On Monday, I gave my presentation on the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s western highlands to a group of seniors. That brought back memories of being a civilian under cover as an enlisted man in whatever military unit I was supporting in Vietnam.
The troops invariably found my presence hilarious. Here I was a civilian who outranked their commanding officer living with the enlisted men, sleeping on the ground beside them, eating C-rations sitting in the dirt next to them, using their latrines, and going into combat with them.
One morning, I woke up to find my fatigue uniform blouses missing. I put on my skivvies and wandered through the cantonment area asking if anybody knew where my blouses had disappeared to. They miraculously reappeared in my tent. As I eventually found out, the guys had snitched the blouses and taken them to a local tailor. They paid him to sew the number “13” on the blouse collars where an officer’s rank would normally appear—I was a GS-13 at the time—and strips above both pockets, one reading “GLENN” and the other “CIVILIAN.”
The troops couldn’t stop laughing. Nobody could answer the question of whether enlisted men should salute a GS-13 civilian. They insisted on taking my picture in one of the blouses. Because I was operating under cover, I didn’t normally allow any photos of me. But this was an unusual request, so I said yes. Here’s that photo: