The Beginning of the Stingray Patrols

In the early days of Marine involvement in Vietnam, it quickly became apparent that doctrines drawn from fighting the Japanese and the North Koreans were insufficient for fighting the Vietcong. The Japanese, North Koreans, and Chinese had used defined front lines, something the VC explicitly did not. Stopping small, mobile units of guerrillas with conventional infantry formations was not working. The reaction time for large formations was too long; the orders process alone was prohibitive for tactical agility.

In 1965, it was becoming obvious that something else was needed. Up until that time, Reconnaissance assets were considered strictly non-combat support elements. They were intended to go in lightly armed, lightly burdened, look around, and get out. It took some doing to even get higher headquarters to consider applying Recon to a combat role. It was actually doctrine, according to FMFM 2-2, that the Force Recon Company had “no offensive capability and is not employed as a tactical unit…”

Several individuals within Force Recon began to put forward the idea that their small, mobile teams could conceivably be able to inflict a great deal of damage on the enemy, being lighter, faster, and less obvious than regular line infantry. They had to argue against Marine Corps doctrine, which any Marine will tell you is not easy. However, Major “Reb” Bearce pointed out that while FMFM 2-2 did not allow for offensive use of Recon assets, FMFM 6-2, Marine Infantry Regiment, and 6-1, Marine Division, both referred to “reconnaissance in force” and using Recon assets to “direct and adjust supporting fires.” Furthermore, FMFM 8-1, Special Operations, specified the use of subsurface swimming and parachute operations in raids, while FMFM 8-2, Counterinsurgency Operations, actually discussed using Recon troops in an offensive capacity against small units of guerrillas. Taking this conflicting doctrine, Major Bearce suggested amending FMFM 2-2 and putting Force Recon to work hunting the VC.

At the end of July, 1966, the Vietcong attempted a major invasion south out of the DMZ. They were met by Marine rifle companies and heavy air and artillery support, and stopped cold. It was estimated that some 800 North Vietnamese had been killed during Operation Hastings. However, many of the survivors were slipping away into the jungle. Team Primness, under the leadership of Sgt. Orest Bishko, was sent out to find and destroy these small elements.

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About the Author
is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. He is now a tactical tracking instructor and the author of the military thrillers Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows.

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  • ChristopherJohnMartin

    Bingwest Amazing to read this story, and then find this follow-up by a participant! I never served but am a voracious reader of stories like this!  Thanks to all of you!

  • 1dayasalion

    @JackMurphyRGR Team Primness

  • Kendoist4162

    Holy shit! Bing F-ing West on SOFREP!!!!! Some old school badass coming' to town. Niiiiiice!

  • gunner261


  • MedicSteve2

    Ok! I hate to delve into a bromance moment, but having Bing Freakin West comment and add onto a story posted on this great forum HAS to be one of the highlights of SOFREP. I've been a voracious reader since Chief Webb moved over from another site, and while I haven't read everything, I've read nearly everything. This is in the Top FIve highlight reel! I emailed Bing yesterday and gave him a heads up on the article. He sent me back a great email in return. Then, I heard him this morning after dropping the kids off to school on the Bill Bennett radio show. What a class act! Can I get a witness, brothers and sisters?