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Chapter 7 – Training to Kill the Enemy While Bonding

The missions between classes enable us to sharpen our skills further and reinforce our training. We’re hit by sniper fire, which always startles us. It’s frightening to be shot at by an enemy you can’t see.

It’s weird not being protected by a classroom environment. We’ve been fortunate so far. No one has been hit or injured. Booby traps are a major problem. Our training enables us to spot them, but you never know when you might miss the signs of one. One overlooked clue and someone would pay with their life or limb.

The team is reacting like clockwork, but still, I can feel the tension building in all of us. The training goes on and on. Sleep and rest feel like things of the past. It’s drilled into us that duty, honor, and the death of the enemy are our only purpose for being.

We spend hour after hour on the weapons ranges. Days are filled with hand-to-hand fighting and weapons firing. Between training and missions, we drink beer while learning about each other, and sharing our deepest dreams. This team has no secrets!

The team—every last one of us—believes in one common idea: a power deep inside us led us to The ’Nam.

The team works as a whole in the field, but we break into small groups at base camp.

Smitty, Gator, and I stay together all the time. Worm and Willie can usually be found playing Worm Power versus Black Power.

Tex and Loverboy are developing a bond of sorts. Tex and Stoney spend a lot of time together, especially when Loverboy is primping.

Frenchie hangs around with Doc, but then Doc makes it a point to spread his free time between everyone.

DJ stays by himself most of the time, particularly when he’s not with Billings, who’s a loner; he doesn’t want to get close to any of us.

Early Mission

Our last mission defined our team and proved our training had become second nature.

We came to a dangerous area along the trail we were following. It was a river about twenty feet across, three feet deep, and slowly moving.

Tex and I were the first to cross, followed by Frenchie and Worm with one of our machine guns. The four of us formed the corners of the safe zone the rest of the team would move into.

As Doc and Smitty entered the stream, gunfire broke out behind them.

By now, I’ve learned to distinguish the sounds of various weapons. The M16 has a high-pitched popping echo, and the AK47 makes a deeper cracking noise. The M16 fired first.

Smitty and Doc disappeared back into the jungle. Frenchie and Worm came online with Tex and me at the river’s edge. Seconds later, the jungle was filled with the rattle of weapons fire. We held our position as the battle raged for two or three minutes. The sound of our M60 and M16s outlasted the cracking of the AKs.

Then, there was an eerie silence.

Billings later said the team reacted perfectly, and everyone did their job as they were trained.

At night, I sometimes run over each person on the team, like organizing several mini-bios in my head. I’m getting to know each guy on the team as if we’ve been friends since grade school.

Billings doesn’t spend much time with us unless we are training. We live in open barracks, but he has a private room that is off-limits to us. He never engages in any conversation that isn’t directly related to training, mission, or killing the enemy.

Tex, DJ, Stoney, Loverboy, Doc, Frenchie, Willie, Worm, Smitty, and Gator. They have become my brothers. We have learned to predict each other’s movements. We feel invincible.

But soon…too soon…we will lose one of our own.


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