PART SIX

Murdock had spent the last five months sitting in the relative safety of Bien Hoa, doing what they called "Ash and Trash" runs - delivering supplies, ferrying VIPs around. Military policy for officers. Six months combat, six months doing "safe" work, then stateside until the next tour. He'd complained, like a lot of others had, but Murdock made sure he did it around the right people. His CO was getting tired of him, which was just what Murdock wanted. He had a plan, he told me, and although it didn't work quite the way he expected it to, it did work.

The exact records of what happened have all but disappeared. Because of that, and out of respect for Murdock's own reluctance to discuss the events, I will only give enough details for you to form your own conclusions.

In November, 1967, Murdock received his scheduled promotion to first lieutenant. He was supposed to head back to the states the following month, probably as IP at Wolters or Rucker. He was called to his CO's office, expecting to receive his transfer orders. Instead, his CO just looked at him as he left the room, leaving Murdock alone with a civilian, dressed casually. Almost looked like a vacationing tourist.

This civilian introduced himself as Mr. Cheney, and he was recruiting pilots for a civilian airline. He had been told that Murdock might be interested in volunteering. Murdock almost dismissed the offer sight unseen, until he was assured that his status with the Army would not be "affected". Then he got interested.

Some time later, Murdock walked out of the office, went to his quarters and packed. An hour later, he and Mr Cheney were on a transport to Thailand. For the next few months, Murdock would be classified as a civilian pilot for Air America.

BA was actually embarrassed when he told me about Fort Bragg. I think that's the only time I ever heard him stammer.

He'd been going through the Special Forces training camp, and making a go of it, although he cursed John many a time for talking him into it. He was worrying about his parents, of course, and feeling angry about life in general. He admitted it was affecting his behavior. He hadn't realized how much, until one day, there was John.

They took a long walk that day. John wasn't interested in hearing excuses. He wasn't interested in hearing anything. He wanted BA to "shut up and listen". Which, of course, is what BA did.

There were a few things BA needed to know, and, unpleasant though they were, John was going to make sure BA understood thoroughly. There weren't a lot of black guys in Special Forces. John didn't know why and he didn't care. The only thing he wanted BA to know was that there were rumors. Rumors that the few blacks that were there were being "recycled" through training, no matter how many times it took, until they passed. Why? So the Army could look like it was color-blind. Again, John didn't know if that was true, and didn't care, because true or not, people believed it. "People" being the other SF personnel, the ones who were supposed to watch your back while out in the boonies of Nam.

John reminded BA that these guys were no different than any one else in one major respect. They might be willing to die for their country, but they weren't willing to die for an FNG who hadn't been properly trained. He'd heard of units that had a very simple way of weeding out the "trouble makers". They would send these guys out to a known enemy stronghold, along with indigenous personnel. No other SF with them. If they came back, they'd be accepted. If not, well, no one else would get killed because of them.

BA remembered verbatim John's last words to him.

"You want to take care of your folks, Sergeant; you don't want them tending your grave."

It was the last time BA had, or caused, trouble in training. He spent Christmas with his folks, proudly wearing the green beret he had earned. And then he went back to the war.