This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on October 23rd 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email email@example.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
From the end of World War II until a couple years ago, the military was turtle slow in making any change or in obtaining new things. The Army is filled with really smart, good people, and its leadership the past few years has turned around that slow process mentality. Cyber war is here – now. The United States started creating cyber operations units 10 years ago, and has since been cyber attacked by foreign countries and we have conducted our own offensive operations. Two years ago, the Department of Defense created the United States Cyber Command. It is an independent four star unified command collocated with the National Security Agency (NSA). Its’ commander is also the Director of the NSA. Its official mission statement is; To direct, synchronize, and coordinate cyberspace planning and operations to defend and advance national interests in collaboration with domestic and international partners. In other words, not only stop hacking attempts, but go on the offensive in cyberspace. The US Army Cyber Command, the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, the Navy Fleet Cyber Command, the Naval Network Warfare Command, the Air Force Cyber Command, and the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command all fall under the US Cyber Command.
In May 2018 I wrote about new Army MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialties) 17C Cyber Operations Specialist and 17E Electronic Warfare Specialist, and in April 2019 I posted it on lifeinthearmy.com. Things are changing – fast.
Around four years ago, the Army created MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 17C – Cyber Operations Specialist, and up until a couple years ago only active duty soldiers in the ranks of Specialist through Master Sergeant, could apply for that MOS. They had to have a Top Secret security clearance and be very computer savvy. For the past couple years, the Army has been recruiting enlistees for MOS 17C.
If you are in high school or already out and a computer junky, and not yet reached the age of 34, but college is not in your immediate future, consider enlisting for this MOS. It requires a five year enlistment, it also requires a Top Secret security clearance, which means your background must be squeaky clean, minus a minor traffic ticket.
First, for any job in the Army, is basic combat training (BCT). BCT is the most radical environmental change many young people will experience. No telephone, no access to telephones until after a few weeks. Communication with family and friends is by letter. It is 10 weeks long, it is physically hard, stressful, and in the words of many graduates, a lot of fun and a great experience.
Up until a few months ago, the 17C candidate attended Phase I, which was the six month long Navy Joint Cyber Analysis Course (JCAC) at Corry Station (Pensacola), Florida. After JCAC the 17C candidate then attended Phase II, a 20 week Army Cyber Operations Specialist Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia. JCAC was attended by all services, then like the Army, the Air Force and the Marines taught their own courses. The Army needs computer hackers now, so the Army Digital Defense Service hired an outside firm, General Assembly, which is a worldwide high tech education company that, much like the Army, teaches basic, corps technology – no electives or ‘nice to have’ classes, to set up and conduct the Army’s own Phase I 17C course. The pilot course, with 10 students, ran from January to April 2019, twelve weeks, not six months. Those 10 were placed alongside JCAC graduates for Phase II, with no noticeable difference in knowledge or performance. The Army 17C AIT now totals about six months long and is all at Fort Gordon.
A couple weeks ago, October 2019, there was a ground breaking ceremony on Fort Gordon to construct a new ultra-modern cyber training facility. Some buildings will be demolished, four new constructed and seven renovated. The first facility will be a classified building, that is scheduled to open in fiscal year 2022. The Commanding General of the Cyber Center at Fort Gordon said; “The networks that go into it will allow us to do training at a level that is just far and above what we do today, and in a domain that is so dynamic like cyber, being able to train in that environment is absolutely critical.”
As far as security is concerned, this job is on a level above that of special operations. There is no enlistment bonus for this MOS. Everything about it is Top Secret. Who enlists for 17C, who is in training, and who is in the operational units is classified. So, the Specialist or Sergeant 17C does not get to come home and tell what he or she does in the Army. These are cyberspace shadow warriors. Some 17C assignments qualify for up to $300 per month special pay. Promotion to Sergeant is very fast. Very good operators are making Sergeant in 24 to 30 months.
University of West Florida grants 30 semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science to graduates of JCAC. Universities and colleges represented at Fort Gordon have not yet advertised the credit they give for the 17C AIT course, because it is new, but I would expect about the same credits. Enlist for five years for 17C, and by the time you are finished with training, you have a year of college. Anyone, in this job, should be able to complete their bachelors by the end of a five year enlistment.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, March 4th, 2020. I usually don’t post these stories online until a period of time after they have been published in The Belle Banner, but I decided to throw this one at the 82nd, in case there is something they may want to use in preparation for All American Week.
Why is the 82nd Airborne Division called the All American Division, and why is it called America’s Guard of Honor?
In 1914, when war exploded in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the United States would be neutral, and history says that the majority of the American people agreed. In 1915 Germany announced unrestricted warfare against any ship headed for England. Ships with Americans on board were blown up with mines and torpedoed by German submarines. In March 1917 Germany sank four United States Merchant ships. On April 2nd President Wilson called for a declaration of war against Germany. It was approved by congress on April 4th.
The Selective Service Act of 1917 or the “Draft Act”, was approved and signed into law on May 18th. By the end of the war about 4.2 million men had been drafted into the service. During the summer of 1917, hundreds of thousands of men were drafted into the Army forming new divisions and training as units. A total of 62 divisions were formed and 42 were shipped overseas.
The 82nd Infantry Division was constituted in the National Army on August 5th 1917, and filled with all drafted soldiers directly from civilian life to go through training as a unit, and activated on August 25th, at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Initially a contest was held in Atlanta to choose a nickname for the division, but when it was discovered that there were soldiers from all 48 states in the division, the Division Commander, Major General Eban Smith, chose the name “All American”, and the AA shoulder patch was created. The 82nd Infantry Division spent more consecutive days on the front lines in France than any other American Division and suffered 7,422 casualties, including 1,298 killed. Its’ battle streamers included Lorraine, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. One of its’ soldiers was the most famous Medal of Honor winner of World War One, Alvin C. York. The 82nd Division returned to the States in April and May 1919, and was deactivated at Camp Mills, New York on May 27th.
Red headed, blue eyed, Alvin C. York.
AMERICA’S GUARD OF HONOR:
Following the surrender of Germany, the 82nd was ordered to Berlin for occupation duty. In Berlin General George Patton was so impressed with the 82nd’s honor guard he said, “In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd’s honor guard is undoubtedly the best.” Hence the “All-Americans” became known as “America’s Guard of Honor.”
That’s the short answer, but there is always more to the story. What else, besides sharp looking paratroopers was in General George (old blood and guts) Patton’s mind when he said that?
General Patton knew and respected the 82nd Airborne Division, and he knew and respected its commander, Major General James Maurice Gavin, the youngest division commander, in fact the youngest general in the Army, at age 37. Clay Blair wrote in “Ridgeway’s Paratroopers”; “Gavin was tall and slim (Slim Jim), handsome, soft-spoken, a dedicated athlete and a master in the art of leading men. He was also dazzlingly brilliant – considered by some to be a military genius. In conversation, his mind raced at breathtaking speed over such a vast canvas. Ridgeway later wrote that Gavin was “one of the finest battle leaders and one of the most brilliant thinkers the Army ever produced.”
General Patton may have thought back to his first meeting with the 82nd Airborne Division, when he was commanding the 7th Army during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Two Infantry Divisions were to land on the beaches, led the night before by an 82nd Airborne Division reinforced regiment parachuting inland, in front of the invasion forces, to block the German army from reaching the beaches. He may have remembered how high winds blew the 82nd’s planes wildly off course, with most becoming lost and dropping paratroops scattered over an area almost 100 miles wide, instead of in front of the invasion forces. How paratroopers formed together in little groups, cut every telephone line, attacked German convoys and road blocks. How then Colonel Gavin, carrying an M-1 rifle and leading an engineer platoon, then a battalion attacked Biazza Ridge, with small arms, bazookas, and small modified artillery pieces, against German tanks. He may have seen Gavin frantically digging a body sized hole, with his helmet, to keep from being crushed by the tanks, but he would have definitely remembered Gavin and his ad hoc band of paratroopers stopping the German armored column at Biazzza Ridge. James Gavin recalled meeting General Patton, after the Biazza Ridge battle. General Patton’s first words were; “Gavin you look like you could use a drink. Here have one”, and handed him a flask. In spite of starting in complete disaster, the 82nd accomplished all its objectives.
General Patton may have remembered how the 82nd Airborne Division was assigned, what some called, the suicide mission of blocking several German Armored Divisions from reaching the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and again being scattered over the area, but accomplishing every objective and stopping the German armor. He may have also thought about Operation Market Garden in Holland, where the 82nd accomplished all its objectives, only to be stopped by a superior German force at the Nijmegan bridge over the ¼ mile wide Waal river. Then sending a battalion across the river, in boats, against German infantry on the far bank, over running the Germans and taking the bridge. Then spending the next two months fighting the German army on the ground, in Holland. The Battle of the Bulge must surely have been on General Patton’s mind, when he was given the mission of stopping the German breakout in December 1944, and the 82nd Airborne Division hurriedly thrown into the battle, succeeded in stopping the main German column. General Patton may or may not have known exact figures, at that time, but he knew what divisions did what in the war. There were 73 American divisions engaged in combat during World War II. The 82nd Airborne Division spent 422 days engaged in active combat, number four out of the 73, and “never lost a foot of ground”.
Early on Thursday morning, August 30th 1945, Major General Gavin wrote a letter to his daughter, Barbara. He wrote that in about an hour he was having General Eisenhower and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as guests for an airborne division review. So, in the airborne tradition of never doing anything half way, an honor guard was organized of all combat veterans, with several rows of ribbons, all six feet tall, with spit shined jump boots, with white laces, white parachute silk scarfs around their neck, and chrome plated bayonets on their rifles.
When General Patton uttered those words, that morning, the stands were filled with news reporters, who put the General’s words on wire services around the world, and that is when the 82nd Airborne Division became America’s Guard of Honor.
The 82nd returned to the United States and led the World War II Victory Parade through New York City on January 12th 1946, before finally returning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Since World War II, the 82nd Airborne Division has been the United States Military immediate reaction force. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower chose not to use the 82nd in Korea, but to keep it ready if needed elsewhere. The 82nd is now the US military Global Response Force, and how it has responded.
Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the first Iraq war 1990, hurricane Andrew, Haiti – Restore Democracy, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, hurricane Katrina, and today the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is in Afghanistan, and the 1st Brigade just deployed to Kuwait, with one battalion guarding the American Embassy in Baghdad.
The new All American Chapel.
82nd Airborne Division Museum.
Today the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters is located in Gavin Hall. Slim Jim Gavin set the standard for airborne officer leadership. When saluting a superior officer in the 82nd, the proper greeting is a boisterous “All the Way, Sir” (or Ma am). The officer answers with a smile and a hearty “Airborne”.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on November 27th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
First, is pay. Military pay is established, by law, every year in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is past each fall to fund the Department of Defense. The pay charts change every January 1st, with raises (or not) calculated by the increase in the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which is published quarterly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to reflect changes in total employment compensation. Traditionally, in August the President proposes military pay increases either based on the ECI or not, with justification, if different. Congress has the final say, and for the past several years, military pay raises have adhered to the ECI, regardless of which party was in power.
The military pay chart on this page only goes to 20 years and displays officers to the rank of colonel. The complete chart goes to four star general and increases to 40 years. This reflects basic pay only. The shaded areas reflect a normal progression in rank for an enlisted soldier and an officer. The actual pay soldiers receive is sometimes less, after deductions for social security, Medicare, federal and state income taxes, and retirement thrift savings plan, and sometimes more with additions such Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), special duty pay, hazardous duty pay, diving pay, flight pay, and more.
All military pay is paid by direct deposit to service members bank accounts, from the Defense Finance and Accounting Center in Indianapolis. Monthly pay is divided in half and paid on the 1st and the 15th of each month, unless those dates fall on a weekend or a holiday, in which case the payment is paid the day prior. Military pay is automatic, whether the soldier is in a combat zone, on leave, in the hospital, or sick in bed at home. Benefit = steady pay check. A huge difference between civilian life and military life is the soldier does not worry about keeping a job.
Pay is different for a married soldier from a single soldier. Almost 70 percent of soldiers are now married, so families are now an integral part of the Army, and the military pays the married soldier more to take care of his or her family. The extra is called Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The amount varies according to the cost of living in each location, and increases with rank. Soldiers in ranks private through specialist receive $876 in this area (Fort Leonard Wood), $924 at Fort Polk, Louisiana, $1,056 at Fort Hood, Texas, and $1,134 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The BAH for a staff sergeant E-6 in this area is $1,038. These figures are expected in increase by around 3.2 % starting January 1st. Actual amount will be announced in mid-December. BAH is for housing the soldier’s family, if the family lives in family housing on the fort, the married soldier doesn’t get the BAH. However, on post family housing means a nice house, with all utilities and maintenance, including lawn maintenance in the summer, provided. A great deal for low ranking young couples, and most forts now offer family housing to all ranks from private up. A married soldier, who is living in the barracks, his or her family is not with them, is still paid BAH because that is for their family’s housing.
A married soldier living with his or her family on or off post, not in the barracks, is also paid Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), which is currently $369.39 for enlisted soldiers. That is the monthly cost of meals in a Dining Facility. Soldiers living in the barracks eat free in Dining Facilities. BAH and BAS are not taxed.
Pilots and aircraft crew members, paratroopers, divers, drill sergeants, recruiters, and a few others are paid extra.
A Private (slick sleeve) single soldier, who has completed initial training and has finally arrived at a permanent duty station, claiming single with one deduction for tax purposes, after all deductions will have about $780 deposited in his or her bank account on the 1st and again on the 15th of the month. If they took the airborne option and are on jump status, that will be around $835. A Specialist E-4, with over 2 years in service will have around $940 deposited each payday. These are soldiers living in the barracks (dorms) and eating in Dining Facilities.
For a married Private living with his or her family in on post family housing, claiming married with two deductions, that deposit would be around $1,020. That calculates to a take home pay of about $470 per week, which is in the $15 per hour range, but when you throw in the cost of a house, electricity, water, sewer and trash pickup, plus complete, no co pay, no deductible health care for the whole family, you’ve got to be in the $25 to $30 an hour range, which makes that married private equal to his or her civilian friends making over $50,000 a year. A married Sergeant First Class E-7 with 10 years in service, living off post around Fort Leonard Wood (bought a house), claiming married with three deductions, and having 5 percent deducted for the Thrift Savings Plan, will have about $2,415 deposited on the 1st and again on the 15th of each month. That calculates to a weekly take home pay of around $1,115 per week, plus the free health care. The money is OK.
All military health care is managed through a giant government supervised insurance company called “Tricare”. Health and dental care for an active duty service member is free in military hospitals and clinics. Health care for family members of active duty soldiers is basically the same, there are different plans for remote locations and overseas. Tricare dental insurance for the family is $30 per month regardless of the size of the family. Military retirees, who are under the age of 65, pay $297 for only themselves, or $594 annually for the family, then a co-pay of $20 per doctor visit. Military retirees over age 65 are enrolled in “Tricare for Life”, for which there is no cost, at all. No annual fees and no co-pay, and it pays everything that Medicare doesn’t. As retirees age that becomes a huge benefit. The Army has some great medical facilities and people. We were both in our early 50’s, when my wife had major spinal surgery at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver in 1995 (it’s no longer there). A large benign tumor was pressing her spinal cord and had already broken her spinal column. The doctor (neurosurgeon) who performed the surgery was a Ranger, the only doctor Ranger I ever saw. After 12 hours of surgery, he flopped on a couch beside me, and in 5 minutes explained exactly what he and his orthopedic assistant did. He went on to become Chief of Neurosurgery at Walter Reed, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and having just retired from the Army was called to help save Gabby Gifford’s life in January 2011, when she was shot in the head in Arizona. Colonel (Retired) (Doctor) James M. Ecklund.
Another great benefit in the Army, is “time off”. Every soldier gets 30 days paid vacation (leave) per year. Leave time accumulates at the rate of 2 ½ days per month, and many soldiers often accumulate more than 30 days leave before they use it, because there is plenty of time off. Soldiers, who are not training in the field or on some kind of occasional duty, are normally off from about 5:00 PM to 6:00 AM for PT (physical training). On Friday, that means they are off until Monday morning. Plus, there are three and four day weekends. In most combat units that train hard, Commanding Generals, if at all possible, designate the Friday before a holiday weekend as a “training holiday”. Most people like to get home at Christmas and in the summer, during good weather. As a result of frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, many combat units try to schedule block leaves around the Christmas/New Years holidays, and again in the summer.
The Post Exchange (the PX), is officially the Army Air Force Exchange System (AAFES). AAFES is run by the Army and the Air Force, but is a “for profit” company that competes with all the off post stores, so the prices are very close to the lowest prices off post. Every Army post has a main PX and several small annex’s, like quick stops. The Main PX is like a giant department store, on post and available to soldiers, which caters to soldier’s desires. The main PX on Fort Leonard Wood now carries several higher quality more expensive lines of clothing, desired by soldiers and their families. Profits from AAFES go to the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) fund.
The MWR office on army posts are in the business of soldier and family recreation. Bowling, golf courses, swimming pools, paint ball, gaming centers, and many more. They sell hunting and fishing permits, they rent everything from boats and trolling motors, trailers, tents, gas BBQ grills, bounce rooms, horse shoe sets to all kinds of personal athletic equipment. Fort Leonard Wood MWR rents horse stables on post for $125 per month per stable.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on November 13th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email email@example.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
The Army is trying to produce better trained soldiers in their initial training. Infantry training has increased from 14 weeks, including basic training to 22 weeks, including basic training. Armor and Combat Engineers are expected to follow. However, many Army schools will continue to only familiarize new soldiers with most elements of a job, because the positions in which the soldiers may find themselves, are so varied and the required knowledge so vast it would not be cost effective to keep an individual in training that long.
The Quartermaster Corps is one of those areas. There are nine different MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) in that corps, seven are very specific and they do learn most of the required skills in AIT (Advanced Individual Training). They are 92F Petroleum Supply Specialist – they store and transport petroleum, 92L Petroleum Laboratory Specialist – the lab workers who test fuel, 92G Culinary Specialist – cooks, 92M Mortuary Affairs Specialist, 92R Parachute Rigger – pack parachutes, 92S Shower/Laundry and Clothing Repair Specialist, and 92W Water Treatment Specialist. However, the other two, 92A Automated Logistical Specialist, and 92Y Unit Supply Specialist only scratch the surface of knowledge required in those two areas, especially MOS 92Y Unit Supply Specialist.
MOS 92Y Unit Supply Specialist is the basic corps job in army logistics, which is the Army’s life blood to keep operating. Every type of company in the Army, whether infantry, medical, administrative, whatever, has a 92Y Company Supply sergeant and an assistant. Every battalion has a logistics section (S4 Section), with a higher ranking 92Y Supply Sergeant. Every Brigade has an S4 Section with a Master Sergeant E8 92Y Supply Sergeant, and every division has a G4 Section with a Sergeant Major E9 Supply Sergeant.
MOS 92A Automated Logistical Specialist is more of a computerized warehouse soldier. At the lower level they unpack, and store supplies and enter items into a data base and issue the supplies to units. They are assigned to company level in some units to maintain stock records and other documents such as inventory, materiel control, accounting and supply reports. They also maintain warehouses in forward support companies.
The 92A is oriented toward maintaining stores of supplies, whereas the 92Y deals with individual soldiers in issuing material and maintaining accurate property accountability.
Their AIT course subjects, both at the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia, reveal the differences in jobs. In AIT, the 92Y gets 111 hours of Basic Supply Principles, while the 92A only gets 16.5 hours in basic supply. The 92Y gets 79 hours on the Army Global Combat Support System (GCSS – Army). The 92A gets 163.5 hours on Warehouse Operations, which includes instruction on GCSS – Army. The 92A gets 26 hours on Food Subsistence because they are involved in the transportation, storing, and issuing of rations. The 92Y gets 80 hours on Small Arms Maintenance Procedures. That does not include weapons maintenance, but the proper maintaining of a unit arms room. In 21 years, I never saw a 92Y working as a company armorer. Every army post has an armorer school, where someone else is trained to be the company armorer. A school trained 92Y is too valuable to put in the arms room, he or she becomes the assistant to the Supply Sergeant. However, the Company Supply Sergeant is also responsible for weapons accountability, so he or she must have that knowledge. AIT for 92A is 9 weeks 2 days, 92Y is 8 weeks 2 days. Both MOS’s require an ASVAB clerical (CL) score of 90, which consists of word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, and mathematics knowledge.
AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia is not like basic training. There are drill sergeants, but some AIT trainees have described it as, like college in uniform. Three people to a room, wake up is usually 05:00 (5 AM), PT (physical training), eat breakfast, clean your room, fall in formation at 08:30 for class. Lunch is 12 to 1 PM (13:00), then back in class until 17:00 (5 PM). AIT trainees are off until 21:30 (9:30 PM) bed check, they can use their phone, computer, pad, etc, and can normally go anywhere on post. Off post passes are sometimes granted toward the end of AIT.
Assignment locations for these jobs are practically unlimited, especially for 92Y, which is in every company (a unit of 100 to 200 soldiers) in the army. If you want to be assigned close to home, which I do not recommend, the closest posts are Forts Leonard Wood, Leavenworth and Riley, Kansas, Knox and Campbell, Kentucky. Fort Campbell has the most positions, Riley second, then Leavenworth, Knox and Leonard Wood probably have about the same. I don’t recommend being assigned close to home because it is a different life and being too close to home can be a distraction from doing your job well. If you think that you would be terribly home sick, don’t join the army.
The 92A is basically a warehouse soldier, dealing with material. Bringing it in, accounting for it, and sending it out. The 92Y deals with supply for individuals and units. Everyone in a company wants to be friends with the supply people, because they have things. The supply specialist has to make sure that their unit has everything it is supposed to have, and that they have a receipt for everything that is issued. Supply regulations are voluminous and the study and learning is continuous. Many enlisted supply people switch to warrant officer, which is a logistics technician, around mid-career.
An option in enlisting for either of these jobs is the airborne option. Jumping out of airplanes. I highly recommend it for men and women. Airborne units normally have higher morale and esprit de corps. The 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the army crown jewel, “the tip of the spear”. It is the United States military global response force, ready to board airplanes for anywhere they are needed. The 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy (one of the most requested assignments in the army) is the rapid response force for Europe. Two battalions of the 173rd are stationed at Grafenwoehr, Germany, also one of the most requested assignments in the army. The 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Anchorage, Alaska is the rapid response force for the northern pacific.
92A soldiers can get several national civilian certifications in warehouse and supply chain management and inventory control. 92Y soldiers can get some of the same certifications, plus logistics technician and supply management.
Life as a 92Y Private and Specialist can, at times, feel more like labor, because those are the ranks issuing equipment, getting signatures for that equipment, and entering the transactions into a computer, but after promotion to Sergeant life changes from worker-bee to supervisor. Then, those couple of years in the trenches begins to payoff, because of the knowledge gained at the bottom level. Promotion to Sergeant is currently fairly fast for 92Y’s, a little slower for 92A’s. Very good Unit Supply Specialists are currently being promoted to Sergeant in 2 to 3 years, and promotion to Staff Sergeant is faster than many other support MOS’s, because most of the company supply sergeant positions call for a Staff Sergeant. “Very good” means someone who has studied and learned the supply regulations and procedures, and has a solid grasp of the operations of his or her company. The supply sergeant is a highly respected position in the Army.
The Enlisted Quartermaster Branch at the Human Resource Command is, in my opinion, one of the best enlisted branches. On facebook, they are always posting upcoming positions that are going to be available worldwide, in case someone wants those jobs, before they have to start selecting people to fill them. When they do select someone to move to another assignment, there is a lot of communication with the individual before actual orders are issued.
In summary, 92Y’s are where the supply rubber meets the road, 92A’s work in the warehouse.
This was originally published in the Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri December 26th 2018.
If you are a senior in high school, or a junior and don’t have solid plans for life after high school, and more classes in college doesn’t turn you on, or maybe you can’t see going through the application process for scholarships and grants or going in debt to go to college, or maybe you are tired of school and just want to get a good job and start life, what an opportunity you have.
If you fairly smart, and by that I mean of average intelligence. High school grades may or may not be an indication of a persons’ intelligence. High school grades are often the reflection of how a specific class was exciting and inspiring. If the class was not exciting and inspiring grades were probably less than in other classes. If you are a high school graduate, fairly smart, in good health, and good physical condition (not too overweight), and never been in trouble, the Army offers a tremendous opportunity. That is not just for new high school graduates. If you fit those requirements and are not yet 35 years old, you can still enlist, married, single, married with children, but single parents cannot enlist.
Health care is free for all soldiers and their families. The day a new enlistee processes into the Army, with his or her marriage and birth certificates, that soldiers’ family has 100 percent, no deductible, health and dental care. Housing is free. Single soldiers live in dorms, married soldiers live with their families either in family housing on a fort or they may live off post and are paid a family housing allowance based upon the cost of living at that particular location. Meals for the soldier are free. Soldiers who live in a dorm eat free in a Dining Facility. Soldiers who do not live in a dorm are paid a subsistence allowance equivalent to the cost of meals in the Dining Facility.
The pay is respectable. I recently wrote a fictional story of young lovers Jack and Judy. After eight months in the Army they are living in family housing on post, with take home pay of around $500 per week. Considering the value of the free family healthcare and free house and all utilities that is the equivalent of a civilian making $800 to $1,000 per week. Plus reduced cost groceries in the post commissary and “Walmart style” post exchanges and reduced and “no cost” recreational facilities, and on-post day care centers, and on-post elementary and middle schools.
There are around 150 different jobs in the Army, and almost 100 of them carry civilian certifications. Going to college while in the Army is partially free. Most on post and online colleges and universities, with classes for soldiers, have aligned their cost per semester hour with Army Tuition Assistance, which pays for 16 semester hours per year. Leaving the military, after three years, college is completely free under the GI Bill. That’s tuition and fees and books, plus around $1,000 per month living allowance.
We have a great Army Recruiting Station in Rolla, Missouri, with three very good, honest sergeants. They do not lie to people to get them to enlist, but their jobs is enlisting soldiers into the active and reserve army. They try to fit people into army jobs that the person desires, that are compatible with the persons’ skills and abilities, and are available
Now, for the things army recruiters won’t tell you. I won’t write what I think are bad jobs in the Army. I may tell you personally, but what I have considered bad jobs in the Army I have found soldiers loving them. The Army is so varied from job to job, from unit to unit, and from location to location.
The first significant thing, that a recruiter may or may not spend time on, is that the military is completely voluntary. Every soldier is a volunteer and wanted to get into the Army. That is assumed now, but I was in the Army during the draft, and there were many people drafted who did not want to be in the Army and that attitude was reflected in their performance, and their attitude affected everyone around them.
Next, the Army will expect more out of you than you can deliver. That may sound negative, but it’s not. You are challenged and you feel different from civilians and you treat them differently, as they treat you differently. That is a good feeling that lasts forever. When you are on your job with your army team, you do your best to accomplish the mission, everything else is secondary. The mission may be tough or long or hard, but it won’t last forever. Then you look back and see that you did some amazing things. Maybe you saved someone’s life or maybe you saved thousands of dollars by making a suggestion to do something a better way, or maybe your team came out on top of a big administrative inspection.
One of the fears many people have of the military is leaving home and leaving their family. The Army is family. In the Army every soldier has his or her place, the higher the rank the more authority and responsibility. That means accomplishing missions and maintaining the force. If someone seems sad or irritable or depressed, every soldier who sees it will step up and do everything they can to help. Just like family. Someone wrote of an example – If you are drunk in the middle of the night, call your boss and he will pick you up or send someone who can, even a few hours away. A buddy will give you a ride to the airport, because you don’t want to leave your car parked there. Soldiers are continually giving and lending things to each other. It‘s fascinating and happens all the time. If a soldier has a serious problem he or she can go to their boss who can direct them to programs and facilities on post. A civilian with the same problem would lose their job. And finally, whatever religious faith a soldier may or may not have, a Chaplain can help. If he can’t help he will direct the soldier to someone who can.
The Army cures prejudice. Race and gender issues are sensitive subjects, and many people have preconceived ideas about people with whom they have not been associated. In the Army you see every race and ethnic origin of both sexes, at their best, working together to accomplish the mission. You will find people smarter than you, stronger than you, and faster than you, all willing to help you as you will be willing to help them. It is amazing. There is a saying; “We’re all green and we all bleed red.” It’s not all “kumbaya”, prejudice and sexual harassment happens, but the Pentagon is completely serious about stopping it. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is periodic mandatory training in the Army. It is also an office in the Pentagon with its own website.
The Army has the best exercise program. Basic Combat Training has a lot of sweat and sore muscles, and Advanced Individual Training can vary from the same thing to sitting behind a desk. Everybody in the Army works five days a week, and everybody in the Army exercises five days a week. Whatever your job, where ever you are assigned and work, and whatever kind of shift work, you will do some form of exercise five days a week. It is good for you.
And finally – the Army is funny. Really funny. Put a group of people together doing something sensitive and stressful, whether combat, out-loading supplies, or its midnight and you’re trying to finish an Operations Plan that will be presented in the morning, or that same group waiting for something bored out of their minds, and you will see creative minds at work. Humor relieves stress, and soldiers can’t just “quit”, they are the Army, so it is much easier to laugh it off. If you don’t have a sense of humor going into the Army you will develop one and it will last forever.
When I worked in the Command Section of the 82nd Airborne Division, there were two majors in the G3 (Operations and Training) Section. They had two of the most stressful staff jobs in the headquarters, they worked long hours and weekends, just to keep up. They did hard physical training in the mornings and usually played handball at lunch till they were exhausted, just to relieve some of the stress. But they also needed to have fun, so they hatched a plan just between themselves. Their plan was the “rumor a day” operation. They would drop a word at the water cooler like, “Did you hear that we are going to be alerted Thursday night?” Then they would sit back and see how far it went and how it grew. They were revealed when the Chief of Staff (Colonel) finally got to the source of the rumors. The Chief and the Commanding General both had a good laugh, thought it helped relieve stress.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, in four issues, beginning December 18th 2019 and ending January 15th 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
In December 1944, the almost 2,000,000 American soldiers and Allied Armies had fiercely fought the German Army back across France and Belgium to the German border. In front of the Allied front lines was The Siegfried Line, a deep series of concrete pillboxes and tank traps, with walls from 5 to 11 feet thick, stretching 390 miles across the western border of Germany.
Those Armies had moved across France more rapidly than leadership had anticipated. Troops were exhausted from weeks of continuous combat. Supplies had been dangerously depleted, and supply lines stretched to the breaking point. In August the Red Ball Express had been created. It was almost 6,000 trucks, with two drivers in each truck. About 75 percent of the drivers were black, because at that time the Army was segregated and black men were normally assigned to support jobs. When it started the highways were too congested, so parallel highways, which were eventually extended across France, were designated as “Red Ball Express Traffic Only”, no civilian or military traffic. Each was one way, one going out from Normandy and Cherbourg and the other coming back. The highways were marked with white signs with a red ball, warning all others to stay off, and the trucks were marked with a red ball. It started with a speed limit of 25 MPH and a convoy of at least five trucks, but it soon turned into a truck leaving when it was loaded, and the drivers learned how to disable the trucks governors, which restricted the trucks to 56 MPH. The stories are that they drove flat out, as fast as the truck would run. The problems were finding enough drivers, sleep and maintenance. The Red Ball Express ran for three months, until the seaport at Antwerp, Belgium was recaptured from the Germans and reopened. During that time, they had delivered about a half a million tons of supplies to the Army.
By December 1944, the drive across France had beaten and battered the German army, but the allied armies were also battered and exhausted. The winter of 1944/1945 in Europe was extreme. It was very wet and had warm days with thawing and mud scattered in with extremely cold days and heavy snow. Those conditions, by December 1st, caused General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, to realize that winning the war by Christmas wouldn’t happen, that it would probably be May 1945 before victory. Allied forces in December 1944 were arranged with the British 21st Army Group in the north, commanded by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the US 12th Army Group in the central section, commanded by General Omar Bradley, and the 6th US Army Group in the south, commanded by General Jacob Devers, all under the command of General Eisenhower.
On November 16th, General Bradley had initiated an offense to try to break through the German defensive line. In the north, Bradley’s First Army commanded by Lieutenant General (LTG) Courtney Hodges, fighting in miserable weather, through the Hurtgen Forest, ran into punishing German resistance. They did manage to slightly punch through the Siegfried Line, but at a cost of 35,000 casualties. In the south, LTG George Patton’s Third Army, bulled its way 40 miles, but was stopped at the Siegfried Line, after incurring 27,000 casualties in three weeks. Clay Blair wrote in “Ridgway’s Paratroopers”, “The Allied Armies from Nijmegan to the Saar were mired in a ghastly war of attrition and winter was upon them”.
Believing that the German army was all but beaten and incapable of mounting any serious offense, the American and Allied armies settled in for the winter. In early December, General Bradley assigned the new 106th Infantry Division, fresh from the United States, to a thinly manned, relatively quiet area around St Vith in the Ardennes to get acclimated, get some experience and finish training. His staff called it a “Ghost Front”. He later described his decision as a “calculated risk”. General Eisenhower added that because of a shortage of divisions, risk had to taken somewhere, and the German Ardennes front was a “quiet” sector, or a training ground, manned by inferior Volksgrenadier divisions (composed of sailors and airmen and new recruits, many of them hastily trained old men and young boys), incapable of major offensive operations. The 106th became part of VIII Corps, commanded by LTG Troy H. Middleton, which was headquartered at Bastogne. After sleeping in the mud for two nights while crossing France and Belgium, the 106th relieved the battle hardened 2nd Infantry Division, which was being pulled back to prepare for an attack on the Roer River Dams. Moving into defensive positions already prepared by the 2nd Infantry Division, the change was completed on Wednesday, December 13th. The 106th commander, Major General (MG) Alan Jones assumed responsibility for the defense of that sector.
In early December, Colonel Ben “Monk” Dickson, the G2 (Intelligence Officer) of LTG Hodges First Army, which VIII Corps was part of, had pieced together information from various sources and concluded that the Germans were planning offensive operations in the Ardennes area. Senior leaders didn’t think so. General Bradley’s G2 dismissed Dickson’s report, and stated, “It is now certain that attrition is steadily sapping the strength of German forces on the Western Front.” Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expedition Forces (SHAEF) joined Dickson’s critics, General Eisenhower’s G2 issued a report that the Germans were all but finished, and the British concurred. Montgomery had stated flatly that the Germans “cannot stage major offensive operations.” Colonel Dickson had been wrong once before, so he went on leave to Paris. General Hodges put up his Christmas tree, as did Montgomery, who attended to his Christmas cards, and prepared to go home for Christmas.
The only battle experienced command in reserve was the XVIII Airborne Corps, consisting of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division. Both divisions had been pulled back to France in late November, after having spent 60 days in continuous hard combat in Holland after operation Market Garden. All who could be spared were given leaves and passes. Ross Carter wrote in “Those Devils in Baggy Pants” about he and the original old guys in his platoon attempting to “take in” the culture, hotels, restaurants, night clubs, bars, and women of Paris on a 48 hour pass. The XVIII Airborne Corps commander, Major General (MG) Matthew B. Ridgeway, was in England at XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters Rear, observing training of the 17th Airborne Division. MG Maxwell Taylor, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division was in Washington, DC making a pitch to the War Department for increasing the strength of Airborne divisions. The Assistant Division Commander (ADC) of the 101st, Brigadier General (BG) Gerry Higgins, and five senior commanders of the 101st were in England conducting a critique on Operation Market Garden. The remaining senior officers in the area were the 82nd commander, MG James M. (Jim) Gavin, who was, at that time, the youngest general in the army at 37 years old, and his brand new ADC Colonel Ira Swift, the 101st Artillery commander, BG Anthony (Tony) McAuliffe, and BG Doc Eaton, the XVIII Airborne Corps Chief of Staff.
On Friday December 15th, a woman was brought to LTG Middleton’s headquarters in Bastogne, who claimed that she had been taken and placed on a work party by German soldiers. Before slipping away, she said that she saw German troops and tanks massing east of Clervaux, twenty miles away. Elsie Dele-Dunkel told that she had seen horse-drawn wagons loaded with pontoons and small boats, and troops in SS uniforms, and overheard soldiers talking about their three week struggle to get there from Italy. She was sent to LTG Hodges First Army headquarters at Spa, but the G2 himself, Colonel Dickson, was on leave, so she was listened to by intelligence officers and politely told to go home.
Meanwhile on the other side. In September, Hitler called in General Alfred Jodl, his Chief of Staff to review a map of the Ardennes, the area lightly manned by the Americans. Noting that American defensive positions in some areas were only manned during the day, not at night. Hitler’s plan was to mass all forces available, and drive a wedge between the allied forces, thrusting 125 miles to the north and retake the port at Antwerp, hoping to bring the allies to the negotiating table at the German border. German Field Marshall Gerd Von Rundstedt commanded all German forces on the Western Front, but for this operation Hitler had moved close to the front lines to personally supervise. Hitler also gave SS Lieutenant Colonel Otto Skorzeny the task of organizing a regiment of commandos dressed in American uniforms, fluent in American language, and using American vehicles and equipment, to wreak havoc behind the American lines. When Hitler revealed the plans to Von Rundstedt and his chief field commander, Walter Model, they were shocked. Model confided privately to Von Rundstedt, “This damned thing hasn’t a leg to stand on.” They knew that the Americans could bring in reinforcements by the thousands.
In “PATTON: Ordeal and Triumph”, Ladislas Farago wrote about General George Patton’s sixth sense – what Eisenhower had praised as Patton’s uncanny ability to worm himself mentally into the enemy’s thinking and anticipate his moves. The last week of November 1944, Patton said; “The First Army is making a terrible mistake by leaving Middleton’s VIII Corps static where it is. It is highly probable that the Germans are building up east of them for a terrific blow.”
In the First Army area, in the Ardennes Forest area in Belgium, there was a two mile wide gap between the V Corps and VIII Corps. The connecting units, the 106th Infantry Division’s 14th Cavalry Group, of VIII Corps, and north of them, the 394th Infantry of the 99th Infantry Division of V Corps, patrolled back and forth to cover the area. On Saturday morning December 16th 1944, the only unit in that sector was the I&R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance) Platoon of the 394th. There were 18 men in the platoon plus four artillery forward observers (FO’s). Twenty year old Lieutenant Lyle Bouck, from Fenton, Missouri, was the Platoon Leader. A Recon Platoon’s job is not to engage the enemy, but to find what the enemy is doing and report it. The Recon platoon members are usually the best troops, hand-picked. The platoon had dug in and fortified their positions with logs, on a ridge over-looking the town of Lanzerath. Lanzerath, was a village of about 15 houses on the only road network which would support major military traffic through the Losheim Gap, a narrow valley about five miles long, along the base of the Schnee Eifel, a heavily wooded mountainous range.
That road network was the northern route of attack planned in Hitler’s operation “Watch on the Rhine”, for General Josef “Sepp” Dietrich’s 6th Panzer Army, consisting of the best German troops available, with the German 1st SS Panzer Corps leading. The lead element was commanded by a ruthless 28 year old lieutenant colonel Joachim Peiper. A battalion of 500 German paratroopers was the lead element. Dietrich’s mission was to attack from Monschau to the Losheim Gap, through the gap in the American lines, roll over Elsenborn Ridge, across the Meuse River and on to Antwerp and recapture seaport there. South of the 6th Panzer, General Hasso Von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army was to encircle the Schnee Eifel salient, trapping the US 106th Division, and then capture St Vith, the most vital rail and road center east of Bastogne. South of the 5th Panzer, General Ernst Brandenberger’s 7th Army was to basically protect the left flank of the 5th Panzer from Patton’s US 3rd Army in the south.
It was bitterly cold, that morning, foggy and overcast. At 5:30 AM an eighty mile wide front, literally exploded with German artillery, mortars, and railway guns firing 14 inch shells. The barrage went on for an hour and a half, destroying most all telephone lines. Radio traffic was jammed with the Germans playing loud music on all known American military frequencies. About 8:00 AM, the 394th I&R Platoon spotted white clad German soldiers, with rifles slung over their shoulders, moving along the road. The Germans didn’t expect to meet any resistance. The I&R platoon fired on the column, the Germans scattered, some into the town buildings, some platoon members went into the town and ran the Germans out. The Germans organized a direct attack across an open field, they were sitting ducks for hand picked American troops. The attacks went on all day, but were unable to dislodge that I&R platoon. Finally, at dusk, an overwhelming number of German Infantry over ran the platoon and captured them. One artillery forward observer had been killed, fourteen were wounded, all were taken to the rear as prisoners of war, and all refused to provide the Germans with any information about their units. The Germans reported 16 killed, 63 wounded, and 13 missing in action. Because of the high volume of accurate fire, the Germans thought that they had captured just one platoon of a much larger force, and that the woods were full of American troops, only when Peiper arrived after midnight, did they prob and find that there were no more Americans to their front. Finally, at 4:30 AM on December 17th, the German column started moving again. That one American Recon Platoon had stopped the entire German 6th Army, which was now 18 hours behind its planned time table. Knowledge of that action was lost for years, because Lyle Bouck thought that by being captured, he had failed. In 1981, after a push by Bouck, to gather statements, including information from German records, the platoon members were presented valor awards, making it the most decorated platoon of World War II.
By around noon on the 17th, a frustrated Joachim Peiper had pushed about 30 miles further to the Baugnez crossroads about two miles south of Malmedy, when his lead element encountered a US convoy of about 30 vehicles of B Battery of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. The German Tiger tanks destroyed the first and last vehicle in the convoy and surrounded the unit. Armed with only rifles and pistols, B Battery surrendered. About 125 American soldiers were grouped in a field, next to a café, and machine gunned. Those appearing to be alive were shot in the head. Some played dead and survived. Of the 84 bodies recovered at the “Malmedy Massacre”, 40 had wounds in the head, some with powder burns. American POW’s were also reported massacred in Stavelot, Cheneux, La Gleize, and Stoumont. At Stavelot Peiper’s men murdered about 100 Belgium civilians – men, women, and children. Word quickly spread that the Germans were killing POW’s.
South of the Losheim Gap, when the shelling stopped, the Germans turned on giant anti-aircraft search lights behind their own lines. The light reflected off the clouds and light up the American front lines. Americans came out of their positions to see hundreds of white clad German Infantry moving toward them, with tanks following them. With each regiment, the 422nd, 423rd, and 424th Infantry, of the 106th Infantry Division, covering an area over seven miles wide, the front line was too thinly manned to prevent the German Infantry from simply bypassing many positions and encircling them.
Elements of the 422nd counterattacked toward the village of Auw, preventing the Regimental Command Post (CP) from being overrun. The Germans drove a wedge between the 423rd surrounding some companies. The 106th Division Reconnaissance Troop and a company of the 424th were overrun and captured. The 424th began pulling back, giving up ground slowly.
South of the 106th Division, was the 28th Infantry Division, full of new recruits, having recently suffered high casualties in the Hurtgen Forest. The 28th was also covering an area 25 miles wide, three times that normally assigned to a division. In the center of the 28th area was the 110th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), with around 5,000 men. Facing the 110th, across the Our river was Germany’s entire 47th Panzer Corps with 27,000 infantry and 216 tanks intending to smash through the 110th positions in one day, seize the Clerf river bridges intact and drive on to reach Meuse two or three days later. Throughout the night, before the attack, German Infantry had crossed the river and snuck into positions surrounding much of the 110th. When the artillery barrage ended, the German Infantry came out into the open and started moving toward the American positions. A couple of shivering guards in a water tower in Hosingen spotted an entire company of white clad Germans, and alerted their fellow GI’s, who put up a serious defense, stopping the German advance. Many elements of the 110th fell back to defend the Regimental CP in the town of Clervaux. The Germans expected the 110th to simply surrender, being surrounded by overwhelming numbers. The 110th did not surrender, they fought the Germans down to house to house fighting, until around 6:45 PM on the 17th, when they ran out of ammunition. Many, including the Regimental Commander, Colonel Fuller, tried to escape on foot through the forest, but were captured. By that time most of the 422nd and 423rd regiments of the 106th had also been surrounded and forced to surrender, but they had bought valuable time for the US, because the German attack was now two days behind schedule, giving the American command time to realize what was happening, and respond.
Saturday morning, December 16th 1944, General Bradley, the 12th Army Group commander and Lieutenant General (LTG) Hodges, the First Army commander, visited a Belgian maker of custom shotguns, then General Bradley got in his armored Cadillac staff car for the trip to Versailles to confer with General Eisenhower about replacements, arriving around mid-afternoon. About dusk, a message arrived that the enemy had counter attacked at five separate points across the First Army sector. General Bradley said, “Let them come”, thinking that it was just a spoiling local attack. General Eisenhower was among the first to realize that this was no local “spoiling” attack, he surmised that five points in our weakest sector meant a major attack. He suggested that Bradley divert two armored divisions to that area. General Bradley called his own headquarters and ordered that the 7th Armored Division be diverted from LTG Simpson’s Ninth Army, and the 10th Armored be diverted from LTG Patton’s Third Army. General Bradley also asked General Eisenhower to release the reserves consisting of the XVIII Airborne Corps’ 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, resting in France. General Eisenhower was reluctant to release the airborne divisions, but did so the following day.
General Bradley dreaded telling Patton, who had once been his superior, to give up a division, that Patton was planning to use in a major offensive operation. General Eisenhower said; “Tell him Ike is running this damned war.” Patton did protest, but the tone of General Bradley’s conversation caused him to believe that something serious was happening up north. Shortly later, when Patton learned that the German 7th Army was moving into his own XX Corps area, he said; “One of these is a feint, one is the real thing. The more I think of it though, the more I become convinced that the thing in the north is the real McCoy.” Patton then directed his staff to start working up plans for the Third Army to swing north. The next morning, Monday December 18th, General Bradley personally called Patton to meet him in Luxembourg, as soon as he could get there. After laying out the situation, Bradley asked Patton, “What can you do to help Hodges?” (LTG Hodges First Army) Patton answered that one division could be on the move immediately, one in the morning, and one on standby. Bradley was expecting an argument, instead he got help. Just after 11:00 PM that evening, Bradley called Patton again. He said, “Georgie, Ike is coming to Eagle Main tomorrow morning for a special confab. Be there at 1100 sharp”. By the next morning, having worked through the night, the Third Army staff had completed plans, and operations orders for three different movements, one of which Patton believed he would be asked to do. Each with a code word that Patton would call back with to initiate the chosen operation. The meeting was filled with brass and intelligence people. There was a brief presentation, then General Eisenhower took over, he knew what he wanted and needed only a few words to outline his plan. He then turned straight to Patton, he said, “George, I want you to go to Luxembourg and take charge of the battle, making a strong counter attack with six divisions.” Patton answered “Yes sir”. “When can you start? Ike asked. “As soon as you’ve finished with us here”, Patton answered. Bradley asked, “How soon will you be able to attack, George?” “In forty eight hours, but with only three divisions, they are ready and if we wait for six, we will lose surprise”. There was a shuffling of chairs, and Eisenhower frowned and said, “Don’t be fatuous, George”. Patton would have to turn the entire Third Army 90 degrees. Patton then explained that his staff had already prepared plans for just this eventuality, and he had only to call and give them a code word to start the operation. Patton then lit a cigar and pointed to the bulge on the map of the Ardennes, and said, “Brad, this time the Kraut has stuck his head in a meat grinder, and this time I’ve got hold of the handle”, holding up his fist. Even Eisenhower grinned and said, “All right George, start your attack”.
As previously mentioned, when the German Army counter attacked through the Ardennes Forest on December 16th 1944, the XVIII Airborne Corps commander, Major General (MG) Ridgeway, was in England observing training, MG Taylor, the 101st commander was in Washington, DC, the Assistant Division Commander (ADC) of the 101st, Brigadier General (BG) Higgins, along with five senior commanders from the division were in England.
Early on Sunday evening, December 17th, MG James M. (Jim) Gavin, the 82nd Airborne Division commander had just sat down to dinner, with his staff at their house in Sissonne, France when he received a call from BG Eaton, the XVIII Corps Chief of Staff. He was informed that he was now the Acting Corps Commander, and that both divisions were to be ready to move to the front, within 24 hours of daylight in the morning. He told the Corps Chief to tell BG Anthony (Tony) McAuliffe, the 101st Artillery Commander, that he was now the Acting Division Commander of the 101st, and to immediately start preparing the division to move. Two hours later MG Gavin received another call directing that the divisions move as quickly as humanly possible.
Ross Carter wrote in “Those Devils in Baggy Pants”, on that very evening, a group was sitting around in their barracks planning a big Christmas party. “Suddenly, the new company commander dropped in our midst like a shell.” “Men, we’re hot! An urgent mission is coming up. There’s been a break-through. We’ve got to be ready to leave eight o’clock in the morning with complete combat equipment. I want to see all non-coms. (sergeants).” “There would be no Christmas!”
John Toland wrote in “Battle”, “That evening, the men of these two airborne divisions were enjoying the wine and women of Reims, France. Pfc. Edward Peniche, a native of Yucatan, Mexico, was sitting at a bar with a group of 101st men. “Throw a beer at that table, Peniche,” a buddy suggested, nodding at a group wearing the “AA” patch of the 82nd. “AA—All-American crumbs!” Peniche obliged, the can hit a big 82nd man. He picked it up and walked over to Peniche. “Well, who threw it?” A French girl pointed at Peniche. “It just fell out of his hand,” Peniche’s buddy explained. The 82nd man hit Peniche, and the riot began. Soon the whistles were blowing, but not primarily to stop this latest skirmish between the two rival divisions. “Okay, 101, back to Mourmelon!” shouted an MP. “Trucks are outside!” The men of the 82nd were also ordered to their camp at Suippes. All over Reims men were being dragged from boites, bistros, and bordellos. Some dead drunk, some still fighting, others not quite dressed, they were thrown into trucks and hustled home to camp. What was up? Where were they going? Everyone had a different idea: a new jump; rest camp in the south of France; back to England. But they were going somewhere, and the brass was in a terrific heat to get them there”.
Having set movement plans, for the two airborne divisions, in motion, about 11:30 PM MG Gavin with his G1, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Al Ireland, and Aide Captain Hugo Olson, got in an open jeep and drove through light rain and fog to Spa, Belgium, to meet with LTG Hodges, at First Army Headquarters, arriving around 9:00 AM the next morning. LTG Hodges directed that one division be sent to Bastogne. Seven major roads converge on Bastogne, making it essential for the Germans to control in their march to Antwerp. The other division to be deployed along a dominating hill mass centered on the small town of Werbomont. The 82nd, having been on stand down longer than the 101st, was the first to move. MG Gavin decided to put the 82nd in the blocking position at Werbomont, and when the 101st arrived a few hours later it moved into Bastogne. The 82nd Airborne Division was being placed directly in the path of Peiper and the 6th Panzer Army, with the mission of stopping the Germans.
Ross S. Carter was an infantryman in Company C, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Airborne Division. He wrote in “Those Devils in Baggy Pants’; “we rode in rain-soaked trucks all day and all night, piled off in the cold of a rain-fog morning on December 19 and slogged along for miles through squashy piles of watery snow. We spent the day in a drippy pine forest and then at nightfall resumed our march, which lasted until our muscles became numb and the bone in our feet dissolved into formless, motileless paste. At dawn (December 20) we finally halted on a road that circled the top of a high hill and began to dig into the hard clay.
War is hell. Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” When evil arises, as did Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany, and deny other nations and peoples their freedom, war is inevitable. Generals run the wars. They move armies and make decisions to defeat the enemy and end the war. Soldiers fight and die.
The Battle of the Bulge or officially the Ardennes Counteroffensive, was the largest, most fiercely fought battle of World War II. It lasted from December 16th 1944 to January 25th 1945, when the German Armies were pushed back into Germany and lines were restored to where they were on December 15th. Germany committed about 450,000 troops and 1500 tanks. The German high command reported 81,834 casualties, of which 12,652 were killed, 38,600 were wounded, and 30,582 missing or captured. Others estimate the German casualties at around 100,000. The Allies committed around 610,000 men. The US Army reported 108,347 casualties, of which 19,246 were killed, 62,489 were wounded, and 26,612 captured or missing. There were hundreds of stories of exceptional, gutsy actions by soldiers. Heroism. After the battle, someone suggested that General Patton was the hero of the Battle of the Bulge. His response was; “The only hero of the Battle of the Bulge was the individual soldier – on both sides.” Here are a couple of those stories.
The 82nd Airborne Division was in a blocking position, spread out over a twenty five mile wide area of high ground centered on Werbomont. In some places there was 200 yards between individual positions. By their nature, paratroopers are not static, and Major General (MG) Gavin, the 82nd commander, was of the same military mindset as General Patton, in that the best defense is often a good offense.
The afternoon of December 20th it was learned that Joachim Peiper’s command in the 1st SS Panzer Division was in Cheneux, a few miles northeast. A bridge over the Ambleve led to Cheneux, if left in German control, it gave Peiper a route west to Werbomont. MG Gavin ordered Colonel Tucker, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) commander to attack Cheneux, destroy the German forces and capture the bridge. Col Tucker committed his 1st and 3rd battalions. Having survived serious combat in Sicily, Italy, and Holland, Ross Carter was then a squad leader in the first platoon of Company C of the 1st battalion, he wrote;
82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment December 21st 1944.
“In the early twilight the company moved to the left and stopped in a dense forest to await orders. They came. Orders always came. Lieutenant Freisinger (the new Platoon Leader) called his noncoms together: “Men, there is a strong Krauthead roadblock a few hundreds away on the edge of an open field opposite the woods. Just behind the roadblock is a town called Cheneux. At seven thirty we are going to shove off with our platoon in a skirmish line in the lead for C Company. B Company will push off at the same time on the other side of the road. Headquarters’ 1st Battalion is going to back us up with 81’s (mortars) and machine guns. Be sure to keep the line dressed. Make as little noise as possible. The enemy will be shelled for fifteen minutes before we take off. We’re going to break through that roadblock, take that town and hold it. That is all, men.” Just that and nothing more …” “..had nearly reached mid-field and were beginning to climb another fence when it happened.. The air was filled with the yellow glow of hissing 20 mm cannon shells, the sputter of machine guns and the roar of exploding mortar shells dumped on our comrades just behind us. I was half way over a fence when little Finkelstein, already across and a few feet in front of it, was struck by a 20mm shell which exploded his hand grenades and set him afire. He ran back a few feet and collapsed in the barbedwires. … I continued forward in a daze. About five feet to my left a steady stream of tracers felt for me. A field piece methodically shelled the center of our advance. Mortar shells kept chewing up the second and third platoons behind us. Machine guns warped and woofed their straight stitches across and through the zone ahead. It was worse than a Dantesque nightmare; it was man made mechanized hell. . . . Ahead three forms skulked in the darkness by a machine gun. I reloaded and charged. A burst of slugs smoked past me. When I was withing a few feet of them, they started to run. I put one knee on the ground and leveled off eight slugs. Then I hit the ground and rolled to escape a machine pistol blast. I found Casey, riddled by MG 42’s, lying a few yards in front of a machine gun nest. In it were four dead SS troopers. I roared in rage and hate and started toward the right where B Company seemed to be having rough going. At that moment, Berkely (the platoon sergeant) surged out of the night, his little finger bleeding from a machine gun slug, his hand paralyzed. Casey is over there, I said. The Arab is gone too. Dusquesne got it in the head and Gruening in the belly. Both bad! . . . something hit and numbed my back . . . . the hatch cover opened and three men hurtled out. I leveled my gun and fired until they fell either because they were hit or in order to take cover. Behind me erupted the horrible thudding growl of a machine cannon. As I bounded I felt a red-hot rip tear through my right arm.”
Ross Carter survived the war to write “Those Devils in Baggy Pants”, he died of cancer in 1947. He was 28.
The 504 did take the town of Cheneux, destroying the German command there. It was costly. Out of the 33 men in Carters’ platoon, that started the attack that night, only nine were able to walk the next morning. The 504 lost 225 men, mostly from B and C companies. C Company finished with 38 men and three officers. B Company had eighteen men and no officers, but Peiper’s command, leading the 1st SS Panzer Division of the German 6th Panzer Army had been stopped.
South, the 101st Airborne Division had barely beat the Germans to Bastogne, which was a major road junction town of about 4,000 people with several small villages surrounding it. LTG Troy Middleton had moved his VIII Corps command post to Neufchateau and left the 101st, with Brigadier General (BG) Tony McAuliffe in command, in Bastogne. The 101st moved into positions in the villages surrounding Bastogne literally on the run. The Germans were three kilometers from them. There were four divisions of German Armor surrounding them, about half of the German forces moved on while the rest remained to try to destroy the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne. When German tanks attacked small units around Bastogne, the 101st lowered their artillery cannons level and destroyed the tanks.
On the morning of the 21st, the Third Army was moving north on a twenty mile wide front. General George Patton was running by jeep from unit to unit, bantering and joking with enlisted men and telling commanders to be aggressive or be relieved.
At 6 AM on the 22nd, after having moved one hundred miles over icy, strange roads, in less than 48 hours, the Third Army attack started. That morning BG McAuliffe received a message, “Hugh is coming”. MG Hugh Gaffey’s 4th Armored Division was driving toward Bastogne up the left flank Patton’s attack.
About 11:30 that morning, Sergeant Oswald Butler of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 101st, saw four German soldiers walking toward him carrying a pole with a bed sheet attached. They requested to see the Commanding General. They had two letters, one in German and one in English, from the German Commander to the American Commander requesting that the Americans surrender. They were blind folded and escorted to the 327th Command Post (CP), where the 327th commander, Colonel Joseph Harper called, then escorted them to the Division CP. BG McAuliffe was asleep. Colonel Ned Moore, the 101st Chief of Staff shook the General awake and told him that Harper was on the way with German officers and a letter. When BG McAuliffe came out of the room yawning, he asked; “What’s on the paper Ned?” “They want us to surrender.” McAuliffe glanced at the papers, laughed and said “Aw, nuts.” He dropped the papers, walked out, got in his jeep and went to visit troops who had just wiped out a German roadblock. When he returned, the German officers were demanding an answer to their letter. BG McAuliffe sat down with a pencil and said; “What the hell should I tell them?” The Division Operations officer, Colonel Kinnard said; “That first remark of yours would be hard to beat, General.” “What did I say?” “You said, ‘Nuts’.” BG McAuliffe’s letter read; “To the German Commander: Nuts! — The American Commander. Colonel Harper delivered the letter and escorted the German officers back to their lines. They didn’t know what it meant. Colonel Harper replied; “If you don’t know what ‘Nuts’ means, in plain English it’s the same as ‘Go to Hell’.” Word of the answer spread quickly throughout the division, and morale shot up among the surrounded 101st, who came to be known as “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne.”
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Creighton W. Abrams was commander of the 37th Tank Battalion, the spearhead of the 4th Armored Division’s drive toward Bastogne. About 1:30 PM on the day after Christmas he was five miles south of Bastogne, scheduled to attack a village several miles to the northwest. He was down to twenty tanks, only enough for one good assault. He radioed MG Hugh Gaffey, the 4th Division commander and asked permission to make a drive straight for Bastogne. MG Gaffey called General Patton, who said GO! Lieutenant Charles Boggess was commanding the lead element of nine Sherman tanks, which jumped off with all guns firing. Lt Boggess said that his gunner, Dickerson, fired that big gun like a machine gun, putting out 21 rounds in just a few minutes. Infantrymen jumped off the tanks and attacked the German positions, by 4:30 they arrived at the 101st Airborne’s 326th Engineer Battalion positions. Bastogne would be secured.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri January 8th 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email email@example.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
There is a saying around Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North Carolina; “When the President calls 911, the phone rings at Fort Bragg”. On New Year’s Eve, the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq was attacked. A few hours later, the 82nd Airborne Division got the call. That is the call, for which, the 82nd Airborne Division trains. It trains for combat in cities, for combat in the desert, for combat in the mountains, and it practices being alerted. The EDRE (Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise) is just that. The 82nd practices being alerted over and over. I was involved in many practice alerts, while serving with the division. Sometimes they only last a few hours, ending on the runway at Pope Field on Fort Bragg. Sometimes they are a full blown forcible entry exercise, lasting several days.
One of the 82nd’s three Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) is always on standby alert, prepared to be “wheels up” to anywhere in the world, within 18 hours of receiving the call. One of that BCT’s three infantry battalions, the DRF (Division Ready Force) battalion, is on two hour call. It has a formation, with all present, within two hours of receiving the call.
The 82nd Airborne Division is called the “All American Division”, and “America’s Guard of Honor”. It is the US military immediate reaction force. The tip of the spear. The 82nd trains and works harder than most military units, and it still has the highest morale of any. Why? Partly due to the history, which is unequaled by any other unit, partly pride in being the best at what they do, the Army sends its’ best officers to the 82nd, as evidenced by a long list of four star generals who served in the 82nd, including the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, whose career started in the 82nd, and perhaps because they take their business seriously. They know that if something blows up in the world, they will be sent to put out the fire. Many of the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) (sergeants) in the 82nd spend most of their career there. There is an attachment to the 82nd that is hard to explain even to veterans of other units. There is an 82nd Airborne Division Association of veterans of the 82nd, with 96 chapters scattered around the country. The Association has a convention every summer, and participates in the 82nd’s big annual show, called All American Week, the week before Memorial Day weekend.
This time, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 1st Brigade Combat Team was the DRF battalion. The Devils in Baggy Pants.
After fighting in Sicily, Salerno, and Italy, in 1943 and early 1944, the majority of the 82nd Airborne Division loaded ships for England to prepare for the Normandy invasion, but it’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) remained to help with the invasion of Anzio, 35 miles south of Rome. Anzio saw some of the most intense brutal combat of the war, the 504th was greatly outnumbered and down to 20 and 30 men in 100 man companies, fighting in defense, but they continued to aggressively patrol at night, harassing the enemy. A diary was found on the body of a German army major, in it was this passage; “American parachutists…devils in baggy pants…are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”. The 504th became known as those “Devils in Baggy Pants”.
A lot of things start happening simultaneously, during an alert, and everyone knows their job. Paratroopers on standby always have their combat gear packed, they get in uniform, grab their gear and get into their company and draw their weapons. An alert also goes to the support brigade, which will help load the deploying unit. The FRG (Family Readiness Group) (wives/soldiers’ families) leaders notify the spouses of a meeting. In this case, it was only a few hours until the Brigade and Division commanders met with the families, to brief them on what was happening, who would be their point of contact in a remaining rear detachment, how to communicate through the Red Cross in the event of a family emergency, and generally answer questions.
The Chaplain’s Assistant (a sergeant) takes care of the Chaplain’s gear, because the Chaplain is meeting with the families, then mingling with the troops. Most of the young troops are pumped about possibly getting to do what they have trained for – go kick some butt – Hooah!! Some will be stressed. Chaplains like to be with the troops, because some of those stressed troops are comforted, just being able to talk to the Chaplain. Sergeants, combat vets, have a different attitude during an emergency deployment. First, they have a hundred things to check, troops gear, weapons, gas masks, any problems. Make sure troops have everything they are supposed to have and not too much extra junk. “I got it sarge”. “I know, but I’m going to check it anyway”. Sergeants also have that internal prayer, “God please let me bring everybody home alive.” There are formations, ammunition is issued, radios are issued, and before boarding the plane, MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat) are issued.
The mission this time was, get there, the mission will be determined by whatever events occur. About 2:30 AM on January 2nd, the 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR landed at Al Seram Air Base in Kuwait.
On Saturday morning, January 4th, the remainder of the 1st Brigade Combat Team loaded aircraft and took off for Kuwait.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri December 11th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Health Care. One fifth of the Army (20%) is devoted to keeping soldiers healthy and caring for their families. The US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) supervises, through four Regional Health Commands, worldwide, 8 Army Medical Centers, 13 Army Community Hospitals (like the one at Fort Leonard Wood), 29 Army Health Clinics, 81 Primary Care Clinics, 8 Occupational Health Clinics, 99 Dental Clinics, 42 Veterinary Facilities, 33 Research and Development Laboratories, 5 Laboratory Support Activities, 10 Combat Support Hospitals, 16 Forward Support Surgical Teams, and six active Medical Brigades, plus other smaller units. A design/build $296 million contract was awarded this past August, for a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.
All military health care is now managed through a giant government supervised insurance company called “Tricare”. All soldiers and their families are enrolled in Tricare. Health and dental care performed in military hospitals and clinics for the soldier and family is free. When care is conducted by civilians, Tricare kicks in, and there are different plans for remote locations, more freedom of physician selection, and overseas.
Captain (Doctor) Michelle Kuznia of the Fort Rucker, Alabama Brown Dental Clinic does dental screening at the post Child Development Center.
Every soldier, regardless of rank or job has an annual physical assessment, and an annual dental exam. Plus, there are complete physical exams for various jobs, such as flying, diving, HALO (high altitude low opening) parachuting, and schools. New families arriving at an Army fort are assigned a Primary Care Physician, usually in the Family Practice Clinic at the hospital on post. The primary care doctor, is like your civilian family doctor, who monitors the health of you and your family, and may refer you to a specialist, if necessary. Army hospitals also have a complete staff of specialists, including pediatricians. Tricare dental insurance for the family is $30 per month regardless of the size of the family. Military retirees, who are under the age of 65, pay $297 for only themselves, or $594 annually for the family, then a co-pay of $20 per doctor visit. Military retirees over age 65 are enrolled in “Tricare for Life”, for which there is no cost, at all. No annual fees and no co-pay, and it pays everything that Medicare doesn’t. As retirees age that becomes a huge benefit. The Army has some great medical facilities and people. We were both in our early 50’s, when my wife had major spinal surgery at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver in 1995 (it’s no longer there). A large benign tumor was pressing her spinal cord and had already broken her spinal column. The doctor (neurosurgeon) who performed the surgery was a Ranger, the only doctor Ranger I ever saw. After 12 hours of surgery, he flopped on a couch beside me, and in 5 minutes explained exactly what he and his orthopedic assistant had done. He went on to become Chief of Neurosurgery at Walter Reed, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and having just retired from the Army was called to help save Gabby Gifford’s life in January 2011, when she was shot in the head in Arizona. Colonel (Retired) (Doctor) James M. Ecklund.
Housing. All government on post family housing is now privatized. Up until a few years ago, family housing on military installations was government owned and operated. All employees involved in getting military families into and out of government quarters, plus the maintenance of those quarters were government employees. I was the Quality Control Manager, which is a co-hat with the superintendent, on one of the last large government housing renovation projects at Fort Leonard Wood. We gutted, added a room, and completely renovated 250 family quarters in 18 months, and were proud of our work. The government paid about $10,000,000 for the job, which at $40,000 a unit wasn’t bad, even 25 years ago. The company, I worked for, made a profit of about 1.5 million on that job. Then, the government basically gave all family housing on military installations to private real estate companies. The real estate company then rents housing to soldiers. Soldiers sign a rental contract with the real estate company, and activates an allotment, from his or her pay, to the company for the amount of their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The transformation on military installations was dramatic. On many installations, like Fort Leonard Wood, entire areas of government housing were razed and new houses built. Overall, family on post housing has greatly improved. There has been news, this past year of shoddy family housing. The majority of the complaints come from the Washington, DC area, where there are many very old buildings. Mold is the culprit in buildings that apparently weren’t properly updated.
The companies that now “own” on post family housing are very large nationwide, and world wide companies. Balfour-Beatty has the housing on Fort Leonard Wood, which is just one of the 55 Army, Navy, and Air Force family housing communities they manage. Corvias has Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, among it’s 15 installations, which includes Fort Meade, Maryland where much of the mold problem exists. Winn companies have Forts Knox and Campbell, Kentucky. Even with its mold problems, Corvias seems to run the most family friendly programs.
When a married soldier requests ID cards for his or her spouse and children, which is during processing into the Army, if married at that time, it is done on a DD Form 1172-2. That form, which lists the spouse and all children, is also used for a soldier who gets married while already on active duty. On post housing people and on post elementary and high schools also want that form. Doesn’t make any difference that the spouse and kids have a military ID card, those activities want the processed DD Form 1172, because it verifies the age and sex of spouse and all children on one form.
Army soldiers get on post family housing based on rank and family size. Family housing is available in two, three, and four bedroom apartments and houses. Most army posts have family housing areas established by rank. There are areas for only senior officers, some for senior officers and Sergeants Major (same age group), and areas for only junior officers and junior sergeants (same age group), areas for only senior sergeants, and areas for junior enlisted soldiers. When a soldier applies for family housing, he or she is placed on a list for a specified number of bedroom house, in a certain area. Sometimes there are waiting periods of days to weeks to get that particular house. Overall those wait times have been greatly reduced since housing was privatized. Corvias often advertises “move in specials”, which are often older quarters, but renovated, and often only two bed rooms. They often rent the move in specials at less than the BAH rate, which is a gain for the soldier and his or her family. These are great for young newly married privates and specialists, because they are immediately available.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri December 4th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email email@example.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
One the most common arguments I hear, against enlisting in the Army, is “I don’t want to leave my family”. That is a valid argument, I cut my Army career short to spend the last years of my Dads life with him.
Family, for young people getting married and starting life, is you and your wife or husband, and it grows as the kids come along. You go visit his family or her family, but your family is your family. Baxter Black once wrote that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who do what they have to do to live where they want to live. That applies to many people here. Those who live where they have to live to do what they want to do. That includes soldiers.
For young couples, in love, who are still in high school, and expect to get married sometime after high school, I encourage you to consider the Army. Some will both try to get as good a job as possible, rent a one bedroom apartment, and start life. For some, both will try to go to college before marriage, and some will get married, one will work while the other goes to college. In last week’s article I mentioned that a married Private in the Army living in family housing, on post, has a take home pay of over $2,000 per month, which considering a free house with all utilities and free health care, translates to the equivalent of a civilian salary of around $45,000 per year. If both are in the Army, they are taking home around $4,500 per month. That is a take home pay of $54,000 a year, plus the free house and free health care.
I don’t discount young love. Love is love, without regard to age. I have written before, that there were 52 of us who graduated high school in my class in May 1961. Eleven married each other or someone one class up or one class down. All but one couple stayed together as long as they lived, and that couple separated late in life after their children were grown.
Over the past 60 years the Army has transformed from, “if the army wanted you to have a wife, they would issue you one”, to a total family orientated organization. The Army is family.
I was a Sergeant when we married, six months later I went to Vietnam, and Betty moved back in with her parents. Three years later, I went back to Vietnam, and we were able to rent the house next door to her parents. Our oldest, Sara, was born while I was on leave before leaving for Vietnam. Betty has said often since, that she wished that she had stayed at Fort Bragg with the other army wives. Her mother didn’t understand why she didn’t get a letter every day, or why it took two to three weeks to get an answer, and she heard, “you poor thing”, way too often. During Vietnam, the Army had an insane individual replacement policy where units stayed in country, and replacements rotated in and out on one year tours. Units were continually losing experience and gaining inexperience. If the soldier lived in family housing on post, the family had to move out when the soldier was reassigned to Vietnam, although many of us came back to the same post.
By the early 1980’s, the percentage of married soldiers had sky rocketed and families became a serious issue. Family Readiness Groups started forming, which consisted of the spouses of the unit’s soldiers. They had meetings, but they really didn’t have their running legs yet. Then came September 11th 2001. Units immediately started gearing up to deploy, and the wives wanted to know, “what is going on, and what is going to happen?” Now, starting with Iraq and Afghanistan, complete units, that have trained together for months, deploy together. If the family lives in family housing, on post, they can stay there because it is not a reassignment, just a temporary unit deployment.
Every company in the Army now has a Family Readiness Group (FRG). A company is the basic unit in the Army, commanded by a captain. All soldiers are assigned to a company. The FRG’s are command sponsored, which means that the company commander is responsible for seeing that the FRG exists and is working. It is operated by the unit spouses. The wife of the commander is often the FRG leader and there are committees and projects, all volunteer. The FRG meets at least once monthly, and in many units’ single soldiers are invited to attend, along with the husbands. They are kept informed about upcoming training and possible deployments. During deployments, they are kept up to date on all non-classified information about what their soldiers are doing.
If you want to get married after high school, the Army is a great start in life. If both of you plan to enlist, get married before you enlist. There are over 20,000 married army couples. There is the Married Army Couple Program (MACP), which you both have to apply for while in AIT (Advanced Individual Training). The only rare occurrence’s when an Army couple is not assigned together, is when one or both have rare, weird jobs in remote locations, other than that they are always assigned together. If only he is going to enlist, get married before he enlists, otherwise you miss out on thousands of dollars.
So, this story is about being an Army family, particularly about being an Army wife. One wife wrote, “Whether you come from a big family, a small family or no family at all, rest assured that you just joined the biggest family in America. Really. Your family is now more than a million strong – Army strong. There is no black, white, brown, red or yellow in the Army – just Green. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the north, south, east or west, educated or not so much, fresh out of high school or edging towards retirement. I come from a big, tight-knit, family – and I love my family – but more than once I’ve cut short my visits “home” to go back to my Army home because I needed the support and understanding only my ‘Big Green Machine’ family could provide. My Army wife sisters were my newborn daughter’s first hospital visitors, they met her months before her own father did. They opened their arms wide to me when I told them my dad was dying of cancer. They sent flowers to his funeral. They’ve helped me pack, clean and hold yard sales. They’ve, quite literally, picked me up when I was too weak to stand on my own. And they have laughed with me – oh, how they have laughed with me. We have watched each other’s babies grow, sometimes from afar, and we have shared so much of each other’s lives that the word ‘friend’ is simply not enough anymore. We are family.” Another wife wrote, “Being part of the Army Wife community is amazing. You can have immediate, life-long friends who will come to your aid at any time. Seriously, they will be there in their pajamas at 2 am if need be. You have a sense of community within hours of arriving at a new destination. You live among some of the strongest and most dedicated people in the world, and despite differences of opinion, rank, or economic situation, you band together in an emergency. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that group?” Another wrote about moving on post, “We had this crazy idea of moving on post and after being here for 2 months, I can honestly say it has exceeded our expectations. We love living here. It’s such fun to drive down the street on any given evening and have to creep along because entire families are out on the sidewalks and in the street talking and playing together. I’m thrilled when my good friend says, “I’m out walking and I’ll be at your house in a few minutes. Want to continue on a walk with me?”
I’m not suggesting that it’s all kumbaya, deployments are harder on the wives than the soldiers, and they don’t get easier, just more experienced. Army wives have to do a lot on their own, without their husband, which makes the FRG’s a great, valuable organization. During deployments or long field training trips, the FRG wives look out for each other, if one gets sick, others help with the kids, clean the kitchen, or whatever. Army wives also have to learn a new language. The Army speaks in acronyms, PCS, AKO, ETS, TDY, DFAC, and the list is endless, after a time, their civilian friends won’t understand them.
The negative comments from wives were primarily about deployments, and the husband soldier being away from the family so much. That is the down side. In my research, to my surprise, I found one thing that a majority of the wives mention as one of the things they loved about being an Army wife. The Military Ball. Almost every unit has at least one Army Ball once a year. One wife wrote, “Most people get to go to the prom once, maybe twice in their lifetimes. We get to go every year. And there’s booze. And decent food. And we can slow dance without being separated by a chaperone, and we’re even encouraged to get a hotel room. Military balls give us excellent reasons to go shopping, get our hair and nails done, and have our pictures taken with our spouses. Or, if nothing else, to give the yoga pants a night off.
Next week I’ll talk about health care and housing.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri June 19th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Teaching school is one of the most important, if not the most important, job in our society. There are good teachers, bad teachers, and great teachers. I don’t mean bad teachers are bad people. The bad teacher is usually a young person who just graduated from college, got their teaching certificate and landed their first teaching job. They know their subject, but are unable to create a desire in their students to learn the subject. A subject of extreme importance in life like English (language arts) takes some ingenuity and leadership skills to create that desire. And worse, the bad teacher is unable to control the classroom. They usually last a year, sometimes two, but the students are the losers. The great teachers are always “up” and positive in the classroom. For example, the teacher who endures a devastating personal crisis, and yet the students in the classroom, that year, say that was my favorite teacher.
Great teachers inspire kids to want to learn. Great teachers are leaders. Amanda Kelly grew up around Easley, Missouri. Easley is a scattering of buildings next to the Katy Trail on the Missouri River, east of Ashland. Really out in the sticks. Amanda said that she had a rough childhood, she and four siblings raised by her grandparents, who also had their own young children. In an Army Times interview, she said; “I didn’t come from a really good background. I didn’t have a mom and dad. I don’t know who my dad is, so I wanted to be more than what I was raised in.” She said that looking back, her biggest motivators were good teachers. She said; “They saw something that I didn’t see. Since I was little, they always told me that I had some kind of hunger. I didn’t see that.” As an Army Sergeant in Iraq, with the 1st Armored Division, she told her battalion commander, a former green beret, that her career goal was to become the Sergeant Major of the Army, the top job. He took her as serious, and helped her set some career milestones she needed to achieve, in order to some day be in consideration for the top job. This past September 2nd 2018, she became the first enlisted woman to graduate from Army Ranger training and receive the prestigious “Ranger Tab” on her uniform.
Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelly being pinned with the Ranger tab
Staff Sergeant Amanda Kelly is currently in the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She is not a Green Beret (yet), she is an Electronic Warfare Specialist assigned to the 3rd group.
But this story is not about being in the military. It is about teaching school to military children on a military installation. If you are a good school teacher and you enjoy teaching, but would like some travel and adventure, here’s how. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) manages 168 schools, employs 8,700 educators, and educates over 73,000 military children worldwide. DODEA students consistently test among the top schools in the country, so the teaching environment must be good and the teachers must enjoy being there.
Not every military installation in the US has schools that are run by DODEA. Fort Leonard Wood Schools are part of the Waynesville School District. The states that do have DODEA schools are; Alabama (3), Georgia (10), Kentucky (11), New York (2), North Carolina (15), South Carolina (5), and Virginia (3), plus Puerto Rico (4) and Cuba (1). Want to travel and see the world? There are DODEA schools where there are US military. Germany (35), Japan (19), Okinawa (13), South Korea (12), Italy (10), England (8), Belgium (5), Guam (4), Spain (3), The Netherlands (2), Bahrain (1), and Turkey (1).
Belle’s own Kevin Altemeyer, BHS Class of 1981, has been working for DODEA for several years. A couple years ago he and his family moved from Seoul, South Korea to Grafenwöhr, Germany. He teaches math and science at the Netzaberg Middle School, in Bavaria. When I told him that I was thinking of writing this article, he had this to say; “I can say I have enjoyed working for the soldiers that keep my family and I safe. It is rewarding giving my service back to the children of our service men and families. It is a great job!!! I love it! My wife is teaching too and the students are great kids and it is great being part of the traditions of DODEA! We have been blessed!”
Netzaberg Middle School
DODEA teachers are government employees, falling under government employee retirement, thrift savings plans, and health insurance. Moving is provided and if going overseas, and the government will ship your car, and while teaching overseas, the government will pay for your trip back to the states during the summer. DODEA employees may live in government family housing on the installation or live off and be paid a lucrative Living Quarters Allowance (LQA). Current and former DODEA teachers say that their LQA easily pays for a nice house. DODEA teachers have their own pay scales depending on education and specialty. After the starting salary there are yearly step increases for the first four years, then two years, and then three year step increases. The starting salary for a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $45,450. A bachelor’s degree plus 15 semester hours (SH) is $46,930, plus 30 SH is $48,410, and a master’s degree starts at $49,890. After 10 years, the plain bachelor’s degree is at $58,410, and the master’s is at $66,540. Speech pathologists and social workers with a master’s degree starts at $52,805, after 10 years is $70,850. Guidance counselors with a master’s starts at $52,415. School psychologists with a master’s starts at $59,045. There are more pay scales based on education and profession. DODEA just advertised to fill a job at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The title is “Instructional Systems Specialist Mathematics PK-5”. The requirements were a master’s degree in education and five years experience in teaching math PK-5. The salary is $84,374.
For someone wanting to see another part of the world, this could be an enjoyable job. It is a competitive application. Aside from the bachelor’s degree in education and state certification, there is a lengthy background security investigation, and interviews. Applicants indicate a location preference, but they must indicate that they are willing to go where ever there is a requirement, worldwide, but if you were counting, there are 58 schools scattered around Europe. If you are teaching at the Middle High School on the Naples Navel Base in Naples, Italy, or at the one on the US Army post in Ansbach, Germany, or at the high school on Ramstein Air Force Base at Ramstein, Germany, you are on United States soil, surrounded by English speaking Americans. There are large exchanges (stores) and commissaries (grocery stores), as well as a fire department, a hospital or clinic, and military police patrolling.
Most comments from DODEA teachers are similar to Kevin’s, they love it. Great kids and great people to work with. Military kids are generally well behaved, but there is always “that one”. In a situation where an issue with a child cannot be resolved between the school and the parents, the parents’ commander gets involved and the situation is solved one way or another.
If you want to teach school, but would like some adventure and would like to see some more of the country or the world, consider DODEA.