Photos The Cold War

US Army Special Forces training Bolivian Army personnel at La Esperanza, Bolivia.

SGT Alvin E. Graham(r) training Bolivian infantrymen on the Browning M-1919A6 .30 caliber light machinegun. On Graham’s right is a cameraman from a SOUTHCOM film crew. SGT Graham, SSG Wendell P. Thompson, and SGT Byron R. Sigg were all radio operators who served as assistant instructors on the firing ranges.


The village of La Esperanza had no electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing.

Many aspects of village life, such as grinding corn, had changed little for generations.

The Rangers used an abandoned sugar mill at La Esperanza. The mill provided housing and a site for rappelling and a confidence course.

Food for the Rangers, a mixture of rice, corn and some meat, was prepared in 55-gallon drums that served as communal feeding barrels.

Phase I was designed to train the soldiers in basic skills. The assembly, disassembly and cleaning of the M-1 Garand was one of the tasks.

SSG Wendell P. Thompson, a radio operator, trained the Rangers on the Browning .30 caliber M-1919A6 light machinegun. Cross-trained as a light weapons specialist, Thompson worked as an assistant instructor during weapons training.

MSG Roland J. Milliard said. “We did rappelling off a thirty-foot high wall at the sugar mill.” Rappelling, obstacle and confidence courses were all run at the mill and were designed to toughen the Rangers physically and build their confidence.

“The Rangers loved the Slide for Life,” said MSG Roland J. Milliard. “It was like a carnival ride for them.”

The SF team set up an obstacle course using storage tanks in the sugar mill. SSG Jerald L. Peterson noted, “The Indians didn’t have much upper body strength. They struggled with the rope climbing.”
Ranger graduates proudly wear green berets, their distinctive unit headgear.

SFC Richard J. Kimmich demonstrates loading the M20A1 3.5-inch rocket launcher. The team used a pile of paper boxes to show the effects of the weapon’s back blast.

CPT Margarito Cruz and MSG Roland J. Milliard trained the Ranger Battalion Reconnaissance section in intelligence collection. These Ranger/agents were sent out to gather information about the insurgents. They were issued wristwatches to be able to accurately record the time when they collected the intelligence. Two men were captured by Che’s foco, but released unharmed.

SFC Dan Chapa directed firing from the makeshift range tower. Chapa had a daily battle with the battalion supply office, a Chaco War veteran, over the allocation of Mauser ammunition.

SSG James A. Hapka, a medical specialist instructs on the M2 60 mm mortar. Along with the Browning M-1919A6 light machinegun, the M2 mortars were used in the heavy weapons section in each Ranger company. The “collar” on the Ranger is a carrying pad.

The Rangers completed their 19-week training course on 17 September 1967. A parade was held at the 8th Division Headquarters in Santa Cruz. In less than two weeks, the Rangers were in combat with the insurgents. Captain Celso Torrelio leads Company A in a “pass in review.”

An arduous two-week field training exercise was the culminating event of the 19-week training program. The exercise was held 75 miles southwest of La Esperanza, 15 miles south of Santa Cruz in terrain similar to the “Red Zone.”

SFC Harold T. Carpenter receives his Diploma de Honor from Bolivian Vice President Adolfo Siles. Each member of the team received a certificate to recognize his training efforts with the Rangers.

The Condor Wings, the distinctive qualification badge of the Bolivian Ranger Battalion. CPT Edmond L. Fricke was instrumental in obtaining the berets and badges for the Rangers.

The second phase of the SF team’s mission was to give refresher training to nine Bolivian infantry companies at La Esperanza. The site became an official Bolivian Army training center when the Special Forces team left in December.

CPT James Trimble and SFC Dan Chapa observe a field expedient method of cleaning a 60 mm mortar.

SSG Wendell P. Thompson, SGT Alvin E. Graham and SFC Daniel V. Chapa with a Bolivian officer prior to conducting an airborne proficiency jump near La Esperanza on 7 July.

The jump was made from a Bolivian version of this USAF H-19B helicopter.

Several film crews visited the team at La Esperanza. While SFC Dan Chapa gives instruction to a Bolivian infantryman on the M-1919A6 light machinegun, a motion picture cameraman from the Department of the Army films the training. A still photographer from Granada Television in England takes photographs for use in their documentary. Crews from SOUTHCOM, ABC and CBS News also filmed the team.

General Robert W. Porter, SOUTHCOM Commander with MAJ Ralph W. Shelton during a visit to La Esperanza. A staunch supporter of the mission, Porter provided gold and silver watches to the outstanding Ranger officers and soldiers.

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