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ShooterMcGavin

Technician ranks of World War II

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I apologize in advance if this has been answered elsewhere, and believe me I have read up on these unique ranks, but I simply do not understand them... perhaps someone can answer a few questions I have about them?

 

1.) The OLD ranks (Specialists) pre-1942 looked like a PFC stripe with up to SIX rockers underneath it, signifying level of skill. How would one be in long enough to get that many stripes and not advance beyond private/PFC? Wouldn't you be looked at as a base clown if you couldn't go the OTHER way and make Corporal, Sergeant, SSGT etc? Since you obviously need to put time in to get those chevrons, it makes no sense to me.

 

2.) Why did the 1942-1948 technician grades only extend as far as Staff Sergeant, and not all the way to grade 1?

 

3.) It states they had no command authority over troops. So could a private or PFC tell a Tech 3rd/4th/5th grade to piss off if he told them to do something? The wording makes it seem like men who wore these stripes were in fact wearing a visual indicator that they were nobodies.

 

This is NOT meant to be disrespectful, I am just not sure what they mean and the way they're described makes them sound like they earned rank for nothing. Thanks for your help!!!

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Hi Shooter, welcome to the Forum, and a fellow New Yorker to boot. On these Tech ranks there are loads of topic that have discused this in the past. here a recent one, below, yhere will be more, specificaly one on the 1930 Specialist ranks. On a personal level I do not feel one bit that a Technician was not without any authority, I simply will not believe that, true they had no official Leadership responsibility positions, But I would think that on an unofficial basis they would be a time that they were put in charge of somethings even in a Combat unit. And no I wouldn't believe that a little Private would tell a Tech 5,4 or 3 to go F.... himself if this more experianced man told him to do something, even if Technician was acting on his intiative .

 

 

 

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ind...t=#entry1029344

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Hi Shooter,

 

Keep in mind that the further you go back into history, the more rank titles are tied to specific positions. So, say, there were x-number of squads per company, each had a corporal as a leader and that's what corporals did, period. Up through the early years of WW2, two stripes were nothing to sneeze at.

 

The backbone of the army, of course, is the NCO, and their historic function was discipline and combat leadership. There were a few specialists, like cooks and farriers, but having a lot of soldiers with technical skills is a 20th century thing. Obviously, having someone who has gone to school as a mechanic or radio technician is important and should be rewarded, however, they aren't really leading anybody. So finding a way to increase their status and recognize their value, without watering down the status of the career leader NCOs, was a kind of balancing act that the army fiddled with up through WW2 and the Korean War.

 

The pre-WW2 specialists were basically a way to give higher pay for technical skills. Not higher rank, though, that was for leadership responsibilities. So a PFC with 1st Class specialists pay made good money but without any stripes to "show," which is why the unofficial extra rockers. The WW2 T-grades made official recognition of this issue and took it a step further, but still tried to avoid encroaching on the line NCOs' territory.

 

In WW2 the enlisted ranks started to inflate a little, the structure changed after the war,and to make a long story short people eventually got used to having the NCO grades recognize all kinds of skill attainments and the issue died out on its own.

 

Justin B.


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The thing is, I regularly see technicians in regular rifle companies, and I just have a hard time believing that if, say, a technician 4th grade (sergeant) shouts an order at a private, or gives a command during a maneuver that his word will go as moot since he, as the regulations even put it, "have no authority to issue commands or orders." The very definition as per the Army regulations seems to undermine their position. Also, if these men are huddled together at a motor pool or tarmac repairing planes, wouldn't the lead technician rank technically be "leading" the other mechanics?

 

Also, baking, driving trucks and operating a field radio doesn't sound too technical. Putting your foot on the brake or the gas pedal vs. repairing heavy machinery to me is the difference between grunt and "technical" work.

 

 

I'm very slowly beginning to understand their purpose. It's just new to me as a concept (but even today's Specialists baffle me and many others who see them on a regular basis.)

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The pre-WWII Specialist grades were to retain personnel who could make good money out of the service. Promotions were into open slots back then so a private could have been in the Army a long time. I don't know about WWII but the limited number of grades would be simpler. When I joined the National Guard in 1977, due to prior service it was as a Specialist 5. A later change to the units Table of Organization and Equipment changed my slot to Sergeant E-5. My job did not change, as a Spec 5 since I knew how things worked, I could tell people to do things. When it comes to technical stuff in the services the person who can do it is in charge . While in the Air Force as an Airman First Class, I supervised a team of Chief and Senior Master Sergeants removing tubes from a MRC-98 for transfer. I had done it and none of them had, they knew how to after I ran them through it.


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3.) It states they had no command authority over troops. So could a private or PFC tell a Tech 3rd/4th/5th grade to piss off if he told them to do something? The wording makes it seem like men who wore these stripes were in fact wearing a visual indicator that they were nobodies.

My Dad was a T-5 during WWII, at Los Alamos part of the time - and was in charge of a small administrative unit.


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My impression of Tech grade had to do with pay.

 

There were many people in the Army in WWII with specialized skills and since rank had to do directly with what one was paid, if someone was a specialist of some sort they necessitated a higher pay but not raise in rank. Tech was a way to receive a higher specialist pay without being promoted to a higher rank or command but still being paid higher than a normal non-tech rank.

 

This might be a throwback to some archaic labor/union laws that seeped over into the military during the 1930's/40's that has long since been forgotten. I'm sure labor had a some sort of say with politicians and with so many men being inducted from the workforce into the military.

 

This is the way I have always perceived it from the many people I have talked with over the years. I can be completely wrong and off base on this but its the only explanation that has made sense to me over the years.

 

Let me know if I am wrong on this!

Leonardo


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Unlike the later mid 50s to current Specialists, WWII Technicans were NCOs and ranked among themselves, a Tech 5 for instanse ranked below a Coporal, this info can be found in I believe WD circular 204, 24 June 1942. During the war, men in Combat units could be given the Tech ranks ( normally either Tech 5, and Tech 4) as a temporary Rank, both for probationary purposes, or while waiting for a Hard Stripe slot to become open, ( most likely done during training stateside or overseas, during periods of rest and rebuilding) this method no doubt was done in Support units too. As far as Infantry units as mentioned, I doubt that this practice was used alot when the unit was in Combat and taking heavy losses, slots needed to filled right away, not wait around to see how the new Tech 5 will do and see if it's okay to jump him up to Corporal.

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The thing is, I regularly see technicians in regular rifle companies, and I just have a hard time believing that if, say, a technician 4th grade (sergeant) shouts an order at a private, or gives a command during a maneuver that his word will go as moot since he, as the regulations even put it, "have no authority to issue commands or orders." The very definition as per the Army regulations seems to undermine their position. Also, if these men are huddled together at a motor pool or tarmac repairing planes, wouldn't the lead technician rank technically be "leading" the other mechanics?

 

Also, baking, driving trucks and operating a field radio doesn't sound too technical. Putting your foot on the brake or the gas pedal vs. repairing heavy machinery to me is the difference between grunt and "technical" work.

I'm very slowly beginning to understand their purpose. It's just new to me as a concept (but even today's Specialists baffle me and many others who see them on a regular basis.)

 

If you browse around the topics on the forum, you will come across several storys about the Vietnam era Specialists 4th Class in rifle platoons, here you will see that in times of extremely heavy combat in Vietnam, Spec 4s wear running squads. I knew a SFC in my unit at Fort Hood's C co 2/12 Cav, in 1981, a Platoon Seargent of another platoon in the Company, he was a popular NCO in the Company, the guys loved his Ribald songs he would sing when he sometimes lead the Company on PT runs, LOL, any way a friendly southerner, who would on occasion engage some of the guys in conversations, one time he related his experiances in Vietnam, a 9th Infantry Division combat Infantry vet, he told us when he was a cherry, arriving after I think in one of the Battalions that was heavly involved in the Mini Tet in Cholon/Saigon in May 1968, that when got to his platoon, the Squad leader was a Spec 4. As a young PFC this for me chilled me a bit, as he said the other NCOs in the Platoon, except two or three wear dead or wounded, with not enough to go around, not even in the whole company, he relates in due course the Spec 4, a Vet in the platoon for 4 months was replaced by a Shake & Bake, this PO-ed the guys who felt the Spec 4 should be promoted, he was the good Sergeant said doing a bang up job, a highly experienced combat vet, and was liked by all, to include the Platoon leader, and the Platoon Sergeant, who at that time was a S/SGT the senior ranking NCO in the platoon, but thats how it went alot of times.

 

 

I'm Imagining that it was similar in Infantry, Tank, Tank Destroyer units in WWII, with the Tech 5 or 4 taking over for dead and wounded Non Coms, but as per my below reply, I would imagine rather quickly these Techs were given, To use a more modern term, Hardstipes, with only in some instances other NCOs from outside the Company coming in and shunting these men back down the ladder, this of course precludes the normal replacement system, where NCOs where assigned as a simple matter of course.

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If you browse around the topics on the forum, you will come across several storys about the Vietnam era Specialists 4th Class in rifle platoons, here you will see that in times of extremely heavy combat in Vietnam, Spec 4s wear running squads. I knew a SFC in my unit at Fort Hood's C co 2/12 Cav, in 1981, a Platoon Seargent of another platoon in the Company, he was a popular NCO in the Company, the guys loved his Ribald songs he would sing when he sometimes lead the Company on PT runs, LOL, any way a friendly southerner, who would on occasion engage some of the guys in conversations, one time he related his experiances in Vietnam, a 9th Infantry Division combat Infantry vet, he told us when he was a cherry, arriving after I think in one of the Battalions that was heavly involved in the Mini Tet in Cholon/Saigon in May 1968, that when got to his platoon, the Squad leader was a Spec 4. As a young PFC this for me chilled me a bit, as he said the other NCOs in the Platoon, except two or three wear dead or wounded, with not enough to go around, not even in the whole company, he relates in due course the Spec 4, a Vet in the platoon for 4 months was replaced by a Shake & Bake, this PO-ed the guys who felt the Spec 4 should be promoted, he was the good Sergeant said doing a bang up job, a highly experienced combat vet, and was liked by all, to include the Platoon leader, and the Platoon Sergeant, who at that time was a S/SGT the senior ranking NCO in the platoon, but thats how it went alot of times.

I'm Imagining that it was similar in Infantry, Tank, Tank Destroyer units in WWII, with the Tech 5 or 4 taking over for dead and wounded Non Coms, but as per my below reply, I would imagine rather quickly these Techs were given, To use a more modern term, Hardstipes, with only in some instances other NCOs from outside the Company coming in and shunting these men back down the ladder, this of course precludes the normal replacement system, where NCOs where assigned as a simple matter of course.

 

 

Your post actually reminds me... did the Spec 4, 5 and 6 ranks command any respect or authority from subordinates? How were they perceived by their hardstripe counterparts in the same paygrade?

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This is a good discussion! I see references to a couple of terms that are sometimes misunderstood.

 

Acting Jack - In the early 70s there weren't many corporals around. Usually only in Combat Arms units. Occasionally a Specialist Four could be assigned duties as an NCO and be allowed to wear Corporal chevrons. Likewise, many times a Specialist Five would be allowed to wear Sergeant Chevrons when in a postion of leadership. For instance, a SP5 who was a Team leader in a Finance office. This often occurred because of a lack of Staff Sergeants and above.

The soldier was referred to as an Acting NCO or Acting Jack. There was no promotion or raise in pay grade, they were just allowed to wear the chevrons, and perform the duties, of an NCO. An acting jack usually had to revert back to specialist when leaving the unit, or when enough actual NCOs were assigned. If I remember correctly, there was a process to actually issue orders assigning the soldier to an acting NCO position.

 

Hardstripe - In some instances, a sharp specialist four who was eligible for promotion to E-5, and had graduated from an NCO Academy, they would be promoted to Sergeant rather than Specialist Five. That soldier would be called a hardstripe, because this promotion and rank would be permanent or a hardstripe Sergeant rather than an acting sergeant. This usually occurred in the combat service support MOSs.

 

Shake & Bake - The term Shake & Bake referred to a soldier who after completing basic and AIT, graduated from a special NCO preparation course and was promoted to Sergeant. As an Army term, Shake & Bake was derisive. Many times, a shake & Bake sergeant would be put in charge of junior enlisted with more time and experience under their belts. Of course this led to conflict as soon as the new Sergeant had to make decisions that were unpopular with the rank and file.

 

Stripes for Skills - this refers to an Army enlistment program designed to fill highly technical positions with highly trained soldiers. The program was prevalent in the Medical field as well as Army Bands. I remember one such program involving enlisted club managers that took place in 1984. Faced with a shortage of NCOs who wanted to serve as a Club Manager, MOS OOJ, the Army decided to recruit college graduates with degrees in hospitality management. The recruits entered the Army as a private E1, were promoted to PFC on graduating from basic, and went to the US Army Club Management School at Ft Harrison Indiana for AIT. Upon graduating from Club Management school, they were promoted to Staff Sergant and sent to their first assignment.

 

I served as a club manager in Nuerenberg Germany from 1983 to 1985. One day we received six brand spanking new Staff Sergeants who were disbursed among the clubs as assistant club managers. Other than basic combat skills, and what the learned at club school, they knew nothing of the Army. This led to some amusing incidents involving senior officers. I left the MOS shortly after and never found out if the program succeeded. in 1985, the Army decided to civilianize the field and I gladly went back to Finance.


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Your post actually reminds me... did the Spec 4, 5 and 6 ranks command any respect or authority from subordinates? How were they perceived by their hardstripe counterparts in the same paygrade?

 

 

Spec ranks did indeed have authority over individuals of lower Grades, take Spec 4s, they would routinely be given charge of details with E-1s though E-3s in them around the Barracks while garrison or in minor movements, IE like going out to a range for whatever reason and no NCOs are going out. In the field Corporals E-4, Sergeants E-5, Staff Sergeants E-6 run the show, they seldom if at all delegate tactical missions or undertakings or take in for decision/opinion making to a Spec 4, unless he is senior and there is a lack of NCOs and the Spec 4 has the confidence of all the NCOs and the Platoon Leader, he could however get sacked anytime really if he's not up to par.

 

Were you ever in the Army yourself? then you would know that the Army is very hierarchical, strict and proper in the main, whoever the senior is, he takes charge and in times of combat as well, this does not mean that if a man does a lousy job or is perceived as a danger he's retained in this postion/slot, he wont be, he'll be sacked, but the precendence is such that the senior ranking man will allways take charge or put in charge, this is especially true among Officers.

 

Here's an interesting and extensive dialog related to all this.

 

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ind...;hl=specialists

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Spec ranks did indeed have authority over individuals of lower Grades, take Spec 4s, they would routinely be given charge of details with E-1s though E-3s in them around the Barracks while garrison or in minor movements, IE like going out to a range for whatever reason and no NCOs are going out. In the field Corporals E-4, Sergeants E-5, Staff Sergeants E-6 run the show, they seldom if at all delegate tactical missions or undertakings or take in for decision/opinion making to a Spec 4, unless he is senior and there is a lack of NCOs and the Spec 4 has the confidence of all the NCOs and the Platoon Leader, he could however get sacked anytime really if he's not up to par.

 

Were you ever in the Army yourself? then you would know that the Army is very hierarchical, strict and proper in the main, whoever the senior is, he takes charge and in times of combat as well, this does not mean that if a man does a lousy job or is perceived as a danger he's retained in this postion/slot, he wont be, he'll be sacked, but the precendence is such that the senior ranking man will allways take charge or put in charge, this is especially true among Officers.

 

Here's an interesting and extensive dialog related to all this.

 

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ind...;hl=specialists

Interesting post considering that when I did Border duty as a GSR our boss was a Spec 4 when we were deployed.


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I do belive that the Tecnician 5,4 and 3 and ranks wore the NCO recognition bars on the back of their helmets as well. And I always thought those bars were for men to spot thier leaders in combat situations. So if the technician ranks had no authority, why did they have those? (in some cases anyway)

 

My wifes grandfather was a Technician 3rd grade (SSGT at discharge ) but I'm looking at his photo album now, and I see a few guys in this group picture, and there are a couple T/5s and him that are holding thier helmets in a way you can see them NCO recognition bars. More questions....

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To better understand the "authority" issue these ranks raised with me, I looked at my time at the Maritime College. In a working division on a training cruise, you had 1st class division officers, who were in charge of your division, then 1st class specialty rates (i.e. boatswains, carpenter/utility rates, navigators, and safety rates...) who each ran their own departments and planned/supervised the tasks at hand within their department for the day. Non rates were simply troopers, and could fill in wherever a 1st class was needed.

 

The troopers and specialty rates still had authority, and when they told you to do something, it had better get done... however, unlike the division officers, they could not call formations, organize personnel inspections on their own, or attend staff meetings. They had authority based on time in and experience, but they were not billeted to a command job.

 

 

That's how I am looking at it now.

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Would Techninicans be tasked with demolition during D-day or would that be left solely up to engineers?

 

Technicians 5th and 4th Class would of been found serving thoughout the WWII Combat Engineer Battalion and or Seperate Company, in all Theaters, their tasks were varied and on par with Privates, Privates First Class, and NCOs.

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What about those of the Rangers on D-day? Would any of them have been equipped w/ say satchel TNT bags?

 

Yeah, but that was just a normal issue of demo ordnance that was giving to select men who were simply detailed to carry them, and hopfully ( that they weren't killed or wounded) use it against the enemy, it had nothing to do with the rank or grade of the man or for that matter that they were Infantry, and Rangers are Infantrymen, then as now.

 

Indeed Infantry units of all types would in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam be handed Demolitions and use them on occasion, most received at least some familiarzation intruction on them in training, whether back in the states during WWII during Divisional manoeuvers, or in places like England before Overlord or being sent over as the campaign progessed, or when Infantry units were withdrawn from Combat to rest and rebuild, lots of times after a sufficent period of rest, training began before the entered the line again. In the 50s through at least when I was in in the early 80s familiarzation in Demo was giving in AIT, and later a farelly regular block of intruction in TO&E Infantry units would be given.The use of Demo among Infantry units would of course be only used occasionally in action, it depends on the exact misson that it might have it store for it.

 

There are numerous examples, WWII, to name two, Infantry attacking the old Maginot fortifcations ( Now occupied by the Germans) the Siegfried line. In the Pacific, the Japanese bunker, pillboxes etc. Korea, the Hill battles of the summer and fall of 1951, battles like Heartbreak Rigde and Old Baldy etc, Vietnam, area's in the Central Highlands and Western I Corps and the rugged terrain of the DMZ ( Marines along with GIs on occasion), or anywhere really throughout Vietnam when Tunnels and Bunker Complexes had to be assaulted.

 

But Having said all this, Combat Engineers in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, even perhaps on occasion earlier, are famous in the U.S. Army as having been leading attacks themselves on many times and fighting as Infantry with regular Infantry following close up behind.

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Okay. Cool. VERY informative. I thank you for that.

 

I was asking pertaining a D-Day Ranger Mannequin display I've been working on. "He" is a Tech Corporal and I'd like him to have two Demo Satchels slung over his shoulders. Would the bags have the 'pull fuse' afixed already to the charges or would that have been done on the beach? I've seen a few examples of soldiers carrying them inside of their helmet. For display purposes, would this also be appropiate/authentic?

 

Last, potentially ignorant sounding, question if I may:

 

I STILL don't fully understand what exactly would sort of tasks/jobs/skills Tecnicians would have done in the field/in combat... Could you perhaps list off a few examples?

 

Thanks again very much for the feedback/insight,

 

Mike

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First and foremost tasker, the rank is properly called Technican 5th Grade not " Tech Cpl or Tech Corporal" see this other topic in the forum links in some of my above earlier quotes, click on the orange forum links to see more talks on the WWII Tech ranks.

 

On Fuses, I would imagine they where put in the satchel charges RIGHT before their use, Right before a target is seen, I can't imagine that the men who were carrying them would board a pitching landing Craft, and hit rolling waves with armed stachel charges festooned around their bodies, you know like they might blow up killing everybody on the landing craft and sending it to the bottom in small pieces, or even worse go off while still on board the transport, causing even more wide spread damage and loss of life.

 

Are you familiar with this book?

 

http://www.amazon.com/Spearheading-D-Day-American-Special-Units/dp/2908182793

 

I would recomend it, if you do not have it already, it's a book by one of the members here on the forum, it is very detailed in describing units that hit Omaha and Utah, Navy units as well, it will go to great lenghts to give you most if not all the info you need.

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Yes,

I am most familiar w/ that book -- although for some reason I don't yet own it. And yeah, perhaps that was a dumb question regarding the fuses haha. That makes a lot of sense.

 

Thanks again for the information. I definitely need to get that book one day.

 

Cheers,

Mike

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Okay. Cool. VERY informative. I thank you for that.

 

I was asking pertaining a D-Day Ranger Mannequin display I've been working on. "He" is a Tech Corporal and I'd like him to have two Demo Satchels slung over his shoulders. Would the bags have the 'pull fuse' afixed already to the charges or would that have been done on the beach? I've seen a few examples of soldiers carrying them inside of their helmet. For display purposes, would this also be appropiate/authentic?

 

Last, potentially ignorant sounding, question if I may:

 

I STILL don't fully understand what exactly would sort of tasks/jobs/skills Tecnicians would have done in the field/in combat... Could you perhaps list off a few examples?

 

Thanks again very much for the feedback/insight,

 

Mike

 

This post is so old I don't know if anyone is still paying attention to it, but I came across it doing some other research and thought I'd offer what I know about the task/job/skills my grandfather had, who was a Tec. 5 in the Army during WWII and served in the Pacific. This information is directly from his discharge papers...

 

His "Military Occupational Specialty and No." is listed as "Medical Technician 409." In his Separation Qualification Record, in the Summary of Military Occupations, that is described as follows: "Performed duties with 116th Medical Battalion. Gave emergency treatment to casualties and prepared them for evacuation. Cleaned and bandaged injuries and wounds, applied arm and leg splints, administered hypodermic injections and sterilized instruments and equipment. Assisted in keeping records of patients."

 

Jon

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Gentlemen ive just found this thread as i was going to post a new one..so i do apologise for "jumping" on it....as i see it the least common Tech rank appears to be a T/3.....may i ask the board what would these have been...what units had them and what would have been their MoS within the unit and does photographic evidence bear this out as im sure wearing S/Sgt stripes with a T in meant more often than ot they would have been squad or assistant squad leaders rather than techincians

 

Regards

 

Lloyd


What do you need another one of those for.....you have 6 of them already ?.........

:blink:

 

my girlfriend to me on a regular basis as another piece of US WW2 "Green stuff" aka militaria arrives in the post..:-)

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If you look around the TOs here:

http://www.militaryresearch.org/freebies.htm

 

you'll find that T/3 is indeed a rare bird. Most of them are in medical units, and there is usually only one authorized. As to what their MOS would be, it would be the same as a T/4 and T/5 (surgical technician, for example) but the T/3 would be among the most highly experienced and skilled in that specialty and advancement to that grade would be more difficult, in proportion to the smaller numbers authorized.

 

Justin B.


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