Where The Hell did The Word “Recondo” Come From?

Tiger Stripe Blasting Cap

Recondo (usually assumed to be a combination of the words Recon and Commando) was founded by Major General William Westmoreland in 1958 to ensure that the critical patrol and reconnaissance skills taught at the Army’s Ranger School were taught and reinforced throughout his command, which at the time was the 101st Airborne Division.

Westmoreland chose Major Lewis Millet to command the school, which was staffed by Ranger-qualified soldiers of the 101st.  At the time, Ranger School was eight weeks long and lacked the capacity to train soldiers in the numbers that Westmoreland wanted.  The original Recondo was between 2-4 weeks long (as it evolved), and trained soldiers in patrolling, navigation, demolitions, communications, hand to hand fighting, escape and evasion, and POW resistance (later scrapped after an Inspector General investigation).  Other units took this model and implemented it, including the US Military Academy at West Point, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 18th Airborne Corps, and the 25th Infantry Division.  Graduation rates for the 101st Recondo ran as low as 10 percent, with another 20 percent completing – but not graduating  – the course.

How are Rangers and Special Forces Different

By far the most famous – and dangerous – Recondo school was operated by Military Assistance Command – Vietnam from 1966 to 1970.  Instructed by members of the 5th Special Forces Group, MACV Recondo was three weeks long, encompassing over 260 hours of instruction.  The first two weeks mirrored many of the skills taught in previous Recondo courses, but the final week – dubbed “You Bet Your Life” – was an actual combat mission of opportunity.  This mission was planned and conducted by the students but graded by instructors – and the enemy.

Special Operations Truths

Clearly, the students learned something during their first two weeks: an article published in  Green Beret Magazine in 1968, two years into the school, stated that only two students had been lost to enemy fire at that time.  The MACV Recondo course didn’t just train US Army soldiers, though; over 300 friendly forces trained alongside the over 2,700 Americans that graduated.  Graduates received a patch and unique Recondo number upon graduation.  Graduation rates ran as high as 60%, although this number was somewhat inflated due to the fact that most MACV Recondo attendees had already attended and passed a rigorous unit selection and preparatory course beforehand.


Although Recondo was disbanded in 1970, its legacy remained.  The members who graduated usually returned to their home unit’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs or “Lurps”), and the common training they received at Recondo set the standard and ensured commonality among the many LRRPs spread across Vietnam.

The Secret Soldiers of Afghanistan and Iraq

Continuing their line of SOF tribute patches, RE Factor Tactical has just released their Recondo PVC patch, styled after the patch awarded to successful graduates of the MACV Recondo school.  Check it out in the store today!

Further reading:

Article from Green Beret Magazine, April 1968

Brief description of 101st Recondo Curriculum

The ever-popular Wikipedia

About the author

Joel is a 12-year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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Devil’s Brigade- Part 3- More Training, First Deployment

By Dominic Oto


The First Special Service Force (called “the Force”) was an elite World War II Canadian and American commando unit. This unique fighting force pioneered many of the skills that characterize U.S. Ranger and Special Forces today. It laid the groundwork for Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOF).

These special operations daredevils were trained in airborne, mountain, ski, amphibious, hand-to-hand combat, weapons and demolitions. Force men would operate in small, multi-skilled combat teams that were the origins of today’s Special Forces A-Teams.

Impossible Missions | The Devils Brigade Part 2

The Force was a unique and successful experiment in combining the troops of two allied nation armies. The Force was a truly integrated army of Canadian and American veterans and recruits.  The Force was much smaller than any U.S. Army division in World War II, its effects in combat made up for its small size. The First Special Service Force legacy is recognized today by the elite fighting forces of both the United States and Canada.

Change of Mission

By late July 1942, OPERATION PLOUGH had been streamlined. Now the mission focused on targets only in Norway.

More Training

Newly arrived as the Force’s executive officer, Colonel Paul D. Adams intensified the training. His strong and vigorous influence was felt immediately. The deadline for deployment was less than six months away. Calisthenics and obstacle course runs would become, the lighter moments in training that was grueling and intense. Thirty-mile marches with a 60-pound pack into the hills and mountains surrounding Fort Harrison were part of the routine.

“It was hard, and a lot of guys fell out. If you fell out there on a march, when we got in, that guy’s barracks bag was packed and waiting at the gate for him. He was gone,” remembers Force veteran James “Stoney” Wines, a Staff Sergeant, 5th Company, 2nd Regiment. 

Impossible Missions | The Devils Brigade Part 1

Parachute instruction, normally was four weeks long for airborne units, was condensed to just one week at Fort Harrison. Packing the chutes was assigned to a separate service battalion, which also handled all other support duties. This was done so the combat troops could concentrate on their battle training. Soldiers received their parachute wings after only two jumps. There was no time for more.

The men were trained in the use of their new snow vehicle dubbed “the weasel.” Canadian troops were taught to use American weapons, and for everyone, there was instruction in skiing, mountaineering, and demolitions.

But in September 1942, political support for OPERATION PLOUGH evaporated. The project was canceled. The hard training troops in Helena feared that their special unit would be disbanded. They were suddenly a commando force without a mission. When OPERATION PLOUGH was plowed under, Colonel Frederick then had to find a new assignment for the men.

Frederick looked everywhere. A new mission finally came up, but it took almost a year before the Force was deployed into combat.

First Assignment

The unit’s first assignment came in August 1943. The Force found itself on the on an outer island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain. Here the men prepared to spearhead a task force assigned to assault nearby Kiska Island occupied by Japan since 1942.

The Force now trained in amphibious assaults using rubber boats. The commandos fully expected a bloody confrontation with a fearsome enemy when they landed at night on August 15, 1943.

By morning it was clear that the Japanese had secretly evacuated the island just days earlier. Force soldiers placed American flags atop one of the Kiska’s hills. Force men found that the closest thing to an enemy soldier was a straw dummy.

History of Violence Patch Pack

The Force’s combat organization was organized into three six hundred man regiments. The first and third regiments made the landings on Kiska. The second regiment remained behind in reserve. Its men stood by with planes and parachutes to be dropped as relief soldiers wherever the fighting needed them the most.

“We were waiting for the call that they’d get us in order to plug the holes. The message came back, ‘Go to bed. We don’t need you,’” remembers one Force veteran.  “It was kind of a letdown because we were all uptight and ready to go. Then all of a sudden they say, ‘We don’t need you.’”

For its patience, the second regiment was promised a leading role in the Force’s next deployment. The troops were soon dispatched to the mountains of Italy. This is where their first blood would be drawn with a vengeance.

Works Cited:

Alderman, R., & Walton, G. (1966). The Devil’s Brigade . Philadelphia/New York : Chilton Books.

Werner, B. (2006). First Special Service Force, 1942-1944. New York City : Osprey Publishing.

About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.

How are the Rangers and Special Forces different?

By Dominic Oto

The U.S. Army’s 75th ranger regiment and the U.S. Army Special Forces are both Army units that are a part of the Special Operations Command. The units are different. Their table of organizations show the different types of missions they execute. Both organizations do different things for the Army. The confusion comes between Rangers and Special Forces because both units belong to the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

What are Rangers?


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The Rangers are infantrymen with special skills. Rangers are often the first soldiers into battle. They raid and take control of enemy bases. The Rangers are highly trained at capturing and securing airports and airfields. The Rangers are a quick strike force and the best light infantry force in the world. They are sometimes called “shock troops.”

Where the hell did the word “Recondo” come from?

Rangers are known for their physical strength and exceptional stamina. The Army has three infantry battalions and one special troops battalion forming the 75th Ranger Regiment. The soldiers of the Regiment are highly trained fighters. The Rangers are ready to go into battle anytime and anywhere.

What are the Special Forces?

Special Forces soldiers are trained for unconventional warfare and direct action missions. Direct action missions are what Rangers specialize in. Special Forces are known as the “Green Berets” because of their distinctive headgear.  The mission of Special Forces is to go behind enemy lines to train allies, gather intelligence, and carry out quick strikes.

Special Operations Truths

The motto of the Special Forces is “De Oppresso Liber.” It’s Latin for “To Free the Oppressed.” One feature that separates Special Forces from all other soldiers of the U.S. Army is that SF soldiers are not under the direct command of the American military commander in the countries they are fighting in.


Read Now

SF soldiers have direct action capability. But their mission is to convince and communicate with leaders in other countries. SF troops move ahead of conventional Army units in small teams of 12 commandos called an Operational Detachment Team-A or “A-Team.” Special Forces train troops in foreign countries that are allied with the United States. The SF mission of Internal Foreign Defense (training foreign soldiers) is something that the Rangers would never do.

An Introduction to Army Special Forces Training

How are they the same?

Both Special Forces and Rangers fight with many weapons. Machine guns and grenade launchers are used against enemy fighters. Both units are trained paratroopers. All Special Forces soldiers are trained in infantry tactics. Many Special Forces soldiers are former Rangers. Their unique missions set them apart. 

About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.

Shooting Drills to Maximize Your Range Experience

With the release of our new Human Resources Target, we have some great drills you can perform at the range.  The drills below require one setup for multiple scenarios.  Obviously, these drills can’t be performed at all ranges and should only be conducted by professionals.


Range Drill #1 (Pistol Suicides)

This drill is a smoker and designed to push your shooting capabilities to the max with a good mixture of marksmanship training, cardio training, and critical thinking.

Starting position:

The shooter starts with the pistol holstered at the 25m line (position #1)


At the buzzer, the shooter will draw and fire two rounds to the far left, white C triangle.  The shooter will then run to the 7m line (position #2) and fire two rounds to the far left red E circle.  The shooter will then run back to position #1 and fire two rounds to the blue D triangle, then run back to position #2 and fire two rounds to the green #4 circle.  The shooter will continue this trend of running from #1 to #2, shooting the targets from left to right.  At position #2 the shooter always shoots two rounds to the inverted triangle, at position #1 the shooter always shoots two rounds to the center circle.  The shooter will continue this trend until all of the targets have been engaged.

For more drills, check out our shooting drills page.


Your score is your overall time.  The time begins at the buzzer and ends when the shooter engages the final target to the far right in the white B circle.  Each miss out of the triangle is 1 second, each miss out of the circle is 2 seconds.

Range Drill #2 (Simon says)

This drill can be conducted either with a pistol or a rifle.   This drill is designed to get the shooter to think before shooting.  During the drill, the shooter must read a card that will identify a sub-target that they must shoot.  For the drill get a stack of 3 x 5 cards.  On each card write down one sub-target that appears on the targets.   These should be written out in different manners. Example: the first card reads “Red 1 Triangle”, the second card reads “white T box”, the third card reads “furthest blue triangle to the right” and the fourth card reads “the square with a 7 in it”.   You will notice that each of those targets are unique.

Set up:

One person stands at position #2 with the 3 x 5 cards.  The shooter starts at position #1.


At the buzzer, the shooter runs to position #2.  When the shooter arrives, the person standing at position #2 holds up a card.  The shooter than engages the corresponding target.

This is the basic form of the drill.  You can greatly tailor the drill from here to include having the person at position #2 hold up several cards that the shooter must engage.  You can also write the specific number of times the shooter should engage each target.  For example, write “2 rounds to the red E circle”.

Note: We purposefully leave this drill open to give you the ability to advance based on the skill level of the shooter.  This is one of those drills that’s only limited by your imagination.  If you would like to see a more structured drill layout be sure to check out our Dead Man’s Hands and corresponding IQ Targets.

If you would like to purchase our Human Resources Target shown in the photo above click here.