On 20 November 1969, Co D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) 'Stood Down'. Mission accomplished, job well done!
The operations were turned over to Company D (Ranger), 75th Infantry, just as smoothly as they had been turned over from Company F, 51st Infantry (LRP) on 26 December 1968. What is so significant about this change of designation is that Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) was a National Guard unit from Indiana. Before we discuss the 'Stand Down' perhaps a little history of how this unit arrived in Vietnam in the first place would be more appropriate. In November of 1965 the Indiana National Guard organized its' first and only Airborne Infantry battalion in response to the high mobilization priority Selected Reserve Force. With the build up of the Vietnam war, the entire 38th Infantry Division fully expected to be called to active duty and the inclusion of an Airborne Battalion would be highly valued.
In December 1967 the Department of Defense changed its direction and restructured the National Guard through the United States, thus changing the status of the 38th Infantry Division. The Indiana Adjutant General was able to retain most of the Airborne qualified personnel and formed two long range patrol companies. Thus, was born Companies D & E (Long Range Patrol), 151st Infantry, later to be combined into a single company, designated Company D. Ironically most training on weekend drills was divided between long range patrolling techniques and riot control training.
War in Vietnam continued to escalate and so did the resistance at home. Several states were utilizing the Guard to control demonstrations, especially on college campuses. A new twist came when it was announced that summer camp training for 1968 would be held in March at the Army's Jungle Warfare Training Center in the Panama Canal Zone. You can imagine what rumors started flying when the cadre at the Jungle School started telling the members that they were headed for Vietnam. No one could believe it when just three weeks after returning from Panama the unit was called to active duty.
On Monday May 13, 1968 the unit departed from Indianapolis, Indiana for Ft. Benning, Georgia. Of all the 20,000 reservists activated, D Company was the only infantry unit of the National Guard in the United States. A total of 195 enlisted men, 1 warrant officer, and 8 officers convoyed in World War II vintage trucks to Georgia on the same day that the peace talks started in Paris, France.
All members were already jump qualified and 98% were jungle qualified. Co D would undergo 6 months of additional training with the 197th Infantry on Kelly Hill. Several members were sent TDY for special schools, including Radio school and Ranger school. The entire unit spent one week each at the three Ranger school courses in Georgia and Florida. Several jumps were made at Benning in the 6 months while in training.
Rumors were rampant among the men up until departure day, that the unit would never go to Vietnam. On December 20, 1968, 6 men departed as an advance team to set up the base camp which was to be located next to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, in an old missile base. On December 28, 1968 the entire unit left for Bien Hoa. By this time about 20% enlisted and drafted men joined the unit taking the place of those National Guard personnel that had been transferred or ETS'd.
Only after arriving in Vietnam did the unit find out that they would be replacing another Long Range Patrol company that was being dismantled. We were told that due to severe losses the unit could no longer function. Obviously, some higher ups had to justify us being there. Later, when members of Company F, 51st began transferring in to D Co, we learned the real truth. Co F was doing a great job and all were extremely upset that we had taken their place. Things calmed down a great deal when Co F's commander Major Heckman took over as commanding officer of Company D. Years later we would learn that someone in the Indiana National Guard made a deal with the Department of the Army in Washington that the unit would stay together and not be dismantled. Other reservist that were activated were sent to Vietnam on an individual replacement basis (sans an artillery unit from Bardstown, Kentucky).
The 199th Light Infantry Brigade conducted a one week orientation course with the unit. Physical training became intense and difficult. The unit had just left Indiana winter and a 30 day leave of absence, and Vietnam's summer heat was a difficult adjustment. The unit was attached to the II Field Force to become their eyes and ears in the free fire zones north of the Bien Hoa Air Force base and Long Binh.
Work was around the clock getting the base camp set up and all the supplies and equipment in place. By mid January 1969 members were going on patrol with members of F Co for long range patrol orientation. By February, the unit had passed its' test and was deemed operational. At the same time the unit's status and name was changed from Long Range Patrol to Ranger. Patrolling was on a regular schedule by then with all 12 to 18 teams in the field at all times. 30 members attended the MACV Recondo school run by the 5th Special Forces at Nha Trang, all graduating with the Arrowhead patch and diploma.
In March the Company received Chieu Hoi scouts which were assigned to the teams. The new team members were received with caution, but after a few patrols and contacts, the Chieu Hois were very much accepted and welcomed with few exceptions.
After a briefing by II Field Force Intel Officer, in which the company was told that the only true information was bodies, equipment, and documents. They didn't seem to trust our reporting from a reconnaissance report. The missions now became more as hunter-killer teams than the true reconnaissance teams.
The members were all highly motivated and well educated. All were older than the typical Vietnam personnel. The average age of the members was around 24. Several were in college, or had well established careers.
Many ambush patrols into the "D Zone" along trails, and the Song Dong Nai and the Song Bong rivers. Several patrols reported a massing of the enemy troops during the Tet of 1969. Most patrols were 5 or 6 man teams, but several heavy 12 man patrols were conducted if previous information suggested that a contact was likely. Many contacts were made by the teams against 3 to 4 NVA/VC patrols, but there were some teams that initiated on much larger enemy forces.
One heavy mission in May 1969 counted 380 NVA as they advanced south. On this particular night, the team did not pull back to a RON, but stayed up on the trail within 5 feet of it. Indirect fire claimed many enemy lives, as it was directed by the Ranger team on the ground.
As some of the initial National Guardsman rotated out due to ETS, hardships, wounds, and early out for college, regular army personnel were recruited or assigned to take their place. These new members were well trained by the time the company "Stood Down". In early November 1969, the remaining National Guard members were moved from the base camp at Long Binh to Bien Hoa in preparation for the units' return to Indiana.
Six members of the unit made the supreme sacrifice on Ranger missions. They, and lots of other members were decorated for Valor and Duty. In all, 19 Silver Stars, 175 Bronze Stars, 86 Army Commendation Medals, 120 Air Medals, 110 Purple hearts, 19 Indiana Distinguished Service Crosses, and 204 Indiana Commendation Medals were awarded.
On November 20, 1969 Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry (Airborne) became Company D, 75th Ranger. The 75th was made up of the 151st Rangers as well as new members, and continued to carry on the same missions operating from the same base camp at Long Binh until they "Stood Down" later in 1969.