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US Mountain Ranger Association

Promoting fellowship & brotherhood among US Army Rangers
Gary Cochran

Sergeant Gary Duane Cochran was Born 10 Jan 1951 in North Tazewell, Virginia. He joined the Army as Infantryman and graduated from Airborne and Ranger Schools. He was in the same class as SSG Donald Hughes (Johnny Quest) of Papa Co. Rangers. He arrived in Vietnam in January 1971 and volunteered for duty with Lima Company Rangers 75th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. He was assigned to Team 2-5. Ranger Cochran being a rather large young man was given the Code name: MONSTER

On his first Ranger Combat Mission, Cochran went out with team 2-5 in the Ashau Valley in Northern I Corps. The Team established an ambush location in tall elephant grass about 15-20 meters along the main North/South road in the Ashau Valley with claymores all camouflaged and set up to knock off whatever came down the road. About midnight, a convoy of 5 NVA trucks came barreling down the road and came to a screeching halt right in front of the ambush position. They had their headlights on and weren't the least bit concerned with anything like an airstrike since this was their backyard. It was also well outside the range of any supporting artillery. The Ashau Valley was a major route along the HO CHI MINH Trail network.

Ranger Cochran had been coughing severely all night, so the Team Leader, SSG Vodden previously stuffed a boonie hat in his mouth so that some degree of noise discipline could be maintained. The team thought they were all going to be killed because the trucks unloaded close to 100 soldiers on the road. They were seconds away from hitting the claymore clackers and making a desperate run for it when, they all heard a loud whizzing sound. The NVA had merely stopped for a piss break. After a few minutes, they jumped back in their trucks and drove away. SSG Vodden then finally took the boonie cap out of Cochran's mouth (he had nearly passed out due to lack of air). Later on, they surmised that if the NVA had actually known about the Ranger Team's presence, they would have stopped up the road a hundred meters or so and then hunted them down. That elephant grass was great for concealment but doesn't really provide any cover. Behind the team's location was a large rain swollen stream that would have hampered any quick escape. The Rangers could have been wiped out. Team 2-5 was involved in plenty of contacts with the enemy, but that mission was probably the scariest one of them all, even though not a round was fired. Of course, after extraction and return to Camp Eagle, everyone had a good laugh about it.

Ranger Gary Cochran went on many more missions with Team 2-5, always shouldering more than his share of the load. He personally assisted me as a demo man on another mission to the Ashau Valley in April 1971 where we cratered the very same road and left a stay behind team to ambush the enemy road repair element. He was on yet another mission later in May 1971 when while awaiting extraction on a Pickup Zone (PZ), he stepped on a non metallic booby trap (IED) that blew his foot off. He was medevaced almost immediately, but unfortunately died of his wounds on Saturday 8 May. He was 20 years old.

Ranger Gary Cochran's awards include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachute Badge, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the coveted Ranger Tab.

His name is engraved on The Vietnam Memorial at Panel 03W Line 026.

Respectfully submitted:
Robert Suchke

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