Okay you asked for my remembrances of Omega so here goes.
I got in Country in April 67 when Omega was on a stand down from Dak To. I ran into an old friend Charlie Barksdale in the club and he said I should come to Omega. Like I had a choice. As it turned out Kelly and Dunaway had an assembly with all the new guys and Kelly asked if any had served with them in the 1st. I raised my hand and they remembered me as I had been on the Hand-to-Hand Combat Demo Team at Matsuda aka Gabriel East. As a recent graduate of SCUBA School I had also been assigned as “Shark Shooter” for two of Splash’s qualifying jumps into the East China Sea off of Bolo Point. I sat on the top of the recovery boat with a M-1 will soft point bullets to shoot any sharks that might take in interest in the good Col. Didn’t get to shoot but did watch while one of the guys from the SCUBA team who was pulling him and his chute out of the water watched his Rolex sink into 600 plus feet of seawater. Anyway Kelly asked me where I wanted to go and I said Omega and he told Dunaway to make it happen.
Couple of days later we returned to DakTo. My first mission was with the Mike Force. We inserted a company into the Plei Trap Valley in a stream bed and I was the medic assigned somewhere near the rear of the formation. Right after the insert there was a bunch of firing from the rear and as I ran back there to see what was going on. Found one VC about a 100 yards away running away and just turning around a bend as he fired a carbine back toward us over his shoulder. At least 15 Yards were shooting at him with no result as he disappeared around the corner. I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
We stayed out for two weeks. In those days you couldn’t get a MEDEVAC for indig and we had to carry several of our wounded for a few days before we could Evac them. Also saw an entire Company rendered ineffective by a swarm of bees. Had at least 15 Yards that had such severe allergic reactions that they couldn’t see and three or four that went into anaphylactic shock with severe respiratory distress. For a good hour we would have been totally at the mercy of the VC if any had so wished. This was also the first time I had ever been resupplied by A-1E’s dropping napalm containers filled with rice for our troops.
After this Warren (Pappy) Calkin, the SGM who had previously been the Tm Sgt of the SCUBA team on Oki when I went through the school in July 64, 29 started and only 5 of us graduated, asked me since he had a couple of Medics would I like to run Recon. I said yes. Roland Nouqui took me on my 1st Recon mission. He also popped a cap from his M-16 an inch from my foot after leaving a den of iniquity in Tin Can City.
Around the middle of May we went back to Nha Trang for a stand down and everything changed. Omega was split; Pappy LaMar was tasked to send several teams to FOB 2 in Kontum. He pretty much sent the most experienced guys. Some that I recall that went were: Lowell Steven, Kenny Carpenter, Roland Nouqui, Ben Snowden, Jerry Shriver, Allen & David Strange.
That’s not a lot when I think there were about 8 teams sent but I had only been in Recon a couple of weeks when this happened.
The guys that were experienced and provided most of the training for the new guys were Roderick Patterson, Joel Kieth & Skip Langston. Ray Piercy was the Recon Platoon Leader and was replaced by Billy Greenwood during this time. I think by late June we had set up the FOB at Plei Djereng and started operating mostly in the Plei Trap area.
My first mission as a 10 was with J.T. Spruill another medic. We both decided he wasn’t physically fit to do Recon. He became the Camp Medic and did an outstanding job. He built the 1st Medical Bunker at Ban Me Thout and most of what became the new Hospital there. After that I got Lawrence (Larry) Gamble as my Asst and we stayed together until January 68 another very fine individual whom I had gone through Phase 2 at Bragg with.
I ran recon out of Plei Djerang until November when my team with Larry Gamble and James Price’s Team with Herb St George were sent to FOB Kontum as replacements for losses from the original Omega guys that went there in June. As I recall at this late date the guys that ran recon were; Jim Miller, Danny Kelly, Jim Price, Herb St George, Torres Figueroa, Mike Bansmer, Tim Kephart, Don Martin, Billy Eversole, Darrel Elmore, Ed Kinsley and Charlie Barksdale. I am sure there were others but these guys bore the brunt of the missions.
Some vignettes I remember and in no particular order or time frame are:
- Charlie Barksdale going in on a BDA assessment for an Arc Light. Briefed you will find the enemy unconscious or stumbling around bleeding from the ears or in a confused state of mind. They went in on ladders because the trees were like a pack of pick up sticks and received ground fire almost immediately. The Ladder above Charlie was hit and and cut one of the ropes throwing Charlie down to the ground and busting up his back. BDA’s suck so does following blood trails.
- Pappy LaMar climbing down a rope ladder at his age to rescue a yard on a Road Runner Team extraction and not having the strength to climb all the way back up. Hanging on for the ride back. Everyone screaming at him for being a dumb f**k. Pappy getting his strength back and saying that will be enough and going to the TOC like any other day.
- Losing the tail rotor of our exfil Huey and having the pilot flying it back to Dak To using forward speed on the boom to keep it flying and then having to skid it in on the runway at 60 knots with everyone hanging on for dear life and doing it successfully. Watching same Pilot after a few brews and a bet taking his Huey up and looping it over the runway. Barely made it with whole unit cheering.
- When FOB 2 had written off one of our teams. Kenny Carpenter, Lowell Stevens and David Strange, Pappy LaMar went over the fence in Cambodia and found them and brought them home to Plei Djereng. Very pissed and didn’t tell Kontum we had them back for a few days.
- Coming out on strings in the middle of the night, cold, rain, high altitude over the mountains with two of the yards passed out and one fallen out of his Maguire Rig but still attached by his wrist loop and Gamble holding him for dear life. Bounced over a jeep on the runway on landing and still happy as heck.
- Fat Cat King’s Steaks and beer waiting for you when you got back from a mission.
- The beer tent and Pappy calling for loud mouth time each day at 1630. Marking tick marks on the beer sheet on guys when they went on leave and R&R so they had a big bill when they got back. The Camaraderie.
- Coming out on a exfil on ladders. I get my two yards in and pull my ladder up with rucks attached. Then go to the other side to help in Gamble who is exhausted and has been carrying the radio. The pilot lifts off, we have a huge lurch a tremendous clatter and I look up to see the remains of the other side rope ladder minus rucksacks and radio hanging in front of my face as I reach up a grab it and hold it tight so it doesn’t go back up and wrap around the rotor mast. Didn’t clear the trees and stripped off the last few rungs. But we made it back.
- Infilling in horrible weather and as soon as your on the ground getting caught in a torrential Monsoon downpour. Somehow getting the team split in half. Going crazy for an hour before you hook back up. Then being told to lay dog as the weather is total crap and nothing is flying. Getting the same thing for the next 5 days before finally being extracted which is good because your point man has just shot a dude in the head and got the bad guys riled up.
Miller who has just bought a .357 revolver from Thomas who has told him it has a hair trigger, bragging about the gun and Lyle Button saying you only have six while I have 14 in hi Hi Power and Miller shooting Button in the lower right quadrant of his abdomen. The Chopper pilot blows the mess tent/beer tent down picking him up. I already have him on stretcher with morphine, ABD Pad, IV and ready for transport and off we go to the Hospital. Shot out to Hospital in 40 minutes. Beers were involved.
Allen flat ass shooting Hogland in the head at Snowden Hall and killing him with his Hi Power. I was standing next to both him and Button at the time. Charmed life. Never a scratch but did have a PIR ration shot off my leg pocked once.
Coming out on strings at last light from a hot LZ that was a large log over a ravine. Shooting back from our seats at the muzzle flashes that aimed at us. Watching the guns work the area and seeing a rocket hit the tree a bad guy is shooting from and seeing him come apart. Watching in slow motion as my Penn EE is squeezed out of my shirt pocket by the webbing and falls into the jungle below.
Listening to the exfil radio traffic on tapes in the TOC and thinking that couldn’t have been me. Too Calm and casual, I know I was bug fuck pumped at the time and that’s some stranger talking on the radio.
Going on a local Recon across the Se San River from Plei Djerang as Moe Elmore’s Asst as his was sick. We decided that we would never use 175’s for support if we were anywhere near the Gun Target Line. We spent a couple of hours trying to FO for them to hit a Crop Field with Buildings and a bunker and they were either short or long the entire time. I understand they are accurate in the middle of their various range fans but not so much at either end. Finally the FAC came over and did more damage with his WP rockets than 30 rounds from the guns.
Seeing Shriver, who is supposed to be on extension leave from Kontum, come to Plei Djereng so he can go out with the Mike Force.
Going to Da Nang and then Saigon for a debrief on Cambodia mission where we discovered a large base camp with lots of Bunkers, Buildings, Overhead Cover, Latrines, lots of NVA scurrying about. Coming down with Malaria. SF Medics in Nha Trang say it is Falciparim but the 8th field won’t take there word. So I go through two cycles of chills and fever while they screw up the slides. Finally I do my own blood slide and they confirm. I have been running a 104 fever and they do nothing. I am lucky that Ed Kinsley is there and recovering and he carries me into the shower and holds me in the cold water to bring the fever down.
The first of the year we all leave Kontum and go to Plei Djereng and then to Ban Me Tout where we Omega is made whole and there are a bunch of new guys and two Teams From Oki. I ran like one mission and then quit as did several of the other more experienced guys. The new CO was not Pappy LaMar. He didn’t trust us. With LaMar when you wanted out you got out and if you were wrong he would let you know about it. This guy wouldn’t. He questioned the 1-0’s on the ground. Kept teams in when he they should have been pulled. Had too many teams to properly cover and support. We started taking unnecessary casualties. We were no longer running recon; he wanted you to break contact and continue mission. Not what our mission was. So not wanting to look like I quit because I was afraid, I flew Chase. For a long time I was the only one flying chase and flew just about every day and on every infil and exfil except when I was on R&R or Leave.
The new guys in Recon that carried most of the load now were: Larry Gamble, Larry White, Davy Davidson, Ed Kinsley, Bob Durham, Tom Lawson, Tony Rubio, Lloyd Waddel, Lyle Sloan, Spyder Parks, Oki Guys Cortney Silva, Grant Bollenbach, Esteban Torres, Jay Massey, back for a second tour in Omega this time TDY.
Flying out at first light every day and back at last light. Standing strip alert primarily at Duc Lap, Ban Don and Duc Co.
Army birds having to go to Pleiku to track their blades the AF guys doing it with a make shift pole with two arms and a bungee cord between them and grease pencil marks from their tie down points making marks on the bungee. Then bend the tabs and try again until they tracked.
SF guys with the least amount of sickness, Followed next by the Army Aviators and then the most with the AF guys. My philosophy has always been to eat more dirt.
Harold Whittaker was killed when he rolled a jeep coming from Ban Me Thout to East Field. Probably would have survived but the turn signal lever went through his heart.
David Hoppe, what a puke. Three purple hearts. 1st in Nha Trang he gets some dirt in his eyes supposedly from a mortar attack. 2nd also in Nha Trang from a supposed mortar attack he falls in a mortar pit and gets cut. 3rd 1st infiltration as a third American he steps off the Chopper and sprains his ankle and steps back on the chopper. They threw him out of the unit.
Tet 68. So Proud of our troops. They stayed cool and didn’t shoot up a basic load. The ammo dump near East Field was blown up. We took some rockets. Lowell Stevens and Oscar (Pig Pen) Pearsall fired a H&I concentration at a suspected assembly area and took out over 50 NVA. Our Gun Ships wrecked general havoc and racked up a lot of kills. Our Mike Force was involved with cleaning out Ban Me Thout and the B Team there.
Lowell and I on R&R in Bangkok going to the Russian Embassy and offering to tell all if they would just cash a few checks for us. Getting a job on the Pro Course but we would have to extend. Which we did. Lowell got pissed at something and canceled his extension and went to Oki. I stayed the course and eventually got the job.
Billy Eversole being fragged by one of his yards. Billy’s team bringing in a wounded prisoner whom I just had time to stabilize before higher snatched him from us and we never heard a bit of intel they may have gotten.
Running out of booze during TET. J. T. Spruill and I had two 5-gallon cans of 190 alcohol and saved the day. Running out of all juices to mix aforementioned alcohol. Luckily one of the guys had gotten a shoe box full of Kool Aid Packets so that was substituted. Guys coming into the Dispensary complaining of puking blood. Suck it up buddy that was the Cherry and Grape Kool Aid.
Timothy Kephart. Lowell goes ballistic when we get back from a leave in Bangkok to find out that Kephart and Martin have put themselves in for a Silver Star and Bronze Star. Supposedly “The team initiated a Demo Ambush on a point element. While Kephart was struggling with the NVA trying to capture him he was struck on the head with the enemies weapon. When he had secured the prisoner Martin and the rest of the team laid down a base of fire suppressing the enemy while they could be extracted.” Truth is they were both em-placing charges without having adequate flank security. An old man with a walking stick came upon Kephart whose weapon was some distance away leaning against a tree. When Kephart went to grab him the old man hit him with his stick. They grabbed him and got an exfil. I was on it, the tape was still intact on the muzzles of their weapons, they never fired a round. Their Citation was pulled and Kephart was sent to Cam Rhan Bay to sell R&R’s. He was finally caught when he dressed his Vietnamese girl friend in an US Army Nurses Corps Captain’s uniform and took her with him on R&R to Hong Kong. Unfortunately there were some legitimate Nurses on the flight that discovered she “no speakie the inglish” and not a clue about nursing. Later Kephart, Luciano T. Brash and Doc Kothe the former 1st Group Surgeon were all indicted and went to Japanese Prison for dealing in drugs from an orphanage in RVN and Med Supply in Oki.
Billy Greenwood becomes SGM to be replaced by Stanley Rubin, one of the nicest gentlemen I have ever known. Robert K Price replaces Billy as Recon Plt Ldr. Later my Tm Sgt in Thailand when we were training the Lao and Meo Commando Raider Teams.
The last couple of weeks before I ITTed Robert K. Blumenstein replaced me as Chase Medic, we had been in the same Med School Class together. I helped Spruill with the new L shaped Hospital with the underground ward.
That’s enough. These things are better hanging out together at a reunion over loud mouth and harder stuff.
As for me when I left Omega I went to Thailand and the 46 Company and the Pro Course for six months then was selected to do Third Country training of the Lao and Meo under the agencies auspices at Pitts Camp. I extended for another year and then ITTed back to the1st Group on Oki for a second tour where I was assigned to the SCUBA Team when there was one per Group. From there having six years straight in SEA they wouldn’t let me extend or ITT again so I went to the 10th at Ft Devens for two years also on a SCUBA team where there is now one per Battalion. From there to Monterrey for Spanish Language school then NCOES en-route to 3/7th in Panama where I was on the SCUBA Team. From there I went to Key West Florida to the SFUWO Detachment. Where I retired 5 years later as the NCOIC of the now called a committee instead of a Team. I went back to the school ten years later as a Civilian and worked for 19 years before finally retiring almost two years ago.
Written March 30, 2017
Miller got a Direct Commission and retired as a Major now deceased.
Elmore got a Direct Commison went to Delta and retired as a LTC and XO of 5th Group. Always like the story that when he went to a conventional unit and reported in all of the Ring Knockers were introducing themselves by class date. Moe said Darrell Elmore, Dak To 68, I hope you could have heard a pin drop.
Austin Nesmith one of my ideals and mentors was murdered by Shot Gun in Florida.
Lowell Stevens became the guru for Camp McKall and I became the same for Key West. Steve died in harness two years ago.
Kenny (Shoebox) Carpenter was killed in a bar in Alaska.
Don Myers is still working one of the ranges at Ft. Bragg.
Charlie Barksdale is living in Texas as is Jay Massey.
Bo Bollenbach is Living in the Philipines.
Tono Rubio is living in Honduras.
Bill Tibbet is in Fayetteville.
Billy Greenwood also in Fayetteville.
Tom Lawson was on the SCUBA Team in Key West with me and currently owns a Company in VA.
Bob Price, Billy Eversole, Dan Kelly, Stan Rubin, Ed Kinsley & I believe Robert Durham have all passed.
Bill Tibbit formally of A-503, Mike Force, passed away