8 June 1969
Cacti Blue Training Helps Green Soldier
By SGT Michael Tousey
BAN BLECH ó Specialist 4 Kevin Ryder of Hamden, Conn., had never been in combat before. In fact, he had just arrived in-country. But his inexperience wasnít important to Staff Sergeant Dale F. Depoy of Winamac, Ind., a platoon sergeant with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry.
"Today, youíre walking point for the Company," Sergeant Depoy instructed Specialist Ryder. "Keep your eyes open for the enemy; they could be any place waiting in ambush. Keep your weapon ready until you see the first NVA, then start firing."
As the platoon sergeant gave the order to move out, Specialist. Ryder began leading his men through the jungle lanes of the practice course at the battalion firebase, Landing Zone (LZ) Thirsty.
The new men of the Cacti Blue walk the jungle path followed by experienced soldiers acting as scorers who keep records of each manís hits and misses. Along the trails and in trees and brush are hidden silhouettes, some of which can pop up in a simulated ambush when the scorer pulls a concealed string.
While itís only practice, each man who walks through the jungle-land course gets a first taste of what his next year could bring.
"The men Ď know their lives may depend upon this extra training," said Sergeant Depoy, "and they give their fullest attention to the instruction."
Colonel Price, our battalion commander, believes in training even in a combat zone like Vietnam," explained the Delta Company commander, Captain Philip R. Fogle, of South Bend, Ind., while discussing the Cacti Blue combat training program .organized under the supervision of Sergeant Depoy.
"When a company rotated to the battalion forward firebase, as ours is now, there is a perfect opportunity for training of this sort.
"Before walking the jungle lane each man is taken to the firing range where he can confirm his zero and work on general marksmanship," Captain Fogle continued. "We also have instruction in areas; such as map reading and adjusting artillery. Right now we are preparing an M79 Range."
The training has been enthusiastically received by the men of the battalion. It conditions their reflexes and gives them a better idea of what to expect when they do encounter NVA. Practice makes perfect!