The next morning, Capt. Fiori walked me to the warehouse and unlocked the door. The Montagnard women were already outside waiting. I switched on the single bare light bulb that hung from the ceiling and I could see a new pallet tucked against the far wall with something stacked on it. Once we got the battery-operated lights up and running I could see that the pallet was stacked with the bags I’d seen being unloaded from the Huey the afternoon before. What was Halftrack involved in now? I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know.
I got the girls started on their cleaning tasks and reviewed what we’d done so far. “So far, so good,” I was able to report to Capt. Fiori as I sat down for coffee in the mess hall. A few minutes later, Halftrack walked in and poured himself a cup of coffee from the big urn and stirred in some milk powder. He walked over to our table and stood for a few seconds when the Capt. said, “Allen, do you know Halftrack here?”
“Yessir, we met in Saigon through a mutual friend.”
“He does get around, doesn’t he.”
“Seems to. I hadn’t expected to see him here.”
“Well, if you understood where you are and who he works for you wouldn’t be surprised. Would he Mike?”
“Since everybody here works for the same guy in one way or another I guess you could say that.”
“Allen, don’t get the idea that we all are on the same project. Halftrack here’s part of special operations. He’s a company man but he’s not part of a TO&E company.”
“Neither is Allen, for that matter.” Said Halftrack. “I don’t think MACV even has TO&E units. They’re just a hodgepodge of special units for specific purposes. Like all those advisory teams. Fiori here thinks this is a TO&E unit. Hell, it’s not even a unit. More like it’s a commercial airport with no known coordinates and no landing fees.”
A TO&E company, or any military unit, is one that conforms to a standard Table of Organization and Equipment. It is a standard across all military branches. For example: any infantry battalion is made up of a standard set of rifle companies and a heavy-weapons company. They’re all the same. Likewise for artillery batteries, etc. In the case of MACV almost no two organizations were the same and they didn’t conform to a TO&E structure.
“Anyway,” said the Captain, “Halftrack just does his own thing as the need arises. Do you ever take orders, Mike?”
“Sure, whatever Ted needs.”
“I’m talking about direct orders in the military sense.”
“Well no, but I know what the program is and what needs to happen and I let him know what’s up insofar as he wants to know. I’m not the only one who works like that. For example, I know that Allen is not here as a direct order from anyone.”
“Is that true, Specialist Allen?” asked the Capt.
“I hadn’t really thought of it like that. I mean Col. Suel asked me if I would do this job for him. He didn’t tell me I had to. Then Mr. Shackley filled in the details. I got the impression that Col. Suel lent me to Mr. Shackley for this specific job. Sort of a TDY assignment that I volunteered for. He owed Mr. Shackley a favor is how he explained it.”