15 March 2010


On the morning of 5 September, a runner came up from the S-1 bunker. “The Adjutant’s compliments, Sir, and he says ‘Haul ass for the LZ and get up to Phu Loc (6) right now. The CO wants to see you.’” The Battalion Headquarters was at the Bridge, and I knew we were about to return to the Arizona, so I assumed the Old Man wanted to talk logistics.

I grabbed my helmet, rifle and flak jacket and ran down to the LZ, located about a quarter of a mile away at the end of the runway. Fortunately, there was a CH-46 just heading to Danang that could stop at the Bridge. Ten minutes later, I was in the LZ at Phu Loc (6). As my bird flew away, another 46 landed and Jim Webb ran down the tail ramp. I waited for him.

“What’s going on,” I asked?

“We’re getting promoted.”

Oh. I realized that Academy guys were a little more conscious of those things. In another 5 minutes we were in the Command Post bunker. Colonel Griffis, read the AlMar (a message from Headquarters, Marine Corps addressed to “all Marine units”) announcing the promotion of the newest batch of First Lieutenants of Marines. He reminded us that, while our original oaths of office remained in effect, it was customary to renew them on promotion. We renewed our oaths.

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.

If that oath sounds familiar, it is because it is the oath administered to every officer of the United States from the Vice President, Senator, Representative in Congress down to the newest Second Lieutenant.

We signed our acceptances of the President’s new commission and became the newest First Lieutenants in the Corps, at least for a couple of minutes. Webb and I got the special rush treatment because we were the only regular lieutenants in the Battalion. The law in effect at that time said that Reserve officers could be commissioned and their date of rank (and entitlement to pay and allowances in their new grade) could refer back to the date of their commission. Regular officers, however, did not receive their new pay and allowances until that actually signed the acceptance of their commission. The other second lieutenants in the battalion who had been commissioned in June 1968 were promoted quickly, but if it happened on 6 or 7 or 8 September, they lost nothing from the short delay.

The CO then reminded us that we had just lost one benefit. “Ten minutes ago you could have made a minor mistake and we would say ‘Well, he’s just a dumb second lieutenant.’ But now, I can say ‘What the heck is the matter with you? You’re a First Lieutenant for heaven’s sake.’ Congratulations. Now get back to work!”

The other assembled officers and Staff NCOs offered their congratulations.

The CO then called the Company Commanders, the Sergeant Major, and the principal staff officers into his “office.” He informed us that the battalion would soon be returning to the Arizona. The mission was to aggressively patrol and interdict NVA and VC patrols coming down out of the mountains in search of rice.

Looking at the map, he said “At our current strength, I’m not sure how we can get the coverage we need with four companies.” He and the S-3 (Operations Officer) began to discuss deployment of the battalion and the task was indeed daunting.

I was sitting next to the Sergeant Major. I looked at him and said “It’s too bad we can’t strip all of us REMFs out of An Hoa and put them in the field. At least we could be the ‘palace guard’ (security for the command group) and free up another maneuver company.”

To my surprise, the Sergeant Major said “Excuse me, Colonel, but I think the lieutenant may have just earned that new pay.” Turning to me he said “Say that again, Lieutenant.” I repeated my thought.

The XO said “You’re talking about clerks and cooks and bakers and mechanics?”

”Dammit, sir, they’re Marines,” the Sergeant Major growled.

The Old Man paused. “It’s worth a thought. OK, Mac, it’s your idea. Put it together and see what it looks like.”

Thus was born 1/5’s provisional rifle company, commanded by yours truly. I headed back to An Hoa to “put it together and see what it looks like.”

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

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