Two new guys arrive at CAP 2-7-2
In our one day at CACO 2-7, I remember unloading a truck and doing other peon chores. I also remember seeing an RPD light machine gun captured by one of the 7th Company CAPs lying in a little grassy area near the command bunker. According to the CACO Marines, the “word” about CAP 2-7-2 was, they had lots of VC “contact,” but they “had their shit together.”
Riding down Highway 1 in a six-by, we stopped to deliver C-rations, ammo, radio batteries and other supplies to various CAPs en route to CAP 2. When approaching a CAP’s ville, the Marine riding shotgun would radio ahead to the CAP to send somebody to the “red line” to get their supplies. Usually one or two Marines were waiting by the side of the road for their supplies. Rarely, we had to wait a couple of minutes for them to come trotting up a side trail from wherever their CAP was spending the day.
When we got to the CAP 2-7-2 ville, nobody was waiting for their supplies. Since Rick and I were destined for CAP 2, the cases of C-rations and ammo were dumped beside the road, along with our gear and rucksacks. We hopped down and the resupply truck roared away.
There we stood, green as grass, suddenly all alone in a Vietnamese village, surrounded by dozens of people doing their morning chores and marketing. As far as we knew, all of them could be VC — waiting for a chance to pull out a hidden gun or grenade. We were wearing our helmets and flak jackets — because it was easier than carrying them — but for a couple of minutes it was comforting to have the illusion of protection. Erp and I exchanged a glance, then each chambered a round. I recall starting to get nervous, but fortunately we didn’t have to wait that long.
Within a few minutes Rick and I witnessed the approach of John “Crazy” Sigouin of Bangor, Maine. Deeply tanned, he strolled into view wearing nothing but flip-flops and a pair of tiger-striped shorts and carrying an M-16 over his shoulder by the barrel. A Marine utility cap was perched on top of his head with the bill popped skyward and his neck was encircled by a half-dozen rosaries, holy medals and other good luck charms. He traveled amid a cluster of small Vietnamese children, chattering loudly to Crazy and each other. He had come to collect us and the supplies.
I later learned he was called “Crazy” because of what some would call “poor impulse control.” Crazy ideas would pop into his head and seconds later he was acting on them, or at least talking about them. Another impressive thing about Crazy — he was covered with something like a dozen fresh scars. A grenade had exploded near him in a firefight and he was badly peppered with shrapnel. He said his flak jacket saved his life, but he still spent a month in the Naval hospital on Guam. Although some fragments were not removed, Crazy was pronounced well and sent back to the bush.
After brief handshakes, Crazy began shouting for a cart and one soon appeared, pulled by a wizened Vietnamese man. The supplies were loaded on the cart and away we went for the short walk to the CAP 2 day site at a house not far from the “Rice Factory,” trailed by the crowd of children. Once there we were introduced around the CAP. The names and partial names I remember are:
Sgt. Al Burd, the CAP NCOIC
Mike Kubina from Pennsylvania, CAP “Bravo”
Charles H. “Willie” Williams, Opelousas, La.
Rick “Doc” Doggett, Wenatchee, Wash., our Navy corpsman
Charles “Angel” Washington, San Antonio, Texas
Encarnacion “Chon” Perez, Beeville, Texas
Ernesto Rivas, Corpus Christi, Texas
El Oso (the Bear, a nickname)
Paul Jungel, Phoenix, Ariz.
George Ledford of Ohio
Since there are only 10 names above, there might be one or two I’ve forgotten — though CAPs often operated with less than a dozen Marines. Sgt. Burd and Doc Doggett had gone through CAP School with our class, but had arrived at CAP 2 a couple of days before Erp and I. The others had apparently spent substantial time in CAP 2, making Erp and I the “boots.”
I remember most of the CAP members gathering around for introductions, while Erp was assigned to be a machine gunner and I was made assistant (ammo carrier) to machine gunner Chon Perez. “Willie” Williams had been assistant gunner before me and he handed over 12 pouches of 7.62mm ammo. Willie was a lot stronger than me, so I eventually whittled my ammo load down to eight pouches, or 800 rounds. Chon carried 300 rounds.
Erp and I were told to reduce our personal gear to a minimum, so we could carry more ammo and equipment. Somebody dumped the contents of our rucksacks on the ground and our extra clothing was given to CAP members who needed a new shirt or pair of trousers. I had accumulated a dozen pairs of socks that members of the CAP considered a real bonus. Erp and I were left with the clothes we wore and maybe an extra t-shirt and pair of socks.
Our rucksacks and frames were deemed excess and casually tossed into the nearby river. Recalling the Marine Corps mania for keeping track of equipment, I wondered who would pay to replace my rucksack when I rotated back to the States. I didn’t know it at the time, but most guys left CAP 2-7-2 on a medevac chopper and what remained of their gear was adopted by a survivor or written off as a combat loss.
That was our welcome to CAP 2-7-2. I was 18 years old.
I was lucky enough to spend my entire tour in CAP 2-7-2, with the exception of a few days in CAP 2-7-4. The little village of Thanh Quit became my home and the members of 2-7-2 my family.
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