A fine dog was Argo, a name that came from who knows where. It may well have had something to do with his love life but I claim no inside knowledge. Argo's era was at Fort Benning, Georgia, where a few friends and I lived in a Bachelor Officers Quarters building. Originally, when I met him he was the "property" of Dick Hodges, a relatively new warrant officer flying helicopters at the Post's Lawson Army Airfield. Dick loved that dog - as did many of us. I should throw in here that Dick taught Argo many of his revolting habits - none of which kept us from loving Argo - or even Dick for that matter. One day Dick received orders to transfer somewhere else and I, unofficially, became Argo's "master." In reality no one mastered Argo but "owning" him was a status symbol. I accepted the scepter and ascended the throne. Argo was mine - part-time.
At one point during my tenure at Benning, another officer and I dreamed up the idea of holding a benefit dance for a local girl's orphanage. Mind you - we had no connection to this institution - officially or unofficially - but we chose it as a good cause. We literally took over the local Officers Club and through word of mouth invited every gullible young officer available - with their dates, of course. If the cause of helping these young unknown orphans was not enough I decided to raffle off Argo as a door prize. I spent a few hours washing and grooming him. It was pretty fruitless. Argo was a throwback to another era. He had beautiful white, brown and black fur but he also had short little legs that hardly suited his 24-inch body. On the end of those little legs our mutant hero had six toes on each paw. In addition he had two tails. This is not the idle observation of someone who drank too much - although that can't be denied. He actually had the normal dog tail and then, along side of it, he had another little stub. Fortunately, when he wagged his tail, which happened mostly when he was being fed or when he was given a saucer of beer, the second tail didn't join in. Again I digress. With Argo as the door prize the benefit was a success. Tickets were sold for the raffle as well as entry and the winner was a young lady from nearby Columbus, Georgia. She was ecstatic with her new friend - and Argo always ready for female company no matter what the size or breed took to her handsomely. Things went well and at the end of the night as we were shutting down I gave my dog the customary whistle and said, "C'mon Argo - let's go home - he leaped from her hair covered lap and started to follow me out the door. The protestations were loud and tearful. She proclaimed and wailed that I couldn't take "her dog' - foolish damsel. I told her that she didn't actually "win" Argo. Being chosen from the raffle merely meant that she could "borrow" him. Needless to say she was nonplussed but those were the rules. Besides, pulchritudinous as she was, Argo was one of the guys.
One of his most memorable traits was that he hated second lieutenants in uniform. Now how an 18 inch high dog could see the gold bar on anyone always baffled me. Benning being the home of the Airborne School, the students ran on their daily fitness runs through our area, and Argo, territorial little devil that he was, would run with them. Occasionally he would take a nip out of one of the lieutenant's legs. It was always a second lieutenant. It defies explanation. One night in the Officer Club bar, I was having a few drinks with some friends - including trusty Argo at me feet, and a second lieutenant who was not in uniform but easily identifiable by his whiteside haircut and his confused look approached me. He had fire in his eyes. I was in uniform so he knew I was a captain. He asked, "Captain, is that your dog?" to which I replied yes. Everyone knew Argo belonged to me and vice versa. He then proclaimed the, "he bit me this morning". Hey, so what's new? He did that every morning. To calm the officer I casually answered "Oh, it's okay. I don't think he'll catch anything from you." He turned and stormed out. Argo grinned -so did I.
Argo had a sister that also roamed the area and I think it noteworthy to add that she had only four digits on each paw and no tail. This was a strange family.
Speaking of families - one Saturday afternoon someone announced at the bar that there was a female dog under the adjacent barracks building with a litter of puppies. Needless to say they all looked like our co-hero. Argo beamed and so did I.
The time came when I had to transfer off post. I passed the "ownership" on to another officer but as I pulled out of the parking lot, after all of my good-byes, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw Argo forlornly sitting there. Argo sobbed and so did I.
This has been a poignant story for me to write. Man makes many friends in his lifetime but dogs are often the best ones.
When they died I hope they didn't try to bite the canine equivalent of St. Peter.
The General's Look
Back in 1975 at Fort Polk the 5th Division was rebuilding after being deactivation from Viet Nam. The first commanding general was Major General Haldaine. He was a large man with thin light hair barely covering a equally large head. He had a mean tough countenance that worthy of his ranks and position. The general was known by all the troops in the division because he would frequently visit all the units on post and in the field. He was feared by the chain of command and highly respected by the troops. He had the ability to manifest an order or a thought just by looking at you. I was at attendance at the first graduation ceremony at the Primary Leadership Course to congratulate one of my team leaders. The general was sitting on the stage with the school's commandant observing the exercise. The wives and families of the graduates as well as their chain of command were present. About half way during the announcements a small child started crying. It would not stop even though its embarrassed mother was trying everything she could to quiet the child. I swear on the "Great Ranger" in the sky, the general momentarily gazed at the toddler and the child immediately stopped crying. There were no more interruptions. No one wanted to be the victim of the general's stare.
Danny L Mathers
Here Comes DePuy
Here is a true story that happened at Ft Polk, B 1/61, during ARTEP training on Peason Ridge around May 1976.
I joined the 5th Division a second time in November 1974, at Ft Polk, LA. The original members were around 14 and building daily. Around June 1976, the division was near full strength and was preparing for the Army Test and Evaluation Program (ARTEP) which consisted of field test starting with squad, platoon, company and finally battalion exercises. We were training at the off post training area named Peason Ridge which was formally the Viet Nam training camp for Infantry AIT during the war. We were conducting company ARTEP drills and were building fighting positions for the defense.
Before I go any further let me tell the reader about PVT Dunce. Practically every line unit in the army at one time is blessed with a soldier like PVT Dunce or PVT Pile. His name was similar to Dunce so I'll use that name to protect his identity. PVT Dunce was my first leadership nightmare. You could dress him, shine his shoes, polish his brass and he would have black polish all over his Khakis because he stepped on his toes and scratched his nose with his collar the during the last five minutes before inspection. He was an inspecting officer's dream for finding everything wrong that could go wrong while walking down the ranks. Back at Peason Ridge we were digging what was called the DePuy fighting positions. These were modified foxholes with over head cover and a berm in front permitting weapon's fire from the sides. The fighting positions were configured in what was called a "lazy W" where each hole support the ones on each side to cover the blind spot in the front. Needless to say this new doctrine was not popular with the Viet Nam veterans because the system depended on mutual support.
Suddenly, an officer came running through the company perimeter yelling for the whereabouts of CPT Rankin while muttering, "The General is coming." Just my luck, here comes GEN DePuy with a group of straphangers and he goes to PVT Dunce's fighting position. Before I can get out of my position and get to Dunce, the general asks him who is on right and left flank and where is the final protective line. PVT Dunce calmly says " Uh, I don't know sir, my squad leader didn't tell me". There's more fill in information before I go to what happened next. Bravo was blessed with one of the finest "Piss & Vinegar" First Sergeants the army ever had, 1st Sgt Wiley Mal Clark. Wiley invented the NCO professional program before the Army thought of it years later. Wiley was the type of 1st Sgt who believed in the Ranger doctrine of "Rangers Lead the Way" and stressed the importance of doing things the right way. He made sure that ever NCO in the company could give a clear and simple operation order. His policy was that very soldier in his company would write down every op order. He would spot check to make sure it was done. His middle name also meant "Bad" in Vietnamese and believe me, one with any sense wanted to spark his anger.
Upon hearing PVT Dunce's answer, the general stated he wanted this man's entire chain of command to assemble in 20 minutes and to send his helio to get the colonel. There I am, standing in 90-degree heat, knees shaking, and mentally visualizing both my E-6 stripes going with the E-5 stripes I was wearing. I was on the promotion list for SSG. Finally, the chain of command was in line, at attention, shaking, when General DePuy asked "First Sergeant, why doesn't PVT Dunce know who is on his left or right flank? I will never forget the look on Wiley's face and the "I want to kill you" tone of his voice as he repeated the general's words. Stuttering and scared I said for him to check PVT Dunce's left front pocket. The general beat the 1st Sgt to the private's breast pocket dislodging a button in the process. He looked at the book, threw it on the ground and ordered that this man be gone from the army before these good soldiers return from the field.
Dumbfounded, I thought he might say something like, "Sorry SGT Mathers," or something similar. The general didn't say another word and headed to his helio and was gone shortly there after. I saw General DePuy again in 1991 at the wall in Washington, DC. I asked him if he remembered the incident. He simple said no.
Danny L Mathers
The 5th Division was reactivated and assigned to Fort Polk, LA in the mid seventies. The fort was previously used as an Infantry training center for soldiers destined for Vietnam. The post provided of all the facilities of a modern training base: barracks, motor pools, ranges, bivouac sites and maneuver areas. Additionally Fort Polk had an off post training area called Peason Ridge. It was previous used as a mini Vietnam training area during the war.
The units of the 5th Division used the area exclusively as a combat maneuver area. We dug fox holes, built fighting positions, dug tank ditches and did everything that would be done in actual combat. The area was hilly with wire grass and scrub oaks. There were numerous small streams that were narrow but very deep. The 61st Infantry spent the majority of the time in this area of training for the Division's Army Training and Evaluation Program certification. The unit had a routine that repeated every time we deployed to Peason, We would assemble in the motor pool and hold formation. The First Sergeant would salute the Company Commander and order us to mount tracks. The next order was to start engines and Bravo company would depart the motor pool in a military manner.
This particular training event focused on company level training requirements, specifically the defense. We drove in tactical formation down the long dusty road until we reached the training area which was about 25 miles from the post. That afternoon we set up on the forward sloop of a hill, began digging in and camouflaging the tracks. Someone damn near tripped over a 8 foot alligator who was sunning himself about 10 meters from the company command post (CP). The gator was rudely disturbed and coached out of the AO with camouflage tent poles. He quickly retreated to a small stream at the base of the hill. The reptile was gone so the brave soldiers settled down for the night in their fighting positions.
At about what we called "o'dark thirty", sometime around 03:30, the company was ordered to "Stand To". This is a defensive drill which requires everyone to be awake, in positions, manning crew served weapons and ready for an attack. (I am not sure if this was still doctrine but we did the same thing in Vietnam because the NVA would attack several hours before daylight.) We did our "Mad Minute" fire all our weapons thing with blanks and simulators. At sun up everyone was instructed to assemble at the CP for a critique. The biggest shock at the assemble area was the same big alligator. He had slipped past the defensive positions sometime in the night.
First Sergeant Wiley Mal Clark used the opportunity to chew big ass. Wiley had the unique ability to make an entire company think he was talking to you. Wiley had a glass eye which somehow focused on everyone. We all got the message. Security had a whole new meaning after thinking about something just as deadly as a potential enemy.
Danny L Mathers