Small recon teams, usually six to eight men, were inserted by helicopter deep behind enemy lines for missions lasting about five days. Casualties were extremely high, and it was not unheard of for a team to get off the chopper and simply vanish in the jungle, never to be seen again. Silence, Plaster recalls, was not a virtue, but the virtue. During a five-day mission, team members might go days without raising their voices above a whisper, communicating mostly by hand signals and facial expressions. Often surrounded so closely by enemy forces that they caught the reek of Thang Long cigarettes and overheard casual conversations, a team might advance 500 meters in 10 hours. That boils down to a little more than one step per minute, which is about the right pace when snapping a twig is a matter of life and death. By the time a SOG recon man had three missions under his belt, he was considered competent. If he survived 10, he was a veteran and usually led the team. Twenty, and you started to wonder why he was still ive. Plaster completed 22 SOG missions, served three tours of duty in Vietnam, was wounded in combat, and was awarded the Bronze Star and an officer's commission along the way.