Recondo is an American military term for RECONnaissance and commanDO for highly specialized infantry training or a graduate of a Recondo School who led small, heavily armed long-range reconnaissance teams that patrol deep in enemy-held territory.
In 1958 the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, Major General William Westmoreland, noticed a lack of proficiency in squad, fire team and patrol leaders during the exercise WHITE CLOUD. General Westmoreland was a veteran of the Normandy invasion and knew the importance of small unit leaders and individuals separated from their parent companies to take initiative against superior enemy forces.
The United States Army sent many of their officers and senior non-commissioned officers to the eight-week Ranger School. However, since not every unit leader could be sent to the course, Ranger School graduates were expected to train his platoon or squad members in Ranger tactics. Thus, when it was suggested to General Westmoreland that some of the 101st Airborne's Ranger trained personnel start a school for the entire division in Ranger tactics, Westmoreland recommended that Major Lewis L. Millett command the school.
Since the school would specialize in small unit reconnaissance tactics the Recondo insignia was designed to resemble a downward-pointing arrowhead to signify assault from the sky and the hunting and tracking skills of an American Indian. It was also white and black to signify day and night operations, though when wore in combat it was black and olive-drab. To distinguish soldiers trained in the States from those later trained in Vietnam, a large ‘V’ was added beneath the word ‘Recondo’ printed on top. The Recondo patch was worn on each graduate's breast pocket. To avoid confusion, the graduate of the school would be considered a "Recondo" rather than "Ranger" trained; the latter being a graduate of the Army Ranger School.
When General Westmoreland became commander of the American forces in the Vietnam War he ordered the creation of the MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang in 1966 to replace Project LEAPING LENA, later Project DELTA. It consisted of Ranger-trained 5th Special Forces Group instructors who trained American soldiers and Marines as well as members of other allied forces in the art of long-range reconnaissance patrolling techniques. Most students were experienced combat veterans, already LRRP or Force Recon trained at the divisional or brigade level, and were expected to complete this advanced course in order to become team leaders. The course required a high level of physical fitness, knowledge of patrolling techniques, land navigation and weapons usage, and concluded with an actual combat patrol to demonstrate the students' capabilities as a leader.
The three-week course averaged a failure rate of 50 percent. Recondo School was disbanded once General Westmoreland was replaced by General Creighton Abrams in 1970, who favored a more conventional approach to the war. However, Recondo School succeeded in graduating over 3,000 American and 333 allied troops.
- Westmoreland, William C. A Soldier Reports 1976 Doubleday
- Ankony, Robert C., Lurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri, revised ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Lanham, MD (2009), Chapter 19: Recondo.
- Ankony, Lurps: Recondo.
- "Feature - RECONDO". Vietnamgear.com. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- Ankony, Lurps: Recondo.
- "MACV Recondo School". Escort68.tripod.com. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- Gebhardt, James F. Eyes Behind the Lines 2005 Dianne Publishing, pp.66-67.