Charlie Troop 1/9th Cavalry Vietnam

Posted on January 14, 2010

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While  a lot of this blog will deal with Vietnam, Charlie Troop 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (AM), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) it will also deal with the world as I see it.

Let’s start out with Vietnam. I served in Charlie Troop 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment 1st Cavalry Division (AM) from April 1968 to April 1969. I was and still consider myself an 11Bravo Infantryman.  I will talk about some of the men I served with. They were all heroes in my mind.

Charlie Troop was a different kind of unit. We were the Division’s Recon unit. We were Aerial Recon. Our unit consisted of several sections. No one section was more important than the other. Three sections (Red, White & Blue) are talked about the most but we all knew that without the Lift Section, maintenance people, the communications people, the cooks and everyone else to include the Troop Clerk we would not have been successful.

The White Platoon ( or Scouts as they were called) was made up of pilots, observers and door gunners. They made up one half of the “Pink Team” team with the Red Platoon being the other half. It was their mission to fly as low as possible searching out the enemy. These men were a breed above. Every time they went out on a mission they knew that they could get shot down. Many of them did. On the occasions that they “only” got shot at, they would call in the Red Platoon for support. If they got shot down they would call in the Blue Platoon to secure the site and aid in the extraction of the team and helicopter. In worst case scenario, the Blues would be called in to recover the team.

The Red Platoon was made up of a  pilots, co-pilots and a helicopters with rocket pods attached to the sides and a mini-gun attached to the front. The cobra helicopter replaced the Huey helicopter and the Red Platoon became even more deadly than before. The Red Platoon was the second half of the “Pink Team”. The Red Platoon was the best friend of the Blue Platoon or infantry. It was like having your own field artillery unit with you. Many times the Red Team would hover above the Blue Platoon and fire their rockets directly at the enemy. I owe my life to the Red Platoon leader of February 19, 1969. We had been caught in a Horseshoe ambush on that day. See Mission #5 for details.

The Blue Platoon was made up of infantrymen. We had a 1LT as Platoon Leader, a Sergeant First Class (E-7) as a Platoon Sergeant and then between 17 and 30 infantrymen. I say between because most of the time we were at 17 to 22 men. When I first got to Vietnam, I believe we had one Staff Sergeant (E-6) and maybe one Buck Sergeant (E-5) and the rest of the leadership were E4’s with more than 8 months in country. With me came the first of what was  to be called “Instant NCO’s” or “Shake and Bakes”.  These men were selected in their Advanced Individual Training because they showed qualities of Leadership. I  admit that we must have received the best of the lot. They were smart enough to know they had to gain some experience before becoming squad leaders and they were good. Because we were such a small group of infantry, our mission was usually to  find the enemy and then have the bigger size infantry units come in for the major fight as we either supported them or more than likely departed. We also had other missions. Every time a helicopter was shot down we went out to secure it and get the crew out. We also set up ambushes. I will break down some of our missions later.

The Lift Section: Lift Pilots and crew members were called on to perform a variety of missions. One mission was to be the modern horse that the cavalry men like myself would ride into battle on. The lift section would fly us to a Landing Zone (LZ) or pick us up from a Pick up Zone (PZ) and many times that was while being fired on by the enemy. They would also act as medevac when needed extracting the wounded from the battle field. When the Blues needed to be resupplied with ammunition, food and water it was the lift crew that would bring those supplies to us.  The lift section also provided support for the Long Range Recon teams from the 75th Rangers taking them to the field and extracting them when they had finished their mission or when they needed to get away from the enemy. Although it seems that the Lift Platoon should have had it easy they did not. This section put their lives on the line everyday.

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Let me talk about the “support personnel”. These men are the ones that kept the helicopters flying. They kept our radios working. They kept our bellies as full as possible. They kept our rifles working and kept us supplied with ammo.  The Troop Clerk was as integral a part of the team as was the mailman. Morale was as important as ammo most of the time. The support personnel sometime were called Rear Echelon Maintenance personnel “REMP’s” by idiots like me. Our troop clerk almost kicked my butt one night because I called him that. That is when it dawn on me how much at risk these people were. While we grunts got to get away from base camp these men stayed there 24/7. The Viet Cong had most of these base camps zeroed in because they had been in one place for so long.  I’m glad he didn’t kick my butt but then again maybe I should have let him. I did apologize to him.

Charlie Troop was made up of Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asian people, We were Catholics, Baptist, Protestant, Jewish and Buddhist. We came from rich families and not so rich families. We were highly educated and not so highly educated. Most came with the intention of serving their country but in 30 days or less we were there to make sure we and our comrades came home in one piece. You never looked to see who was on your left, your right or behind you. You knew they had your back and you had theirs. Combat forges an ultimate trust and kinship. No civilian job can do that. I served with the bravest men this country had to offer.

I had failed to mention one person. Major Allan L. Matthews Jr. was the Charlie Troop Commander when I first arrived. Although I did not have much interaction personally with him, he was very important to my family. I know the letter was a form letter but his signature was original. I’m talking about the letter he sent to my mother. When I came back from Vietnam she told me that that letter made her feel so much better because it felt like he was protecting every man in his command.

Also in that letter he talked about the Pride she would see in me when I returned home because of having served in Charlie Troop. He was right. Major Matthews, when he was a Captain, was the Blue Platoon’s Platoon Leader.

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