General Trinh is delivering papers
by: Walter Guest
"Jesus!" Private Schultz thought, "all these gooks look alike." He was at the personnel gate at the U. S. Army compound in Ban Me Thuot. It was his job to let the indigenous day workers into the compound in the morning. They all had badges with their pictures on them. All he had to do was compare the picture on the badge with the face of the person holding it. But Christ, except for a few cute chicks that worked in the Officer's Mess, there was no way to tell one face from another.
He went through the motions anyway, looking from badge to face, from face to badge, from badge to face. Just to make it worse, his lieutenant had been on his ass because he hadn't got the gooks through the gate fast enough. Some had been late to work. Well screw it, he thought. He'll get them through fast then. If one of them is carrying a bomb and blows the place up, it won't be his fault.
Nearly to the end of the line, he noticed. Good. He could goof off until his shift ended at ten. Four to ten in the morning wasn't the best shift but the personnel gate was soft duty except for when the gooks went to work. This gate was for gooks only. The only times it was used was when they came to work and when they went home.
What the hell! The big one at the end of the line didn't have a badge. Oh Christ! Another one looking for a job. There was no way he could explain to these people that he didn't do the hiring. None of them understood English.
Private Schultz passed in the last one that had a badge and stepped in front of the big Rhade who was last in line.
"HOLD ON THERE, FELLA," Private Schultz always raised his voice when talking to the local people, perhaps in the belief that his difficulty in communication had something to do with impaired hearing. "NO WORK HERE. YOU SAVVY? NO WORK." He pushed the man in the chest.
"I am Sergeant Steven Kincaid, RA 27487329, 17th Special Forces Detachment, Nha Trang. I request permission to see the commanding officer."
Private Schultz was stunned. He looked around to see where the voice could be coming from.
"Watch my lips, Private. No. Over here. Right in front of you. That's it. I am Sergeant Steven Kincaid""
"Holy shit! You're an American""
"You bet your sweet ass I'm an American. I wanna see the CO."
"Well, hell" I dunno" I mean you don't have a badge or nuthin". No one gets in this gate without a badge. This gate's for local people. If you're an American, you're not local. You gotta use the main gate."
"I tried that. They won't let me close to the main gate dressed like this."
Private Schultz tried to search through his mind for the regulation that would cover this. He couldn't think of any. All he knew for sure was that this gate was not for Americans and this man said he was an American. An inspiration hit him. "You got any ID""
"Of course I don't have any ID. Don't you see, if I got caught with ID on me Charlie would know who I was."
That did it. The case was settled in the mind of Private Schultz. He wasn't getting in this gate. "Try the main gate," he said. "No one gets in this gate without a badge." That was what he had been ordered to do and, by god, that was what he was going to do.
"Do you have a phone"" the guy asked, sounding exasperated.
"DO YOU HAVE A PHONE" LOOK IN THE GUARD SHACK. MAYBE YOU HAVE A PHONE."
"Oh. Yeah." He had forgotten about the phone. "You don't have to shout. Yeah, I got a phone here."
The man then spoke so quietly that Private Schultz had to lean forward to catch what he was saying. Very slowly he said, "Then maybe you could call the Officer of the Guard."