by Ski Ingram

 One thing you do a lot of in the Army is “pull guard duty.”  When I was in Basic Training, we guarded things that no one cared about just for the experience of standing guard.  When I was in AIT (Advanced Infantry Training), we had to stand fire watch each night.  That was like guard duty, only it was inside of your barracks instead of outside somewhere in the cold night.

The first thing I remember guarding in Basic Training was the ocean. Another guy and I were dropped off near the beach at Fort Ord.  There was a small guard shack outside off a chain link fence that surrounded nothing we could see. One of us had to guard the shed while the other walked around the outside of the chain link fence. It was a long walk, about a mile.  This was very boring duty.  I couldn’t understand why we were guarding nothing, so we didn’t take it seriously.  The Sergeant of the Guard had to drive down a long dirt road to get to us, so we both stayed at the shack until we saw headlights coming up the road.  One of us would walk a short distance away, turn around and act as if we had just walked around that fence.

We had our bayonets with us, so we began to throw our bayonets at the shack.  We would stay at the shack until being picked up by the Sergeant of the Guard, throwing our bayonets the whole time to relieve the boredom.

When I got to Special Forces Training, (Green Beret training), I was given the job of guarding a very small building that was full of parachute kit bags.  The building was no more than eight feet square. I was required to walk around the building until being relieved an hour or two later.  It was very boring, no one was going to break into this building and steal those kit bags. 

After a while I decided that I would like a kit bag.  I noticed on my walks around the building that one of the windows was broken.  There was a screen over the window which also had a hole in it about four inches square right where the broken part of the window was. Remembering my first day at Fort Bragg in Green Beret training and hearing First Sergeant Rocky Lane telling us that everything was legal as long as you didn’t get caught, I decided to issue myself my own parachute kit bag.  On my next tour of that building, I immediately walked to that broken window.  I reached inside and began to pull a kit bag out of the hole.  It took a long time, almost my hole shift as the hole was small and the bag was large.  I finally got it out of the window.  I don’t remember how I hid it from anyone else, but I did, and I still have that bag today, some 51 years later.

While in Viet Nam we had a lot of guard duty, both in the jungle and on an LZ.

When we were in the jungle on a five-to-six-man team we would move into what is called a “night logger” position.  We’d find a spot where we could lay down and also defend it.  We’d lay in a circle with our feet inside the circle and head outside.  That way we were always in contact with each other.  We were each facing in a different direction for protection. 

If there were more of us, 15 to 20 men, we’d divide into three or four-man teams.  One team would be the rear guard.  The number of men on your team governed how much sleep you’d get each night.  If you were on a three-man team, you’d guard for one hour and sleep for two hours.  If you are on a four-man team you’d get more sleep.

One day while in the jungle we received about five pounds of tangerines.  After eating a hot lunch, we began to burn the trash and everything that we didn’t eat.  Someone was going to throw those tangerines in the fire.  I couldn’t allow that to happen and asked if anyone wanted some tangerines.  No one did.  On resupply day along with the hot food we got water, C-rations, candy, writing paper, sodas and beer.  All this stuff is heavy, especially when you are carrying 400 rounds of ammunition, four or five hand grenades, two mortar rounds, two or three hundred rounds of machine gun ammo, and rope.  All this stuff weighs about 60 to 70 pounds. Like I said earlier, it’s heavy.  I just couldn’t see throwing away all those tangerines as it was very rare to get fresh fruit while in a jungle. I put as many as I could in an empty sandbag and then strapped it to my ruck sack.

When we stopped for the night, everyone wanted some of my tangerines.  I didn’t give anyone a single one.  They didn’t help carry them, in fact some of them made fun of me for carrying them.  I ate every one of them during the night because I didn’t want to carry them again the next day. The next day, next to my guard position I had a large pile of tangerine peels.

Our guard position at LZ Uplift and also on LZ English had a 50-caliber machine gun.  Every night there were guards round the perimeter of the LZ.  When it was our turn to guard the LZ, we’d spend all night shooting the 50 Cal.  We’d shoot all tracer rounds. It was great fun. 

For about 2 months I was on a firebase in the jungle near the town of Phu Me.  One of the things I like to do is drink hot chocolate.  I’d fill the canteen cup about ¾ full of water and add one packet of coco mix from a C-ration pack, three packets of cream and three packets of sugar.  There was a problem, in the dark of night it was impossible to tell the sugar packets from the salt packets.  No one was stupid enough to light a match or turn on a flashlight that the enemy could see because he might shoot you. What we would do is call in an illumination round.  The round would light up the whole area. I’d be able to see if my packet was sugar or salt and if there were any gooks trying sneak up on me.  It was later that I found out that each illumination round cost $88.00. That was a lot of taxpayer dollars wasted in order to tell the difference between the salt and the sugar packets from a box of C-rations.

As remembered by Ski Ingram August 2019