Training at the TTC
The Tactical Training Center compound developed and contructed by Lt. Col. Lewis L. Millet, the first TTC commander at Fort Devens, Mass., in the mid-1960s. (File Photo)
In the mid-1960s, the Army Security Agency, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Commands predecessor, began to send a steady flow of Soldiers to the Republic of Vietnam. These deploying Soldiers, like those currently deploying to Iraq, faced a 360-degree battlefield, where the front lines were not clearly defined and support troops found themselves in combat situations. To prepare its Soldiers for this, the ASA Training Center and School at Fort Devens, Mass., established the Tactical Training Course in July 1965.
The TTCs establishment fell to Lt. Col. Lewis L. Millett, who received the Medal of Honor for leading a bayonet charge during the Korean War. Millett wanted to produce the most realistic training experience possible. He found Vietnamese speaking Soldiers or Asian-American Soldiers to play the role of Viet Cong aggressors. Lacking funding to create what he envisioned, Millett and his training staff ingeniously used available resources, including lumber from razed barracks and wood from his own farm in Maine to build an authentic looking Vietnam village in the Fort Devens training area. Within two years, the TTC would boast two Vietnamese villages: one friendly and one hostile. The former had a Buddhist shrine, rice paddies and sapling fence, while the latter had a tunnel system and spider holes.
The 10-day training cycle was divided into two phases. During the first phase, Soldiers trained on the weapons and equipment of an ASA company that directly supported a combat division. During driver training, they practiced blackout driving as well as ambush drills. Weapons training on the rifle, machine gun, and grenade launcher were culminated with live-firing. More importantly, the Soldiers learned to perform patrolling, establish perimeters and other squad tactics. Throughout the phase, the TTC instructors stressed the six-paragraph code of conduct.
During the second phase of TTC the tactical scenarios became more intense for the students. They received Army-mandated training on the geography, history and politics of Vietnam, the Communist strategy and threat, and the U.S. mission there. This was done in the friendly Vietnamese village of Mot Dong. Between tactical squad exercises and rehearsals, the TTC instructors trained the Soldiers on emergency destruction of equipment and information as well as escape and evasion techniques. On the ninth day of the training, the students prepared for their final exercise.
In the scenario, Student Company was ordered to move from its defensive position to a more secure area. It began in a tactical convoy, but Viet Cong guerilla bands ambushed the convoy and destroyed its vehicles with land mines or grenades. Employing the newly trained ambush drills, the students repulsed the final assault, but were forced to continue on foot. Upon approaching the enemy village of Hai Dong, they received orders to sweep the village and its subterranean tunnel complex. The students fought their way into the village and then defended it against a counterattack. At this point, the TTC instructors told the students that they needed to organize into groups of two or three and exfiltrate to friendly lines. If successful, the student was debriefed by the intelligence officer and taken to the TTC administrative area.
Not all students were successful in making their way back to friendly lines, and some were captured by Viet Cong patrols. Those students underwent simulated, but surprisingly harsh, interrogation. The simulated capture and interrogation gave the Soldiers an opportunity to practice and apply the Code of Conduct. After 15 to 20 minutes of interrogation, the students were allowed to escape and rejoin their comrades.
The next morning, the students struck their bivouac and cleaned and turned in their weapons.
The TTC was an important addition to the training at the ASA Training Center and School. While most of an ASA Soldiers training concentrated on the technical skills of the collection and analysis of signals intelligence, the TTCs training gave basic Soldier skills needed to successfully perform their mission on the battlefield where the combat zone was ill-defined. As one deployed Soldier, reflecting on his TTC experience, wrote, I really hope that Ill never have to put such training to use. But, on the other hand, it is always reassuring that Ive had it in the first place.