My troop of ‘Fruitloops’ in VietnamBy George Amiotte
Native Sun News Today Columnist
nativesunnews.today It was 1969 and I was returning to Vietnam for my third tour of duty (TDY) with the 3rd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. I had previously done TDY with the 3rd Recon Battalion and departed the States in hopes that I would be reassigned to a Recon outfit up North. This was not to be the case. As I landed and entered the terminal in DaNang, Republic of South Vietnam, two Marine E-5s (Sgt rank) approached me, “Sgt Amiotte! We are from the Combined Action Program, we have your new orders.” They read: Transferred to the Combine Action Program, China Beach, and DaNang RSV. The Combined Action Program fell under the Phoenix Program whose mission was Pacification of the Vietnamese civilian population. We were to win the Hearts and minds of the Vietnamese People. (I wasn’t a Mud Marine, I had been a Recon Marine!! Not anymore, not with these orders!) We were to accomplish our mission by letting the South Vietnamese begin defending their own villages. A small number of U.S. Marines are assigned to rural areas and tasked with training local South Vietnamese Units while providing access to Artillery, Air, and Medivac services provided by U.S. Military Units. Word in the Ranks, was CAG Marines don’t last long in the Villages, they are either become Wounded in Action (WIA) or Killed in Action (KIA.) Plus the fact that the South Vietnamese fighting units aren’t exactly known for their fighting abilities. When it came down to a fire fight, the South Vietnamese had Jackrabbit blood, (they ran!!) President Nixon, Dirty Dick, was pulling out of Viet Nam and the Combined Action Program was one of the strategies toward Peace with Honor.
I attended a 4-week training program with the Combined Action Group (CAG,) China Beach, DaNang. It was a refresher course for calling in Artillery, Fixed Wing and refreshing basic support Communication Skills. As a Buck Sgt, I knew I was getting my own Platoon, someplace out there in “Indian Country.” I did not like this assignment! After graduation I was assigned to 1st CAG, out of Chuli, then to an outpost near the Pineapple Forest, a staging area for the North Vietnamese Army heading south. My Area of Operation (AO) extended into the southern end of this quadrant. I was assigned a Fire Team of Marines, one squad of South Vietnam Army (ARVNS,) one squad of VietLops (semi-trained 17-18 year old boys,) and a squad of local militia made up of the young men of the villages. My squad of boys ranged in age from 11 yr. olds to 16 yr. olds. All these young men were dressed in camos and carried M-1 Carbines and M-16 rifles. They appeared as regular combat soldiers except being mere children and all barefoot. I named them my Fruitloops Squad and gave them all American Indian names; Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Sitting Water Buffalo, Cochise, Osceola, Dull Knife.