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Stars & Stripes, 13 Apr 68

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13Apr68-Aero-Scouts Get Hot Indoctrination

By SPEC. 5 BRUCE MCILHANEY

S&S Staff Correspondent

CHU LAI, Vietnam - "My platoon was split into three groups with at least two platoons of charlies after us," said S. Sgt. Richard Fapka, describing the situation facing his newly formed aero-scout platoon of the Americal Div.'s 123rd Aviation Bn (B/123rd Warlords).

The platoon, which works with a spotter helicopter and two gunships at its call, was searching a VC haven in Quang Ngai province called the "Rock Pile." Two Viet Cong were spotted and one shot.

Bunkers scattered throughout the bolder-strewn hill yielded a large pile of Communist uniforms and documents. Then Fapka called for a demolitions team to destroy the bunkers.

The demo team blew one escape route but could not get up a narrow crevice leading to a cave on the top of the hill where I thought the two VC were hiding," he said.

One of the scouts armed with only a pistol started up the crevice.

"He was just an arm's distance from the top when they started sniping at him and the two squads I left at the bottom of the hill came under machine-gun fire," said Fapka, of Detroit.

The demolition team and Fapka's scouts took cover behind a pagoda on the side of the hill. A machine gun began firing from just above them, the round landing close.

"I think the unwounded VC ran and brought back the rest of this force. The fire came closer and I decided we'd try to break through the thicket below us and rejoin the other squads to come back up for the man on top."

Running through the thicket with enemy fire all around, six scouts became entangled and were forced to go back to the pagoda.

At the bottom of the hill Fapka's men beat off a group of pursuing enemy, killing one.

"I spotted 20 to 30 charlies going straight for our LZ but with just four men I couldn't take them on. Then our gunships arrived and the VC fire slacked off."

After linking with the remaining two squads, the seven men on the hill were found to be alive and safe.

"It's our job to go in and investigate trouble spots; but those charlies were too strong for us to handle," said Fapka. "For the first contact it was a tough one to break in on, but we didn't loose a man."