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The 199th Infantry Brigade (Light) was formed in the hectic summer of 1966 expressly for Vietnam duty. The Brigade was rushed through a period of simultaneously activating, equipping and training at Fort Benning, Georgia, arriving at Long Binh at the end of the year. Despite the fact that the Brigade's heavy equipment was still in transit its Battalions were immediately deployed in Operation 'Union Town' in War Zone D. In early 1967 the Brigade was tasked with the security of the countryside around Saigon. During this period the 'Redcatchers' of the 199th were teamed with ARVN units in one of the first experiments in what would later be termed 'Vietnamization'. This initial concept, dubbed 'The Double Force', meant that for every US unit engaged in operations a similarly sized ARVN unit would be attached. The main objective of this plan - to enable the South Vietnamese to protect their own capital - was never fully attained.
On the left shoulder of the third pattern tropical coat is the Brigade's flaming spear SSI - here a locally-produced subdued example. US Army and name tapes are worn parallel to the ground, as was typical until a 1969 directive ordered them sewn parallel to the top of the slanting pockets. The single chevron and rocker of a Private First Class are worn on both sleeves.
Web gear is M1956 LCE configured to accomodate the Electrical Equipment Harness - the carrying frame for the AN/PRC-25 radio. On the belt are worn two Small Arms Ammunitions Case, M16A1 20 round. Introduced in 1968 especially for the M16's 20-round magazine, these were shorter versions of the universal pouch which had been designed for the larger M14 magazine. The combination entrenching tool with attached M7 bayonet is also worn on the right rear of the belt.
The radio's carrying harness is shown here correctly assembled to the equipment belt; this enabled the radio to be carried as an integral part of the LCE. The shoulder harness of the carrier doubles as field suspenders, with the ammunition pouches attaching in the usual manner.
The butt pack, here an improved M1961 Combat Field Pack, is hooked to the frame below the radio. The M1961 was a slightly larger version of the M1956 butt pack which featured an expanding rubberized collar around the opening.
Also carried on the radio are several signalling grenades, and an XM28 Lightweight Protective Mask in its nylon case to the right of the grenades. These masks reached Vietnam in late 1968 and replaced the bulkier M17.
The AN/PRC-25 was a 'short range man pack portable, frequency modulated (FM) receiver/transmitter'. Weighing over 24 pounds with battery, the 'Prick-25' used dry-cell batteries which had an average life of twenty hours. Maximum recommended range was from 5km with the short tape antenna up to 8km with the seven-section long range ('fish-pole') antenna. The PRC-25 was part valve/part transistor and had 920 channels, two of which were pre-set. From mid-1968 the PRC-25 was gradually replaced by the modified PRC-77, which was fully transistorized and more reliable, though externally identical. The headset shown being worn on the helmet could be used in conjunction with a handset, as here, or independently with an integral boom-type microphone. The Spares Bag attached to the left of the radio contains the sectional long range antenna with its flexible base, and a spare handset.
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