LRS – Long Range Surveillance Units
Long Range Surveillance (LRS) (pronounced “lurse”) units are specially-trained surveillance units of the United States Army that are employed by Military Intelligence units for gathering information from deep within hostile territory. Classic LRS employment is to infiltrate deep into enemy territory, construct a hide site, and provide continuous surveillance/special reconnaissance of an intelligence target of key interest. LRS teams allow 24-hour surveillance and analysis coverage unlike Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), manned aircraft, and most satellites. Assuming there is no mission compromise, these teams typically remain in position for up to 5 days, as determined by the available food and water supplies. LRSUs operate up to 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the Forward Line Of Troops (FLOT) for a maximum of 5 days.
Today’s Long Range Surveillance Units (LRSUs) trace their origin to the US Army’s Long Range Reconnaissance Units (LRRPs). During the Late 1950′s, with the Cold War beginning to heat up, the US and NATO feared the possible outbreak of war with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pack allies. In the event such a situation arose, the US would need a unit capable of providing it with information on the situation deep in the enemy’s area. This information would be critical in any future conflict arising in Europe. Allied Units stationed in Germany had units capable of providing them with this type of information.
In 1958 the first LRRP units were formed by 7th Army and assigned to V and VII Corps. The units were designated as the 3779 and 3780 US Army LRRP Companies. Both units were commanded by Majors. Initial volunteers were selected from thoughout 7th Army, but were primarily drawn from airborne units of the 8th Infantry Division. Each unit consisted of a small HQ, a communications platoon. and two patrol platoons. The patrol platoons consisted of eight four man patrols. Both units were capable of conducting airborne and airmobile operations; surviving for long periods of time, with little or no outside support; and were highly skilled in long range communications skills. What was generallly unkown at the time was that unit members were also secretly trained in deploying Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADMs). In 1965 both units were redesigned and moved to the continental US. If war broke out in Europe the units would deploy and provide information to their respective US commanders.
As the US increased its commitment to the war in Vietnam , it began to deploy large numbers of combat troops. These troops soon found that they had entered combat with inadequate reconnaissance resources. Soon unit commanders began forming provisional reconnaissance units. These units were designated as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols or LRRP’s. Eventually units were granted the authority to form permanent LRRP units. Divisions were authorized LRRP companies, and separate Brigades LRRP detachments.
Personnel were initially drawn from the Divisional or Brigade cavalry, scout, or anti-tank units. Many if the personnel selected were graduates of the Ranger School, or the Jungle Warfare School in Panama, but most received their training on the job or from the MAC/V RECONDO School. Rapidly expandingoperations caused some LRRP units to field members who had not attended school, however, and in some cases teams were sent to the field with one or two members who had never patrolled in the jungle before.
The MAC/V RECONDO (Reconnaissance Commando) School was formed at the request of Gen. Westmoreland, the commander of US Troops in Vietnam. The School was staffed by members of the 5th SFG (Abn). During a three week course of instruction, students were taught various reconnaissance and patrolling techniques. Many of the instructors had also attended the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia. Students included troops from the USMC, US Army, RTMC, RT Army SF, ROK Recon Marines, Vietnamese SF and Rangers. As a final graduation exercise students were required to conduct an actual combat patrol under the supervision of instructors.
LRRP’s usually operated in four to eight man patrols. The LRRP units provided ground force commanders with intelligence on the tactical situation in their areas of responsibility (AOR). LRRPs units were also tasked with a number of direct action (DA) missions. Units attacked Viet Cong (VC) supply areas, tracked enemy units, directed air strikes, and harassed the VC. During the course of the war, all LRRP units in Vietnam were redesigned as rangers, and made separate companies of the 75 Infantry Regiment. With the US withdrawal from the conflict in Vietnam most of the LRRP/Ranger units were disbanded. By the end of the war, only two ranger units remained on active duty.
During the early eighties, the US Army once again found it self lacking a deep reconnaissance unit. After conducting a brief study, it was decided that the activation of a LRRP type unit would best meet the Army’s needs. While debating the structure of the new units, senior Army officers felt that the name LRRP was to closely associated with the conflict in Vietnam. After a short debate the designation of Long Range Surveillance Units was chosen.
Unlike the Ranger units, that they are so commonly confused with, LRSUs perform passive intelligence gathering missions, and are not equipped for offensive combat operations. LRSUs take grate pains to avoid being detected. LRS units provide US Army divisions, and Corps with the ability to deploy reconnaissance patrols deep into the enemy’s rear. Operating as six man teams, LRSU teams are trained extensively in long range communications, survival, covert observation, and various infiltration techniques. Many LRSU unit members are qualified in HALO/HAHO and combat diving skills. In certain situations they may also engage in stay behind operations. Units are capable of being infiltrated on foot, by aircraft, parachute, or small boats. Units may be deployed up to 150 miles behind enemy lines. They are expected to operate on there own, for up to thirty days. Team members are capable of providing bomb damage assessments; directing artillery fire; targeting emery antiaircraft systems for destruction; and locating enemy troop concentrations.
Each Army Corps is authorized a Long Rang Surveillance Company (LRSC), and each Division a Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRSD). LRSC’s have a large headquarters plt. a communications plt., and two patrol platoons. LRSD’s have a smaller number of teams authorized per a patrol plt. Active Army LRSU’s are assigned to there parent units military intelligence (MI) unit. Army National Guard LRSU’s are assigned to there divisional cavalry squadrons.
Many LRSU members are graduates of the International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School. Based in Germany, the school is jointly funded, and staffed by personnel from England, Germany, the USA, and the Netherlands. The US Army also runs a Long Range Surveillance Leaders Course (LRSLC), for LRSU team leaders and officers. Allied troops and members of other services my attend on a space available basis. The course is run by Co.D, 4th. Ranger Training Bn. Co-located with the US Army Ranger School, at Ft. Benning, GA., the school’s cadre provides instruction in a wide range of skills. The course includes instruction in techniques for constructing underground hide sites; escape and evasion methods; identifying threat equipment, aircraft and personnel even while camouflaged; improvised long range communications; basic and advanced field craft, and various other skills. All of this topped off by a realistic field training exercise (FTX). LRS units, or units with similar type missions, have been deployed during most major combat operations since there inception, during early eighties. The 82 Abn. Div’s. 2/17 Cav. deployed a LRS type unit, during Operation Urgent Fury. Operation Desert Stormallowed a number of LRS units the opportunity to deploy, for there first combat missions. LRS teams from various LRSUs assigned to VII Corps and XVIII Abn Corps were infiltrated deep into Iraqi territory. The teams reported on Iraqi troop movements, weather conditions on the ground and any other information deemed pertinent.
A LRS from the 101st narrowly avoided being captured by Iraqi troops. The team had been directing Allied aircraft onto Iraqi troop positions with increasing accuracy, and the Iraqis became suspicious. They deployed patrols to the area they suspected of containing US ground troops. As the Iraqis closed in on there position, the teams commander called for an immediate extraction. US transport and helicopters and Apache gunships arrived on the scene just as the Iraqis were climbing on the hill the team had hidden. The team scrambled aboard the transport aircraft as the Apaches destroyed two of the vehicles tracking the LRS team. No one on board relaxed until they were safely across the Saudi border. Another LRS team, assigned to the 24th ID (M), was able to avoid detection by Iraqi patrols that came within feet of its position.
LRS teams from the 10th Mtn. Div. (L) deployed to Somalia, and operated though out the country. During the planned US Invasion of Haiti LRS teams assigned to XVIII Corps units stood ready to execute any mission they were assigned. European, and US based LRS teams have also been active though out Bosnia in the last few years, and in April of 2000 the Secretary of Defense order the deployment of a LRS unit to Kososvo to support ongoing NATO peace keeping efforts in the former Yougosloavian nation.
LRSUs have also deployed teams, to help support counter-drug operations, along the US boarder. During these counter drug missions the teams operate in conjunction with local and federal law enforcement agencies. LRS teams track the movements of illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico, and emplace sensors along trails known to be used by drug smugglers.
The US Army runs a Long Range Surveillance Leaders Course (LRSLC) for LRSU team leaders and officers. Allied troops and members of other services my attend on a space available basis. The course is run by Co.D, 4th. Ranger Training Bn. Colocated with the US Army Ranger School, at Ft. Benning, GA., the school’s cadre provides instruction in a wide range of skills. The course includes instruction in techniques for constructing underground hide sites; escape and evasion methods; identifying threat equipment, aircraft and personnel even while camouflaged; improvised long range communications; basic and advanced field craft, and various other skills. All of this topped off by a realistic field training exercise (FTX). Many LRSU members are also graduates of the International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School. Based in Germany, the school is jointly funded, and staffed by personnel from England, Germany, the USA, and the Netherlands.
Recently the schools training staff has discussed modifying the course of instruction. Under the new training guide lines, instruction would be broken down into four separate sub courses, each course geared to a specific skill level. Soldiers who have been newly assigned to LRS units would attend a Basic Reconnaissance Course, with NCOs and senior staff members each attending a course designed specifically to enhance there skills. The cadre would also provide an advanced enemy equipment recognition course.
US LRSUs conduct training exercises and exchange programs with various US allies. In recent years these exercises have included deployments to England, Germany, and Italy. Joint training exercises have involved units from British TA SAS, France’s 13 RDP, Belgium’s ESR, Italy’s 9 Para Assault Regiment and Germany’s Long Range Scout Companies.