I spoke at our local high school veterans day assembly and found that very few people, especially young people, out here in the country know anything about the military. So, in January 2017 I started a column in our local weekly paper, titled "Life in the Army", in an attempt to educate people about normal life in the military.
I retired from the army, as a master sergeant, in 1984. I spent a total of about 10 years in the 82nd Airborne Division, two tours in Vietnam, one with the 101st Airborne Division, one split between USARV, HQ and the 5th Special Forces Group. I was in the infantry, and in administration. I was a Drill Sergeant for two years, and three years of ROTC duty. I have tried to keep up ever since.
One of the AIT (Advanced Individual Training) courses at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri is MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 88M, Motor Transport Operator, i.e. “Truck Driver”. If you’re a truck junky and your day doesn’t start until you climb in the cab and light up that big diesel, this is the Army job for you. It is one of the easiest AIT’s, consisting of seven weeks of training, plus one week of administrative stuff. Unless you already have a Class A CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and two years’ experience driving 80,000 pound tractor trailers then the training is only four weeks, after basic, then you are promoted to Specialist E4 upon completion of the four weeks. It is also one of the easiest jobs to get in the Army. If you want to get in the Army fast, if you just want to get in and not wait a year for a slot as a Satellite Communication Systems Operator Maintainer, and you don’t want to go into the Infantry, you can almost always get in as a truck driver. The ASVAB requirement is not high, a score of 85 in the OF (Operator – Food) area, which is comprised of four parts of the ASVAB, Verbal Expression (word knowledge and paragraph comprehension), Numerical Operations (very simple math), Auto and Shop Information, and Mechanical Comprehension.
The Army has a gazillion 88M’s, and it will always need more. They are everywhere all over the world in every type of unit. The type of job a soldier has as an 88M depends entirely on the unit. If a man or woman enlists as an 88M, they could end up hauling mail and supplies in Germany or Hawaii, or hauling tanks at Fort Bliss, Texas, or pulling maintenance and weeds in the motor pool at Fort Leonard Wood.
Freezing temperatures and snow? No Problem! The Road Kings keep rolling along, delivering supplies forward across Europe. #RaiseUp
The 66th Transportation Company is a United States Army medium truck company that provides line haul support to units for USAREUR operations. Raise Up!
The 88M’s do not usually drive Humvees, unit soldiers drive those, the 88M’s drive 5 tons and above. Driving a truck in the Army can be a great job, it can be a boring job, it can be a very busy job, and in combat it can be a very dangerous job.
A former Army truck driver had this to say; “Imagine yourself in the cab of a truck bouncing along a highway in Iraq. Palm trees and dun-colored houses whiz past. Children run out to beg. Men in white dishdashas and red headscarves with hostile faces watch you pass. You swerve to miss a donkey carcass; it could be booby-trapped. Suddenly, a familiar sound: the pop, pop, pop of machine-gun fire. You hope the soldiers in the Humvees escorting your convoy shoot back. You pray the flak vest you’re wearing stops an AK round, because the truck you’re driving is not armored. Above all, you tell yourself, “Don’t stop.” There are bad guys out there who want to pull you out and cut off your head. Then suddenly there’s a sharp concussion, black smoke, chaos. An IED on the left side of the road. You say a quick prayer and you move on. It’s another day on the job for a truck driver in Iraq. In Afghanistan, First Lieutenant Ben Keating did not want to ask a driver to drive over a narrow and unstable mountain road to haul supplies to a new outpost, so he drove the truck himself. The road gave away, the truck rolled down the mountain, and 1LT Ben Keating was wedged in rocks where he died. Combat Outpost Keating was named for him. Two Medals of Honor were awarded when the Taliban tried to overrun COP Keating. That is described in the book “Outpost”, by Jake Tapper, which is a 600 page gripping, detailed, fascinating, hold-you-to-the-page account of a terrible story.
If you are a line grunt, in a unit that has been in the field so many days that you’ve lost count, and you’re facing a 10 or 20K walk back to camp and trucks arrive, they are treated like hero’s. An Infantry Brigade Combat Team consists of seven battalions counting the Brigade Support Battalion, which includes the Brigade Headquarters Company, There are three Infantry Battalions, a Cavalry Squadron (Reconnaissance), a Fires Battalion (Artillery), and an Engineer Battalion which has two Combat Engineer Companies, a Military Intelligence Company and a Signal Company. Infantry, Cavalry, Fires, and Engineer Battalions each have a Forward Support Company attached. Each Forward Support Company has about 20 88M’s and ten trucks. The Distribution Company in the Brigade Support Battalion has about 10 88M’s and six trucks. So there are around 150 88M’s dedicated to driving a truck, in a brigade. I have read that in many places in the Army truck drivers are called “POG’s” along with all other POG’s (Person Other than a Grunt). We had a different name for rear echelon people when I was in the Army (can’t put it in print), but we didn’t include the truck drivers who picked us up in the field. The slurs to anyone not a grunt are not as prevalent in airborne units, because everyone jumps out of airplanes, so the pride of being airborne transcends the petty bickering and jealousies found in other units.
If a person enlists for MOS 88M, they get trained and awarded the MOS 88M. Where they get assigned, in the world, is according to the needs of the Army. If they get the airborne option, there is a 90 percent chance of them going to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
After basic combat training, at Fort Leonard Wood, they move a couple blocks down the street to new barracks that are more like hotels. There are three bunks in a room, a stacked double and a single. Each room has its own bath and shower and closets instead of wall lockers. There are usually more males than females, so the females often have only two people to a room. There are modern laundry rooms on every floor. There are usually two or three days of waiting until the company is full, before training starts. First call (wake up) is 04:30, then PT (physical training) at 06:00. The course may be fairly easy, but the PT is not. An initial PT test is given the first week. Anyone who fails the PT test gets remedial PT in the evenings, and some companies have full PT twice a day. The new ACFT, the six event Army Combat Fitness Test, is now being conducted in AIT. With the introduction of gender neutral army jobs, there is extra emphasis on physical fitness. So, the message is get in shape in basic and stay that way. Everyone is issued a little red book, which is how to PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Service) the vehicle each time before, during and after operation. PMCS is a term that becomes imbedded in the mind of every driver in the army. There is a check list and a form to complete. You have to clean the vehicle, maintain it, and complete the paperwork, swearing that you have done those things. . The Army is completely serious about PMCS. I saw a super Lieutenant Colonel Infantry Battalion Commander and his Major Executive Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, both relieved of duty (fired) because a surprise maintenance inspection found that the battalion vehicles were not being maintained. Those two officers then needed to start working on their resumes because their future in the Army was basically over.
Some have written that the first week of training is the hardest, because it is five days of eight hours a day in the classroom, and if caught sleeping the threat is that they will not graduate on time. Hands on and driving training is on “pads”, which are giant concrete and paved areas, out in the woods on Fort Leonard Wood, built specifically for 88M training on specific vehicles. Training is on the 5 ton truck (M1083), the HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) M1120 LHS (Load Handling System), and the M915 standard tractor semi-trailer, plus others. Over a week is spent on the 915 semi. One female soldier said that she just could not back a semi. She went to the PX, bought a toy tractor trailer set and sat on the floor in her room moving them back and forth until the light went on, “If I turn the wheel this way the trailer does that”. She said that the next day she “threaded” the M915 and trailer.
There is a week in the field about halfway through the course. They sleep on cots in tents. As with most jobs in the Army, the real learning happens when the soldier gets to his or her permanent unit.
You don’t get a civilian Class A CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in the Army, but most states have adopted a “troops to truckers” program, which, with the commanders signature, allows a soldier leaving the Army to skip the skills test, and take only the written test to get a Class A CDL.
I have attended graduation ceremonies of 88M’s at Fort Leonard Wood, the sergeants were professional and the students were having fun.
There are a hundred different types of professional truck driving jobs. The people who stay in the seat usually find a particular job that suits them. I remember one lady who hauled household goods, during the summer, for moving companies. She was 35 to 40, had her 9 year old son with her, she was beautifully manicured with her designer jeans and boots. She meticulously checked everything going on and off her trailer, but never touched anything herself, lumpers did that. She said that she just enjoyed the adventure and the freedom.
Then there was an older couple from Florida, who hauled household goods. They had a 12 foot long sleeper on their truck. They said that they left home in April and returned in September and that they made enough to just stay home in Florida for the winter.
Kenworth Road Tractor with 13 foot living quarters.
Soldiers, with MOS 88M, who stay in the Army, advance up the ranks at about the same rate as most other support MOS’s. Sergeants may be senior drivers responsible for their own and one or two other trucks, or they may drive very large or complicated vehicles. Staff Sergeants are Squad or Section Leaders, Material Movement NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) or Transportation NCO. A Sergeant First Class may be a Brigade Motor Sergeant or a Transportation Platoon Sergeant or a Truckmaster which is like an administrative supervisor in a motor pool.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, February 7th 2018. I feel that it an appropriate follow up to “Be All You Can Be”.
The US Army is in the process of making a uniform change, again. Except this time, 80 percent of active duty soldiers approve of the proposed change, and so do I.
First, some history. From the Revolutionary War to 1900, army uniforms were different shades of blue. In 1902 the army started issuing wool olive drab uniforms for work and everyday wear, but still kept a dress blue uniform. The olive drab uniform was tinkered with through World War I until around 1926 when the army settled on the uniform worn in World War II. It was basically an olive drab coat with different trousers, brown shoes and a service (bus driver) hat, or a garrison (envelope) cap. The requirement for officers to have a dress blue uniform was suspended from 1940 until 1947, the war years. That was the uniform until 1954, when Army leadership started wanting something new. The green uniform, with the same type headgear, but green, and black shoes was phased in until it was the only uniform in 1957. President Kennedy approved the Green Beret for Special Forces soldiers, during a trip to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1961. Many different units started wearing different berets in the 1970’s, which resulted in the Maroon beret being approved for airborne soldiers, and the Black beret for Rangers. In June 2001, General Eric Shinseki, the Chief of Staff of the Army, thought the black beret was cool and arbitrarily ordered the Black Beret as headgear for the entire Army, and a Tan Beret for the Rangers, in reference to the buckskins worn by Rogers Rangers in the French and Indian War. That was probably one of the most unpopular decisions an Army Chief of Staff ever made. It made Special Forces, Rangers, and Airborne mad, because their berets signified something special, which was earned. Every poll of soldiers since has said “get rid of the black beret”. Then in 2008, Army leadership again felt the urge to do something different. The thought was, we already have the dress blue uniform let’s just make it the only dress up uniform. The green uniform was finally phased out in 2015. So now it’s like you’re going to work in an office and all you have in your closet are coveralls and a tuxedo, nothing in between. No plain business suit. The result has been the wearing of the camouflage combat uniform almost everywhere. The Marines never gave up their green and brown uniform, but the Army has played around. I still have my Dad’s brown jacket he wore home from World War II. Although now moth eaten, it is just as he took it off, with Sergeant stripes, jump wings, a French fourragere over the left shoulder, and an 82nd Airborne Division patch on the left shoulder.
The light colored trousers worn with the green olive drab uniform, in WWII, were rose shade wool, and when the light was just right gave a pinkish look. That uniform was called pinks and greens, and it was one of the most popular. The current Sergeant Major of the Army, Dan Dailey, has had his ear closer to the troops than some before him.
The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) position was created in 1966, because the Chief of Staff of the Army felt that enlisted personnel needed a stronger voice at Army Headquarters. He is the principle advisor to the Chief of Staff on enlisted matters. The position has grown and evolved, over the years. Although an enlisted man, Army protocol affords the SMA the same courtesy as a four star general. The SMA’s duties are either what the Chief wants, or what he wants. Daniel Dailey, is the youngest person to hold the job. An infantry soldier all his career, he was 46 when he was appointed in January 2015, so on a normal four year tour, he has about a year remaining as SMA. Upon being appointed, he immediately started touring the Army, holding town hall type meetings with junior enlisted troops. One of the first complaints was tattoos, which resulted in him being instrumental in getting the tattoo rules relaxed and standardized. Almost all of the soldiers disapproved of the black beret, and that complaint grew into a general uniform complaint. The only Class A uniform is dress blues, which is too formal for wear to plain office work in a headquarters, or to informal settings, such as recruiting duty, so everyone wears camo all the time.
Pinks and Greens are coming back, complete with brown shoes, service hat and garrison cap. Sergeant Major Dailey has been working on this project for a couple of years. Different prototypes have been worn to official functions around Washington, DC, and he and Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, have both been fitted with prototypes. SMA Dailey wore his pinks and greens to the Army Navy Game. Changes have been made, based on responses from soldiers, long ties for both men and women and no pleats to a straight pencil skirt for women, as well as trousers, if they prefer. This is the first time junior enlisted soldiers, in the entire army, have been involved in selecting a uniform. A final decision on the exact uniform is expected this coming spring. Nothing has been mentioned about the Black Beret, maybe because Eric Shinseki is still alive. This is more than correcting something that should never have been changed. This is the Army going back to its roots.
I enlisted in the Army at the end of August 1961. I took basic training with the 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The 6th Armored had been reduced to cadre strength to put recruits through basic training. There weren’t any Drill Sergeants, at that time. Infantry AIT (Advanced Individual Training) was at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Most of the cadre had just returned from Europe or Korea. Then Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and finally to the 82nd Airborne Division. I arrived at my first company March 1st, 1962. From the time I enlisted I heard sergeants refer to the “Brown Boot Army”. “That wouldn’t happen in the brown boot army.” “I was in the brown boot army, things were different then.” Those were World War II veterans, who had been in combat in the war. They wore unit combat patches on their right sleeve, and Combat Infantryman Badges over their wings which were adorned with stars signifying combat jumps. When they “deployed” in World War II, it was for the duration of the war. The action they saw was measured in years not months. I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and they were willing to pass on that knowledge. I had a Platoon Sergeant, who I swear could give a class on any subject at the drop of a hat. That is “the greatest generation”.
I have previously written that I consider George C Marshall to be the father of the modern Army. The brown shoe army was his creation, and it is the basis of the modern army. That army passed on its knowledge, its clichés, its pride, and its language. I am amused at the current army language and the running and marching cadences, because they are the same as when I was in the army 30 to 50 years ago, and they originated in World War II. So when you see the “new” Army Uniform, probably next summer or fall, it is not new, it is correcting something that should have never been changed. If you are a young person considering enlisting, I hope that the uniform you will wear gives you an extra sense of pride, knowing that you are wearing the uniform of the United States Army. The Army that whipped the world in 1945.
This was published yesterday, July 18th 2018, in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri. I am posting it immediately because I feel passionately about the subject. If you agree please share it and pass it on. Thank You.
That used to be the Army slogan, and it could possibly again become the Army slogan. The current slogan “Army Strong” is going to be changed. Army leadership is currently wrestling with what will be the next slogan.
In the late 1970’s Vietnam was over, military funding was being reduced, and there was a reduction in force (RIF). Many officers were being released from active duty, they called it being rifed, and morale was low. The volunteer Army was new and morale among Army recruiters, who were under tremendous pressure, was low. Sergeants were being involuntarily assigned to recruiting duty, and many considered it a career death sentence. In 1979 the Army assigned a two star general named Maxwell Thurman as the Commander of the Army Recruiting Command. I knew Max Thurman when he was a Colonel commanding the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery. He was a small man in stature, but a tremendous moving force in the Army. Max Thurman coined the slogan “BE ALL YOU CAN BE” and started changing the image of the Army. He toured the country and would walk into Recruiting Stations unannounced. He identified recruiting problems at the lowest level and turned the Recruiting Command around. He was sometimes called “Mad Max” or “Maxatollah”. He subsequently directed the invasion of Panama, retired as a four star in 1991 and died of cancer in 1995.
The Army is currently facing a challenge. Recruit an additional 4,000 people a year, from now on, to grow the active army to half a million soldiers by 2028. The Army is in competition with the other services and a strong civilian economy. On July 9th 2018 Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper visited the 1st Recruiting Brigade at Fort George G Meade, Maryland to discuss recruiting. While there he swore eight young men into the Army. He said; “These are the elite one percent who will defend the other 99 percent of the American people. Swearing an oath to the Constitution and defending our way of life, is something millions of Americans have chosen to do over the past 243 years. The Army, he said, allows those who make the decision to join, an opportunity to “serve a cause bigger than yourself.”
One of the most significant differences between being a soldier in the Army and a civilian job, is that in the Army you will be challenged. Not only physically, but academically and occupationally. It has been my observation, in life, that most people are capable of much more than they do, and many people today who are in the age window for military service have never been challenged or had to endure hardship.
Maybe that is why many veterans say that the military changed their life. It made them reach down inside themselves and grab that inner strength and power, which was always there, but had never been challenged. Be All You Can Be.
Soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution of United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution is our operations manual. It took many smart men many years of arguing and yelling to finalize it. It is unlike the founding document of any other country, in that it was constructed to limit the power of the government, and place the real power in the hands of the people. The United States of America is the world’s shining beacon of freedom and liberty, and it has done more good for the world than the rest of the world combined. Defending this country is an honorable thing to do. Be All You Can Be.
American soldiers are some of the greatest ambassadors for the USA, they are not only fierce fighters, but honorable and compassionate men and women. Soldiers are also a fun loving group, after all, so is America. My Dad told of soldiers in France in World War II teaching French boys, who shined their shoes, English so they could advertise, by yelling “Damn poor shoe shine”. In Vietnam the kids trusted American soldiers so much that they would sneak out and try to sell cokes to them during a fire fight. And from Iraq there are many pictures of American soldiers in full battle gear, playing soccer with local children.
Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 titled “The Greatest Generation”, in which are many stories about different people, some famous, some not, who grew up in the Great Depression, and thecxwhipped the world in World War II. The depression lasted about 10 years, starting with the stock market crash in 1929 and ended with the military buildup for World War II. After the stock market crashed, cash dried up, banks closed, businesses closed, there was no work. Plus starting in 1930 the central United States (Missouri) suffered the longest drought on record. Record temperatures in the summers (many of which still stand today) and no rain caused many to sell all of their animals. Dad said that people walked starving cattle to the railroad yards in Belle, if the cows could make it up the ramp into the cars they were shipped, if not they were taken back and butchered. He said many collapsed trying to get into the rail cars, and were just shot and dragged off. A recent NASA study of the past one thousand years of weather proclaimed 1934 as the driest year on record. During the depression there was no social service assistance (welfare), no social security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, or any government assistance. People in the United States of America literally starved to death. People out here in the country fared better than those in the cities. My grandfather told a story of being called to grand jury duty in St Louis in the midst of the depression. In conversation with another juror he said that he didn’t believe it was as bad as some of the papers reported. Remember, newspapers were the primary source of news, no television and very little radio. The other juror invited grandpa to accompany him during lunch. They went downtown in St Louis and saw a church soup kitchen. He said there was a line of people waiting for a bowl of watery soup. They were carrying bowls, tin cups, canning jars, and old tin cans, they were skin and bones skinny, and for most, that bowl of soup is all they would eat that day. He couldn’t see the end of the line, it went for blocks. My Dad raised sheep, worked anywhere he could and put himself through high school during the depression. He was 20 years old when he graduated from Belle High School in 1937. Dad told a story about hearing of work somewhere toward St Louis. He and another found the place, they were digging in water lines. I’ve forgotten how much it paid, but it was only pennies. There was a line of men waiting for work, and if one of the digging workers sat down, he was fired and another was hired. My mother was the oldest of six children, she quit school after the 10th grade in 1934, and at 16 went to work in a small broom factory in Bland, Missouri to help support her parents and five siblings. People who grew up and survived the Great Depression were certainly challenged.
After the war that greatest generation came home, went to work and built America. My Dad got his pilot’s licenses through the GI Bill. The GI Bill paid for my bachelor’s degree in accounting and my son’s degree in computer engineering. But every generation wants its’ children to have it better than they had it growing up. The result has been that many people have grown to adulthood having never been challenged physically or emotionally. After a couple generations, some parents apparently try to be “buddies” with their children instead of being the parent that properly guides the kids through their adolescent years. That attitude was also absorbed by many school systems that lowered their standards, so more could get good grades and feel good about themselves. The result was many people graduating from high school were unprepared for the real working world. Many colleges started freshman English and math classes commonly referred to as “bonehead english and bonehead math”, because incoming freshmen weren’t prepared for college work. The Army was not immune to that attitude. I recently wrote that it got so bad that starting this summer the Army is turning the discipline in basic training back about 50 years by reinstituting “strict discipline”. Be All You Can Be.
Army leadership has vowed that during this buildup standards will not be lowered. I certainly hope not. BE ALL YOU CAN BE!
This was originally published with the title LIFE on May 3rd, 2017 in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri.
CareerCast is the internet giant for identifying jobs and matching people to jobs. Each year it also ranks jobs for desirability. According to them, the good jobs have great work environments, low stress, and high projected growth, whereas the bad jobs have poor work environments, high stress, and poor projected growth. For 2017, enlisted military personnel was number 196 on their list of 200 jobs. Fourth from the bottom. They rated it as the most stressful job in the world, period. They claimed a “very poor” work environment and poor projected growth. That irritated me, so I looked up who wrote different articles on the ranking, then I looked into CareerCast, who are they and what do they do. I found that the work environment they consider as that of enlisted military personnel is combat. Infantry soldiers engaged in combat. That is stressful, the first time an enemy shoots at you, the pucker factor increases 1000 percent in a millisecond. Then you start trying to figure out how to put the enemy out of business. General Patton said; “No dumb b***ard ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other poor dumb b***ard die for his country.” And not everybody who has seen combat gets PTSD, you try to remember what you did right and what you did wrong, and think about what you might do next time, if you’re an infantryman, it’s your job. The ratio of support soldiers to combat soldiers, in the Army is about seven to one. Seven support soldiers for every combat soldier, and if you throw in the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force the ratio is probably 20 to one. This reminds me of the young man who saw the movie “Lone Survivor” and assumed that’s what life in the military is like. It portrays the lack of knowledge about our military by the general civilian population.
When Betty and I got married I was a Sergeant E5 and Betty was a Registered Nurse. Four years later, when our first, Sara, came along, I was a Staff Sergeant E6 and Betty quit work. She never went back to work until we were back here and the kids were older, when she worked as a substitute teacher for a couple years. Two more, Richard and Heidi came along and Betty stayed home and raised the kids while I soldiered. We lived well (she kept the checkbook), we bought two houses, one of them new, and a few new cars along the way, and we didn’t do without, we lived comfortably. When I retired from the Army in 1984, my base pay was about what a Specialist E4’s pay is now, so the pay has kept up with the times. We enjoyed our time in the Army, you might say we had the time of our lives.
I found a forum question from a young person who was about to leave for basic training, and had read some negative comments from soldiers and wanted to hear some positive comments, so he or she asked for comments. Here are some of the answers:
1 – I love my PT shirt.
2 – I love my job, the unit I am in, and my duty location. To get where I am, I had to wade through some crap, deal with annoyances, suck it up and drive on. I also like that the Army is kind of a “safety net” for me and my family. No matter how bad the economy is, I will always have that paycheck on the 1st and the 15th, and me and my family’s health needs will be taken care of.
3 – Best thing about the Army? The people I work with. Worst thing? The people I work with. It’s a funny mix of the best people you will ever meet, scummy bottom feeding knuckle draggers, and those who are paragons of the phrase “good enough for government work” whose only goal in life is to retire before 40 and do as little as possible. Then there are the guys that really make you motivated.
4 – Female Soldier: The Army is where I learned about motivation, determination, leadership, mental toughness, resilience, brotherhood, and pride. I was weak before I joined – mentally, physically, and emotionally. The Army took a whiny little bitchass mouse who had panic attacks when asked to speak in class and turned me into a confident adult with skills and accomplishments I can take pride in. Before I joined the Army, I whined about waking up at 7:30 for an 8:00 class. Some days I just chose not to go out of pure laziness. Last Monday, I woke up before 0400 to go take a darn APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). And I freaking loved it.
5 – Four day weekends.
6 – I like it because for those who want to excel, you can. The Army, at least for officers and NCO’s, will continue to place you in positions of greater responsibility. I also have been incredibly fortunate to work with some great Soldiers. They are honestly what makes going to work every day, worth it. I also like DFAC breakfast. You can’t beat $2.50 for bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit.
7 – Pretty much getting paid to go to school, wish I had realized how awesome this was before I got a year of college debt.
8 – I view the Army overall this way; Navy – I hate water/boats and I didn’t like the lifestyle they have. USMC – They’re just not for me, I didn’t want to be a Marine. USAF – Too laid back and too corporate, I didn’t want anything cushy. The Army, in my opinion, is my happy medium. We are diverse and every unit has a different culture. To me, I think the Officer, NCO, Soldier relationship is different from the other branches. We just do things different and it fits me perfectly.
9 – I get paid really well to fly helicopters.
10 – The people and the simplicity. And how much it’s made me appreciate my free time and my sleep. 0800 used to be early for me.
11 – I love watching my Soldiers be successful in their careers. Awards, badges, ceremonies = I don’t care two cents for. The best award in the world is getting a random text or email that says “Thank you for mentoring and training me.” Nothing in the Army compares to watching that young SSG or SGT rise to become an awesome PSG or 1SG.
12 – Legacy. I believe establishing a legacy is one of the best things about being in the Army. I came from a divorced family and we lived close to poverty level. There was no way for my mom to pay for my school. I was looking at dead end jobs and college debt. Joining the Army, I have established myself as a professional. I have a rewarding career with pretty good retirement. I have earned my Associates, my Bachelors and am currently working on my Masters. Been married 14 years with three beautiful kids that will inherit my GI Bill (since I will finish my Masters prior to my retirement). What the Army has done for me is set not only me but my family on a great path. Instead of struggling day to day, I am able to make sure my kids will have better opportunities than I did. This is the legacy. This is what I love about the Army.
13 – I love the simplicity of it, there are very few grey lines when it comes to the day to day of it.
14 – Hands down the comradery. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in the Army, no matter what, you’re always surrounded by Soldiers who are there to have your back.
15 –“20+ years” – 1 -The comradery is unlike any other job. 2 – Travel (to good places, not just hell-holes), good pay/benefits, sense of accomplishment, the list goes on and on. 3 – They pay you to receive training and experience. The pay and benefits are very competitive to civilian jobs, 30 days paid vacation a year, full medical and dental, housing paid for, college education tuition paid for while in and after you get out, free legal services, name brand grocery shopping at cost, exchange privileges (-20% under average prices off post), free/low-cost tourism trips & activities, & more. 4 – As long as I can consistently go to sleep feeling like I’ve accomplished something, it’s a good job. As you move up in rank and start training others, it becomes even more rewarding. 5 – I initially joined because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I didn’t like what I was majoring in at college (Dentistry) and didn’t know what career path I wanted to change to. I joined for a short term to give me time to explore my options. I have enjoyed it enough that I’ve stayed in for over 20 years now. I’m starting to think about retirement, but that’s still a few years off. I’m looking at working with youth groups when I get out. 6 – Goes back mainly to my first answer. There is no other job out there where your co-workers will always be there for you no matter what. From something as simple as helping you move or picking you up from the airport to actually having your back when bullets are flying. Even if you don’t necessarily like each other, you still have respect and trust for each other.
If you enjoy cooking and think you would like to cook for a living, be a chef in a restaurant, or manage a restaurant, becoming an Army Cook might be of benefit to you. There was a time when I would never have recommended this. When I went in the Army a cook was the bottom of the food chain (no pun intended). If a person scored too low on the entrance exams for most Army jobs, he was made a cook. When I got to my company in the 82nd Airborne Division, each company had Its’ own building with its’ own mess hall. All Privates through Specialists were on the KP (Kitchen Police) roster. Six or eight KPs were sent to the mess hall every day, to scrub floors, wash pots and pans, and generally do anything the cooks didn’t want to do. It was from 04:00 AM to 21:00 (9:00 PM). It was hot, loud, steamy and continuous. Our Mess Sergeant was an infantry Staff Sergeant who was mean as a snake with a perpetual hangover, and ran the mess hall with an iron hand. On weekends and holidays you could sell your KP for $20, and that was 1962 and 1963. I pulled so much KP that I was offered the job as a cook. No way! Things didn’t change much through Vietnam, but around the time the Army started trying to change from rough riders to professionals, the food service people started realizing their value and becoming more professional themselves.
I was a Rifle Platoon Sergeant in the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Italy in 1977 – 1979. We went on a fast moving 17 day field exercise in an Italian Army Training Area north of Rome. The food people couldn’t keep up with us, we missed meals. They caught up with us one time and all they had was condensed rice and shrimp, you just add water and heat it up, which they had done. It is not very good, the troops usually leave it. The troops came back for seconds and ate every drop that was there. About a week later our Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Murphy, was making rounds, visiting the troops, I took he and our Company Commander, Captain Victor Mitchell, to see my platoon. The colonel talked to the troops about the exercise and asked how they were doing – OK, then as he was ready to leave, he smiled and asked; “Are you getting enough to eat?” They answered in unison a big loud NO SIR! As we were walking back up the hill Colonel Murphy turned to Captain Mitchell; “Vic, what’s going on with the chow?” Captain Mitchell explained that the food service people couldn’t seem to keep up with us, or find us at meal time. We heard, through the rumor mill, that there was a shakeup in food service supervision, but we never had chow problems again.
How things have changed. Army MOS 92G was a Cook, then a Food Service Specialist, and now a “Culinary Specialist” who can receive civilian certification as a chef. They wear black trousers and a white chef jacket, while on duty.
Sometimes the jacket comes off during food prep.
They have competitions for chef of the quarter, and large army posts have annual installation culinary competitions. Then there is the annual Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Virginia, which has competitors from all the services, National Guard and Reserves. The Pentagon has its own TV channel for military personnel. The cooking show “The Grill Sergeants” with military chefs, is one the most popular shows. There are no more “mess halls”, now there are Dining Facilities (DFAC). These are large consolidated facilities, with the latest equipment and technology, and offer a wide variety in their menus, because soldiers are no longer bound to eat in “their” DFAC, they can eat in any DFAC, which has created a competition between DFAC’s on the same post. Where there was once probably a hundred mess halls in a Division of about 12,000 soldiers, there are now 14 DFAC’s on all of Fort Bragg, North Carolina of over 50,000 soldiers. And there is no more “KP duty”, civilian contractors provide the KP’s in the DFAC’s. In fact, of those 14 DFAC’s, 10 are military and 4 are operated by the civilian contracting company.
In 1968 the Army established the “Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program” to promote professionalism in Army dining facilities. It has grown to an annual inspection of almost every dining facility in the Army, by the Joint Center of Culinary Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia. There are three main categories “Military Garrison”, “Active Army Field Kitchen”, and “Reserve Component Field Kitchen” (guard and reserves). DFAC’s which are operated by combat units compete in the “Field Kitchen” category, because both their DFAC and Field Kitchen are inspected. The Joint Culinary Center of Excellence from Fort Lee, Virginia has a check list of 61 items in 9 different categories they use during inspections. They check Administration/Training/Supervision, Accounting Procedures, Request/Receipt/Storage of Rations, Field Food Service Sanitation, Command Support, Appearance/Attitude of Food Service Personnel, Servicing/ Troop Acceptability (they interview soldiers who eat at the DFAC), Kitchen Site Selection/Layout, and Food Preparation and Quality.
I have said many times that the most elite force you can simply enlist for is “Airborne”, I have the same recommendation if you want to be a cook. The top winners of the world wide “Phillip A Connelly Award” have been; In 2009, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, in 2012 and 2014 the 1st Brigade Combat Team, in 2015 the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the 1st Brigade again in 2016, and in 2019 the award for the best Dining Facility in the Army went to the 82nd Support Battalion.
The DFAC manager of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, “Devils Den DFAC”, through those last two inspections was Sergeant First Class David Sarnecki. SFC Sarnecki graduated from high school in 1992, went to Illinois Wesleyan University for three years, tried to find a job, but couldn’t, so he decided to serve his country for three years, until the jobs opened up. He ended up loving the Army and loving his job, he commented; “They say an army moves on its stomach and keeping paratroopers fed, I’m right at the heart of the action”. Now he’s retiring from the Army, at age 43, with a masters degree in political science, which the Army paid for, and a certified chef with extensive experience in large food management and catering.
The 2019 winning DFAC is called the Provider Café, and is operated by the 223rd Quartermaster (QM) Field Feeding Company, of the 82nd Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, and they are professional paratroopers as well as professional chef’s.
Serving in any job (MOS) in the 82nd Airborne Division is working in a different culture from most of the rest of the Army. It is a culture of achievement and success, a culture of professionalism.
Provider Café DFAC Thanksgiving layout.
223rd QM Co paratrooper preparing for a parachute jump.
223rd QM Co shooting on the range.
223rd QM Co taking the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test)
Culinary Specialist soldiers must stay fit. The maximum score on the new ACFT is 600. These are the 223rd QM Co soldiers who scored above 500. This would be impressive for any army company.
223rd QM Co Specialist Sindi Rodriguez won the 82nd Airborne Division and the Fort Bragg Installation Chef of the Year FY20.
The 223rd is a company of winners, but it is not unique in the 82nd Airborne Division.
82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team Dining Facility
1st QTR FY2020 Superior Dining Facility Winner. This is our FOURTH consecutive quarter receiving this Award, sweeping the calendar year of 2019. So proud of the Culinarians and Leaders of the Panther Brigade Dining Facility.
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division October 23rd 2020.Panther Family; today we are recognizing the outstanding performance of the following Culinary Specilalists:
Staff Sgt. Christopher Go awarded an Army Achievement Medal for winning Brigade Chef of the Quarter.
Sgt. John Bawuah an Army Commendation Medal for winning Installation Chef of the Quarter.
Specialist Treshawn Speight was awarded an Army Achievement Medal for Brigade Chef of the Quarter and an Army Commendation Medal for winning Installation Chef of the Quarter.
Congratulations and well done!
82nd Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team Dining Facility (Devil’s Den DFAC)
Your Devils Den team won the Super Bowl(Best Thanksgiving Fort Bragg Installation). This is the most important meal of the year for a 92G. To say for the next year we are the champions is an honor and a pleasure. Of course we could not accomplish anything without the hard work of all the Culinary Specialist/Paratroopers assigned to 1 Brigade Combat Team. Thank you to all for the support. #StrikeHold#BlackDevils#DevilsDen#IfYouAintFirstYoureLast
The 2017 Phillip A. Connelly award for the best DFAC went to the CSM Lawrence T. Hickey Dining Facility at Grafenwöhr, Germany, which is staffed by both US Army Culinary Specialists and German civilian cooks.
To become an Army Culinary Specialist, the entrance requirements are still not that high, so it is easy to qualify for that MOS. Although, now college graduates are enlisting specifically to be a cook, because they want the training and experience in preparing and feeding in large volumes, and they want the Culinary Chef Certification. After basic training, the 92G AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is eight weeks and three days at Fort Lee, (Petersburg) Virginia.
US Army veteran Bryce Ward gave this detailed description of 92G AIT.
“I am a 92G and graduated Culinary Specialist AIT in July 2017.
Let me give you an outline of it:
Congratulations, you graduated basic training. You’re reporting to Fort Lee, Virginia, to the 23rd QM BDE, 266 QM BN. (266th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade) There are two companies in this BN. There is Bravo Company and there is Tango Company.
Your first stop with be 23rd QM BDE, BDE HHC. (Headquarters and Headquarters Company) Your stay here can range from a few hours to a few months. It all depends what your AIT is and when classes start. There are 92A’s, 92F’s, 92G’s, 92R’s, 92S’s, 92W’s, 92Y’s, 68M’s, and 27D’s with you here.
From BDE HHC, you all will branch off and head your separate ways to AIT when your classes start.
You’ll either take a walk across BDE HHC’s basketball court to Tango Company, or you’ll walk, west I think, to Bravo Company. In my time in AIT, we did not have Drill Sergeants but Platoon Sergeants. Today, you WILL have a Drill Sergeant. Why? Because big Army doesn’t think there’s enough discipline in AIT, and Drill Sergeants will bring that back. So, they’re not just in basic anymore. Beware.
Before AIT, you will pick up your TA-50 gear (field gear) plus your cook whites. You may wear the old cook white smocks, but since the Army has transitioned to the chef jacket, you may be issued that now instead.
AIT will begin with the first day being an 8 hour long orientation at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCOE) auditorium. On this day, you will be taught what you’ll learn throughout your 8 week, 3 day stay in AIT land. You will be told what your class number is (ex. 20–016, or ‘Year 2020 – Class #16) who your civilian instructors will be for the Techniques of Cookery and Small Quantity Baking modules (TOC/SQB), and what date your class will graduate. They’ll reiterate the battle buddy system, SHARP policies, EO policies, etc, and TRADOC regulations that apply to initial entry training soldiers. If you are a re-class, TRADOC rules for IET don’t apply to you.
A caveat: You will see that the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy also train their cooks at Fort Lee JCCOE. They will all be trained separately from each other. You will not share classes with them. You will see them in formations outside of the building, however, and that’s about it. Notably absent will be the Coast Guard, as they train their cooks at USCG Training Center Petaluma, California.
For lunch on this day, you’ll get to eat at the JCCOE DFAC, where your meals are cooked by Soldiers three weeks ahead of you in AIT. They’ll try to sell it like you’re eating at a Michelin rated establishment that serves superb food. Don’t believe it. If you barely know how to cook, your battle buddies just three weeks ahead of you don’t know how to cook much better. Trust me. If you survived your basic training DFAC, you’ll survive this one. If the rice is crunchy just swallow, don’t chew.
The next day, you’ll sit in the same auditorium and be lectured for another 8 hours about basic food safety, the military rules and regulations that govern military food service operations, simple rules even a Jack in the Box employee would know such as; ‘FAT TOM’, proper hand washing and kitchen sanitation, what cross contamination is, how to rotate stock properly, what the proper hot and cold holding temperature is, how to shelf foods properly (like never putting raw meat over cooked meats), what a cooks mount is, and what is required to wear with the chef uniform (thermometer, note pad, pen, ID card, ID tags, apron)
Then, you’ll spend one week in Techniques of Cookery, and one week in Small Quantity Baking. In TOC, you’ll learn the system of measurement used in cooking (tablespoon, teaspoon, cup, quart), you’ll learn the different types of knives, how to cut with those knives, how to read a recipe card, how to prep ingredients. If you’re lost, or have questions, there will be a salty, retired 92G civilian instructor to guide you, and possibly yell at you.
In the TOC module you should learn how to quarter a chicken, you’ll bake macaroni and cheese, you’ll learn the different ways to prepare an egg (scrambling, over easy/medium/hard, soft/hard boiling, fried, omelet, and even poached if your instructor has time, mine did. You will not be taught sunny side up, because by regulation it is not allowed to be served) It escapes my mind what your final dish in TOC is in order to move on to SQB, but it wasn’t hard. I think it was spaghetti and meatballs.
In SQB, you’ll make cookies, cupcakes, a pie (or turnovers, your choice), and to complete the SQB module, you’ll bake a cake.
After SQB, you’ll move on to small garrison. There used to be a ‘large garrison’ module, but that was phased out some time ago. This is when you’ll be introduced to DFAC operations. What you’ll actually be doing for the next three to four years of your life. Before you actually begin cooking, you’ll return to the JCCOE auditorium where you’ll receive classroom instruction on what to expect and what to do for that module. Then, you’ll start cooking in the other half of that week. Remember when I said on your first day of AIT you’ll have people three weeks ahead of you cooking for you? Well now it’s your turn. Those brand new AIT students will be coming through the line and you’ll be serving them.
There will be two shifts. Early and late. Early shift will report at 0500 and cook, serve breakfast and cook lunch. Late shift will report at 1100 and serve lunch and then clean up and close the DFAC. Breakfast shift will go home at 1300, late shift will go home at 1600.
Once you wrap up small garrison, you will spend two weeks in the ‘field’ at FOTB, or Field Operations Training Branch. As I said, this is a two week module. The first week you will be trained on all field equipment and how to use it. You will learn about rations, SSMO operations, etc, as well. The following week, you will cook at FOTB.
After FOTB, you will head into your QMSTX (Quartermaster Situational Training Exercise). The first day, you will do a ’round robin’ and refresh on everything you learned in basic training, and the next day you will apply it to practical scenarios. A lot like basic training, without boring the reader with details.
Then, you’ll spend the latter portion of your STX week making sure your ASU is in order, that it still fits, getting any rank/awards added, finalizing orders, getting out-processed from Fort Lee, and then you’ll graduate.
That’s the academic aspect of AIT.
Now for the physical aspect:
You will PT from 0500 to 0615. Chow will be at 0630 to 0700. Hygiene will be from 0700 to 0730. Class starts at 0800.
PT will vary, but was straightforward for me. Monday, Wednesday, Friday RUN DAY. Tuesday muscle failure, Thursday muscle failure with light cardio (i.e. one lap around the track and then do as many pushups as you can, rinse and repeat) Give PT everything you have each morning. Just because you’re a cook doesn’t mean you get a free pass on staying in shape. It’s a job requirement, after all.
Important note for the physical aspect: You will take two APFTs (and soon, ACFT) in AIT. The first one should be during week two or three of AIT. It will be a diagnostic to see where you are at. If you pass this diagnostic, you are eligible to go on pass during the weekends, and order out for food. You will then take a record APFT. Passing this one means you will graduate.
If you do not pass the record APFT/ACFT, there’s time for one more but it is very important you pass it the second time, or you may not graduate on time. You will not graduate AIT or leave Fort Lee, that is a promise. You don’t want to be stuck in AIT land any longer than you have to.
For your downtime:
ENJOY IT. When you are not in class, on duty at night (yes, you will have fireguard but it’ll be called by a different name), doing PT, or barracks maintenance, and you have down time (weekends especially), enjoy it. Watch movies, play cards with your roommates, play video games, go on pass if you’re allowed to (go bowling, to the warrior zone, movie theater, PX, Church)
You will be punished and smoked, just like basic. Your platoon will fowl up, another platoon will fowl up, it will happen. Get used to it. Just like in basic, the quickest way out of AIT is to graduate.”
After AIT you can literally be assigned anywhere in the world, where the Army is located. If you use the airborne option you will attend three weeks of airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, then you will have an 85% chance of being assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Either the 82nd Airborne Division, (it has 90% of the cooks on post) or Special Forces or one of the other airborne units on post. Some will go to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, and some to the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Anchorage, Alaska.
A Culinary Specialist has to be out of AIT for at least a year, and working in a DFAC to apply for the Certified Culinarian program (it is a test). Military cooks in the grade of Sergeant and above may apply to attend the Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course. That is a three week course at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia, which is attended by cooks from all the services. I think they learn real TV Food Show level chef cooking.
There is also an Enlisted Aide Training Course. Cooks are enlisted aides for general officers. That course teaches household management, uniform maintenance, basic bartending, accounting and scheduling.
This field is big, there are a lot of cooks in the Army. After making Specialist, promotions are sometimes slow, but morale among food service personnel now is 1000 % better than years past. There are still some units where cooks work full shifts (long hours), but most have DFAC’s staffed with shifts so everyone gets to work a normal day. A Brigade Combat Team in the 82nd Airborne Division consists of three infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, an artillery battalion, an engineer battalion, and a brigade support battalion. The cooks are all assigned to the brigade support battalion, however some are in Forward Support companies. A Forward Support Company, which provides transportation, supply, maintenance, and field feeding is attached to each of the other battalions, however, in garrison all help staff the brigade DFAC.
If you enjoy cooking, this can be a good job, a person can become a chef, but keep in mind that on the way to becoming a chef there will be a lot time over a hot stove cooking for several hundred people at one time.
This was originally published May 10th, 2017 in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri.
This article is about my experience with Generals.
In December 1972, I was a Staff Sergeant (SSG) E6, in the 82nd Airborne Division, and I received a call from a Sergeant First Class that I only knew by name. He was the NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) (Sergeant) in the Command Section of the 82nd Airborne Division. He ask me to come to his office. I did, he was offering me his job, he had been in it two years, he was burned out and wanted to move. He told me about the normal 12 hour days, sometimes six days a week, sometimes seven days a week, and the stress of trying to keep a Colonel and three Generals happy. I told him “You’ve got to be kidding”, I didn’t want to do that. The next day my Colonel called me to his office and said; “I guess I should have talked to you before you went up there, I would really like you to take that job.” In other words, I had been picked.
The Division Headquarters, at that time, was in a building, built to be a barracks, so the Command Section was built into an area intended to be a 40 man platoon bay (living area), on the third floor. The swinging doors to the “platoon bay” remained, my office area was on the right and the first encountered, which made me the receptionist. Two stenographers sat behind me, and my immediate boss was to my right. He was a Major who’s title was (and is) the Secretary of the General Staff (SGS). A door behind the Major’s desk opened into the office of the Division Chief of Staff, a full Colonel, and a door behind the Colonel’s desk opened into the Commanding Generals’ (CG) office. There was a hallway from the swinging doors back to the CG’s office, with a door from the hallway into the Chief of Staff’s office. Across the hall, immediately inside the swinging doors was the Division Sergeant Major’s office, then an open area shared by the three a Captain and two First Lieutenants (Generals Aides), the three drivers and another SSG who was the Command Section Operations Sergeant in the field, he made sure that field equipment was setup and ready in the field. Then each of the two Brigadier General (BG), Assistant Division Commanders (ADC) had their own offices. One was ADC-Operations, and the other ADC-Support.
Major General (MG) (2 stars) Frederick J Kroesen was the Division Commander, BG (1 star) Calvin P Benedict was the ADC-Operations, and BG James A Herbert was the ADC-Support, Colonel Volney F Warner was the Division Chief of Staff, and Command Sergeant Major (CSM) George Ketchum was the Division Sergeant Major. CSM Ketchum developed some health issues, and retired. CSM John Pearce replaced him. This was CSM Pearce’s second tour as the Division CSM (the only man ever to do that), he had a reputation of being loud and in your face, he was loud, he told me to come and push his door shut if he got too loud. John Pearce was a Marine in WWII, he was so impressed by the 82nd Airborne Division, that when he was discharged he immediately enlisted in the Army, for the 82nd. He was very proud of having spent 21 years in a Rifle Company, 15 years as a First Sergeant, and 11 years in the same company. We were always receiving telephone calls from ex paratroopers wanting to talk to their old First Sergeant. He loved the Army, he loved soldiers, and he loved the 82nd Airborne Division, minus a couple trips to Korea and Vietnam, he spent almost his entire career of 32 years in the 82nd. I saw him viciously chew out Sergeant Majors, who he thought weren’t doing their job, and I saw him intervene for young soldiers, who he thought needed help.
MG Kroesen, was a tall, quiet man, who did not like personal attention drawn to himself. He quit school after three years at Rutgers and joined the Army, when WWII broke out. He made Sergeant, went to Officer Candidate School, and was a Captain by the end of WWII. He was the last commander of the Americal Division in Vietnam, when it was deactivated in November 1971, he then took command of the 82nd, so he had been the CG for about a year when I took the job. I don’t think there was a pretentious bone in his body. The staff would draft letters for him and include the phrase “my division”, he would change it to “the division” and include a side note, “I don’t own it, I’m just assigned here like you”. As I became close to him I discovered a light hearted sense of humor, he looked everybody in the eye and treated every soldier with the same personal respect, regardless of rank.
I became closer to Col Volney Warner, than the others. Col Warner’s job prior to being assigned as Chief of Staff of the 82nd was executive officer to the Chief of Staff of the Army. He had been considered for Brigadier General three times, they only get four looks, so he assumed that he had stepped on some toes in his previous job. He bought a house at Top Sail Island, North Carolina and came to Fort Bragg to retire. He was also a down to earth, non-pretentious, great, and brilliant man. I saw him come in from PT and immediately get a briefing on a new technology. He listened while in shorts and T shirt, wiping sweat off with a towel, and ask four or five pointed questions that sent the G2 (intelligence) people back to days of research. One time he asked me to take his wife to town to pick up their car, which was in for service. When I picked her up she had a terrible cold, she was really sick. I told her to go to the Division Clinic, she said she didn’t have an appointment, I told her to go anyway, that I would call them. I called the Division Surgeon (a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of all the medical people), who was in our office about every day, of course he said send her. When I told Col Warner, he didn’t like having jumped ahead of other people. I said; “I know you don’t sir, but she is sick and I did it.” He never said anymore about it. In early 1973 the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota revolted, they had all kinds of problems, they barricaded themselves in at Wounded Knee, the FBI arrived, an FBI agent was shot and a couple Indians killed. Hollywood got involved, and it became a national incident. The FBI requested 2,000 army troops to over run the place. Col Volney Warner was from South Dakota, and he was personal friends with Alexander M Haig, who was White House Chief of Staff. So he was sent to Wounded Knee, in civilian clothes, as the senior government representative. Everybody was to take their orders from him. He was credited with keeping the FBI and the Indians from killing any more people, defusing the situation, and convincing the Indians to lay down their guns and start negotiating. When the new Brigadier Generals’ list was released in June 1973, Volney Warner’s promotion orders came with it. He then became the ADC-Operations.
There were six full Colonels in the 82nd then, Col Warner and four of the other five were also on the list for promotion to Brigadier General. Volney Warner and two of the others, Roscoe Robinson, and James Lindsay, all retired as full four star Generals, as did Frederick Kroesen. I knew them all, up close and personal and they were simply great common people who loved what they doing and they loved being with the troops. When BG Volney Warner left the 82nd for his next assignment, he wrote the Chief of General Officers Branch at Army Headquarters. He said; “I don’t know what my future holds, I’ll accept whatever you have for me, but I would crawl through a mile of ground glass to get back here. These are the finest troops in the world, they will do anything you ask of them.” He did return to Fort Bragg as a 3 star commanding the 18th Airborne Corps, the higher headquarters of the 82nd. I talked to him just before he retired, he was Commander of the Readiness Command, which became Central Command. He said the further you get from the troops the more BS you have to put up with. At 91, he is still operating Volney Warner Consulting in McLean, Virginia. At the age of 94, Frederick Kroesen, is also still working, active in three organizations.
With one exception, which I have not, and will not name, all the General Officers I knew, including those who became generals did not consider themselves better than any soldier. A soldier is a soldier. Big generals grow from little second lieutenants, so they all have been where the troops are. They were great personable people who cared about their job, and they cared about the troops. Generals supervise/lead Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels, they encourage, mentor, pass on their experience and knowledge and allow the Colonels the freedom to do their jobs. It pained them to have to discipline Colonels. I saw two Lieutenant Colonel Battalion Commanders relieved of duty (fired). One was a training accident, involving mortars and a soldier was killed, an investigation revealed that all safety precautions had not been followed. Whoever failed to do their job, it was the Battalion Commander’s job to check, for it is his ultimate responsibility. The other was the result of a surprise maintenance inspection. Those inspections were constantly being conducted by a team from the Division G4. Maintenance records and procedures, as well as vehicles and equipment were checked. I was present when the Chief Warrant Officer, in charge of the team reported to the Assistant Division Commander for Support, because as soon as the G4 reported that a battalion had failed an inspection, it went straight to the General. The Chief said; Sir, it’s not that their system wasn’t in order, their stuff is sitting in the motor pool rusty, and hasn’t been touched in weeks.” The Battalion Commander and the Major, Battalion Executive Officer, who was responsible for maintenance, were both fired. When an officer is relieved of duty he might as well start working on his resume, because he will not go any further in the Army.
I’m sure that there are others who has not had the same experience with Generals. But that was the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army has always tried to keep the 82nd staffed with its’ best officers, because if somewhere in the world explodes, it’s the 82nd that goes to put out the fire.
General John W “Mick” Nicholson, Jr, the current commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, recently commanded the 82nd. He also has more time and experience in Afghanistan than any other Army General. General Curtis Michael “Mike” Scaparroti, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, also commanded the 82nd Airborne Division. There are many three and four star generals throughout the Army who have had multiple tours in the 82nd Airborne Division.
This was originally published April 5th, 2017 in the Belle Banner, Belle Missouri.
I enlisted in the Army August 30th, 1961, fifteen years after my Dad was discharged, from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I went through basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, advanced infantry training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. The day we made our last jump in airborne school, the Sergeants told us; “You are now paratroopers, you can whip any five Marines”. Some went to the bars downtown that night and tried it. They were carried back to the barracks, and didn’t look so good for graduation the next morning. I was then assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was after sundown when we arrived, by bus, at the 82nd Replacement Detachment. A very tough sounding Sergeant briefed us on where things were located. The enlisted club was at the end of the street. The Sergeant told us that paratroopers didn’t drink that slop beer, paratroopers drank whiskey. At that time, if you were in the Army you could drink alcohol on post, regardless of age. Three years later I made Sergeant. The tradition then was to “wet down the stripes” of a new Sergeant, because he could now go to the NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) Club. The NCO club held “Happy Hour” every day the first hour after work, during which drinks were half price. Young officers held a ceremony called a “Prop Blast” to welcome new lieutenants. Prop blast is what paratroopers feel when they exit a propeller driven airplane, except in that case it culminated with the new lieutenant having to drink an unknown alcoholic concoction from a silver chalice.
Vietnam was terrible for the Army. I have not read Lieutenant General H. R. McMasters’ book “Dereliction of Duty”, but I have read much of the research material he used. After the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965 (realistically portrayed in the movie “We Were Soldiers”) Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara visited Vietnam specifically to find out what happened at Ia Drang. After that visit, he could not foresee a way the US could win in Vietnam, he recommended leaving Vietnam then. In December 1965, President Johnson met with McNamara and others and decided to send more troops to General Westmoreland in Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson had no real military experience. He was a Texas congressman when World War II started, he was placed on active duty as a Navy Lieutenant Commander and “observed” a couple operations, and was then recalled to the US Congress. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was teaching accounting at Harvard, and went on active duty in 1943, as a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, and spent the war in the Office of Statistical Control, doing analysis of bomber runs. After the war he helped rebuild Ford Motor Company and become known as one of Ford’s “Whiz Kids”. President Kennedy selected McNamara as Secretary of Defense because he wanted a smart man in that job. Kennedy was a war hero himself and understood war. In 1964, William C. Westmoreland was the Commander of 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was considered one of the top generals in the Army. He was a fine, smart man. I saw him greet sergeants he had met one time 10 years prior, call them by name and talk about what they were doing back then. He was promoted to 4 stars and given command of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). In retrospect I think that is where he reached his peter principle. In case you’re not familiar, in 1969 Dr. Lawrence J. Peter wrote a book called “The Peter Principle”. His thesis was, that in a large organization a person can do a good job and keep getting promoted up the line until he is promoted into a job he can’t handle. The military situation in Vietnam started improving when Westmoreland was replaced in 1968, but by then it was too late, the country had already turned against the war. The My Lai Massacre was on March 16th 1968, during which, between 350 and 500 Vietnamese civilians, including old women and children, were lined up and murdered by a US Army infantry platoon. The Platoon Leader, Lieutenant William Calley, was convicted of murdering 22 unarmed civilians, but only spent three months in military prison. It was national news for weeks, and many felt the lieutenant was simply a scapegoat. But, when all the facts were known, it was cold blooded murder of hundreds. The cause was a terrible leadership climate. In following months and years, charges were filed against the entire chain of command, including the Division Commander, a Major General.
In World War II units were shipped overseas and stayed, as did all the soldiers who went with them, for the duration of the war. In Vietnam it was decided that soldiers would only spend one year there, then return to the US, so units were constantly having experienced people leave and inexperienced people arrive. Company and battalion commanders spent six months to the hour in command, then moved, so more officers could get their “command time”, in a combat area. The enemy used drugs as a weapon. Heroin and pot were cheap and plentiful. A vile of 90% heroin was $2.00, I found them lying around bunkers. In some units, it didn’t have to be dark for the pot smell to fill the air in the evening. Back at Fort Bragg, a list of suspected drug users was sent weekly up the chain to Division Headquarters.
It was around that time that the leadership of the Army started attempting to change the ethical and moral culture of the Army. For about 30 years every Chief of Staff of the Army gave guidance to those writing manuals and lesson plans on the subjects of professional ethics and leadership. Army leadership developed and debated values that should be taught and finally established seven core values. Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Duty – Fulfill your obligations. Accomplish tasks as a member of a team. Respect – Treat people with dignity and respect. Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Honor – Live up to Army values. Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally. Personal Courage – Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). They are arranged to form the acronym LDRSHIP. By the 1990’s complete core and advanced courses in ethics were taught at West Point, the US Army War College, the Command and General Staff College and the 18 other Army service schools, and the ROTC Cadet Command. In 1998 the Army started teaching the seven core values in basic training. Army values have become more than just classes, they are pushed and emphasized as who soldiers are, and how they live.
Spiritual fitness has long been recognized by Army leadership, as a necessary component of a soldiers’ character. General George Patton recognized the power of spiritual strength when he circulated 250,000 copies of a weather prayer, one for every soldier in the Third Army, during the Battle of the Bulge. In Operation Desert Storm, in 1990, more than 15,000 soldiers of the 18th Airborne Corps attended worship one Sunday morning before the ground war began. Unit ministry teams, consisting of a Chaplain and a Chaplains’ Assistant are in every unit down to battalion level.
In 1970 there were three main NCO Clubs, two officer clubs and 11 annexes on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Now there is one “Club” open to the public and all ranks, and there are only three locations, on post, that serve alcohol to be consumed on the premises. There are now 11 chapels on Fort Bragg, including a large new “All American Memorial Chapel” in the 82nd Airborne Division area. That makes two in the division area.
The Army has matured from a culture of hard drinking, hard fighting, rough and tumble soldiers to one of dedicated and educated professionals willingly serving their country. Most are married, and the families are included, as part of the “Army Family”. Every company now has a “Family Readiness Group” composed of the spouses of the soldiers. They are funded and supported by the Army, they have monthly meetings and they are kept informed about what their soldier is doing on deployments, and what is in the future. They are great help to each other. There are now hundreds of dual military married couples. The Army has a formal “Married Army Couple Program”. The couple has to register in the program, then every effort is made to assign the couple to the same post or overseas location. Many couples have children and raise families while both are on active duty. It is rare that a married couple is separated. Basic training is tougher and more professional now than when I entered the Army, and it is tougher and more professional than it was when I was a Drill Sergeant 36 years ago. All training is professional and realistic.
In February 2012, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Kandahar Province, which includes the Arghandab River in Afghanistan. It was a large Taliban stronghold. From March to the end of July that brigade saw some of the most intense combat since the initial deployments in 2001. Performing with, what some have called, an almost perfect strategic plan they drove the Taliban out of the area. There were some casualties. Lieutenant Colonel (Chaplain) Jeffrey Watters was the Division Chaplain for the 82nd Airborne Division. He wrote the following article for the summer 2012 edition of the Paraglide Magazine;
“Much has been written about today’s youth – the generation which has grown up with computers, video games, and social media. What brought them into the Army differs widely from person to person. Some joined for college tuition, some for belief in something greater than themselves, some because of a military heritage, but they all have one thing in common. When they joined, they did so during a time of military conflict, knowing that they would deploy overseas and participate in the War on Terror. Coming from the generation often characterized by their elders as being weak, undisciplined couch potatoes, those who joined belied that claim and were transformed from civilians to soldiers, a claim only one percent of the American population can make. The remaining 99% go about their daily life giving little or no thought about what is occurring in the Arghandab River Valley of southern Afghanistan. But those one percent, they are the true American treasures. No matter where I travel in Afghanistan, what I see are exceptional Soldiers. They come from all walks of life and from every corner of America. They have been forged into a team, vetted in the crucible of suffering and sacrifice that only Soldiers can understand. In some sense, they have become what others of their generation can only view in a movie or play in a video game. They have become warriors, transitioned from isolated individuals to members of a close knit band with a mission greater than themselves. They keep faith with their fellow Soldiers who are on their left and right. They are unsurpassed in every way.
The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known, and in no small measure, that’s because of the American Soldiers’ commitment to make sure the mission succeeds, no matter the cost. I see it in their sun-baked faces, in their somewhat tattered bleached uniforms, but more importantly, I see it in their eyes. It takes fortitude, courage, and a solemn resolve to continue the mission, knowing that they may meet their untimely fate. Yet they push on. Because of honor, because of courage, because of the sacred trust that they hold with one another – not to let a buddy down.
As I participate in a Memorial Service, a Dignified Transfer or a Purple Heart Ceremony, I see extraordinary sacrifice. For every fallen and wounded warrior, we grieve. The sorrow is profound, the pain intense, yet our Soldiers continue on. The memory of those sacrifices goes with us, a constant reminder to honor their lives by committing to lead from the front, to share successes and setbacks, to share danger, to share sorrow and joy … tragedy and triumph. Yes, I see it daily – young Troopers displaying courage, fortitude, bravery, heroism, sacrifice. This is our 82nd heritage, handed down to us from the generations before. A heritage, upheld with respect and pride.”
This was originally published March 29th, 2017 in the Belle Banner, in Belle, Missouri
This week we are revisiting Jane Doe. When we left her she had been in the army about a year, she was a PFC (Private First Class), Human Resource Specialist, working in the S1 section of a Brigade Headquarters in the 82nd Airborne Division. Jane had completed one semester of college, ran out of money, and joined the Army primarily for the GI Bill benefit. When we left her she had settled into her job and was planning to start taking evening college classes and classes online.
Now it is another year, Jane is Specialist Jane Doe and she has discovered something. She likes the Army. She likes the security, and she likes the not worrying about making a living, and she likes what she does in the Army, but she is not complacent, she wants more. Jane’s take home pay is now a little over $900.00 twice a month ($1,800 per month). Jane is a smart person and she knows that she can perform at a much higher level than where she is now. Being a Human Resource Specialist, (they used to be called personnel clerks), it is Jane’s job to know the system, and about the time we left Jane, she discovered an army secret. It is not really a secret, but it is not advertised outside the Army. She discovered the “Green to Gold” program. The Green to Gold program has three ways to apply, but basically it is a program where a young soldier has accumulated enough semester hours that they can complete a bachelor’s degree in 4 semesters (21 months), they apply for the program and if accepted they are released from active duty to complete their bachelor’s degree, take ROTC, get commissioned and return to active duty as an officer.
For the past year, Jane has been taking two 3 semester hour evening classes each week with Campbell University’s eight week semesters on Fort Bragg. She had to miss one semester because of a long field exercise, but she completed 24 semester hours, in class and 6 hours online, and CLEP tested (College Level Examination Program) for another 3 hours. With her one semester of college before enlisting, she now has a total of 45 semester hours. Her goal is to have 75 semester hours when she reaches three years in service. She has studied the three ways to apply for the Green to Gold program. First, she has to be accepted by the college, and the ROTC department at the college. The first way would be to apply for an ROTC scholarship, if approved, she would be released from active duty, the scholarship would pay tuition and fees, and she would receive her GI bill benefits and the monthly ROTC payment. The second option is to apply for the non-scholarship green to gold program, which means she would be released from active duty, and would use her GI bill to attend school. She would also receive the ROTC payment. But Jane is going to apply for the “active duty option” of the Green to Gold program. Under the active duty option she would be released (or assigned) to go to college, but she would still be on active duty, drawing full pay and allowances, which for her would mean losing $150 per month jump pay, but gaining about $1,000 per month basic allowance for housing, and $368 per month for meals. So she would be taking home about $3,000 per month from the Army, and the GI Bill would pay her tuition at the school. With that option, she would still be on active duty, so if she had any health problems, or pay issues she could go to the nearest Army post, which would be her support post, for help. Plus when she goes over three years in service she will be qualified for the full Post 911 GI Bill, which would pay for her full tuition and fees. She wouldn’t receive the housing allowance from VA because she would be drawing that from the Army.
Specialist Jane Doe also knows that the active duty option is very competitive. A soldier has to prove that they are officer material. She has been preparing herself throughout the year. Her college GPA is 3.8 and she intends to keep it there or higher, and she had an ACT score of 25 in high school, which still counts. So academically she thinks she will be OK. The Army now puts great value on physical fitness and marksmanship. She has been doing extra pushups and situps for the past year, she is now at 36 pushups in 2 minutes and 72 situps in 2 minutes, and she can run 2 miles in less than 15 minutes, which gives her a score of 280 of a possible 300 on the PT test. Every time a company in the Brigade goes for weapons qualification, she asks to go with them. She has fired on the record range six times in the past year and the last time she hit 40 of 40 targets. She is preparing to compete for Brigade Soldier of the quarter. In that competition she will have a PT test, fire on the range, ruck march, and demonstrate various soldier skills, then appear before a formal board in the Brigade Support Battalion, if she wins there she would compete against other battalion soldiers of the quarter at the Brigade board. Having been a soldier of the quarter will be an asset to her Green to Gold application.
Specialist Jane Doe demonstrates officer qualities, she is smart, articulate, courteous, and she is neat and has good posture (military bearing). She is cheerful and always volunteers to help with anything extra. She has become an asset to her bosses, and is known to the Colonel (Brigade Commander), and the Command Sergeant Major as one who can be counted on to participate in anything extra. She has become an avid handball player and one day a week, at lunch time, she plays handball with her boss, the new Brigade S1, Major Elizabeth Brown. For those who don’t know, that is American handball, not team handball. It is played in a racquetball court, 40’ x 20’ with 20’ walls and a ceiling (a box). It is a small hard rubber ball and players wear a small, snug fitting glove. The server bounces the ball off the end wall and the receiver tries to return it before it crosses the center line. It is fast, intense and exhausting. A 30 minute game usually leaves players worn out and drenched in sweat. She is also accomplishing some politicking with the first field grade officer in her chain of command.
Specialist Jane Doe has a goal, and that is to be commissioned in the Adjutant General’s Corps, then stay in the Army as an officer.
This was originally published March 22nd, 2017 in The Belle Banner in Belle, Missouri. It was written to the local audience, but the program is nationwide. This is how an intelligent young person with zero resources can get a great jump start on life.
Last week I talked about Army Scholarships, this week the same theme but maybe even better.
If you graduate from high school and want to go to college, but don’t have the money, don’t think you can come up with enough scholarships, and don’t want to go way, way in debt to pay for it, here’s how, if you don’t mind joining the US Army Reserves or the Missouri Army National Guard. When you graduate from college, you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army, and you spend six years as an officer in the guard or three years active regular army then five years guard/reserve.
It is called the Simultaneous Membership Program, or SMP. You are in the US Army Reserves or the Missouri National Guard and in Army ROTC at college. You can do it in the Army Reserves, but the Missouri Guard doubles the tuition assistance. First you talk an Army recruiter or to an Army or a Missouri Army National Guard (MOANG) recruiter. You tell him or her that you want to get into the simultaneous membership program. The recruiter will probably send you to a unit commander, because in the guard and the reserve you enlist for a specific job in a unit, plus the commander has to accept you in the SMP program. You should also talk to the ROTC department at the college you want to attend. At MS&T you should talk to Mr. Chad Pense, who is also Lieutenant Colonel Pense in the US Army Reserves. He is the Assistant Professor of Military Science and the point of contact for SMP and scholarship candidates. He is at 573-341-6808, email@example.com. There is still a “split option” program where you can go to basic training between your junior and senior years of high school, then attend AIT (Advanced Individual Training), i.e., MOS (Military Occupational Specialty, i.e.,job) training after graduating. I do not recommend that. Many say they get out of shape and forget things between basic and AIT. I recommend graduating from high school then attending basic and AIT. That is no different than enlisting in the regular army. ASVAB tests, physicals, physical assessment, background checks and MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station). Except in this case, after AIT you get to come home take off the uniform and start school, which would probably be the spring semester instead of the fall semester. You will attend MOANG/Reserve drill one weekend per month. Drill pay for a Private E1 is $208.00 per month. The Federal tuition assistance and the MOANG tuition assistance will pay your full tuition and fees. Plus, having completed basic and AIT qualifies you for the Montgomery GI bill (MGIB), which pays $356.00 per month to a full time student.
The actual SMP program starts when you are an academic sophomore and have only three years left to graduate. At that time you sign an ROTC contract. Up until that time your guard/reserve duties took priority, at that point ROTC takes priority over your unit, and when you drill with your unit, you will drill as an officer trainee, and you will be paid at the rate of a Sergeant E5 at $297.00 per month, and you are non-deployable. Plus ROTC pays you $350.00 per month your sophomore year, $450.00 to juniors, and $500.00 to seniors. Plus if you were able to enlist for a critical MOS (job) and scored high enough on the ASVAB, which qualified you for a “GI Bill kicker” (ask the MOANG/Army recruiter and unit commander), you get another $350.00 per month. If you’ve been counting that’s $1,353.00 per month you are collecting, plus your tuition and fees are paid.
If you score high enough on the ASVAB, and are able to contract for a specialty that qualifies for the “GI Bill kicker”, it is worth $350 per month. However, what skill you learn is only of value to your unit that first year, because when you contract with ROTC, as an SMP student you become an officer trainee, which usually means you will be paired with a lieutenant during drills. Basic training would probably be at Fort Leonard Wood, which would be 10 weeks. AIT length varies with the job skill. Combat Engineers, MOS 12B, and Bridge Crewmembers, MOS 12C are 15 weeks in one company at Fort Leonard Wood. Those are OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies. Military Police, MOS 31B is 21 weeks in an OSUT company at Fort Leonard Wood. Other AIT’s at Fort Leonard Wood are; Horizontal Construction Engineer, MOS 12N, 9 weeks, Interior Electrician, MOS 12R 6 weeks, Technical Engineering Specialist, MOS 12T 15 weeks, Geospatial Engineering, MOS 12Y 18 weeks, Corrections Specialist, MOS 31E 8 weeks, Chemical Operations Specialist, MOS 74D 10 weeks, Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), MOS 88M 7 weeks, and Construction Equipment Repairer, MOS 91L 8 weeks. Other AIT’s are at different posts around the country. Basic and AIT would keep you in training around four to six months, and you would be taking home around $1,200 per month, while in training.
Fort Leonard Wood is the Army’s Maneuver Support Center. It is the center and school for Corps of Engineers, Chemical Corps, and Military Police. If you are in any of those three branches, enlisted or officer, your initial schooling and subsequent advanced schooling is at Fort Leonard Wood. If you get any of those three fields, your basic and AIT will be at Fort Leonard Wood, plus when you are commissioned upon graduating from college and ROTC your Basic Officer Leadership Course will be at Fort Leonard Wood. Officers are promoted to Captain at about four years time in service. New Captains are reassigned to their school for a six months Captains Career Course. For the above branches, that is Fort Leonard Wood.
MOANG/Reserve units are all over the state, there are some units in Jefferson City, a couple small detachments in Rolla, and some at Fort Leonard Wood. If you were lucky enough to get a position in one of those locations, travel to monthly weekend drill would be fairly short. Plus you would probably attend two week summer training before you contract with ROTC. Many MOANG/Reserve units are as professional regular army units. MOANG/Reserve units have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and performed alongside regular army units. The former weatherman at KRCG Channel 13, Mike Roberts, spent a year as a combat engineer platoon leader, with the Missouri Army National Guard, clearing IED’s in Iraq. He is now Major Mike Roberts, an administrative officer with the guard.
However, you are not married to the National Guard, when you graduate from college. When you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant, you may request that you stay with the guard or you may go on active duty with the regular army, or go to the US Army Reserves. You are a commissioned officer available to the United States Army.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, March 15th 2017. The dates for the scholarship application window may have changed by a day or two, but everything else is still current. Pay has increased.
HIGH SCHOOL RISING SENIORS, scholarship application time starts in June after your junior year. The window for applying for an Army Four Year ROTC Scholarship is June 12th to January 10th of your senior year. The earlier you apply, the better your chance of being offered a scholarship. ROTC is Reserve Officer Training Corps. An Army Four Year Scholarship pays; full tuition and fees, plus $1,200 per year for books, plus a monthly payment for the 10 months of the school year of, $300 for freshmen, $350 for sophomores, $450 for juniors, and $500 for seniors. The payback is eight years in the National Guard or Reserves, or four years active duty, and four years inactive reserve. The requirements are; Be a United States Citizen, Be between the ages of 17 and 26, Have a high school diploma, (you can still start applying at the start of your senior year). Have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher (it needs to be in the neighborhood of 3.5), score at least a 19 on the ACT, but you’re not really competitive until you score in the neighborhood of 24, Be medically qualified through DODMERB (Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board) (i.e., your physical exam and medical history is accepted by the Department of Defense), and be able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. The Army wants a scholar, an athlete, and a leader. Your GPA should be above a 3.0, 3.5 is better, and you should be in the top 20 % of your class, top 10% is better, score a 24 or higher on the ACT. You should have “lettered” in a sport, individual or team competition. You should have held a leadership position, i.e., elected class officer, FFA officer, FBLA officer, or some activity in which you were in a leadership position. Letters of recommendation from teachers, your preacher, and nonrelated members of the community attesting to your character your attitude, and leadership ability all help.
You can start the application online, however if you are serious, I recommend that you first visit the Army ROTC department at the school you want to attend. Missouri University of Science and Technology (MS&T), at Rolla, has an outstanding Army ROTC program, and it has degree programs other than engineering. MS&T has a top business program, plus English, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and History.
The Army is not as concerned with what degree you have, but that you have a bachelor’s degree. Some branches are degree specific, such as Medical Corps, Nurse Corps, Veterinary Corps, and Chaplains Corps. The Corps of Engineers likes engineers, Civil Engineers in the Army move beyond combat engineers to districts supervising the nation’s waterways. I have seen many Mechanical Engineers serve successfully in combat engineers. Some have served a full career and retired as Lieutenant Colonels and full Colonels. The Infantry actually likes history majors, especially military history. MS&T, in my opinion, is one of the top schools in the country for studying military history. Dr. John C. McManus, at MS&T, is an internationally recognized expert in U.S. military history. He has been designated a “Curators Professor”, which is the highest, and most prestigious rank awarded to a professor, by the University of Missouri, Board of Curators. His class sizes in military history and political science max out at about 19 – 20 students per class. In past years, during the summer months, he has taken students to different battle fields, all over the world. He has researched and written 12 books on military history.
ROTC is another college class, it is a four year program, and it is two parts, the basic course, which is the first two years and the advanced course in the last two years. Non-scholarship students may take every class in the first two years without any commitment to the Army. All taking the advanced course contract with the Army prior to starting their junior year. Scholarship students contract with the Army when they accept the scholarship. Four year scholarships are offered to high school students. Three year and two year scholarships are offered to those already in college. ROTC classes are an exciting break from other college classes. During the basic first two years you become acquainted with the Army, you learn not only the basics of military courtesy and drill but you will have some fun adventures like rappelling and rifle marksmanship. The ROTC student becomes part of a close knit campus organization, which is not associated with any academic discipline, but can help academically, if necessary. My last job in the Army was NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer in Charge) of the Army ROTC Department at MS&T (then UMR). I was once tasked with writing a study guide, for the ROTC students, on “How to Study”. Advanced ROTC students study leadership in more depth, plus they serve in leadership positions in the ROTC Cadet Battalion and they attend a four week leadership camp between their junior and senior years. When the ROTC student receives a bachelor’s degree, and has completed the ROTC program, he or she is commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army.
Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant at 18 months time in service, and they are promoted to Captain at about four years in service. Industry seeks out former army officers. Those who have been in combat arms or combat support units have “people leading” experience, plus the experience of managing large volumes of equipment and material. In Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers, Air Defense Artillery, Transportation, and Quartermaster a normal tour for an officer would start as a Platoon Leader of a 30 to 40 person platoon for probably six to nine months. Then if he or she is performing well, he may be moved to a more advanced (complicated) platoon for another six to nine months. By that time the officer is a First Lieutenant and may move to a staff job at battalion level, or may become a Company Executive Officer (XO) for about a year or more. There is one XO in each company, and he or she is directly responsible for all administration, logistics and maintenance in the company, plus the XO commands the company, if the commander is not present. Some very good officers actually get to command company’s before they make captain. Companies vary in size from around 130 people to around 250.
The combat maneuver officer branches in the Army are; Infantry, Armor, and Aviation, combat fires branches are Artillery and Air Defense Artillery, maneuver support branches are Combat Engineers, Chemical Corps, and Military Police Corps, special operations branches are Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs Corps, operations support branches are Signal Corps, Cyber Corps (new) and Military Intelligence Corps, force sustainment branches are Transportation Corps, Ordnance Corps, Quartermaster Corps, Adjutant General’s Corps (Human Resources), Finance Corps, Medical Corps (Doctors), Army Nurse Corps, Dental Corps, Veterinary Corps, Medical Service Corps, Army Medical Specialist Corps, Chaplains Corps, and Judge Advocate Generals Corps (Lawyers).
The Army lives by seven core values, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Officers live by those values and enforce them. I saw a captain company commander relieved (fired) because he didn’t tell his boss (battalion commander) the whole truth about why a sergeant was removed from contact with ROTC cadets, in basic camp. When the colonel discovered the facts, the captain was fired. I heard the guest speaker at an Engineer Basic Officer Leaders class give four thoughts of advice, to the new lieutenants. First, when in charge, take charge, don’t abdicate you’re responsibility. Second, make it happen, if a job or mission appears too difficult, figure out how to get it done. Third, do the right thing, you wear the uniform, the Army values are your values, and finally, have fun, have some recreation away from the job, for you to relax and recharge.
If an officer stays on active duty past his or her initial commitment, at about four years service, they are reassigned back to their branch school for the Captains Career Course. The course is about six months long, and teaches how to be a company commander, and how to work as a staff officer. Then the captain has about six years before being considered for promotion to major, that usually means two assignments, one in a unit commanding a company and working on staff, and another such as ROTC duty, a special assignment, or going to grad school. The Army encourages captains to get a masters degree. Sometimes the Army gives the captain the time to go to grad school, and sometimes the Army will send captains to grad school. An Army Captain, over four, makes about $100,000 a year. Monthly pay is; $5,398.20 base pay, $253.63 for meals (nontaxable), and an average of about $1,400 per month Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) (nontaxable). That is about $85,000 per year, plus completely free, zero-deductible medical care for the captain and family, plus the nontaxable benefit, a civilian would have to be approaching six figures to equal a captains pay.
Whether an officer goes on active duty or to the National Guard or Reserves, almost every field of industry looks at that individual as having had training and experience beyond that of his or her peers.
A look at what real life is in the Army, not what is portrayed in movies