FNG or “F***ing New Guy” was a label given to new replacements because an FNG was dangerous; he could get you killed. The veterans shunned an FNG. The “F” part of the label was derogatory and meant to be. So it became the goal of each FNG to lose the “F” in the label first. An FNG needed to prove himself to his squad and platoon members.
To know what an FNG is you need to understand the hierarchy within a squad and platoon. We all arrived to our unit as an FNG and had 365 days before we could go home. The platoon members who were in the platoon longest were “old timers” or “short timers.” They had a wealth of experience and were going home soon. Their experience is what could save an FNG’s life.
The FNG needed to carry his weight, listen, and learn. He couldn’t be a know-it-all. His accomplishments in the “world” weren’t important; they did not matter in Vietnam. No one cared if the Army drafted you, you went to college, or were a high school star quarterback. This was Vietnam! You had to be trusted to pull your guard duty with no one worrying if you were inattentive or asleep. Their lives depended on you being alert and awake.
While writing this, one FNG from first platoon stands out. On or about August 7, 1969 the supply chopper landed as we prepared for the evening, and an FNG jumped off and moved to the Command Post (CP) position. Lieutenant Baxter brought the new guy over and introduced him to Jerry Ofstedahl, second squad leader. The new guy was Tommy Thompson from Bristow, Oklahoma. Jerry introduced Thompson to the rest of the squad. As Jerry introduced Thompson, several of us made eye contact and nodded our head at him. A couple squad members stood and shook his hand. But it was business as usual, and we didn’t have time for an FNG.
Tommy Thompson Basic Training Photograph
One week later, August 15, 1969, Tommy Thompson was critically wounded and placed on a dust-off helicopter. He was medevac’d to the Division hospital in Chu Lia and never returned to the platoon. He never had the “F” dropped from the FNG label. If I have the power to do so, Tommy, the “F” is hereby dropped.
When I Turned Nineteen Soldiering After the Vietnam War