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Army veteran serves as unlikely warrior

By Sgt. Brandon L. Saunders | | August 22, 2013

It has been 38 years since the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the Cold War-era conflict, which took place on the Vietnam Peninsula, Cambodia and Laos. The conflict began during a period of social unrest and turmoil in American history and claimed the lives of nearly 60,000 U.S. service members.
It would seem as if the men and women supporting the war effort were all combatants, however, while many young men were drafted to combat arms positions, others were selected to engage in a different kind of warfare with enemy forces, a type of warfare that required as much intelligence as it did discretion.
In May 2013, a book entitled “Unlikely Warriors The Army Security Agency’s Secret War In Vietnam 1961 - 1973” was published by Army veteran Lonnie M. Long and Air Force veteran Gary B. Blackburn in an effort to share some of the clandestine efforts of soldiers gathering intelligence on behalf of the National Security Agency.
Among the many soldiers honored within the novel, Marine Corps Logistics Command’s own Jerry Laney, who currently serves as an information technology specialist in the Command, Control, Computers and Communications Department, was recognized for his wartime efforts.
“Unlikely Warriors” highlights some of the missions of the Army Security Agency’s secret war in Vietnam. It explains how soldiers were briefed and their mission plans, as well as little-known facts about their respective roles in the Vietnam War.
These men specialized in “radio research units” and their mission was so highly classified that only the top-most echelons of the U.S. Command in Vietnam had any inkling of what their mission was, assuming they had the need to know, according to the book.
“We were never allowed to discuss the top secret missions in which we were a part of during the war,” Laney said. “Now that we can, it’s exciting to rehash some of our accomplishments from four decades ago.”
Laney, who served as a high-speed Morse code interceptor with the U.S. Army Security Agency, was assigned to the 330th Radio Research Group during his first Vietnam War tour.
Laney’s second tour, with the 224th Aviation Battalion, involved spending more than 675 hours of time in the air. By the end of Laney’s second tour, he had earned 22 air medals.
The operations Laney participated in are known as Airborne Radio-Direction-Finders, which introduced the Special Electronic Mission Aircraft to the battlefield.
“During these missions, we were able to get “fixes” from enemy transmitters,” Laney said.
He also flew several missions into Cambodia.
“Many of the details about our prior missions are still omitted to this day because it’s sensitive information,” He said.
It’s been 38 years since the Army Security Agency participated in such missions. The National Cryptologic Memorial simply states of their service, “they served in silence.”