"One Very Long Night with the SRAP Platoon"
Introduction: Richard "Rick" Hambley served with the 1st Battalion (Mechanized) 50th Infantry in the Short Range Ambush Platoon (SRAP) as an Artillery Forward Observer, Attached from the 2/17th Artillery. Rick also spent time with Special Forces "Mike" (Montagnards) force units and the 203rd Air Recon Company at Camp Radcliff.
Vietnam presented many challenges for the American fighting man. Much has been written about the exploits of the SRAP platoon and our different engagements with enemy forces. Here is an example of another very long night we had.
This one we spent on a ridge line along highway 19 just outside of bridge 25. There was a trail we were expecting the NVA to use on their approach to attack the bridge and check point. We moved our ambush into position just after dark, set up our claymores, rear security, agreed on the field of fire for each position and were ready for the enemy in short order.
It was a very dark night. Less than one hour after we got set up there was some very slight movement directly across from our positions. As we sometimes did on black nights, we closed our eyes and cupped our hands to our ears in order to concentrate on the noise most of us had heard. This enabled us to determine the exact direction of the source of any movement. The grass on the opposite side of the trail we were watching was very tall making the starlight scope useless. Silence! Not a sound for what seemed like at least an hour. Then, there is that noise again!! "They are sneaking right past us in the grass beyond our trails kill zone and we cannot see them!", we thought.
Nerves were getting pretty frayed but everyone kept their cool and did nothing to compromise our position or screw up the ambush. It takes seasoned soldiers to accomplish this believe me!! Adrenalin was pumping! The slight rustling in the grass across from us continued all night. Everyone stood prepared to engage our enemy on a seconds notice. Probably a frigging NVA regiment walking right past us!! Sappers? Maybe. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, first light arrived. We cautiously hand signaled each other, unplugged our detonators, got on line with all weapons set on GO GO and moved towards the source of our tense, nerve wracking night. Not fifty feet downhill from where we were set up there was a very large patch of well matted grass freshly flattened out and the biggest tiger tracks any of us had ever seen!! It was obvious that we were not the only hunters on that ridge line last night. We all just stared at those big footprints and I dont think anyone said anything. The F**k you lizards and rock apes didnt seem to bother us very much anymore after that night. It felt good returning to LZ Schueller for a meal and a well earned sleep.
Author's Note: A few months before joining the SRAP platoon, I was on an operation with the Mike Forces approximately ten kilometers north of this area. We had a Montagnard killed by a tiger while out on a listening post one night. The company had set up with a 360 degree perimeter and sent out LPs at 3-6-9-12 oclock. The next morning we performed a clover leaf search pattern for his body. After quite a long time we did recover him .in two separate places, covered with a large amount of leaves. Those Yards could track! Apparently the tiger did not like the illumination we were firing off and hid his meal for future use. I related this information to my SRAP buddies over breakfast that morning.
Copyright 2008 Richard R. Hambley,
Contact via e-mail: R&RHam2@aol.com
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Reprinted from the 1st Battalion (Mechanized) 50th Infantry Association website http://www.ichiban1.org/
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