All posts by John Stockton

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.

CBRN – Enlist and be a SERGEANT in two years.

Make Sergeant in two years, Staff Sergeant in just over four. Other than the infantry, there is one job, where that has been happening for the past couple years. If you are considering the Army, but you are not a “kid” anymore, and you don’t want to forever become an equal with the “youngsters”, there is one support job where you can rapidly rise through the ranks.

That job has a fairly high number of soldiers, and a very high requirement for Sergeants. That is CBRN Specialist (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear), MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)74D. AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 11 weeks, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This is an update of an article I posted a couple of years ago, titled “Chemical”, so you don’t have to read both.
A Chemical Corps Lieutenant Colonel recently described the job like this; “Most 74Ds are the CBRN Specialist for a company, any company. They usually have more senior CBRN NCOs/Officers at BN, BDE, and DIV (battalion, brigade, and division). USR (Unit Status Report) is a monthly requirement in which they crunch many of the numbers. They maintain all the CBRN equipment in a unit and provide training to the unit on CBRN tasks and equipment like detection of agents, personal decon, protection, unmasking procedures and deliberate decon. The vast majority are in other than CBRN units. Chemical Companies are usually the big three: recon, decon, smoke. They conduct chemical reconnaissance with the M93 Fox and similar systems. They provide the expertise and equipment for a deliberate decon of a unit (pax and vehicles). They provide battle field obscurants, most commonly smoke. They lay smoke in support of maneuver units. Recently WMD Response teams have popped up in the Guard and Reserve side that have chemical soldiers along with radiation specialists and EOD.
There are nine countries known to have nuclear weapons, including China, Russia, and North Korea, also India and Pakistan who share a border and a dislike for each other. There about 20 countries that have or are suspected to have chemical weapons, and eight to ten that are strongly suspected to have biological weapons (anthrax, plague, etc). Since 2011 Chlorine Gas has been used in Syria an estimated 100 times. Chlorine is not illegal it is a disinfectant. It is used to treat drinking water and swimming pool water. It is used in paints, textiles, insecticides and PVC to name a few products, making it is very easy to obtain. Using it as a weapon is internationally illegal. When released, as a gas, it produces a green cloud, and when breathed it breaks down the mucus membranes in the airways creating fluid. A person can drown in his own fluids. There is no antidote, just stop breathing and get away from the cloud, but the damage is permanent. In April 2017 another gas attack was used in Syria. That time it was Sarin or nerve gas. It is colorless and odorless, and even at low concentrations death can occur within one to ten minutes if the antidote “Atropine” is not injected. Symptoms of nerve gas are convulsions, foaming mouths, blurry vision, difficulty breathing, – death. All soldiers, in line units, are issued a spring-loaded atropine syringe along with their protective mask. Just stick it against your leg and it injects atropine.
According to South Korean intelligence, North Korea has been building chemical weapons since 1980, and is estimated to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of different chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, and the plague. Much of which can be delivered with artillery, which is hidden in tunnels and caves very close to the DMZ. Twenty-five million people live in the vicinity of Seoul, South Korea, within range of that artillery. Japanese intelligence believes that North Korea has developed missiles capable of delivering nerve gas. War in Korea would be chemical. Many CBRN soldiers think that a mission of the Chemical Branch, at US Army Human Resource Command, is to try to get all CBRN soldier to Korea, for at least one tour. I know several career CBRN soldiers who have not been to Korea, but most have.
In their initial entry training, (basic training or officer basic) every soldier in the Army goes through a gas chamber filled with CS gas (riot tear gas). They enter the chamber while wearing their gas mask, then on command they remove their mask and state their name, rank, date of birth or anything else the chamber operator dreams up to make sure they get a good dose of the gas, then they exit the chamber and blow their nose, maybe throw up, and flush their eyes with water but do not touch the eyes (that makes it worse). Every soldier in the Army does that at least once a year. The purpose is to give them confidence in their protective (gas) mask. Soldiers are trained to get their mask on within nine seconds. Every company in the Army has a CBRN NCO (non-commissioned officer) (sergeant), and a CBRN Room, which stores, not only a protective mask for every soldier, but a complete MOPP suit. That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. The CBRN Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST). Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s lightweight, but it is still hot! Training in PPE gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it can be hell. CBRN officers and sergeants are careful to incorporate rest periods in full PPE training.

CBRN (Dragon) soldiers of the 21st Chemical Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina conduct PPE training to the 248th Medical Detachment, prior to the 248th’s deployment.

The CBRN Room also stores chemical and radiological detection and decontamination equipment. The CBRN NCO, not only maintains the room and equipment, but participates in training planning, in order to incorporate CBRN into training. Then conducts or supervises CBRN training. The position calls for a Sergeant E-5, at company level. There is a Staff Sergeant E-6 in the operations section of battalion headquarters, and a Sergeant First Class E-7 at brigade headquarters, along with a Chemical Corps Captain.
Soldiers in the US Army Chemical Corps are called “Dragon Soldiers”. The Dragon, a legendary creature, symbolizes the fire and destruction of chemical warfare.

Chemical Corps Regimental Crest

Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Chemical Center, School and Museum. Chemical Corps officers and enlisted personnel take their basic and advanced courses there, plus special courses, so career 74D’s keep returning to Fort Leonard Wood for, not only specialty courses, but required military education. The standards are a little higher for 74D, an ASVAB score of 100 in ST (skilled technical), which is composed of the following ASVAB tests, GS – General Science, VE – Verbal Expression, MK – Mathematics Knowledge, and MC – Mechanical Comprehension. The course is also intellectually challenging. Comments from 74D graduates are stay awake, pay attention in class, take notes, and apply yourself. The 84th Chemical Battalion, which runs 74D AIT has the newest facility in the Army. Battalion and Company offices and class rooms downstairs, and classrooms and student dorms upstairs in a giant five story complex. Like living in a hotel and going downstairs for your conference. After physical training of course. Students learn CBRN Room Operations (supply, maintenance, training, etc), and biological agents, chemical agents, radiation detection and response, hazardous materials/toxic industrial chemicals, operational decontamination, thorough decontamination, mass casualty decontamination, and basic chemical/biological detection. They really learn how to decontaminate (wash) a vehicle, while wearing a spaceman suit. A lot of time is spent, in MOPP gear, doing hands on in the Chemical Defense Training Facility on Leonard Wood, and there is a field training exercise (FTX). One former student wrote that during a class on some real kinky stuff, the instructor stopped and said; “If you ever really see this, something in the world has gone terribly wrong”. Students get National Hazmat Certification before they graduate from AIT. Students get to keep cell phones, ipads and computers, just not during the day in class. A 74D Specialist, who is now a company CBRN NCO, recently made a youtube video, in which she said that she failed a couple areas and was recycled to another AIT class, making her AIT 13 weeks. Study.

74D AIT students under going an ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test)
74D AIT students in hazmat classroom training.
74D AIT students in “hands on” hazmat training.
74D AIT student in Radiation Detection training.
74D AIT Graduation

A Sergeant First Class 74D, who was recently a Drill Sergeant at the Chemical School, had this to say; “You will learn the basics of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Operation. What that entails, is learning Decon, Recon, Smoke. Detection, protection, and effects of agents. You will also learn CBRN Room operations and how to maintain all the equipment. One of the most critical tasks you will do in AIT is the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF) where you will be operating in a live Chemical environment. The cadre will deliberately contaminate area with VX nerve agent. You will actually see him/her place a live roach on a vehicle and the roach will die. Then you will employ the portable decon systems (whatever is in the Army’s inventory) to the vehicles in the facility. Once training is complete, the soldier will have to diff chemical protection gear using the exiting procedures. The last item to be removed will be the mask once you make it to the clear side. You will be in the buff with your mask on taking a shower. Then you will be moved to an area and given “all clear” to remove mask and get dressed. You will also conduct a convoy live fire and advance range learning the small arms I.e. .50 cal and MK 19. You will conduct two FTXs (Field Training Exercise) during AIT in which the last FTX you will conduct as a chemical platoon with primary focus on decon ops and force protection. That’s it in a nutshell. Plenty of opportunities post military. Focus on obtaining a specialty if possible. Tech Escort will open a lot of doors. Smoke has been turned over to the Engineer Corps.”
Two types of assignments can come after 74D AIT at Fort Leonard, Missouri, to a chemical unit, or to a non-chemical unit. Assignment to a chemical unit means you’re with CBRN soldiers doing CBRN work, but most are assigned to non-chemical units, which usually means that they are the only CBRN specialist in the company. My wild guess calculation is that a 74D AIT graduate has about a 75% plus, probability of being assigned to a non-chemical unit. They walk into a company, as a slick sleeve private, and are expected to be a CBRN expert. That makes AIT doubly important.
I found several negative comments from former 74D’s, that they were used as clerks, or drivers, or as the First Sergeant’s “gofer”. Those were usually from new 74D’s in support units, that did not frequently train with their CBRN equipment. I personally saw that happen in support units, but not in combat units. By the same token, I found comments from 74D’s who enjoyed learning other skills. The smart, hard workers, who took whatever task they were assigned as their mission, and performed every job to the best of their ability, with a positive attitude, ended up being promoted and placed in charge of a CBRN room.
If you become the First Sergeant’s “gofer”, become the best gofer possible. As a First Sergeant, you learn the gofers on whom you can depend to get things done, when you need help. Those are the soldiers, the First Sergeant will go out of his way to help, when the soldier needs help. The greatest reward for old sergeants, is seeing young soldiers, they’ve mentored, rise up through the ranks and succeed. Besides maintaining a positive attitude and being a hard worker, the 74D who is aggressive in pushing for CBRN training, usually establishes himself or herself as a key member of the company headquarters.
Below is the Company Headquarters of an Airborne Infantry Company;
Title Rank/Grade Branch/MOS
Company Commander Captain 0-3 Infantry
Executive Officer First Lieutenant 0-2 Infantry
First Sergeant First Sergeant E-8 11B5P
Supply Sergeant Staff Sergeant E-6 92Y3P
Senior Radio Operator Sergeant E-5 11B2P
CBRN NCO Sergeant E-5 74D2P
Armorer Specialist E-4 92Y1P
Radio Operator Private First Class E-3 11B1P
So, what can you do, when enlisting, to try to insure that you don’t get assigned to a support company somewhere, that only does CBRN training once a year at the gas chamber? Get the airborne option. Jumping out of airplanes. The largest unit to which a new airborne qualified 74D would be assigned, would be the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd does have many support companies, as well as the combat units, but I guarantee you, no company in the 82nd Airborne Division does half-assed training. There have been many 74D’s assigned as company CBRN NCO’s straight out of AIT, most have succeeded and were promoted to sergeant in a couple years.
This is a true 74D story. In 2008, when the economy took a nose dive (recession), a 32 year old man, married with their first child due soon, was working at a pharmacy, when he met an Army Recruiter. A guaranteed paycheck and free health care sounded good, plus his family had a record of military service, but he had never been around the military. He enlisted in July 2008. Basic Combat Training and 74D AIT was at Fort Leonard Wood, from there he was assigned to the 62nd Chemical Company at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 62nd deployed to Kuwait, for a year, where he trained Kuwait National Guard in CBRN hazard detection, mitigation, and decontamination. Upon returning from deployment, in 2010, now a Sergeant and 36 years old, he volunteered for airborne school, he attended the CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance Course at Fort Leonard Wood, and was assigned to the 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment (CRD), which was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Every Special Forces Group has a 28 man CRD attached. The CRD is broken down into 4 man teams. Team Leader – Sergeant First Class, Assistant Team Leader – Staff Sergeant, and two Sergeant CBRN NCO’s. The teams are often split to two men and attached to Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA). In other words, an A-Team. They don’t go through special forces training, and they don’t wear a green beret, they wear a maroon beret, but they go with an A-Team doing what it does. Comments from Green Berets about their attached 74D’s are usually; “They hang with us or they can’t hang. We soon find out.” This 74D sergeant trained in document and media exploitation and analysis, biometric collection, and unknown substance identification. In 2013, he set up and operated an Exploitation Analysis Center (forensic lab) in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and another in support of French Special Operations Forces in Burkina Faso. In 2015, he went back to Africa, moved everything, and worked with Combat Applications Group (Delta), FBI, and NSA. There was big news in 2017 about four green berets ambushed and killed in Africa. Two of those killed, weren’t actually green berets, but were 74D’s from the CRD, attached to that Special Forces A-Team. One was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class, and awarded the Silver Star.

A Soldier from the 56th Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), enter a shipping container during a portion of the 1st SFC Validation Exercise on February 03, 2020, at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin, 5th SFG(A) Public Affairs)

In 2016, he was selected to come back to Fort Leonard Wood and be an instructor at the CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, which he did through 2019. He says that training and mentoring the young sergeants, for higher positions was one of the most satisfying jobs, so far, of his career.

SFC Jeffrey Escott teaching an Advanced Leaders Class.
SFC Escott with an ALC class.
More ALC class instruction.

His official resume lists the following Army schools; Basic Leaders Course, CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, CBRN Senior Leaders Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Combatives Level 1, Training/Operations NCO Course, Basic Radiology Safety, Hazardous Materials Technician, Technical Escort (that is really how to fight terrorists while escorting VIP’s), CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance, Exploitation Analysis Center, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) (that’s a tough one), Basic Airborne, Air Assault, Anti-terrorism Officer, Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, Small Group Instruction Course, Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course, Master Resilience Training, and Army Recruiter Course. He is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with American Military University.

SFC Escott with the little Escott’s.
Army Recruiter SFC Jeff Escott at a local high school.

That has been the adventure, so far, of Sergeant First Class Jeff Escott, an Army Recruiter, at the Rolla, Missouri Army Recruiting Office. If this sounds interesting, talk to SFC Jeff Escott.

Sergeant First Class Jeffrey E. Escott, US Army Recruiter, Rolla, Missouri.


That is an attention getting title for a story about Unit Supply Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 92Y. Even the web page BELOW for MOS 92Y sounds kind of mundane.


The unit supply specialist is primarily responsible for supervising or performing tasks involving the general upkeep and maintenance of all Army supplies and equipment.
• Receive, inspect, inventory, load/unload, store, issue and deliver supplies and equipment
• Maintain automated supply system for accounting of organizational and installation supplies and equipment
• Issue and receive small arms. Secure and control weapons and ammunition in security areas
• Schedule and perform preventive and organizational maintenance on weapons
• Operate unit level computers
Those who want to serve must first take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a series of tests that helps you better understand your strengths and identify which Army jobs are best for you.
Job training for a unit supply specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions. Part of this time is spent in the classroom and part in the field, including practice in handling and storing stock.
Some of the skills you’ll learn are:
• Procedures for shipping, receiving, storing and issuing stock
• Stock control and accounting procedures
• Procedures for handling medical and food supplies
• Movement, storage and maintenance of ammunition
• Interest in mathematics, bookkeeping, accounting, business administration and/or typing
• Ability to keep accurate records
• Enjoy physical work
• Interest in operating forklifts and other warehouse equipment
Clerical (CL): 90″

The Clerical score is from the word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, and mathematics knowledge tests. English and math, and 90 is not a very high score, and eight weeks (actually eight weeks and two days, so count on nine weeks) AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is a short AIT. One might think that this would be an easy clerk job, counting wigits. Nothing could be further from reality.
My story titled “Supply” describes the AIT, and my story titled “Enlisted Quartermaster Corps” also talks about MOS 92Y.

92Y AIT students undergoing the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test).
Checking temperature of 92Y AIT students in the Dining Facility

This is one of the most important, sensitive, and demanding jobs in the Army. It may not sound like a brainy job, but it is. The AIT covers basic procedures, but a 92Y is a 92Y and can be assigned to an infantry company, or aviation, or signal, or chemical, or medical, or anything, anywhere from a basic training battalion at Fort Leonard Wood to a Special Forces company where ever they may be, to a Garrison company at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC). Learning to be a supply specialist just starts with AIT. Everything in the Army that doesn’t breath, flows through the supply system. Everything! Socks, boots, hand grenades, tanks, helicopters, rifles, bolts, nuts and bacon. It has to be stored, requested, issued, and returned. The volume and the value of all that “stuff” is mind boggling.
Property accountability is one of the most sensitive subjects in the Army. Funding the military is a big deal and whether the item is a 9 million dollar tank or a 6 million dollar helicopter or a $200 set of tools, it represents money. Every non expendable item “owned” by a company is recorded in that unit’s property book (now automated). Army Company Commanders are personally responsible for everything “owned” by that company. When company commanders change, a complete physical inventory of the items listed in the company property book is conducted jointly by the incoming and outgoing commanders. Everything is accounted for before the incoming commander signs for the company. The person in that company directly responsible for property accountability is the company Supply Sergeant, MOS 92Y, who normally has a private or specialist assistant.

Staff Sergeant Adrian Santamaria, Supply Sergeant for Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Some senior commanders require that incoming commanders make a pre-inventory visit, with the supply sergeant, that the change of command inventory is not just officer business.

Laying out “everything” for a change of command inventory.

Before anyone gets anything from the company supply room, whether it be a tool or a vehicle, they sign for it, and that transaction is entered into the system in the company property book. The Supply Sergeant and his or her assistant requests what the company needs, receives it, and issues it. When the supply sergeant orders an item, he is spending money.
Unfortunately, handling valuable items sometimes becomes a temptation, but especially now with everything digitally stored, you can’t get away with it. There is a recent story of a former Chief Warrant Officer, Property Book Officer, now serving 25 months in prison for stealing fore than 40 high-tech night vision goggles, valued at over $500,000 from his unit, with plans to sell them to a local military surplus store. He had simply deleted the items from the Property Book, but with GCSS-Army they were still in the system.
In the past five years, the Army has gone from a multitude of supply procedures to the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army). It is one program that allows everyone in the system to “see” everything, items and money, from factory to foxhole. To do that, the Army has gone to commercial SAP software. SAP is a huge and, can be, complicated system. There have been instances where large civilian companies, implementing SAP, have had to completely cease operations, during the implementation process, because they didn’t anticipate the time and learning curve necessary to implement SAP. The Army has accomplished this incrementally, over the past five years.
For someone who is looking at the Army as a possible career, this is one of the most fulfilling and respected support jobs. I’ll go through a probable career cycle of an enlisted 92Y soldier. Basic Combat Training is 10 weeks, but with reception and processing, that eats up three months. Basic training is physically hard, but according to most people going through now, it is also fun. That would probably be at Fort Leonard Missouri, or Fort Jackson, South Carolina. AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia will consume 9 weeks. If you take the airborne option, which I highly recommend, because airborne units are more elite and just better, you would go to jump school for three weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia. Then, after about six months since leaving home, you are assigned to a permanent unit. The lowest level to which a newly arriving 92Y is assigned is to a company. Using an airborne infantry unit as an example, the company Supply Sergeant is a staff sergeant with a specialist assistant. New privates are sometimes assigned to a company, where there is a vacancy, with a good Supply Sergeant. According to the official table of organization, the supply assistant is also the company armorer. That is followed in most support units, that don’t frequently use their weapons, but not in combat units, where there is always arms room activity. In most of those units, someone is pulled from the line to be the armorer, so the 92Y can stay in the supply room. That is not a complete desk job, supplies have to picked up, loaded, unloaded, stored, and issued.

Promotion to PFC E-3 (Private First Class) usually comes after a month or two at the permanent unit. The smart 92Y would first concentrate on learning the job, and performing at the best of his or her ability.
Base pay for a PFC, with less than two years service, is $2,042.70. A single soldier living in the barracks (dorm with own room), free meals in the Dining Facility, after all deductions, including (full SGLI Servicemans Group Life Insurance, and 5% Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), take home pay will be about $1,570 per month.
Other positions where the 92Y, may be assigned could be at Battalion Headquarters in the S-4 (Supply/Logistics) staff section. The Battalion S-4 section looks like this;
S-4 Captain
NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) Sergeant First Class 92Y
Assistant Supply Sergeant Sergeant 92Y
Supply Specialist Specialist 92Y
Supply Specialist Specialist 92Y

A new 92Y could also be assigned to the Brigade Headquarters, S-4 Section, which looks like this;
S-4 Major
Assistant S-4 Captain
Property Book Officer CW2 (Chief Warrant Officer)
NCOIC Master Sergeant 92Y
Supply Sergeant Staff Sergeant 92Y
Property Book NCO Sergeant 92Y
Supply Specialist Private First Class 92Y
Supply Specialist Private First Class 92Y

A new private could be assigned to the Brigade Headquarters, and after proving himself or herself to be smart, dedicated, and hard working, be assigned to a company, around the time they would make specialist, which would be about 18 months in the Army. I would definitely try to get the company experience, because that is the end of the supply chain, where supplies are consumed. That is also where everyone wants to be friends with the supply clerk, because you have what they need.
When someone makes Specialist, and they like the Army and are thinking that they might stay, they will start looking at the requirements for promotion to Sergeant. Civilian education is a big deal, in the Army. If they don’t have a bachelor’s degree, they should start aiming for one. Soldiers can “test out”, for free, on 38 different subjects, at the post Education Centers. Just like civilian CLEP (College Level Examination Program). Many online colleges are now offering accelerated bachelor’s programs. Many get through in three years, I did find a few, who claimed they did it in two years. Depends on how much time you can put into it. There are three big items considered in promotion to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant, weapons qualification score, ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) score, and civilian education. Attendance at an on-post, four week, Basic Leadership Course (BLC) is required, prior to being promoted to Sergeant E-5. Promotion to Sergeant E-5 is currently running at three years and under, for 92Y’s.
Sergeants must return to Fort Lee for an eight week Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), before being considered for promotion to Staff Sergeant E-6. A Sergeant, over three years, married, living with his or her family in family housing on post, which includes utilities and maintenance, will bring home about $2,470 per month, after deductions. (That’s with the free house).
The soldier may desire to become an officer. The requirements to apply for OCS (Officer Candidate School) are, have a bachelor’s degree (any degree), and not have over six years of service. Three months in OCS and they are commissioned a second lieutenant. That Second Lieutenant’s base pay is $4,136.40 per month.
Another career move, which many make, is to Warrant Officer. The requirements are be a staff sergeant or a sergeant on the staff sergeant promotion list, and worked as a 92Y at least five years of the past eight.

Chief Warrant Officer Twana Chapman is the military liaison officer for the Defense Logistics Agency Technical Support Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Virginia

If accepted, they attend a five week Warrant Officer Candidate Course, then an eight week Warrant Officer Basic Course.
Promotion to Staff Sergeant could be anywhere between five and eight years, depends on how hard they work, on things like civilian education, and other schools. Most Company Supply Sergeants are Staff Sergeants, although Sergeants occasionally fill those positions. A Staff Sergeant, with over eight years of service, married, living off post (bought a house with no down payment VA loan), after all deductions, has take home pay of about $4,150 per month (remember free health care). A Warrant Officer makes about $1,000 a month more than a Staff Sergeant.
Staff Sergeants must go back to Fort Lee to attend the 10 week Seniors Leaders Course, before being considered for promotion to Sergeant First Class (SFC) E-7. Promotion to SFC can come anywhere between eight and 10 to 12 years, depending on the individual. The higher the rank, the more important is civilian education.
SFC’s must attend a two week Master Leader Course, before being considered for promotion to Master Sergeant E-8. 92Y E-8’s may be assigned to staff jobs or as First Sergeants of Quartermaster Companies. Promotion to E-8, if it comes, will happen between 15 and 18 years, depending on the individual.
Master/First Sergeants selected for promotion to Sergeant Major E-9, will first attend the 10 month long US Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Promotion to Sergeant Major, again – if it comes, will be around the 20 to 22 year mark. Sergeant Major 92Y’s head the G-4 sections in division level (two star command) and above.
A Master Sergeant, retiring after 27 years of service, starts drawing $3,500 a month retirement. A Sergeant Major, retiring after 30 years of service, will start drawing $4,600 per month in retirement. Both should have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Thrift Savings Plan.
I said Logistician, by the time a 92Y soldier becomes a master sergeant he or she will be a logistician. This is not always an eight hour a day job, especially when units are deploying. In 2012, Sergeant First Class Gidget Borst was assigned as a battalion S-4 (supply) Sergeant at Fort Bliss, Texas. Upon arrival at her unit, she found things not in good order and a supply inspection on the horizon. She had to put some evening and weekend work to bring the battalion supply program back up to par, and then established herself as a key member of the battalion.

SFC Gidget Borst being praised by her Battalion Command Sergeant Major
SFC Borst being lauded by her Regimental Commander

SFC Borst’s Battalion Commander said; “We heavily rely on her efforts to forecast the needs of not only our battalion, but also to meet the needs of the elements that are deploying into harm’s way.” She really is now a logistician.

Supply Sergeant doing key inventory.


     When I went through basic training in September and October 1961 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, we used .30 caliber M-1 Rifles. The same rifles used in World War II. From there to infantry training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where we used M-1’s, BAR’s (Browning Automatic Rifle), and A-6, .30 caliber machine guns. The same guns used in World War II. We zeroed, and qualified with our rifles on KD (known distance) ranges. Half of the company qualified expert on the 500 meter range. The M-1 had distance and accuracy, but it was heavy and only fired eight rounds at a time. When I got to the 82nd Airborne Division, March 1st 1962, it had 7.62 mm M-14 Rifles. A couple years later we got the 5.56 mm M-16’s, and although modified a couple times, M16A2, and M-4 Carbine, the Army is still using that same rifle. A replacement has been identified. Also, around that time the Army built pop up target rifle ranges. Waist up, man sized, green silhouettes, “pop-up” at distances from 50 to 300 meters. The soldier shoots from a fox hole, with a rest, and must hit a minimum of 23 targets to qualify, 23 to 29 hits gets a Marksmanship Badge, 30 – 35 a Sharpshooter Badge, and 36 – 40 an Expert Badge. That system has been used for the past 55 years.

     Every soldier must qualify with his or her weapon once annually. Combat arms soldiers do a lot of shooting, starting with the infantry, combat engineers, armor, and artillery. Many support soldiers only fire their rifle during annual qualification. There were instances in the first Gulf war, Desert Storm in 1990, of support soldiers taking a wrong turn and finding themselves in enemy lines. Some were killed and some captured, many were not proficient with their rifle, they had trouble firing back, and if their weapon jammed, they were sunk. Then the “no front lines” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, put the lack of weapons proficiency by support soldiers on vivid display.
     For the past several years, the Army has been fortunate to have had some exceptional people at the top. Many changes have and are happening. After going through several years of relatively easy training, Basic Combat Training is now as tough as it has been since World War II. I know some people don’t believe that. It is not unnecessarily tough, it is physically tough, professional training. After the first couple weeks, basic trainees are having fun, some say the time of their lives. The standard army PT test of pushups, sit-ups, and run, that the Army has used for the past 50 years is out, replaced by a very demanding six event test, which is rapidly changing soldiers’ attitude toward physical fitness, and changing the way units conduct their physical fitness programs.
     This year, the Army is instituting a new Rifle Marksmanship Program. Under the old program, for the past 50 years, non-combat soldiers, once a year, drew their rifles, went to the range, zeroed the rifle on a 25 meter range, then went to the qualification range. Qualification firing was from a supported foxhole, with four magazines, each containing 10 rounds, stacked in front of the shooter. After 10 rounds were fired at the pop-up targets, the command “change magazines” came from the range control tower, then shooting resumed. If a shooters’ weapon malfunctioned, during firing, and he or she couldn’t immediately correct it, the shooter held up his hand and claimed an “alibi”, which caused a range cease fire until the weapon was functioning. When I was a Drill Sergeant, before the trainees moved onto the range, the drills would grab a rifle and go “knock down” the targets, to make sure they all worked. We all could hit 40 out of 40 targets. Someone once said that a drunk monkey could qualify as an expert, if given enough time on the range.
This past year the Army published TC (Training Circular) 3-20.40 Training and Qualification – Individual Weapons. It is 800 pages of specific guidance for weapons qualification, to be followed by every unit in the Army, regardless of the type of unit.
     Now all army units, regardless of the type, are mandated to conduct the same annual weapons qualification program. It starts with classes on how to properly zero their weapon.

After which, the soldiers must pass a written and a hands-on test before moving to the next phase, which is firing with the simulator. The simulator is the army’s Engagement Skills Trainer, which is an elaborate, indoor, laser based unit with a large screen 26 feet from the firer, displaying terrain and targets, with feed back hits and misses. The rifle is of the same weight, producing sound and recoil very similar to the real thing.

Soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard practice marksmanship skills while attending a training course for the Engagement Skills Trainer II at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, Jan. 10, 2019. The EST II is a virtual simulation trainer that is designed to assist and improve a Soldier’s basic fundamentals of marksmanship, as well as collective and escalation of force training before going to a live-fire range. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Noshoba Davis)

After successfully firing on the Engagement Skills Trainer they go to the actual range for dry drills.
The dry drills are of how they will fire for qualification, which is not all in a rested foxhole, but in prone, kneeling, standing supported, and standing unsupported, and quickly moving between firing positions, just as they would do in combat, and with their ammunition magazines in their pouch, not laid out, and changing magazines automatically, not on orders from the tower. In fact, there are no orders from the tower, except, begin, and there are no alibies. If a weapon malfunctions, get it going or lose shots, because now instead of one target at a time popping up, as many as four pop up at one time. The old way took about 20 minutes to fire 40 rounds, this takes about four minutes.
After the dry drills, they go to the zero range and zero their rifles. Next is practice qualification, go through trough the whole qualification, with live ammo, but for practice. Finally, qualification, but not just daytime firing. Qualification firing in daytime, daytime wearing gas masks, then night time firing, and night time firing wearing gas masks.
One sergeant rifle marksmanship instructor said that he always shot 40 out of 40 on the old way. His first time, while teaching the course, this way he shot 22 out of 40.

                                                 Standing unsupported

                                                         Prone unsupported

                                                    Kneeling supported

                                                       Standing supported

     Firers change positions on their own, starting with standing unsupported, just like a reaction to contact, then drop to the prone unsupported, then to a kneeling supported position, and finally to a standing supported. Under the old system, a soldier could fire “Expert” without hitting a 300 meter target. Now there are five exposures of the 300 meter targets, so at least one has to be hit to qualify as an expert,
     Aside from doing their job to the best of their ability, the Army wants soldiers to be physically fit and good shooters.
     Carly Schroeder, an actress who has starred in over a dozen movies, Lizzie McGuire, Mean Creek, and most recently Ouija House, turned 29 this past October, and Hollywood guestimates her net worth at around a million dollars. She also graduated from California Lutheran University with a double major in communications and psychology. In March 2019, she enlisted in the Army for OCS (Officer Candidate School), her intention was to try to get into Military Intelligence. She completed basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in July 2019, and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia for OCS. During OCS, she had a change of desire and graduating in September, she was commissioned a second lieutenant and branched Infantry. She then completed the 17 week Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, during which she, not only qualified expert in the new army marksmanship program, she was the high shooter in her class, beating all the guys. She also successfully completed Ranger school this past June, and is now an airborne ranger infantry lieutenant, somewhere in the Army – no publicity, she is now a REAL soldier.


     This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, August 8th 2018. I have not posted it before, at Life in the Army, because of the sensitivity.  Some of the photos may have copy rights, but I’m simply passing them on. I don’t receive any compensation for this, neither did I for the newspaper column, it is simply an attempt to educate civilians about life in the Army.

     This column on March 14th of this year was titled “Dear Joe”, which was a letter to a teenager who, like most his age, does not have a future vision in mind. I recommended that he enlist in the Army for three or four years for airborne infantry, because there is no other experience in the world like it. This title “Band of Brothers” conjures up memory of the TV miniseries of Echo Company, 506th Airborne Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II.

     This is about a current “Band of Brothers”.

     Christopher Michael Harris was born in St Petersburg, Florida November 3rd, 1991. He was adopted, as a newborn, by Dennis and Susan Harris Kolean. Not long after, they moved to Jackson Springs, North Carolina, where Christopher grew up. He did spend many summers with his uncle, J Michael Harris, in Florida, because he loved fishing and the water. Jackson Springs is only about 15 miles from Southern Pines, North Carolina, which is on the “back side” of Fort Bragg. It is much smaller and quieter than the sprawling Fayetteville/Spring Lake communities bordering the main post. It has a fair sized military population, because some would rather drive the 25 miles through Fort Bragg every day and live in the small town atmosphere.

     Christopher graduated high school, in 2010, from Grace Christian School, which is a small private Christian school in close by Sanford. The Sanford Herald reported; William Kerr, his closest friend in high school, said; “There was never a dull moment. There was never a time that I didn’t want to be with him. So smart, always taught me something and always there to protect me. If there was ever any problem or anything at all, he was the first person there. He always took care of everyone and was the most selfless person that I met, and put everyone else’s needs before him. He understood the line between work and play, so when it was play, he played hard. When he worked, he worked harder.” The soccer coach, Chris Pratt said: Soccer was kind of his go to sport. He was great. He was the hardest worker, very loyal. As a coach, you want a guy like that because he would do anything you asked him to do and he was kind of our bruiser, which made him very disciplined.” Head Pastor Joel Murr, who also coached in the athletics department said; “He just loved people. He was a popular kid. The girls will tell you that he had the prettiest eyes that anybody had ever seen. He was a handsome young man, just liked by everybody.”
     After high school, Chris Harris worked in public services for the town of Pinehurst, which is about halfway between Jackson Springs and Southern Pines. Then in October 2013 he enlisted in the Army for Infantry with the airborne option. After completing Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training) and Airborne School he was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The “Devils in Baggy Pants”.

     Having been a Platoon Sergeant of an Airborne Infantry Platoon, I can tell you that there is a rank structure in that platoon, but there is also an unofficial pecking order and an unofficial leader in most platoons. Privates (PVT’s), Private First Class (PFC’s), and Specialist are lumped together as “junior enlisted”, and within that group there is often a “leader”, usually a specialist who is smart, quick witted, vocal, and if the Platoon Sergeant is lucky, positive. He is the guy who on mile 35 of a nonsense 40 mile road march, starts making cracks and makes everybody forget about their aches and pains, or at 6:00PM in the evening, after a four day field exercise, everyone is trying feverously to get equipment and weapons cleaned and turned in, and is frustrated because they are still there, starts making jokes and relieves the tension. He is also, hopefully, the guy who bypasses his squad leader and comes to you with; “Sarg, Smith has got some problems and I think he needs some professional help”. Smith could be a private or a sergeant. That’s who I think Chris Harris was, the platoon spark. A friend said; “He walks into a room and you know he’s there. Never a dull moment when he’s around, such energy he brings to everything he does.”

     Through a mutual friend, Chris met Brittany Paige Maness. The friend said that they were inseparable from the time they met. They were married in Ashville, North Carolina, October 15th 2016.

      On June 30th 2017, Brittany said goodbye to Chris at Green Ramp on Fort Bragg, as his unit deployed to Afghanistan. On July 31st Brittany learned that she was pregnant with their child. She contacted Chris in Afghanistan via Face Time, she said, “Chris you’re going to be a dad!” She said he was ecstatic, that he wanted to be a dad more than anything. She said he teared up at the news, and immediately shared it with his platoon.

     Then on the evening of August 2nd Chris’ was with his team under Sergeant Jonathan Hunter of Columbus, Indiana, in a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (an MRAP) conducting a “partnered mission” security patrol with the Afghan National Army near Bagram Airbase when a suicide bomber, in a vehicle loaded with explosives, met the patrol and exploded next to their vehicle. Specialist Christopher Harris and Sergeant Jonathan Hunter were killed, the four others in the vehicle were wounded plus an Afghan interpreter. Colonel Tobin Magsig, the Brigade Commander, was in the next vehicle and helped get the paratroopers out of the burning MRAP.

     Brittany said that she had sent Chris some texts, which he had not yet answered. She saw on some military sites, that she monitored, that two soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, then two officers came to her door. After the notification they asked if there was anything else they could do. She said; “Yes I would like you to drive me to Chris’ parent’s house and be there when they are told.” They did.
      The next day Brittany Harris posted on her Facebook page, “As the news spreads about the two soldiers killed in action yesterday in Afghanistan, it is with a very heavy and broken heart that I confirm that one of them was my husband Chris Harris.”
     Some of you reading this out here in the middle of nowhere, who have no experience with the military, may think that infantry combat soldiers, who are in a business where they can get wounded or killed, are somewhat hardened to those circumstances. Not true! I’ve written before about how close an infantry platoon becomes. When someone is killed, it is like a member of your family. It tears your gut out. First there is anger, you want to go get them. Then absolute abject frustration, and finally acceptance, mourning, move on, but don’t forget them. Often the leaders have a lingering feeling of guilt that never goes away.

     Initially Brittany Harris asked for privacy. She posted; “Right now my main concern is that I want to try and make sure everything continues to be healthy considering these crushing circumstances. I know you will all be respectful as I ask to be left alone. Thank you.”

     Vice President Pence met the Angel Flight which brought Sergeant Hunter and Specialist Harris back to the United States.

     Specialist Christopher Michael Harris’ full military funeral was on August 14th in the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery, Spring Lake, North Carolina, just outside of Fort Bragg. It was one of the largest funerals many had seen. The 10 mile procession was led by 100 motorcycles of the Patriot Guard Riders, followed by about 50 Jeeps, each flying an American flag, from several Jeep Clubs, because of Chris’ love of Jeeps. Chris and Brittany were members of the Jeepers United Club.

     In October Brittany learned the baby’s gender. She said of Chris’s platoon; “They’re still grieving. They’re just doing it away from the rest of us. I wanted them to be the first to know the gender and reveal it, to let them know they’re family and part of this journey with me.” She sent small “confetti cannons” to the platoon in Afghanistan. They made a cell phone video of their impromptu ceremony. Corporal Nathan Bagley said; “My boy Harris, we’re gonna do it for him – we going to see what kind of baby he’s going to have.” They counted down and pink confetti exploded to applause, whoops and hollers and goofy dances.

       That platoon landed at Pope Field on Fort Bragg on March 17th 2018, returning from Afghanistan. On that same day, Christian Michelle Harris was born.

      Sergeant Nathan Bagley said; “Just knowing that we could come home to a baby girl that was awesome. When everyone came home that was the day she was born, so that made it ten times better.”

     Brittany kept contact with the platoon members, and then decided to have a photo shoot with Christian and Chris’ platoon. She said; “They’ve been a part of her life before she was even born, and I know they’re going to be around for the rest of her life. No matter where the Army takes them all, I will be able to show Christian how they all came together for her.”

      On May 29th Pinehurst Photography conducted the photo shoot. The following are their photos.

Fellow Soldiers of Fallen Army Hero Pose With His Newborn Daughter
Credit: Pinehurst Photography

     Last Thursday, August 2nd 2018 the 1st Brigade posted the following on its Facebook page.

     Today, the Devil Brigade came together to share a moment of silence to honor fallen Paratroopers Sgt. Jonathon Hunter and Spc. Christopher Harris. Today marks the one year anniversary of the suicide attack in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan that took them away from us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of our fallen warriors.
“As long as we live, they too will live. They are now a part of us. We will remember them.”
Sylvan Kamens


     This is a follow up to my story on MOS 25B, army IT specialist “BE AN ARMY COMPUTER GUY OR GAL”. This is about the signal corps in general.

     Signal Soldiers are, or soon will be; Information Technology Specialist – MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 25B, Signal Support Specialist – MOS 25U, Network Communications Systems Specialist – MOS 25H, and Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer – MOS 25S. These are some of the most civilian marketable army jobs. They currently require a four year enlistment and a SECRET security clearance.

     The US Army Signal Corps is currently undergoing a massive and rapid evolution. In the “old Army”, with the inclusion of satellites in the military communications systems, enlisted signal jobs ranged from a radio operator/maintainer, with an AIT (Advanced Individual Training) of about eight weeks, to satellite and microwave system operators and maintainers, and multi-channel communication center maintainers, with AIT’s of sometimes over 30 weeks. Those were highly specialized, technical jobs. In the 20 years between 1980 and 2000, the world switched to communicating via computer. The Army Signal Corps struggled to keep up, it trained soldiers to be computer savvy communicators, but they were still highly specialized. As a result, when Iraq and Afghanistan exploded, the Army had qualified communications soldiers, but it took four or five communications specialists, each trained in a narrowly defined task, to do what could be efficiently performed by one civilian contractor. The military hired civilian contractors, and the signal people complained that they weren’t being used.

     In the past eight to ten years, Army leadership – the three and four stars – who came up the ranks with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, having to deal with logistics, casualties, and communications, while dealing with an enemy combatant, have been changing the Army more rapidly than it has changed since World War II. The US Army Signal Corps is now in the midst of change.

     In April 2016, the Department of Defense (DOD) started moving from the Command Cyber Readiness Inspection (CCRI) to the Command Cyber Operations Readiness Inspection (CCORI). The new CCORI was to not only test a system for compliance with all DOD directives, but to challenge the security of that system. Then in November 2018, Colonel Joseph Pishock, Commander of the 1st Signal Brigade in Korea, together with Major James Torrence, Operations officer of the 41st Signal Battalion of the 1st Signal Brigade, wrote a scathing article in “Small Wars Journal” about the US Army Signal Corps.      Their point was that the Signal Corps had become so addicted to rigidly complying with cyber standards that it was afraid to take risks. In other words, not allowing the addicted computer geek specialists and sergeants to try anything outside specific guidelines, to defeat a cyber threat. They said the culture of the Signal Corps had to change. In the Signal Corps of the old days of radios, it worked or it didn’t work. In the cyber world of today, it works but someone is trying to get our data, which is the number of troop movements, logistics, ammunition, operations orders – everything. In the civilian world the computer geek at the keyboard is the first line of defense. The Army also has computer geeks, it just hasn’t been allowing them to take risks and try new things.

     In an interview in August 2019, Brigadier General (BG) Christopher Eubanks, Chief of Signal and Commandant of the Signal School, at that time, said that the Signal Corps is consolidating from 17 MOS’s to 7. It is revamping all signal AIT’s to the new consolidated MOS’s, to produce better trained and more versatile signal soldiers. The signal jobs (MOS’s) for which an individual may enlist are being reduced from 13 to 6, and finally, I believe, to 4.
This is a transition currently in process and won’t be completed for another two to four years. Some MOS consolidations are scheduled to be completed October 1st 2022.

                           Brigadier General Christopher Eubank and

                            Command Sergeant Major Richard Knott   

 The US Army Signal School is located at the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia (Augusta).

     Throughout the dozens of comments, I found from current and former signal soldiers, the one subject that came up in almost all, was that they did a lot of cross-training, because they were often not assigned to a job consistent with their MOS. 25B’s working in 25N positions and vice versa, 25U’s working in both. It appears that the overall attitude of the Army has been, a signal soldier is a signal soldier.

     Current MOS 25C Radio Operator/Maintainer is being merged into MOS 25U Signal Support Systems Specialist. The current AIT for 25U is 16 weeks. Retired Signal Sergeant Virgin Houston said this; “I think this is the hardest signal MOS because you are alone in an infantry or other type unit. If something uses electricity, you will be expected to make it work and fix it. Very high pressure, but rewarding. This is the black sheep of Signal. You are jack of all trades and master of none. I don’t think these folks are given enough training.” Hopefully the training is being fixed with this revamping. The 25U is not only a computer guy or gal, he or she is the commo expert in an infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineer, or other “line” unit. High Frequency (HF) radios are used in combat units, because many things from enemy hacking to a thunder storm can shut down satellite communications.

                              AN/PRC-163 Multi-Channel Handheld Radio

          AN/PRC-158 Multi-Channel High Frequency Manpack Radio

                  RF=300H Wideband HF Manpack Radio – Allows Secure High                                               Frequency Wideband data transfer       

Army standardized tactical computer allows Commanders to actually “see” the battlefield from their command vehicle.

Current MOS 25Q Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer and MOS 25N Nodal Network Systems Operator/Maintainer are being consolidated in new MOS 25H Network Communications System Specialist, effective October 1st 2022. Currently, 25Q’s install, operate, and maintain multi-channel line of sight and tropospheric scatter communications systems, antennas, and associated equipment. The AIT for 25Q is 15 weeks long. MOS 25N’s are the tactical network people. That AIT is currently 21 weeks. One 25N said this; “25N is a fantastic job full of certification and plentiful networking with civilian contractors and field service representatives. It is difficult but rewarding. You’ll work in truck-mounted, airconditioned switch shelters. You are as marketable as they come, if you decide not to reenlist.” Another said to over maintain your generator. Oil it, grease it, love it, and fuel it constantly. Without the generator, you’re just another lowly radio operator. Virgil Houston, said this is a good one for transference to civilian jobs. He also said that 25Q is good for transferring to civilian jobs. He also said that both were often done by civilian contractors.
Current MOS 25P Microwave Systems Operator/Maintainer is being merged with MOS 25S Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer. MOS 25P AIT is currently 11 weeks, and MOS 25S AIT is 18 weeks.

        The Army Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T)   

                                                   WIN-T Equipped 

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division leverage Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), the Army’s tactical communications network backbone, to enable mission command and advanced network communications in the brigade main command post on September 23, 2015, during Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

WIN-T Tactical Communications Node-Lite (TCN-L) and Network Operations Security Center-Lite (NOSC-L) are now being fielded to light infantry units after a successful operational test at the Network Integration Evaluation at Fort Bliss, Texas, in July 2017. (Photo by Jen Judson/Defense News Staff)

     There are three other signal MOS’s, soon to be consolidated to two, that are also part of the Signal Corps. MOS 25M Multimedia Illustrator, is being consolidated into MOS 25V Combat Documentation/Production Specialist. There is also MOS 25V’s partner MOS 25R Visual Information Equipment Operator/Maintainer. These jobs are not part of the Signal Corps community.    Their AIT is at the Defense Information School, at Fort Meade, Maryland, along with the MOS 46S Mass Communication Public Affairs Specialists AIT. The signal corps recommended that these be transferred to Public Affairs, but there appears to be some resistance from Public Affairs. I feel that they will eventually be transferred to Public Affairs.

     The enlistment requirements for all these signal MOS’s are ASVAB scores of 100 in EL and 102 in ST. The EL (Electronics) score is a combination of four sub tests, Electronics Information, General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge. The ST (Skilled Technical) is also from four sub tests, General Science and Mathematics Knowledge, plus Verbal Expression (English) and Mechanical Comprehension. All require a SECRET security clearance, which entails a National Agency check, including financial history, and interviews, if deemed necessary. At present, most require a four-year enlistment. That could change, as MOS’s and AIT schools are consolidated.
Signal AIT is being completely restructured. The goal is to train an all-around signal soldier. All MOS’s will be together for about the first month of AIT. In that “Foundational Training”, there will be a day and a half of Orientation and pre-assessment, four days of Computer Literacy, two days of Operating Systems/Printers, and about 10 days of Networking/Security. After the Foundational Training, AIT students will separate into their MOS specific training. After the MOS training is complete, all will return for a joint four-day field exercise, with all practicing their combined skills in a tactical environment. I feel that after this has been fully implemented, all signal AIT will be around 20 to 25 weeks. If it goes to 25 weeks, or more, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the enlistment requirement go to five years.

     Reports from current and former AIT students at Fort Gordon are mixed about academics and general life as an AIT student. Academically, the 25B’s and 25N’s said that it was easy, if they were already a computer person, if not it was hard – study, study, study. As far as life outside the classroom, freedom of movement appears to differ from company to company. All complained about multiple daily formations, including weekends. This seems to be a symptom of what Colonel Pishock and Major Torrence called a fear of commitment and risk taking within the Signal Corps. Decisions being made at high levels, relieves junior officers and sergeants of responsibility, thereby detracting from their inclination to make leadership decisions. The result comes through to enlisted soldiers, as a lack of trust. Although, that appears to get better further into the course. There are surprise inspections for alcohol and drugs and other infractions of rules.

     Some cautioned not to let your physical condition deteriorate, during AIT. They said that regular PT is not enough to keep you in shape for the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test), and that a couple failures can result in a discharge. The entire Army is completely serious about personal physical condition.

     Where are signal soldiers assigned? Everywhere there are soldiers. Including the Airborne Option in the enlistment contract, will probably point the new enlistee to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, although there are a few airborne signal soldiers scattered with Special Forces Groups. They don’t become Green Berets’, they are in signal units that support Special Forces. One of the Special Forces MOS’s, 18E, is Communications. Being a signal soldier would be a good basic education for someone desiring to become a communications Green Beret. I saw SF commo guys, in Vietnam, throw a wire up in a tree, pull their little radio out of their ruck and talk to the world.

     These are high tech, brainy jobs which are also good paying civilian jobs.


     Most high school seniors have now graduated in some form. A year from now, where do you want to be? Just completing a year of college, or in a solid job making around $35,000 a year if you’re single, if married how about making around $50,000 a year, and going to college.
     I spoke at the Veterans Day Assembly about the opportunities that are available in the military. After a soldier has been in the Army for a year, he or she will have completed Basic Combat Training, and most all AIT’s (Advanced Individual Training), plus special training, such as airborne school, and is assigned to a permanent assignment, and probably will have been promoted to PFC (Private First Class E-3).
     Let’s do some numbers. A PFC E-3, single soldier living in the dorm in a private room, receiving no extra pay, such as parachute pay, and paying 3 percent of their pay into a Thrift Savings Plan, which the government matches, claiming him or herself as one dependent will have take home pay of around $1,635.00 per month, half paid on the 1st and half on the 15th. No rent and no food expense if you eat all meals in the Dining Facility, which has excellent food, and 100 percent health care, if you need it. If you are married and your wife or husband is living with you in family housing on post, your take home pay will be around $2,085.00 per month, and you’re living in a nice house, no rent, no utilities, no maintenance, 100 percent health care (babies are free).
     After getting settled in your job at your permanent assignment, go to the post education center, and talk to a guidance counselor. The ed center counselor is thoroughly familiar with DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support). DANTES will help you get semester hours for military training and experience. Basic training produces around 5 SH from most schools. Some AIT’s give you many semester hours, some do not. Health Care Specialist MOS 68W (Combat Medic) is 16 weeks and produces close to 30 SH, so does the 16 week 35F Military Intelligence Analyst course. The 20 week 25B Information Technology Specialist (computers), and the 20 plus week 17C Cyber Operations Specialist (hacker) course gets close to 60 SH, as does the 26 week 46S Public Affairs Mass Communications (photo journalist and broadcaster) course. Most of the combat arms AIT’s don’t produce that much. Those hours must be accepted by a college or university, but several military friendly schools are represented at every post ed center. The counselor knows which schools give credits for what. The counselor is also familiar with DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests), in other words CLEP (College Level Examination Program). DANTES has 38 subjects on which you can test out, for free, and get semester hour credit without attending a class. They also provide study material prior to taking the test. The counselor will help you prepare a Joint Service Transcript (JST), documenting semester hours for military training and experience. JST’s are accepted by over 2,300 schools nationwide, but primarily by the 1,800 schools in the SOCAD (Servicemembers Opportunity College) network. These schools form a network that helps servicemembers get associates and bachelors degrees. They accept hours from military education and experience and they accept each-others hours.

                                       Sample Joint Services Transcript

     Military TA (Tuition Assistance) is $250 per semester hour, for up to 16 semester hours (SH) per year. Almost 100 percent of the colleges and universities represented at Army Education Centers (every post has an ed center), have set their tuition at $250 per semester hour (SH).
Is it really possible to go to college while on active duty? Absolutely! The Army is so serious about civilian education that every semester hour is worth one promotion point to Sergeant. However, your day job comes first. Is it possible to go from being a high school graduate to a bachelors’ degree in four years, while in the Army? Probably not. Time is the big factor. Combat arms soldiers don’t have as much off time as support soldiers. Their training is often in the field and often at night. I did read a comment from one infantryman who obtained a bachelors’ degree in five years. He was shooting for OCS (Officer Candidate School), for which you have to have a bachelors’ degree and no more than six years of service. He surely had to sacrifice almost all social life to do that. Many combat arms soldiers use online classes almost exclusively.
I’ve attended and taught evening college classes at the education center on Fort Leonard Wood, and I’m familiar with online. In my opinion, attending class in the evening is easier, for the student, than that class online. On post classes usually top out at around 20 students, you have almost one on one instruction, you can ask questions, bounce off other students, and immediately find out if you are on the right track. The only advantage of online classes is that you can set your own time, but you basically have to teach yourself. They often take more time and study than attending class. Many colleges and universities with on post classes now use eight week sessions. Two 3 SH classes per session equals 30 SH year, if you can hit every session.

      Graduation ceremony at the Fort Leonard Wood Education Center

     What jobs and assignments allow you the time to go to school? Even if college is your goal, don’t pick an Army job based solely on its’ ability to let you attend classes. If you want to be an airborne ranger, don’t accept anything less. As I have said before, research the Army, talk to people, and select a job that you think you will enjoy. During my Army career I met many career soldiers who were initially drafted into the Army. And many who enlisted for three years to get the GI Bill. Almost 20 Percent, 2 out of 10, people who enlist in the Army, spend 20 years and retire. Our son, Richard, spent four years as an infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division and saw combat in Somalia in the summer of 1993 (Blackhawk Down). He got out when his enlistment was up, finished college, and has enjoyed a very successful career in the information technology field, but to this day says that the smartest decision he ever made was to enlist in the Army.
     Some jobs, like those I mentioned above, will give you almost two years of college when you finish AIT, many will not.
     So, I encourage you to consider the Army. Basic training is physically demanding and challenging, but ends up being fun. No gain without pain. It’s your future – take control.


     The soldier whose job is to setup and maintain computer networks and systems. Help people with computer problems, including swapping components, such as drives and motherboards, and routers, and keep all the computer systems operating, is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 25B Information Technology Specialist. These are the Army IT professionals. I have written before (see my article COMPUTER HACKER) about MOS 17C Cyber Operations Specialist, those are Top Secret people hidden away doing Top Secret stuff. The 25B’s are the everyday, every unit, computer professionals, who keep the systems up and running.

                                             25B Installing a motherboard.

     This is, with doubt, one of the best Army jobs that transfers directly to lucrative civilian jobs, and because the Army will turn you into an IT professional, it requires a five year enlistment The Army now communicates just like the rest of the world communicates, by computer, so it has a lot of IT professionals to keep it communicating, securely. Shoot, move, and communicate is what the Army does. That puts 25B in the Signal Corps. The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 25B is currently 20 weeks long at the Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. This story is specifically about MOS 25B IT Specialist, I will follow it with another about other signal jobs, because the Signal Corps is currently undergoing a major overhaul.
First, this MOS requires a SECRET security clearance, because of the information to which they are exposed, so a person needs to be squeaky clean, other than minor traffic tickets. Getting a SECRET security clearance means a background check, which includes a national agency check, public and financial records search, and depending what that reveals, maybe personal interviews.
What a 25B IT Specialist does.
     Install, operate, and perform unit maintenance on multi-functional/multi user information processing systems, peripheral equipment and auxiliary devices. Perform input/output data control and bulk data storage operations. Transfer data between information processing equipment and systems. Perform Battlefield Information Services (BIS) consisting of printing services, publication management, files, form management, reproduction services, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy Act (PA), unit distribution/official mail, correspondence management and classified document control. Troubleshoot automation equipment and systems to the degree required for isolation of malfunctions to specific hardware or software. Restore equipment to operation by replacement of line replaceable unit (LRU). Perform system administration functions for the tactical DMS. Install, operate, performs strapping, re-strapping, PMCS and unit level maintenance on COMSEC devices. Assist in the design, preparation, editing, and testing of computer programs. Draft associated technical documentation for program reference and maintenance purposes. Modify existing application packages using application, and operating system software, appropriate computer language commands and files.
     That includes helping non-computer literate people, and going back in after work to install something for a commander or a section that is working late on a big project. You may be a hero, and you may be just that invisible computer person that makes it work. To be that successful IT Specialist, that gets out of the Army and directly goes to work at three times the salary, you also have to do more on your own. Ten years ago, a 25B, preparing to leave the Army, wrote that he had been accepted by Homeland Security at $85,000 a year. Certifications must be obtained on your own, and they are necessary both in the Army and required in the civilian market. A+ N+ Sec + are stepping stones, then CCNA.

                                                 25B Troubleshooting.

                    25B setting up a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal)

                              25B Quick set up training in the field on a VSAT.

Where are 25B’s assigned. Anywhere and everywhere in the world there are US Army soldiers. That includes any type of unit, signal units, medical units, and combat units. There are 25B’s in every Brigade Combat Team, Rangers, and Special Forces (they are not Green Berets, but they assigned to Special Forces Groups).
     Understand this, Army IT Specialists are soldiers, first. Just as every soldier is a soldier first. Basic Combat Training is as intense and thorough now, as it has ever been. It is 12 to 14 hours days, six days a week for 10 weeks, converting people from civilian to soldier. Every soldier in the Army, regardless of job, must pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) once annually, and qualify with their rifle and go through the gas chamber once annually. Two big things that help soldiers get promoted are their ACFT score and weapons qualification score. You can be the smartest computer geek in your unit, but if your PT (Physical Training) score starts going down, you will see dumb guys being promoted ahead of you. The Army is absolutely serious about physical conditioning. The ACFT has one scoring system, no compensation for sex or age. Just, is this soldier fit to perform in combat.
     Some comments from 25B’s. One 25B Staff Sergeant, with seven years in the Army, wrote this; “It is a very rewarding job personally, but don’t expect to be seen or awarded for doing your job or going above and beyond within the field. You’re barely noticed because if you keep updates and software up to date, then you will never see users unless they need a password reset of their account is locked out.” He also said this; “Try to broaden your opportunities from the start and you will surpass your peers. This is a hard MOS to get promoted in, but I made staff Sergeant in 6 years by being certified, working hard, and going above and beyond to learn things I have never touched before.” Another said; “If you’re the most knowledgeable guy in your section, you’ll get 0 classes because they don’t want you to not be there. You’ll never PCS (Permanent Change of Station), because your unit doesn’t want you to leave. You’ll get calls to come back in because the commander needs some random stuff installed.” Another said that units seem to put a death grip on good 25B’s.
     The requirements to enlist for this MOS are meet the requirements to enlist in the Army, and be able to get a secret security clearance, and score above 95 on the ST (Skilled Technical) part of the ASVAB. The ST consists of the following tests; General Science, Verbal Expression, Mathematics Knowledge, and Mechanical Comprehension. A score of 95 is not very high. A person that will succeed in 25B should have GT and ST scores in the 120’s. Completion of high school algebra is also required, plus normal color vision. Other attributes you should also have to succeed in this MOS. You should be a computer person. Not just someone who uses a computer and thinks this would be a lucrative career, but a person fascinated with the computer and its operating system, someone familiar with TCP/IP who can setup a network with a router and multiple computers and printers. Comments from current and former 25B’s concerning AIT are that being a computer person before enlisting in the Army is a big plus in AIT. Some said that the Army teaches you everything you need to know in AIT, which is true, but if you’re not already computer literate, AIT is much harder. One 25B suggested buying 2 PC’s, some networking hardware (cisco) (2 routers and 2 switches) and start learning how they all work. Another said; “Don’t do that, download GNS3. If you’re smart enough to get the OS for the routers, you can set it up. Gives you access to multiple vendors, lets you emulate big hardware to do things like string together MPLS backbones, BGP peering, lets you generate traffic to send across the virtual devices and it has a great community.” Another said that may be true, but there’s nothing like handling the actual equipment. All said, study, study, and study in AIT.
     AIT for 25B will probably be more than 20 weeks for civilians reading this. About half of MOS 25L Cable Systems Operator/Maintainer is being consolidated into 25B. Those are the guys sitting next to a terminal placing a thousand little multi-colored wires in their proper place. My guess is that it is going to be 23 or 24 weeks. AIT at Fort Gordon appears to be somewhat more restrictive that AIT’s at other posts. Much more freedom than in basic, but almost no free time during the week. Several said that there are multiple (four to five) accountability formations a day, and to definitely be early to each. Three people to a room, with three bunks and wall lockers, but one desk and chair, and one bathroom. Everything has to be locked up during the day, so don’t bring an old desktop PC. Happy AIT students are those who like sitting in their room playing games or working on their computer. Another wrote about AIT; “I worked with computers before I came here so it was fairly easy for me, but there is a high failure rate here. My class started with 25 and only 12 made it to graduation on time. (Failing a block gets the student recycled back to another class.) It’s basic computer knowledge but if you don’t have experience with computers people have a hard time unless they bust their tail. Simplest advice I can give you is, keep your head down, stay on top of your security clearance and orders so that you will leave on time. I’m going to be a holdover for a while because I thought my staff sergeant would handle things without me bugging him, but they deal with a lot of people, so start reminding them from day one, need security clearance, orders and a sponsor to leave on time.”
     In the IT world, certifications and knowledge appear to be valued more that degrees, although for some government jobs, a bachelors degree is required. In the Army, certifications and knowledge are also highly valued in the 25B world, but to get promoted, the Army wants civilian education. Several said that they got 18 to 20 semester hours awarded for 25B AIT, but Purdue Global indicates, on their site, that they award 57 credits (1.5 quarter credits = 1 semester hour) for 25B AIT, which translates to about 38 semester hours. They require 90 quarter credits for an Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology degree.

                                  Sample 25B resume from a few years ago.

     My personal suggestion for 25B’s or anyone enlisting in the Army is take the airborne option, if you can get it, even if you have to wait a few weeks. Jumping out of airplanes is not only one of the biggest thrills in life, it puts you in an airborne unit, like the 82nd Airborne Division, or the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, or the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Alaska, or in a Special Forces Group, or in other airborne units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Airborne units are the most elite units to which you can be assigned after just going through regular training, plus the three week airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. Overall, combat units have better leaders, higher morale, and are better organized.
     MOS 25B is not always available, you may have to wait several weeks to get it. There are thousands of 25B’s in the Army, but many slots are taken up by high school seniors, who start their processing long before high school graduation. A person enlisting for MOS 25B, spending five years in the Army, and then getting out, should have a stack of IT professional certifications and at least a bachelors degree in computer information systems. If not, they were lazy.

                             25B AIT student learning to set up a main router.



     If you are solid with your faith in God, and the military interests you, you haven’t reached your 35th birthday and are qualified to enlist in the military, this may be a job to consider. You can serve God and the military as an Army Chaplain Assistant. Army Religious Affairs Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 56M, is a Chaplain Assistant.
     I’ve written before about Religion in the Army, but this is more in depth, specifically about becoming a Chaplain Assistant.
     Every unit in the army, in the size of battalion on up, has a Chaplain and a Chaplain’s Assistant. They are the “Unit Ministry Team”. The official army description of a Chaplain Assistant says that he or she is an assistant to the Chaplain, not an assistant Chaplain, but in reality, the Chaplain Assistant does much more than that.
     To become a Chaplain in the Army, a master’s degree in theology is required plus two years as a preacher, and have the recommendation of his dioceses, church, or denomination hierarchy. The Army has Protestant Chaplains of every denomination (Southern Baptist are the most numerous). There are Catholic Chaplains, Jewish Chaplains, and Muslim Chaplains. When ask if there would be humanist/atheist chaplains, an Army Chief of Chaplains replied, never. Humanism/atheism is regarded as a philosophy, not a religion. Same for Wiccans, which is not a recognized religious structure.
To become a Chaplain Assistant in the Army, you must meet the enlistment requirements, plus have two courses or one year in computer keyboard or pass a typing test at 25 words per minute, have a valid state drivers license, and be able to get a secret security clearance. Some other traits and qualities you should have; First, you should have a strong desire to help other people. In fact, that is almost a must, because that is what you will be doing. You should be firm in your belief in God, I never met a Chaplains Assistant who wasn’t, but I read a comment from one who wasn’t religious and didn’t like the job. You should be an outgoing people person who enjoys being around any and all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, a soldier is a soldier is a soldier. You should be a self-starter, comfortable working on your own, with little guidance from higher.
     The Chaplains’ job is to administer to the spiritual and emotional needs of soldiers and their families. At battalion level, the Chaplain is a captain and the assistant a sergeant, at brigade level, the Chaplain is a major and the assistant a staff sergeant. The Unit Ministry Team is part of the command group, the commander, deputy commander and command sergeant major, which means the Chaplain answers only to the commander. The Chaplain and the assistant set their own schedule. There is no job in the Army with more autonomy than a Chaplain Assistant.

Enlisted collar insignia for Army Chaplain Assistants.  They and the Chaplains are their own ‘Corps’.

     Chaplains are non-combatants, they don’t carry weapons. Chaplain’s Assistants are combatants and do carry weapons, because one of their jobs is to protect the Chaplain in combat areas.
     The job of a Chaplain Assistant in simple terms is to take care of his or her Chaplain. They take care of the Chaplains correspondence, maintain the office, and sign for all equipment, which in many units includes a vehicle which they must maintain. They control the budget for the Unit Ministry Team, schedule and coordinate the Chaplains activities and travel. They don’t always accompany the Chaplain. Chaplain Assistants do their own mingling with the troops. Every soldier in the battalion eventually knows who the Chaplain’s Assistant is, and most consider him or her someone to whom they can talk about personal matters, because when someone goes to see the Chaplain, they see the assistant first, so the assistant becomes a de facto counselor. Most Chaplain Assistants try to fit in anywhere in their unit. They do everything from participating in various training events to just hanging out with the buys. In most units, not only the Chaplain, but also the Commander and Command Sergeant Major rely on the Chaplain Assistant for input about unit morale or problems.
     Chaplain Assistants are the only soldiers authorized to receive and account for Chapel offerings. One Chaplain Assistant said that in his unit, he had church duty one weekend a month. One of his jobs is to set up religious services, which includes running weekend chapel services. Chaplain Assistants are not required to lead Bible study groups or prayer groups, but some do.

Sergeant William J. Jones, Chaplain Assistant for Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, gives invocation at a Non-commissioned officer induction ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in 2012.

     Any soldier can go see the Chaplain anytime. They don’t have to give a reason, just say, “I want to see the Chaplain”, and they are released to do so. Whatever a soldier or family member tells a Chaplain Assistant is in strict confidence, and the assistant may tell only his Chaplain. If a soldier tells a Chaplain Assistant, “I’m going to shoot the First Sergeant at the range tomorrow.”, he or she may only tell the Chaplain, or at the most, tell the First Sergeant that he better not go to the range tomorrow. The Chaplain makes his or her own judgement call on what to do with information they receive, and all I ever knew were pretty common sense individuals. When I was the Senior Drill of a coed basic training company, I was in the process of commanding right face, forward march to move to a range, when a Drill Sergeant walked up to me and said; “I’ve done fell in love with female trainee. I’m going to see the Chaplain”. No time to do anything but march the company to the range, but fortunately the Chaplain immediately notified the battalion commander, who relieved the Sergeant from drill duty, and got him away from the trainees.
There have been circumstances where there was just a Chaplains Assistant, and no Chaplain. I don’t think that situation is ever purposely created, but Chaplains go on leave, they go to schools, and they may get reassigned before a replacement arrives. One Chaplain Assistant, who was in that situation, was asked if he ever overheard any “Oh NO’s” during a confession. First, Chaplain Assistants don’t hear confessions. His answer was;
“Not overheard, this was directly to me. PFC, infantry type comes in and starts spilling his guts about his wife’s manic depression and princess complex, how she was going kill herself and their unborn child if he didn’t start coming home sooner (poor guy was just a private on the line, his time was out of his control). Wife refused to go to behavioral health, chaplain, or anybody because “there’s nothing wrong with me, you just don’t love me enough to be home”. At the time it was just me, no chaplain, so I just kind of handled it as best I could, and got him set up to go with her to her next OB/GYN checkup so he could drop subtle hints to the doc about her mental health issues. It was touch and go, but eventually she got onto some anti-psychotic drug once the baby was born. He came and found me later, once things calmed down, and was the most grateful guy I’ve ever seen. Thankful that his family was going to be alright.”

                          Chaplain Assistants setting up church services.

     A private in the infantry has a sergeant fire team leader, a staff sergeant squad leader, a sergeant first class platoon sergeant, a platoon leader, a first sergeant, and a company commander, all of whom have attended classes on how to spot soldiers with problems, and how to deal with different soldier personal problems, and several have probably had to deal with similar circumstances in the past, but sometimes young soldiers won’t tell their chain of command that they have problems. That’s when they go to see the Chaplain.
     Chaplain Assistants don’t get to pick the religion or denomination of their Chaplain. They may be assigned to a Southern Baptist, a Catholic, or a Jew, and there are a few Muslim Chaplains. The Chaplain could be a man or a woman. There are now many female Chaplains. There are also two types of Chaplains to which an Assistant may be assigned. One with no military experience, prior to becoming a Chaplain, and attending the three month Chaplain Basic Officer Course, and the other is one who has had prior military experience. If assigned to a Chaplain with no prior military experience, the assistant has an even bigger job in teaching the Chaplain “army stuff”, and making sure that the Chaplain has the proper army equipment and material to participate in whatever activity occurs.
     There are many Chaplains with prior military experience. I ran into a couple who were ex infantry officers, who served their initial commitment, left the Army, and came back as Chaplains. Some served as a Chaplain’s Assistants, left the Army, became qualified and came back in as Chaplains. One assistant said; “You can’t pull the wool over their eyes, because they know your job”.
     Chaplain Assistants may attend most army schools that other soldiers attend. Airborne, Jump Master, Air Assault, and some have completed Ranger School. Chaplains also may attend those schools. There have been several Chaplains who completed Ranger School. To combat soldiers, on the line, a Chaplain with a Ranger Tab is “one of us”. There have been several Chaplains who have gone through the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course and the Special Forces Qualification Course, earning a Green Beret, so they would be more readily accepted by the Green Berets to whom they would minister.
     Someone wanting to become an Army Chaplain Assistant would first attend the 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training. A few years ago, army basic training was as easy as it had ever been, it is now as hard as it has ever been. I’ve written a few stories about army basic training. Be prepared before you jump in. The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for Religious Affairs Specialist MOS 56M is seven weeks long at the Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It is one of the easiest AITs, no overnight field exercises. That doesn’t mean no PT. Everybody in the Army does PT (physical training). In AIT they study English grammar, spelling and punctuation, typing and clerical skills, preparing forms and correspondence in Army style, roles and responsibilities of Army Chaplains, and religious history and background. They learn how to set up religious services, coordinate the Chaplains travels with the ongoing operation, how to safeguard privileged communications, and how to perform in crisis management. They learn how to use advanced digital equipment, maintain reports, files, and administrative data for religious operations, also how to receive and safeguard Chapel Tithes and Offering Funds.
     You may have to wait for this MOS to become available. Not only is it a small field, but current soldiers can reclassify into 56M. People discover God in many different ways. As previously mentioned, I’ve met Chaplains who were former infantry officers, and a couple who were former enlisted men. Then there is the story of Jeff Struecker. If you haven’t heard of Jeff Struecker, google him, there’s lots of info. The book and movie “Black Hawk Down”, is about the battle of Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. Jeff was a sergeant, squad leader in the 150 man Ranger Company that went into the city, 140 were wounded with 18 killed, the fire was so intense, from so many directions, Jeff said that he thought he was going to die. He started talking to God. God answered. Jeff and a ranger buddy went on to win Best Ranger competition in 1996. He left the Army, completed divinity school, and returned as a Chaplin.

                                 Ranger Sergeant First Class Jeff Struecker

                                 Ranger Chaplain (Captain) Jeff Struecker

US Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina


     This was originally published in the Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, on April 13th 2020. The Belle Banner has since closed.
     I have often written about the trust and confidence the US Army places in the individual soldier, the enlisted men and women. That trust goes back to the very beginning of this country.
     In 1780, Thomas Stockton, a nephew of my sixth great grandfather, Thomas Stockton, was living close to the French Broad River in what is now Sevier County, Tennessee. He had spent three years exploring that “back country” before settling there. About 50 miles north of Thomas, his uncle William Stockton was living close to the Nolichucky River in Greene County, Tennessee. The settlements where Thomas and William Stockton lived, had at first been called illegal by the British government, because that was Cherokee land. They had leased their land from the Cherokee, and finally fought them for it, until it was accepted by the government. So, most of them were Whigs, American patriots opposed to the British Monarchy.
     On the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in what is now York County, South Carolina, Newberry Stockton, brother to my fifth great grandfather, Thomas, was living along Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek. His neighbors were his two sisters, Jemima Lattimore and Rachel Lattimore with their families, also his aunts, Martha Ann Welchel, and Hannah Goudylock with their families. More family, including Newberry’s uncle, Samuel Stockton, and his aunt Elizabeth, whose husband William Whiteside had died in 1777, lived about 25 miles north, in North Carolina.
     After the British lost the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, they turned their attention to the south. On the day after Christmas 1779, General Henry Clinton, the overall commander of British troops in North America, with his second in command Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis, sailed south with 8,500 troops and 5,000 sailors on 90 troop ships and 14 warships. After six weeks of fighting, on May 12th 1780, American Major General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston, South Carolina to the British. It was one of the worst American losses and a great British victory.
     During the summer of 1780, groups from the frontier, west of the mountains, began making excursions across the mountains and engaging loyalist groups. Isaac Shelby lead one group and joined another group, led by Colonel Charles McDowell. They captured Fort Thickety on the Pacolet River, and aided in a Patriot victory at Musgrove Mill.
     The Overmountain Men, as they were called, were true pioneers, used to living off the land, often having to hunt for food. Almost without exception they carried what came to be known as the Kentucky Rifle. The Kentucky Rifle was made in America, and was the first with a rifled barrel, which greatly increased its accuracy. It was made in calibers from .28 to .50, with a 44 inch barrel, and was deadly accurate to over 200 yards. The Overmountain Men were excellent shots, used to having to shoot game, on the run. The loyalists carried the “British Brown Bess” musket, which was a large caliber, smooth bore, only accurate out to about 50 to 60 yards. It was devastating when it hit, but unpredictable.
     On August 16th 1780, at Camden, South Carolina, Lord Cornwallis’ forces routed the American forces of Major General Horatio Gates, who had defeated the British at Saratoga. Cornwallis’ intention was then to move into North Carolina. South Carolina appears to have been almost equally divided between American patriots, and those loyal to the British Crown. So, enlisting forces of loyalists was not hard for the British, in South Carolina. Lord Cornwallis sent British Major Patrick Ferguson to organize a force of loyalists to protect his west flank, as he moved his army toward North Carolina. Major Ferguson had recruited and trained a very effective loyalist force of about 1,100.
     By fall, most of the Overmountain Men had to return home to harvest crops. Colonel McDowell stayed behind with about 160 men, to continue harassing the loyalists, but when he ran into Major Ferguson’s loyalists, he was greatly outnumbered and had to retreat back over the mountains. One of McDowell’s group, who happened to be a cousin of Isaac Shelby, was captured by Ferguson. Major Ferguson sent him home with the message that if they didn’t lay down their weapons and stop fighting, and “declare for the crown”, he would cross the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste to the country with fire and sword. Upon receiving the message, Shelby rode 40 miles to Watauga to consult with John Sevier, and the two decided to raise a force, go east over the mountains and strike Ferguson, before he could get to them. These were American Frontiersmen, temperamental and cantankerous backwoodsmen, who definitely did not “declare for the crown”.
     Shelby raised 240 men from Sullivan County and John Sevier gathered another 240 from Washington. William Stockton was in the John Sevier group. I believe that must have been young William, who would have been about 30 at that time, whereas his father, William, who was a brother to my sixth great grandfather Thomas, would have been about 60. Colonel William Campbell brought 400 from southwest Virginia. They came together at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River on September 25th. Lead had been mined at nearby Bumpass Cove for ammunition, Sullivan County merchant John Adair volunteered funds for the expedition, and women prepared clothing and food for the long march. Black powder for the expedition was manufactured by Mary Patton at the Patton mill along nearby Powder Branch. On September 26th, after a fiery sermon by Reverend Samuel Doak, they started across the Blue Ridge Mountains. It took three days to cross the mountains, in which they met with Colonel McDowell and his group, bringing their numbers to just over 1,000.

     On September 30th they spent the day and the night at the McDowell family plantation at Quaker Meadows (Morganton, North Carolina), where they also joined with 300 Carolina Patriots led by Colonels Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston. In that group were sons of sisters of my sixth great grandfather Thomas, Elizabeth’s sons Davis and John Whiteside, and Martha Ann’s sons Davis, Francis, John, and William Welchel. That brought the force to about 1,400. On October 1st they camped on top of Bedford Hill and chose an overall leader. There was argument, at first, but then Shelby suggested that Campbell, who commanded the largest group, be given overall command. Cleveland, McDowell and Sevier agreed.
     Major Ferguson had camped at Gilbert Town (Rutherfordton, North Carolina), but when he got reports of “a swarm of backwoodsmen” he turned east to get closer to Lord Cornwallis’ British regulars. On October 4th the Overmountain Men reached Gilbert Town to find that Ferguson had gone east. By then they were so tired that they were no longer capable of hot pursuit, but they pushed on reaching Cowpens on October 6th, where they found a loyalists’ cow herd, which they slaughtered and feasted. They had brought very little food with them and only a small bag of corn for the horses, which had to eat grass found along the way. While at Cowpens they learned that Ferguson had camped at Kings Mountain, which was a flat top hill shaped like a footprint with the highest point at the heel, a narrow instep, and a broad rounded toe. The Loyalists camped on a ridge west of Kings Pinnacle, the highest point on Kings Mountain.
     Upon learning Ferguson’s location, the most weakened members were left behind, and the remaining force of about 900 set off in the rainy darkness for Kings Mountain. Many were on foot, but swore to keep up with those on horses. They marched through the night, stopping the next morning when outriders captured a pair of loyalists, who described Kings Mountain. They reached the western side of the mountain about noon on October 7th. They tied their horses to trees and moved forward on foot.
     By around 3:00 PM they had everyone in position, forming a U around the mountain, with Shelby, Sevier, Williams, and Cleveland on the north side, and Campbell, Winston, and McDowell on the south side.
     Loyalist officer Alexander Chesney later wrote that he didn’t know the Patriots were anywhere near them until the shooting started. William Campbell told his men to “shout like hell and fight like the devil”, and two companies opened fire on the loyalists. Both Campbell and Shelby tried to charge up the mountain, but were driven back. The mountain was hard to scale, but it was heavily wooded, providing cover for the mountain men, then they realized that the loyalists shooting downhill were consistently shooting high. That, I believe, is when those “backwoods” Mountain men and their Kentucky Rifles took over. The fire from the Overmountain men was described as devastating. After an hour, Major Ferguson, who wore a colored hunting shirt so his men could always locate him, was hit several times and knocked dead from his horse, that is when the loyalists ran back to their tents and tied handkerchiefs on their gun barrels, trying to surrender, but the backwoodsmen, now on them, continued to kill loyalists, until the leaders finally got control and stopped the killing. The final result was loyalists 157 killed, 163 wounded so severely they were left on the field, and 698 captured. The Patriots suffered 28 killed and 62 wounded.

     Colonel James Williams from South Carolina was Killed, as was John Sevier’s brother Robert. Davis Whiteside, whose mother was Elizabeth, sister to my sixth great grandfather, Thomas, died from his wounds, and Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek, runs off of Kings Mountain. The battle was literally in the back yards of the Stockton family in South Carolina.

     Some have written that Kings Mountain was a turning point in the war. I agree, because instead of continuing on to North Carolina, Cornwallis turned back south, albeit temporarily. Hardly more than a week after being threatened, a force that had not previously existed, came over the mountains and wiped out his 1,000 strong western flank security. In January 1781, a force of 1,000 of his British regulars, under Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton met an equal force of the Continental Army, under Lieutenant Colonel William Washington at Cowpens. Tarleton barely escaped with his life, leaving behind 839 wounded, killed, or captured. In March 1781, Cornwallis did defeat American General Green’s forces at Gulliford Court House (Greensboro, North Carolina), he then moved into Virginia thinking that he would find the same loyalist support for the crown, as in South Carolina. He did not, and in October 1781, a year after King’s Mountain, he was forced to surrender to General Washington, at Yorktown, Virginia, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

A Loyd Branson painting of the gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals




     Soldiers who purposely engage the enemy in combat, those who close with the enemy to kill or capture him by fire and maneuver, get shot at, and return fire, try to overcome fear, try to accomplish an objective and keep people from getting killed, are first the infantry. The infantry enlistment MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) is 11X, then in training they become a 11B Light Weapons Infantryman or a 11C Heavy Weapons Infantryman (mortars). Then there is Armor, MOS 19K, who rides in practically indestructible tanks, the Artillery, MOS 13B, is a long way from the fighting, and Cavalry Scouts’, MOS 19D, job is not to engage, but find what the enemy is doing and report it, but there are other soldiers who travel with the infantry when the infantry goes into combat, those are the COMBAT ENGINEERS, MOS 12B.
     Combat Engineers are as close to being Infantry as you can get, and not be Infantry. Combat Engineers are trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the US Army Engineer Center and School, plus the Engineer Museum, which contains the Engineer Regimental Room. Infantry soldiers are trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Both are trained in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning trainees stay in the same company for basic combat training (BCT) and advanced individual training (AIT). Engineer OSUT is 14 weeks long. Infantry OSUT is 22 weeks. Airborne and light infantry squads and engineer squads have identical organizations, two 4 man teams each led by a Sergeant, with a Staff Sergeant Squad Leader. The secondary mission of combat engineers is to perform as infantry, if necessary. The first eight weeks, of engineer OSUT, is basic training, which is normally ten weeks, but OSUT companies don’t clean and turn in weapons and equipment, practice and have graduation, and process out. They have a simple one day completion ceremony, after the end of the Forge exercise, and then continue on with their MOS training. Infantry soldiers’ study and practice infantry tactics and weapons, whereas combat engineer soldiers’ study and practice constructing defensive positions like concertina wire, log and rock obstacles, and tank traps. Then they learn how breach those things, how to blow holes in defensive positions, buildings and doors. They learn how to build fixed and floating bridges, and how to blow them up, and if boats are used they also fall under the engineers. They spend a lot of time on explosives, how to set charges in various conditions. Then they study and practice one of the primary uses of combat engineers in Iraq and Afghanistan – route clearance, in other words, how to find and eliminate IED’s (improvised explosive devices).

Combat Engineers attach a time fuse to a detonating-cord firing system to practice detonating a bomb remotely.

     Combat Engineer soldiers who stay in the Army will return to Fort Leonard Wood for various PME (Professional Military Education) schools. Sergeants, return to attend an eight week Advanced Leaders Course, Staff Sergeants, return again for a 10 week Senior Leaders Course. Officers who are commissioned into the Corps of Engineers attend a three month basic officer leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood, then after about four years of service they return on a permanent change of station (PCS) to attend a six month Captains Career Course. Combat Engineer sergeants and officers may return to attend the very tough 28 day (continuous) Sapper Leaders Course. It is considered to be the engineer’s version of Ranger School, although engineers also attend Ranger School. Graduates of the Sapper Leaders Course get a “Sapper” tab on the left shoulder of their uniform, just like Rangers. A “Sapper” is a combat engineer soldier who is with the front line infantry troops. In Vietnam we had enemy sappers that could sneak through the perimeter wire and leave charges (bombs). We now train soldiers to do just that.

            Combat Engineer placing a breaching charge in concertina wire.

     I occasionally had an Engineer Squad attached to my Rifle Platoon, usually it was for them to blow something up, like bridges, buildings or obstacles. On a training exercise on the Salisbury Plain in England we were to dig foxholes and set up a defense. Immediately under the grass, on Salisbury Plain in England, is chalk, it was like trying to dig in concrete, with a fold out entrenching tool. Our engineers brought in a backhoe and scoped out foxholes. Then it rained for two days and the holes became lakes. Every Brigade Combat Team now has an Engineer Battalion, which consists of a Headquarters Company, two Engineer Companies, one of which is usually a “Sapper” company, a Signal Company, a Military Intelligence Company, and a Chemical detachment. There are also separate engineer battalions and brigades, and Ranger battalions have a few combat engineers. Two of the ten sergeants on a Special Forces A Detachment are combat engineers, but they go through a lot more kinky training to become a Green Beret.
     Combat Engineers carry things into combat and field training exercises that the infantry doesn’t, such as lots of C4 explosive, lots of det cord, blasting caps, duct tape, and even IV bags, which are used to make a water impulse explosive, to open a door. Engineers will blow holes in an enemy’s defensive perimeter so the infantry can run through and attack. They will also put up concertina wire and help the infantry construct defensive positions. If necessary, the engineers can call in help, such as backhoes and bulldozers, and temporary bridges. The engineers may build a better defensive position than the infantry, but the infantry will utilize it better, although they overlap, each are experts in different attributes of engaging the enemy.

                                               Some happy infantrymen.

     After the 14 week engineer OSUT, 12B’s go directly to a combat engineer unit. Hopefully, they go to airborne school first and go to an airborne combat engineer unit. The 82nd Airborne Division has three engineer battalions, one in each Brigade Combat Team (BCT), plus there is the airborne 27th Engineer Battalion on Fort Bragg, under XVIII Airborne Corps. There is one battalion in the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Vicenza, Italy, and one in the 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Anchorage, Alaska.
     Combat Engineers are combat troops, they do not have a “job” to go to after PT in the morning. A typical day for a 12B, in garrison, is PT (physical training) first, then personal hygiene, get in uniform, eat breakfast, then be in formation around 8:45 to 9:00 AM. Then to what ever training is on for the day. Combat Engineers, infantry, armor, and artillery train. Combat Engineers get to blow up a lot of stuff.
     Advancement in rank in Combat Engineers is not quite as fast as in the infantry, but pretty good. A hard worker should make Sergeant within around three years.
     Belle, Missouri’s own, Jeremy Compton has made a career of being an Army Engineer, and is now at the pinnacle of rank, in the Army. He is currently the Command Sergeant Major of the 46th Engineer Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Command Sergeant Major Jeremy Compton checking training from a helicopter.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is a proud and respected corps.

                                            Combat engineers breaching.