LRP Lessons Learned

By on November 7, 2011 in F/58th LRP

Co F (LRP) (Airmobile) 58th Inf
101st Airborne Division (AM)

11 January 1969

SUBJECT: LRP Lessons Learned

TO: Commanding Officer
2nd Squadron 17th Cavalry
101st Airborne Division (AM)
APO San Francisco 96383

At 1010 hours, 11 January 1969, I debriefed LRP Team #22 who was attached to Bravo Troop. There appeared to be several problems that arose which I feel could and must be overcome prior to any LRP Teams being attached to any other unit or element.

1. Proper prior planning must be made. Neither my LRP team or the B Troop Commander knew exactly what was to take place when the LRP team arrived at his CP. Consequently the team was inserted into an RZ other than the one that had been coordinated through Squadron.
RECOMMENDATION: Adequate planning time be allocated so that all elements have a thorough understanding of the mission and concept of operations. All LRP teams are trained to receive a standard and detailed five paragraph field order. The LRP team leader then needs adequate time to brief his team, test fire weapons, rehearse anything that is different from how they normally operate, conduct a brief back, and have an inspection.

2. The mission of a LRP team is reconnaissance and not engagement of the enemy. Six men possess practically no sustaining fighting capability and once they become engaged or compromised they should be immediately reinforced or extracted within 30 minutes or less.
RECOMMENDATION: All commander who have LRP teams supporting them should be briefed that the LRP team will either be reinforced or extracted immediately once engaged or compromised. Failure to do this on 20 November 1968, resulted in 4 LRP’s killed and 7 wounded from an 11 man team.

3. Team 22 was extracted and reinserted several times during the same day. I do not feel that this is sound tactically because of the small size of the teams and their chance of being compromised is greatly increased. Prior to being inserted into each LZ smoke was dropped prior to insertion.
RECOMMENDATION: Insert a team and if radio contact cannot be maintained then the team should be extracted. Prior planning by a Commander should indicate whether radio contact will be difficult and he should plan on air relay or additional relay teams being used prior to the original insertion. Never use smoke on an LRP LZ since this compromises their location and invites failure and loss of life.

4. Radio contact was not maintained with the team throughout.
RECOMMENDATION: Evaluate the need for the team. DO NOT tie down valuable assets if the value of the team in a particular area is less than the loss of these assets which must be used to support the LRP’s. Extract the LRP’s and send them home if they are of no further assistance to you. LRP’s are an asset to help commanders much the same way that gunships or a radar section might be.

5. Once a LRP team is engaged they are trained to report “contact” and SALUTE. By reporting “contact” we are alerted that they are being engaged by the enemy and request gunships, a C&C, and either reinforcements or extraction. They will relate as much of the information using the key word SALUTE as they know at the time. Anyone who has ever been on the ground in a fire fight knows that it normally takes at least 10 minutes before you know much more about the enemy than their approximate size, that they are firing at you, and their approximate location. It must also be realized that the LRP team tries to break away from the enemy if possible or get into a good position to adjust gunships. it is far more important to save a man’s life than it is to render a report. Spot reports are given as quickly as the tactical situation permits. Detailed reports are received from the team when they are debriefed by the C-2, S-2, or LRP intelligence section after extraction.
RECOMMENDATION: All commanders keep off the FM radio when a team becomes engaged and concern themselves with supporting the team with all available resources rather than rendering reports. Both requirements can be met but human lives must be protected first.

CPT, Inf

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