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Chapter 5 – The Birth Of A-Team

After finishing my NCO leadership course, I was assigned the position of assistant team leader for Sergeant Billings’ “A-Team.”

Smitty, Gator, and other men chosen for the Commandoes joined us for several weeks of intensive training. The instruction is not as easily paced as the leadership course was. There are no more hot showers or hot meals. Sleep is limited to a few hours at a time.

The training aims to see how we handle ourselves under stressful situations. We study small unit movement, theory on guerrilla warfare, sabotage, escape and evasion, demolitions, mines, Viet Cong booby traps, communist weapons, artillery, and mortar fire. When we think we’ve reached the end of our ability to learn more and stay awake, more training is added: air support, infantry weapons and deployment, rifle and grenade launchers, machine guns, recoilless rifles, hand grenades, claymore mines, defense positions, and helicopter deployment.

Not everyone made it through the training. Those who did make it want to be here, and with training complete, we can officially be called Air Commandos.

Our team, A-Team, consists of two squads: the demolition element and the security element.

The demolition element is the command-and-control section. It includes the team leader, a radio operator with PRC 77 radio, a medic, one rifleman, and two demolition specialists.

The security element provides protection during movement, in danger areas, such as roads, open spaces, or river crossings, and at the location of the bomb site. I am responsible for carrying out those assignments as assistant team leader. The element includes the assistant team leader, two machine gunners, and three riflemen.


Demolition Element – First Squad

Team Leader: Sergeant Billings a.k.a. “Billings”

AI of A-Team Member

Billings is 20 years old and has three years in service. He is from Warren Grove, New Jersey, where he graduated National Honor Society and Valedictorian. He also lettered in baseball, football (team captain), wrestling, and bodybuilding. He is unmarried and has no children.

Temperament: Hard-core military

Short-term goals: finish his four-year enlistment

Long-term goals: open health/bodybuilding gym. Become a world-class bodybuilder.

Radio Operator: Randy Krumholz, Airman, a.k.a. “DJ”

AI of A-Team Member

DJ is 19 and has 17 months in service. He is from Glendale, Nevada, and graduated high school as an A – B student before joining the United States Air Force. He has a girlfriend, Carol, but no kids. He is tall and thin, weighing only 135 pounds. He has fiery red hair that is never combed, dark brown eyes, and tons of freckles.

Temperament: cheerful and happy but never stops talking.

Short-term goals: get out of the jungle with all his parts.

Long-term goals: be a disc jockey like his idol, Wolfman Jack

Favorite saying: “My, my, my, this is your Wolfman.”

Medical Specialist: James Shepardson, Airman First Class, a.k.a. “Doc”

AI of A-Team Member

Doc is 20 years old and comes from Bay City, Michigan. He has 30 months in service. In school, he was class president and honor society. He is married to his wife, Paula, and has a son, James. He is of average height and build, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a thin mustache. He speaks relatively good Vietnamese, and you can’t catch him saying a swear word.

Temperament: polite and personable. Very honest and cares for everyone.

Short-term goals: complete service commitment and keep people alive.

Long-term goals: run a family farm and have tons of kids.

Favorite saying: “In all my born days, I ain’t never.”

Demolition Specialist: Gary Smith, Airman, a.k.a. “Smitty”

AI of A-Team Member

Smitty is 19 years old with only 14 months in service. Raised in Panama City, Florida, Smitty was not an athlete in school. He looks and acts like “Beaver” on the Leave It To Beaver show. He is the smallest among us at only 5’3″ and 125 pounds. He wears dark-rimmed military glasses, thick like coke bottles, and constantly pushes them back in place. He is known for what we call his “Smittyisms.” He is married to his wife, Karen, but has no children.

Temperament: expressive and funny, always joking.

Short-term goals: make sergeant and complete tour.

Long-term goals: funny, he never talked about that.

Favorite saying: “Hammered puppy dog shit!”

Example Smittyism: “If you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?”

Demolition Specialist: Rene Redeau, Airman First Class, a.k.a. “Gator”

AI of A-Team Member

Gator is 19 years old and hails from Bordeaux, Louisiana. You can guess where he’s from based on his heavy Cajun accent. He finished high school as an average student. He enjoyed raising alligators much more than school. He is a tall fellow, dark-skinned, and is always towering over everyone. He has been in service for 15 months. Gator is married to his wife, Lata, and has a daughter, Kendra Sue.

Temperament: courageous and good-humored. Doesn’t like being in the spotlight.

Short-term goals: get out of the service.

Long-term goals: have a big family and attend art school. Have big Cajun parties.

Favorite saying: “Damn, double damn, shit!”

Rifleman: Jimmy Duncan, Airman, a.k.a. “Stoney”

AI of A-Team Member

Stoney is 19 and from Denver, Colorado. He has been in service for 15 months. Stoney’s most impressive feature is his long, thick mustache, with its ends turned up to resemble the handles on a bicycle. He was an honor student and lettered in football, baseball, and weightlifting. He is single and doesn’t have any children.

Temperament: quick-witted, fun-loving, and adventurous. Refuses to admit pain.

Short-term goals: harass NCOs and officers.

Long-term goals: move to Australia and buy his mother a house.

Favorite saying: “Bloody Yanks!”


Demolition Element – Second Squad

Assistant Team Leader: Ken Smits, Airman First Class, a.k.a. “Clint”

AI of A-Team Member

Clint is 20 years old and from Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. He has been in the service for 15 months. Clint graduated from a tech school and earned a scholarship in architecture but has always dreamed of serving and fighting for his country, so he enlisted instead, much to his father’s chagrin. He is one of eleven kids in his family and always looks out for his little brother, Joe. Clint married his wife, Sharon, just before deployment to Vietnam. He doesn’t have any kids.

Temperament: Adventurous and always looking for trouble. Tends to make light of bad things for the betterment of his friends.

Short-term goals: survive and eliminate the enemy.

Long-term goals: be a NASCAR driver like his hero, Richard Petty.

Favorite saying: “MR. WIZARD!”

Rifleman: Frances Bourdeau, Airman, a.k.a. “Frenchie”

AI of A-Team Member

Frenchie is 19 years old and is from Rochester, New York. He has been in service for 13 months. He has a baby face and a heavy New York accent. He was the French class president in high school and speaks fluent French and some Vietnamese. He has almost neon blue eyes and stands 5’11”. He has astonishingly large ears. Frenchie is not married, nor does he have kids. He is in love with Claudine Longet and plays her music whenever possible.

Temperament: friendly and gregarious, yet logical and tactful.

Short-term goals: make sergeant and complete tour of service.

Long-term goals: Meet Claudine Longet. Attend Georgetown University and become a French Diplomat.

Favorite saying: “Claudine Longet est une belle femelle!”

Rifleman: John Haskins, Airman, a.k.a. “ Tex”

AI of A-Team Member

Tex is 19 years old and from, you guessed it, Texas—Pawnee, Texas. He is 5’8″ and played football in high school. He has a boyish face speckled with blemishes and a thick Texas drawl. He has been in service for 18 months. He is thin and strolls leisurely, no matter what. He isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids.

Temperament: shy and soft-spoken. Funny when he’s not trying to be.

Short-term goals: make Sergeant and get back to Texas.

Long-term goals: get married and be a rancher/cowboy.

Favorite saying: “Uh Oh! Katie Bar the Door!”

Rifleman: John Sparks, Airman First Class, a.k.a. “ Loverboy”

AI of A-Team Member

Loverboy is 20 years old and from Hollywood, California. He has blue eyes and brown hair and is roguishly handsome. He has been in service for 28 months. In high school, he was voted “most popular” and “most likely to succeed.” He lettered in football, baseball, and basketball. We always catch him checking himself out in anything with a reflection. He has two wives: his legal wife, Rosemary, and the illegal one, Billie Sue. He does not have any children.

Temperament: charismatic and worldly, always ready to impress.

Short Term Goals: finish time in service.

Long Term Goals: have a wife in every state.

Favorite Saying: “Love Power”

Machine Gunner: Ronald Williams, Airman First Class, a.k.a. “Willie”

AI of A-Team Member

Willie is 18 years old, the youngest in our group. He is from Chicago, Illinois, tall and thin but fit. He lettered in baseball, basketball (team captain), and football in school. He won a basketball scholarship to the University of Illinois and is part of the National Honor Society. His classmates voted him “most likely to succeed.” He isn’t married and does not have any children.

Temperament: impatient but cheerful, outgoing, and friendly.

Short-term goals: complete service obligations.

Long-term goals: Finish college and play professional basketball.

Favorite saying: “Hey Jim”

Machine Gunner: Wayne Garrett, Airman First Class “Worm”

Worm is 19 years old and is from Stockton, California. He is 6’2” and 180 pounds tall, lanky, and uncoordinated. He was known as the class clown in high school and, to this day, is never serious. He has been in service for 16 months. He grows an out-of-control mustache known as the ‘soup-strainer.’ He has hands like hams and particularly hairy legs and arms. He is not married and does not have any children.

Temperament: Adventurous and daring. He does not quit in the face of adversity.

Short Term Goals: Stay Alive

Long Term Goals: Make People Laugh

Favorite Saying. “Worm Power!”


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