Pre Deployment Training


55 years ago, 10 December 1965, I was a SGT E-5 Demolition Sergeant on an A-Detachment, in Company B, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Bragg NC.
I had begun my Vietnam Pre-Deployment Training class on 26 October for future deployment to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. Our training was mostly given by Special Forces NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) who had already spent time in Vietnam.
I graduated from Vietnam Pre-Deployment Training on Friday, 10 December 1965. The week after graduation, we received weapons training, much of which was a review of what we already knew. We were advised to only fire short bursts from our weapons. Firing long bursts resulted in the weapon “climbing.” The first few rounds were usually on or near target, while subsequent rounds drifted away from the target. A definite waste of ammunition.
It was reiterated that it is best not to look directly at a target during nighttime hours. If you looked directly at a target at night, it was much more difficult to make out and identify, than if you looked just a little left or right of the subject. This came in especially handy when I didn’t have a starlight scope.
We familiarized ourselves with, and qualified on, the weapons we would most likely be using in Vietnam, plus a few additions, notably the Red Chinese AK-47. We began by firing the Army assigned M1911 and M1911A1 .45-caliber pistol, then the rifles;firing M-1 Garands, M1 and M2 carbines, and M-16s.
The Army-issued .45-caliber pistol was a 3 pound (loaded) semi-automatic, magazine fed weapon commonly used for close-in self-protection. The magazine held seven cartridges. The maximum range of the weapon was 1,500 meters, maximum effective being 50 meters (in my case, if the target was the broad side of a barn).
The M-1 Garand, which I trained with in Basic Training and went to Ethiopia with in 1964 weighed in at a whopping 9½ pounds, and fired a .30-caliber bullet. It was a clip-fed semi-automatic, shoulder-fired rifle, with a maximum range of 3,450 yards (maximum effective range of 500 yards).
The weight and clip are what I disliked about the Garand, in addition to the fact that it had no automatic rate-of-fire choice. The clip was difficult to load, with occasional sore thumbs (aptly called an M-1 thumb) resulting. Also, when the last cartridge was fired, a loud PING would resound as the clip automatically flew out of the weapon, and onto the ground, noisily notifying the enemy that you had just fired your last round, until reloading.
One of the weapons used the most by the Vietnamese, especially the CIDG, was the M1 Carbine, of World War II fame. Both M1 and M2 Carbines were used in South Vietnam, but the Vietnamese were only assigned the M1s, while advisors could opt for the M2 Carbine. Some of the good points about being issued the Carbine were the smaller size of the weapon and the lighter weight, especially when compared to the M-1 Garand. The downside was the short range, compared to the Garand.
The M1 Carbine weighed only 6 pounds loaded (6½ pounds loaded with a 30-round clip), and fired a .30-caliber bullet. It was a magazine-fed semi-automatic (the M-2 had a lever with which the weapon could be fired automatically), shoulder fired rifle, with a maximum range of 2,200 yards (maximum effective range of 275 yards).
The next weapon, the Colt AR-15 (re-designated the M-16), only required some review, since it was already our issued weapon, and we had fired it many times. This weapon weighed only 6 pounds, and fired a .223-caliber bullet. It was a magazine-fed (20-rounds), semi– or fully-automatic (equipped with a selector switch to pick the mode of firing), shoulder fired rifle, with a maximum range of 2,833 yards (maximum effective range of 500 yards.
The downside of the weapon was that early models (especially) seemed to be prone to misfiring if the weapon was not kept clean, and the bullet was weakly stable, meaning that it barely traveled in a straight line. I never had a misfiring problem.
A step up, firepower-wise, which many of our VN CIDG soldiers would be assigned to, was the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR M1918A2). The BAR weighed a very hefty 19½ pounds loaded, and fired a .30-06 caliber bullet. It was a 20-round, magazine-fed, automatic, shoulder or bipod fired rifle, with a maximum range of 3,500 yards (maximum effective range of 500 yards). The weapon’s drawback was that it only came with a 20-round magazine.
After familiarizing ourselves with the rifles, we moved to submachine guns, firing the Thompson M1A1 .45-caliber submachine gun (known by some as a Tommy gun), the M-3 .45-caliber submachine gun (known also as the grease gun or burp gun), and the AK-47.
Many SF carried the Thompson machine gun. In fact, I had one for internal camp defense, at my first camp in Vietnam. The Thompson was the heavier of the two American submachine guns, weighing in at 12 pounds loaded. It fired a .45 caliber bullet, giving it a lot of striking power. That’s why I liked it for close-in combat.
The Thompson was a magazine-fed, automatic, shoulder-fired weapon. There were many types of magazines made for the weapon, the most popular being the 20– and 30-round box magazines. The weapon fired at a rate of 600-725 rounds per minute. with a maximum range of 1,500 meters (maximum effective range of 100 meters).
Over the many years of its use, the Thompson went by many monikers, including “Tommy Gun,” “Trench Broom,” “Trench Sweeper,” “Chicago Typewriter,” “Chicago Piano,” “Chicago Style,” “Chicago Organ Grinder,” and “The Chopper.”
The M-3 was lighter weight and a little more accurate than the Thompson. It fired a .45 caliber bullet, in a 30-round magazine, and was a shoulder-fired automatic weapon. The weapon fired at a rate of 450 rounds per minute. with a maximum range of 1,700 yards (maximum effective range of 100 yards).
Those were followed by some fun firing .30-caliber and .50-caliber machine guns. The Browning M1919A6 was a .30-caliber belt-fed machine gun, fired while affixed to either a bipod or a tripod, at a maximum rate of fire of 600-675 rounds per minute (150 maximum effective, and 75 sustained). The weapon had a maximum range of 3,500 yards (1,200 maximum effective), and weighed 33 pounds with the bipod, and 49 pounds with the tripod.
The Browning M2, HB (heavy barrel), .50-caliber, belt-fed machine gun was fired from numerous mounts, including stationary and numerous types of vehicles (land, sea, and air). It was also useful on diverse targets, including infantry, unarmored or lightly armored vehicles and boats, light fortifications and low-flying aircraft. The weapon weighed 126 pounds, had a maximum range of 7,400 yards (2,000 effective), and a maximum rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute (100 rpm effective and 40 rpm sustained).
The heavier weapons came next, with time spent on the M-19 60mm, M-29 81mm, and M-30 4.2-inch mortars, followed by M18A1 57mm and M40 106mm recoilless rifles. These weapons were a review for me, since I had trained on them during my Army Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
The training on these weapons included a quick review of how to adjust artillery fire, since chances were that we’d likely get opportunities to do so during our deployment. Included in the review was reporting target locations, as well as adjusting fire, when required. This part of the instruction included adjustment for these weapons, as well as larger artillery pieces.
Last, but certainly not least, was familiarization on the M-79 40mm grenade launcher. The M-79 was a breech-loaded, shoulder fired, single shot grenade launcher, with a maximum range of about 375 meters (350 maximum effective for an area target and 150 meters for a point). We certainly got to make a lot of noise that week.
The final action, as in all deployments, was the time spent on endless amounts of paperwork to finish, which I finished on Friday, 7 January 1966. It included updating our wills, making sure our personnel files were correct, and selecting where our pay would go.
The most painful part of pre-deployment was going through final pre-deployment dental work and the always dreaded medical checkups and myriad of shots. Each man had a shot card, which listed the various shots we had received, and when we had received them.
For our trip to southeast Asia, our shot card was updated, to include all the tropical disease immunizations we were required. The worst injection, of course, was the gamma globulin shot, which would be required every few months while overseas. The serum in that sucker was so thick that you felt every single milliliter as it entered your butt. It was even worse, if your medic didn’t like you. In that case, he would make sure to inject it while it was still cold, just out of the refrigerator. I always maintained a strong friendship with my team medics. That way, they would warm the serum, by wrapping their hand around the serum, until it was room temperature, or more.
In December 1965, the 5th Special Forces Group, in Vietnam, had 1,828 men assigned to it, as well as 30,400 CIDG (Vietnamese indigenous soldiers working with SF). There were 62 A-teams in the field. Because I was in pre-mission training and would be taking a thirty-day pre-deployment leave, I didn’t take a Christmas leave for 1965.
From Book #3, of my four-book set of “SLURP SENDS!” Books #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”). # 2 (SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon, or from me.
PHOTOS: My Pre-Deployment Training graduation certificate / Thompson submachine gun (without the stock) that I had in my first camp, Cai Cai. (my photos)


  1. Interesting that most photos of Thompsons in Vietnam have the butt stock removed. I mean I get it. Just interesting that that was the trend then.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here