|Sgt. Jack – My Nemesis|
I should probably start by saying I was not a poster boy for the army, and my
attitude was not conducive to success in the military. When I enlisted I had no
idea of what the mindset of the senior NCO was. I knew it would be different,
but I didn't understand the thought process of the career soldier. My aim
was not, and is not, to demean them for their career choice. They are the
individuals that make the military what it is. They are the backbone of the
military and have taken the time to learn their job and to pass that information
to those like myself who were just passing through. If it were not for the
career person, the military would be in constant transition, and our country
would suffer for it. However, there are those that go to far to prove the
point as to who is boss, and who has the power.
I had one of those NCOs for a section chief. Let’s just call him Sgt Jack. I am sure that had we met in a different arena the outcome would not have been as explosive. I don't know why, but from the moment we met Sgt Jack had a dislike for me. We were like oil and water and it continued throughout our time together. It made for some interesting experiences.
When I arrived in country my section chief was SFC Quanonas. He and I got along fine. Yes, there were things that went on that I didn't agree with, but he was doing his job. Part of that job was to have guys like me fill sandbags or go to the motor pool and clean the trucks assigned to us. I always did my job, and for the most part he left me alone. This made for a good working relationship. It was late June or sometime in July of 1969 when he left VN. He was replaced by Sgt Jack, and naturally, I thought things would stay pretty much the same. To my surprise, the battle was on and no one had alerted me.
Our first engagement was over a shoestring. My watch had broken, and I was used to having something around my wrist, so to fill that need, I tied a shoestring around it. When Sgt Jack saw it you would have thought I had committed murder, or raped his wife and daughter the way he went off. I tried to explain to him there was no hidden meaning; I just wanted something there to replace my watch. He was having no part of what I was saying, and at that point I started to get belligerent, and made it known, in no uncertain terms, I wasn't going to remove the shoestring.
We were starting to get quite loud, and people were trying to get within earshot to see and hear what was going on. He finally gave me until 1500 hrs to get it off. It gave me about two hours to plead my case to anyone that would listen including Lt. Dunlap who seemed sympathetic to the enlisted man. I learned that day that the “green machine” can not be fought, and grudgingly I cut the shoestring off my wrist and handed it to Sgt Jack. I could see in his eyes that he wasn't done screwing with me, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. My only hope was to be on the lookout so I could out-maneuver him. Now I knew the battle was on.
I wasn't the only person he screwed with as he was after almost everyone in his section. He would get so angry with us that he would threaten to send us to the infantry. He had said that about three times when I finally turned and started walking away.
Sgt Jack said, " Where do you think you're going?"
I turned back around and said " I'm going to pack."
He looked surprised and soon realized that those types of threats didn't work when at any moment you could be killed just standing around. I think he was scared, and thought everyone was as scared as he was. That was the last time he made such a threat at Quan Loi.
The next push from him is still one that confuses me as to why he did it. We were getting hit one night with a steady barrage of rocket fire, when Sgt Jack tells me there is a message at Third Brigade, 1st Cavalry that needed to be picked up. I asked if it could wait until the attack was over to get it. He gave me a no questions asked “No". According to him it was a priority message that was to be gotten now. I pulled my flack jacket up as high as it would go, pulled my steel pot down as low as it would go and still be able to see, and away I went. I was going to the other side of the airstrip, and on a normal day it would take about ten minutes to get there. That night I made it in about six, but it seemed like thirty minutes.
The Cobras and Huey gunships were doing their thing overhead, and every time a rocket went off close by I just knew I was done for. I kept saying to myself "this better be important!" I had my foot almost in the carburetor as the flares lit up the road quite nicely. I finally arrived, and as I pull into their compound, which was surrounded by trees, there was a bright flash as a rocket hit the top of one of the trees. There was a shower of shrapnel and debris and no place to hide except under the Jeep. I roll under the Jeep, the whole time thinking, “This better be important." I waited a few seconds, then made a quick dash for the Commo bunker.
Once inside the operator asked, "What are you doing here?"
I answered, “I was told you had a message for us, and I'm here to pick it up."
He gave me a funny look and said, “I told them it could wait until after the attack."
Now I knew what was going on - Sgt Jack was making a power play at my expense. I signed for the message and started for the doorway when the operator said, "Why not wait it out here?" All I said was, "You don't know Sgt Jack."
With the message in hand I headed for the door and left. I had to retrace my route and make it back in one piece; once again I was driving through the chaos of the attack. Only this time I was more angry than scared knowing this wasn't necessary. I made it back to the battery and logged the message in before taking it to its intended recipient. That's when I read it and really became upset. I had risked my life for nothing more than the 1st Cavalry congratulating the 23rd Artillery Group on their anniversary.
This was B.S. and Sgt Jack knew it. From that point on, anytime he and I disagreed, I would get in his face and the yelling would start. I no longer cared about whether I was insubordinate or no. I think he realized what he had done, because he left me pretty much alone until we moved to Phu Loi.
Now in Phu Loi Sgt Jack was in his type of atmosphere - a place where he could be more safe and throw his weight around. Phu Loi offered that to him and he was going to take advantage of it. It had been a long time since Sgt Jack and I had gotten into it. So long, in fact, that I had let my guard down and was now an easy target for him.
One day he told me that if for any reason I would be heading towards Service Battery, I was to take all distribution with me. Later that day I was told that I had to take a soldier to Ben Hoa early the next morning. I got up early, skipped breakfast and started getting the distribution ready to take along so I could drop it off after I left Ben Hoa.
Sgt Jack must have been waiting all night for this, because I had started putting things in order when he came in and started in on me, wanting to know why I wasn't on the road taking this man to Ben Hoa. We started yelling at each other, and he turned to the 1SGT and said, " I want this man court marshaled!"
Before Top could say a word I said, "You can't do that, I'm following your orders!"
Again, we yelled at each other which took up more time. I grabbed what I had and headed out the door while he was still yelling at me. All the way to Ben Hoa I thought about what happened when it hit me. He set me up, put me in a no win situation - a “Catch 22”. I had not seen it coming. I ended up with my first Article 15 and the realization that he had gotten me good. After that I was very careful when I picked my battles with him. I was getting good at it when I started moving around the Battalion.
I had been on Nui Ba Rah for quite some time, when someone came up to relive me for a little break. Only problem was he didn't bring his rifle with him. Now I had a decision to make - leave my rifle with him in an unsecure area, or take it with me to a secure area. The answer seemed easy to me, so I left my rifle with him. I thought I could bring his rifle with me when I came back. Problem solved, so I thought.
When I arrived at Phu Loi I was informed we would be having a rifle inspection at the noon formation. Okay, I'll just get my replacement’s rifle and everything will be cool. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was unable to find his weapon, and word had gotten to Sgt Jack.
We were all standing in formation as the Captain inspected everyone’s rifle. S gt Jack followed the Captain like a puppy, ready to pounce on anything that moved. As they got closer I could see Sgt Jack salivating at the prospect of getting me in trouble again. The Captain came to me, and I thought, "What the Hell, I'm in deep already so I'll make it worth while." I snap to attention, bring an imaginary rifle to port and stand there.
The Captain looked at me, then turned to Sgt Jack and asked "Where is this man’s rifle?" Sgt Jack was so excited by now that he was vibrating and yelled out, "This is the man I was telling you about, I want him court marshaled!" The Captain looked me over real good and calmly told me to report to his office after formation. The whole time he was talking to me Sgt Jack was yelling, "I want this man court marshaled, I want this man court marshaled!"
After formation I started towards the orderly room and that's when I realized I could be in serious trouble. I announced to the 1stSgt that I am there to see the Captain. He checked to see if he was ready for me and I went in.
"Specialist Mallory reporting as ordered, Sir." The Captain looked me over really good again, for this was the first time he and I had met. He had taken over from Captain Askman while I had been on Nui Ba Rah.
The Captain asked, "Would you mind telling me why you don't have a weapon."
I slowly explained to him what had happened. I wanted to make sure he understood exactly why I did what I did.
He said, “You know this is a court martial offense? I'm going to see what it is I'm required to do,"
I say, "Sir, I couldn't leave that man up there without a weapon. If anything happened to him and I could have prevented it by leaving my rifle, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I was already living with one ghost, and I didn't need another.
He said he would see what could be done and then dismissed me.
As I left his office Sgt Jack walked in and told me to stand fast so we could see the Captain. I said, " I've already talked to him."
Sgt Jack exploded, and started yelling at Top, "I want this man court marshaled!" He just kept repeating it over and over. The 1stSgt said, "He said he had seen the Captain."
Now Sgt Jack really threw a fit. So much so that the Captain came out of his office and looked at him and Top and said, "I want both of you in my office, NOW!"
I couldn't hear all that was said, but some of it was "...that man has told me what happened and I'm dealing with it. Further more, I've let the two of you run this battery while I learned the ins and outs and now I'm taking my command back. I will be watching you both." When they came out of the Captain’s office they looked like two whipped pups. I knew I would pay for this, but I was enjoying the fact that Sgt Jack got his ass chewed.
As Sgt Jack came out, he walked up to me and said, "Report to my hooch at 1700hrs. for extra duty." I figured he could not do anything to me he hadn't already done so I got there about five minutes early and knocked on his door. There was no answer, so I knocked again. There was still no answer. Fortunately someone else was looking for him, and went inside to see if he was there. He was no place to be found.
Next I went to the orderly room to see if he might be there. He wasn’t and so I tried the NCO Club. Not there either. Now I knew what he was doing, trying to set me up again. I got back to his hooch and then back to the orderly room and then back to the NCO Club. I made sure everyone I saw knew I was looking for him. On my third trip to his hooch I saw him heading my way. He immediately started yelling and accusing me of not being on time. I stopped him and said, “You're wrong Sgt, another person was looking for you and went inside your hooch but couldn't find where you were hiding."
Now he was fit to be tied, and yelled, "I'm going to send you to the field!" Like that was some sort of punishment. I yelled back, "Good, Get Me The Fuck-Away From You!"
I ended up with an Article 15, a suspended bust and a five dollar fine. As I was signing the 15 the Captain said, “I'm sending you back to the mountain, and you will be in charge."
I looked at him and said, "You just gave me a suspended bust, and you have to be an E-5 to be in charge." I wasn't an E-5. He sort of smiled and said, "That's being waved for now." I think he did that to show Sgt Jack who was running the battery, much like when Captain Pringle promoted me to E-4 and Sgt Jack threw a fit. C aptain Pringle told him he didn't need his permission to promote anyone.
After so many years have gone by you would think all is forgiven. That is true with most of those that crossed paths with me, but as for Sgt Jack, I will never forgive him.
|Roger Mallory Then and Now|