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War Stories

LRRP Insertion

Robert "Bob" Graham Centaur 3 1966
Veterans Day 2012

As the nation briefly pays tribute on Veterans day I have prepared this short vignette as a reminder of the type of skill and courage our admired Centaur and LRRP Comrades demonstrated as routine during our first year in Vietnam. COL Jim Peterson, LTC Eugene Prosser and I so admired the individual professionalism and team mission focus of the men we led. Those, whom we coached, guided, planned and executed our mission with. Yes and perpetually worried our ass off about. Mentioned are only a small few; however they are representative of the entire Centaur, LRRP Team. It was an honor to have served with all of you. Thank You.

The moment of insertion lay between dusk and dark. Inbound CPT Gary Hatfield is sandwiched wrapped in his chest protector, securely strapped into his armored seat. Gary takes a deep breath, settles, squints, focuses forward. He is light on the controls in case the insertion slick aircraft commander MAJ Mike Squires is shot.

Four of the recon team slide to the open doors each positioning, feet wide on the skids, steadied for a quick smooth exit. Team leader Specialist Jim Arp crouches behind the two armored seats focused forward, interpreting, evaluating the restricted panorama sweeping past just below on short final approach to his selected spot. All aboard are straining, seeking signs that they may be compromised to the VC.

Mike Squires, Centaur 30, gently decelerates, hovering briefly, then holds the insertion slick light on the skids. Door Gunner Specialist Herb Beasley focuses on the nearby tree line, at the ready with his M-60. Jim Arp on Mike’s nod calls out for the team to exit.

The five man team members step into the night. The first escorting gunship passes on the left to circle back. Each man is alert, focused, scanning his sector. Carefully all slip into the shoulder high grass. Crew Chief SP4 James Pyburn calls, “Clear” on the intercom. Seconds later, the five are alone with the diminishing sound of the departing Huey. The second escorting gunship passes along the tree line nearby to disappear on the low horizon. In the distance the muted sounds of a decoy insertion is in progress.

Now there are only the sounds of their own breathing and that of the light breeze rustling the high grass of the Parrots Beak of Cambodia. They wait near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the supply route of the Vietnam Liberation Front. Initial success! The five men, Jim Arp, Mike Wood, Larry Blackman, Frank Robins, Jerry Caldwell remain motionless and silent, then a cautious short 50 to 100 yards to pause again and monitor their surroundings.
Then before the moon rises they move stealthy to their surveillance location. Now with a radio mike covering the mouth, muted to near silence, a whispered radio contact is established. Centaur 6 asks for an OK and receives the answer with the coded click of a mike transmit button. For all concerned, silence is good. Success!


We five now alone in a hostile existence
Has the foe’s eye or ear been near enough to glean?

Oh, something just moved in the distance!
Felt more than heard, way beyond being seen.

Something: yes, a slight move in the distance.
Hint of threat, premonitions now keen.

Ill to come: lurking, ever closer?
Raising small hairs: apprehension of the unseen?

Ah, only a branch or a reed in the breeze.
Why the mind racing, undisciplined feeling of fear?

A threat beyond reason: too much to make a diversion?
Not to fear, the Centaurs will get us out of here

The Centaurs put you in and Centaur 6 will see that you Lads get out.

Copyright Nov 2012 Robert L Graham Centaur 3