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Steve Houghton's 71St LRP and M Co 75th Ranger Site
MACV RECONDO SCHOOL
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MACV RECONDO SCHOOL
A Letter Home
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recondopatch.jpg

Macv Recondo School, sometimes refered to as LRRP finishing school, was a tough training program. Most of us Lrrp- Ranger types, have a story or two about "Recondo School".  I was in class 11-69.  I graduated Dec 12, 1968.  I was graduate 1671 of a total of 3470 men who successfully completed MACV Recondo School.  1671  is my "Recondo" number.

If you graduated Recondo School, you earned the respect of your peers, and got to wear the patch you see above over your right shirt pocket. After what I survived during my Recondo Training, I was as proud of it as anything I wore on my uniform.

Well this is the place to share your stories. I'll start with my recollections.....you guys send in yours, we'll make a history.

According to a recent special on the "History Channel", narrated by Mr. Tom Selleck, some referred to "Recondo School" as the toughest school on earth. To be exact, he said it was called the "deadliest school on earth", so I guess that makes it the toughest too. Now I know that's a pretty bold statement, and it's bound to get the dander up of other elite military units, but the basis for that comment, was, it was the only training program that concluded with a "live" combat patrol.  In fact the last phase was referred to as, "You bet your life". Two weeks of intensive training, some say by the best trainers, (Army Special Forces),were in fact followed by a Long Range Recon Patrol in the mountains and jungles around Nha Trang, the sole purpose of which was to make contact with enemy. If you didn't go on a mission, you didn't graduate. And the mission was real, I can personally attest to that!

When I joined the 71St, I knew that I would eventually be going to Recondo School. I knew I was going, but I didn't know how soon, and I really had no idea what I was in for.

You were supposed to have at least 30 days "In country" before you could go to "Recondo" training, and have at least six months left on your tour. They didn't want you totally green when you got there, and they didn't want to invest the time and training if you weren't going to use it for very long before going back to the "States".

Well I guess the 71St was anxious for me to go. I arrived "in country" Oct 30, 1968. I never got out to the field until Nov 11th, and I was in Nha Trang by Nov 26th.
I had been in the field only two weeks, and I had yet to go on a "real" long range patrol. Up until the time I left for "Recondo School", we were only going out overnight on ambushes and trail watches. You want to talk about feeling like a "cherry", well I was bright red when I got to Nha Trang! I did have a C.I.B. though, and I had actually shot my M-16 at the enemy in a minor skirmish. I was still on the Navy boat one night when we shot up a sampan and the shore lines. We even helped the infantry unit out the next morning on their sweep, to see what we shot up. We took a couple of tracer rounds from "Charles" that night......and that was the sum total of my experience when I arrived for "Recondo School"!

Me and the E-5 from Texas,  Charles J. Hamm, who joined the unit the same day as me, got orders to report to Nha Trang. We went back to "Frenzel Jones" and got the rest of our gear and headed to the air base to catch a ride north. We got to Nha Trang a day early. Hamm wanted to check out the town........so we did. He was older than me, and even though I had the extra stripe, I let him sorta take the lead.....he was a little more worldly wise than me. We stayed in an old French Hotel in town that night.  That night he introduced me to that herbal substance that induces a ravaging appetite. My first experience I might add. We ate a big steak dinner, and I remember it rained like hell. The roof leaked, and the rain that fell through the roof danced to the music.

The next morning we reported to the 5th Special Forces camp for training. There were men there from all over Vietnam. Besides the Army Lrrps from different units, there were some Marines,  and a  unit of ROK Koreans. Those guys, the "ROCKS" were crazy! More on that later. They split us up into teams, and we were assigned an "Advisor", who would stay with the team throughout the course. Our Advisor was a E-6, Staff
Sergeant "Gigliotti". I will never forget that name. My team was made up of the E-5 from Texas, myself, a 2nd Lt,  and I believe twoSpec 4's. I remember these guys for different reasons. The officer because he ended up being assigned the team leader. (That wasn't automatic in Recondo School....the team leader was picked by the advisor...and not necessarily by rank, he was supposed to be the most qualified.) He was like all officers.....a little full of himself...but a good guy. He was certainly able to be the team leader. I was assigned ATL. The two Spec 4's were the most experience men on the team. One of them ended up walking point for the team. One of the Spec 4's washed out of the training, unfairly I'll add, and the other Spec 4 probably saved my life before this whole Recondo School thing was over.  (Actually since I first started writing this story I have since aquired the two part book "A History of the MACV Recondo School 1966-1971", by Tom Halliwell.  Subsequently I have the names of all the men who graduated our class, Class 11-69.  My class had 39 graduates.  I guess the average class size started out at about 65. That gives you some ideal of the washout rate.  I don't remember how large our class was when it started out.)  the 39 men who graduated were made up of  7 Marines from the 3rd Marine division, 2 men from the 4th Infantry, 2 from the 51st Infantry, 2 from the 25th Infantry, 6 ROK - Koreans, 3 students from 5th Special Forces Group, 3 from the 101St Airborne, 4  from the Americal Division, 2 from the 173rd Airborne, 2 from the 1St Division
2 from the 9th Division, 2 from the 199th Light Infantry, 1 from the 47 Infantry, 1 from the 11ACR.
.
We started out the first morning with a timed mile run. No big thing except for the web gear, M-16, ammo pouches, canteens and a sandbag in our ruck to make it weigh 40lbs. If you didn't finish in the alotted time......you washed out. If you washed out......you'd probably get booted from your unit when you got back. Did I mention the heat? Here I was...one year and a week in the Army...eleven months of which I was in some sort of training......and here we go again! These guys didn't know that I'd already been trained how to run my ass off! The second day it went to two miles, the third day to three, the fourth day to five, and finally the fifth to seven. I'll will never forget those runs. Nobody washed out because of the runs that I remember. I do recall the threat was that something like 30-40% would wash out during the training. I was determined not to washout, and I could see the instructors were on our side for the most part, reasonable even. They were good men. I actually came up a little short on time for the first two runs........but made the 3,5 and 7 mile time requirements. I was never fast, but I could run forever. Five years of football camps...11 months of training in the Army......God I hated running! But the worst was over I thought.......no chance to washout now.........then they took us to the beach! We had a lot of training in areas that were not new for me. The map reading, radio operation,
fire direction,(Arty and Gunship) even some of the rapelling
drills off the jump tower were things I'd done in NCOC school. But when we went to beach.......well this was all new to me. It was fun! Bobbing around in the surf, paddling a rubber raft around, flipping it over, learning to right in again out in the ocean......it was a hoot! We did all that wearing a life vest you could inflate if you needed to. Playing in the water beat those morning runs hands down. The beach was beautiful, I loved it...but then came the most difficult part of the school for me. We had to swim out from the beach 100 yards to a raft, that had a couple of SF instructors in it, and back to the beach. If you blew your vest, or grabbed onto the raft, or drowned..... or couldn't or wouldn't do it, you washed out. I knew I could do everything else required in Recondo School to graduate......but I wasn't sure about this. I am a poor swimmer. I didn't like swimming all that much. I could float and flounder around enough to save myself if I fell in, and that was about the extent on my swimming skills. We had to do it or wash out. I did have the life vest as a back up right?..... No chance of really drowning right?.... I also realized that the salt water was more bouyant than the lakes back home.... So when it came my turn.......I jumped in.
I made it out to the raft, and started back. About a third of the way back, I started to get real tired. So I rolled over on my back and floated for a bit. One of the other rafts bobbing around out there, came over by me, and the instructors asked if I was alright. I told them I was just resting a bit........no penalty for resting right?  just so long as I didn't blow the vest, make it deploy, I was still in it. I rested a couple of minutes, rolled back over and swam to shore. I was dog tired when I got on shore.......but pleased with myself, I knew then I'd finish this course, or die trying..... Oh, it was at this time that I learned salt water will eat the minute and second hands off of a Timex watch. My folks got me one for high school graduation a couple of years earlier. It held up pretty good through all my other Army training......but I'd cracked the lens on it sometime back, and.....one day I looked down at it......and the second and minute hands we gone! I'd have to scrounge up the money for another watch. A lrrp has got to have a watch. Especially a teamleader, and that's why I was up here so soon to Nha Trang, the 71St was going to make a team leader out of me, if I survived Recondo School. I hoped I survived better than my Timex!

I remember there was a lot of classroom time in this school. Like I said earlier, a lot of the instruction was stuff I'd already had in NCO school, map reading, navigation, fire direction, and stuff like that. But they did have a superior grade of first aid training here. Better than anything I had in Basic , AIT or NCO School. In the "lurps", the teams were usually only six men or less, so you had to be your own medic, so this was good training for me. We had to learned to start IV's, so as to administer blood expanders for seriously wounded teammates. How do you learned to do that? By practicing on each other! We paired off during this part of the training.

I paired up with a Marine. I liked this guy, he was one of three different Marines I have distinct memories of at Recondo School. This fellow I teamed up with had an "attitude". You see, he'd been drafted! The Marines are all volunteers right? Well don't believe it. This guy was drafted into the Marines, and he sure as hell didn't like it. He said the Marine drill instructors resented the inducted men in their units and were extra tough with them. He seemed to harbor a grudge about that whole thing, especially when he had a few beers in him. Well, I liked him, and we got buddied up for this IV practice. I remember he had very little trouble "sticking" me. He got the vein the first time. Now I hate needles.....even from a professional, let alone a "jarhead" just practicing. The sweat poured off me like a waterfall. But he got it done real quick like. Like I said, I liked him. Now it was my turn. He had big veins like I did, but his liked to "roll".
He was ok when I stuck him, and he was sweating ever bit as much as I did, but he turned white when his vein rolled. God, I felt sorry for him! I chased that vein around under the skin, turning the needle back and forth for what seemed like 5 minutes! I finally got it. We were both ringing wet when it was over. There was blood all over the classroom, he was a real trooper about it though. We even drank together in the club afterwards. He was crazy, almost got me into big trouble in that club.......I'll tell ya about it later, like I said......I liked the guy.

Well, I wondered what could they have in store for us next?  Well there was lots more!  I don't claim to have the training in order but the thing I recall next is training on Hon Tre Island.  Hon Tre was five miles off shore from Nha Trang.  It was supposed to be secure, but we had security at night just in case.  I remember spending one night there as I recall.  We practiced patrolling techniques there.  Fired a variety of weapons, all kinds.  We had  familiarzation training with just about any type of firearm one could come across in Vietnam.  US, Communist or otherwise.  A couple I remember specifically were the BAR, and the M-1 Carbine,  with full auto selector.  That baby, the carbine, had a high rate of fire!  It could cycle faster than a M-16 if I recall correctly.  I recall the Swedish K too, a little 9mm submachine gun. What I remember about it was how easy it was to hold on target. We fired Thompson's and "grease guns", and one weapon I was really impressed with was the BAR, Browing Automatic Rifle.  The BAR was designed during the 1St World War but never saw much action, the war ended befor many were deployed.  It saw extensive action during WWII and Korea.  We were shooting them because the communists had em.  My platoon Sergeant, Mike Glines in AIT was wounded by one during his tour.  Anyway it was a hell of a weapon.  Fully automatic 20 rd magazine fed, 30-06.  It was heavier than an M-14  and had a unique fire selector, "ast and Very Fast"!  Now I qualified with an almost perfect score with the M-60 in Infantry AIT.  ( Just dropped 2 points from a perfect score)  I qualifed expert with it.  I could slap the trigger quickly enough with the M-60 that I could and did shootit single shot, even though it had no semi auto feature to it.  Neither did the BAR, full auto all the time, just fast or very fast.  I never did figure that one out, the choice I mean.  Anyway, there was no way I could shoot that beast single shot!  I put it on the lower speed, and the best I could do was squeez off two rounds.  It was a handful to hang on to, and if your hand slipped off the small forarm, well you could get burned real bad.  Holding onto the M-60 in rapid fire was a rush, but this Bar had a feeling all its own. There is something about the roar of a 30-06 in full auto that gets your attention.  It was rush to shoot, I really liked it.  It was the only time I ever saw one in Nam.
 
 

The things I remember during my time in Vietnam seem at times to be endless.....just ask my friends. I tell the stories as they come to me. They are not always in chronological order. I'm sure that is true about my "Recondo School" memories too. I'm trying to tell them in general order, but to be honest, I'm just not sure about some of them. The important ones I have in order......the others, well they happened. The order doesn't matter, they're just my memories.

Like the Marines I mentioned in the other part of my story, that I had specific memories about. I said there were three I remembered. This one Marine was one of the leaders in the unit there for training. He was pretty well built. He wore glasses. His men respected him, you could tell that. We all could, the instructors could tell it to, I'm sure. This fellow just had a hell of a time on the rappelling tower. I'm pretty sure he had never been on one before. I had in NCO school. The only difference was there was a rope ladder to climb to get up on top. Now rope ladders aren't easy to climb, even without all the web gear and weapon we carried. I think we spent a couple of days on the tower.   There was a side with a wall, and a side without a wall.  The open side was to simulate the open door of a helicopter.  We climbed up the tower on that rope ladder without web gear the first day. Now that wasn't to bad, and most everybody firgured out how to get down.  The secret was to keep your left hand high on the rope, look down over your right shoulder as you let the rope slip thrrough your right hand.  If you didn't keep the left hand high you had a tendancy to roll upside down.  You really couldn't get hurt to bad on the training tower, as there was an instructor on the ground holding the loose end of the rope, so if the student lost his grip, the instructor just pulled hard on the lose end, and it would bind the rope in the snap link, and slow your decent, in fact they could bring you to a complete stop. Rolling upside down is what kept happening to this Marine when we started rappelling with our web gear and weapon. Remember  the web gear was complete with a 30 lb sandbag in it!  It simulated all the gear you'd being carrying on a real mission.    If we had to rappell on a real live mission, we were going to be loaded heavy, and there wouldn't be anyone on the ground to save your ass if you went upside down.  This poor Marine I remember seeing upside down alot!  I think they called it the "resting bat " position.  It's not a very comfortable position, and besides it's embarassing as hell, especially in front of your men.  He got through it finally though after what seemed like a dozen trys.  Another thing I remember about that session was how good the SF instructors were with that man.  He wasn't going to give up, and neither were they.  After the intitial bluff and bluster and bravado, they could see this guy needed training, not just motivation.  They got quiet and worked hard with him.  He didn't want to wash out, and they didn't want him too either.  I have a lot of respect for those Special Forces guys.   Back to the story. The rappelling  was even more thrilling when we did it from a hovering "Huey" at 100 feet!  When it was time to do it from the helicopter, I remember we were outiside the compound somewhere, the whole class assembled, watching this "Huey" come in from a distance, flare up and hold in a hover in front of the assembled class.  Six ropes were dropped out of the chopper, and just a quickly six SF instructors came rappelling down.  It was a simulated combat jump.   It was pretty dramatic, especially when one of them broke an ankle, or sprained it badly enough to have the other five help him hop off the landing site!  Oh great, now it was our turn.  The chopper came back and set down.   They took six students up at a time and hovered at 100 ft.  It didn't look to bad, not from the ground anyway.   And they had instructors on the ground who would take hold of the loose ends of the ropes, just in case a student lost his grip.  Didn't want anyone to die in training!   Two students at a time would rappell out of the hovering  "Huey".  It went ok, nobody got hurt that I recall.  Three pairs of two stundents would rappell and then the chopper would set down and six more would get on.  When it came my turn I remember thinking as the chopper lifted off that they took our group up an extra 100 ft or so!  It sure looked higher from the bird than it did from the ground.  But it was cool.  The rappelling ropes were suspended from the center of the roof or ceiling of the "Huey".  We had on our rope harness  with snap ring attached.  When it was our turn, we snapped the rope thru the ring twice, making a half hitch.  You put your left hand on the rope above the link, and your right hand (with leather gloves on I might add) on the rope below the link and pulled the rope around tight to your right hip. Stepping out on the skid, facing in to the chopper, you looked down over your right shoulder and "crow" hopped off the skid.  You had to sure let enough rope slip through you hand befor braking.  You've got to clear the skid, to make sure your face doesn't slam into it when you start to swing back to the chopper after hopping out. Knock yourself out on a combat jump and you'll probably fall to your death.  It was pretty exciting training!  A lot different than the tower.  The Marine I mentioned who had so much trouble on the tower, well  he had finally figured it out I guess.  No "Jarheads" fell to their death that day.  I just want to add that  that I carried a rope burn scar on my right hip for several years after that training.  It sure was hard to slow yourself down with all that gear.  I might add that I never jumped in combat either, thank God!
 
Since I first started this story I have since acquired the book "A History of the MACV Recondo School 1966-1971" written by Tom Halliwell, it lists the individual graduating members of each class by name.  I believe the Marine I'm talking about was either Lance Corporal Malcom R Hyche or Lance Corporal Jackie L Blankenship.  I say that because there were only two Lance Corporals from the 3rd Marine's in my class.  There were seven Marines  who graduated my class, all PFC's except these two.  And like I said he was one of the leaders of the Marine continguent.  I also remember he wore black rimmed glasses.  It's funny what you remember!  And the First Lieutenant I mentioned early in my story, who I said was the team Leader of my team, has to be either 1LT Clifford B Norris from the 4th Division or 1LT Gerald J Stratton from the 51St Infantry as there were the only two American Officers in the class.  More later

This is not the jump tower at Nha Trang
metower.jpg
This is me - a different tower demonstrating the right technique

71St LRP - M CO -75th Ranger

Macv Recondo Graduates

The 71St LRP and M Company 75th Rangers produced 89 Recondo School Graduates of the 3470 who graduated that training program. With the aid of Tom Halliwells book " A History Of The Macv Recondo  School 1966-1971", I was able to identify the following men from our unit. This listing may not be totally complete or accurate as about 9 or so classes are not listed in the record. The classes not listed run from class 6-67 through 14-67. I think those recondo classes were conducted before the forming of the 71St.  So I have to believe the following list is indeed pretty accurate.

Class no, Rank& Name, & Recondo Number

3-68 -PFC Ronald R Hammerstrom- None on record    One of the unit KIA's

3-68 -PFC Robert Q Tate- None on record

4-68 -PFC Errol D Redden- None on record

4-68- PFC Thedore Taylor Jr- None on record

5-68- PFC Ronald W Burkhart- 682

5-68 -SGT Robert A Williams - 688

6-68 -SP4 Gerard Callahan -None on record

6-68 -PFC Linden B Dixion -None on record

6-68 -PFC Joseph L.G. Leon-Guerrero- None on record

6-68 -PFC Robert C Sampson- None on record

6-68 -PFC Clyde Washington- None on record

8-68 -SP4 David R Dalton -768

8-68 -SP4 Larry G Saville- 800

9-68 -PFC Barry L Alton- 823

9-68 -SP4 Thomas W MacMillian -834

10-68- SP4 Gary E Lobello- 858

11-68 -SP4 Thomas R Burke- 895

11-68 -SP4 John A Malinsky -899

13-68 -SSG Lawrence D Rehders- 944

14-68 -PFC James A Griffis- 980

14-68 -SP4 Gertald A Kallen- 981

15-68 -PFC Dennis N Sanchez -1010

15-68 -PFC Robert B McWhirter -1011

16-68 -SGT Doyle W Fulsom -1054

17-68 -SP4 William H Juechter -1105

17-68 -SP4 Gregory F Callahan -1116

19-68 -SP4 Tony G Mack -1159

19-68 -SGT Raymond A Bailey- 1173

20-68 -SP4 Richard K Bliven -1192

20-68 -SP4 Scott P Hokoana -1209

21-68 -PFC Daniel F Gerber -1223

1-69 -SP4 Daniel P Schutt -1262

1-69 -SGT Victor M Bosquez -1265

2-69 -PFC David L Wolfenbarger- 1316

2-69 -PFC Timothy H Younce -1317

3-69 -SP4 Hubbard S Hardin Jr- 1363

3-69 -PFC James D Ward -1368

4-69 -SSG Jerry D Harmond -1388

4-69 -SGT Wash H Davis -1402

5-69 -SP4 Thomas N Zastrow -1448

5-69 -PFC Donald G Baker- 1465

7-69 -SP4 Timothy J Henderleiter- 1532

8-69 -SP4 Luther T Ross -1565

8-69 -PFC Fredrick Wintermute -1570

9-69 -PFC Kirk L Rich -1587

11-69 -SSG Steven D Houghton -1671

11-69- SGT Charles J Hamm -1682

13-69 -SGT David T Young -1791

14-69 -PFC Dwight Tomlinson -1844

14-69 -PFC David M Schoubroer- 1855

15-69 -SGT Charles D Hunt -1878

16-69 -1LT David J McDowell -1930

17-69 -SGT James d Plotcher -2010

19-69 -SP4 Joseph P S Lujan -2096

19-69 -SP4 Ozelle Frazier -2104

20-69 -SP4 Donald H Evans -2170

20-69 -SP4 Jerry A Paron -2177

20-69 -SGT William Thomas -2197

20-69 -SP4 Hollis W Piemons -2222

20-69 -SP4 Clayton Taskinen -2229

20-69 -SGT David L Reeser -2235

22-69 -PFC Clemmons s Anderson -2261

22-69 -SGT Michael R Wood -2273

22-69 -PFC David L Dietz -2274

22-69 -SGT James R Abraham -2277

22-69 -SSG Dennis E Day -2285

22-69 -SGT Jerry W Dennard -2289

1-70 -SGT Herdy Christian III -2337

1-70 -SGT John F Patrick -2344

2-70 -SP4 Joseph J P Arel- 2374

5-70 -SGT Joe F ? -2520

6-70 -SGT Robert L Zeuner -2567

6-70 -SSG Paul E Baker -2572

7-70 -SGT Albert R Keene Jr -2610

7-70 -SP4 Dennis R Maleawry -2617

7-70 -PFC David L Hyatt -2624

8-70 -PFC David L Weinberg -2687

8-70 -SP4 Lucion Garland -2689

9-70 -PFC Daniel E Barry- 2726

10-70 -PFC Carl ONiel -2748

10-70- PFC Jerome Williams- 2765

13-70 -SP4 Gary L Wallen -2887

14-70 -SP4 William Wainright -2913

16-70 -SP4 Robert L McBride- 3016

16-70 -SSG Glen F Kunz -3023

17-70 -SGT Thomas E Blue -3049

3-71 -SGT Marrell Freeman -3213

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