5RAR Association Website


australian infantryman's combat badge Glossary of military disopsitions and unit descriptions


Corps Tactical Zone. South Vietnam (SVN) was divided into four CTZs: I, II, III and IV. Although Australia had military advisers throughout SVN from I Corps to IV Corps, the main Australian contingent was 1st Australian Task Force in III Corps based in Phuoc Tuy Province to the southeast of the capital Saigon. SVN forces and US troops operated throughout the country.


1st Australian Task Force: had its self-contained defensive base at Nui Dat which was a hill surrounded by an old rubber plantation. It was quite a sizeable base about 2 x 3 kilometres. 1ATF was approximately 5,000 men in strength, and was commanded by a brigadier, who initially in 5RAR’s 2nd tour was Brigadier C.M.I. (“Sandy”) Pearson. He was replaced by Brigadier “Blackjack” Weir. In the first tour it was Brigadier O.D. Jackson and Brigadier Graham.
 1ATF consisted of three infantry battalions plus supporting troops including armour, artillery, engineers, signals, intelligence, light aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters), and all the administrative elements such as truck transport, mechanical repair, field ambulance, pay, chaplains, canteens etc. It contained two small airstrips and helicopter pads. 5RAR was part of 1ATF.


Australian Logistics Support Group. This was located at the port of Vung Tau where logistic supplies from Australia were landed. There was a military hospital (1st Australian Field Hospital which was a bit more up-market than M*A*S*H on TV), major mechanical repair facilities, a rest and recuperation centre (with swimming pool and amenities), and major administrative and logistic installations.

Infantry battalion:

About 800 men commanded by a lieutenant colonel. It consisted of a headquarters (BHQ), four rifle companies, a Support Company (with mortars, trackers (men and dogs), signals, assault pioneers and on the first tour: a reconnaissance platoon), and finally an Administrative Company (with stores, ammunition and equipment supplies, as well as medical services and stretcher bearers).

Rifle company:

Each consisted of about 120 men and was commanded by a major. Each company consisted of a HQ, three rifle platoons and a support section. There were at least two radios at CHQ, one for communicating with the platoons and one (on a different frequency) for communications to Battalion HQ and to the other rifle companies. As well, an artillery FO (Forward Observer) had a radio (on yet another frequency) for directing artillery fire during combat, and at times the company would have a Mortar Fire Controller (MFC) with his radio on a separate frequency.

Rifle platoon:

A rifle platoon consisted of 34 men: a platoon HQ of 4 plus 3 rifle sections of 10 each. At Pl HQ were the platoon commander (a Lt or 2Lt), the platoon sergeant, a batman and the radio operator. Each platoon had a radio set for communicating to Company HQ and to the other two platoons.

Rifle section:

The rifle section was the smallest of sub-units in the infantry organisation. The section consisted of 10 men, commanded by a corporal, and had three distinct groupings: the two scouts, the machine gunner and his number 2, and the riflemen. There were three sections to a platoon.

glossary and abbreviations


Australian Army Training Team - Vietnam.


Australian Forces, Vietnam.


See Iroquois.


See Military Dispositions above.


Australian Task Force. See Military Dispositions above.


Area of Operations: an area usually with a radius of up to 10-12 kilometres, designated as the area exclusively set aside for a specific period, for a unit such as a battalion.


M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) from 3rd Cavalry Regiment supported the infantry. They were tracked vehicles with protective armoured plating with a crew of 2 (commander and driver) and capable of carrying 10 passengers (usually an infantry rifle section). They were collectively referred to as "tracks". Different from tanks.


Australian Regular Army; the 'Regular' or professional soldier.


Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. These were the regular SVN government forces. We occasionally combined with them on operations.


Battalion (5RAR was an infantry battalion). See Military Dispositions above.


The heavily-armed Iroquois helicopters called gunships had the radio call sign of "Bushranger", and were armed with rockets, twin rapid-firing Gatling style mini-guns (with 6 rotating barrels), and twin-mounted M60 machine guns on each side. The accuracy of the gunship fire enabled them to engage the enemy even when the target was just 10 metres from our own troops.


A word derived from French 'beaucoup', meaning plenty. The Vietnamese often used this term and it was adopted by the Yanks, Kiwis and Aussies.


See APC.


Phonetic alphabet for the letter "C". Also, the colloquial term for the VC for which the phonetic alphabet was "victor charlie".

Chieu Hoi:

 Pronounced "chew hoy". The programme designed to get the enemy to defect. These were also the words called out by a surrendering VC. See Hoi Chanh.



Claymore Mine. It was an anti-personnel directional explosive device, which was remotely detonated via a long wire connecting the blasting cap to a firing handle. The mine was about 30 cms wide, 15 cms high and 2 cms deep and slightly convex in shape. It had two sets of folding steel legs, which were pressed into the ground, so that the curved side faced the likely enemy approach. When enemy came within its effective range of about 50 metres (it could cause casualties up to 200 metres) the remote firing handle was pressed and the explosion occurred with hundreds of small steel balls spewing forward in an arc of about 60 degrees.


 Kilometre (km).


Citizen Military Forces (in Australia).


Commanding Officer. The CO of 5RAR was Lt-Col John Warr 1st tour and Lt-Col Colin Khan 2nd tour.


Central Office for South Vietnam (senior echelon of the Vietnam Communist Party in South Vietnam (SVN). COSVN was the Headquarters (HQ) of the VC in SVN.


 Company. See Military Dispositions above.


Command Post. The Battalion CP was underground with overhead protection (steel plating and filled sand bags) against enemy mortar and Rocket Propelled Grenade explosions. It had space for 10 to 12 persons to work at tables. Battle maps, logs and communications equipment were used here. It was located in the Fire Support Patrol Base (FSPB) and was the command and control centre for the battalion operation, including amongst other things, directing our artillery and mortar fire.


Infantry soldiers.


Company Sergeant-Major; a warrant officer class 2 (WO2); the senior NCO in a rifle company.


See Military Dispositions above.


Distinguished Conduct Medal; an Imperial gallantry medal; it was the second highest award for valour in action (after the Victoria Cross) for all army ranks below commissioned officers.


Distinguished Flying Cross; an Imperial decoration awarded to officers and warrant officers for an act or acts of valour performed whilst flying in operations against the enemy.

'Di Di Mau':

 Vietnamese for "go away", "get out", or "piss off".


Distinguished Service Order; an Imperial gallantry medal to reward officers who exhibited individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in combat. It was usually awarded for service under fire or under conditions equivalent and generally given to officers in command, with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above.


The location of the Royal Military College (RMC) in Canberra. These officers graduated with the rank of lieutenant after a four-year training course.


Casualty evacuation Iroquois helicopter fitted out with medical evacuation equipment such as stretchers, Stokes litters, winches, jungle 'penetrator', resuscitator and medical supplies. 'Dustoff' was also the alert message sent by radio from the unit requiring medical evacuation of a wounded soldier.

'Doung Loi':

 Vietnamese for "halt!"

Enfilade fire:

Raking fire along the length of a road or trenches or firing at enemy from their flank, as distinct from directly across it/them. Arranging weapons to fire in enfilade along a road maximised the firepower so that the rounds would have several chances of striking the enemy who were following the line of the road.

Engineer Splinter
(or Mini) Team:

Splinter Teams of two engineer Sappers (from the Corps of the Royal Australian Engineers) were usually allocated to each company and assisted the infantry in detection and neutralisation of mines, booby traps and tunnels. They were specially trained in demolitions and mine warfare. They were highly-respected by the infantrymen.


Forward Air Controller; flying in a small fixed-wing aircraft whose radio call sign was"Jade".


The soldier’s bed; usually a narrow pneumatic mattress, with lightweight nylon-type blanket or "silk". The inflated mattress would sometimes make a sound when you turned over, thereby giving rise to the name.

Free Fire Zone:

An area where Vietnamese civilian access was prohibited, such that any Vietnamese activity there was that of the enemy.


Fire Support Patrol Base. A FSPB (sometimes just called FSB) contained the command and control centre in the Command Post (the CP). It also provided the fire support for an operation in the form of artillery and mortars. It was a defensive position roughly circular in shape about 100-150 metres diameter, so that it gave itself all-round protection. Soldiers with machine guns and rifles operating from two-man weapon pits, which had overhead protection (filled sand bags), usually manned the perimeter. More centrally located in the FSPB were the Command Post (also underground with overhead protection against enemy mortar and Rocket Propelled Grenade explosions) as well as the artillery guns and mortars. A helipad enabled the CO to use a small Bell Sioux helicopter ("Possum") for aerial observation and battle control.


Forming-up-Place; an area suitable for an attacking force to spread out into the formation to be used during an attack on the enemy position. Preferably it was in 'dead' (concealed) ground such as a re-entrant or gully from which the attacking troops would begin the attack at 'H Hour'. The Start Line was usually the forward edge of the FUP.

F4 Phantom:

American fighter-bomber regularly used in air strikes against VC forces. Its top speed was 1,250 mph but it could slow to 500, which enabled greater bombing accuracy. It had a 6,000-pound payload.


Can of soft drink. Naval slang adopted by troops on board HMAS Sydney and used widely in Vietnam.

Grid Square:

A 1,000 x 1,000 metre square on the military maps.


Infantry soldiers.


See ‘Bushranger’.

H & I Bombardments:

These occurred throughout the night at irregular times and intervals and were directed at known or likely enemy positions. The objective was to keep the enemy guessing, awake, demoralised and disconcerted.

Ho Chi Minh Sandals:

VC foot-ware made from old tyres; they had a distinctive tread, recognisable in the dirt.

Ho Chi Minh trail:

A network of roads and smaller trails extending from North Vietnam through Cambodia and Laos, used by communist insurgents for the infiltration of troops and logistic supplies into South Vietnam.

Hoi Chanh:

VC defector who had surrendered and then provided information on the enemy, and acted as a guide to VC locations. Also known as "Chieu Hoi", the words shouted by a VC who was surrendering.




Lightweight one-man tent carried by Australian troops.


Iroquois helicopter, with name derived from the UH-IH model nomenclature.


Infantry Combat Badge; the revered badge awarded to all infantrymen who have served in combat. It is worn on the left chest of the uniform immediately above medals.


UH-1H model helicopters ("Huey"); troop and stores-carrying choppers were given the radio nickname of "Albatross". The heavily-armed Iroquois helicopters, called gunships, had the radio call sign of "Bushranger".


Killed in action.


Landing zone. The area designated for helicopters to land and off-load the infantry passengers or stores.


Landing Craft Medium. A flat-bottomed troop-carrying craft with a ramp for beach landings.


Military Assistance Team. Australian liaison and training personnel (officers, NCOs and Private soldiers) were temporarily stationed with South Vietnamese military posts as part of the Vietnamisation program designed to make the South Vietnamese Army self proficient. The principal objective was to instruct the local South Vietnamese Regional Forces and Popular Forces (RF/PF) in aspects of infantry minor tactics and in particular the siting, layout and conduct of ambushes so as to protect themselves in the event of an attack on their village by Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army forces.


Military Cross; an Imperial award to reward commissioned officers for distinguished, courageous and meritorious service in combat.


 Medical Civil Aid Programme.


Mortar Fire Controller; a person, usually a corporal from the Mortar Platoon, attached to a rifle platoon or company, to call in and direct supporting mortar fire.


Machine gun. They came in different sizes from 7.62 mm (used by the infantry; see "M60"), to 30 calibre and 50 calibre (heavier, and used from tanks and APCs).


Mentioned in Dispatches; an Imperial award to officers and other rank soldiers who were deserving of high praise for gallant action against the enemy or who rendered distinguished service.


Military Provisional Currency; the currency issued by the US Army for allied use in SVN. It was withdrawn and replaced without notice from time to time, thereby catching out black marketeers.


Military Medal; an Imperial award to NCOs and private soldiers for individual or multiple acts of valour.


General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG). The M60 was the machine gun used by the Australian infantry in Vietnam. It was capable of a much higher rate and concentration of sustained fire than ordinary rifles. There was one M60 per rifle section, providing its main firepower, using link, belt-fed rounds.


National Serviceman.


Non-Commissioned Officer. These were the warrant officer, staff sergeant, sergeant, corporal and lance corporal ranks.


National Liberation Front. A coalition of groups opposed to the South Vietnamese government. It consisted of the political arm (the Provisional Revolutionary Government, as part of the Viet Cong Infrastructure) and the military arm (the VC), and aimed at the "liberation" of South Vietnam.


North Vietnamese Army.


Officer Commanding;(of a rifle company).

'O' Group:

Orders to brief subordinate commanders about a forthcoming operation or action such as an attack or an airborne insertion into an area.


A narrow path (usually no more than 20 cms wide), similar to the ones worn by animals such as those made by cows through a paddock. "Pad" also referred to a helicopter landing site.


Popular Forces. These were South Vietnamese government territorial troops, locally recruited to protect local villages. They were of platoon size and were under the control of village or district chiefs.


Platoon. See Military Dispositions.


Soldier further from combat action than the speaker. A relative term, which could apply to a soldier in a rifle section further away from the enemy than the forward scout, but more commonly a description given by combat soldiers about the logistics and administration staff.


The location of the Officer Cadet School (OCS) in Victoria. These officers graduated with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant after an 18 months training course.


Radio call-sign for the two-man Bell Sioux helicopter (like a plastic bubble with a tail). This was regularly used by the CO or his staff, such as myself, to observe a battle from the air and to direct artillery, mortar, helicopter gunship and strike fighter armaments onto the targets.


Prisoner of war. (Civilians usually refer to this as "POW".)


Royal Australian Regiment. All the Australian regular infantry battalions were part of the RAR. Hence 5RAR was the 5th Battalion of the RAR. During the Vietnam War there were a total of nine battalions in the RAR (but no more than three at a time in SVN).

R & C:

Rest and convalescence: 2 to 3 day periods of leave between operations, usually at Vung Tau.

R & R:

Rest and Recuperation: each Aussie soldier and officer had 5 days' leave during his/her 12-month tour of duty. It could be in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok or Taipei.


Reconnaissance; pronounced "reckie". The Americans called it "recon".


Gully or low ground between two spurs; it can be a creek-line.


Regular or full-time soldier who had signed up for at least 3 years.


Regional Forces. These were South Vietnamese government territorial troops, recruited within their province and with provincial military responsibilities. They were of company size and were under the control of the provincial chief.


NVA and VC machine gun that fired 7.62 mm rounds from a 100-round belt in a magazine. It was capable of laying down sustained heavy fire.


Rocket Propelled Grenade. The VC used two types, the RPG2 and the larger RPG7. They were rested on the shoulder for firing. The rocket made an enormous explosion when it hit a target. The VC used these very effectively in the jungle against us. One hitting the trees above our heads would explode shrapnel downwards on us causing many casualties. The deafening explosion was also very demoralising.


Regimental Sergeant Major. The RSM is the senior soldier within the battalion. His responsibilities amongst other things, include: Advising the CO on all matters affecting soldiers, including military discipline. Traditionally, controlling the regimental police. The RSM carries out many of his duties through the CSMs. The day to day implementation of the CO’s policy on discipline is implemented by the RSM.


Return to Australia.


Rendezvous: a designated meeting place.

'Saddle up':

Get your gear on; let’s get ready to move.


The location (near Windsor NSW) of the Officer Training Unit (OTU) for National Servicemen. These officers graduated with the rank of 2nd lieutenant after an intensive 6 months training course.


Section. See Military Dispositions above.


Evidence of enemy presence: footprints, disturbed undergrowth, an upturned leaf or stone on the ground, a broken twig, enemy bush symbols (e.g. crossed sticks on a track) etc.


Situation Report, or a question as in "what's going on?".


Short for "skipper", meaning "boss". Soldiers would often relax formalities by calling an officer "skip" instead of "sir".


A 'slick' was an Iroquois helicopter configured for the carriage of troops. A troop-carrying Iroquois helicopter was given the radio call sign


Vietnamese for river, as in Song Rai.

Stokes litter:

A stretcher winched down from "Dustoff" ambulance helicopters for evacuating wounded soldiers. The wounded man was strapped into the litter and winched to the helicopter either in a horizontal or vertical position.

'Stick book':

A fictional paperback book with a higher than usual proportion of sexual content.


Radio nickname for a Commander, eg, "Sunray Call Sign 3" was OC C Company.

Sunray Minor:

Second-in-command or 2ic.


 Vietnamese for creek, as in Suoi Tam Bo.


 South Vietnam.


The Aussies used the 50-ton Centurion tanks belonging to 1st Armoured Regiment. Each had a crew of 4. They were tracked and heavily protected with armour plating. Each was capable of heavy firepower from its main 20-pounder gun. The tanks usually operated as a troop of four.


The Vietnamese annual celebration of the lunar New Year.


 See APC.

'Uc Dai Loi':

 Vietnamese for "Australian".


Viet Cong: the common name for the South Vietnamese Communist guerrillas, called the People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF), the fighting arm of the National Liberation Front (NLF).


Viet Cong Infrastructure. The covert political arm of the communist forces in SVN and included the NLF.

Vung Tau:

Or "Vungers" as it was known was a large, busy town, which had wide boulevards and buildings of French colonial architecture. In French days it was a beautiful holiday resort, called Cap Saint Jacques. Interestingly, Vung Tau was reputed to be used by both Australian and Viet Cong as an R & C (rest and convalescence) centre, although you had little idea who was VC and who wasn’t. As a result, there was little guerrilla activity in Vung Tau. Vungers was located 30 km South of Nui Dat.

'White Mice':

South Vietnamese police, dressed in white, vocal on the whistle and with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later.


A wake-up; the day you departed for Australia. For example, the expression "10 days and a wakey" meant that it was 10 days and a wake-up before departing Vietnam for Australia.


Wounded in Action.


A western/cowboy paperback book.