All posts by John Stockton


Originally Published in The Belle Banner on February 15th and 22nd, 2017.

This week is the first part of the story of a young man named Daniel Kcender, who has been interested in the military from age 10 or 12.  He has always been interested in military history, weapons, war stories and especially the “gung ho” military.  Those of us who were born with that interest can’t explain where it came from, it is just there.  Daniel is an extremely bright young man.  He could easily handle college and win scholarships, but he didn’t want to wait to start “doing it”.  He leaned toward the Marines, but decided he wanted to be an “Airborne Ranger”.  He could have enlisted for exactly that, army enlistment option 40, but he was convinced by some retired infantrymen that he would have a much better chance of completing Ranger School if he spent some time in an airborne infantry unit, then apply for Ranger School.  Enlistment option 40 guarantees that you get to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP), which is an 8 week pre-ranger course designed to make you quit.  Only those who have the physical strength, the mental strength, and an intense, insane desire to be in a Ranger Battalion will make it through the course.

At Daniel’s first visit with an Army recruiter, in February of his senior year in high school, he told the recruiter that he wanted to be airborne infantry.  He scored fairly high on an ASVAB pretest, he was in good physical condition, and had never been in any kind of trouble.  The recruiter told him to get in the best possible physical condition he could attain, lots of running, pushups, situps and pullups, and get a study guide and study for the ASVAB.  Army infantry enlistees are trained in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, which combines basic combat training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Benning, Georgia.  All basic training commands in the Army have drill sergeants from all fields and jobs within the army, except at infantry OSUT.  All those drill sergeants are infantrymen, and the majority did not volunteer for drill sergeant duty.  They were involuntarily selected by the army to go to drill sergeant school and become drill sergeants for two years.  Marine Boot Camp is not tougher than Army infantry OSUT on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia.  The drill sergeants are professional and they are serious, they are training soldiers who may be beside them on their next deployment.

Daniel maintained a serious exercise program through the remainder of his senior year, and studied for the ASVAB.  Many of the subjects tested in the ASVAB tests are subjects taught in high school, and tested on the ACT.  It is especially heavy on English and Math.  Daniel took the ACT three times, and ended with a score of 29, and he graduated in the top 10% of his class.  It was in Daniel’s mind to do four years in the army, then go to college on the GI Bill, and maybe teach history.  He loved history.  After graduation, Daniel signed papers at the recruiter’s office, went to MEPS in St Louis, completed his processing and signed his actual contract for infantry MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 11X, with an airborne option, and took the oath.  Whether he was to be a light weapons infantryman MOS 11B or heavy weapons (mortars) MOS 11C, would be decided, by the Army, during OSUT.  He was transported to the airport with a ticket to Columbus, Georgia.  Had to change planes in Atlanta.  From the Columbus airport he was bussed to the 30th AG Reception Battalion on Fort Benning.  He spent four days processing into the army, and then had to wait another week until there were enough recruits to fill an OSUT company.  That was a terribly long week of cleaning details, doing nothing, and occasional instruction on how to stand at attention and salute, when a drill sergeant didn’t have anything else to do.  They did not do organized PT, and were not allowed to do it outside, on their own.  Most exercised inside the barracks.

When they arrived at their OSUT company, it was like hell had descended upon them in the form of 12 screaming drill sergeants.  The first day was primarily for shock effect, but it continued for several days.  The basic training part of OSUT followed about the same schedule as any basic combat training, only with more strict control.  The PT was intense and the pushups continuous.  They got “smoked” (dropped for pushups) when someone made a mistake, or the platoon didn’t win an event, or the drill sergeant felt like it.  The rifle marksmanship training was great.  There was competition amongst the training companies for the highest rifle marksmanship scores.  When they completed basic training, at the end of eight weeks, they were given a weekend off to be with their family, as long as their family came to Fort Benning.  The remaining six weeks, of the 14 week course, was pure infantry training.  Daniel was to be an 11B Lightweapons Infantryman, which is what he had repeatedly requested.  They trained on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M240B Machine Gun, M67 fragmentation grenades, how to engage targets with a M320 Grenade Launcher, how to conduct checkpoint operations and Detainee Operations.  They had rucksack marches of 3, 6, 9 and 12 and finally 15 miles carrying a 60 pound rucksack.  They learned to pay special attention to their feet. Some wore two pair of socks, and some used moleskin on their heels and tendons.  They trained as teams, learning urban combat and room clearing operations, they learned squad tactics, patrolling, ambushes and reaction to ambush and much more.  And then the final FTX (Field Training Exercise), where they put all the skills they had learned into an actual operation, culminating in a road march to “Honor Hill”.  The hill was steep, especially when wearing full combat packs and weapons and carrying litters with 175 pounds of sand bags.  On top of the hill a final “rite of passage” ceremony was conducted.  It is a ceremony only done by infantrymen.  It’s done at night, at the end of training.  There were people there to cheer them on.  They made their way through plumes of smoke and passed through a gate bearing the phrase; “From this gate, emerge the finest soldiers the world has ever known.  Follow me”.  It has been described as the drill sergeants welcoming them into the brotherhood of infantry.  There was a large bonfire.  They were given their canteen cups filled with “grog”, they thought it was booze, actually it was a mixture of Gatorade, water and dry ice.  Afterward there was a ceremony where the drill sergeants pined the coveted crossed rifles of an infantryman on their uniforms.  The following week was the “turning blue” ceremony, where family could place the blue cord of an infantryman on their soldier’s right shoulder.  Then graduation.

Daniel and several others scheduled for airborne school were placed in “holdover” status, waiting to start airborne school.  They waited 10 days, pulling details, before they moved to the airborne school.  Three weeks of school and five jumps later he was on a plane to Fayetteville, North Carolina (change in Atlanta).  At the Fayetteville Airport, he caught the bus to the 82nd Airborne Division Replacement Detachment.  He spent three days there, in processing to Fort Bragg and drawing field gear (TA-50).  He was also issued a maroon beret, and a French Fourragere which is worn on the left shoulder of the dress uniform of all members of the 82nd Airborne Division.  The Mayor of the town of Sainte Mere Eglise, France wrote to the French Government and requested that the 82nd Airborne Division be awarded the French Fourragere for liberating his town on D-day 1944.  Daniel was also taught how to salute in the 82nd Airborne Division.  Everywhere in the Army, when an enlisted person meets an officer outside, they salute and greet them with “Good morning (or afternoon) Sir! (or Ma am), the officer responds in kind.   Not in the 82nd.  In the 82nd Airborne Division when an enlisted person meets an officer, they salute and greet them with “ALL THE WAY SIR! (or Ma am), the officer responds with AIRBORNE!

Daniel was assigned to a Rifle Company in the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division.  The 504th is known as the “Devils in Baggy Pants”.  The 1st Battalion are the “Red Devils”, and the 2nd Battalion are the “White Devils”.  The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment got its’ nick name from the diary of a German Officer, who was killed at Anzio, Italy in February 1944.  Allied forces made a beach invasion at Anzio, about 35 miles south of Rome, German forces counterattacked and tried to push the allies back into the sea.  The 504th was severely under strength from months of intense combat up the boot of Italy, but it was parachuted into Anzio to help stop the German advance.  The passage in the German Majors’ diary read; “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 …”.   For that action, the 504th was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.  One of the first to be awarded.

          There is a book “Devils in Baggy Pants”, written by Ross Carter, who was one of only three men of the original 40 in his platoon, in the 504th, to survive World War II from beginning to end.  He died of cancer in 1947.

The day Daniel was to move to his company, his new Squad Leader, Staff Sergeant (SSG E6) Wright, and his Team Leader, Sergeant (SGT E5) Goington picked him up from the Replacement Detachment and took him to his room in the barracks, then to the Company Orderly Room to meet the First Sergeant and Company Commander.  Daniel was informed that he would be placed on a duty roster to pull CQ runner (a Sergeant is Charge of Quarters (CQ) and a PVT or PFC is his runner, they sit at the entrance to the building, and monitor people and phones for a 24 hour period) Then it was to Battalion Headquarters for more paperwork, while there he was also introduced to the Battalion Command Sergeant Major.  SSG Wright ask Daniel about his family, parents address and phone number, brothers and sisters and grandparents.  Both SSG Wright and SGT Goington made notes as Daniel talked.  Daniel told them about his training and pointed out that he had not yet had any leave.  SSG Wright told him that since that was the first week of November, he would try to insure that Daniel got Christmas leave. They pointed out the DFAC (Dining Facility), and where the company formations were held.  Since that was a Thursday, Daniels first formation was at 06:30 the next morning for PT.  Since the 1st Brigade was on support cycle, at the 08:45 work formation, on Friday, Daniel was given the day and the weekend to get his room set up, and his uniforms and equipment cleaned and organized.  Soon after he returned to his room, there was a knock on Daniel’s door, it was Daniel’s Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class (SFC E7) Steady.  SFC Steady had over 14 years in the army and was a master parachutist, meaning over 36 months on jump status and over 65 jumps, and he wore a CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), he had multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Daniel immediately snapped to parade rest.  SFC Steady said; “Relax Kcender, sit down, I just want to talk a few minutes.”  SFC Steady asked Daniel all the questions that SSG Wright and SGT Goington did, plus he ask about high school, his grades, friends, why he came in the army, and what he thought about it, so far, but SFC Steady didn’t make any notes.   He told Daniel about his time in the army, and about his wife and children ages nine, seven and five.  He told Daniel about the First Sergeant, Company Commander, Battalion Command Sergeant Major, Battalion Commander, Brigade Command Sergeant Major, and the Brigade Commander.  He told Daniel that he had already been selected for promotion to E-8, and that he would probably be promoted and moved within the next year.  Then he told Daniel that this is a hard job, we have early mornings for jumps, and late nights to clean equipment.  We may go to the field, for training, on Monday morning, come in Thursday afternoon, and clean weapons until dark, and we may do that two or three weeks in a row, plus you may have CQ runner  on the weekend.  We will get alerts, just to test us.  He told Daniel that he may see soldiers who have developed a negative attitude and can’t wait until they get out.  He told Daniel that if he fell into that frame of mind, this would be a miserable time in his life.  He said to make this a high point in his life, he said; “Learn all you can, and do the best job you can.  In the Infantry we do something different every day, so have fun”.  Then he told Daniel about his squad leader, SSG Wright.  He said; “SSG Wright is the best squad leader I have seen.  He went to Ranger school as a specialist, and was a Squad Leader as a Sergeant.  He has the unique ability to work the crap out of you and make you appreciate it.  His squad will be training while others are resting. I caution you not to ask him about combat, let him bring it up.  He was leading a patrol in Afghanistan and walked into something that intel didn’t know about.  He was wounded, one was killed, and two others were wounded.  He got them out and got a Silver Star for it, but loosing that man hurt him deeply, he still has contact with that young man’s family.  Everyone expects him to be on the next E-7 list”.  He told Daniel about some of the history of the 82nd, and that there is a lot of pride in being part of the finest combat division in the army.  He said; “We are the tip of the spear, we are subject to be deployed into combat at any time”.  He suggested that Daniel visit the Division Museum, and he suggested that he go to church Sunday morning, he said there is the new Division Memorial Chapel, but the old Airborne Chapel is closer, and that is where most of the 504 people, who go to church, attend.   As he was leaving, SFC Steady told Daniel if he had problems or questions, he should start with SSG Wright, but that he could certainly talk to him anytime.

Daniel finished putting his room and equipment in order, and on Sunday morning he decided to take SFC Steady’s advice.  He went to the Protestant Service at the Airborne Chapel.  He saw several soldiers he had seen, but didn’t yet know, also SFC Steady, his Company Commander, and his Battalion Commander were there with their families.  Sunday afternoon, Daniel went to the Division Museum.  It took all afternoon to see everything.  Daniel was moved at being a part of the 82nd Airborne Division.  He discovered that the 82nd had seen combat he had never heard about, like Dominican Republic, Granada, and Panama.

Daniel was assigned as a Rifleman in a nine man squad.  Two Fire Teams of four men each.  SGT Goington was his Fire Team Leader, and SSG Wright his Squad Leader.  SGT Goington had been in the army about four years, and been a Sergeant about six months.  SSG Wright had been in the army about eight years, he was a Ranger and a senior parachutist, meaning he had completed Advanced Airborne School making him a jumpmaster, and that he had over 24 months on jump status and more than 32 parachute jumps.  The Platoon consisted of three squads like his, and a weapons squad with two machine gun crews and two anti tank gunners  Daniel’s Platoon Leader was Second Lieutenant (2LT) Smart.  2LT Smart graduated from college and was commissioned by ROTC the previous December, and had been the Platoon Leader about three months.  2LT Smart was also a Ranger.

Daniel made his first parachute jump with his unit his first week in the company.  SSG Wright was one of the two primary jumpmasters on the 100 paratrooper jump from a C-17 Globemaster.  He learned that sustained (refresher) airborne training is conducted before every jump.  The Battalion Chaplain made it a point to meet the new paratroopers and jump with them on their first jump with the 504, and invited them to services on Sunday morning at the Airborne Chapel.

A week after Daniel arrived, the annual formal “White Devil Dining Out” was held at the Fort Bragg Conference and Catering Center.  SSG Wright briefed Daniel on how to act.  It was the first time he wore his class A uniform as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, except this was formal so he had to wear a white shirt and black bow tie.  The soldiers all wore the formal dress uniform, and the wives wore evening gowns.  There was an open bar before formal gatherings. Daniel had to drink soft drinks, his Sergeants and the bar tenders made sure of that.  Then there was the Receiving Line, the Battalion Command Sergeant Major, the Battalion Commander, and the Brigade Commander and their wives were in the receiving line.  Then they were seated, there were toasts to the President, to the wives, and several others, and finally the meal.

Two weeks after Daniel arrived, a new Company Commander arrived.  It was a company formation, at attention, while the First Sergeant, the two Captains, and the company Guidon bearer marched to the center in front of the formation.  A Guidon is the company flag, identifying the unit.  The Guidon was handed to the outgoing Captain, who handed it to the First Sergeant, who handed it to the incoming Commander, Captain Good.  They were then put “at ease” and the outgoing commander spoke, then the incoming commander, and then the Battalion Commander.  The next week was Thanksgiving.  The DFAC served a lavish thanksgiving meal, turkey, ham, stuffing, pumpkin pie and a dozen other things.  The troops didn’t have to dress up, but the officers and senior NCO’s (Sergeants, i.e., Non-commissioned Officers) did, and the officers and NCO’s served the meal.  The following week, on Tuesday morning, the wives (the Family Readiness Group) prepared breakfast in a brigade classroom, and everyone, who could, went there right after PT (still in PT uniform).  Captain Good briefed everyone about the training schedule for the coming months.  Two weeks before Christmas, they were released early one afternoon to attend the battalion Christmas party at an ice skating rink.  Daniel and several others didn’t skate, but they had fun.  Daniel did get a 10 day leave for Christmas.  He got to spend Christmas with his family, and he bought a car.  Daniel had been in the army for five months when he arrived at his unit, so he had been able to save almost $5,000.  Daniel made a down payment, bought his insurance and drove back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

After the holidays, the 1st Brigade Combat Team became the Division Ready Brigade, that’s called mission cycle, and the 2nd Battalion, 504th went on DRF-1 (Division Ready Force-1), , and DRF-1 means they are on two hour call.  That’s for the first formation, ready to go.  Everyone has to be within 30 minutes of the company, including those married living off post.  The battalion is on DRF-1 for two weeks, then DRF-2, then DRF-3, then the Brigade switches to the Intensified Training Cycle.  The week prior to going on mission cycle, Daniel was given a packing list of what to wear and what to have in his rucksack.  SGT Goington checked everything, then SSG Wright checked everything.  The first week on DRF-1 the company zeroed and fired their weapons.  The “off post people” weren’t happy, because no one was released from the company area until all weapons were cleaned and turned in, which was about 6:00 PM (18:00).  Daniel’s squad and platoon trained intensely on squad and platoon tactics, both in urban and field terrain.  They trained close to the company (Area J) and always had transportation with them.  At 02:00 A.M. the morning after the superbowl, the CQ runner awoke Daniel and told him that they had been alerted, and that there would be a company formation in 30 minutes.  At that formation, they were told to go draw their weapons, get in full battle uniform, with ruck, and be back in formation in one hour.  At the next formation, they were issued MRE’s (meals ready to eat), placed in jump order, loaded on trucks and transported to “Green Ramp” (Pope Air Field on Fort Bragg).  There they were issued parachutes and reserves and told not to chute up, they would do that (rig) inflight, because it would be a long flight.  Then they were issued blank ammunition, then they knew this was training, not war, it was an EDRE (Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise).  In the aircraft, the leaders were briefed, then SSG Wright briefed the squad.  They were jumping into a mythical country, which was Fort Hood, Texas, they were to seize an objective, kill or capture terrorists and release hostages (Fort Hood aggressor units).  They jumped into Fort Hood, Texas.  They were in the field four days, then they loaded back onto aircraft and flew back to Fort Bragg.  A successful EDRE.

After six weeks on “mission cycle”, the Brigade changed to an “intensified training cycle”.  They had known for months they were going to JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center) at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  JRTC is called training, but it is really a giant test of a Brigade.  Different war games are conducted against a permanently assigned aggressor unit, with graders present.  He very carefully packed his rucksack, and SSG Wright checked it, because they would be gone about a month and he would have to live out of that rucksack.  It weighed over 120 pounds when packed, and still had MRE’s and ammo to be added.  Sure enough 06:00 on a Monday morning they were alerted.  They took off just before midnight.  This time they chuted up before boarding the planes.  It was about a 2 ½ hour flight.  The entire brigade would be jumping at night, making a forcible entry into a hostile area to seize and hold an airfield.  Upon landing, as rapidly as they could, they rolled up their parachutes, got their gear on and located other members of their squads and platoons, when assembled the Platoon Leader and Squad Leaders moved them to predetermined areas of the drop zone to set up defensive positions.  There was sporadic aggressor fire during the night.  At daylight they moved out to different areas of the fictitious country to defend it from an invading force.  They were attacked repeatedly by the professional aggressors.  After about a week, they went on the offense, conducting platoon and company sized patrols and raids.  There were graders with them all the time.  A few could sleep, while others were awake.  They slept on the ground, under poncho liners, if it was raining they slept under a poncho.  They mostly ate MRE’s.  Every few days they would get a hot meal.  When the exercise was over, everyone was briefed down to platoon level about what they did right and what they did wrong.  They were told that they did very well.  Daniel was promoted to Private First Class (PFC E3) after that exercise.




Originally published February 8th, 2017 in The Belle Banner

John W. Stockton, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired – The Author of Life in the Army

For a frame of reference in these stories. The Belle Banner is published in Belle, Missouri, which is about 45 minutes from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

This week we have Private Johnny Smith.  Johnny is 22 years old, married to Sarah, and they have a year old daughter Cindy.  Before enlisting in the Army, Johnny worked 36 hours a week at $18.00 per hour, equaling $648.00 per week.  After taxes, health insurance, and 401K deductions, his take home check was just under $500.00 per week.  Sarah did work, but hasn’t since Cindy was born.  Their living expenses were; Rent $500.00, electric & utilities $300.00, Cell phones $125.00, Internet $50.00, car payment $300.00, car insurance $150.00.  That came to $1,425.00 per month, which left about $1,000 per month or $230.00 per week for gas, food, clothes and anything else.  Johnny saw 50 year old fellow workers doing the same work he was doing making not much more money.  He read everything he could find online about the military, then talked to an Army recruiter.  He told the recruiter he would like to get into a field with where promotions were good and that he would like to be assigned as close to home as possible.  The recruiter told him that Combat Engineers were probably second only to the infantry in promotions and that all combat engineer training is at Fort Leonard Wood.  He was told that he could request to be assigned at Fort Leonard Wood, but there is only one permanent party combat engineer battalion at Fort Leonard Wood so the chances of being assigned there would be slim.  The next closest posts would be Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  Fort Campbell is larger and the home of the 101st Airborne Division.  Although the 101st no longer jumps out of airplanes it still carries the name.  The 101st Airborne Division is more of an Air Assault division moving by helicopter.  Johnny took a preliminary ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, drug test, and physical fitness assessment test.  The recruiter told Johnny he could ship the following month, and that he should study for the ASVAB and get in the best physical condition possible.

When Johnny shipped, he went through MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in St Louis, where they tried to get him to go into a different field because he made a high score on his ASVAB tests, but he held to his desire to be a combat engineer MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 12B.  He took his marriage certificate, and Cindy’s birth certificate with him and during in processing at the Fort Leonard Wood Reception Battalion he enrolled them in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), which made them eligible for TRICARE government health care.  That also authorized his BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), which was an extra $903.00 per month.  They gave him a form to mail to Sarah, so she could go to Fort Leonard Wood and get her military dependent ID card.  She then had free health care and access to the hospital and all the services on Fort Leonard Wood.

Johnny’s basic training and advanced individual training for MOS 12B were combined in to one OSUT (one station unit training) company.  He was in the same company for 14 weeks, and when he graduated he was awarded the MOS 12B.  The last six weeks were the AIT part.  They spent about equal time in the classroom and in the field.  They studied a subject, then went to the field to practice it.  They learned how to construct fighting and defensive positions, how to build fixed and floating bridges and how to blow them up, how to build obstacles and how to breach obstacles.  They studied route clearance.  In other words, searching for IED’s.  They spent a lot of time on explosives, how to set charges in different situations.  He had a little more freedom on weekends.  Sarah and Cindy were able to visit him a couple weekends.  For his assignments he requested Fort Leonard Wood first, then Fort Campbell, Kentucky, then Fort Riley, Kansas.  In AIT he went to his AKO (Army Knowledge Online) account, then to the ASK key (Assignment Satisfaction Key) and found that he was tentatively schedule for assignment to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  He requested that his orders reflect a move with dependents, so the Army would pay for moving their household goods, and pay them a dislocation allowance for the move.  He also requested 10 days leave, before reporting to Fort Campbell, to move his family.  Johnny’s take home pay, while in OSUT, was about $250.00 a month less than he had been bringing home before enlisting, but they had planned for that, considering that he wouldn’t be eating at home, or spending money on gas.  As soon as he received his orders he went to the Transportation Office on Fort Leonard Wood and arranged for their household goods to be picked up.

As soon as Johnny got his orders, Sarah went online, found a nice two bedroom apartment in Clarksville, Tennessee, next to Fort Campbell.  She sent a $300.00 deposit, and would have to pay the first months rent of $725.00 when they arrived.  Their household goods were picked up the week after Johnny graduated.  They packed their car and Johnny’s old pickup and drove the six hours to their apartment in Clarksville, TN.  Their household goods were delivered the next day.  They got moved in, utilities turned on got to know the area.  They found that their apartment was just 7 miles, about 15 minutes from Johnny’s company.  Johnny signed in, processed in Fort Campbell, and was assigned to an Engineer Company, in an Engineer Battalion, in a Brigade Combat Team in the 101st Airborne Division.  He had just reached 4 months service when he arrived, so his Company Commander immediately promoted him to Private E2.  That first month he was paid $2,000 dislocation allowance for the move to Fort Campbell, so they were able to pay back what they had to borrow from family to make the move and get their apartment.  He has been there 4 months now and was just promoted to PFC E3.  His base pay is now $1,885.90 per month, plus $1,254.00 BAH, and $368.29 BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) (separate rations), so after taxes and other deductions, about $1,600.00 is deposited in his account on the 1st and the 15th of the month ($3,200 per month)..

Johnny is a combat engineer in a squad of seven combat engineers.  The squad leader is a Staff Sergeant (SSG) E6, there are two three man teams, within the squad, each led by a Sergeant (SGT) E5.  Johnny’s Team Leader has been in the army for about four years, and he was just recently promoted to SGT.  His Squad Leader has been in the army for seven years and wears a Sapper Tab, meaning that he has completed the very tough five week Sapper Leaders Course at Fort Leonard Wood.  The Sapper Course is the Engineer’s version of Ranger School, although one of the other squad leaders just completed Ranger School.  When he first got to the company, Johnny’s squad leader wanted to know everything about him.  He and his wife, met Sarah and Johnny and questioned them both about their parents, family health, and financial situation.  He wanted to know anything that might weigh on Johnny’s mind, that he might help with or guide them to help.  There are three squads in Johnny’s platoon.  The Platoon Leader is a Second Lieutenant (2LT), and his Platoon Sergeant is a Sergeant First Class (SFC) E7, who has been in the army 12 years, and has been back to Fort Leonard a couple times for advanced schooling.  There are three platoons in the company, commanded by a captain.  In his first month in the company, Johnny went to two weeks of Air Assault School, on post, where he learned how to guide a landing helicopter, how to rig a sling load for a helicopter, and how to repel out of a helicopter, as well as other advanced forms of repelling.  He received his Air Assault Wings which he will wear on all uniforms.  It seems that no day is normal in Johnny’s company, because they are constantly training on different things.  A normal day, when they are not training in the field, is PT at 06:30, go home, clean up and eat breakfast, and be at work formation at 08:45 or 09:00, lunch at noon, and off at 17:00 (5:00 PM).  They have trained on breaching obstacles, and advanced explosives.  They spent one day in the pool training for a simulated CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashing in the water.  They spend a lot time training with the infantry.  They have done live fire exercises and fired several different weapons.  They have been on a couple of major field exercises where Johnny’s squad supported an infantry platoon.  So far, Johnny is enjoying what he does.  It is professional, high speed and exciting.  During field training, Johnny’s Company Commander (CO) ask Johnny if he would like to be his driver.  The current driver for the CO is a Specialist, who is leaving the army soon, after a three year enlistment.  Johnny told his CO, “if he had a choice, he would like to think about it”.  The CO said certainly, just let him know in a couple days.  Johnny talked to his Squad Leader, he talked to his Platoon Sergeant, and to his First Sergeant.  He then told his CO that he appreciated being considered, but he would rather stay in his squad and learn all he could.  He told the CO that he is on a four year enlistment, and his goal is to make Sergeant before that enlistment is up, and if he does he will probably reenlist.  He said that he likes the army so far.  The CO thanked him for a quick response, and told him that he thought Johnny was making the correct decision.

Sarah has made friends with another wife in their apartment complex, whose husband is in Johnny’s company.  She has attended three Family Readiness Group (FRG) meetings.  The FRG meets once monthly, it is the wives of the company, formally organized and sponsored by the Army.  The, wife of the Company Commander is the leader, and the First Sergeant’s wife is the assistant.  They both have received formal training to be FRG leaders, conducted by the MWR (Morale Welfare, Recreation) office.  The FRG exists to keep the wives informed about what their husbands and the Army are doing.  They are really a wives club where, especially during deployments, they support and help each other.  If the husband is gone and a wife has sick kids other wives will cook or baby sit for her.  Sarah has taken Cindy to the Young Eagle Medical Home Pediatric Clinic at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital on post for a checkup.  Sarah was very satisfied with the attention.  Cindy’s health will be monitored by way of routine visits to the clinic.

Next week another soldier.


I started posting these articles in the order in which they were published in The Belle Banner.  This is an exception, at the request of two very gracious ladies in North Carolina, who are part of this story.  This was originally published in The Belle Banner on April 11th and 18th 2018.

Over the past 15 months I have written about many jobs in the Army, some history, and a few people.  This is personal, it is about a former commander and a friend.  It is about a man, a man’s man, and a true legend in the special operations community of the Army.

Major Bo Baker with his Vietnamese Counterpart
Major Bo Baker with his Vietnamese Counterpart

A.J. “Bo” Baker was a big man, over six feet tall, broad shoulders narrow waist, strong as an ox, with a congenial, charismatic personality that made everyone around him want to do what he wanted them to do, a natural leader.  Bo Baker was born July 22, 1930 in Searcy, Arkansas.  He graduated from Searcy High School in 1949 and went on to the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship.  He was an end on the Arkansas Razorbacks team.  Then in December 1950, whether he was bored with college or just wanted more excitement, he enlisted in the US Air Force.  The following December (1951) he went back to Searcy and married his high school sweetheart, Betty Louise Oliver, then in November 1952 their daughter, Terri Lynn, was born.  Bo Baker served in the Air Force until his discharge in December 1953.  It must have been during that time in the Air Force that he discovered his calling in life.  He went back to the University of Arkansas and took Army ROTC.  He graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Army Infantry.

His first assignment was to attend the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He also completed Airborne and Ranger schools while there.  He was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, as an infantry platoon leader.  He was promoted to first Lieutenant in December 1957, from there it was to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington.  Then from January 1960 to February 1961 he served in Korea, with the 7th Infantry Division.  He was promoted to Captain while in Korea.  After completing that tour he returned to Fort Benning and worked in the Weapons Department of the Infantry School, then attended the six month long Advanced Infantry Officers Course.

In June 1962 he was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and given command of Company A, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 325th Infantry.  My company.  He was a different type of company commander.  He frequently talked to the company, and during training he was always in front, doing whatever it was first and better than most.  In August 1962 the army conducted a giant field exercise pitting the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions against each other.  It was called Swift Strike II, and it covered a large area in eastern South Carolina, centered around Florence and Darlington.  I remember being in position about 50 feet off of a road around midnight when Captain Baker stopped to see if we had seen or heard anything.  We were awake and challenged him and told him that everything was quiet.  Our company operations sergeant was an old staff sergeant who was in the back of Captain Baker’s jeep.  He immediately jumped up and told us to get on our feet when we talked to the CO.  Captain Baker schussed him and said, “Never mind that, stay where you are”.  He was always more concerned with performance and function than with formality.  Then in October 1962 I got into trouble, serious trouble.  I could have been kicked out of the Army.  Captain Baker looked me in the eye and said “If you don’t want to be here, we can get rid of you.”  I said, “I’ll try to do better, Sir”, saluted smartly, did an about face and started doing everything to the absolute best of my ability.  I was a machinegunner, and shortly after that the division replaced the WWII .30 caliber machine guns with the new 7.62 mm M-60 guns.  To try to insure that everyone would train sufficiently on the new guns, the division announced a division machine gun competition to be held in the spring of 1963.  Captain Baker decided we were going to win.  For the eight weeks before the competition, the six company machinegun crews did nothing but train on or fire the guns.  On the firing range we used there was a snag, an old dead tree, just past the 500 meter line.  We fired so much that the other gunner in our platoon and myself could bounce six rounds bursts off that old tree alternating up each side.  The competition started with the gun broken down into six major parts.  We had to assemble the gun, move up 50 yards, position the gun, load it and yell “UP”, when we were ready to fire.  We had practiced so much that we could do it in seconds.  We won the competition, and Captain Baker promoted me back to PFC (Private First Class), which had been taken away in October.

Captain Baker left the company shortly after that and spent a year as an instructor in the Airborne Department at Fort Benning.  In August 1964 he came back to Fort Bragg to attend the Special Forces Officer Qualification Course.

I was promoted to Specialist in September, and the following July (1964), I was promoted to Sergeant.  Thank you Captain Bo Baker for the inspiration.

After a few months in the Special Forces Officer course he was assigned to the 6th Special Forces Group, there at Fort Bragg, as a Detachment Commander of an A-Detachment.  Then in October 1965 he was off to Vietnam in the 5th Special Forces Group.  Having been a successful infantry company commander as well as a Special Forces “A” detachment commander and a senior captain close to being promoted to major, Captain Baker was assigned to, at that time, a highly classified detachment within the 5th Special Forces Group.

Detachment B-52 Project Delta, was commanded by Major “Chargin Charlie” Beckwith, who already had a reputation for being out spoken, blunt, in your face regardless of rank, and fearless in combat, and in later years as a Colonel he would organize, train, and stand up Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-Delta), the “Delta Force”.  Project Delta’s primary mission was to conduct long range, covert patrols in enemy held areas.  It conducted the most successful deep penetration surveillance missions of the war.  A week after Captain Baker arrived as the B-52 executive officer/operations officer a Special Force A-camp at a place called Plei Me came under intense attack.  The camp consisted of a 12 man Special Forces A team, a 14 man Vietnamese Special Forces team and about 400 of civilian irregular defense group, mostly local Montagnards, and most of them with their families.  An entire North Vietnamese regular Army regiment surrounded the camp with the intention of eliminating it.  Anti-aircraft fire was so intense surrounding the camp that helicopters could not land on the camp.  B-52 landed about three miles away and infiltrated into the camp.  The battle lasted eight days, until the North Vietnamese regiment pounded by air power and reinforcements finally withdrew.  Captain Bo Baker was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action during the siege of Plei Me.  A wounded lieutenant said that Captain Baker slept under the poncho with him one night to keep him warm.

Detachment B-52 became the In-country experts on reconnaissance.  As such, other units were asking them to train their teams.  Bo Baker was promoted to Major in April 1966.  And in May, at the direction of General Westmorland, the MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) Commander, Colonel Kelly, the 5th Special Forces Group Commander, tasked Major Bo Baker with organizing, setting up, and commanding a reconnaissance school.  It became the MACV Recondo School.

In November of 1966 Major Baker returned to Fort Bragg as an instructor at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center.  Then in the summer of 1967 the family moved to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, where Major Bo Baker attended the year-long Air Force Command and Staff College.  After that it was back to Vietnam for a few months in Headquarters, US Army Vietnam.  In November 1968 he was pulled back to the pentagon to work in the Infantry Branch.  He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) in September 1969, and in the summer of 1970 the family moved to the Panama Canal Zone where he was made Commander of the Jungle Operations Training Center, which conducted the US Army’s Jungle Warfare School.  Daughter Terri, graduated from Cristobal High School there in 1971.  In the summer of 1972 they moved back to the states, to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, where LTC Baker would attend the year-long US Army War College.

In July 1973 they moved back to Fort Bragg where LTC Bo Baker was assigned as the G1 (Administrative Officer) of the 82nd Airborne Division.  There our paths crossed again.  I was working in the Division Command Section, where LTC Baker routinely had daily business.  He was a Lieutenant Colonel and I was a Staff Sergeant, but when no one else was around, there wasn’t any military formality between us.  We were just two soldiers talking about old times.  Like the time we found a mansion in a swamp in South Carolina.  At the time, we wondered if it was Francis Marion the Swamp Fox’s hideaway.  It wasn’t, but it was a typical old southern mansion with front porch columns, overgrown, isolated in a swamp.  Bo Baker was a fun guy, he thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing and always tried to have fun doing it.  The Division Provost Martial, LTC Russell, the Division Adjutant General, LTC Eisenbarth, and the Division JAG, Major Alred, all fell under the G1, but the four of them were drinking buddies at the officers club, after hours.  They would come in the office laughing about harassing a doctor or a pilot, at the club, because his hair was too long.  The division got a new Chief of Staff, who wrote an efficiency report on LTC Baker, which was less than he thought he deserved.  The two of them had words in the chief’s office and I wasn’t privy to the end of the conservation, but the next thing that happened to LTC Bo Baker was him being selected to recruit, train, and command the US Army’s 2nd Airborne Ranger Battalion.

I remember that it was late August or early September 1974 that he was notified of his next assignment.  He was already in good physical condition, he did good PT every day, but his day job was an office job, and in his mind, he wasn’t in good enough physical condition for his upcoming assignment.  The evenings at the club were replaced with exercise or running.  He was 44 years old, and he said that he had to be in the best physical condition of his life to take on a task like he was being given.  He knew better than most that, as I have written in the past, a units entire attitude and personality are set by the boss.

After the move to Fort Lewis, Washington, LTC Baker and CSM (Command Sergeant Major) Walter Morgan screened records and their memories for good NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) (Sergeants).  LTC Baker was given access to records, and his pick, of Infantry lieutenants and captains.  Then they toured the country, visiting many Army posts, interviewing NCO’s and officers for possible assignment to the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

Peter S. Parker enlisted in the Army in February 1975 with a guaranteed unit of choice of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.  He wrote the following account of his first meeting with LTC Baker and CSM Morgan, while he was in basic or AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Polk, Louisiana in the spring of 1975.  “. . .a message came down that anybody going to the second Ranger Battalion had to go to a meeting after hours.  So one night I reported to the company headquarters building where shortly thereafter a jeep arrived and picked me up to take me to this meeting. …I was surprised at how few people were there.  Including the Jeep driver there were only eight people total in the room.  Five privates, the jeep driver, Sergeant Major (CSM) Walter Morgan, and this huge bear of a man LTC AJ “Bo” Baker.  Although LTC Baker was very tall, big, robust, and intimidating, he spoke with a soft yet serious voice.  Col Baker briefed us on the formation of the unit, the standards for the physical training that would be expected of us. …Col Baker told about the new Ranger unit, and said that one of the things that they were doing on Fort Lewis was that they had this word, and they were saying this word everywhere they went. And that they were getting a lot of attention from this new word.  It was a Vietnamese word that meant “Yes”…. At the end of the briefing LTC Baker asked if we had any questions.  When no one else ask any questions, I raised my hand.  LTC Baker called on me and I asked “What is the word?”  Col Baker looked at CSM Morgan, looked back at me and said in a soft and normal voice “Oh, the word is Hooah”.  Hooah said softly does NOT convey the meaning nor the significance of the word!  Us newbies all looked at each other with puzzled looks on our faces.  Nobody understood, yet.  We would later when we got there”.

I was a Rifle Platoon Sergeant in the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, in 1977 and 1978.  We had several what we called “ranger rejects”.  They had been kicked out of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.  Overall they were well trained and good troops, but if they got into any trouble for drugs, drinking, or disturbances, they were immediately reassigned out the ranger battalion. The Ranger Battalion was in “train up”, it refused to deal with disciplinary problems.  I had one Staff Sergeant assigned to me as a Squad Leader.  He had been kicked out of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and I fully understood why.  He was a very good Squad Leader, but on the weekends he would have too much to drink and pick fights at the clubs.  He told me about his reassignment.  He said; “I reported to LTC Baker in his office, and remained at attention in front of his desk.  He looked up at me and said “Sergeant … I’m reassigning you to the 9th Infantry Division, down the street”.  I said, “I don’t know if I want to be assigned to the 9th Division or not.”  Then that big SOB slammed his big fist down on that desk, stood up in front of me and said; “Sergeant. . .  you get your bags packed and get your butt down the street to the 9th Division or I will kick it all the way down there.”  I saluted and said, “Yes sir”.  I turned around and got out of there”.

LTC Bo Baker completed his tour and presented the 2nd Ranger Battalion to the Army, as complete and combat ready in June 1976.  The citation inducting him into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 2009, reads in part; “His personal charisma, tactical competence, physical strength, courage, and genuine love for his Rangers and their families set an example that would be emulated for decades to come.  Of note, out of the initial cadre under his command, 12 general officers, six division commanders, three 75th Ranger Regiment commanders, one Delta Force commander, one U.S. Army Special Forces commander, one commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 15 command and staff Sergeants Major, and 13 full Colonels were produced for the Army.  These leaders ….proved to be instrumental in transforming and leading our Army and the U.S. military for the next 30 years.  Col Baker was an extraordinary team builder who left a lasting imprint on each of the Rangers he coached and mentored.”

After turning over the Ranger Battalion, they moved back to Fort Benning where he spent a year in charge of the Tactics Department of the Infantry School.  He was promoted to full Colonel in February 1977.  In July of that year they moved to Germany where he worked for a year as the US Army Europe Liaison to the US Air Force Headquarters at Ramstien Air Force Base.

Then in July 1978 Col A.J. “Bo” Baker was made Commander of the 10th Special Forces Group and the Military Community at Bad Tolz, Germany.  He died there of an apparent heart attack on March 24th, 1980.

He is buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Searcy, Arkansas.  He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Searcy, a Mason, Shriner, and a charter member of the Searcy Chapter of the Order of DeMolay.  He was a loving husband and father.  His wife Betty and daughter Terri live in the Fayetteville, North Carolina area.

In 1980, Germany and the U.S. Army renamed the air field at Flint Kaserne, Bad Tolz, Germany as the “A.J. “Bo” Baker Army Air Field.

In 1981, the A.J. “Bo” Baker Chapter XXX 10th Special Forces Association was organized in New Orleans.

In 1983, Bo Baker Post 350 of the American Legion was formed in Searcy, and the National Guard Armory in Searcy was renamed the A.J. “Bo” Baker National Guard Readiness Center.  The Bo Baker Ranger Base chapter of the Ranger Association is at Olympia, Washington.

Searcy, Arkansas High School awards the “Bo Baker Award” each year to the outstanding athlete.


Originally published February 1st, 2017 in The Belle Banner.

This week I want to talk about another female soldier, Second Lieutenant (2LT) Sally Smith. She is also single, and she also has been in the Army about a year. Sally was half way through college when she became interested in the military. She didn’t want to enlist, so she talked to the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Department at her college. ROTC is a four year program. However, the ROTC Department arranged for her to attend a four week Basic ROTC camp at Fort Knox Kentucky, between her sophomore and junior years, which counted for the first two years of ROTC. She had to contract with the Army going into her junior year, but she was paid $450 per month in her junior year and $500 per month in her senior year. She attended a six week advanced camp at Fort Knox between her junior and senior year. Sally was an accounting major, so for her branches in the army, she requested 1st Finance Corps, 2nd Adjutant General’s Corps (Human Resources), and 3rd Quartermaster (Logistics). In November of her senior year she received her branch notification of Adjutant General’s Corps. The Army only takes about 20 new lieutenants a year into the Finance Corps, which is the smallest officer corps in the Army. The Adjutant General’s Corps are the human resource managers for the army.

The day Sally graduated and received her bachelor’s degree she was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Sally received orders to report to the Adjutant General’s Corps Basic Officer Leadership Course (AGBOLC) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (Columbia). She was told to definitely bring her car, and to check in at the Fort Jackson Inn prior to reporting to her student company. Fort Jackson Inn is basically a Holiday Inn Express, on post, run by International Hotels Group. When the army privatized on post housing, Continental Hotels Group got the temporary housing contract, and built nice hotels on almost every post. Sally was assigned a suite with a nice sized living room, kitchenette, large bedroom with a lot of storage space, and a bathroom.

When she signed in, she was told where to be the next morning for an in-briefing. The in-briefing was started by a Major who was the Chief of Basic Officer Training at the Soldier Support Institute, then by other cadre members. Class Leaders were appointed. The remainder of the week was basically in-processing, with medical, dental, and personnel. There were 33 Lieutenants in her class, 13 female and 20 male. PT (physical training) was 06:30 every morning, Monday through Friday, and class started at 9:00 AM. Week two consisted of studying combined arms, military decision making process, a lecture by a Lieutenant General (3 star), who was a deputy chief of staff of the army, and combatives (hand to hand combat) training. Week three was range week. All zeroed their rifle, practiced firing and fired for record on Friday. PT on Thursday morning of week three was the initial PT test instead of regular PT. Also another combatives class. Week four was Land Navigation Week. They received land navigation classes, and ran land navigation courses (with a paper map and a compass, not a GPS reader). They also had their third and final combatives class. On Friday they had their first test. It was on property accountability. Week five was “Dining In” week. That week they studied Casualty Operations, and attended the AG Corps formal “Dining In” on Thursday evening, at the Fort Jackson Officers Club. Week six was dedicated to strength management and strength reporting. On Tuesday afternoon, of that week, Brigadier General Jones, Commandant of the Soldier Support Institute, and his wife, had the class at their house for snacks and fellowship. Dress was civilian casual. Week seven they studied military pay, ethics, and enlisted promotions. The Chief of Staff of the Army, visited and spoke to the class that week. Week eight was about military awards. Also, that week they were visited and briefed by some female Lieutenants who had been on Cultural Support Teams in Afghanistan. Week nine was staff organization and procedures, and a staff exercise. Week ten was FTX week (field training exercise). They spent three days and two nights in the field running various human resource field operations. Week eleven was convoy training and doing convoys on the convoy simulator. Week twelve started with a 12 mile ruck march. Week thirteen was wrapping up classes, review and final PT test. Week fourteen was graduation.

While in ROTC, in college, two of Sally’s instructors were former paratroopers. They told her that the elite of the regular army is airborne. They and their stories impressed her. She started applying extra effort to ROTC, and she started an intense physical fitness regimen, running and strength training. Her Professor of Military Science (ROTC commander) designated her as a Distinguished ROTC graduate. She almost maxed her initial PT test in AGBOLC. So, when she talked to her branch manager at Human Resources Command Headquarters, she asked for an airborne assignment. Her branch manager agreed and assigned her to the 82nd Airborne Division. So, after AGBOLC graduation it was off to Fort Benning, Georgia for three weeks of basic airborne school. She completed her five jumps and reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Post Housing sent her to Randolph Pointe Apartments on Fort Bragg, where she got a nice apartment, completely furnished, with all services included, plus a club house and pool all paid for by her basic allowance for housing BAH. Randolph Pointe is a new apartment complex for single officers, warrant officers, and senior sergeants. It is a “no hat” “no salute” area.

Sally was assigned to the Headquarters of a Brigade Combat Team in the 82nd Airborne Division. Staff Sections of army units commanded by colonel’s and below are designated S1 (Human Resources), S2 Intelligence, S3 Operations and Training, and S4 Supply, Logistics, Maintenance, Transportation. The S1 of the Brigade is a Major, and the NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge) is a Master Sergeant. Sally is the Assistant S1 and she is directly in charge of the Personnel Readiness Team, which consists of her, a Staff Sergeant, and two Specialists. They maintain personnel accountability, personnel readiness management, personnel information management, strength reporting, and casualty reporting. She must also be aware of what the other team in the S1 section is doing, in the event the S1 is absent. That is the Human Resources Services Team. It consists of a Chief Warrant Officer, a Staff Sergeant, two Sergeants, and three Specialists. It processes all personnel actions. Each of the six battalions within the brigade have a similar, but smaller S1 sections. Captains are the S1 of the battalions. In many cases First Lieutenants are battalion S1’s. Sally hopes to become a battalion S1 sometime after she makes First Lieutenant, which will be in about six months. Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant at 18 months of service. Sally’s base pay is now $3,035 per month, plus $150 parachute pay, after taxes and deductions, her take home pay is about $2,450 per month, half paid twice monthly. When she makes First Lieutenant her base pay will jump to $3,500 per month, and when she goes over two years of service it will go to $4,000 per month.

One of Sally’s more sensitive duties is to maintain the current deployable strength and the projected deployable strength percentage of the Brigade Combat team. Her team constantly monitors and maintains those numbers. She sends those numbers daily through the S-1 to the Brigade Commander. Occasionally, the Brigade Commander (Colonel) will ask Sally to come to his office and explain the movement of different figures.

One of Sally’s extra duties is to be the Brigade Liaison to the Brigade Headquarters Family Readiness Group. There is a Family Readiness Group (FRG) in each company, comprised of spouses of soldiers. The FRG exists to keep spouses informed, especially during deployments, also the members traditionally help each other, during deployments.

Another of Sally’s extra duties is to schedule “Hail and Farewell” functions, by keeping track of who is leaving and arriving. Hail and Farewell’s are arranged for officers and senior sergeants. Usually when one is leaving, a new one is arriving. She contracts a location, and arranges catering, music, and insures that the proper people are invited. The same for “Dining In” and Dining Out” Both are formal affairs, Dining In is military only, at Dining Out spouses and family are included. The Army rarely conducts Dining In anymore, because families are included in everything possible.

Sally has made four parachute jumps, since her arrival at her unit, and taken her strength section on two field exercises, and participated in one EDRE (Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise). On an EDRE, the Brigade receives a call in the middle of the night, that within 18 hours from that minute, the entire brigade is to be “wheels up”, to jump into a make believe country. Sometimes the exercise is run at another location, in the EDRE Sally was on, they jumped on Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg.

Sally has been Brigade Staff Duty Officer twice. That duty is rotated among the lieutenants in the Brigade. The officer and a senior sergeant are on duty at Brigade Headquarters from close of business until start of the next day.

Sally’s boss, the S-1, just changed. The old major left and a new one arrived. That meant Sally got her first Officer Efficiency Report. Anytime an officer changes jobs, or their boss changes, they get an Officer Efficiency Report. Sally was rated by the S1, endorsed by the Brigade Executive Officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, and reviewed by the Brigade Commander, a Colonel. She received a very good report.

Sally is committed to three years active duty. Then if she chooses to leave active duty, she is committed to another five years in the reserves, either active reserves, if she chooses, or the individual ready reserves, which requires no meetings or activity on her part. So far, Sally is enjoying the Army, especially the 82nd Airborne Division. If she chooses to stay in the Army, she will probably be in the 82nd about four years. When she goes over three years in service her base pay will jump to about $4,600 per month. Officers usually make captain at about four years in service. Base pay for a Captain over four is $5,400 per month. If she stays in the Army, at about the four year mark she would be reassigned back to Fort Jackson, for six months of the Captains Career Course. Then on to another unit to command a company, or possibly to ROTC, Reserve, or Recruiting duty, or graduate school. The Army occasionally sends Captains to school to get a masters degree.

Sally met a single lieutenant, at her apartments, with whom she has had lunch a few times. He, 2LT John Jones, is an infantry officer, who graduated from West Point about the same time Sally graduated from college. He went to Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, then to Ranger School. He had completed Airborne School, while at West Point. 2LT Jones is an infantry platoon leader in another brigade, in the 82nd. Nothing serious yet, just friends.