Jerry Carlson 981st 67-68

This is from Jerry Carlson 981st 67-68.

I located the Art Sampson  family from Montana who donated my dog Boots.So I have talked to 3 of them.   Started writing these.I just realized I should have written one about training Boots in Lackland.  Should have been #1.Lord bless you and thanks

DECEMBER 1967 Story #1
By Jerry Carlson, E4, 981st Military Police Company K-9

We left Fort Carson Colorado at about 20 degrees and freezing and stopped in Okinawa for a short stop.  As I walked out of the plane I went to the end of the wing and could almost touch the end of the wing it was so long, like a giant eagle with the wings just hanging down.  We landed at Cam Rahn Bay with our dogs at night.   When I stepped out of that big C141 transport plane without any windows I saw the flares lighting up the sky to watch for enemy movement.  I felt the heat and heard the artillery and machine guns and other sounds of war.  

Our drill sergeant at Basic Training at Fort Ord in January 1967, brought us to attention, then told us to stand at ease, and then told us to bend over and grab our ankles, then commanded us to stick our head down between our legs, kiss our butts good bye because we are going to Vietnam to die.   Now that training was a welcoming reality to me even though Cam Ranh Bay was probably the safest place in Vietnam, it didn’t sound like it or look like it that night to me.

Well the first night on patrol the deuce in a half (2.5 ton truck) dropped me off at midnight.  I took the muzzle off Boots and swung my M16 over my right shoulder.  We stood there for about 20 minutes getting our eyes adjusted to the dark then I told Boots “Okay Boots lets go”. As soon as I took my first step, Boots was 2 steps in front of me on my left and we froze.  Out from a tunnel in the high brush/grass came the biggest javelina I have ever seen.  I was from Arizona and I know what a javelina is.  The tunnel was at our 10 o’clock position and it walked right across in front of us to my right at a 4 o’clock position.  It must have been less than 6 feet from Boots he was so close he probably heard my heart beat!  I was frozen and didn’t even get my M16 off my shoulder it happened so fast.  After it went into the tunnel on my right side  I took my M16 and held it in my right hand with my finger on the trigger the rest of the night.

When I got in the next morning I told the guys “Man I saw the biggest javelina I have ever seen in my life!  It must have weighed 350 pounds and it’s head was bigger than a basketball”.  Javelinas normally are about 20 to 30 pounds.  The guys said, “Carlson that wasn’t no javelina that was a wild boar”.  Well I was not from California and never knew about wild boars.  That day I put a double sling on my M16, put the sling over my left shoulder and had my right hand on the grip with my finger on the trigger until the last night of patrol. 

Some years ago I realized that the Lord had to blind that thing because it walked right across in front of us, not away from us, and it should have ripped Boots and I to shreds!  God had blinded that wild boar and saved our lives!  I have learned that wild boar are nothing to mess with here in California, with their big tusks and aggressiveness they are dangerous!  Thank you Lord !

DECEMBER 1967  Story #2
By Jerry Carlson, E4, 981st Military Police Company K-9

I had been in Vietnam at Cam Ranh Bay about 1 or 2 weeks on patrol at night with my German Shepherd “Boots”.   I was carrying my M16 with a double sling over my left shoulder and my right hand on the handle and finger on the trigger.   Boots was on a leash in my left hand.

On Sunday late afternoon someone called out to come to formation.  So I went out to see what the sergeant had to say before we went on night patrol.   Standing at attention the sergeant said, “At ease, okay men, tomorrow we are going to start sending you out to your base camps where you will be stationed on patrol.  In the morning when you get back off patrol let me know where you want to volunteer to go.  Dismissed”.

Wow, Where do I want to volunteer to go to die?  I am married to Barbara and dying in Vietnam was not my plan.   Some of the guys started talking that “I want to volunteer to go to Phan Rang, it is an “”in country R&R (Rest & Recooperation)”” right on the beach”.  Another person said, “I want to go to Nha Trang, it is in country R&R on the beach”.  I have no idea how they knew about these places in Vietnam, where did they see a map or get their information?

Well, I was taken to my post at midnight and Boots and I waited for our eyes to adjust to the dark after the lights of the deuce & a half disappeared into the dark.   Taking the muzzle off Boots and snapping it on my waist, I started to pray.   I asked the Lord to show me where I should volunteer to go.  I didn’t know any bases or camps in Vietnam.  I walked my post praying and praying.   I prayed for 4 hours until 4:00 AM Monday morning when I had a peace come over me.  A peace that passed my understanding, all fear was gone. 

In the morning I saw the sergeant and told him, “Just send me wherever you need me Sarg”.  Later that week I was sent by a small military plane to Camp Radcliff near the small village of Ahn Khe, Vietnam up in II Corp.   When I got off the plane a 1st Cavalry soldier was just getting ready to get on the plane to go home.  He told me to be careful and good luck.  That night I knew I was in a real war zone.   I was in the Central Highlands with a mountain on one side with jungle and a river on the other side with 10-15’ high elephant grass and no rice patties here. There were 3 giant petroleum tanks on top the hill about 100 yards from where our little “hooch” was that I would live in.  I learned how thankful I was that 1st Cavalry Air Mobile was there.   The first few nights I was not able to sleep in the hooch, I don’t remember why, maybe the 212th Military Police dog handler who I was replacing was not leaving for a few days until a plane would come and get him.   Anyway, I did not know if the artillery rounds were outgoing or incoming and I was

Summer 1968  Story #3
By Jerry Carlson, E4, 981st Military Police Company K-9

Sometime during the summer of 1968, Boots and I were on patrol at the Supply Yard at Camp Radcliff near Ahn Khe, Vietnam.   We were on the evening shift minding our own business and doing what we were there for when a jeep came driving into the yard.

It was still day light so as the jeep approached I noticed it was a Colonel driving in.   Well he stopped the jeep near me and I saluted him.   Now that I think about it that was the only time I ever took my finger off the trigger since the encounter with the wild boar the first night on patrol at Cam Rahn Bay. 

The Colonel gets out of the jeep and starts talking to me how he really likes dogs and asking me about Boots.  I told him that Boots came from Glasgow, Montana from the Art Sampson family and Boots was a green dog (meaning I trained him for the first time).    Boots was 15 months old when I got him at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.  That was the dog training base for all military I think.

I told the Colonel when I went to Lackland AFB that my friend who was also married, I think his name was Gary Hile, we both wanted female dogs. So when the sergeant took us to the kennels we got our dogs last.  Well the sergeant thought Boots was a girl from the name, WRONG.  I won’t say anything more about that sergeant.

Boots was rightly named, as the song goes, “These Boots were made for walk’n and that’s just what we’ll do”.   Me in my combat boots walking with Boots.  Interesting note, I remember times our boots were covered in green moss or mold from the dampness in the morning.  I remember our hooch was on a hill and it would rain so hard there was like an inch of water on top the hill running off from the rain.  That is what I remember.  Wearing as much clothes to stay warm and rain ponchos to try and stay dry while on night patrol.

So the only problem with Boots was that he liked to alert on rabbits.  Just a side note.  While in Nam I sent a letter and picture to the Sampson family.   I don’t know how I found them but I already had investigator blood in me.  They had my picture and an article put in the Glasgow newspaper, of which they sent me a copy which I still have.  In November 2019, I finally contacted the newspaper and explained my story since they published the article, asking if they knew where any of the Sampson family might be so I could contact them.  A few weeks later I got a lead and have been in contact with 3 of the Sampson family members.   So that is what has inspired me to write about Boots for their sake.

Well I just found out from Jesse Sampson, Boots liked to swing from the tails of the cows on the farm also.   So the training at Lackland was new for Boots.   He was an awesome dog and super smart, weighing about 80 pounds and black and silver.  That will be another story about our time at Lackland.  

Well the Colonel really liked Boots and asked if he could pet Boots.   I said, “Sure, Boots it’s okay” and I let out some leash.   I told the Colonel to let Boots smell the back of your hand first and then you can start petting him.   That was a first time anyone ever touched Boots!  The colonel loved it and Boots loved the petting and had even turned his back letting the Colonel scratch his back by now.

The Colonel really liked boots and as he was petting Boots he asked me, “Give him the command to attack me”.   NOT TOO SMART for a Colonel.   I said, “Sir, I don’t want to do that”.  He said, “No, it’s okay, I want to see him under command”.   I again said, “Sir, I really don’t want you to get bit”.  The Colonel said, “No, it’s okay I want to see him attack at your command”.  

I told the Colonel, as if I could argue with him I was just a Spec 4, “Okay Sir, be ready”.  So I wrapped the leash around my hand a couple times and took some slack out of the leash while the Colonel was scratching Boots back.  Then I whispered, “Watch him” and Boots spun around to eat the Colonel as the Colonel jumped back.  While Boots was trying to get the Colonel, I’m trying to hold onto the leash but the Colonel was happy as a clam and so impressed how Boots was so friendly and yet would attack on command.  

Of course I praised up Boots as we always do.  I never thought about the leash having any cracks or weak spots in it until now when I’m writing this.   That was dumb of me but dumber of the Colonel !   I never saw that Colonel again and maybe that was a good thing.  I don’t know if Boots would be friendly toward him after my command to attack him.  I wonder, how long is a command good for anyway?  Grin

July 1967  Story #4
By Jerry Carlson, E4, 981st Military Police Company K-9

My stories are coming from a 74 year old Veteran so if you talk to another K-9 handler you might get more accurate information than what I am giving you, grin.  Just say’n!

When we graduated from the Military Police Academy at Fort Gordon, Georgia in May 1967, about 3 were assigned to their duty stations.  Then the sergeant started howling.  We wondered what was wrong with him until he said, “The rest of you are going to the dogs”.  The 981st MP K-9 Company had been deactivated after the Korean “conflict”, sound familiar?  Interesting how these “conflicts” end up sending soldiers home in body bags, with missing limbs and major wounds either physically or mentally.  No wonder our family and friends didn’t understand us or recognize us when we got back from Nam.   It doesn’t go away easily.

Well, the 981st Military Police K-9 Company was reactivated specifically for Vietnam and our whole company of 250 men were assigned to the dogs.  We were sent to Fort Carson, Colorado near Colorado Springs and we were supposed to get our dogs there and start training to my understanding.  For some reason that did not work out and shortly after they started sending about 30 guys at a time to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for K-9 school.  I think they were sending a group out about every 2 weeks to Texas.

About July, I was sent to Lackland and left my new bride Barbara behind in a tiny apartment off base, not knowing anyone.  We got married after the MP Academy and were only together about 2 months even though we were engaged before Uncle Sam called my name in December 1966.  We thought we would get married after Basic Training at Fort Ord, but Uncle Sam starts telling me what to do!   He tells me when to get up, go to bed, and pays me $70 a month.

I been living on my own since I graduated from high school in 1963, at 17 years old.  I worked construction and was an iron worker working my way through college.  My first iron working job was with my two older brothers who were Journeyman Ironworkers  out of Local 75 in Phoenix, AZ    I went to see them in North Dakota in September 1964, as they were working on the Minuteman Missles.  They got me on permit, taught me how to tie rebar that night and I was making $320 a week take home pay.  They went home 2 weeks later and I stayed an extra week or two.   Now I am 21 and getting paid $70 a month.  Oh I forgot to tell you, that included my room and board !  Oh yeah my clothes too !!!  I had it made in the shade, yeah right !  I worked on special permit during the summers getting journeyman wages. 

So now I am in Lackland and the first 3 days we were in classroom training, learning all about dogs and their health as well as how to care for them.  I think on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning we were introduced to our dogs in the kennel.  If you were 225 pounds you got a 100 or 110 pound German Shepherd.  Byron was from Kentucky and was small built so his dog was about 50 pounds but would hit you in the attack suit like a train !  I weighed 160 and Boots was 75 or 80 pounds and nice and friendly.  I got right in the cage not knowing he was a green dog and had never been trained.  Other handlers got dogs already trained to attack and it took them a day or two to get in the cage “very carefully” after feeding their dog every day and “visiting” them.  The big dude next to me got a mean one and when he stepped in the cage I watched him and his dog was like a lion prowling back and forth growling at him.  Wish you well soldier !

On Thursday we started basic obedience at 6:00 AM after breakfast and trained until noon due to the heat.  That weekend I got a job at the store on base and worked afternoons.  I think the next Monday the sergeant told us that they would be watching us and would pick out dog teams for the graduation, called the “Demo Team” to put on the demonstration for visitors.  I told the sergeant that me and Boots would be on the Demo Team but they never selected me.

By that Friday, after 7 days of training, the dogs new every command by voice and hand signals.  When I talked to Jesse Sampson last week, January 2020, he said he was 15 years old when the Army came to check Boots and see if he was a good dog for the Army before they put Boots in a kennel on the train.  Boots passed with flying colors and it was a sad day for Jesse.

The next 6 weeks we went on a bus with our dogs muzzled up.  They took us out to Medina in the brush to train the dogs to alert on the enemy, attack, then we would search and escort.  If the “enemy” in the attack suit moved while we were searching him the dog would “reattack”.  That was comforting !   We continued “agitation” training to make the dogs mean and no one else could come near us, we were their only friend, except for the Colonel story.

While one guy would be hiding in the attack suit in the bush, one dog handler would be out searching for him.  The rest of the guys were relaxing, visiting and smoking.   I took Boots to the side and kept working with him on a 30 foot leash doing all the basic obedience commands.  I trained Boots to crawl, although Jesse told me when his dad would yell at Boots to let go of the cow’s tail he knew he was in trouble and would crawl back to his dad so I really didn’t train him to crawl.  I also taught Boots to bow, as I know every knee will bow to Jesus Christ one day.

The last two weeks we were on night patrol training so I worked at the store during the day. The Sergeants must have been watching me and Boots and on Friday night of Labor Day Weekend in September, they came to me and said, “Carlson we need you on the Demo Team on Tuesday because 2 (or 3 dogs) had failed”.  So they took me out on Saturday and showed me what things to do to replace the other dogs.  I only remember the 30 foot leash.   The Sarg just didn’t listen to me !!!  gin.   Well we graduated as “Honor Graduates” from Lackland AFB !