Pulled from the JUN-AUG edition of Infantry Magazine. There are a couple of spaces etc from the copy paste.
The Alamo scouts article references are also listed.
LRSUS IN THE CURRENT OE
CPT THOMAS W. DOHERTY
The helicopter fl ares but unlike
the previous two times, this time
it hovers just above ground level.
Out jump six men; two steps and they are
prone. The bird lifts off almost as if it never
stopped. Silence ensues without a word,
and the six men move to a position of cover.
The team listens and adjusts to their new
environment; they move out towards their
objective. When they are one terrain feature
away, they call up their insertion and say
goodbye to the birds. They are now on their
own. If contact is made, they will have to
call for help, and the nearest friendly unit
is 100 kilometers away on the other side of
the enemy’s defensive line.
Long Range Surveillance Unit
The scenario described above was based
on doctrine but doesn’t refl ect current
LRS missions. In the current operational
environment (OE), how do we use this corplevel
asset called a long range surveillance
unit? The doctrinites are at a loss as the
traditional forward line of troops (FLOT)
does not exist. The glory seekers want to
be used as a direct action (DA) unit. Others
want them to perform only the most passive
of the reconnaissance subtasks, which will
not result in enemy contact. I propose a
different tactic — that they be used as the
conventional commander’s personal “Spec
LRS missions are usually in the
“hinterland” where other conventional
forces are loath to go. Just like Special
Forces units, LRS units have to be well
rounded and able to take care of themselves.
They often work in small teams with the
quick reaction force (QRF) hours away.
They have to be a mixture of several things
— part fi eld mechanic, part explosive
ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, part
off-road driving expert, part diplomat, and
Where is today’s FLOT? One hint is
when battlespace owners consider part
of that battlespace to be “too far away.”
Another way to look at it is to draw a line on
a map from forward operating base (FOB)
to FOB. You could include the smaller
fi re bases (FBs), but in a lot of cases these
could be considered the same as a listening
point (LP)/observation point (OP). It is
the commander’s discretion. Either way
you are left with large chunks of land
without a U.S. presence. This trace could
therefore be used to help defi ne a FLOT.
Shade in normal coalition force (CF) patrol
routes, and the blank area is the LRS area
of operations (AO). With that being said,
a LRSU can be used to augment certain
operations and units. There is no such
thing as “no-go” terrain for a LRSU. For
example, if a LRS platoon was staged at a
FOB in Helmand Province, Afghanistan,
reach in the entire province, assisting with
reconnaissance operations well in front of
the frontline trace of other CF elements.
The mountains on the Pakistan boarder are
actually ideal LRS terrain.
A quick look at the basic make up of
both a LRSU and an SF battalion shows that
while the teams are different sizes, they both
have similar positions authorized (military
freefall, combat diver, and mountain
warfare). The big differences are in
human intelligence (HUMINT) and signal
intelligence (SIGINT) assets and specifi ed
training in host nation interactions.
Where then could a LRSU make up
the difference in intelligence-gathering
capabilities? LRSUs are now a part of
reconnaissance, surveillance, and target
acquisition (RSTA) squadrons in the
battlefi eld surveillance brigades (BFSB).
This unique relationship has only one
benefi t — the BFSBs are full of intelligence
assets such as HUMINT collection teams
(HCTs) and multi-functional teams (MFTs).
By augmenting the LRS with these assets,
you now have a comparably capable unit
that is directly under the conventional
commander’s control. At that point, there is
little in the role of intelligence gathering and
direct action that can not be performed by a
LRSU. Actually, the problem commanders
must now resist is the pitfall of using the
unit as their own personal DA element
instead of having them gather intelligence.
How then do we get LRSUs to a level in
which the commander has the confi dence
to use them fully? First, the discrepancies
between the modifi ed table of organization
and equipment (MTOE) slots and the reality
in schooling must be fi xed. LRS units fi ght
a two-front war: they fi ght the Military
Intelligence brigades to get slots to schools,
and then they fi ght to get into the schools
controlled by Special Forces (i.e. Combat
Diver Qualifi cation Course and Military
Freefall [MFF] Course). One possibility
may be to conduct an MFF mobile training
team (MTT) with a built-in challenge
program for all the LRSUs to conduct at one
time. After that, the school slots become a
manning maintenance issue. Then there are
the other schools (Mountaineer, Pathfinder,
Airborne, Ranger, etc.). This is simply a
matter of getting the proper slots and getting
Soldiers there. Now some are going to argue
that LRSU Soldiers just want the schools.
Remember, the “Joes” didn’t write the
MTOE; if “HIGHER” did not want them to
have the schooling, they never should have
been put into the paragraph line numbers.
In addition to fi xing discrepancies in
training, let’s look at mission requirements.
In the past, host nation (HN) interaction
was the hallmark of SF. Now, however, the
Special Forces have all but handed over
HN training to conventional forces. The
rmy has stood up multiple acronym teams
(military transition teams [MiTTs], border
transition teams [BTTs], police transition
teams [PTTs], etc), and battlespace owners
from a variety of branches have taken
charge of most interactions with the host
nation. Working with foreign nationals is
no longer a predominantly SF-centric task.
Proper cultural training should be given
to LRS offi cers and NCOs. In addition to
training, newly commissioned former SF
NCOs with their specialized training and
qualifi cations could be assigned to LRSUs.
Intelligence gathering is a huge part
of a LRSU’s mission. Traditionally, this
was done through surveillance of targets.
Having seen the fi reworks after a LRS
platoon leader accidentally wrote “Source
says ...” instead of “person x says …” in
his situation report (SITREP), there is a
need to validate the intelligence gathered
by a LRSU. Attaching a small deployable
intelligence support element (DISE), HCT,
or MFT to the LRSU will help with the
legal issue of saying “source” and allow
the intelligence to be written in the correct
formats. Some fusion cells have stated they
enjoy reading the daily reports sent in by
LRS elements. This is partially because it
is a “no-garbage-this-is-what-I-saw-today”
report from places other CF units do not
go. It should also be transferred to offi cial
formats for digestion by higher echelon
elements. The Army has a long proud
history of ignoring reconnaissance assets
that report contrary to the S2/G2 enemy
situation templates (SITEMPS); this will
aid in getting through that organizational
friction. The intelligence gathered can then
be used to refi ne the techniques to be used
on targets to refi ne the intelligence, whether
it is surveillance, “read on” techniques, or
other ISR assets.
Surveillance missions are simply the
LRS version of a special reconnaissance
(SR) mission. Special operations units are
supposed to be used in a deeper fi ght than
the LRSU. However, since we theoretically
control Iraq and Afghanistan, that becomes
a moot point. If any authorization did
come in for neighboring areas, the LRSU
is doctrinally allowed 100 kilometers into
“enemy” or in this case nonpermissive
territory. The properly supported LRSU
communications and photo capabilities are
on par and in some cases superior to the
SF capabilities. Both can send video and
photos using a variety of capabilities.
By doctrine DA missions are performed by
special operations units. On the conventional
side, they are simply called raids. A LRSU is
doctrinally allowed to conduct “emergency
assaults.” No matter what you want to call
it on your PowerPoint slide, we are talking
about Soldiers attacking in some form an
enemy element. Here is where most historical
commanders have failed in the past — selfrestraint.
As we have already discussed, at the core a
LRS Soldier is an Infantryman. He craves the
fi ght. But the value of the LRS Soldier is his
ability to gather information in multiple forms
from anywhere. The LRS Soldier should be
used sparingly as an “assaulter.” He should,
however, not be restricted from acting as such
when the situation warrants it. For example,
when 17 Scania trucks drive across the Syrian
border and the battlespace owner (in this case
a Cavalry unit) is unable to interdict due to an
inability to drive at night, the LRS element on
hand should be allowed to interdict that convoy.
However, a LRS element should not be kept
on strip alert for possible time sensitive targets
within range of other CF units. Other units
should be used for that mission, freeing the
LRSU to gather intelligence for more targets.
“Read on” projects are a point of interest also.
Due to the far reaching capabilities and area of
operation of a LRSU, they should be read on
and off of projects as the theater commander
or C2 sees fi t. For obvious reasons we will not
delve into this area deeply except to point out
they have a history of performing these tasks in
multiple wars including Iraq.
A LRSU is an extremely versatile element
that is capable of doing things no other
conventional unit can. They are underutilized or
sometimes worse — misused by commanders who
do not understand them and their function on the
battlefi eld. When treated as the corps asset they
are, the corps commander can easily weigh his
options with the amount of intelligence gathered
from places other units cannot or will not go.
CPT Thomas Doherty is currently serving as a
observer/controller at the Joint Readiness Training
Center at Fort Polk, La. He was commissioned from
the Arkansas National Guard Offi cer Candidate School
and is a graduate of Campbell University. His enlisted
assignments include serving with the 3rd Ranger
Battalion and 7th Special Forces Group where he
deployed twice each to Colombia and Afghanistan. Upon
receiving his commission, he served twice as platoon
leader in F Company, 51st Long Range Surveillance,
which included a deployment to Iraq during the surge.
RAID AT ORMOC
CPT THOMAS W. DOHERTY
AN ALAMO SCOUT MISSION DURING WWII
The following is a historical account of a mission conducted by a predecessor
of today’s long range surveillance units — the Alamo Scouts. “Faced with a need
for specifi c, reliable information in the dense jungles of the (Pacifi c) theater, Sixth
Army in November 1943 activated the Alamo Scouts to obtain strategic intelligence
and to perform other covert operations within Sixth Army’s operational area”
(U.S. Army Special Operations in World War II by David W. Hogan, Jr).
6 November 1944 Peering out into the darkness with its onboard radar, the boat made almost
entirely of engine, wood, and aluminum glided through enemy waters.
The darkness helped conceal the shape of the PT (patrol torpedo) boat
and its special cargo. Suddenly the radar picked up a Japanese destroyer sitting
directly in the boat’s path. The alarm was raised, and everyone moved to their
battle stations. A map check solved the problem; it was a large rock well above
the water line. Realizing their mistake, the skipper ordered the torpedo men to
stand down but maintained battle stations as they continued on. The PT boat
rounded the northern tip of Leyte Island and glided into Carigara Bay. The skipper
muffl ed the exhaust on the three large Packard engines in order to reduce their
noise signature. Finding the insertion area near Abijao, they turned toward the
shoreline. Suddenly there was a blinking light from shore: dot dash dot, dot, dash
dot dot (RED in Morse code), according to Larry Alexander in his book Shadows
in the Jungle. Slowly and cautiously, the PT boat turned towards the light with
all weapons at the ready, anticipating a possible Japanese ambush. As they pulled
closer, they started to make out lights and then buildings and people. 1LT Robert
S. Sumner, leader of the Sumner Team, turned to PFC Edward Renhols and said,
“Flash scouts ashore,’’ according to Alexander. The longest Alamo Scout mission
in World War II had begun.
The guerillas realized the Americans had arrived and cheered; they then
established a security perimeter. The scouts sprung into action. This was not their
fi rst amphibious infi ltration in the middle of the night onto an enemy-controlled
island. They infl ated a rubber boat, but unlike previous times they had two tons of
weapons and ammunition with them.
Sumner and part of his team rowed to shore where he was unceremoniously
lifted out of the raft by the guerrillas and carried to shore. There, he met MAJ
Jose Nazareno, commander of the 2/96 Infantry Regiment, a Philippine guerrilla
unit. They discussed the equipment and how to get it to shore. Nazareno then
ordered some of the guerrillas to assist with unloading the weapons and ammo
using a type of local canoe called a barato. Then he presented a gift to Sumner:
two captured Japanese soldiers to be brought back for interrogation.
In the process of moving the equipment, the PT boat came about beam to
shore. This sudden move threw several people into the water including SGT
Lawrence Coleman, whose hand was cut to the bone by one of the boat’s screws.
After examining the wound, Sumner was forced to order him to stay with the PT
boat and return to base, scrubbing him from the mission. This casualty brought
the Sumner team down to six Alamo Scouts and a three-man Filipino radio team.
After 45 nervous minutes exposed in the water, the team and their guerilla allies
moved to the village of Abijao, where the scouts were welcomed like royalty.
Surprisingly, more than 600 people crowded the streets celebrating the return
of Americans. An extremely noisy party ensued in the middle of
a Japanese-controlled island. To maintain security, the guerillas
established an early warning (EW) system on all roads and trails
leading to the village.
That night they slept in a local house whose owner told them
how happy he was to see them after what the Japanese had done
to them. Three hours later a sudden reveille was sounded using a
cavalry bugle. After eating a large breakfast of local cuisine, the
team issued out the weapons and ammo they had brought. Two
companies of guerrillas were armed, but this did nothing for their
lack of clothing and supplemental gear. On the march to Matag Ob
Barrio, they were assisted by a company of guerrillas and a group
of local militia called the Volunteer Guards (VG). The VG were a
paramilitary-type organization drawn from the local villages; their
size depended on the size of the village. They were the manual
labor arm and casualty replacement for the main line guerrilla
units. With the VG in place, they began the march to Matag Ob at
0800. Along the way, they were greeted by natives and showered
with questions and gifts of chickens and eggs.
The Sumner team’s route passed by San Isidro. Sumner ordered
CPL Robert Schermerhorn and PFC Paul Jones to establish a
radio relay station to pass information to higher headquarter. The
remaining four scouts continued the mission with the second
radio. Upon reaching Matag Ob, the team was treated to another
party. The guerrilla’s EW system was again emplaced to detect
any Japanese threats. During the festivities, Sumner and Nazareno
held a meeting and made a list of supplies to be air dropped to
the guerrillas. A message was sent to request enough weapons,
ammunition, web gear, and clothing to outfi t 200 men. The supplies
are to be dropped near the village of Mas-in.
The need for training and ammo was highlighted following
several short but sharp skirmishes with Japanese patrols. “The
guerrillas use as much ammo as a unit twice their size,” noted a
representative of the Alamo Scouts Association. A large amount of
ammunition was used, and the Japanese now knew the Americans
were on the island.
Once at Mas-in, the guerrillas hacked out and marked a drop
zone (DZ). Three C-47s arrived at 1400. The planes dropped 36
bundles loaded with weapons, ammunition, coffee, cigarettes, and
even Stars and Stripes and Life magazines. They quickly cleared
the DZ and moved to a more secure area. They then spent a couple
days in the Mas-in area. Sumner established a human intelligence
network to report on Japanese activity. The team then split again
with CPL William Blaise left to man the radio and maintain contact
with the fi rst element.
Sumner and the others moved to an observation point at Puerto
Bello. From there they observed enemy activity around Ormoc.
There were some concerns about ‘Makapilis’ or Filipinos who
collaborated with the Japanese. However, the guerrillas maintained
a constant watch on those suspected of collaborating. The team
spent a couple of weeks using a house on stilts as its command
post (CP). As the naval and air battles ensued off Leyte Island,
the guerrillas brought captured Japanese seaman and airmen to the
team for questioning.
After a couple of weeks, the Japanese decided they had to
eliminate that problem in their backyard. Using a combined
amphibious and land pincer movement, they attempted to encircle
the team and its guerrilla support. However, the guerrilla EW
system warned Sumner that he had enemy units on two sides at
about a mile away. The team packed up and started moving to
Mount Naguang where there was a more defensible position. A
radio signal was sent to Sixth Army telling them they would be
out of contact for several days and that another air drop would be
needed when they stop. Then the sight was broken down, and they
escaped and evaded the Japanese trap.
By the time the team evaded the Japanese, they were critically
low on ammo, only having enough for one more short fi refi ght.
On 18 November another air drop was conducted. Sumner also
used this opportunity to help repay the locals. He requested items
that threw the supply system into a clamor: sewing needles. The
locals had been without sewing needles since 1943. They had
sewing machines, but the ability to produce clothes had come to a
standstill without the needles. The sewing needles were dutifully
obtained by the scout’s unconventional supply system. Sumner
made a gift of the needles and silk parachutes to the locals. Then,
resupplied, the team and their guerrilla counterparts continued to
evade Japanese patrols.
A near disaster struck when the team’s radio became inoperable,
and they were unable to contact Sixth Army. They halted near
Valencia as the team weighed their options. Then the answer, quite
literally, fell into their laps. A disoriented fi ghter plane passed over
and parachuted out a radio with extra tubes. Even stranger, it was
a Japanese airplane and radio. To further add to the unpredictable
fortunes of war, the radio was fi xed a few days later with yet
another mis-dropped radio.
As the guerrillas gathered intelligence, the Japanese were not
the only ones found. The team also liberated fi ve downed U.S.
airman who were found living it up with the natives. They sent
them with a guerrilla detachment back to San Isidro so they could
continue their war efforts. Then the team set up a new CP on mount
Naguang in a village called Cagdaat. The new CP had a separate
radio room, a newly cleared DZ, and even a spring fed pool nearby.
As the team continued gathering intelligence and relaying it to
Sixth Army HQ, reports started coming in about a camoufl aged
warehouse complex next to Ormoc. Air strikes were called in but
failed to hit the warehouses with their stores of ammunition and
food. Then, the Alamo Scouts once again proved their direct action
Sumner met with Nazareno and discussed planning for the
raid. Another airdrop was necessary; this time explosives and
equipment were needed to conduct a raid on the warehouses. They
decided to bring in the best guerrillas to form a company-size force
of men for the sensitive mission. The guerrilla force had a lot of
former Philippine scouts in its ranks; these men formed the back
bone of the raid force. The men were set up in a similar fashion
to the U.S. units with a company consisting of three platoons
with three squads each. Each squad consisted of nine men, one
of which carried some form of automatic weapon. Due to a lack
of heavy weapons, there was no weapons platoon. However, they
did bring a captured Japanese 82mm mortar with parachute fl ares.
The scouts conducted a detailed reconnaissance of the warehouse
complex while the guerrillas gathered their men. By the time the
guerrillas arrived, the scouts had a detailed layout of the complex
and fi gured out the guard scheduling and manning. After a couple
days of training and rehearsals, they were ready.
The raid company arrived in its assault position in the evening,
and at 2200 they began the raid. Members of 3rd Platoon set up
a support-by-fi re position roughly 200 yards from the front gate.
Then, 1st and 2nd Platoons snuck in and killed the guards on duty
by knife. One squad was set up in front of the guard shack but
was ordered not to engage unless the Japanese soldiers tried to
come out; any shooting meant the scouts would have to abort the
mission. The rest of the force then snuck in and placed charges of
TNT on fi ve-minute fuses around the warehouses. Once completed,
Sumner gave the order, and the initiators were pulled. Sumner then
ordered the guerrillas to pull out. Once outside, a quick head count
was conducted, and the entire force began to retreat. The total time
on target was 15 minutes.
The company was about half a kilometer away when the
explosions occurred. They stopped to admire their work. Huge
fi res erupted; that’s when they fi gured out all those bags of rice
and boxes of ammo were piled on top of 55-gallon drums of
fuel. Some of the explosions lit fi res which started burning the
camoufl age netting. Realizing they were still too close, the group
retreated. Other than some blind fi ring by the Japanese, there was
no shooting. The guerrillas and scouts all made it back to base
the next morning. Retaliation was swift; the Japanese tortured
and killed civilians to get them to turn over the Americans. No
Now that the ground work was laid, the 77th Infantry Division
was ordered to attack the island of Leyte at Ormoc. Sumner
received a heads up and moved to a position to watch the show.
The scouts watched the landings and the encounter between
the Japanese and American air and naval forces. The Japanese
simultaneously tried to reinforce the garrison as the beach
landings were occurring. A large air, land, and sea battle ensued.
The Japanese received the worst of it but the Americans did not
go unscathed. After a hard fought land battle, Ormoc fell to the
Sumner was then ordered to report to MG Andrew Bruce,
commander of the 77th Division. Sumner brought some of the
guerrilla intelligence personnel to the meeting. The scouts and
guerrillas answered intelligence questions and had dinner with
the general and his staff, who surprisingly did not eat as well
as the scouts did on the economy. Sumner linked back up with
his team. Having Americans on the island raised other problems.
The Japanese were pushed into guerrilla areas, and fi refi ghts
began increasing. As the 1st Cavalry landed on the island, it got
so restrictive that Sumner called up 6th Army HQ and told them
he was ending the mission. He then received orders to leave the
radio with the guerrillas and hand them off to the 77th Division.
Sumner’s team moved to friendly lines and attempted to make
contact but was shot at by Soldiers of 307th Infantry Regiment.
The scouts pull back to a nearby town, and Sumner decided it
was time to look more like Americans. He ordered the team to
clean and polish their boots, press their uniforms, cut their hair,
and shave. He told his team that they would cross the line after
41 days in the bush looking like they were walking off the parade
ground. The next morning that is exactly what they did. With spitshined
boots on, they made contact with the American forces and
walked across the line with their heads held high.
Alamo Scouts Association; www.alamoscouts.org
Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander. New York: New
American Library, 2009.
Silent Warriors of World War II by Lance Q. Zedric. Ventura,
CA: Pathfi nder Pub of California, 1995.
CPT Thomas Doherty is currently serving as a observer/controller at
the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. He was commissioned
from the Arkansas National Guard Offi cer Candidate School and is a
graduate of Campbell University. His enlisted assignments include serving
with the 3rd Ranger Battalion and 7th Special Forces Group where he
deployed twice each to Colombia and Afghanistan. Upon receiving his
commission, he served twice as platoon leader in F Company, 51st Long
Range Surveillance, which included a deployment to Iraq during the surge.