LTC Hutchings Interview This web site is dedicated to the memory of Col. William C. Maus, Jr. (1928 - 1998)
LTC Eric Hutchings, commander of the 4th Ranger Training Battalion at Ft. Benning, GA, said the following during the interview in 1998 that SILENT VICTORY director Gini Hashii conducted with him: “The current Ranger training and the current LRS training conducted here in the Ranger training brigade is anchored in the lessons learned from the Vietnam era Lurps—specifically, the cadre from those Lurp units, from those Ranger units that survived the war that came back and into our Army and rebuilt the Army. And they did it using this particular course. If you look now at our Army, not only at our special operating units, not only in our LRS units, which are a modern version of the VN era Lurps, but throughout our Army in our heavy divisions, in our light infantry divisions, at the highest levels of our staff, you see Ranger-qualified people that have gone through this training and are experts at small unit operations and are expert at patrolling, and are expert at moving behind enemy lines. And I think that the lessons we learned in Vietnam, distilled through the Ranger training brigade, underpinned our successes in Grenada, underpinned our successes in Panama, and certainly Desert Storm. And it has a direct correlation to our modern capability to fight and win on the battlefield. “Specifically as it relates to reconnaissance, we now have a LRS course, long range surveillance leaders course, that we conduct here at Ft. Benning run by the Ranger training brigade. The members of these particular LRS units are Ranger qualified predominantly. They are more senior in rank, they've already undergone Ranger training and parachute training. We take them for 33 days in a course that specifically relates to movement behind enemy lines and the collection of human intelligence. These particular individuals played significant roles in our victory in Desert Storm, preceding all of the heavy divisions and corps, deep behind enemy lines. This particular site here at Hurley Hill is named after a soldier that was deep behind enemy lines and killed in action. He was a first sergeant in one of the companies when I was a company commander many years ago. But that is the closest correlation, I guess linkage, between the Vietnam era LRPs is our modern LRS. Basically, small units that moved very deep behind enemy lines inserted either by helicopter or parachute assault. “Right now, the way we have divided the responsibilities, the Ranger-type units conduct direct-strike missions, raids and ambushes. The [LRS] are meant to avoid contact, and go deep. They have capability to extract themselves. They are very heavily armed, but they are to avoid contact with the enemy. They consider a mission a success when they are undiscovered. Many times they dig hide sites, or develop hide sites deep behind enemy lines, watching areas of road networks and things of that nature. And, they would rather not be in contact with the enemy. We have developed contingency plans to extract them once they do get in contact with the enemy with that small an operation, 4- to 8- man teams, very tiny. And that takes a special soldier to do that kind of mission because they don't have backup for a real long time if they get in contact. “In order to be in a LRS unit you have to be a more senior personnel with good experience in light infantry. You have to airborne qualified. Not everyone in a LRS unit is Ranger qualified. The vast majority are, and those that aren't are volunteering to go, so just like our Ranger regiment, in that Ranger regiment not everyone is yet Ranger qualified. They intend to go and it's a matter of moving them through the course and when we can allow them to go. So the eventual end state in all LRS units is fully Ranger qualified. In practical application, though, we don't always have them with a Ranger tab by the time they get to that unit. “In point of fact, I don't know if there is a particular reason, I will tell you that my understanding of the Lurp in Vietnam, not only were they to find the enemy, but oftentimes they were dual tasked to develop the situation with the enemy. In other words, initiate contact with the enemy. With our LRS units, we would probably refrain from doing that because they are smaller; we look at them more as deep intelligence. And if they use their weapons, something is probably going wrong. And so, as opposed to the Vietnam era Lurps, we don't expect, or reasonably expect, a LRS unit to develop the situation. They'll call back and ask for a lot of backup, if they see something noteworthy—an air strike, a larger unit to air assault and take over the situation. They probably wouldn't initiate contact themselves. “The air support that we have currently is pretty pronounced, even more so than in the Vietnam era. We have a very close linkage with the United States Air Force. Likewise, a new development that we saw start in Vietnam is the use of the attack helicopter. The current attack helicopter...we use the Apache. Is a very significant weapons system. In effect, it's a flying tank that is very fast and can get to you very quickly.”
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