101 airborne combat patch
December 29, 1967
Vietnam 1967 - 1968
First Combat Mission Makes Men Of Boys
By DON TATE, Scripps-Howard Staff Writer

CU CHI, South Vietnam - Up until now it had all been play war.

The green paratroopers, only two weeks in Vietnam, would run down the dirty road toward
chow, and a sergeant would bark things like: "Hey, you animals, let me hear you growl…” And
they would go "Rowwwr.”

Arise For Orders

But this morning the men and boys of
Alpha Company came out of their tents early, slowly
formed into platoons, and waited for orders from their company commander, Capt. Dave
Reiss of
Alexandria, Va.

This was the morning they were going to war, their first combat mission - and for some of them,
the last.

I moved among them, talking to one, then another.  There were hard swallows, tight smiles, and
very little of the famous airborne wisecracking.  Some admitted they bad not slept the night

Capt. Reiss had told me that though Alpha Company was part of the
2nd Brigade of the
"Screaming Eagles" of the
101st Airborne, about 60 per cent of his men weren't hardcore
paratroopers.  Many had been mustered up hastily from truck driver or company-clerk jobs after
the brigade had received orders back at
Ft. Campbell,  Ky.

"But they've turned into a good outfit fast," Capt Reiss said.  "Still, you never know until you've
been shot at.“

Worries About Pigeons

One who didn't seem particularly nervous about it was the baby-faced Georgia
lieutenant who
commanded the weapons platoon. He smiled and said he was really more worried about the
carrier pigeons he was training.  He didn't like leaving them alone.

Another who didn't appear in mortal terror was his big, laughing Negro
platoon sergeant from
Kentucky, described by his commanders as not just a good soldier, but a “great” soldier. He and
Capt. Reiss were members of the small nucleus of combat veterans in the company who
volunteered to return for a second tour in Vietnam.

One who didn't mind admitting he was nervous was 2nd Lt. John
Rodelli of Chicago. Lt Rodelli,
small, swarthy, intense, said he know how he was going to react or how his platoon was going to
react. Only six months before, Lt. Rodelli had been taking ROTC and majoring in business
management at college.

Another nervous one was 18-year-old Pfc. Larry
Mize of Baltimore, an impish-faced medic with a
missing front tooth.

"I've got a false one," he sort of stammered, pulling the tooth from his pocket, "but I don't wear it
when I'm walking.  It gives me a headache."

Pfc. Mize said he became a medic because he figured it might do him some good when he “got
out.  And maybe while I'm in…”