The black Staff NCO, standing in the doorway of the Civil Affairs hootch, eyed the new Lieutenant coming across the compound road suspiciously. Instinctively he knew this white college kid would be his new boss and he resented it. Another butterbar he thought. Well, I've broken them in before. We'll see what this one is made of. Place has run fine for ten months without no damn boot Lieutenant.
Second Lieutenant John William Brady had a quizzical look on his face as he approached.
"Sergeant Jackson," Brady said unsure of whether to salute or shake hands with the burly-built Sergeant.
"Yes sa," Jackson replied in a casual tone shaking the Lieutenant's hand with a firm grip.
"Colonel Marcus just assigned me to the S-5 Civil Affairs billet."
"Welcome aboard sa. This way." Brady couldn't see the sly smile on Jackson's face as he turned and went in. The Civil Affairs hootch looked like an empty garage except for the desk, the chairs on either side, and a file cabinet set against the plywood wall. An acetate-covered board, with grease-pencil writing on it, hung lopsided on a single nail above the desk. The two men sat down opposite each other; Brady taking off his cover, Jackson leaning back in the chair, his thick arms folded casually across his chest, sweat glistening on his face.
"The Colonel informed me that I'm responsible for thirty to forty Vietnamese civilians working in the compound here and two villages out in the countryside. He said I was to win the hearts and minds of the rice farmers out there."
"Yes sa." A broken silence followed. Brady's teeth grind behind his smile.
"So Sergeant Jackson, tell me, what am I getting into?"
"Well sa, we've got the most thankless job in the battalion. We are understaffed. We have one broken down truck and absolutely no support from anyone." "How many people do we have?"
"It's me, you, Corporal Chambers; he's our driver. Pfc Hernandez is our file clerk, Corporal Osborn; he's in charge of the gas masks we have stored in back and there's Sam our interpreter."
"Tell me about the Vietnamese."
"The employees, Chambers is picking up now, will steal anything they can get their hands on; we have to shake em down every day before they leave. The villes out in the countryside, well, they're crawling with VC." Brady waited.
"Yes sa. That's it."
"What's the routine?"
"Chambers picks up the civilians at 0830 and drives em back at 0430. He brings a second shift in at 0730 and takes them home at 2200."
"Corporal Chambers is doing a lot of driving. What jobs do the civilians have?"
"The first shift is mostly hootch maids; they make the beds, sweep, polish boots and starch covers. We have three guys who run a laundry concession. There's a barber, Tran Dan something and we have a few guys hauling garbage all day. The second shift are all waitresses for the officers and enlisted clubs."
"Tell me about the villes; what do we do out there?"
"The doc gives the villagers basic medical assistance and hygiene training; he treats their cuts, bruises, gives em inoculation shots for things like cholera. We bring em scrap lumber and tin and leftover garbage."
"Some of them feed it to their livestock and some of em eat it themselves. They're just a bunch of mangy rice farmers."
"Do you or the men have any training in Civil affairs?"
"Anything else I need to know?"
"Rest of the time is spent trying to keep up with the Colonel's paperwork."
"Doesn't sound too exciting."
"It's not sa, but it definitely beats being in the field."
"This your first tour?"
"No sir, second," Jackson answered sitting up erect. "Served with Second Battalion, Fourth Marines down at An Hoa in 1966; weapons platoon."
"Any particular reason why your back here for the second