T.J. McGinley

COBRA/TIGER FORCE Companies ’68
[email protected]

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I was the second of nine children, four of which were draft age in 1967. The oldest was in the Marines already, one in military school and another in high school. I’d just graduated with no plans for college–prime draft target–EXPENDABLE. I felt if I went (to the Nam) the changes of my brothers going would be slim, so I went airborne to assure a ticket to Southeast Asia. It worked, I went and everybody else stayed home.

I was in a line company for seven months when I had a chance to join a recon platoon known as Tiger Force. Being in Tigers was a pinnacle of my military career, because I felt I was part of an elite within an elite. Being in the field with this small, but effective unit of sky soldiers turned out to be the safest place in the Nam, for me anyway. Each man was hand picked, field experienced, and over all knew what they were doing.

I didn’t take the military as seriously as they would have wanted me to, so in the rear, as little as I saw of it, I seemed to attract trouble. Certainly for all who participated in the fighting, that part was a hassle, to say the least. However, as much as that dominated, there was a bright side to all this madness. I learned to live each day as if it were my last, not just then, but ever since.

I’ve also found out by research that all my childhood heroes were recon men. For example, Francis Marion, Nathan Bedford Forest, John Mosby known as the Grey Ghost, Bill Hickock, and the men of the Alamo. All these men served in small units of volunteers who were up against, more often than not, superior numbers. “Upstarts, rabble, nonconformists, misfits, ” lifers have been calling recon men throughout history. However, these same lifers will admit that recon men were the best in the business of “out indianing” the Indians.

Another segment of my experience that fascinated me was the jungle. During operation Nevada Eagle, the 1st Brigade of the 101st entered the jungle of the Central Highlands in South Vietnam, on May 17, 1968, and stayed there until February 28, 1969. The jungle was hot, wet and magnificent. We were in places humans have never been before. We slept on the ground in a different place every night for months.

As a young boy I was in scouts and loved camping out in the woods. Operation Nevada Eagle and Massachusetts Striker were a scouts dream of endless camping. I admit it had its drawbacks. Humping a ruck full of c-rations and chasing Chuck was no picnic, but overall testing of ones self against all odds was the ultimate challenge. In conclusion, I realize life has been very good to me. I saw the worst it had to offer–now there’s nothing but the best.

T.J. McGinley

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