"Using leadership skills of US Army Rangers to help key people succeed in tough times"
Increase Productivity and Profits with Leadership Tune Ups
Successful Leader, Author & Professional Speaker
Follow the Rules
Unwritten policies are the norm in smaller organizations where management often prepares formal, written policies only to comply with legal requirements.
More formalized rules and policies are established by larger companies to guide the organization. Compliance with these established policies is important to efficient management.
While some might disagree with company policies and consider violations to be insignificant, good leaders insist upon strict compliance to avoid the negative impact that always follows such actions. No matter how illogical the bureaucracy seems, it is important to follow the rules.
As the pilot took the map from my hand, I keyed the intercom mike and said, “The target village is marked in red.
“We’re going to cordon that ville tomorrow, and we want a fly-over recon at ten thousand feet.”
“We can do it. Is this a one-ville mission or do you want to go somewhere else?” asked the pilot.
“Before we get there, fly over a decoy village and three more after the target. You pick ’em.”
“Got it,” he said. “Sit back and enjoy the ride.”
The mission could have been accomplished without the chopper ride, but the aerial reconnaissance helped all of us understand what we had to do since this operation would take place in total darkness using radio silence.
We sat on the chopper floor, just behind the pilot and copilot. Two door gunners rode just behind us, managing M-60 machine guns to take care of business if we got into a fight.
“That’s village number one,” said the pilot. “We’ll circle to the right and the next ville is your target.”
“Roger, circle right,” I responded into the microphone.
Five minutes later, we approached a second village. With one hand I held my M-16 rifle, and with the other I touched each of the platoon leaders to get their attention. “Listen up. Next ville is the target. We’re going to circle right, so move over here to look out this door.”
-Here’s what we’re going to do-
The platoon leaders were soon observing their areas of responsibility.
“Second platoon, do you see that little hill we marked on the map? That’s where you’ll split off from the company and come in from the south. Move up to that bunch of trees on the south side of the village and wrap around toward the east. Cover the ville all the way up to that little creek.
“First platoon, after second platoon splits off, you’ll swing around to the north. Circle in there from that bunch of trees all the way down to where second platoon will meet you by that little creek. You have responsibility for the creek itself.
“Third platoon, fill in the difference from the northwest side in those trees, down to second platoon on the south side. You two link up at that patch of pine trees down there.
“Now, you guys need to identify the troops that will be linking up with the platoons on either side. Make sure they know each other. We want a tight little circle around that ville, and we don’t want anyone slipping through your perimeter.
“There won’t be any moonlight tonight, so give them some signals to work with-no lights and no noise. We’ll be moving into position after 0300 hours, and the villagers shouldn’t know we’re visiting until dawn when they start out to their rice fields.
“The command group will be with the mortar platoon on that little island just north of the village. We’ll follow second platoon when they move up there to go around the north side of the ville. Any questions?”
Everyone nodded or held up a thumb to show that they understood. The helicopter leveled off and headed toward another village.
In passing over the additional villages, we hoped the villagers would take us to be rear-area brass on a sightseeing flight. If they did suspect a cordon, they would have no way of knowing which village was the real target.
The pilot circled two more villages and turned toward the last in the series. As we neared the collection of grass huts, I noted that we weren’t making a broad sweep around the edge of the village; instead, we were making a tight turn directly above it. The pilot seemed to be in a hurry to get back to his rear-area activities.
When I keyed the mike to comment on his sloppy work, my remark was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of bullets hitting the helicopter. The chopper shuttered as the bullets perforated the bottom of the aircraft.
Immediately, the helicopter nosed over into a vertical dive -straight toward the rice paddy below us.
For a few seconds, I expected the pilot to level off or to maneuver into position for autorotation. More than once, I’d been on choppers that had to land without full engine power, and each time, the pilots had caused the blades to rotate in a way that would slow the descent and give a rough but safe landing.
There was no sign of autorotation. We were going in nose first at sixty miles an hour.
I checked my rifle to make sure I had a full magazine of twenty rounds, and I said a prayer, fast. The ammo was for the enemy who would surely swoop upon us, and the prayer was to keep us from swooping on them.
When the paddy was right before us, the helicopter vibrated tremendously and the metal frame made stressful noises as the pilot pulled the bird out of the dive and into level flight just above the green fields.
At that instant I could tell we would not crash, but a few more seconds passed before I realized that the three men seated on the floor were holding onto my arms and legs. None of them realized they had taken hold of me as a survival reaction, and we seemed to be frozen in that moment in time.
“Turn loose. Turn loose. Everything’s all right,” I said, shaking arms and legs to break their hold. Their suntanned faces were pale white. They turned loose but stared into my eyes looking for assurance.
Before we could react further, the pilot’s voice sounded in my intercom headset. “Radio your company and get ready for us to sit on the ground while we inspect the damage,” he said.
Radio connection was made at once with the mortar platoon leader who had been left in charge of the company on the ground. He was anxious to help as I told him, “Pick a landing zone and put troops around the perimeter. Don’t use the same LZ we left from. We’ll be there in twenty minutes, and the pilot wants to do a little maintenance inspection before leaving.”
“Roger that,” said the platoon leader unquestioningly. -Check the damage- Minutes later, the landing skids touched the ground and we quickly jumped off. One of the door gunners was ordered to inspect the damage while the engine continued at high rpm. They wanted to lift off in a hurry if there was more gunfire.
The platoon leaders jumped from the helicopter and ran quickly toward the tree line, not really knowing where their platoons were but understanding well enough that they wanted to be away from that helicopter.
I paused to survey the ten bullet holes that lined the hull. None seemed to make a critical strike, and it was amazing that we had taken so many rounds without anyone being wounded.
The rounds passed through the bottom and lodged in the interior or passed all the way through the upper structure. The holes appeared to be the size made by heavy machine guns, a favorite of the Viet Cong in these villages and a weapon powerful enough to easily knock helicopters out of the sky.
The various controls seemed to meet the pilot’s approval as he moved the levers and pedals. Then the door gunners waved briefly as the helicopter took flight. There was no radio communication as the pilot left for home.
“Thanks for running the company while we were gone,” I told the mortar platoon leader.
“Well, thanks for the thanks, Captain, but I’m not looking for a promotion. I’m glad you’re back,” he replied.
The platoon leaders briefed their men on the upcoming action and prepared for the night operation. When they gave orders just before dark, everything seemed surreal. The platoon leaders and I had the same feeling of camaraderie that we experienced after gunfights, and we realized that we had once again been at death’s door.
The pilot was in full control during the daring dive, which we knew by now was an evasive maneuver to avoid taking further hits.
He had succeeded in making the enemy think the helicopter was fatally hit, and we took no rounds after the first volley.
We agreed that this was a smart evasive technique, but the more we talked about the event, the more we realized what a terrible pilot we had.
He had circled directly above the village instead of skirting around the edges. Someone noted that our altitude must have been well below our requested ten thousand feet elevation. It’s not easy to hit a moving aircraft with a heavy machine gun at that distance, almost two miles.
Instead of complimenting our pilot on a good escape, we concluded that he should be punished for endangering our lives. If he had followed our standard operating procedure for flying recon, we would have been out of range of the machine gun. But the conversation was cut short by the approaching darkness. I broke up the pity party with an abrupt order.
“Listen up. We want twenty-five percent guard duty tonight instead of the usual fifty. Nobody moves outside their platoon position until we’re ready to pull out of here at 2030 hours (8:30 p.m.).
“We’ve got about six hours, so your troops need to sleep early. I want that cordon in place by 0300 (3.a.m.), so we’ll be moving fast and not sleeping again until tomorrow night.
“Keep radio silence from now until daylight. We’ll use runners to communicate since we’re all so close together. When you’re in place at the village, I want you to personally check both ends of your perimeter to make sure you are linked up properly. I want one hundred percent alert once we move in on that ville. Nobody sleeps until the sun goes down tomorrow.
“When you’re set up, key your radio mike once, twice, or three times according to which platoon you are. It’s my responsibility to catch your signal. Give me the signal before 0300 hours.
“That ville is going to be a regular circus tomorrow. The colonel has medical and dental teams and a big food giveaway. You’ll have to answer to him if anyone gets out of this ville because they’ve got some political jive they want to present, so you’ll have to answer to him if anyone gets out of this ville.
“You’ve got orders from this afternoon, so repeat back to me what I want your platoon to do.”
Each of the platoon leaders described accurately what he had been told in the helicopter. “Any questions?” I asked.
There were none, and everyone turned to leave.
“Oh, just one more thing,” I said. “This is not a practice run.”
To relieve the tension, I said, “Thanks for holding me in that bird today. I could have fallen out if you hadn’t been so alert.” Everyone knew I was teasing them for holding onto me in their moment of fear.
To make sure they understood the seriousness of our operation, I added, “Remember that .50 cal was just a couple villages from our target.”
There was laughter and more wisecracks as the platoon leaders went back to their assigned areas. We had some tough work ahead, and we had no way of knowing whether we would engage the enemy before dawn. We had survived this day, in spite of enemy gunners and incompetent pilots, and that was good enough for now.
-Interactive Discussion Guide on Next Page-
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