"Last Time, Downs"

Copyright 2002: Dick Guthrie. All rights reserved. (copy permission at bottom)

Webmaster's Introduction "R.E.M.F." was a Vietnam War-era pejorative acronym which stood for "Rear Echelon Mother Fucker". If you asked most field troops about R.E.M.F.s, what you'd hear wouldn't be complimentary, even though many of us in the field also had stints as R.E.M.F.s ourselves and even though many R.E.M.F.s more than did their bit to make our lives better or safer... or just did their jobs well enough to ensure that we had the combat support and service support that we needed to get on with our jobs. Still, the acronym was widely used, and more often than not seemed well deserved. Not many war movies have pegged even part of the compex relationship between combat troops and R.E.M.F.s as Dick does in just the few words of this story.

One day in September of 1967 Company B was conducting a Cordon and Search Operation in one of the villages on the edge of the Dam-Tra'o lake, deep in "Indian Territory". At the time, I had a radio Operator named Tom Downs, a fine soldier. He and I had an arrangement whereby he was never to be further than an arm's length from me, and when I said "company" and put out my hand, he'd slap into it the handset of the radio we kept set on the company's internal frequency. This system worked pretty well helping me be sure I was always responsive to calls from the Platoon Leaders.

We had gotten the Cordon in quickly and without incident, and the National Police Field Force Platoon was conducting the Search, when a call sign I did not recognize, directed me on the Battalion's frequency to identify our landing Zone for visitors. I hadn't been told about incoming visitors, but the call could only have come from one of our helicopters, after all, so I located a space large enough to land a helicopter, and popped a smoke grenade. In came a shiny, V.I.P.-type HUEY (Utility Helicopter, UH-1D), and out clambered four or five starched-fatigue field-grade officers from the First Cavalry Division Staff. Immediately they got started milling around, asking questions and generally interfering with what I considered my primary job, which was taking care of Company B.

One helicopter load was bad enough, but soon another helicopter called for smoke on a secure Landing Zone. Before long, we had ten or so spiffy senior officers from Division cluttering up my modest little command post in a clearing the size of your living room rug. It seems there was a new Division policy that said all staff officers had to spend time in the field one day a week. By chance, first time they did it, they had all converged on us.

At about that time, I needed to talk on the radio to one of the platoon leaders who was far out of sight on the other side of the hamlet. I was irritated to see that my radio operator had been crowded out of the clearing by all the brass and was about twenty feet away.
Impatient, frustrated and cross, I hollered "Downs".

Ten starched field-graders, in unison, went face down in the rice paddy and hugged whatever cover they could find. When the fifty or so villagers assembled nearby witnessed that, they too hit the deck. By then, only Downs and I were still standing. He and I got laughing so hard I nearly fell off the paddy dike. Very shortly after that, the now-muddy visitors must have figured it was time to move on, as they left the way they came.

And that was the last time it happened. We never again got surprise visitors from Division staff. To this day I can neither confirm nor deny that the first group had passed the word that B Company, 1-50th Infantry was not the unit to visit, because that wise-ass Captain made fun of "R.E.M.F.'s"

Copyright 2002 Richard Guthrie,

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