Robert Smalinckas's Story
I was sent to Vietnam 17 July, 1967. I was assigned to a mortar platoon with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th
Light Infantry Brigade. After filling sand bags 8 hours a day, burning humane waste, guard duty, KP, walking point, and any
other duty they could think of, I was transfered to the 199th L.I.B.
Ssg Olsen was looking for some combat experienced
men to join the 71St LRP Company. After a brief talk with him I voluntered for the job. Even though I made the right choice,
at that time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I would like to think I would have made the same choice if I
had known more. Maybe yes, maybe no, who knows.
Recon teams were like a jigsaw puzzle, you were moved from team
to team until you fit in. I like to believe there was no one team better than another, they were all strong and extremely
effective. I found my home with team 1-3, with Tommy Files as my team leader. If I'm not mistaken, I went into 1-3 as assistant
I didn't know it at the time, but this was right before the Tet Offensive. It seemed to me that
every time we went on a mission, we made contact with the enemy. It was so bad that the people at Brigade didn't believe
us, and demanded a body count. They went so far as to recon the area the day after one of our fire fights. We gave them
a body count! After reconing the area after one of our fire fights, they assertained that our twelve man team took on the
point element of a regiment of North Vietnamese soldiers.
I remember the details of these two missions, but I'd
rather not get into the stories. I'd rather give thanks to the people who got us back from those missions. Thanks to Lt.
White for making sure we had support within 15 minutes of making contact. Thanks to Lt. Tillish for his efforts on the twelve
man mission. I understand his chopper took over 50 hits from a 51 Cal machine gun that night. Thanks to my fellow teammates,
and to those who gave us the support, that kept us alive.
Think of each team as a race car. The car is only
as good as the pit crew. God bless each and everyone of you.
After Files, the team went to Dave Dalton, and then
to me. When I took over I had one rule, "The night before and during the mission, you stayed straight". Doug Berry
took 1-3 after me and he kept the same rule, it worked for us. I don't know what the team was like when Steve Houghton inherited
I like to compare the 71St LRPs to the movie, "The Dirty Dozen", only because we were not spit and
polish Army. There were a few men in the unit that were regular Army, but mostly we were a group of soldiers with an "Attitude".
You could not do what we did unless you had an "Attitude".
I'm sure not everyone saw the company as
I did, but that's the way I remember it.