!”

I grab what’s on my chest and pitch it at the back of the jerk.  It connects.  The gent freezes.  Starts to turn, then freezes again.  He continues out of the ward with his entourage in tow.  Questions flying.  I’m disappointed the ass didn’t confront me.  I’m still feeling great.

Someone’s in my face in a minute.

“You better hope we can get you out of here, NOW, you idiot?  Do you know who that was?”

I’m not having any of it.  This was fun.  I laughed.  Whoever it was turned and walked away muttering.

I turn on my right side.  My neighbor is looking at me through drug crazed eyes.

“Fuck it, man. It don’t mean nuthin!” He was warning me.  I didn’t hear him.

————

My next memory is of sometime after that incident in the hospital ward. It could have been hours and it could have been days.  I’m back on a gurney being wheeled somewhere outside.  It’s blistering hot and sunny, I can smell diesel and Jet fuel.  I think I was headed for my Freedom Bird, a Medivac flight on Tan Son Nhut AFB.

I remember croaking something and trying to sit up.  Someone plants me back down and says, “Easy PFC, easy.  Don’t want another knock on the noggin, do you?”

“Where…” was all I could manage.

“Home, you lucky bastard, home that’s where.  Now, sit still and let me…”

I seemed to fade out for a while again then.  My next continuous spell of consciousness (lasting more than a few hours) occurred five days after I was injured, possibly 2 or 3 days after the incident in the hospital ward.  I was on a C5A Galaxy headed for Guam.  I had supposedly already been to Japan for a refuel and spent 2 days on Clark AFB in the Philippines.  I don’t remember anything but snippets of those times, if anything, but when I woke on that jet to Guam and had no Prince and no weapons, again, I went nuts.  I remember that because when the guy approached me with the needle to knock me out again, I begged.  He did anyway.

This is a bit of a breakthrough for me.  I hadn’t remembered much about the hospital until now. Tomorrow is the day I will have left Vietnam in 1972.  On this day, back then, I am trying to help my neighbor whose name and fate, I never will know while condemning myself to a difficult path out.  I wonder who that officer was and if he had awarded me some commendation????  No matter, I…ahem…promptly gave it back to him.  Lol!  The memory is worth twenty.  He was a shit!

Now to sleep

“Now,  listen up.  I’m not having you arrested because anyone would be out of sorts after the night you’ve had.  But don’t push me, soldier.

“This incident is being dealt with this way for a reason.  Unless you would like to join Lt. Calley in confinement?” He paused for effect.  The Major liked hearing himself, I thought.

“The thing is,  you won’t be under house arrest in quarters at Fort Benning like Lt. Calley is.  You’ll be in LBJ.  Do you think, PFC Hurder, for one minute, that you’d survive in there?”

I don’t remember my reaction much beyond an open-mouthed stare.  I started out this meeting with flames in my eyes, ready to rock.  Hours earlier I had challenged this guy when he told me that I should just forget we killed nine kids.  He steamed for a half a second, collected himself and said he’d be back to deal with this later.  He had every reason to nail me with at least an Article 15.  You don’t say to an officer, “Sure thing,  sir.  Anytime you need me to kill some kids,  just gimme a call. ..SIR!”  So,  at the minimum,  I deserved the warning.   He was being a good guy giving me time to cool down before, going further.

The mere mention of LBJ would melt the hardest of hearts.  Long Binh Jail, three of the most terrifying words having nothing to do with the boonies.  LBJ, were the roaches were only slightly smaller than the rats and the rats could carry a GI under each arm.  Nobody wanted to mess up that bad.  So, instead of further confronting another of these starched green pukes, I shut up while Donnie herded me out of Top’s office before I could regroup.

“Shut up, Shorty.  Just shut the fuck up, goddammit!” Joe told me back in our hooch.  “You got eight lousy months left.  Shut up before you really do stick your foot in it.”

I rallied, “Joe, he said,  ‘Forget about it son, it’s an ARVN issue.  It’s like it never happened!’ He said that to me,  Joe.   Are you shitting me?  Forget about it?  How do you forget nine slaughtered fucking kids?  Tell me that, Joe.  How?  Tell me!  Because I don’t fucking see it.”  As an afterthoguth I added, “SON.  He called me, son.  If he’s two years older than me I’ll eat his starched fucking shorts!”

I was in Joe’s face by then.  Well, as close as I could get with him being 6 inches taller. Still,  I was in his space and he wasn’t comfortable.  Joe was senior enlisted in our platoon after the Top and another Spec4.  I was pushing the limits.  The tears in my eyes and Jeff probably saved me.

Jeff grabbed my arm from behind and hauled me back, spun me around and said, “You maybe wanna fuck with me instead?  Joe be scraping you off his shoes in another minute.”  Jeff’s Pittsburgh accent and snarky smirk could pull me out of the worst funks.  It was no different this time.  Think of Cap’n America…before the injection.  That’s Jeff.  As I visibly relaxed and collapsed onto my bunk, the tension in the room dropped to near nil.

Joe was a compassionate Philadelphian.  He was still a bit miffed but he was more miffed at the callous attitude that seemed to permeate the ranks there.  Often what was of extreme importance to us, seemingly meant very little to others.  We should have become inured to it I suppose when no one wanted to help the old man Ì’d injured the week before,  and then were pretty much “ho-hum” about it when he died in our ambulance.  The longer one spent in-country, the harder hearted they became.

There was nothing to be done about it, though.  Nine children died because no one would do the right thing and keep that crazy Lieutenant from returning to the field. That I could have been hung out to dry because of my involvement in another incident involving an American and an atrocity perpetrated on the natives, children no less, was way more than any of us could process.  We got well and truly drunkified that night.

I was never right in the head after that.  I don’t know if I ever would have gotten my shit back together again.  I didn’t have enough time in-country left to find out.  I was hurt for the last time, five days later and it was more because I just wasn’t all there in the head than anything else.  Thank God Prince was with me.  Four legs never walked a harder path keeping a two leg upright.

My Memoirs:

This will be added to the chapter of my memoirs dealing with that incident.  Now that I’ve opened that curtain, it all came back to me, much like all the other remembrances, even when I don’t want them.  The only thing that really amazes me about this process still, is the incredible clarity with which I now recall those forgotten times.  For instance, I now remember this Major had a tic, the right side of his top lip twitched periodically and it got more pronounced with agitation.  He also had a scar running from behind his left ear down and across his throat almost to the other ear.  He had the deepest green colored eyes I’ve ever seen and they made me wary of him!!!!  I don’t know why.  He had a Mom tat on his right backhand.

Up until now, I was unable to figure out why the guy didn’t bust me.  I remember laying into him right after the incident when he took my report and then told me to forget about it.  But nothing more about him until this memory manifest itself.

This one came to me while stopped at a red light.  It is a notoriously long one that folks purposely avoid.  The beeping horn behind me got me moving to the side of the road while I processed the memory.  It all occurred in my head in just a moment while at the light, but I thought about it for a good half hour before I moved again from the side of the road.

Now, I know another secret!  One more down, about a thousand to go.  No, I really think I’m down to the nitty gritty stuff.  Minutia I think you would call it…the details.  I don’t think there are many more major revelations coming but then, I am still quite unsure about Santi now.  I think I have another revelation coming about my brother.  Sigh!

But, for now, I will sleep the sleep of the dead for a day or two.

Then Ah mayb’ gets back t’ Burtt!

PS:  I just scheduled my final appointments with the Compensation and Pension folks.  Finally, my service connected comp rating will be determined and we can make an educated decision on what to keep and what to unload.  Life will move on again.  YAY!

Write on ye lazy diamonds-in-the-rough!  I read you.  You inspire me to keep on, so keep on yourselves.  Write on!

Vietnam Helicopter Museum Support Needed

http://www.vietnamhelicopters.org/

I am a Veteran.

I ask not a lot.

A chance to get better, then

Take my best shot.

The few things I need

Won’t even fill a page

It’s nothing to do with greed

It’s all about a stage.

I’ve nothing more to prove

So, to move along is fine

But time denies our move

If the stages don’t align

Some of us need to keep on going

Right up to the end

Others of us are gently slowing

Even going ‘round the bend.

So why put obstacles in our way

When the right thing to do is plain

Why not write a different play

One with a brighter refrain

We are all veterans of these United States

We all left a part of us in some rotten, stinking place

All we ask is a little respect, some kindness and some grace

So please, let The Vietnam Helicopter Museum be our healing place.

Son

Son

I’ve been working on a different chapter lately.  I remembered some things about Papasan I had forgotten and more too.  This seemed a good time to sample it out…comments are always welcome when you read my stuff, especially where it concerns my memoirs.  I want them to read well, so please, comment away…criticism is how we learn to write better.  We learn that or we write terrible forever…bleah!!!

“You hack.  You no carve, you hack, Shawty.  Not should cut hard.”  Papasan pointed to his head and continued, “See what you makin in heah, den carve.  Not hack, hack, hack.  Hack look like shit”, using one of the American cuss words he was proud to have learned with a, pardon the redundancy, shit-eating, toothless grin on his kisser.

I laughed and responded, “Oh,  Papasan,  it don’t matter.  I’m just killin time here.  I don’t expect it to look like anything,  it’s a stick.”

“It stick before you hack it.  Shoo be sometin ess affah, or you no touch.  What you tink,  Shawty?”

“I tink you’re pulling my leg, Papasan.” I returned with a smile.

Son, Papasan, was always joking with us “dinky dao GIs”.  He was the head of the household of local Vietnamese civilians who took care of our domestic needs.  Well, he joked with us as long as we kept our distance from his daughters.  We all received the same greeting from Papasan when first we came to the 34th, “you no touch girls, less you want to wake wit no man”.  Spoken with that red-lipped toothless smile, holding his nasty looking, hooked carving knife for all to see, while slicing the end off a banana.  You got the message, and trust me, the way that sneaky little guy could come up behind you and be nearly in your pockets before you knew he was there, nobody gave his daughters a second thought.  Besides, we all understood the taboos these people’s lived with.  Your entire family would be scourged if your daughter was caught alone with an American, permission given or not, and permission was almost never given.  I was proud to say that my Platoon mates and I were all good men.  None of us ever tried to take advantage and even without Papasan’s warning, we wouldn’t have.  I’ve always considered myself extremely lucky to have ended up with the “salt-of-the-earth” Americans that made up the 34th Patrol Dog Platoon.  These guys were the best of every world and I was their mate.

Son’s family consisted of he and his wife, we called her Mamasan as we never heard her name, three daughters, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren, three girls and a boy, Hong.  The other men in the family,  three sons and two sons-in-law were all fighting on the Cambodian border with the ARVN 25TH Division.  This was a family hugely divided.  Not only were all the men from this local family branch away fighting in the war, the majority of Son’s family lived north of the 17th parallel, the DMZ, in North Vietnam.  Many of those had served or were serving, men and women, in the NVA.  Things were at the lowest for them during the TET offensive of ’68.  Eight members of the northern clan died in the fighting.  Another seven were seriously injured.  The southern clan went unscathed physically except for minor injuries, but what they experienced taking Hue back from the VC, scarred them mentally forever.

Papasan bemoaned the evil being done to his family and country and blamed everyone from the north to the south, the French and we Americans of course;  but mostly he was pissed off at the whole world for letting it go on so long and so needlessly.  To Papasan,  who cared who ran the show, as long as it ran.  He declared to me one dismal day that the world would suffer greatly and for many years because of its ignorance towards Vietnam.  Hocus pocus?  Let me ask you this, where are we right now as far as world peace and prosperity?  Just sayin…

After spending several days on shit-burning detail with Papasan as punishment meted out for insubordination by our CO, I got to know the old man a little.  In a very short time, I went from thinking, “I’m stuck with this useless old man burning shit because it’s all the CO thinks we’re capable of” to, “This old man has more on the ball than the entire chain of command and all us super-duper-American-soldiers too, and maybe that’s really why the CO stuck me with Papasan.”

Regardless, it worked. Papasan rekindled in me the ethics lessons my working class parents taught me.  Loud and clear I eventually heard the message, “hard work pays dividends.”  In Son’s world, there were simple things that brought him great joy.  That was all he needed and all he had to do to achieve that goal was burn shit twice a day, 5 days a week.  We burned our own on weekends.  There was always someone on the Lt’s shit(burning) list…ha!  Anyway, Son was in heaven.  His family was safe and lived like kings, relative to those who did not work for the GIs and even though the men were away, they were all extremely happy people.  Yet they still lived, all 11 of them, in what the poorest American would call a hovel.  God only knows what they did when the men came home.  There was one not terribly huge room, with walls made of scavenged or pilfered US materials, rejected plywood and 2x4s, windows and doors were just openings in the wood walls, and a combination corrugated steel/thatch roof with a hole in the centre for the cook-smoke to escape.  There were flaps to cover the holes during monsoon.  They could prop the roof flap open enough to let the smoke out without letting the rain in.  Their cooking fire was usually a wood fire, though Papasan said they occasionally had coke to burn.  At least I think that’s what he meant.  He showed me a fist-sized rock and said  “black, make mark on groun you rub. Burn too…lon tine”.  They ate whatever fish they could catch from the Song Dong Nai that ran through and around Bien Hoa Ville, the chickens they kept and their eggs, and what rice they grew in their community paddy.  We supplemented their supplies but they didn’t like our food much.  They took tea bags and instant tea mix, rice, chocolate and cigarettes happily, though they couldn’t figure out what we did to our rice to make it so tasteless???  Who knew rice had a taste?  We also paid the family $5 a month each in Military Payroll Currency (MPC…script), for the domestic work they did around the company area. They did laundry mostly, but also housekeeping, grounds work, helping around the kennel (when the dogs were away) and of course Papasan was our sanitation engineer.  For this sum, they lived well above the average peasant’s standard of living.

I shared my mother’s brownies with Papasan once. He begged me to ask her for a box just for him.  I did and she complied, adding two dozen of her signature chocolate chip cookies.   I was their hero for weeks.  They actually invited me to break bread with them for dinner one day.  This is not a normal thing for a Vietnamese family to do with your average GI.  I brought my CO with me to be sure there were no improprieties, I am an idiot after all.  As the guest of honour, I was given the head of the chicken.   I can’t be sure, but I think Papasan was pulling my leg again, because when I came back inside from running outside to heave up what was left of my lunch, the chicken head was gone, everyone was chowing down and no one said a word about it.  Either that or LT took care of it??? Damn!  Idiot!

I found myself gravitating to the back of the latrine whenever I was down.  My hanging out with Papasan was a kind of escape really.  No one went to the back of the latrine but him or the poor slobs who had the duty on the weekends or anyone on punishment, so it was just him and I.  After I gave up on hacking, we just enjoyed the quiet together.  His serenity gave me peace, for a minute anyway.  He carved, hummed and smoked that crazy long ivory pipe with the strongest smelling tobacco I ever smelled, and, no, it wasn’t pot.  You may wonder about the smell from the latrine.  Bien Hoa (and Vietnam in general) had very predictable weather patterns.  The Airstrip on the US air base on Bien Hoa ran north to south for a reason; the wind almost always blew north to south.  With the airstrip running that direction, the aircraft, usually well overloaded, by taking off into it could use the wind to help generate the lift needed to get off the ground.  Now, whoever built out latrine had been around awhile and must have learned from the Air Force’s example because he built the latrine so that the poor bastard that was burning the stuff didn’t absolutely have to breathe it too.  Most of the time it was blowing south and the back of the latrine was on the north side of the building.  If it was blowing any the other way, you moved to the side of the building rather quickly, ahem.

Son was terrified of our dogs and made no bones about it.  He’d had incidents before with k9s getting too close.  Once was with me and Prince the first time Hong got loose and was grappling with Prince’s slimy tongue, laughing with the kind of glee you only hear in a kids laugh.  Holy shit did Papasan go through the roof.  I thought Prince was going to go ballistic.  I’m sure he could feel papasan’s angst and that makes dogs nervous.  I had to leash him to control him.  After that, whenever a Handler brought his partner too close to Son or any of his family when Son was around, especially the grandkids, he went nuts.  The carving knife came out and he moved into a perfect fighting crouch, ready for the worst.  Most of our furry partners, of course, are looking at him and I’m sure, thinking, “Does he have treats?”  It took most of the entire time I was in-country to get him to let me approach with Prince and that only after he again stumbled on his four-year-old grandson this time rolling around on top of Prince without being eaten.  After he settled down, that is to say, once he was done berating me, my parents, America, the daughter who was watching young Hong, and anyone else in a hundred mile radius; he sucked it up, grabbed Hong off of Prince’s belly, teeth and knife in play the whole time, handed him off to his daughter and chased them off. Then, not to be outdone by his grandson, he deliberately walked up to Prince, who was by now a bit miffed at the old man’s behaviour and had his teeth bared, (I think by now Prince had full recall of their last meeting).  Son then said something in Vietnamese that made Prince turn his head the way dogs do, he calmed immediately, then Son patted him once on the head, turned to me and said, “Nevah gain, Shawty, nevah!”  That was the only time Son made contact with any of our partners.  It was not, however, the last time for Hong.  He had a knack for losing his watchdog and always ended up in the kennels.  No worries for little Hong, our dogs all loved the little rascal, but if sure set Papasan off.

The last time Son and I Spoke was a very sobering experience.  Son’s oldest son came home to recover from battle wounds and told his dad a very different story from what was being said in the news.  Because we Americans were backing out, the south could no longer say they were winning.  In fact, they were starting to lose.  It was just a matter of time before the Americans would all be gone and then after the south ran out of everything, the north would sweep down and destroy the south and her people.

When I went to visit with him later that day,  he was a very different man.  He hardly said a word and kept giving me what I can only describe as the “evil eye”.  After pressing him for an explanation,  he angrily said,  “You will go home to America soon.  Then we will die”.  Shaking his head and with a tear in his eye he turned away from me and said, “Why?”  He never looked back and never said another word to or for that matter acknowledged me or any of us.

Two weeks later, with more grief in my heart than hope, I fucked up for the last time and was injured bad enough for the Army to give up on me and send me home.  I still dream about Son, Hong and the rest.  I still wonder, what if.

RIP Son.  I hope you found your serenity again after we left…somehow I can’t imagine that and I cry.

Vietnam, a factual look at our involvement.

Vietnam, a factual look at our involvement.

I’ve struggled to write anything lately. I’m tired of the same old politics and the news cycle surrounding it. I do still read every day and this one popped up for me today on, of course, a Veteran’s site (VDHA.us). I’ve asked for and received permission from the author to publish this. I personally believe it to be a most clear and concise accounting of our involvement in Vietnam From Roosevelt to Nixon and the aftermath. I’ve always wanted to put something like this together but here it is. I will add this to my poster board display for use in events going forward. This is great stuff. Thank you, Joe. (Colonel Joseph E. Abodeely, USA (Ret))

MikeH

Note: It is a little long, but what good accounting of history isn’t? Very much worth the read…I think.

VIETNAM MEMORIAL

Honoring Vietnam Veterans

The plight of the South Vietnamese people and the valiant service of their military who fought for the duration of the war has never been fully considered or appreciated by the vast majority of the American public.

The word “Vietnam” has many connotations—the history, the country, the era, the war, the politics—and it is a complex and emotional subject for many to address, and there are many perspectives.

So, how did the Vietnam War become America’s only “bad war”? The reason should not be because America “lost the war” since the military won the war in 1973. It has been said, “The first casualty of war is truth”.

SOME KEY HISTORICAL AND GEO-POLITICAL FACTS

  • France had colonized Vietnam since the mid-1800s, and after WWII, the U.S. and France wanted to prevent Communist takeover of Vietnam.
  • On March 6, 1946, France recognized Vietnam as a free state, but not an independent state, and agreed with a Leninist front to enter into negotiations on the future status of Indochina. The Leninist front wanted to unite all of Vietnam under Communist rule although the Vietnamese had never been a “united” people.
  • By December 1946, the French Indo-Chinese War had begun.
  • On June 5, 1948, France agreed to recognize an independent “State of Vietnam” within the French Union with former Emperor Bao Dai as its head, and on February 7, 1950 the United States recognized this “State of Vietnam” as an independent state within the French Union. During the same year, the Soviet Union recognized the Vietminh regime in North Vietnam as The Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Each regime claimed authority over the whole of Vietnam.
  • In 1954, the French Indo-Chinese War ended in military defeat for the French Union Forces at Dien Bien Phu and in political capitulation at the Geneva Conference. The 1954 Geneva Accords drew a demilitarized zone and required phased regroupment of Vietminh Forces from the south to the north. But the Vietminh remained in the south later forming, under instructions from Hanoi, the National Liberation Front (NLF).
  • Also, in 1954, the US and several other nations signed the SEATO Treaty which obligated the U.S. to defend South Vietnam against Communist aggression. A treaty is “the supreme law of the land” and was one of the major reasons why the U.S. military acted in its national interest without a declaration of war by Congress.
  • On Dec. 20, 1960, The National Liberation Front (NLF)–a Communist Vietnamese political organization–was formed to effect the overthrow of the South Vietnamese government.
  • On January 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy pledged to the world: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
  • In 1962, Hanoi published the Third Party Congress’ multi-volume proceedings in English and mailed copies to many American university libraries. Volume I noted that the Communist Party passed a resolution for “our people” in the south to set up a “national united front” in South Vietnam under the leadership of a Marxist-Leninist party.
  • Some alleged that LBJ either fabricated or provoked the so-called “attack” in the Gulf of Tonkin on the U.S.S. Maddox on August 2, 1964—but after the war, North Vietnamese Defense Minister Vo Nguyen Giap told Robert McNamara that the attack occurred.
  • In August 1964, Congress enacted the Southeast Asian Resolution by a vote of 504-2 because of the Gulf of Tonkin incident which involved attacks on two U.S. destroyers. Congress’ joint resolution made clear the United States was responding to “a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression” by Hanoi; and this attack was another reason for the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
  • The 1965 State Department’s February “white paper” titled “Aggression from the North” was called a “lie” by scholars who portrayed the conflict as a struggle within South Vietnam for “freedom” and “human rights.”
  • A 1967 Hanoi English-language translation of the NLF Program matched paragraphs verbatim with Hanoi’s English translation of the 1955 Fatherland Front program. The NLF flag was a direct copy of Hanoi’s flag except for adding some blue to the background. Hanoi wanted Communist domination over South Vietnam.
  • There were several years of bitter fighting in Vietnam in which the average infantryman served 240 days under hostile fire in only one year while an average infantryman in WWII served only 40 days in combat in four years. The point is to emphasize that Vietnam veterans’ service was extraordinary.
  • Eventually, due to extensive U.S. bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor, the U.S. and its allies forced North Vietnam to sign the Paris Peace Accords in January, 1973.
  • South Vietnam got some concessions, the U.S. got its POWs back, and the U.S. promised to continue to resupply South Vietnam with weapons, ammunition, and equipment if North Vietnam renewed its aggression. The vast majority of U.S forces left Vietnam in 1973 having won its involvement in the war then.
  • In May, 1973 Congress ceased all logistical support to South Vietnam preventing it from defending itself. Our Vietnamese allies fought valiantly as long as they could until they ran out of ammunition and supplies, and North Vietnam took over South Vietnam two years later on April 30, 1975.

MEDIA “SPIN” INFLUENCED THE PUBLIC AND THE WAR

Vietnam was the first televised war to “inform” the public as it reported the brutality of the war every night in the evening news. The post WWII baby-boomers’ idealism was shattered by images and horror of war brought into their homes as they saw the blood and napalm while eating dinner. Some draft eligible men ran off to Canada or took other actions not to get drafted.

A cultural revolution in the U.S. was also going on at the same time involving civil rights, women’s liberation, and farm-workers’ rights which all complemented the anti-war fervor of the times. The media, the anti-war protestors, and the counter-culture-types fed off of each other as they maligned the Vietnam War and its service men, and very few anti-Vietnam War protesters had any idea they were echoing Hanoi’s propaganda lines and were Communist dupes–NOT heroes.

 Ho Chi Minh

The media presented Ho Chi Minh as a hero–a “freedom fighter” and the George Washington of his country–but he actually was an ardent Communist who spent two decades as a paid agent of the Communist International traveling around the globe doing Moscow’s bidding. Nationalist Vietnamese patriots who resisted Ho’s demands were often either murdered or—prior to the French withdrawal in 1954—betrayed to French colonial authorities for French francs.

Walter Cronkite and the Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a series of attacks by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces at various locations in South Vietnam to incite a mass uprising against the South Vietnamese government. The offensive failed miserably as U.S. forces and Vietnamese allies actually won, but Walter Cronkite erroneously reported that the enemy won the 1968 Tet Offensive:

“Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”

Cronkite simply misstated the result of the battle. Not all Americans were against the war, but the Tet offensive of 1968 and the Battle of Hue were the turning point, and Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, through the power of television enhanced the negative perception of the war.

During the months and years that followed the Battle of Hue, which began on January 31, 1968, and lasted a total of 26 days, dozens of mass graves were discovered in and around Hue. The death toll of the victims was estimated between 2,800 to 6,000 civilians and prisoners of war and included women, men, children, and infants. The Republic of Vietnam released a list of 4,062 victims identified as having been either murdered or abducted. Victims were found bound, tortured, clubbed to death, and sometimes buried alive. The media did not emphasize the Hue massacre as much as they did My Lai.

My Lai

The My Lai incident involved an American infantry unit gathering civilians and executing them in March 1968. The unit had suffered severe casualties in the area, and this was “payback”. It was a horrendous war crime and was presented as typical of Vietnam soldiers’ service when it was not routine for infantry units to do mass executions of civilians.

The death, destruction, and the killing of innocent civilians in the Vietnam War should not be an iconic image and legacy of Vietnam veterans’ service any more than the killing of innocent civilians which occurred in Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Iraq during “Shock and Awe” should be. Innocent people are killed in all wars. We now call it “collateral damage”. The My Lai incident became a rallying cry for the protestors, and television strongly influenced the results of the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers were published in 1971 when support for the U.S. role in the war was steadily eroding, supposedly confirmed that the U.S. government had instigated the conflict.

Daniel Ellsberg, a U.S. Marine Corps officer from 1954 to 1957, worked as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation and the Department of Defense. He was an early supporter of U.S. involvement in Indochina, and he worked on the preparation of the 1967 classified study– the Pentagon Papers– of the United States political and military involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II.

By 1969, Ellsberg concluded that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable and he secretly photocopied portions of the report and gave them to The New York Times. Beginning on June 13, 1971, the Times published a series of daily articles based on the Pentagon Papers as did the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, and the Pentagon Papers were read aloud in the public record in a Senate subcommittee hearing.

The Pentagon Papers showed that former Presidents had not fully disclosed to the public about the degree of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, from Truman’s decision to give military aid to France fighting the communist-led Viet Minh to Johnson’s development of plans to escalate the war in Vietnam as early as 1964. This confirmed many people’s suspicions about the active role the U.S. government had taken in building up the conflict. (Remember that the NLF was formed on Dec. 20, 1960, four years earlier).

Ellsberg was indicted on criminal charges including conspiracy, espionage, and stealing government property. The trial began in 1973, but ended in a dismissal of the charges after prosecutors discovered that a secret White House team (dubbed “the plumbers”) had burglarized Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in September 1971 to find information to discredit him. The failure to disclose military secrets was “much ado about nothing”, but it aided the anti-war movement.

Gen. Loan Executing the Vietcong Officer

During the war the media published photos without explanation which supported the anti-war movement. The famous photo of National Police Chief Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing the Vietcong officer on February 1, 1968 was taken by Eddie Adams who later said that General Loan “shot him in the head and walked away. And walked by us and said, ‘They killed many of my men and many of our people.’”

The Viet Cong lieutenant had just beheaded a South Vietnamese colonel and killed his wife and their six children. Adams’ photograph became a symbol of the excesses of the war. But for the rest of his life, Adams was haunted by the photo and felt it was misunderstood. Adams said: “If you’re this man, this general, and you just caught this guy after he killed some of your people…How you know you wouldn’t have pulled that trigger yourself? You have to put yourself in that situation…It’s a war.”

The “Napalm Girl”

The “napalm girl”, Kim Phuc, was the naked girl running from an airborne attack in the devastatingly iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photo shot during the Vietnam War. It was June 8, 1972, when Phuc heard the soldier’s scream: “We have to run out of this place! They will bomb here, and we will be dead!” Seconds later, she saw the tails of yellow and purple smoke grenades curling around the Cao Dai temple where her family had sheltered for three days as North and South Vietnamese forces fought for control of their village.

Part of the propaganda was that the U.S. Air Force dropped the bombs. The truth is the South Vietnamese Air Force conducted the mission because South Vietnamese troops called for an air strike on that location to kill the North Vietnamese who were there. The “napalm girl” was an unintended casualty of war.

General William C. Westmoreland v. CBS

CBS aired the program–The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception–on January 23, 1982 to prove that General William C. Westmoreland deliberately misled President Johnson, the Pentagon, and Americans as to the actual strength of the VC/NVA just prior to the 1968 Tet Offensive to give the false impression that the U.S. was winning the war. It was the first big smear of a public figure attempted by CBS, but the U.S. and South Vietnam actually won the 1968 Tet Offensive.

George Crile produced and Mike Wallace narrated the program based on allegations by former CIA analyst and well-known left-winger, Sam Adams, whose claims had already been investigated and dismissed by the House Select Committee on Intelligence in 1975. CBS proceeded with production knowingly using a discredited source. It featured paid, coached, and rehearsed “witnesses” and Dan Rather deliberately provoking General Westmoreland to make him angry and appear “guilty” under his questioning.

After its controversial airing, TV GUIDE ran a major article titled “Anatomy of a Smear: How CBS Broke the Rules and ‘Got’ Westmoreland.” Professor Leonard Magruder, then teaching at Suffolk College, wrote a detailed analysis of the lies. He sent copies to CBS executives, reporters, other networks, and major newspapers.

General Westmoreland received a copy of Professor Magruder’s work and sent it to his lawyers, who were working on a $120 million libel suit against CBS. The general had tremendous support from fellow Vietnam veterans and Americans who raised thousands of dollars for his defense fund.

General Westmoreland made a public statement on December 27, 1983 listing some of the exhibits in his lawsuit which were extremely damning to CBS, but because the cost of a lawsuit was prohibitive, he settled for an apology from CBS, much to the frustration of his many supporters.

He was magnanimous saying that “I do not believe it is fair to judge the media by the isolated actions of some of its irresponsible members.” This major media attempt at smearing General Westmoreland failed miserably and showed despicable media conduct even after the war.

THE LEGACY OF THE SO-CALLED “PEACE MOVEMENT”

In May 1973 right after the U.S. got North Vietnam to sign a peace treaty, Congress gave in to pressures from the so-called “peace movement” and made it unlawful to spend appropriated funds on combat operations on the ground, in the air, or off the shores of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. It forfeited U.S. victory that the military won and betrayed the people the U.S. had repeatedly pledged its honor to protect.

Although the South Vietnamese still had planes, tanks, and rifles, they had very little fuel, spare parts, or ammo. They literally ran out of ammo in battle. The Communists launched a conventional military invasion behind columns of Soviet–made tanks to conquer South Vietnam in 1975. The media portrayed Vietnam veterans as having lost the Vietnam War.

So, what was the “human cost? The Communists took Laos and Cambodia at the same time. There was also Communist aggression in Angola, Central America, and Afghanistan—all direct consequences of the perception that America had lost its will during “Vietnam.” These conflicts cost more than a million additional people’s lives.

The Yale University Cambodia Genocide Project stated roughly 1.7 million Cambodians (more than 20% of the population) were killed by the “Red Cambodians” (Khmer Rouge) under Pol Pot. A National Geographic Today 2004 story captured the reality of the “killing fields” of Cambodia, noting that to save bullets, small children were simply picked up by their legs and bashed against trees until they stopped quivering. This was another consequence of the American “peace movement”.

In “liberated” South Vietnam, some class enemies were executed outright, but many more were sent off to “reeducation camps.” After being allowed to see one of these camps because of his own anti-war credentials, a Le Monde correspondent termed it “Le Goulag Vietnamien.” Hundreds of thousands of former South Vietnamese government and military personnel died in these camps and tens of thousands perished in the “New Economic Zones.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees had estimated that several hundred thousand South Vietnamese who fled their country in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats in search of freedom drowned or died of thirst or starvation, and one can only estimate how many men were forced to watch as their wives and young daughters were gang-raped by pirates (and then often killed or carried off never to be seen again). The total deaths directly attributable to “liberation” in South Vietnam and Cambodia certainly exceeded two million.

The “peace movement” so-called quest for “human rights” in Vietnam based on the belief that the Vietnamese people would settle their own affairs and human rights would flourish, was a fantasy.

The human rights group, Freedom House, ranks every country in the world annually on the basis of its political and civil liberties. For decades after “liberation” the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was at the bottom of the “Dirty Dozen” or “Worst of the Worst” lists. At one point it was described as “less free than China, about as free as North Korea.” This was the legacy of the American “peace movement”.

HONORING VIETNAM VETERANS

Some writers, media members, and so-called historians still present distorted history and lies about the Vietnam War calling it “orthodox history” claiming with glee that “America lost the Vietnam War”. They emphasize the 58,000 dead or disregard the fact that Vietnam veterans saved the rest of South-East Asia from Communist domination.

The Vietnam War was truly a fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese. “Support our troops” should have applied to Vietnam veterans.

Approximately 3.4 million Americans served “in theater” (off the coastal waters or flying from Thailand) during the Vietnam War; however, research based on Veterans Administration claims and other documentation indicates that approximately 13 million Americans claim to have served “in theater” during the war. A Vietnam era veteran’s service in Germany, Korea, or CONUS should be acknowledged and appreciated, but it is NOT service in Vietnam or its theater of operations.

Dysfunctional Vietnam veterans, veterans ignorant about the reasons for the war, those who did not serve honorably, or those who are not proud of their service often perpetuate the negatives of Vietnam veterans’ service.

All veterans want to have his/her service recognized and appreciated. Vietnam veterans were denied this. The very best way to honor Vietnam veterans is to tell the truth about the war.

The truth about Vietnam veterans service in the Vietnam War is—that the war was legal—that most Vietnam veterans volunteered and are proud of their service—that Vietnam veterans actually fought for freedom and their service was extraordinary—that US forces won the 1968 Tet Offensive—that My Lai and other acts of misconduct were exceptions and not the rule—that the US won the Vietnam War in 1973—that Congress broke its promise to continue logistical support to South Vietnam and allowed the North to prevail—and that Vietnam veterans are true heroes.

It is appropriate to honor the dead, but the best way to Honor living Vietnam veterans is to tell about the misrepresentations of the media and anti-war movement, their fighting for freedom, and their extraordinary service defending the people of South Vietnam. Honor the living Vietnam veterans. They’ll appreciate it.

Colonel Joseph E. Abodeely, USA (Ret)

Chapter 6

If you’ve ever wondered how Military Working Dogs or their handlers are trained, the following is a glimpse of what we did in training at the Scout Dog Handler School on Fort Benning in Georgia.  These k9s were already trained, so what we did aside from learning ourselves how to be good handlers, we also worked at re-training our partners.  The process is continuous.

From my memoirs:

6. Ft Benning and the Scout Dog Handler Training School

As far as I was concerned dogs were pets. No cats lived in our house ever. According to local folklore from my neighborhoods; birds, squirrels, rats, raccoons and sometimes cats were pests you slung rocks or shot B-Bs at. I didn’t buy into to any of that but that had been my education about animals until the day I got to Scout Dog Handler School. After indoctrination in the Day Room, we marched down to the kennels and the noise was incredible. These animals hadn’t had handlers in over a month and they were just crazy for attention. Some were huge and scary some were small and sweet. Some were awesome specimens of breeding; others were mutts of every size, shape and color.

There was one, Rebel, who weighed in at over 130 pounds, was solid black with longish hair and kind of looked like a Sheppard on steroids (turned out to be a Newfie mix). He had canines as long as my baby finger. No one got in on this dog except an older SSGT who was shorter and slighter than I was. Rebel fair swooned when SSGT Dixon showed up. Rebel hadn’t had a student handler for three cycles. That trend didn’t end with this group of newbies either, though several of us tried, including me. I loved a challenge. My very first experience with skid marked chonies occurred when Rebel cornered me in his kennel after letting me in with his food dish. The SOB set me up. I threw the bowl at him and scrambled over the fence to get out.

Training us was one thing but learning how they had trained and are constantly re-training the K9s was an education in itself. The system was referred to as “Repetition, Praise and Reward”. Basically, after performing the proper behavior for the task at hand, the K9 got a treat and a lot of glad-handing. Then the task was repeated often to reinforce the proper behavior. Eventually the K9 would perform the behavior for a pat on the head only and be quite thrilled with that.

In general, dogs are very personable and love the attention of their handlers more than anything. The term loyal is an understatement when referring to these marvelous creatures. Devoted is closer to the truth along with adoring, noble, fearlessly protective and loving. Aside from learning to control this creatures talents, we first had to learn how to “bond” with our partners. This was far more important than what size, breed or color your partner was.

With this in mind we spent 8 or more hours of everyday with our partners. We fed, groomed, trained, re-trained, hung out with and basically lived with our partners as if they were family and we were the parent. In two weeks I was spending more time with my partner Lady, than I was with my platoon mates. I once fell asleep in Lady’s kennel on a Saturday morning. I woke to the kennel master spraying me down along with the kennel.

Back to training; at some point in the history of using MWDs it was decided that a sort of prompt was needed to “inform” the k9 that he was working as opposed to just being an obedient dog. They all wore choke chains all the time. Basic obedience training was done with the choke chain only. When the team was switching to “work” mode, the handler put a leather-working” collar or a harness on his partner. Retraining was a constant, especially when these k9s would sit for a month or so without working in between training cycles.

The way these MWDs (Military Working Dogs) were taught or retaught to perform their intended function as a Scout, Sentry, Drug, Patrol or Mine and Tunnel Dog was exactly the same method as they used to teach them the basics, sit, stay, down, come, heel, crawl etc., via “Repetition, Praise and Reward”. A target of some sort (usually a very small amount of explosives or ammo or medical supplies or ever food, like rice) would be set along a trail and the K9 team would advance slowly past it. If the K9 showed interest in the target right away, “praise and reward” happened immediately and the course was run again until the animal had that behavior down. They would actually associate finding the thing that “smelled like that” with a reward and after so many repetitions a behavior is implanted. Then they would hide the device under some leaves or grass or whatever, and repeat the process. Then the device would be buried (like an IED or a cache of supplies etc.). If the MWD happened to skip on past the device without noticing it, the handler would stay him, perhaps “show” device to the animal, let him smell it, mouth it if appropriate and then the device would be replaced and the MWD worked past it again until he or she did show interest invoking praise and reward from the handler. A target would not be buried for a particular animal until he “alerted” on the device while above ground and then just slightly buried. Repeat, repeat and repeat again. Some animals took no more than a rep or two to catch on, some took more effort.

The behavior the dogs perform when they “find” a target or person is called an “alert”. This is the cue for the handler to stay his partner and investigate the alert. When the k9 finds a device he sits in front of it. For personnel and other scent related alerts his nose would point into the scent cone or he’d tilt an ear towards a sound or move his head if he saw movement.

Over time they learn to “look” for these things as soon as the handler puts his “working” collar or harness on. They use all of their senses to locate anything. K9 senses are exponentially more acute than a human’s. Their sight and hearing are hundreds of times more sensitive than ours, but their sense of smell is perhaps the most sensitive of all. It is difficult for a human to understand the difference without examples. A drug dog we watched demonstrate his talents found a pinch of marijuana in a small plastic bag inside a dirty sock and hidden inside the gasoline fill spout of a 2.5 ton truck. He in fact tried to pull off the fill cap. I once had my dog in Nam, Prince, scent-alerting on personnel at just over 200 meters with a steady breeze blowing our way. When a MWD “finds” a trip wire it may have used all 3 senses. He may hear the trip wire vibrating with tension, he may see the vibration or he could smell the explosives or the person who set the trap for up to 3 days after he left if it hasn’t rained too much in the meantime.

Human scent lingers for far longer than 3 days really, hence the ability to “track” someone via a day’s old trail of scent left behind. It is important to remember though, that as a Scouting team you’re working an MWD along a trail under great pressure to find everything. The scent left by a person that is more than a few days old may not trigger the response you want from your partner because there is so much more going on that is far fresher than the days old human scent. Just as it is essential that you train your partner to use all his senses when walking point, it is also essential that you zone in on your partner’s every move. Some alerts are so fleeting your partner might get a whiff for just a moment and then the wind shifts or something with a stronger scent assails his olfactory nerves. If you were looking at something else, like where you were walking, instead of at your partner, you could easily miss that alert and walk yourself into trouble unless he alerted again.

Walking a patrol with an MWD is an exercise in self-control. Your base instincts tell you to look where you’re walking so you don’t step on something you don’t want to step on or fall into. That is wrong. Watching where you’re going is the MWD’s job. As a handler your job is to watch your partner for alerts all the time, keep a sense of wind direction all the time. Only after your partner alerts should you use other cues to help you discover actual wind direction and therefore the “true” direction the “scent” came from. For instance, scent can swirl around in the forest or in high dense brush. If you want to be sure of wind direction, after you stay your partner and alert everyone with you to take cover, look to the tops of the trees where the wind is unfettered and you can get a true wind direction from watching which way the top limbs and leaves are blowing.

If you thought you may have caught one of those subtle alerts from your partner but are not sure what kind of alert it was, hold up the folks your leading, call your partner back to you and re-prosecute that same terrain again and again if you have to until you’re satisfied with the results.

To continue with the training after you and your partner were up to speed with the basics you moved on to personnel. This was a whole new ballgame. With a fresh personnel scent to follow an MWD could get really excited. Since the idea of scouting was to be as quiet as possible so you didn’t alert the bad guys to your presence and also so you didn’t stumble into something bad because you were in too much of a hurry, you had to work your partner deliberately and pay attention to everything he did. Some alerts were so subtle you could miss them if you blinked at the wrong time. As I said, a stale scent might just barely attract your partner’s attention if there were any other distraction(s) around. You could easily miss that sudden heartbeat-long flick of an ear or a tending of the nose to swing left or right into a scent cone for a millisecond.

To compound the problem further, in the rain scent falls to the ground so your partner’s tendency is always to follow his nose, his head will drop to the ground as long as you allow him to do so. In that case you must keep at him constantly to keep his head up, with a little jiggle on the leash or hissing through your teeth or even using the dog whistle. With his head down, his sight is wasted and he sees movement 10 times faster than a human. You learn to keep his head up if you want to live. K9s may not see with crystal clarity or in color, but they see movement very well.

Every MWD has his or her own way of displaying an alert depending on what kind of alert it was. For instance, Prince had his own way of alerting to incoming or outgoing ordinance. His ears would flatten out to the sides and he would crouch. My guess is he “learned” this from experience. Over time he’d heard a number of artillery pieces firing or mortar rounds dropping into a tube and eventually related those noises to what happened after that: big noise, bright flash and everyone running to cover. He became conditioned to take cover, thus the crouch. The flattened ears were just a normal reaction for that particular k9. Others I saw would alert heavily on people but hardly noticeably on things. Some would be just the opposite and some would throw a barely recognizable alert for everything but never miss anything. So you learned to “learn” your partner’s ways in a hurry, again if you wanted to live.

Personnel alerts were the coolest I always thought. Their noses would almost dance into the scent cone. Some would get really animated while others would simply freeze (point). When Prince got a real strong scent alert (meaning either that the target was close or the wind was strong and steady) he would stand on his hind legs and rotate into the cone. Lady, on the other hand (my training partner in Ft Benning) would bob her nose into the direction of the wind. Other dogs might just toss their heads this way or that and you had to catch it or lose it. Knowing your partner was the rule.

We had a behavioral scientist teach us about how K9s function and how repetition and praise was the best method of training. He claimed that you could teach a bright k9 anything you could teach a 3-year-old child, except for some dexterity talents and how to talk. For my money I thought that last bit was debatable. I know Lady and Prince both communicated with me via tail wagging, pointing, licking, whining, barking, mouthing and nudging. Is that not talking by another name?

There was a Staff Sergeant at Ft Benning, SSGT Dixon, who’d been around MWDs since he joined the Army, a natural dog whisperer he would he called today. He saw so many in-a-hurry newbies miss alerts over the years that he took it as a personal challenge to not let those folks get through the course until he’d corrected that tendency. He spent some extra time with the struggling handlers who once they got out in the field had their brains turn to mush and they’d miss more alerts than they’d catch. He would work with the team, taking over the role of handler and showing us how to really “see” our partner’s actions. SSGT Dixon without a doubt “talked “to these animals and they subsequently “talked” to us, if we were willing to “listen”.