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War Stories

Aero-Rifles Drop In For Action - 22 March 1971



Vol 6 - No 6 - 22 March 1971

by SGT Mike Conroy


SGT John E. Cavender and PFC Jon E, Hagen (in background) - Aeroriflemen of F Troop 3/4 Cav

Light observation helicopters spot movement or suspected enemy activity. It is the mission of the aero-rifle platoon to investigate the suspected enemy activity.

Their gear ready, the aero-rifles are waiting on stand-by at Xuan Loc for a possible alert. Suddenly the radio crackles and details of the mission are given to the platoon Leader. The aero-riflemen run to the waiting ships. Within minutes the Cav men are air assaulted to the location indicated by the aerial observers.

Following the guidance of the heliborne observers, they probe the tangled brush and scattered bomb craters which abound in the area. M60 machine guns and M16 rifles suddenly break the stillness of the jungle as the men recon the area by fire. A Cobra gunship rolls in and pounds some bunkers with its deadly arsenal of rockets and mini-gun. A close inspection of the area reveals several abandoned enemy bunkers. The aero-rifles check each of the bunkers carefully and then destroy them. The enemy narrowly escaped but has been denied a permanent base operations. After a final inspection of the area, homeward bound choppers retrieve the aero-riflemen for a return flight to base camp.

The aero-rifles are a heliborne assault unit which is quick, tough, and effective. Wishing recent months the enemy in III Corps area has been working in small groups, hitting and moving away quickly. the best way to combat these small forces is by using small units of our own.

The aero-rifle platoon is broken down into squads with Vietnamese scouts. In addition, the aero-rifles have a light scout team with a light observation helicopter and a Cobra gunship at its disposal. The Cobra and LOH team usually determine the mission, the aero-riflemen accomplish them.

The main mission of the aero-rifles is to find, develop and exploit intelligence targets and provide quick reaction within the 2nd Bde, 25th Infantry Division tactical area of operation.

The light scout teams often operate independently. Once they detect a likely target through visual or electronic means, they radio to scramble the aero-rifle squads. When the Cavalrymen are inserted, the helicopter team is retained overhead and in front of them to provide visual reconnaissance and air security.

Since the insertion of the assuault team is most frequently based on immediate intelligence, the possibility of making contact with the enemy or of flushing the aggressors out of hiding is very high. If the enemy engages the aero-rifles, the light scout team provides close aerial fire support. If the enemy chooses to evade the aero-rifles the helicopters are free to engage the enemy as the attempt to escape.

Not all the missions of the aero-rifles and light scout teams are spur of the moment, however. There are many planned parties to gather information for future operations. The information frequently leads to almost immediate action on the part of the Cav. The speed and mobility of such tactics is their primary value.