RTO – Radioman

The basis of  this section is to give you an idea of what an RTO looks like and what he might be wearing.  ‘The Look’ is exactly like a rifleman accept you have this great big radio strapped to your back.  So you want to be a RTO?  Here we can discuss what you should have in your collection to display a basic RTO in the US Army in Vietnam.   Mind you this is what I think, so you don’t have to go along with it.  At the end of the day its up to you what you carry and how much weight you assign yourself.  Along with all of your basic Rifleman load, you will be packing a radio, this could be a PRC77 or PRC25 or PRC10, with either the radio carrier or packframe with shelf.  RTO’s were targets!  They often tried to hide the radio a bit.  You often see claymore mine bags tied to the radio, used to carry spare batteries, flares, etc..  A radio assecories bag would also be attached to the straps holding the radio in place, this would contain antenna components, maybe a spare handset.  A buttpack is attached below it.  This RTO keeps his radio well masked and in doing so keeps his profile down.  Remember RTO’s are easy target to VC with their antenna acting like a flag.  Take out the radio and you take out a valuable platoon resource.

This RTO is carrying a flare, two smoke grenades, an areal ID panel, map, radio accessories bag, machete and a pink flashlight.  The radio is a PRC-10.  I am not sure what the pouch is on the right.  I wonder about the stuff being stored under the hold down straps.  If they are pulled out to use, the radio would be loose on the carrier.

The RTO in this picture has an ID panel under his straps and on the left side there is an M-16 cleaning pouch (I think) and on the right is a case for an long wire antenna reel.

You see a towl under the shoulder straps on his pack straps.  Being a Rifleman also, he is carrying an ammunition bandoleer.

Full Load and Combat Load

Combat load means you would be carrying all your usual rifleman’s equipment plus a radio.  This isn’t too much of a problem, however, full load is another deal altogether. RTO’s basically carried everything a rifleman would have plus a radio and its extra accessories for a 36-hour period.  This means spare handsets, antennas, and as many batteries as you think you will need (Two spare batteries does the trick fine).  In Vietnam, batteries were one of those things that came on every supply chopper, but in re-enactment you won’t have this luxury.  If you can find a Packboard, then use this to attach your radio and other equipment.  The PRC-25 has its own dedicated harness that can allow a buttpack to be fitted to the bottom.   You have seen pictures of RTO re-enactors use these with claymore mine bags attached and they seem to be able to carry everything they need.  On the pistol belt of the RTO below he has three M1956 canteens and what looks like dearskin roping gloves.

17 responses to “RTO – Radioman

  1. We are putting together a Native American Squad, To go along with our Color Guard. We have a prc25 radio with all the extras. The portable Box speaker is the question? How was it secured to the radio?
    Thanks Gordon USAF 69-72

  2. David

    This has been something of a mystery to us. If there is an official bracket to use on the threaded shaft coming off the top of the speaker we have not seen it. There is an L type bracket made to mount on vehicles for this threaded post. What we finally did was thread two cargo straps through the speaker grill of the unit, the outside slots on each side. After threading the straps through the speaker the were wrapped around the radio and secured. Two straps keep it from flapping around. I see them all the time in movies, hanging off the narrow side of the radio, but can never see how they do that. I would think anything that clamps to the loop handle of the radio would ultimately wind up flapping as the RTO ran, which would make a lot of noise.

    There are two different speakers also, make sure you use the one with the potentiometer on the side, the unpotted one will not be loud enough to be of use.

    I am cc’ing our RTO. He may have a picture of his rig that he can forward you.

    Wise, Brad (DRMS)
    to me, wampndn

    show details Jun 24 (2 days ago)

    Reply

    I do not have a picture, however, at the last militaria show here in
    Wichita, I did see an authentic photograph of an RTO carrying a PRC 25
    with the speaker attached with two small cargo straps as Dave mentioned
    in the previous email.
    I will try to locate the guy that had the display and see if I can get
    the picture for you.

  3. m151dave

    The pink flashlight is an explosion proof flashlight. I am not sure exactly what makes it explosion proof, but that is what it means. Personally I would not carry a pink object in a prominent location on my gear in the jungle. As motion catches the eye, especially in your side vision, a bright color would help you to lock on to the motion. But some people will do such things. A case could be made that the RTO got his hands on something different and unusual and was going to use it no matter what, just to be different. Then again, it may have been all that was around to be issued to him.

  4. howdy there, just wished to mention thanks alot for this article, it assisted me notice one thing I hadn’t given a lot of attention to it before.

  5. hey guys, this is so helpful. im the rto for my unit, 1/7 air cav A co. were starting to get a lil bigger and doing a lot of great events in the pa area. but trying to find out about the rto’s in vietnam has been hell. this is great. good job on it

  6. I had a friend named Dean Dauner while in the Army. 1st. at Ft. Leavenworth, then in Nam. He was at the 85th. Evac. in Da Nang, and I was with 101st. walking thru the jungle. I was too messed up in the head to think about any old friends for far too long. Today,if your father is my old friend, I would love to get in touch. richardb120@gmail.com or 918-512-6531 or 918-521-0858.

  7. Jake

    First off this is the most helpful website I have found for my impression for that thanks and would It be possible for an RTO to carry a shotgun? Thanks

    • m151dave

      Thank you for the compliment! Sure an RTO could carry one. The TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment) did not call for that, but that does not mean a lot in some units. Remember a shotgun is a close in weapon.

    • Donald

      No, thats stupid. An RTO will not be breaching any doorways so they do not need a shotgun.

      • m151dave

        Do not look at it as breaching. This is Vietnam! Breaching was not a science back then. They did not stack and go. Slicing the pie was a developing Seal tactic and hardly known. He he would pack a shotgun because he felt safer having it and chose to hump it around.

  8. Jake

    Thanks Dave for answering my question it troubled me for awhile.

  9. CHECK OUT THE PICTURE ON THE FRONT COVER OF THE BOOK “VIETNAM:NO REGRETS” SEE AT VIETNAMNOREGRETS.COM IT IS ME AND I WAS AN RTO IN VIETNAM (REAL NOT PRETEND) CHECK OUT THE BROWN ARMY SOCKS THAT I CARRIED MY CANS OF C RATIONS IN. I ALSO HAD AN EXTRA LONG CORD ON MY HANDSET, SO I COULD TAKE THE RADIO OF MY BACK DURING A FIREFIGHT. THATS WHY I HAVE IT SITTING IN FRONT OF ME IN THE PICTURE, WE WERE JUST ABOUT TOBE PUT UNDER FIRE. JOEL RICHARD WATKINS “A” Co. 1/27th WOLFHOUNDS 25th ID VIETNAM 1969/70 E-MAIL ME AT VIETNAMNR@GMAIL.COM BUT ORDER MY BOOK IF YOU WANT A SIGNED COPY THAT WILL MAKE VERY CLEAR TO YOU WHAT IT WAS REALLY LIKE TOBE IN VIETNAM COMBAT. VIETNAMNOREGRETS.COM

  10. WJR, PharmD

    Hello,
    In 1965-66 I was a Navy Corpsmen with the Marine Corps, Battalion 1/5, 3rd Platoon. In my thirteen months in Nam, I never once saw a marine carry a pink flashlight. Everything was olive drab. Pink would stand out and make someone a target if they were in combat. I just can’t imagine anyone doing this. I was issued a flashlight and it was standard issue olive drab.
    Thanks!

  11. John Robison

    The “pink” flashlight denoted that is was specially insulated to reduce out going interferance. They were commonly found in aircraft, including helicopters. Like anything they were frequently swiped as an extra flashlight was always handy. An RTO might find it espeially attractive in proximity to his radio.

  12. Trying help locate any RTO’s who served in NAM with Alpha 2-7 Cav. Especially RTO’s Lambert or Schweighert. Please email me @ jennibalis@yahoo.com I am a retired Navy veteran and the A 2-7 Cav website designer. My brother, David Floyd was an RTO during 69-70 in NAM with A 2-7 CAV and he is the site’s webmaster. Thanks for any help. Garryowen!

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