Note: This material is from the original Geocities Tour of Duty Advisor’s website.
In Vietnam, the primary fighting element was the infantry battalion. For the Army, this was an organization of about 500 men, commanded by a lieutenant-colonel. His second-in command (executive officer or “XO”) was a major. The battalion’s senior non-commissioned officer (sergeant) held the rank and title of Sergeant-Major. He’s the boss of all the sergeants in the battalion.
At the time of Tour of Duty, 1967-68, an Army infantry battalion was composed of five companies. These were a HHC (Headquarters and Headquarters Company) and four rifle companies, A, B, C and D (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta.)
HHC was a rear echelon unit and included the battalion’s Transportation section (Motorpool), Personnel section, Mess section, Communications section, the battalion surgeon’s Medical section, etc. Also available, in case you need them, are a variety of support weapons, which will be discussed later.
Each rifle company comprised about a hundred men and was commanded by a captain. His XO was a first lieutenant, and his senior NCO held the title and rank of first sergeant (nicknamed “Top,” short for “top sergeant”). They normally worked in the rear, fighting the paperwork battle, while the captain commanded in the field.
Each of the four rifle companies was in turn, composed of three platoons.
Each platoon was supposed to be about thirty-five men strong. Each was commanded by a second lieutenant whose position was called “Platoon Leader.” His senior NCO held the position called “Platoon Sergeant.” The platoon, depending on casualties (combat units are always understrength) was composed of 3 squads.
That is the full word, “squad”, by the way. It is NOT an abbreviation for “squadron,” which is an Air Force/Cavalry term. Each squad was supposed to consist of about a dozen men, but usually was at about 2/3rd strength. (In fact, all of these units were supposed to be larger than I have described.) The squad Leader was a sergeant. Under his command were a radioman (RTO-“Radio Telephone Operator) an M-60 machine gunner, an assistant gunner, and an M-79 grenadier. Everyone else was a rifleman. This was for the Army. The Marines did things somewhat differently.
The Tour of Duty Unit
Our unit in TOD, the first season anyway, is the Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, of the fictional 44th Infantry Regiment. Members would say they were part of “Bravo, Third, Forty-fourth,” or of “Bravo, Third, of the Forty-fourth.” The “3/44th Infantry” is commanded by Lt-Col Dalby. Bravo Company, 3/44th, is commanded by Capt. Wallace. “Our” platoon leader is 2LT Goldman, assisted by a platoon sergeant (Staff Sergeant Anderson).
The fictional “3/44th Infantry” is a component of the real 196th Light Infantry Brigade, nicknamed “Chargers.” In turn, the 196th Brigade was assigned to the real 23rd (AMERICAL) Infantry Division. The name AMERICAL is a WW II acronym that originally stood for “AMERIcan troops in New CALedonia”, the Pacific Island where the Division was formed in WW II. The AMERICAL Division was the only US division formed overseas in WW II, the only one, of about 80, that never served on American soil. The AMERICAL was re-formed in Vietnam in the fall of 1967 by putting together smaller units already in-country. It was not considered a very good unit in Vietnam. (Oddly, two of its officers, Norman Schwartzkopf and Collin Powell, reached very high rank in the postwar military.)
Those wishing to know more about the real 196th Light Infantry Brigade and the AMERICAL Division might want to check these links:
Note: There have been a number of changes in Army Organization, acronyms and even the proper spelling of rank abbreviations since Vietnam. As this is beyond the interest of Vietnam fiction writers. I am using the period information.