It was 1969 and the war was winding down, but the casualty count wasn't. Before the year
was over
, our casualty count would total near 12,000 for the year.
It was BS that evening, and I could smell it.

As usual, we were out in the bush somewhere with a relatively new CO for "B" Company, 1/14th.  Around 1800hrs or so, a chopper radios our CP…they say that they want to put down for a bit.  After they were on the ground, and all 135 of us guys were bitching at how our night location was now compromised.

They called for the "redleg guy" (meaning me).  Turns out it was one of the 2/9th Battery officers summoning me for a chat.  He asked me, not 30 steps from that chopper, if I ever thought of becoming an Officer.  I replied "no sir" and thought maybe he had something else on his mind.  Uh-Unh…not quite.  He reached into a small satchel and says if I sign a few papers, he will institute a transfer to the 25th Infantry Division by end of week and I will receive a "direct commission" as a Lieutenant.  {Mind you, now, the 25th was now the 4th as far as I knew!}  {The 3rd Brigades of the 25th and the 4th Inf Divisions were swapped eff 1Aug67}The truth is, I was shocked, but smart enough to ask how they did business in the 25th.  He really didn't answer, and I said "thanks for the opportunity, but I wish to stay here and finish my assignment".  We said goodbye, and that was the last time I saw him.

I went back to the CP and the Company Commander asks, "what did he want?" I said he just wanted to make sure I was doing okay.  All the CP guys laughed and said, "Now that every dink in Vietnam knows where we are, he wants to know if you're okay".  I guess I am not well trained as a liar.

I remember every step I took up the hill to meet the Captain, I know exactly what he was wearing, and the exact type of paperwork he was asking me to sign, and the exact award I would receive.  I can still see it as clear today as 45 years ago...I can see his face, and his disappointment at my decision. Odd how it comes back, and odd how this little chapter pales in comparison to all the veterans who gave so much!

I always figured after that incident that he got his hands on the last chopper of the day...and believe me the whole company, including myself, were really upset.  It was just the perfect spot...we were dug in for the night... we had a great location...surrounding a hilltop, lower down the hill, great fields of fire, and good commo, and along comes this bozo.

The officer who flew out did not know me very well...not even enough to say hello to at any time over there.  The "orders" had a heading with the 25th Inf Div at the top of the forms.  Years later, it always puzzled my why it was the 25th Inf Div and not the 4th Inf Div.  A transfer to the 25th ? Their brigades were down south in Cu Chi. {Again, the Brigade swap occurred.  The "paperwork" was old and outdated.}

The CO was so pissed about the night position being compromised that he called Bn and asked why he wasn't he informed?  I think he got a "short" reply...meaning it wasn't his place to question what was going on and the issue was bigger than he was.

My main reason for rejecting this "great offer" was it meant a two-year extension of service.  After the grunt's Lt Hunter left, there was no other Officer ever assigned to B/1st 14th for a very long time. Something smells…and I think I know what it is.

Other thoughts came into my mind years later: Do you think any officer back at the Battery gave a shit if any of the FO's or Recon Sgt's were out there humping his own radio, spare batteries, ammo and rations?  Would I get an RTO when mine went back for R&R or medical issues?  I should have to ask for someone back at the Battery put any SP pack rations on the side for all of the FO's when we came back in for "palace guard" duty in 24 days or so...? Sometimes it felt like we were beggars,  not really Artillery anymore, and not really Infantry. The point is, I didn't think of any of this stuff while I was out in the field...it was just another day in the 'Nam, or as so aptly put, "nothin' means nothin' ".

Forty-five years later, I find an article about "direct commissions" and the guidelines that were in place at the time.  It appeared in the "Tropic Lightning" news.  Check this out:

To alleviate the serious shortage of infantry lieutenants in Vietnam, qualified personnel in grades E5 through E9 are urged to apply for direct appointment as commissioned officers in the infantry.  Applicants must have completed at least six months honorable active duty as a warrant officer or enlisted man in grades E5 through E9 in any component of the armed forces.  Completion of the Army pre-commission extension course is not required but is desirable for personnel without wartime service.  Applicants must not have reached their 28th birthday at date of appointment.  Waiver of maximum age limitations can be considered in certain cases.

From E-5 to Lieutenant?  Six months of service? Courses not required?  Under age 28?  Forget the age...we'll waive that part.  As a practical matter, didn't any command officers of the 1/14th or 2/9th ever think to include any of the Sp4's attached to the FO team in a pre-combat assault meeting?  Didn't they think this omission could be a huge tactical mistake down the road in the next firefight or ground attack if the FO was wounded or on leave?

Soooo…after all these years have passed, I think I finally know the reason for the disruption of our night location.  The answer seems to be it was actually the 25th Inf Div that was short of officers.   Lucky me…I was one piece of paper shy of being "promoted".

I would have been so proud to be put forward as a candidate for a "direct commission" in the 25th ID. For those who earned those "commissions", I am very proud of their accomplishments and commitment. I just would have wanted to earn it the old-fashioned way...duty, honor, country, and a strong belief we were in Vietnam for all the right reasons.

After my first three months in-country, I began to doubt our mission and the means of trying to accomplish it.


submitted by  
Sgt Joe Sleevi  


Webmaster's Note:  The confusion over the Brigade swap on 1Aug67 was to plague many veterans who came over with the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii in 1965-66.  For a Division Commander to "give up" or "swap" one of his Brigades was just unheard of.  However, since the 3rd Brigade of the 25th was, at the time, a "Separate Brigade", meaning it would handle a variety of mission "on the fly" and was commanded by a full Colonel instead of a "star", the 4th Infantry Division saw the opportunity to get to full strength and take the 3rd Brigade of the 25th as their own in the Central Highlands.  Joe is absolutely correct: the remaining two Brigades of the 25th were down in Cu Chi.

Given those circumstances, it probably didn't matter that Joe was being recruited by either organization.

Dennis Dauphin,
Webmaster, www.themightyninth.org


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