Imagine the plight of the average infantryman newly-arrived in Vietnam. Most had just eight weeks of Basic Infantry Training and eight weeks of Advanced Infantry Training. None of it had occurred in anything remotely resembling the climate of Vietnam, especially the humidity of the Mekong Delta.
Over the years, I have wondered why our soldiers were not sent to U.S. Army bases in Panama, the Philippines, or Thailand, to better prepare us for our tours of duty in Vietnam. I have wondered how many lives could have been saved and how much more combat prepared we would have been. We will never know.
Fortunately, shortly after command of the 9th Infantry Division, “The Old Reliables,” shifted to Major General George G. O'Connor, the Reliable Academy at our division headquarters at Camp Bearcat was established, and newly-arrived soldiers were given two weeks in-country training. Not only were they exposed to combat techniques taught by seasoned veterans, but also, they were given two weeks to acclimatize to the weather. I was no longer the division casualty officer when the Reliable Academy began operations, but I believe that it must have saved lives.
It seemed to scare the bejesus out of the enemy. At the end of every training cycle, the Academy graduates participated in a patrol to set up Listening Posts and Interdiction Points (LPIPs) outside Camp Bearcat. These positions were never disturbed, and trainers speculated the reason was the fact that the newly arrived soldiers were extremely trigger happy. No one dared approach them with the trainees shooting at every sound and perceived movement. Ultimately, they still needed to be assigned to seasoned units and be teamed with experienced soldiers to settle them down.
I wonder if other combat units in Vietnam did the same?