Have you ever been “Sheep Dipped?” As it turns out I was “Sheep Dipped” in early April of 1970 in Vietnam and I didn’t even know it. Before I tell you the “rest of the story” take a moment and read this comment on recent events in Syria/Iraq and in particular the definition of “Sheep Dipping.”
“After 2 days of intense pressure from CNN reporters and analysts about the need for U.S. air strikes in support of Kurdish troops in contact with ISIS fighters near Gobani AKA Ain in northern Syria on the border with Turkey, yesterday, U.S. fighter bombers rolled in an hit the ISIS positions and vehicles. All of the commentators on CNN agreed that air strikes of this kind could not be carried out without the assistance of forward air controllers. They were not wrong. I would respectfully suggest to you that there were U.S. personnel across the fence in Syria. These may have been Special Operations Forces operating with orders that POTUS needed plausible deniability about their presence in Syria or they may have been U.S. military personnel who had gone through sheep dipping. Sheep dipping occurs when a military member enters a room where a military personnel officer and a civilian personnel officer are present. When the military member leaves the room , he or she is no longer on Active Duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and is an employee or contract employee of a civilian U. S. Government agency. The cover agency is often the U.S. Agency for International Development. The person who has gone through sheep dipping is then placed across the fence into an area where POTUS wishes to say that there are no U.S. boots on the ground. This was often done in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War.”
In 1969 and 1970 Richard Nixon was President and friend or foe Hanoi Jane was shouting at the top of her lungs that we had soldiers in Cambodia – to which Mr. Nixon replied “We do not have troops in Cambodia.” I’d take Nixon a thousand times over Obama but he was not afraid of cursing or lying.
At the time I was in the Fourth Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of RVN – just East of Cambodia. I had been awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star as a Staff Sergeant acting as an Infantry Platoon Leader ever since our Lieutenant had his head severed by a Huey blade in a hot CA months before.
One day in very early April of 1970 when the re-supply bird came out to bring us food and ammo an Officer got off and met me with orders to report to the Fourth Infantry Division’s Headquarter’s Band in Pleiku. You can imagine my surprise and delight at being taken out of the field doing S&D for an assignment in the “Band” – even though I did not play an instrument – a fact I kept to myself. The bird dropped me at HQ and I was assigned an air conditioned room with a shower, toilet and two bunks with a Corporal who was a communications specialist. We were given full privileges for the night in the Senior NCO mess hall and club – privileges the Corporal and I took full advantage of. We were allowed to sleep in and told to report to some Full Bird at eleven hundred hours the next day.
Imagine my shock when we met a Command Sergeant Major who told us we were being reassigned and going on a Top Secret LRP to Cambodia with monitoring equipment to gather information about troop and supply movements from NVN – through Cambodia on the Ho Chi Min Trail and then back into RVN. Of course we were armed – me with an M-16 and Colt 45 and the Corporal with a sight mounted M-14. However, our orders were not to engage anyone going down The Trail – just to record and report the activity we saw.
You’ve probably already heard me tell about how that worked out but it’s not the point of this e mail. After my brief stay in Cambodia I was transferred to the Americal Division, 27th Infantry – where I was on the first wave of the “official Cambodian Invasion” on April 30th, 1970 – which was publicly announced by President Nixon.
Months later when I DEROSED back to Seattle I was handed my official US Army records – which of course contained all my awards and medals – and the list of where I was assigned during my time in RVN. You guessed it – they read: US Army – Fourth Infantry Division; US Army Headquarters Band; US Army Americal Infantry Division. Not one word about the time in Cambodia.
From that day in 1970 until today – 9/29/2014 – I always wondered why my time in Cambodia never appeared in my record. Now I know – some time in early April of 1970 I was Sheep Dipped.