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Anatomy of a Cordon and Search

Story By Steve Haldeman 1st Cav PIO writer, Photos by Terry Moon 1st Cav PIO photographer From First Team Magazine, Summer 1969

A Communist mortar impacts inside the perimeter of a 1st Cav base. The inhabitants scramble for cover in a ditch, a bunker-anything to get down. Five more mortars spew rocks, dirt and shrapnel in the same area.
But one of the green line guards spots the tube flash of the mortar in a nearby village.

water buffalo

This sets into motion plans for a cordon and search of the village in an effort to dislodge the enemy gunners. The planning burden falls on the shoulders of the Provost Marshal's office. They must quickly synchronize eight separate teams and tactics into one fast-moving, hard-striking, efficient cordon.
A ground maneuver element is picked for the combat assault. They will assault into the area around the village and encircle the village in the pre-dawn hours.
At first light, the infantry company has shortened the circumference of their offensive perimeter and are detaining villagers moving in and out of the town. Identification cards, to be scrutinized later by South Vietnamese National Police,are given a cursory check.

national police

These National Police Field Forces (NPFF's) are airlifted with the American forces into the area. It is their job to help check the village and its inhabitants. Friendship and courteous conduct are used at all times with the villagers. This insures a continuation of good relations.
Linking with the NPFF's are the Regional Forces and Popular Forces. They are the South Vietnamese who assist in the search. Their knowledge of the people in their locale is invaluable. They know new arrivals to the village or if any of the local villagers have been gone for some unexplained reason.
Also assisting the NPFF's and Popular Forces are American Military Police and ARVN soldiers.

arvn soldier npff searching

As the searchers move through the village, nothing passes their scrutinizing eyes. Wide-eyed children tag along at the boot heels of the unfamiliar soldiers poking around in their homes, and an occasional fast-spoken argument interrupts the surface tranquility.
Everybody and everything is suspect. It doesn't take much to hide a mortar and a few rounds. Slowly and systematically each hooch and potential hiding place is checked with as much care as possible so as not to invade the privacy of the owners.
The Popular Forces probe around bamboo stalks with sticks. Trying to unearth an underground cache. Nothing can be allowed to slip past the trained eyes of the searchers. (Continued on page 2)

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