The men of the A-Team sit around the makeshift classroom/supply room. Half of us had our heads on the tables when the door swung open, and Billings and a green beret soldier walked in.
He speaks without any intro from Billings, “Gentlemen, my name is Staff Sergeant McMillian. I’m attached to the Army’s Fifth Special Forces. This morning, you’re going to learn quiet ways to kill a man.”
I sit up a little straighter. There’s something about the Green Beret that sparks my interest.
I think of the song about the Green Beret a few years back. Something about “Fearless men who jumped and died.”
Most of the other members of A-Team continue to wipe sleep from their eyes.
“Fu****’ aye,” Stoney whispers to himself. “That’s just what I need. A little peace and quiet, Mate.”
“Shut up, dang it.” Tex pokes Stoney. “This is important stuff.”
“Is this the A-Team?” the staff sergeant asks. “Or is it the god forsaken ‘Z’ team?”
The men still half-asleep wake up at his jibe.
“Now, let’s get down to business. You have an hour before breakfast, so stay awake, gentlemen. This information can save your asses someday.”
There’s more stirring from the A-Team as the men become alert, dragging on their cigarettes.
“There are several ways to effectively kill the enemy without using a noisy gun. Now that you’re involved in guerrilla warfare, there will be times when the use of a gun will bring the whole f***ing enemy army down on your sweet little asses. And that, Gentlemen, can mess up your whole day.
“Now, unless you want your day f***ed up, listen and learn what I’m going to show you. Practice it amongst yourselves, but for God’s sake, don’t kill each other. Kill them yellow f***ers out there,” The Staff Sergeant says, pointing out the window toward the mountains.
I stir in my seat.
“You must learn how to kill the enemy as quickly and silently as humanly possible. You must become so familiar with the human nervous system and pressure points that you know them without thinking.
“On your table is a copy of the human anatomy showing the areas you must memorize. Work with each other until you dream these in your sleep. Make it second nature. A blow exerting the proper force to an enemy’s temple, neck, groin, or nose area will fully incapacitate your enemy.”
The Staff Sergeant drives his fist into his hand with a loud thump. “If the blow is done correctly, it will kill or at least disable the enemy in most cases.”
“Hey, mate,” Stoney whispers to me. “You ever give a bloke a blow?” He then snickers like a schoolboy, tears forming in his eyes.
“Airman!” The Staff Sergeant barks. “If you’ve got something to say, say it so we can all enjoy your simple-minded little joke. That way, when the time comes, and one of you guys forgets what you learned here today, you’ll still have your little joke to say over the dead body of your friend!”
Stoney dips his head downward, looking up at the instructor with sick puppy dog eyes. “Sorry mate … er, Sarge.”
“Listen, Gentlemen,” the Staff Sergeant says, studying each member of the A-Team before continuing, “I know you just came in from the range a few hours ago and are tired, but this information is important. It may just save your life one of these days. If you’re not interested, I have other things I could be doing!”
After a pause, “Let’s move on then,” the Staff Sergeant says, glaring at Stoney.
“Incapacitating the enemy need only take a few seconds and should be silent and neat. You must learn to take every opportunity you have available. Remember, you must stay one step ahead of your enemy at all times.
“The most important of all rules to remember when sensing the enemy is near is to use diversionary tactics to lull him into your trap. Now I said, ‘sense the enemy is near,’ because that’s very, very important. Know your surroundings. Always know what’s out there. Know or sense when something is different or appears out of place.
“The VC are experts at guerrilla tactics. You’ll have to do better or never leave Nam alive. I’ll give you a few tricks I’ve used that work well. Put your mind to work and make your own lists. Gentlemen, you’re in the deep shit now. You must think death is yours or theirs all of the time because, believe me, they want to kill you!
“Carry pebbles in your pocket. Throw a handful in the opposite direction of your hiding position. Nearly every time I’ve tried it, the enemy gave away his position by reacting to my trickery, thinking he had found me and had an easy kill.”
The Staff Sergeant grins like he’s remembering something from his past, “But in fact, it was I who had the easy kill.”
“Make traps, but keep them simple. Try your basic rabbit snare trap. Tie a tight piece of rope or, better yet, some natural-looking vines to a tree. Loop to the other end, then pull the tree down and lay the loop on the path or in an area of likely enemy approach. Then wait. Bingo!” the Staff Sergeant snaps his fingers.
“You can try digging a hole and covering it with leaves and small branches. The enemy will never realize he’s walking into a trap. Then Smack!” The Staff Sergeant slaps his hands together, making a loud noise. I notice a few guys jerk, startled by the dramatic effect.
He then told us that camouflaging ourselves in our surroundings is the most critical thing.
“This is essential if you’re going to be any good at guerilla warfare. If you’re not better than Mr. Charles…” the Staff Sergeant stops in the middle of the room and smirks, “then the simple fact is you’re dead. You must be able to blend in with the environment wherever you find yourself fighting.
“Ok, Gentlemen, this concludes the first part of this training,” the Staff Sergeant waves his hand in dismissal. “Go eat your breakfast. I’ll be back at 1000 hours. We’ll spend the rest of the day making traps and learning the human anatomy.
“Gentlemen, keep this in mind: Victor Charlie already has these skills and is damn good at it. You’ll be entering his world. So learn it well, or you’ll be going home in a body bag while he parties.
After a pause, the Staff Sergeant concluded, “Just keep this in the back of your heads: Victor Charlie has the home-field advantage, but it’s yours to take away!”