THE OTHER REASON

The Tale of the "Guard Duty Switcheroo" -
the FOD didn't know what he was in for

Well….I could have been mistaken.  I wrote in my other “War Story” {Oh Brother Where Art Thou?} that the reason I was the only ROTC officer sent to Vietnam was my court-martial defense of a kid who had no business being drafted in the first place and sent to Basic Combat Training (BCT).   He was a tranquil “only child” being raised like a geranium by doting parents in Chicago.  The aggressive military environment overwhelmed him; he had no idea what the term “social interaction” meant. My unorthodox methods got him released from the stockade and sent back to mom and dad.  My deeds probably did not go unnoticed by the “higher ups” who wanted to burn this kid.

But…thinking more about this…there was another stunt that I pulled.  Maybe both of them combined got me that "special port call" to Vietnam that seemed to be reserved for only OCS-trained artillery types.

The year was 1966.  The Selective Service Boards were burning the midnight oil sending out draft notices and loading the Reception Stations with young, new draftees.  I just completed my Field Artillery Officers Basic Course at Ft Sill and my first active duty job after schooling was located at Ft Bliss.  I was assigned as the Training Officer in a Basic Combat Training (BCT) company.  There I joined an undermanned cadre of Drill Sergeants (God bless those guys!!) running the draftees through what was then eight (8) weeks of rigorous training.  Part of that rigorous training was performing Guard Duty and properly executing the eleven General Orders.  Practical application was exercised by assigning trainees to perform Guard Duty, fully equipped with a loaded M-14, at various locations in the Post area.  These were mostly insignificant buildings but regarded as vital installations for our purposes.  The effectiveness of our Guard Duty training was tested periodically by the FOD (field officer of the day).   It generally consisted of intentionally crossing the area guarded by the trainee and expecting the proper “challenge” and ID process, followed by quizzing the trainee on the General Orders.  This was pretty standard procedure…until one fine, very rainy night.  

I was on duty that night when I got a call from Battalion Headquarters that the FOD was coming to inspect a certain guard post.  This call was a “heads-up” warning from a friend at Bn Hq that trouble was headed my way.  It seems the FOD, a certain lieutenant colonel (who shall remain nameless) had a habit of testing the trainees by trying to “bluff” his way past the guard; he would simply state his rank or title instead of providing the proper identification.  He knew that these “kids off the street” were in total awe of the military rank structure.  (And that's because we drilled it into their young heads!!) He wanted to see if the trainee would accept his rank ploy instead of following through on the proper execution of his General Orders.  If the trainee did so, it would result in “nasty-grams” from headquarters citing the company for training deficiencies, mandating additional training, and requiring the usual reams of paperwork.  This was a very unwelcome distraction when our mission was to prepare these young men for what might be mortal combat in Vietnam.  We didn’t need “the chickenshit stuff” from above when we were dealing with kids just plucked off the streets.  The call was to let me know that the FOD was enroute to pick me up and visit a specific guard post.

I turned to my night shift Charge-of-Quarters (CQ) and asked: “Who’s the best trainee we have in the company?”  The CQ replied: “That would be Pvt Aurelio Rodriguez…he’s the sharpest young man we have.”  I said: “Fine.  Run over to his barracks, get him dressed for Guard Duty, explain the situation, and tell him what we are about to do”.  Then, get the company truck and pick up the kid who’s out there now.  We have to move quickly!”

Fast forward to the FOD intentionally moving into the guarded area.  It was a very stormy night; the rain was coming down in sheets.  Just as I expected, Pvt Rodriguez shouted in very military tones: “Halt!  Who goes there?”  The FOD replied, “I am Lieutenant Colonel _______, the Field Officer of the Day”.  Pvt Rodriquez responded, “Advance and be recognized”. The FOD steps forward and repeats: “I said, I am Lieutenant Colonel _________, the Field Officer of the Day.”  Being fully prepared for this event and knowing that the FOD was testing his training to demand proper ID, Pvt Rodriquez commands that the FOD get in the “front leaning rest position” and provide the proper identification.  This was definitely not what the FOD expected! The FOD, realizing he has placed himself in a box, had no choice but to comply. He assumes the position, holding himself up with one hand while laboriously trying to maneuver the other hand through his military raincoat, unbutton his rear pocket, fish out his wallet, and get his military ID card.  Meanwhile, the rain is beating down viciously and the FOD is getting soaked to the bone. I stood in the background, just shaking my head.

The next day the FOD was at Bn Hq, finishing up his paperwork.  He obviously figured out what happened.  As I passed by, he stopped me and said, “Lieutenant… that wasn’t necessary.”  I simply nodded and went about my business.  If he ever pulled that stunt again, he probably waited for a dry, clear night to do it.

The paperwork the FOD was working on likely included a note for my 201 file, giving his highest recommendation that I be sent to Vietnam.

 

Submitted by
Lt Dennis Dauphin

Return to War Stories