Fred Raymond was born in November 1939 in New York City and grew up in Queens. His father sold insurance and his mother was a homemaker, raising two boys and two girls. As a boy, Fred enjoyed playing football, basketball, and baseball. His Jesuit high school in Brooklyn helped frame his character. He attended Fordham for one year and was working as an apprentice electrician when news of the growing war in Vietnam on TV captivated him and he enlisted. He joined the Army to see the world. Some of his earliest experiences in the Army included working on tanks in a motorpool in Texas. It was tough work, but the NCOs impressed him by being very knowledgeable without being showy. He earned the opportunity to attend OCS (Officer Candidate School) and quickly adopted the Infantry ethos. During Airborne and Pathfinder School, a bad tree landing and subsequent fall fractured and displaced some vertebrae, sending him to the hospital, where he was told “the day you touch your toes is the day you leave the hospital.” After his recovery and leave, he deployed to Vietnam “on light duty.” When he landed in Bien Hoa in January 1968 and reported to the 90th Replacement Detachment, he wanted to be assigned to 1st Cavalry because he was a pathfinder, but instead he was sent to the 101st. He linked up with the 327th Infantry at Sông Bé Base Camp. He met the Platoon Leader he was replacing and was temporarily assigned to another platoon to learn the ropes from a veteran Platoon Sergeant who taught him to “read a fire fight.” He describes typical missions serving as the Platoon Leader for 3rd Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, including ambush and combat patrols, and techniques for moving through hamlets and villages. He discusses pursuing the NVA from Hue and engaging with the Viet Cong. He describes four days of intense fighting along the junction of routes 547 and 547a. When he was not engaged in combat patrols, he conducted training patrols in which his soldiers cross-trained on different jobs, which helped him know his people and figure out their strengths. Following his time in C Company, he served as a Platoon Leader in Tiger Force. Reflecting on his time with the Tigers, he notes that they were a very cohesive unit with a lot of NCOs, who prided themselves on moving quietly and not getting ambushed. By June 1969, he was operating in the A Shau Valley near the Laotian border and experienced multiple contacts each day. He extended his tour in Vietnam and commanded two companies, Headquarters Company and A Company, before returning to the United States in August 1969. His next assignment was serving on the new equipment training team and introducing the M-16 to units in Germany. In 1995, he commanded an Infantry Brigade in the Florida National Guard and had a successful rotation.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his Army experience, and his views on the importance of training, particularly cross-training his Soldiers and reinforcing marksmanship. He emphasizes the need for good NCOs throughout the unit. At the end of the interview, he reflects on what his service means to him, sharing that “everybody should know what’s going on” and “troops need to be confident in your decision making.”