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Lucky Lucky ...
Lock and Unload!

Lucky Lucky

by: Patrick Camunes
(© 1997)

Airborne Infantry, D/4/31 196th Lt Inf Bde, 1967

Chinook dropping a loadDuring the time that I served as a squad leader, in Vietnam I had learned something from the squad leader before me. To earn the respect of the men in your squad, you should never give an order to do something that you, yourself, would not do and I followed this code throughout the rest of my tour.
      While on Operation Gadsen, near the Cambodian border, after securing a perimeter, our squad had been assigned the privilege of receiving the incoming ammo and supplies. This basically consisted of jumping on top of several hundred pounds of ammo with several tons of Chinook helicopter hovering above and disconnect the hook connecting both of them together ... no big deal, if you managed to put all your trust into that Chinook pilot that would hopefully keep that huge chopper from crushing you into one big olive green spat.
      I had done this a couple of times before and, of course, following my code of not ordering someone to do something I wouldn't do myself, I naturally volunteered to jump up on the pallets of ammo and disconnect the hook.
      As we popped smoke for the first incoming Chinook, we were prepared to disconnect and carry off the ammo from the LZ as soon as possible. Fighting to see through the turbulence and flying debris that the double blades of the Chinook were stirring up, I hopped on top of the crates of ammo and commenced to unhook the straps. The fun part was waiting underneath that Chinook and watch it come lower to allow slack in the straps to unhook them.
      After what seemed like a lifetime, the straps finally began to get slack when then just as fast, they tightened up and I felt the Chinook lifting off. Seeing the ground quickly move away, I decided to abandon ship, took a flying leap that would have made any Airborne trooper proud of my hit and roll tumble on the ground. I immediately stood up in the clearing and couldn't see anyone in sight, still trying to clear the ringing in my ears and the tears in my eyes from the effects of the Chinook's blades.
      I stood in the clearing for what felt like several minutes, still trying to clear my head and then started looking for my squad that had been there only minutes before. As I slowly walked off the clearing and my eyes started clearing up, I saw what looked like green streaks (green bugs) all around me and then saw my fellow squad members waving wildly for me to GET DOWN!
      Apparently, the Chinook had been the target for several snipers with automatic weapons and as we found out later, the Chinook had received several hits as had the ammo pallets that luckily hadn't gone off.
      As the rest of our troops came in, I kept hearing the story repeated over and over again about the idiot standing out in the clearing surrounded by tracer rounds. Not ever admitting the idiot was me---my only thoughts were, Yep, that was one LUCKY IDIOT all right!

Pat(Beanie)Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt Inf Bde
Tay Ninh 12/66-04/67 Tam Ky 04/67-12/67

 

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