TYR Tactical

In Memoriam – SGM(R) Richmond J Nail

I first met Sergeant Major Nail in 1991 while attending SERE Level-C at Fort Bragg. He was a grizzled old tough, the kind of guy you immediately respected and wanted to call “Sergeant Major” even though he had long since retired. He started his self-introduction with, “I’m a sky diver, SCUBA diver and muff diver.” You could get away with that kind of stuff back then, especially if you were a retired “Smadge” of the stature of Richmond Nail. I was hooked.

I ran into him a few times after returning to Group and he remained just as captivating. He never failed to start off anything he was going to say, with a colorful story, which was always a lesson on something.

Unfortunately for all of us, Richmond J Nail passed on late last week, joining his beloved wife Ann who passed away last April.

I am amazed that he didn’t retire from his position with SWC until 2006 considering he was always in a field environment. He was over 70. That’s a long time to serve your country.

Nail was a legend in Special Forces and had been inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment.

Here is his bio:

SGM Richmond J. Nail spent over 50 years serving his nation, both in and out of uniform, leading and training airborne and Special Forces Soldiers. He was born May 3, 1935, in Batesville, Ark. In 1953, at age 18, SGM Nail enlisted for three years of airborne duty. As an enlisted artilleryman, he served in a number of capacities with the 11th Airborne Division in Germany. In 1956, he participated in combat operations in Beirut, Lebanon. In June 1966, while serving as an artillery NCO in the 101st Airborne Division in the Republic of Vietnam, he earned the first of many combat decorations, a Bronze Star with “V” Device.

In 1967, SGM Nail returned to Fort Bragg to begin his long, distinguished career as a Special Forces NCO. He completed the Special Forces Training Course as an 11F in 1967.

In 1969, he returned to the Republic of Vietnam as a member of a Mike Force Team B-55, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), a quick-reaction force composed of a few American advisors and Montagnard tribesmen. On March 17, 1969, while serving as a platoon leader with three other U.S. Soldiers and 200 tribesmen in the 5th Mobile Strike Force Battalion, he earned another Bronze Star during search-and-destroy operations against communist strongholds at Tuk Chup Knoll in the hills of central Vietnam. After being severely wounded during this operation, he went to Japan and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for an extended period of recovery for severe wounds that eventually claimed an eye and a kidney.

SGM Nail’s long relationship with the JFK Special Warfare Center began in 1969, when he was handpicked to perform duties as an instructor at Camp Mackall in Phase I of the Special Forces basic enlisted division. He served in this capacity until 1975. During that time, he personally wrote every lesson plan for Phase I training and set up a jungle lane and a RECONDO course.

In 1982, Lieutenant Colonel James “Nick” Rowe requested SGM Nail join him in standing up the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Course in the Special Forces School. SGM Nail joined LTC Rowe and lent his expertise to the SERE program. He tailored his Phase I lesson plans to create a SERE course that emphasized the knowledge of poisonous plants, ropes and knots, and infiltration and extraction techniques. He set up strenuous training enhancers that became the hallmark of the SERE Course: barriers, wires, a slide for life and the use of aggressor forces.

In June 2006, SGM Nail retired after 24 years of civilian service to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. He was married to the former Anne R. Reynolds of Summerville, Ga (deceased April 2019). They have one son, Todd.

15 Responses to “In Memoriam – SGM(R) Richmond J Nail”

  1. MRC says:

    Legend! I went to SERE in Nov 1989, he was as colorful as they come.

  2. JFP says:

    We are diminished.

  3. JLU says:




  4. SoonerShooter says:


  5. The Stig says:

    Hopefully, he’s been reunited with his lucky wife Anne to do the three things he loves most.

  6. Jon, OPT says:

    “severely wounded” If I remember right SGM Nail took 8 bullets from an AK, they tried to retire him and he flat out refused, the man is a legend. He taught body repelling in SERE to US in 99, and demonstrated the technique, stating “I bet you don’t think my fat old beat up ass can do this”, a hard charging man well past his prime.

    We are truly diminished, RIP SGM, you are missed.

  7. Gerard says:

    Remarkable man, a true leader and patriot

  8. Alpha2 says:

    Rest in Peace SGM Nail

  9. Recoil says:

    One of my many indelible memories of Phase I in the Q Course in the early ‘70s was this remarkable man who we knew was a legend then. I remember frequently imitating his quote, All you need is your poncho and ammo, ammo, ammo. Thank You Sergeant Major, we are all better because of you.

  10. miclo18d says:

    RIP Warrior!

    As with many here, I too, met him in SERE C (but in 94). He was there with us all day as we crawled through the sewer pipes and climbed the circular wall, for the body rappel. I remember he had one of his grandkids out there with him! He had a great sense of humor!

  11. LTC (R) Arnie Peterman says:

    Richmond was my Team SGT on A-591 for almost two years in the mid 70s and then one of my Team Sgts when I took CMD of B-590. We called him the “eye” since one of his eyes was shot out in RVN, he also only had one kidney, and a really bad shot-up foot. He couldn’t run real fast or very far but if you but a rucksack on his back it was hard to keep up with him. Along with Richmond and MSG Jim Parker, we did a lot of stuff in the 5th SFGA in the mid 70s. Richmond was a true American, an excellent soldier, and a true patriot – he will be missed.

  12. A legend when I first met him at Camp Mackall in 69. I can recall not passing weapon inspection 3 times from him, each time checking the bore with his bad eye. His introduction to us all included ” No sky too high, no sea too deep, no muff too tough.” One of our roll models. RIP.

  13. ADDER says:

    I will never forget witnessing this “old man” run a obstacle course fastEr than most of us young barrel chested freedom fighters and not seeming to be winded… he fearless ran along the top rim of the old cement tanks and wrapped that rope across his body walking down like it was nothing… Legend is only half the word!
    RIP SGM!! DOL!!!

  14. FormerSOWT says:

    I met SGM (R) Nail in 1992. He was an inspiration to me, and so many others! A true American hero and patriot. I’ve told stories about him many times over the years. God rest his soul, and all the best to his son and family.

  15. bvvanes says:

    I was in MacKall in the 70’s. One day SMG Nail came into our classroom (the only classroom there at that time) told those who had fallen asleep in class to stand up and pointed to his ‘bad eye’ and said, ‘I got my eye on you’! If you fall asleep again I’ll put you up in the rafters (yes the classroom had rafters)! Over the years I ran across him at MacKall now and then, later I had taken a commission, I was at MacKall and stuck my head in the med shed, I saw SGM Nail and he said ” you look like a f##### officer!”. He exuded deference. Even years later after college, grad school, 4 different SF organizations, OEF etc I found very few Soldiers were like SGM Nail. In my era Beckwith/Healy/Simons come to mind, He didn’t just lead from the front he took point. How do you replace the irreplaceable?