Ten Days on the Hill

by Elpidio "Skip" Fahel

After 30 days in the field, each company would then have ten days on the "Hill," the term that we all used for FSB 411.  The company would either walk or get airlifted to the Hill.  The location was a firebase with 105mm artillery support provided by Battery D, 6th Battalion, 11th Artillery, and the command and control and the logistical support for the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 11th Brigade.  The Hill was also known as LZ 411.  The Hill rose out of the farmland and dominated the area.  It controlled the area between Quang Ngai City and the mountains and the area south of the Song Tra Khuc River.  The FSB also controlled the area known as the "Horseshoe."

The battalion had its TOC located here.  There was a mess hall that provided the food for the Hill and the companies in the field.  The battalion S2, S3, and communications officers were based there.  The battalion surgeon operated from the battalion aid station, and the S4 operated the resupply operations from the Hill under the direction of the supply platoon leader.  The highest point on the Hill is where the Command Post (CP) of the company of the week was located.  The battalion TOC and mess hall were located about 100 meters down the Hill to the west.  The sleeping quarters for the battalion's officers on the Hill were located 25 meters from the TOC.

The Company CP had sleeping space for 10.  The space was for the RTO's, FO, his RTO's, the XO, and First Sergeant, and myself.  However, the FO and his RTO's would spend most of their time with the artillery battery.  The company and platoon medics would stay at the battalion aid station.  The Company Commander of the company on the Hill had the responsibility for the defense of the FSB.  The Hill perimeter had 35 bunkers providing security, the rifle company manned 24, and the remaining bunkers were manned by the permanent units on the Hill.  There were the normal defensive wire and anti-personnel mines.  There was a Quad .50 machine gun located on the northwest sector of the perimeter.  In addition to the artillery fire support, the Hill had the battalion 4.2-inch mortars and the companies 81mm mortars.  The total strength on the Hill would range between 175 to 250 men.

The FSB (LZ Stinson) north of the Song Tra Khuc River was manned by the 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry and had a battery of 105mm that provided fire support, and our artillery could support them when needed.  The ARVN had artillery stationed in Quang Ngai City that could provide fire support if requested.  Helicopter gunships could be on stations within 15 minutes or less if needed.

Nothing much happened when the company was on the Hill.  We would get three good meals a day, take a shower every day, see a movie at night, and just take it easy.  The troops would get to exchange their torn and worn out gear for replacement items.  The battalion also required the men to go to the aid station and be checked out by the battalion surgeon, and it was a good time to send troops to the rear to see the dentist, or just to get back to the rear.  The troops were constantly building and rebuilding the bunkers to improve them.  The biggest problem that we would have on the Hill was trying to keep the troops active.  We had both a basketball court and volleyball court to help.  After 4 or 5 days, the boredom would set in, and the troops would look forward to getting back to the field.  I would walk the permeter 5 or 6 times during the day just to talk to the troops and to see what they were doing.

When on the Hill, I would take one day and fly back to the battalion rear and spend the night.  I would meet with the personnel of the company in the rear, clear up a lot of paperwork, and then go back to the Hill.  Also when on the Hill, I would have the company XO and First Sergeant come to the Hill and spend some time with the troops.

At night, the troops would man the bunkers, which they used for sleeping and could get a good night's sleep.  Once during the ten days, I would walk the perimeter at night just to see if they were alert, but I depended on the platoon leaders to insure the security.  On one of the last two nights on the Hill, we would have a mad minute where we would fire all the weapons on the Hill.  I would have the FO coordinate with the artillery, 4.2-inch, and 81mm mortars for a time-on-target so that all their rounds would hit during this minute.  I would signal the start of the mad minute with a countdown on the radio and the firing of a green star cluster, and signed the end by radio and a red star cluster.  One of the objectives was to test fire all the weapons; the other was to see if we could stop all the fire at the end of the minute.  We would have most of the weapons fire tracer rounds so that we could see how the fire was going.  We would have the quiet before, then all hell would break out, and then the silence, and then we would go back to sleep.

When it was time to leave the Hill, we would get a good breakfast, and possibly a noon meal, and either walk off the Hill or be airlifted to the starting point for the next 30 days in the field.

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