A squad of National Guards on an isolated weekend exercise in the Louisiana swamp must fight for their lives when they anger local Cajuns by stealing their canoes. Without live ammunition and in a strange country, their experience begins to mirror the Vietnam experience.
A squad of nine Louisiana National Guard soldiers convene in a local bayou for weekend maneuvers. New to the squad is Corporal Hardin (Boothe), a cynical transfer from the Texas National Guard. He soon becomes disgusted with the arrogant behavior and attitudes of the men. A happily-married chemical engineer in his civilian life, Hardin wants no part of a date with prostitutes which PFC Spencer (Carradine) has arranged for himself and their squad-mates. Nevertheless, he hits it off with the amiable Spencer, and both find themselves to be the most level-headed soldiers in their squad.
The nine soldiers set out on patrol and soon get lost in the swamp. They come across a seemingly-abandoned campsite with several pirogues. To continue onward, the Guardsmen need the pirogues. The squad’s leader, Staff Sergeant Poole (Peter Coyote), orders the soldiers into three of the pirogues. As they set out across the bayou, a group of Cajun hunter-trappers return and yell at the soldiers for having taken their pirogues. In response, PFC Stuckey fires blanks from his M-60 machine gun at the Cajuns. They return fire with live ammunition, killing Poole and sending the squad into a frenzy as they make their way toward cover…