Hootie-Hoo by John L. Neel

While sitting on our asses, waiting for the Platoon Sergeant to come back from the First Sergeant's meeting with "The Word," instructions for the next day and other non-essential information, the Scouts took to watching TV in one of the bigger rooms. At that time of day, about the only thing worth watching, was Gomer Pyle, USMC. The entire Scout Platoon became big fans. We knew Paratroopers just like Gomer Pyle. We could identify with his stupid ass.

During one of the episodes, SGT Carter placed Private Pyle out on LP/OP, a forward post to provide security and early warning for the platoon during war games, with instructions to give a "Bird Call" if he saw the opposing force (OPFOR) approaching. Gomer, of course, falls asleep and the "enemy" gets within a few feet from him before he wakes. True to his orders, he sounds off loudly with the only bird call he knows, "Hootie-HOO!"

The next scene is Gomer, a furious Sergeant Carter, and the entire platoon captured by the OPFOR.

Hootie-Hoo became the unofficial "Running Password" of the Scout Platoon. A running password is used to enter a secure area like an assembly area (AA) or objective rally point (ORP) when being chased by the enemy.

We rarely used it, but, thankfully, it was there.

In 1983, on the Island of Grenada, my section was sent out on ambush patrol. We moved all day, taking it slowly, making sure we were undetected, conducting a leaders recon to find the perfect place along the d esignated trail, and moving into position just before dark, securing the flanks and rear, setting up claymores, positioning the M60 for max grazing fire, switched off the radio for absolute silence, and began the long wait.

If anything came down that trail that night carrying a rifle, it was dead.

Sometime in the night, the Platoon Leader got a call from Battalion headquarters ordering him to pull in my patrol. The 18th Airborne Corps Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Detachment was lost, out of radio contact, and might have "drifted" into my area of operation. Firstly, we didn't know the Corps had such a unit. Secondly, we couldn't guess why were they even on the Island? Thirdly, if they were moving in the jungle at night, they were stupid. LT Jacques had to, somehow, pull me out. But how? He looked to Pigg.

Mitch Pigg was the best of us. He was great at everything we did, and he knew me better than anyone. He volunteered to move to my general area and to see what he could do. It was damn heroic.

He gathered up his section and, after conducting a good map recon, chose what he thought my route would be and where he thought I would set up my ORP. If he was right, when he got to the ORP, he would be about 100 meters from me. Then he began the very difficult process of moving to me, at night, through the Jungle.

A little after midnight, I heard, a very faint, Hootie-Hoo, obviously Pigg. I immediately passed the word, by whisper, to put firearms and Claymore clackers on safe. I was taking no chances with my best friend's life, or mine. I left my 2IC, Bob, in charge, with a 5 point contingency plan, and moved back toward the ORP, alone. Taking a few steps and "Hootie-Hooing" as I went.

As we got closer, we used the Scout Platoon long-range recognition, then confirmed as we got closer with the daily challenge and password.

So, the story ends, happily, with my squad moving back to the ORP for the rest of the night, consolidating with Third Section for security, contacting the LT and confirming by situation report that my ambush was down and all hands were secure, thanks to long First Sergeant Meetings and Gomer Pyle, USMC.

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