Cruising through the coffee-colored waters of the Co Chien River, the flotilla was unusual by any standard. Called a River Assault Group (RAG for short), it consisted of an odd assortment of vessels with names like Commandement and STCAN/FOM (for Services Techniques des Constructions et Armes Navales/France Outre-Mer). Despite the French names, the crews were Vietnamese, and they were assisted by a pair of American advisers, Lieutenant Dale Meyerkord and Chief Petty Officer Eugene Barney.
Meyerkord had been in Vietnam less than a year but had already earned a reputation for competence and aggressiveness. In the swashbuckling tradition of C. S. Forester, he had deliberately chosen the name "Hornblower" as his radio call sign, and for those who knew him it was most appropriate. Barney had once told an interviewer that there were times when his boss' aggressive nature worried him. He and another chief had once tried to warn the lieutenant that he was taking too many chances, but Hornblower had smiled and said, "Those bullets just curve away when they start coming my way." So they gave up.