This introduction was written by Doug Hendrixson:
Once upon a time in a land far away there were some brave and talented young men called “red-legs” or artillerymen who had nice cushy jobs hurling deadly, high-explosive projectiles from very large guns for tens of miles from well-secured artillery fire bases in support of the less fortunate, but equally brave and talented young good guys called “grunts”or infantrymen.
These poor “grunts” were given the unenviable and dangerous task of “humpin’ the boonies”, searching out and destroying very clever bad guys called “NVA” and “VC” in the hot, steamy, insect and leech-infested jungles of that far away land called ‘Nam.
It must be said, however, that some of those “red-legs” were removed from their nice cushy jobs back on the artillery fire base, and had to go out to the hot, steamy jungles and be company to the “grunts.” This was necessary because someone had to make sure that those deadly high-explosive projectiles were targeted to land on the bad guys and not the poor brave “grunts.” After spending months and months doing this, these “red-legs,” also called “Forward Observers” (FO’s) and “Reconnaissance Sergeants,” began to feel more like they were “grunts” than “red-legs” and the “grunts” began to view the “red-legs” to be more like “grunts” than “red-legs.” Lo and behold, they all became “BROTHERS IN ARMS!”
Artillery Lends Dignity to What Would Otherwise Be a Vulgar Brawl
This poster is a classic. Often seen decorating club walls or artillery offices.
The artillery forward observer parties serving with Tall Comanche were there more for the purpose of “saving lives” rather than “taking lives.” However and realistically, in order to save the lives of our infantry “Brothers in Arms”, we had to put as much “steel rain” on the NVA as we possibly could. It required teamwork, good judgment, and putting to use a lot of technical training. All of this while AK-47 rounds are kicking dirt into our faces, and RPG and 82 mm. mortar rounds are dancing around our foxholes.
I know that in my role as Tall Comanche’s FO, I was most likely responsible for preventing some of my infantry “Brothers in Arms” from being KIA or seriously wounded. If I was responsible for saving just one American life or preventing just one American from a lifelong debilitating injury, that justifies the 6+ months I spent in the field.
A well-decorated Battery Commander of mine when I served with the 82nd Airborne Division once told me that the decorations on his uniform that he was most proud of was first, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB); and second, the Master Parachutist’s Badge (MPB). He told me that the other medals he wore, a Distinguished Service Cross, several Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medals, etc., were all given based on exaggerated depictions (in other words – “B.S.”) of things he actually did while in combat. People see those medals, and it’s a guessing game as to what they were for, and whether or not he actually earned them. But with the CIB there is nothing to guess. Almost everyone that wears the CIB did go out and put their life on the line and serve their country well.
As has been well-stated by my co-authors, Dan Bertram and Charlie Dickey, we were red-legs who were graced by our relationship with the infantry. But despite our service with and to the infantry, we were never awarded the CIB because we all had an artillery MOS, and were therefore considered artillerymen rather than infantrymen. The “reg” was that you had to have an infantry MOS to get the CIB and, as you all know, a “reg” is a “reg.”
There is a popular expression that says, “when something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck!” Well the FO’s, Recon. Sgt.’s and our RTO’s looked like grunts, talked and cursed like grunts, “humped the boonies” like grunts, feared for our lives like grunts, dug foxholes like grunts, got dirty, sweaty and fatigued like grunts, lost blood to leeches like grunts, drank warm soda and beer like grunts, considered a small block of ice to roll our beer or pop on to be a “luxury” like grunts, cooked and ate C-rations and LRP-rations like grunts, and cried over our fallen comrades like grunts. So we, the FO parties who served Tall Comanche consider ourselves to be –
“Grunts at heart” - and better men for it.