The introduction presents the key distinguishing factors separating the experiences of Americans in CAPs from those in regular U.S. military units in Vietnam. It provides a short overview of life for Americans in CAPs, revealing the sheer terror and unpredictability many experienced, as only twelve Marines and one corpsman stood between the enemy and thousands of villagers. This section also provides some insight into the social and military backgrounds of CAP Marines. With the exception of the first CAP in 1965, officers did not live in the villages. The Marines in CAP villages were all either enlisted men or noncommissioned officers, the latter usually serving as unit commanders at the village level. The age of CAP Marines generally ranged from eighteen to twenty-one years old; many of them had yet to graduate high school. In the event of a noncommissioned officer's absence, one of the teenaged enlisted Marines assumed the commander position. Rarely in military history does one find a situation in which teenaged enlisted Marines are given command of a unit demanding the patience, maturity, and cultural adaptability of duty in a CAP.
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