Military Organization > United States > U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Ranger Company (1969-73)

U.S. Army Airborne Inf. Ranger Co. (Field Force) (1969-73)

By Brendan Matsuyama (Editor)

The following was the organization of the divisional U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Ranger Company from 1969 to 1973. This article covers the variation of the company that was subordinate to Corps-level commands. There were two such companies in the I and II Field Force garrisoned in Vietnam (Company C and D) and two in the V and VII Corps garrisoned in Germany (Company A and B).

 

Brigade-level LRP detachments (also called companies) and divisional companies were both smaller. This is the organization that would have been effective for the later half of the United States’ involvement during the Vietnam War.

 

Prior to 1969, these companies were called Infantry Long Range Patrol Companies. Under the U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System, these companies were reflagged as Airborne Infantry Ranger Companies and reconstituted under the 75th Ranger Regiment. Companies under this organization were largely disbanded in 1972, with two Corps-level Airborne Infantry Ranger Companies remaining in Germany until 1974 when they were deactivated and new Ranger Battalions were stood up.

 

It should be noted that there was a level of leeway with the weapons individual patrols deployed, ranging from the typical M16A1 and XM177E2 (CAR-15) to shotguns, suppressed WWII-era submachine guns, captured enemy weapons, and other more exotic weaponry. Additionally units were often understrength in practice. For the purposes of the organization section, we list the official organization with authorized or typical weapon allotments.

 

Each company consisted of 1 Company Headquarters, 1 Operations Section, 1 Transportation and Maintenance Section, 1 Communications Platoon, 1 Parachute Packing and Maintenance Section, and 3 Patrol Platoons. However, in the case of the Field Force, it is likely that the Transportation and Maintenance Section and Parachute Packing and Maintenance Section were not used to allow for the fielding of a 4th Patrol Platoon.

 

Although integral to specific Infantry Regiments prior to 1969, these companies were directly subordinate to the two Field Force Corps in Vietnam.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company Headquarters

    • 1 Operations Section

    • 1 Transportation & Maintenance Section

    • 1 Parachute Packing & Maintenance Section

    • 3 Patrol Platoons

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

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Organization

  • Type: Special Forces/Reconnaissance Company

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Time Frame: Late Vietnam War (1969-1973)

  • Personnel: 8 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, 205 Enlisted

 

1× Company Headquarters (2 Officer and 18 Enlisted)

Headquarters Section

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain (OF-2)*, armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Executive Officer, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Company Aidmen, Specialist 5 (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Armorer, Corporal/Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Personnel Specialist, Corporal/Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Company Clerk, Corporal/Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M79 Grenade Launcher and 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Supply Clerk, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 3× Light Truck Drivers, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

* Although the CO was authorized as a Captain, in the Field Force LRP companies these were usually Majors as companies subordinate to Field Force corps commands would have to deal with more senior officers.

→ 1× Mess Section

  • 1× Mess Steward, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× First Cook, Specialist 6 (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× First Cooks, Specialist 5 (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Cooks, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Cook's Helper, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

→ Additional Equipment:

  • 1× M36 Cargo Truck, towing an M149 Trailer

  • 2× M151 MUTT Light Truck

  • 4× AN/PPS-4 Portable Radars

  • 2× M60 Machine Guns

1× Operations Section (2 Officer and 6 Enlisted)

  • 1× Operations Officer, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Assistant Operations Officer, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Operations Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Intelligence Sergeant (Light Truck Driver), Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M20A1B1 Recoilless Rifle and 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Operations Specialist, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M20A1B1 Recoilless Rifle and 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Operations Specialist, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Intermediate Speed Radio Operators (Light Truck Drivers), Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

→ Additional Equipment:

  • 1× M36 Cargo Truck, with AN/GRC-106 and towing M105 Trailer

  • 2× M151 MUTT Light Trucks (1 with AN/VRC-46)

1× Transportation & Maintenance Section (15 Enlisted)

  • 1× Section Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Motor Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 3× Wheeled Vehicle Mechanics, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Senior Light Vehicle Drivers, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Powerman, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 6× Truck Drivers, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic's Apprentice, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M20A1B1 Recoilless Rifle and 1 M1911A1 Pistol

→ Additional Equipment:

  • 8× M36 Cargo Trucks, armed with 1 M2 Browning Heavy Machine Gun and towing M105 Trailer each

1× Communications Platoon (1 Officer and 35 Enlisted)

Platoon Headquarters

  • 1× Platoon Leader, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Senior Field Radio Repairman (Light Truck Driver), Specialist 5 (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

→ 3× Base Stations

  • 2× Chief Intermediate Speed Radio Operators, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 5× Intermediate Speed Radio Operators, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Intermediate Speed Radio Operators (Light Truck Drivers), Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Intermediate Speed Radio Operator, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M20A1B1 Recoilless Rifle and 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Field Radio Mechanic, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

→ Additional Equipment:

  • 2× M36 Cargo Trucks

  • 1× AN/GRC-41

  • 1× AN/GRC-106

  • 1× AN/GSQ-80

  • 1× M60 Machine Gun

1× Parachute Packing & Maintenance Section (1 Warrant Officer, 5 Enlisted)

  • 1× Section Chief, Warrant Officer, armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 1× Senior Parachute Packer-Repairman, Specialist 5 (OR-5), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Parachute Packer-Repairmen, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

  • 2× Parachute Packer-Repairman's Helpers, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

3× Patrol Platoons (1 Officer and 42 Enlisted each)

Platoon Headquarters

  • 1× Platoon Leader, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Light Truck Driver*, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle

* Typically acted as an assistant

Patrols*

  • 1× Patrol Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle or XM177E1/E2 Carbine

  • 2× Intermediate Speed Radio Operators*, Specialist 4 (OR-4), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle or XM177E1/E2 Carbine

  • 1× Senior Scout-Observer, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle or XM177E1/E2 Carbine

  • 1× Scout-Observer, Private First Class (OR-3), armed with 1 M16A1 Rifle or XM177E1/E2 Carbine

* While patrols were officially 5 men, 6-man patrols were just as common. Additionally, there was a great level of leeway with the weapons used by individual patrols. What is presented would be a typical official load out for the patrols, but other more exotic or uncommon weapons were also used. These included cutdown M79s, cutdown M2 carbines, WWII-era submachine guns, captured enemy weapons and, depending on mission parameters, M60 machine guns.

** Patrol RTOs were equipped with AN/PRC-25 or, after 1968, the newer AN/PRC-77 manpack radio.

 

Discussion

The Airborne Infantry Ranger Company—the successor organization to the Long Range Patrol Companies—were units that provided unconventional reconnaissance capability to brigades, divisions and corps. This article specifically covers the corps-level variant, which was larger than the brigade-level companies (formerly called detachments and composed of one platoon, typically 61 men) and division-level companies (118 men). There were two such companies that were assets of the I Field Force and II Field Force. These were Company C and Company D of the 75th Ranger Regiment respectively (previous LRP Company E of the 20th Infantry and LRP Company F of the 51st Infantry). Key differences between Field Force and divisional/brigade companies was the Field Force units were larger to cover more ground and had more support vehicles available to them.

 

Although the Airborne Infantry Ranger Companies were redesignated as such from the original Long Range Patrol Companies and Detachments in early 1969, their mission and doctrine did not change. And, although they were transferred to the 75th Ranger Regiment administratively, they were still subordinate to their parent divisions and corps. The personnel were, however, then required to be Ranger qualified, which was not a requirement for the original LRPs.

Each company consisted of 1 Company Headquarters, 1 Operations Section, 1 Transportation and Maintenance Section, 1 Communications Platoon, 1 Parachute Packing and Maintenance Section, and 3 Patrol Platoons. It should be noted that although this is the organization that was active under the official TO&Es, organization often differed in practice. As of 1967, it was known that the Field Force companies had 4 line platoons rather than 3. A likely variation was the removal of the Transport & Maintenance Section and Parachute Packing and Maintenance Section to allow for a 4th Patrol Platoon.

 

The Company Headquarters contained the Airborne Infantry Ranger Company’s key command and general support personnel. This was further divided into a Headquarters Section and Mess Section. The company overall was led by the Company Commander who was authorized as a Captain, but was usually a Major for the Field Force companies. This was likely because these commanders had to deal with a higher echelon of officer than either divisional or brigade-level company commanders. The company’s Executive Officer (second-in-command) was a Lieutenant, although could be a Captain. Under conventional US Army doctrine, the Executive Officer and company First Sergeant (the company’s senior enlisted man) typically served support functions while the Commanding Officer was the tactical commander. However, there are examples of the Executive Officer personally leading patrols depending on the unit. These men, in addition to 1 Supply Sergeant, 2 Company Aid Men, 1 Armorer, 1 Personnel Specialist, 1 Company Clerk, 3 Light Truck Drivers, and 1 Supply Clerk formed the Headquarters Section. The Mess Section was led by a Mess Steward, a Sergeant First Class, and further consisted of 3 First Cooks, 2 Cooks and 1 Cooks Helper. The Mess Section may or may not have been necessary depending on it the company was dependent on the mess facilities of their parent unit.

 

The Operations Section provided the company with operational planning and intelligence staff. This section included an Operations Officer and Assistant Operations Officer—both Lieutenants—in addition to an Operations Sergeant, Intelligence Sergeant, 2 Operations Specialists and 2 Intermediate Speed Radio Operators. The Intelligence Sergeant and Intermediate Speed Radio Operators doubled as light truck drivers for the section’s 1 M36 2½-ton cargo truck and 2 M151 MUTT 4x4 trucks. One Operations Specialist and the Intelligence Sergeant were authorized M20A1B1 “Super Bazooka” recoilless rifles, most likely for self-defense.

 

The Transportation and Maintenance Section provided the company with integral transportation and mechanics, although this section may or may not have been manned depending on if the company was reliant on their parent’s company resources. Given that the LRP Ranger Companies did not act as single maneuver elements, their footprint and transportation needs were relatively light. The section was equipped with 8 M36 cargo trucks armed with M2 heavy machine guns and towing M105 trailers.

 

The Communications Platoon consisted of a Platoon Headquarters and 3 Base Radio Stations. The Platoon Headquarters contained an M151 MUTT that carried its Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant and Senior Field Radio Repairman (Light Truck Driver). Meanwhile, each Base Radio Station contained two M36 cargo trucks. One carried an AN/GRC-41 radio transmitting and receiving station (range of up to 1,600 km) and AN/GRC-106 radio set (range of up to 129 km). The section also had an AN/GSQ-80 message center (switchboard) and an M60 machine gun for self-defense. According to Gebhardt, “FM radio was to be used to communicate with uncommitted patrols and between the LRP company and its higher HQ, while wire was to be used for communications within the LRP company HQ and between its operations section and the intelligence section of higher HQ.”

 

The Parachute Packing and Maintenance Section composed of riggers led by a Warrant Officer as a Section Chief—the company’s sole Warrant Officer. They packed and maintain parachutes for the entire company, which ideally is entirely Airborne and Ranger qualified. In addition to the Section Chief, the section contained 5 Packer-Repairmen. The actual inclusion of this section in the context of Vietnam is unlikely, although it may have been a possible addition to augment the company for airborne operations.

 

The meat of the company were its Patrol Platoons. Each consisted of a Platoon Headquarters and 8 Patrols, although the actual number in practice varied from 5 to 9 Patrols per platoon. The Platoon Headquarters was slim, containing just the Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant and a Light Truck Driver who was also intended to act as a Radio-Telephone Operator. In practice, this soldier typically acted as an assistant to the Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant. The Platoon itself did not act as a singular maneuver platoon as a line platoon would, with the individual Patrols (squad echelon units but actually team-sized) being tasked out individually as necessary. The Platoon was mostly an administrative unit, with the Platoon leadership being responsible for the training of their Patrols and preparing insertions/extractions. 

 

Each of the Patrols consisted of 5 men, although 6-man Patrols were common through the addition of another RTO or scout-observer. Each Patrol had 1 Patrol Leader (Staff Sergeant), 2 Intermediate Speed Radio Operators (Specialist 4s), 1 Senior Scout-Observer (Private First Class), and 1 Scout-Observer (Private First Class). Each of the RTOs would carry an AN/PRC-25 manpack radio or newer AN/PRC-77. Typically the Senior Scout-Observer would act as the pointman for the patrol.

 

Like the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) Troops that could combined two 5-man teams into one large 10-man fighting patrol for offensive operations, the LRPs could combine two 5- or 6-man patrols into one larger 10- or 12-man heavy patrol. These too were for offensive operations such as ambushes, search and rescue, and prisoner snatches. They could come under the command of the seniormost Patrol Leader, a specialist with expertise in the platoon, or the Platoon Leader or Platoon Sergeant. 

 

Depending on the unit, a number of LRP Patrols could be replaced with Hawkeye Patrols. This was the case for the 4th Infantry Division’s LRP Company in 1967, whose platoons had 5 LRP Patrols and 3 Hawkeye Patrols. Hawkeye Patrols were hunter-killer patrols composed of two Rangers and two indigenous Montagnard CIDG personnel. The Hawkeye Patrols different from standard Patrols in that they had the expertise of the Montagnards, allowing them to more readily intercept enemy couriers and otherwise disrupt enemy operations. 

 

All patrolmen were authorized M16A1 rifles. The LRP companies had been early adopters of the M16/XM16E1 back in 1964/5, despite officially being authorized the M14 rifle. By 1969, both the M16A1 rifle and XM177E2 “submachine gun” (the CAR-15 carbine) would have been the standard weapons of the Patrol. However, there was considerable leeway unit-to-unit, with submachine guns, shotguns and enemy weapons being common additions to the Patrols. One particular variation included giving the pointman of the Patrol a captured enemy weapon to confuse the enemy upon first contact.

 

Although not included in the TO&E, combat or ambush patrols may also carry heavier weapons, such as the M60 machine gun. While such a heavy weapon with a heavy ammo burden would be counter-productive to a reconnaissance patrol, such firepower would have been greatly beneficial if patrols were looking for trouble. The M79, including cutdown versions, could similarly be issued depending on mission requirements.

 

It was also common for Patrolmen to carry at least 4 to 6 fragmentation grenades, 1 smoke grenade, 1 white phosphorus grenade, 1 CS grenade, 1 claymore mine, and a ¼-pound block of C4. M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapons were also commonly issued, useful for engaging enemy convoys or breaking contact.

 

If many LRP teams were sent out, aviation assets could be strained as helicopters had to be tied down to support the teams. Because of the compactness of the Patrols, the insertion of a Patrol could realistically be done with as little as 1 or 2 UH-1 Huey helicopters. The helicopter(s) would conduct a reconnaissance including company/platoon leadership and the patrol leader 24 hours in advance to scout out the reconnaissance zone. However, insertions were often done with 5. These included:

  • 1 Command and Control Helicopter carrying the Company Commander, Operations Officer or Platoon Leader

  • 1 Helicopter to insert the Patrol (2 Helicopters if inserting a heavy patrol)

  • 1 Helicopter to perform false insertions with the intention of deceiving the enemy (more than 1 if additional helicopters were freely available)

  • 2 Helicopter Gunships to cover the insertion

Sources

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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