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War Stories

LRP's Mission: Seek Enemy


Vol 6 No 6 - 10 Feb 1969

by Jerell E. "Jerry" Jarvis


CU CHI - A group of perspiring men walk onto Delta Troop flight line, their faces, blackened like show boat minstrels.  On their backs they carry all of the food and water they will need for several days and nights plus enough ammunition to stand off an enemy force five times their size.

Some of the packs weigh more than 80 pounds. The scene is not unusual to the helicopter mechanics working on the flight line.  It is repeated often.

These are Long Range Patrols (LRPs) of F Company, 50th Infantry, commanded by Captain Raymond L. Lawson, of Muskogee, Okla. The unit is attached to the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry. Their mission is a tough and daring one, but not an unusual one.  The men pit their ability to fight and survive against the enemy in his own backyard.

This team is led by First Lieutenant Arthur Tomascheck, of Allentown, Pa.  His qualifications: three years of Special Forces training.Tomascheck



LRP TEAM LEADER First Lieutenant Arthur Tomascheck gets the okay from a scout team checking for possible enemy ambushes. The LRP team is part of the 50th Infantry



                    lrp patch


The assistant team leader is Staff Sergeant Richard Reader, of New Castle, Pa.  His qualifications: 16 months as an LRP team member.  A soldier who knows how to fight, Reader became a staff sergeant when he was 19 years old.



ON THE HORN - Staff Sergeant Richard E. Reader establishes radio contact with choppers as Specialist 4 Lester Rhodes keeps a watch before moving to the pickup zone.



Next in line lumbers Specialist 4 Daniel Nate, of Woodbury, N.J.  He doesn't move with jungle cat quickness of Tomascheck and Reader but walks with powerful strides.  His qualifications: 18 months as a Special Forces engineer.

And so it goes on down the line to the last member of the team.  Most of them are airborne qualified and graduates of the in-country recondo school.

These men have a tough and dangerous job.  They struggle with their loads to climb aboard the waiting slicks.  No one is laughing.  No one is joking around.  Even the most experienced admits to a few butterflies.

RoicbathanThe LRPs all agree; waiting to jump from the insertion ship is the hardest part of the mission. Once on the ground no one will dare to utter an unnecessary word for the duration of the mission.  The slightest sound, even a cough or clearing of a throat can betray their presence and give way their position to the enemy.


GRENADIER Specialist 4 Tim Roicbathan, tense and ready to fire at any sign of the enemy advancing toward the Tropic Lightning soldiers' well-concealed position.  He is a valuable security agent with the LRP.



They are silent as they snake their way through the high brush.  Even big Nate moves through with hardly a sound.  All instructions are given by hand signs.  No one dares smoke a cigarette. The click of a lighter could be heard for many meters and the smoke could be seen and smelled even farther.

Once in position, with claymores set, the long wait begins.  The LRPs are so well concealed that many times VC and NVA soldiers pass them only a few feet away and do not detect them.




STRINGING CLAYMORES - Sergeant Thomas Besser cautiously moves about to string claymore mines around his position.  Once in position, the LRPs sit silently, constantly on the alert for the enemy.





Bessler2The role of the Long Range Patrol is twofold.  First, they are the eyes and the ears of the Tropic Lightning Division.  Recon teams observe enemy activity. Secondly, they harass the enemy, ambushing Charlie's patrols in his own backyard.  Delta Troop of the Cav also plays an important role with the LRPs.


REPORTING - Sergeant Thomas B. Besser pokes his head out of a tunnel to give a situation report to First Lieutenant Arthur J. Tomascheck, LRP team leader.



The Cav's gunships are also ready to help out and pursue any distress call from the team within ten minutes.

Story, Photos By SP5 Jerrel Jarvis