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.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri August 2nd 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Our religion has been under attack from many sources. Some are attempting to use the separation of church and state as a vehicle to ban religion. The military has also been under attack, but so far has succeeded in avoiding showdowns. The Army in particular, has maintained a low profile, and tried to stay out of the limelight. The Army and the Marines are the only services that have combat soldiers. (Except Navy SEALS) Those soldiers go into combat to kill or capture an enemy, and may be killed themselves in the process. The phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes” came out of World War II. No one is sure who said it first, but it was used several times. Counting the National Guard and Army Reserves, there are over 2,800 Chaplains in the Army. Every battalion in the Army has a chaplain, who is a Captain, and a Sergeant Chaplain’s Assistant. At Brigade Headquarters the Chaplain is a Major, with a Staff Sergeant Chaplain’s Assistant, and at Division level, the Chaplain is a Lieutenant Colonel, with a Sergeant First Class, as NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) of the Division Chaplain’s Office. Many Army ceremonies start and end with a prayer. During my time in line units, the Chaplain was in and out all time. Especially in a combat area, they always seemed to be good natured, happy people who could boost morale. The famous “Patton Prayer” in World War II, didn’t happen exactly as portrayed in the movie “Patton”. General George S Patton, Jr, who cursed like a bar room sailor, was a devout Episcopalian who regularly attended service and read the Bible daily. In his discussions with his Chaplain about a prayer to ask for good weather, he said that God was a key element in victory, and that God had to be included.
The Army today is a much “cleaner” army than the one I left, all volunteer, all high school graduates, with advanced education pushed hard after they enlist, mostly clean records, and in general “good people”.
To be a Chaplain in the Army, the individual must have a masters degree in theology, and 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, Muslim Chaplains, and this spring, under pressure from liberal activists, the Army announced that it would consider the idea of Humanist Chaplains. Chaplains are assigned, after considering the personal desires of the individual, by the Army Chief of Chaplains, who is a Major General (two stars), but as mentioned above every battalion sized unit has a chaplain. A unit may have a chaplain of any religion or denomination. After being accepted by the Army, a minister is commissioned as a First Lieutenant or a Captain, depending on experience, and attends a 3 month Chaplains Basic Officer Course at the Chaplaincy Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. If the Chaplain is going to an airborne unit, they then attend Airborne School. Many Chaplains have gone to Ranger School, and there are several Chaplains, in Special Forces, who have completed the Special Forces Qualification Course to earn their Green Beret. In a combat unit, a Chaplain with a Ranger Tab, is accepted as “one of us”, and even more so in Special Forces units, if the Chaplain is wearing a Green Beret.
The Chaplains’ job is to administer to the spiritual and emotional needs of soldiers and their families. In doing that, the Chaplain becomes the primary advisor and counselor in matters of religion, morals, and morale. Any soldier can go see his Chaplain anytime. The first person the soldier sees is the Chaplain’s Assistant. He or she is like a screener, because if the soldier has specific problems that can be handled better by someone else, such as financial problems, the assistant may connect them with specialists in that area. The Chaplain’s Assistant may reveal what is told to him, only to the Chaplain. What a soldier tells a Chaplain is confidential between the soldier and the Chaplain. However, most Chaplains, in my experience, are pretty common sensed people. When I was a drill sergeant, in charge of a company of half males and half females, a staff sergeant came to me one morning, as I was moving the company to a range, and said; “I’m going to see the Chaplain, I’ve done fell in love with a trainee” ,turned and walked away. I was obligated to tell my commanders, but the company was already moving. In that case, the Chaplain went straight to the Battalion Commander, who immediately relieved the sergeant from drill sergeant duty, and got him away from the trainees.
Anyone can enlist to be a Chaplain’s Assistant. They are not Assistant Chaplains, they are assistants to the Chaplain. The Chaplain is a non-combatant, does not carry a weapon. The Chaplain’s Assistant is a combatant and does carry a weapon, because one of the assistant’s duties is to protect the Chaplain, in the field. That is Army MOS (military occupational specialty) 56M. It requires a four year enlistment, one year or two courses in computer keyboard, or pass a typing test at 25 words per minute, a valid state drivers licenses good for at least a year after enlistment, and be able to get a Secret security clearance. In other words, nothing bad, except a minor traffic ticket. The future 56M should be comfortable and solid with his or her faith. I never met one who wasn’t, but I’ve read of assistants who weren’t particularly religious, and did not like the job. He or she should be an outgoing people person, who enjoys talking and dealing with people. The Chaplain and the Chaplain’s Assistant are the Unit Ministry Team, and the troops look at the assistant as the junior member of that team. They will approach the assistant, especially in a combat area, and ask for encouraging words.
The future 56M attends Basic Combat Training with everyone else, from here that would be at Fort Leonard Wood, then seven weeks of 56M AIT(advanced individual training) 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.
In actual practice, the Chaplain’s Assistant often works like an assistant Chaplain. He doesn’t preach, but he does everything else, including counselling and consoling. Many young soldiers will confide in the assistant before the Chaplain, about everything from financial trouble, alcohol, drugs, to infidelity. Many troops look at the Chaplain’s Assistant as an easy job, and physically it usually is, but they don’t envy the assistant when he is setting up multiple memorial services in Iraq and Afghanistan. In combat Chaplain’s like to see as many troops as possible, and the assistants job is to be there protecting his Chaplain, but one of the assistants duties is to coordinate with the units they are visiting, to insure that he doesn’t get his Chaplain in real danger. However, they do like to be with the troops when the troops are in danger. Chaplain Phillip Nichols was killed in Vietnam in October 1970, by a concealed explosive device. Chaplain Tim Vacok was critically injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006, and died in 2009, as a result of those injuries. In August 2010, Chaplain Dale Goetz, hitched a ride on an up-armored Humvee, with a supply convoy going from one Forward Operating Base to another in southern Afghanistan, where he counseled soldiers. A roadside bomb killed all six in the vehicle. A Chaplain’s Assistant, Staff Sergeant Christopher Stout, was killed in Afghanistan in July 2010. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the assistants often led drivers in prayer, before a convoy. One Chaplain’s Assistant in Afghanistan, who already had two tours in Iraq, said that to be a successful Chaplain’s Assistant you must be willing to sacrifice your personal time and get to know as much as you can about your soldiers and the problems they face. He has apparently accepted the responsibility of being someone in whom the soldiers can confide.
This is a good Army job for someone solid in their faith, but who also wants to experience the military.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri in three installments November 29th, December 6th and 13th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Occasionally I like to throw some history into this column. Looking back at World War II history, one might think that there was some divine intervention into the placing of our great Generals, Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton into position at the same time. Perhaps, but if so God had some help. Since George Washington is considered the father of our country, George C. Marshall is surely the father of our Army, at least the modern Army. George Marshall’s history is known to all career army soldiers, but to very few civilians under the age of 70.
George Catlett Marshall, Jr., was born to middle class parents in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, December 31st, 1880. Historically after every war, the United States has reduced funding its military to the point of rendering it ineffective. When the Spanish – American War broke out in 1898, the Army was quadrupled in size to around 100,000 soldiers. George C Marshall graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1901, and as part of that military buildup, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army in February 1902. He served as an infantry platoon leader and company commander, attended the army schools and served as an instructor. He graduated first in the Infantry-Cavalry Course in 1907 and first in the Army Staff College in 1908. He served a couple tours in the Philippines in the guerilla wars, and returned to the United States in 1916. Again, when World War I started in Europe the US was totally unprepared for war. In August 1914, as Britain was preparing to enter the war to stop Germany, H.G. Wells wrote an article in the British newspaper The Daily News titled “The War that will End War”. It was picked up worldwide as “The war to end all wars”.
The war in Europe had been under way for about 30 months, when the United States declared war in April 1917. The United States only had divisions on paper. George Marshall was assigned to the staff to help organize the first US combat division, which became the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One). Marshall’s commanders commented that he had the ability to reduce complex problems to simple answers.
General John J (Blackjack) Pershing, a former farm boy from Laclede, Missouri, was made Commander of American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. The French and the British had little confidence in American troops, and in fact initially insisted they simply be integrated into the British forces, so General Pershing was under pressure to get American units trained. He conducted unannounced inspections of the training, including one with the French President, which was a disaster. On October 3rd, 1917, General Pershing again inspected the 1st Division, after which he called the Division Commander, Major General Sibert, and his staff out and “just gave them hell”. As Pershing turned to leave, a tall major who had been serving as the division acting chief of staff spoke up, angrily protesting Pershing’s unfairness. Pershing was in no mood to listen and began to walk away. Suddenly, he felt the major’s hand grabbing his arm. “General Pershing,” the major said, “there’s something to be said here and I think I should say it because I’ve been here the longest.” Pershing turned back and gave the impertinent young officer a cold, appraising glance. “What have you got to say?”
A torrent of facts poured forth: the promised platoon manuals that never arrived and had set back training; the inadequate supplies that left men walking around with gunnysacks on their feet; the inadequate quarters that left troops scattered throughout the countryside, sleeping in barns for a penny a night; the lack of motor transport that forced troops to walk miles to the training grounds. Finally, the deluge subsided. Pershing looked at the major and calmly said: “You must appreciate the troubles we have.” The major replied, “Yes, I know you do, General, I know you do. But ours are immediate and every day and have to be solved before night.” Major George C Marshall’s friends offered their condolences, because they were sure that was the end of his career. Instead he was moved up to AEF Headquarters to help plan training and operations, and when General Pershing became Chief of Staff of the Army in 1921 he made Major George Marshall his Aide-de-camp.
It was there, in France, that Marshall first met and observed the rapid rising Colonel George Patton. Patton had graduated from West Point in 1909. Patton organized and commanded the tank school, in France, and finally commanded the Tank Brigade. Patton had come to France as General Pershing’s Aide. General Pershing was engaged to Patton’s sister Nita. Pershing’s wife and three daughters had died in a house fire at the Presidio of San Francisco, while Pershing was commanding the 8th Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas preparing to go into Mexico after Poncho Villa. Only Pershing’s six year old son survived the fire. General Pershing was Chief of Staff of the Army from 1921 to September 1924, when he retired.
It was in France, that Marshall saw George Patton personally teach the soldiers how to drive the tanks and maneuver them, organize them into battalions and finally a brigade, then “on foot”, lead them into battle. George Marshall also rose to the rank of Colonel in World War I, was reverted to his permanent rank of Captain on June 30th and promoted to major on July 1st, 1920. The same for George Patton on the same days.
After World War I, the war to end all wars, the US congress reduced the authorized strength of the Army to 12,000 commissioned officers and 125,000 enlisted men, and funded the War Department at about half of its minimum request. The Army was stabilized at that level until 1936. Many units existed only on paper, and those that did have troops were at less than one third strength. There were practically no promotions. Many officers spent years as lieutenants or captains. Some infantry units trained close to their barracks with sticks instead of rifles, and yelled “bang”.
George Marshall was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1923. After General Pershing retired, George Marshall worked as a key planner and writer in the War Department. He commanded the 15th Infantry Regiment for three years in China, and taught at the Army War College. In 1927 he was assigned as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he initiated major changes to modernize command and staff procedures.
When Lieutenant Colonel George Marshall arrived at Fort Benning, he briefly met Major Dwight Eisenhower, who had just completed his command of a battalion. One of Marshall’s instructors in the Infantry School was Major Omar Bradley, Marshall called him “quiet, unassuming, capable, with sound common sense. Absolute dependability. Give him a job and forget it.” Eisenhower, from Kansas, and Bradley, from Missouri, had graduated together from West Point in 1915, the “class the stars fell on”, 36 percent of their class would become general officers. Early in his career, Eisenhower had commanded a tank unit and became a big proponent of tank warfare, and as such he became good friends with George Patton.
There is an old army rumor that George C Marshall had a “little black book” of promising young officers to keep his eye on for future promotions and jobs. None was ever found, and I doubt that the list existed anywhere but in George Marshall’s mind. While he was aide-de-camp to General Pershing, he listed his qualities of the successful leader, in the following order. Good common sense, have studied your profession, physically strong, cheerful and optimistic, display marked energy, extreme loyalty, and determined. He consciously considered character over intellect, for he feared that the United States would forever be unprepared for war, thereby forcing Army officers to lead un-trained and poorly equipped units into battle. He decided that the American military needed officers who were optimistic, quick thinkers, with common sense, and who were aggressive, and took immediate action. He wrote that leaders who looked at the negative side of things should be removed immediately. He definitely valued effectiveness over appearance.
After the Infantry School, George Marshall commanded an infantry brigade in Georgia, was promoted to full Colonel in September 1933, and commanded Fort Moultrie, South Carolina and District I of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1936, and commanded the 5th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division at Vancouver, Washington, which also made him Post Commander and responsible for 35 CCC camps in Oregon and Washington.
In July 1938, Brigadier General George Marshall was assigned to the War Plans Division in Washington DC, and subsequently reassigned as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army. On November 14, 1938, Marshall and eleven other senior government officials gathered at the White House. That was five days after the Nazis launched nationwide attacks, in Germany, on Jews and their shops and synagogues. The subject was whether to commission the building of ten thousand war planes. That was huge since the Army Air Corps, at that time, only had 160 fighter planes and 50 bombers. Marshall saw the plan as not considering the time and great amount of funding necessary to recruit and train aircrews, to build and staff the bases they would need, and to manufacture the ammunition and bombs, if war came. No one else, at the White House meeting, seemed very concerned, and when President Franklin D Roosevelt polled the room the others present were agreeable and “very soothing”. When asked by the President “Don’t you think so too”, Marshall responded “I am sorry, Mr. President, but I don’t agree with that at all”. The President gave him a “startled” look, thinking that Marshall would be pleased, since he had been pushing for increased military readiness, but Marshall wanted a balanced plan. Again, many believed that Marshall had ended his career, but when General Craig, the Chief of Staff, retired on July 1st, 1939, Marshall was made Acting Chief of Staff, and on September 1st, 1939 George C Marshall was promoted to General and sworn in as Chief of Staff of the Army. Coincidently that was the same day that the German Army invaded Poland.
One of General George C Marshall’s first missions as Chief of Staff of the Army, was a trip to Brazil. There was worry about a growing pro-German sentiment within the Brazilian military. Marshall secured agreements, from Brazil, to freely move American forces by air and sea across the South Atlantic. Colonel Matthew Ridgway, from the War Plans Division, accompanied Marshall on that trip. They spent their hours aboard ship discussing how to get funding for the military buildup, and how to find and promote good officers to lead that growing force. Even before he became chief of staff of the Army, Marshall had started thinking about how to get rid of the “dead weight” in the Army’s senior ranks. He considered most of the senior officers too old and too set in their minds with outmoded procedures, to lead a new Army in the war they would surely face.
On May 10th, 1940 Germany invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. On the morning of May 13th the Luftwaffe conducted the largest air strike in history, in moving three divisions into France, where French troops ran from the battlefield, and in London Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned, after having tried to appease Hitler. Winston Churchill was sworn in as Prime Minister. President Franklin D Roosevelt was still trying to avoid war, telling the American people that he would not send American boys to war in Europe.
Thomas E Ricks, wrote in “The Generals” that on the morning of May 13th, 1940; “Marshall spent the morning with Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., explaining the nature and rationale of a major increase in the size of the military. Then, joined by War Department officials, who made it clear to Marshall and Morgenthau that he “was not desirous of seeing us”, as Marshall recalled. Roosevelt disliked the Army expansion proposal and tried to quell dissent by calling an end to the session prematurely. Morgenthau said that he supported the increase, but “the President was exceedingly short with him,” Marshall said. When Morgenthau finished, FDR shrugged him off: “Well, you filed your protest.” Morgenthau asked if the President would hear out Marshall. Roosevelt responded that he didn’t need to listen to the new Army chief, because, he said airily, “I know exactly what he would say. There is no necessity for me to hear him at all.” Marshall’s two civilian overseers – Secretary of War Harry Woodring and Assistant Secretary Louis Johnson – sat mutely, offering Marshall no support. Roosevelt ended the meeting. Marshall stood, but instead of leaving the room he walked over to the President and looked down on him. “Mr. President may I have three minutes? He asked. “Of course, General Marshall,” Roosevelt said. He did not invite Marshall to sit back down. When the President started to say something else, Marshall interrupted him, fearing that otherwise he would never get another word in. Marshall spoke in a torrent, spewing facts about military requirements, organization, and costs. “If you don’t do something . . . and do it right away, I don’t know what is going to happen to this country,” he told Roosevelt. “You have got to do something, and you’ve got to do it today.” He finally had the President’s attention. The next day the President asked Marshall to draw up as soon as possible a list of what the military needed”.
After World War I, George Patton had commanded a tank unit, served in staff positions, attended Army schools, and served in Washington, DC. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1934 and assigned to Hawaii, where in 1937 he wrote a paper, with which some have called “chilling accuracy” about a Japanese attack on Hawaii. In July 1938, he was promoted to Colonel and given command of the 5th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Clark, Texas. He thoroughly enjoyed training the regiment for war, but six months later, he was called back to Washington, DC to command Fort Myer. The reason for the transfer was that he was to replace Colonel Jonathan Wainwright, who was in debt as a result of the social expenses connected with the job. Patton was independently wealthy and enjoyed an outside family income and could afford the post, but he was dejected and demoralized at having to leave his command. The real reason, for his move, was that George C Marshall wanted Patton close to Washington, DC. Marshall said; “Patton is by far the best tank man in the Army”. When George C Marshall was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army, Marshall’s house at Fort Myer was being remodeled and repainted, so he stayed with George Patton, whose family was away at the time. Patton served as an umpire on the giant Louisiana Maneuvers in 1940, and as a result helped develop an armored force. The force was formed, and Patton was made commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division. Patton was in charge of training the division. He was promoted to Brigadier General on October 2nd, made Acting Division Commander in November, and on April 4th, 1941, was promoted to Major General and made Commanding General of the 2nd Armored Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Major Dwight Eisenhower was appointed Aide-de-camp to General Douglas MacArthur, when MacArthur was Chief of Staff of the Army in 1932. He accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines in 1935, where he served as assistant military adviser to the Philippine government in developing their army. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1936 and returned to the states in 1939. He commanded an infantry battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, was promoted to Colonel in March 1941, and made Chief of Staff of the Third Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and after successfully participating in the Louisiana Maneuvers, he was promoted to Brigadier General on September 29th, 1941.
Major Omar Bradley left the Infantry School to teach at West Point. He then attended the Army War College. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1936 and worked at the War Department. When George C Marshall was made Chief of Staff, Omar Bradley worked directly for Marshall. In February 1941, Bradley was promoted to Brigadier General, bypassing Colonel, and given command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning.
Once, in discussing the new generation of commanders, Marshall said; “I’m going to put these men to the severest tests which I can devise in time of peace. I’m going to start shifting them into jobs of greater responsibility than they hold now . . . . Then I’m going to change them, suddenly, without warning, to jobs even more burdensome and difficult . . . . Those who stand up under the punishment will be pushed ahead. Those who fail are out at the first sign of faltering.”
In the summer and fall of 1941, it has been estimated that, as Chief of Staff, Marshall forced about 600 officers, from general to captain, out of the Army, either retired or discharged. Marshall promoted “can do’rs” and fired “can’ts”. In March 1939, BG Charles Bundel, Commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas told George Marshall that it would take 18 months to update the complete set of Army Training Manuals. Marshall offered him three, then four, Bundel still said that it couldn’t be done. Marshall then said, “I’m sorry then you are relieved”. He was replaced by BG Lesley J McNair, who got the job done on time.
When Marshall testified before the Senate Military Affairs Committee in 1940, which was questioning his purging and firings, he answered; “You have to lead men in war by requiring more from the individual than he thinks he can do. You have to lead men in war by bringing them along to endure and to display qualities of fortitude that are beyond the average man’s thought of what he should be expected to do. You have to inspire them when they are hungry and exhausted and desperately uncomfortable and in great danger; and only a man of positive characteristics of leadership, with the physical stamina that goes with it, can function under those conditions.”
Once the war started, there was even less sympathy for the “can’t do’rs”. Marshall once ordered a general to France immediately, and was informed that the man said that he couldn’t leave immediately because his wife was away and his household goods weren’t packed. Astounded, Marshall called the general, whom he had known for years, as a friend. “My god man were at war and you are a general”. “Well I’m sorry, the man said. “I’m sorry too,” Marshall concluded, “but you will be retired tomorrow”.
Major General George S Patton trained his 2nd Armored Division, with an intensity that had not previously been seen in the US Army. His men said he looked like a general but talked like a top sergeant. His vulgar and earthy talks to his men earned him the nickname “old blood and guts”. Staff Sergeant Pullen said, while they were at Fort Benning, “He has the damndest way of showing up when things go wrong. He dashes leg-long into a creek, gets a stalled tank and its wretched crew out of the water, and back into the line of march practically by the power of his curses.” He staged a mass exercise in which 1,000 tanks and vehicles were driven from Columbus, Georgia, to Panama City, Florida, and back. He repeated the exercise with his entire division of 1,300 vehicles the next month. The New York Times wrote articles about him, and his picture was on the cover of Life magazine. After a very large exercise designed to test the effectiveness of an armored force, in which Patton’s division far out performed anything the designers of the exercise dreamed of, executing 48 hours’ worth of planned objectives in only nine, he marched the division back to Fort Benning, and wrote an order complimenting his officers and men on their fine performance. The order was published on December 6th, 1941. The next morning the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war.
On December 12th 1941, five days after the Japanese attack, Brigadier General Dwight D Eisenhower sat in his office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, writing a letter to George Patton asking for a command in Patton’s division, when his telephone rang. He recognized the voice of Colonel Bedell Smith, who worked in the War Department, for the Chief of Staff of the Army. George Marshall wanted Eisenhower to come to the capital immediately. Ike’s heart sank, he had missed World War I working on staff, and he was afraid that this meant a repeat. But, George Marshall already had Eisenhower in mind as the possible commander in Europe. He did not know Eisenhower well personally, but he knew a lot about the man. For a boy who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Abilene, Kansas, Ike was a very sophisticated man, well read and well traveled, and outwardly displayed an even tempered and congenial personality. George Marshall had witnessed the friction between the French, the British, and the American generals in World War I and did not want it repeated.
It was Sunday, December 14th 1941, when BG Dwight Eisenhower arrived at General Marshall’s office. Ike said, “I walked into his office and within ten seconds he was telling me the problem he wanted me to attack . . . . He just said, ‘Look, there are two things we have got to do. We have got to do our best in the Pacific and we’ve got to win this whole war. Now, how are we going to do it? Now, that is going to be your problem.’” Ike said, “Give me a few hours”. Later that afternoon Ike returned to General Marshall’s office with a three page typed memo, which said that we have to keep the air and sea lanes open in the Pacific, which means holding Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, and the other islands along the route, as well as Australia itself. Sacrifice the Philippines, until we win the war in Europe. Win the war in Europe. Marshall read the memo and said’ “I agree”. Ike had passed his first test with George Marshall. Then Marshall said, “Now, tell me how to implement this.” Ike later wrote, “Marshall said, ‘Eisenhower, the War Department is filled with able men who analyze their problems but feel compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.’ I thought, as General Marshall spoke, his eyes were awfully cold.”
In January 1942, George Patton was given command of I Armored Corps. He personally mapped out and established a 10,000 acre Desert Training Center in California to train his Corps.
Omar Bradley was promoted to Major General in February 1942 and in March assumed command of the newly reactivated 82nd Infantry Division. Dwight Eisenhower was promoted to Major General in March 1942 in the War Plans Division at Army Headquarters.
In May 1942, General Marshall sent Lieutenant General Henry H (Hap) Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Corps, and Major General Dwight Eisenhower to England to assess the condition of the American command there. They found it working peacetime hours, and the staff unfamiliar with the overall world Army plans for the war. Major General James B Chaney was relieved and sent back to the states, and Dwight D Eisenhower was sent back to England and made Commanding General of the European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA). He was promoted to Lieutenant General in July 1942.
On July 28th 1942, the German Army, under General Erwin Rommel, captured the Egyptian seaport of Mersa Matruh, only 140 miles from Alexandria.
It was 120 degrees at the Desert Training Center, at 10:45 in the morning on July 30th 1942. George Patton was alone in his big air conditioned office, when he received a phone call. Colonel John Hull was on the other end of the line, he said; “General, I am calling you by order of General Marshall. He wants to see you here in Washington, as soon as you can leave the Center.” Patton immediately felt that was a turning point in his life. He went down on his knees and prayed.
In August 1942, Omar Bradley turned over the 82nd Division to Major General Matthew Ridgeway, as the division was re-designated the 82nd Airborne Division. Bradley was then given command of the 28th Infantry Division, with the mission of getting it “trained up”.
In Washington, George Patton was assigned the mission of planning and commanding the allied invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch, which was under the overall command of Lieutenant General Eisenhower. On November 8th 1942 Patton’s force of 100 ships and 33,000 men landed on the shores of North Africa, centering on Casablanca, Morocco. Vichy French forces opposed the landings, but by November 11th, Casablanca was captured and an armistice negotiated with the Vichy French. Patton then converted Casablanca into a military port.
On February 19th 1943, eight days after Dwight D Eisenhower had been promoted to full General, Major General Lloyd Fredendall was commanding the US II Corps, under operational control of the British 8th Army. For the first time the US Army met and engaged the German Army at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. They suffered a terrible defeat, being pushed back 50 miles by General Erwin Rommel’s German Afrika Corps.
General Marshall sent Omar Bradley to North Africa to be Eisenhower’s front line trouble shooter. Fredendall was relieved, George Patton was given command of II Corps and promoted to Lieutenant General. Patton requested Bradley as his deputy. Eisenhower approved, but retained a direct line to Bradley. Patton defeated the German Army at every engagement, and in April turned II Corps over to Bradley, who was promoted to Lieutenant General in June. On July 10th 1943, Patton commanded 90,000 troops of the US 7th Army as it invaded Sicily, Operation Husky.
In August 1943, George Patton got in trouble for slapping two “battle fatigued” troops, and was sent to England to be commander of a fake army, conducting a ruse to convince German intelligence that Patton would be commanding an invasion to take place at Pas de Calais. Omar Bradley was also sent to England to be commander of the US First Army and prepare for the Normandy invasion.
In January 1944. George Patton was formally given command of the Third US Army, which was newly arrived in England, and told to prepare it for combat in Europe.
Omar Bradley commanded the US First Army during the Normandy invasion on June 6th 1944, then took command of the 12th US Army Group, under which George Patton’s Third Army was assigned on July 10th 1944.
On December 16th 1945, George C Marshall was promoted to five stars General of the Army, four days before Dwight D Eisenhower was promoted to the same rank. George Marshall saw the Army peak at 8.3 million soldiers in 1945. After the war ended, Marshall left active duty and became a special envoy to china. He was Secretary of State 1947 – 1949, responsible for the “Marshall Plan” in the rebuilding of Europe. When the Korean War started, President Truman ask Marshall to be his Secretary of Defense, because once again the US Army was woefully unprepared for combat in Korea. It was in that capacity that he recommended to President Truman that General Douglas MacArthur be relieved in Korea. MacArthur was replaced by General Matthew Ridgway, who turned the war around.
George C Marshall retired, in 1951, to his home in Leesburg, Virginia, and served as Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, until his death in 1959


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri June 14h 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
I’ve written about Generals. This is about sergeants. Sergeants are Non-commissioned officers (NCO’s), they are the backbone of the Army. Officers manage the Army, Sergeants run it. Sergeants are the reason I stayed in the Army. I was a career soldier long before I got to know the generals.
I remember my sergeants from basic training, but nothing of note, I don’t remember those from AIT (Advanced Individual Training), and the only one I remember from jump school is a short oriental Staff Sergeant who I kicked in the chin, when I dropped down to do pushups. I was afraid to say anything as he walked around, put his face down next to mine, and said “You kicked me soldier!”. I then screamed “I’m sorry sergeant” as loud as I could, and he left me alone.
I arrived at my first company on March 1st, 1962, Company A, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 325th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was met by my Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Bryant, who took me and a couple other newbies up to the platoon bay to meet the platoon. All but Sergeants slept in one large room, the platoon bay, although we did have portable partitions for sleeping areas. Staff Sergeant Walker was the Weapons Squad Leader and he needed a machine gunner. SSG Bryant told SSG Walker to see if he could train me up on the machinegun. I spoke up and said that I learned all about the machinegun in AIT. They all grinned and said “OK then”. I guess I bought that one, that A6 .30 caliber machinegun weighed 31 pounds alone, and if you had to carry any ammo, or the spare barrel or the tripod, it was 50 pounds. I carried that gun all over Fort Bragg and the Carolinas, but it seemed worth it when my company won Division Machinegun Competition, with the “new” M60 in the spring of 1963. SSG Bryant and SSG Walker were both black men. I think most people my age understand why I mention that. If you grew up in Belle, Missouri in the 1950’s, you experienced prejudices, it was the culture then. There were no black people here. The only time we saw black people was when going to Jeff City or St Louis. I don’t think any normal person can spend a lot of time in the infantry and come out with any racial prejudices. Even in 1962 the Army was color blind. There was a saying then, “There is no black or white in the Army, we are all green, and we all bleed red.” SSG Bryant was a very intelligent and articulate man. He was only there a few months, after I arrived, he applied for and went to Special Forces. If you google William Maud Bryant, you will see a picture of him along with his posthumous Medal of Honor Citation. He was not only an excellent Non-Commissioned Officer, he was one courageous leader and fighter, before he went down. It was too late in the day to draw a bunk and linen from supply, so that first night I slept on my air mattress in SSG Walker’s room. SSG Tom Walker was 27 years old at that time. The other Machine gunner, in our squad, was also black, but SSG Walker never showed any preference to either of us, he treated us both like younger brothers. He taught us how to set fields of fire, interlock fields of fire, how to do range cards, and everything else that concerned the machinegun. He taught us how to prepare for inspections and pass inspections. He taught us soldiering. SSG Tom Walker went to Vietnam, when we all did, he was in a Recon Platoon, in the 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action July 26th, 1966.
The NCO who replaced SSG Bryant as Platoon Sergeant was SSG Raymond P Dial. Personality wise, he was the polar opposite of SSG Bryant. He had lied about his age and enlisted in the Army right at the end of World War II, where he was in the Combat Engineers. He had been up and down the ranks, he got drunk every night, had fog horn voice, and was tough as nails. If you were a good soldier, he was you’re best friend, but for the goof offs he was their nemesis. He led from the front and kicked but in the rear. I believe he could give any class, in relation to combat units, at the drop of a hat. We were in the field, with some dead time, when I saw our Company Commander walk up to him and ask him how long it would take him to prepare a class on DLIC (detachment left in contact) during a company withdrawal. He said, “How about right now, Sir. Let’s get the company together.” When we had Reserves or ROTC Cadets to train, in the summer, our platoon always got the job, because SSG Dial didn’t need any preparation time. Drinking was his downfall, he was just over 42 when he died.
The First Sergeant, of A Company at that time, was 1SG Marvin Register. At the morning formations we thought he talked more like a college professor than an army sergeant. He was 33 years old, single, and drove a new 1962 red Oldsmobile convertible. He had grown up in North Carolina, not far from Fort Bragg. He mentored and advised the good soldiers. After duty hours, he would occasionally load his convertible with sergeants and privates alike and go riding. I was invited along a couple times. We stopped to visit black families who he had grown up around and with whom he was still very close. First Sergeant Register, also went to Special Forces, went to Vietnam and survived, and retired as a Sergeant Major.
The next father figure influence on me was our Battle Group Sergeant Major, Aaron Gelber. He was a giant of a man, 6’6”, with hands large enough to palm a basketball. At that time, tall beer cans weren’t aluminum, they were tin, and I saw him absentmindedly crush them end to end, with one hand. He had a heart as big as his body, he took me under his wing, and by his actions taught me what it meant to be a sergeant. Cornelius Ryan came to Fort Bragg, and interviewed Aaron Gelber, along with several others, when he was writing “A Bridge too Far” (one of my favorite war movies). Aaron Gelber had been a mortar man, during Operation Market Garden, which is accurately portrayed in the movie.
I was promoted to Sergeant in July 1964, a month short of my three year enlistment. Throughout my Army career I was privileged to have worked for some really great NCO’s, and very fortunate to have had some really great ones work for me.
I have written about Command Sergeant Major John Pearce, twice the CSM of the 82nd Airborne Division. He loved the troops, and when the troops were doing their job like they should, CSM Pearce was their guardian angel. I saw him take young soldiers under his wing and run interference for them, when they needed it. I also saw him chew out Sergeants Major like they were privates, when they came up short to CSM Pearce’s standards.
I also had the privilege of working for CSM George Dunaway. When I worked for him, he was the Command Sergeant Major of the 5th Special Forces Group at Nha Trang, South Vietnam. He exercised more authority and power than any enlisted man I ever met. CSM Dunaway had three jeeps, with Chinese Nung (paid mercenaries) drivers at the Group Headquarters. Anyone could borrow one of the Sergeant Major’s jeeps. Just use it and bring it back. One morning a Captain arrived from the states, to work on the staff at Group Headquarters, he borrowed one the Sergeant Major’s jeeps. He turned it into the motor pool late that night. The next day, the Captain departed bag and baggage for a detachment in the woods. I saw CSM Dunaway look a Major in the eye and question him if that’s really the way it happened. The Major answered, “Yes Sergeant Major”. Life at isolated A Detachments would sometimes get a little “wild west”, but there was a very efficient and secret notification system in the operations section, of the 5th Special Forces Group, to keep everyone informed when the Colonel and the CSM were traveling. There was a saying; ”No hair on lip, no gun on hip”. CSM Dunaway went from there to be the Division Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne Division, and then became the Sergeant Major of the Army.
These great Sergeants who, by their actions, influenced me to stay in the Army, were honest, hard-working, intelligent men. Some had their faults, but they all had one thing in common, they were serious about their job, about the Army, and about training and protecting those for whom they were responsible. As I advanced in rank and moved around in the Army, I found some people in non-airborne support units who were just riding the system, doing as little as they could get by with, until they could retire. If you’re going to enlist – Go Airborne!

LGOPS – Little Groups of Paratroopers

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 26th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Practically every soldier I have written about, I have made them airborne, and sent them to the 82nd Airborne Division. I have said that they are a cut above – elite, and they are. I will continue to recommend to anyone, man or woman, considering enlisting in the Army to take the “airborne option”. Some may say that the 82nd is simply a Light Infantry Division that jumps out of airplanes, once on the ground they work the same way as any other light infantry division. The 82nd is just better trained because they are always on alert. No, once on the ground, they work differently. I have previously written about the trust and confidence the US Army has in individual soldiers. Nowhere is that more prominent than in the airborne units. The Airborne community has a sacred term – LGOPS (Little Groups of Paratroopers).
One the first things a Paratrooper is taught is the Rule of LGOPs. The story goes something like this: On the drop zone there is chaos; collections of around ten Paratroopers form. They are well trained, highly motivated 18-25 year-olds who are armed to the teeth, lack effective adult supervision, and remember the Commander’s intent as, “March towards the sound of the guns and kill anyone not dressed like you,” or something close to that. Happily they go about their work.
In July 1943, the first night mass parachute jump was conducted in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Then Colonel James M Gavin led the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, with the 3rd Battalion, 504th attached. Winds increased to 35 to 45 miles per hour just before the jump, but it was too late to cancel. They were already in the air approaching their drop zones. Planes were blown wildly off course and some gliders crashed. Less than half of the paratroopers reached their rally points. The troops knew not only their unit mission, they knew the overall mission. When a small group of paratroopers got together they went into action. They cut every telephone line they found, they conducted ambushes and raids, and they accomplished every objective. That is where the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment got their name “Devils in Baggy Pants”. The passage in a German Majors’ diary read; “American parachutists … devils in baggy pants … are less than 100 meters from my outpost line, I can’t sleep at night, they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black hearted devils are everywhere …”.
In England, in 1944, training for the D-day invasion, the 18th Airborne Corps Commander, Major General Matthew Ridgeway, with the experience of the Italian operations, directed that the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions conduct night jumps, which they did until injuries became too numerous. Then they trucked the troops out into the training area, at night, and mixed them up. They also had intramural athletics, baseball, basketball, soccer, and flag football, but they couldn’t play unit against unit. They had to be mixed up, such as four players from B Company, 2nd Battalion, four from A Company, 1st Battalion, and four from D Company, 3rd Battalion. The idea was not only to get know troops from other units, but so they would learn to trust each other, because they knew there was a good possibility that the troops would be scattered in the jump.
The D-day invasion was led by the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, during the night of June 5th, 1944. Drop zones were missed; aircraft full of Troops were shot out of the sky; the fog of war that the US Army Air Corps faced over France directly contributed to creating LGOPs on the ground. These Paratroopers banded together, often creating teams of men from different companies, brigades, or even divisions. In route to their rally points, these little groups of Paratroopers caused havoc behind the German lines by setting roadblocks and impromptu ambushes with the effect that many German commanders thought that they were facing a much larger force than what was actually there.
The mentality of a typical Airborne Soldier lends itself to an attitude of doing whatever it takes to accomplish the mission, facing any obstacle, and, most importantly, bravery because they have experience in overcoming a natural human fear: acrophobia, or the fear of heights. For this reason, most paratroopers consider themselves better than others, because they have come face to face with their own mortality. The air is less forgiving than the sea, and if you find yourself in a situation where your main and reserve parachutes have failed, then you have the rest of your life to figure out how to deploy one of them. They are a restless group who don’t take well to ambiguous direction or wasted time. This can be seen with the Operations tempo of airborne units. Often it feels as if the command is trying to force 36 hours of duties and responsibilities into a 24 hour day. And, as much as they complain and bitch, paratroopers love it. When they walk down the street, there is a swagger; that maroon beret looks better on their heads than a black beret looks on a leg’s because they have a sense that they earned it. In paratrooper language a “leg” is a sub-human soldier who is not Airborne. There is an intensity about how they carry out even simple tasks because, let’s face it, after you have jumped out of an aircraft while in flight, life is a little different and doing things half-assed just doesn’t make sense.
In training, with no enemy shooting at you, night jumps are, for some, less stressful than day jumps, because you can’t see anything, no ground or horizon. Inside the big jets you can hear, but in the C-130, which will forever be used to drop paratroopers, because it will carry 60 jumpers, and it will fly like a fighter, you can barely hear the person sitting next to you. The C-130 is a four engine turbo prop – noisy. Jumpers are seated on red canvas seats along the wall of the fuselage and two rows, back to back, in the center. Parachute on your back, reserve on your chest, rucksack in a bag under your reserve, and your rifle in a canvas bag strapped to your side. Constant smell of exhausted jet fuel. Barf bags are issued. I never threw up on a plane, don’t know why, sat next to several who did. The lights are on inside the airplane, because the jumpmasters must conduct their safety checks. The pilots have slowed the plane to 120 knots, and leveled off at 1,200 feet, if it was an actual combat jump it would be 800 feet, or less. When 10 minutes out, the jumpmaster gives the warning “TEN MINUTES”. OK, wake up get ready. The next command from the jumpmaster is; “GET READY”, then, “OUTBOARD PERSONNEL STAND UP’. That takes a minute or two, you’ve got 150 pounds plus of stuff strapped onto your body, you have to get up, turn around, unlatch your seat from the floor, fold it up and hook it. Then “INBOARD PERSONNEL STAND UP”. Next, “HOOK UP’. At that time outboard and inboard personnel form single lines on each side of the aircraft, and hook their static lines to a cable running along the wall of the fuselage. Then, “CHECK STATIC LINES”. Make sure your static line and the one on the jumper in front of you is straight and where it should be. Then, “CHECK EQUIPMENT”. Make sure everything is secure – adjust crotch. There are two jumpmasters, a primary and an assistant, plus two jumpmaster qualified safeties, who are at that time checking everybody. Then, ‘SOUND OFF FOR EQUIPMENT CHECK”. The last jumper, on each side, slaps the butt of the jumper in front of them and sound off with OK, which goes up the line until the two jumpers standing in front of the jumpmasters yell OK. The jumpmaster then commands “STAND BY”. Around that time the Air Force Loadmasters raise both doors and fold out a step plate at each door. Then you really hear the engines and rush of the blast. There is a light, about an inch and a half in diameter, beside each door, they have been red all the time. A jumpmaster is at each door, they have checked the surfaces of the doors for any irregularities. Each jumpmaster has a grip on the first jumper at his door, and he is watching the light. GREEN LIGHT!! Each jumpmaster commands “GO!”, and releases his jumper. Everyone quickly shuffles to the door, there is no hesitation, just get out the door. I have been on full combat equipment jumps into unknown drop zones, when everybody couldn’t get out. The pilot ran out of drop zone and turned on the red light, had to circle around and make another pass over the crop zone, you’re standing, hooked up, with one hand holding your static line. As the plane banks and turns, your load gets heavier, the thought crosses your mind “just let me out”. You step out, elbows tucked into your sides, hands on your reserve, feet and knees together, head down, chin on chest, a good tight body position. You count, one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, you feel that great comforting tug of your main canopy opening. You reach up and grab the risers, and you look up into your canopy to make sure it is OK. You check for jumpers around you, if there is no moon, you won’t see them until you are really close. Clean air, the planes move on, silence. In a few seconds, you drop the bag with your rucksack, it hangs on a line about 20 feet below you. At night, you can sense the ground, but you can’t tell for sure, you take up a good “prepare to land attitude”, feet and knees together, relax, face the parachute into the wind, don’t look for the ground. Landings are not soft, like sky divers. You try for a good parachute landing fall (PLF), balls of the feet, calf of your leg, thigh, buttocks, and push up muscle. Down, WOW, good jump, don’t waste time, get out of that harness, get your weapon bag off, get your weapon out, and get your ruck sack. This is not combat, so you’ve got to turn in all that stuff. You “S-roll” your parachute, stuff it in the kit bag, attach your weapon bag, throw them on your back on top of your ruck and double time (trot) off the drop zone, and look for the turn in point.
Another good one in your jump log. GO AIRBORNE! ALL THE WAY!


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 19th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
This week’s article is a little different, we take a look at the armies of potential enemy’s.
The United States Army is the greatest army in the world. It is the most feared by our potential adversaries, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, we have the best funding, the most advanced technology with the most advanced equipment, and the smartest soldiers. But what makes the US Army very different from those potential bad guys is the level of trust and authority given to enlisted personnel. A big part of that trust is culture. This country is a free and open society. Anybody can do anything or become anything that they have the brains and the drive to accomplish. Especially out here in the country, we generally take a person at their word. It doesn’t make any difference what a person’s status in life is, if we want information and they know what they are talking about, we listen. If we want to know how to do something and someone else knows how, we become their student. Our Army reflects that attitude. Going back over 50 years, I’ve only run into a couple of young officers who wouldn’t take the word of a private, if the private knew what he was talking about.
Russia; Twenty five years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian Generals came to the United States to observe our destruction of missiles and U.S. Generals went to Russia to observe the same thing. Our observers saw no trust given to individual soldiers, everything was micromanaged, with multiple layers of officers up to a General. The Russian Generals were amazed at how few soldiers we used to accomplish the same tasks, because of the trust and confidence the U.S. military had in individual service members. Russian soldiers lived in dilapidated buildings that would not be considered livable here. They were barely paid, poorly fed, and many never participated in full army maneuvers. The culture of the Russian army was brutal and harsh. It created hard fighters, but not competent ones. The Russian Army took what it saw of the U.S. military to heart.
Russia is the largest country in the world by land mass at 6.6 billion square miles, but it is ninth in population at just over 140 million. Russia has actually been in a population decline for the past few years, but there are indications that the birth rate may be increasing. Vladimir Putin’s mother was a factory worker and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, transferred to the Army and was severely wounded in 1942. Putin’s maternal grandmother was killed by German occupiers in 1941, and his maternal uncles disappeared at the war front. At 12 Vladimir Putin started studying Judo and Sambo, which appears to be a Russian version of our modern mixed martial arts. Putin studied law at St Petersburg State University (the Harvard of Russia) graduating in 1975. He went to work for the KGB, rising through the ranks. His last major assignment was in Dresden, East Germany, where his cover was working as a translator (he speaks fluent German) until the fall of the Berlin wall. He left the KGB, as a Lieutenant Colonel, in 1991 and went into politics. He rapidly rose through positions until he was appointed Prime Minister in August 1999. On 31 December 1999, Boris Yeltson unexpectedly announced his retirement making Putin Acting President. Vladimir Putin, who will turn 65 in October this year, has continued to maintain control of the Russian government. He helped create the political party “United Russia” which controls about 77% of seats in their Duma (congress). United Russia’s platform and policies were based not on a political ideology like conservative, liberal, or socialist but on Russian solidarity. Economic conditions for average Russians have steadily improved throughout Putin’s reign. Three years ago when the prices of oil fell, Russian went into a recession, but has since recovered. Their standard of living is not near to ours, but it has continued to improve. Putin is tremendously popular in Russia, enjoying about an 80% approval rating. There is rampant corruption in government and in business, and subtle to active suppression of opposition by those in power. Up to and including assignations. Putin has put billions into the Russian military, upgrading equipment, training, living conditions and pay, and creating a professional corps of career soldiers. In the past couple years the Russian Army has been on an intensive publicity campaign, interacting in public events, and developing a family friendly Army.
Russian males between 18 and 27 must perform one year of military service, but starting January 1st, they could choose to be drafted for one year or enlist for two years. Volunteers now outnumber conscripts. At the end of 2016 the Russian military had about 900,000 people, 384,000 contract soldiers and sergeants, 270,000 conscripts, and 225,000 officers. The Russian Army is not equal to the U.S. Army in core professionalism, but it is a professional army, with advanced technology. It appears that history is taught selectively in Russia, because the average Russian is proud of Russia and they are patriotic. When asked about the Lenin years, young people often answer “That was before my time”. Vladimir Putin is an aggressor, as evidenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the interference in Syria. He considers himself a man’s man, he once said that he learned on the streets of Leningrad 50 years ago, if a fight is inevitable, hit first. I think that he has a deep hatred for Germany, and would like to see it under Russian rule. As soon as we pulled our troops out of Europe, Putin started making noise. Dealing with Russia is serious business.
The Chinese army, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the largest in the world at 2.3 million, is a political army. Soldiers swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), not to the country. The PLA divides its active duty personnel into three categories, conscripts, NCO’s (Non-commissioned Officers) (Sergeants), and officers. All young men are required to register for the military. They are eligible for the draft between the ages of 18 thru 22. Women may join but are not required to register. Millions register for the draft, but volunteers fill most of the requirements. The PLA requires one third of draftees come from urban areas and two thirds from rural areas. Even volunteers are called conscripts during their initially required first two years of service, after which they may leave the service, apply to become NCO’s, or apply to a military academy to become officers. The PLA established a formal NCO corps about 20 years ago, but NCO’s only rise to the level of squad leader and have very little influence with officers. Conscripts are not allowed to marry. NCOs may only marry people from their hometown or village, cannot live with their spouses while on active duty, and may only stay off-base with their families during vacations and holidays. Junior officers also are not allowed to live with their families.
The Arab armies don’t have a good track record in winning wars. Their armies suffer the same problem as the Chinese, in that they don’t have a non-commissioned officer development program. Most Arab officers treat enlisted soldiers like sub-humans. Initiative is discouraged. Training is usually unimaginative, cut and dried, and not challenging. Part of their problem derives from their culture. The Arab educational system is based on rote memorization. The learning system tends to consist of lectures, with students taking voluminous notes and being examined on what they were told. A foreign instructor’s credibility is diminished if he has to resort to a book. That practice lessens a students’ ability to reason or analyze based upon some general principles. Thinking outside the box is not encouraged. Doing so in public can damage a career. Head-to-head competition is generally avoided, because losers are humiliated. Knowledge is hoarded and not passed on. If an officer passes on information to his men, then in his mind he loses power. If a soldier has a technical skill, he does not teach it to others, for he would then lose power.
North Korea is a country within an army, whereas other countries have armies within the country. Men must serve in the North Korean Army for 10 years, women for seven years. People who get space at the university are drafted after they graduate, and their time is reduced. Those with a bachelor’s degree serve for five years and scientists for three. The North Korean Army has about 1.19 million active, with 7.7 million trained reserves. It also has 3,500 battle tanks, 72 submarines, 302 helicopters, 563 combat aircraft and 21,100 artillery pieces, which, by numbers, makes it one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
On June 13th a North Korean soldier crossed the demilitarized zone on foot and surrendered to a South Korean soldier. No shots were fired. On June 18th another North Korean soldier, with makeshift foam floating devices, swam across a narrow part of the fast-flowing Imjin River, which crosses the demilitarized zone. Common soldiers are given only a few potatoes a day to survive. A North Korean said that in his high school class there were 25 boys. Five went to college and the remaining 20 went into the Army. When soldiers get too weak to perform, they are given leave to go home and recover. Their families pick them up and feed them back to health. Then they go back to the Army. Rape is common in their army. A female defector said that there were 120 soldiers in her unit, but only 20 males and they were high ranking officers. She said that every single female in her unit was raped. A set of summer clothes is issued to soldiers every two years. One defector said that they are so badly made that they cause pain. He said the insides of winter boots are stuffed with cotton and produced rather shabbily, so after you wear them a couple times the cotton starts to come out, then it hurts every time you wear them.
Army conscripts are taught to obey the teachings of Kim Jong Il and current leader Kim Jong Un. Soldiers are routinely brainwashed rendering them virtually incapable of any logic.
We need a strong military.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri September 13th and 20th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
A little history. In the summer of 1944, after D-Day (June 6th), the allied armies had pushed the German Army back across France to the borders of Germany and Belgium.
Today is Wednesday, September 13th, 2017. In 1944 September 13th was also on Wednesday. 2017 and 1944 calendars are the same. On Monday, September 11th, 1944, the commanders of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division were briefed that they had five days to prepare for the largest airborne operation ever.
The largest airborne operation ever was conducted on Sunday, September 17th, 1944. Operation Market Garden was conceived by British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, and approved by General Eisenhower. Goal of the operation was to push 70 miles behind German lines from the Belgian city of Neerpelt, up highway 69, to the Dutch city of Arnhem. Thereby crossing some major canals and rivers that held back the allied armies and bypassing the German Siegfriedline. Once the allied armies reached Arnhem, they would be over the river Rhine, their last natural obstacle. Once over the Rhine the allied armies would sweep east into Germany, thereby knocking out the German industrial heart in the Ruhr pocket and break the German war effort. That would end the war before Christmas.
Market – the airborne forces, the First Allied Airborne Army, who would seize bridges. The 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 1st British Airborne Division, and the Independent Polish 1st Parachute Brigade.
Garden – the ground forces, consisting of the British XXX (30) Corps (Tanks).
The overall plan called for a “carpet of airborne troops”, dropped behind enemy lines, that would capture the road bridges over the major rivers and canals that lay along the route in three places: Eindhoven (around 13 miles from the start line), Nijmegen (53 miles) and Arnhem (64 miles), as well as a couple of smaller bridges at Veghel and Grave that lay between Eindhoven and Nijmegen, and hold that route at all costs. The route that XXX Corps would take was a tree-lined double lane road that ran across country that was almost entirely flat. The ground was sandy soil and drained bogland and broken by orchards, small woods, streams and ditches, which would have made cross-country movement difficult and time-consuming. So XXX Corps would have to stay on the road.
Sunday, September 17th, 1944 was bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. At each of the airfields, the men were up before daylight, busily trucking equipment bundles and otherwise making final preparations for the jump. Thirty years later, General Gavin, the 82nd commander, described what the men carried: “Because of our experiences in Normandy, the troopers loaded themselves with all the ammunition and antitank mines they could carry. In addition, every trooper who could get his hands on a pistol carried one as well as a rifle. So overloaded were they that one or two troopers stood beside the steps of the C-47s and helped boost the others up the steps and into the planes.” The airborne troops boarded their planes, with many pulling gliders, and started taking off, from different airfields in England, at 09:30. The 101st took the southern route into Holland, while the 82nd and the 1st British Airborne the northern route. The two columns of aircraft stretched for 94 miles in length and 3 miles wide. There was a total of 1,051 troop carriers and 516 glider / tug combinations (totaling 2,083 aircraft). Escorts amounted to 371 British fighter planes, Spitfires, Tempests, and Mosquitos on the northern route, and 548 American P-47 Thunderbolts, P-38 Lightnings, and P-51 Mustangs on the southern route. The German anti-aircraft guns along the Market Garden route were once again bombed and strafed. Resistance from German fighters and anti-aircraft fire was intermittent, but stronger near Eindhoven. The Allies lost 68 aircraft and 71 gliders, as well as two British and eighteen American fighters.
In the north, where the road ran across the Lower Rhine at Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division was to drop. To the south, where the road crossed the Waal River at Nijmegen, the American 82nd was to hold. The 82nd was assigned the big bridges over the Maas River at Grave and over the Waal River at Nijmegen, plus a ridgeline to the east that dominated both bridges. The bridge at Nijmegen, almost 2,000 feet long, would become a key to the whole Market Garden operation. The 101st’s job was in the area behind the German front line at Eindhoven, running north through Son to Uden. The division was to seize the rail and highway bridges over the Aa River and the Wilhelmina Canal at Son, the Dommel River at Eindhoven and St. Oedenrode, and Zuit Willemsvaart Canal near Veghel. The troopers were to hold those towns and their crossings. That road later became known as Hell’s Highway. The plan was for XXX Corps to reach Arnhem within 48 hours, because it was felt that any longer and the 1st British Airborne Division wouldn’t be able to hold against the German Army.
The German 59th and 245th Infantry divisions were in transit from the area of the German Fifteenth Army to that of the First Parachute Army–right in the operation’s path, and the German II SS Panzer Corps, consisting of the 9th SS Panzer Division and the 10th SS Panzer Division had been pulled back to Arnhem to rest and refit. German Field Marshal Walter Model, Commander of German Army Group B had placed his headquarters at Oosterbeek, which was between Heelsum where most of the 1st British Airborne landed and the Arnhem Bridge. Aerial reconnaissance had taken photographs of tanks at Arnhem, but they were ignored by the operations high command.
Upon landing, the 1st British Airborne Division became locked in an intense battle on practically all fronts. As soon as Field Marshall Model became aware of the scope of the allied operation, he deployed the 9th SS Panzer Division to Arnhem and sent the 10th SS to Nijmegen. He did not allow the Nijmegen Bridge to be destroyed, because he intended to use it in a counter attack. One battalion, the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Airborne, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, did manage to make it to the north end of the Arnhem Bridge, but the Germans set up a strong defense on the bridge and surrounded LTC Frosts’ battalion, effectively cutting his 600 men off from any outside help.
All but two battalions of the 101st Airborne Division landed on the proper drop zone, and those two took off at a dead run and captured their objective bridges, however the 1st Battalion, 501st did leave Captain W.S. Burd and 46 men behind with heavy equipment to be brought up later. That group was overrun and captured. The 101st met heavy resistance, but managed to capture all of its objective bridges except the Son Bridge. At Son the 506th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment), of the 101st, came under intense direct fire from German 88mm anti-aircraft/artillery guns. The paratroops charged the German positions and overran the guns, but as the Germans withdrew, they blew the Son Bridge. Early on the morning of the 18th the 101st occupied Eindhoven, allowing XXX Corps to roll through. A prefabricated Baily Bridge was located with Canadian Engineers, who brought it up and worked through the night constructing it in place. Finally, at 06:45 hours on the 19th the tanks of XXX Corps moved over the Wilhelmina Canal, at Son, 33 hours behind schedule.
General Gavin took inventory of his assets on the ground; 7,250 82nd Airborne paratroopers had jumped in the vicinity of Grave and Groesbeek. Unit after unit reported in on schedule and with few exceptions all were in their preplanned locations. The Maas Bridge at Grave was captured by E Company, 504th PIR, about two hours after landing. The southernmost bridge at Molenhoek (known to the paratroopers as Bridge #7) was captured intact by troopers from B Company, 504th, as well as by elements of the 505th PIR advancing from the direction of Groesbeek. It became very important because that afternoon and the next morning the Germans blew the three other bridges, in that area, which could have been used to keep XXX Corps moving.
Paratroopers from the 508th PIR, of the 82nd, made early attempts to seize the highway bridge at Nijmegen late on September 17th but were stopped by a superior German force. They did, however, manage to locate and deactivate demolition equipment that could have been used to blow the bridge. They were soon locked in a furious firefight with the German soldiers defending the south end of the bridge. That defense was resolutely fought, and a stalemate followed that would not be broken for three more days. During the night, troops of the 508th PIR tried in vain to capture the bridge, but the Germans had set up defenses around the bridge which were hard to destroy by the lightly armed paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. The morning of the 18th, the Germans launched several attacks. On the morning of the 19th, XXX Corps troops linked up with elements of the 504th at Grave. General Gavin asked for tank support to attack the bridge at Nijmegen. The 504th together with tanks from the Grenadier Guards, attempted to seize the bridge, but failed. The southern ramp leading up to the bridge was heavily defended. German forces from the 10th SS Panzer Division had arrived and made it extremely difficult for the 504th and Grenadier Guards to capture the bridge.
To break the deadlock, General Gavin came up with a bold plan: a force of parachute infantrymen would cross the Waal River in engineer boats borrowed from the British, with a smokescreen masking their advance. Upon reaching the opposite bank, the force would then attack the Nijmegen Bridge from the rear, outflanking its defenders. During the attack, British tanks from XXX Corps would provide fire support to suppress the German 88mm guns on the east bank.
The 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR would conduct the river assault. Twenty six canvas collapsible boats were located in the British 43rd Division. They had to be hauled the 50 miles to Nijmegen. The boats were reported to have a capacity of 16 troops, including a crew of three. Company C, 307th Engineer Battalion of the 82nd would furnish three men to man each boat. When the boats finally arrived at 14:30 (2:30 PM) they would only carry 13 troops, so the assault force had to be quickly reorganized. The river, at that point, was about 1,200 feet wide, almost a quarter of a mile, with a very swift current estimated to be eight miles per hour. All boats would be used in each wave. The first wave would be Company H and Company I and the command group of the 3rd Battalion, the second wave would carry the remainder of the battalion, and succeeding waves would transport the 1st Battalion. The assault force would start behind a dike topped by a hard surface road, which ran parallel to the river, then there was about 600 yards of open area down to the water. Tanks of the 2d Irish Guards would support the crossings by fire from positions on the dike. The 376th Parachute Field Artillery, of the 82nd, was in direct support to be supplemented by all available British Artillery as it arrived. Dive bombers would strafe the area across the river 14:45 to 14:55. Artillery smoke was fired at 14:55, but a wind came up and blew away the smoke.
Lieutenant James Magellis wrote; “At 15:00 (3:00 PM), Major Julian Cook (the battalion commander) blew a whistle signaling the start of the assault. Shrill cries of “lets go” followed as the paratroopers released pent-up emotions. We grabbed the boats by the gunwales, charged up the embankment, crossed the open flat top of the dike, and made a mad dash for the river. The boats, loaded with our gear and weapons, were heavy, (about 400 pounds) and the going was tough in lose sand. We caught the Germans by surprise. For the first hundred yards they hadn’t fired a shot, but when they realized what was happening, all hell broke loose. They opened up with everything they had; small arms, machine guns, 20mm flak wagons, mortars, and artillery”.
Captain Henry Keep wrote; “As we frantically scurried for the river’s edge, chaos and confusion reigned. With shells exploding all around us, we kept charging forward. At that point we were all driven by instinct and running on adrenaline with but a single purpose: to get our boats in the water and across the river. At last we reached the drop. We let our boat slide down to the beach and ourselves slid alongside it. We pulled our boat quickly across a short beach and everyone piled in. By this time the situation was horrible. The automatic and flat trajectory fire had increased and the artillery was deadly. Men were falling right and left. In everyone’s ears was the constant roar of bursting artillery shells, the dull wham of a 20-mm, or the disconcerting ping of rifle bullets.”
Captain Carl Kappel, the H Company Commander, wrote that he was in the first boat, but as it was placed in the water it immediately sank. The current was swift enough to knock down those men in the water over their waist, and they had to swim back to shore. He then joined the third boat. That boat had lost two engineers, and immediately after launching the third engineer, at the tiller, was knocked out of the boat. A Platoon Sergeant, in the boat, took his place. One by one the men wielding the paddles slumped forward, until about twenty yards from the opposite bank there were only two paddles operating.
Captain Keep wrote; “After a false start we got stuck in a mud bar and several of us were forced to get out and push off again. We found ourselves floating in the wrong direction. Everyone grabbed a paddle and frantically started to work. Most of the men had never paddled before. Every movement in excess of essential paddling was extremely dangerous since the bullets were flying so thick and fast that they gave a reasonable facsimile of a steel curtain. Large numbers of men were being hit in all boats and the bottoms of the crafts were littered with the wounded and dead. Somehow we were three-quarters of the way across. Everyone was yelling to keep it up, but there was very little strength left in anyone. But at last we reached the other side. We climbed over the wounded and dead in the bottom of the boat and up to our knees in water waded to shore where behind a small embankment we flopped down gasping for breath, safe for the moment from the incessant firing.
Meldon Hurlbert, who was in Company C, 307th Engineer Battalion, wrote; The crossing went off late in the afternoon and the river was swift. We were all scared but we did what we were ordered to do. We had not seen the river prior to the assault. We had waited all day behind the embankment. When we first pulled the boats out into the water, men would jump in the boats too quick which grounded the boats. Many of the regular soldiers had no experience with boats. By this time all hell was breaking loose from both sides. The man in front of me (Woods) got hit and was killed by a large caliber shell which knocked him back. He landed all bloodied in my lap. The Germans were dug in and where firing directly at us from across the bank. Each boat only had several paddles so the other men used their rifle butts. Our boat was sunk about 3/4 of way across. Luckily at this point the river was not that deep and the water was up to my chin so after the boat sank I walked to the other side. When I reached the other side I was hit in the rear end with shrapnel. The situation was chaotic.
From the 307th Engineer Report of Action; Twenty-six boats with three engineers on each boat were used. Lt. Holabird [Chalk No. 2] and 11 men went in one boat to clear mines on far shore, and to find anti-tank guns. All officers except Lt. Bigler who was in charge of the near-shore operations went across. Machine guns (20mm), mortars and 88mm gun opened up on the first wave. Losses were heavy. Sixteen boats were left on the far shore, and 10 returned for the second lift. The enemy laid heavy fire on the far shore after the first wave attempting to forestall additional waves. The 20mm fire came from the south end of the bridge, some machine-gun fire from the bridge; 88mm fire came from north end of bridge, mortar and machine-gun fire came from the woods in the front. Six of the engineers who came back on the 10 boats were wounded and unable to make another trip. Lt. Bigler collected all available men, for the second crossing. The fire had decreased by the time the second wave crossed. After the third or fourth crossing, no fire was left except snipers. By the time the assault battalion got across, some men of the 307th had rowed across the river five times. On the second trip the wounded men started coming back across. Co. C lost 34 men on the assault—8 killed and 26 wounded.
Captain Kappel wrote that upon reaching the shore, he jumped in the water with the bow rope and pulled the sinking boat ashore. The boat was beached along a pile of rocks some two hundred yards from the intended landing area. The three dead and five wounded were placed in what cover the rock afforded. Only he, the Platoon Sergeant and the Company Medic had survived unharmed. The flat ground was being swept by fire. He picked up a Thompson sub with a bag of clips and the three left on a run for the trenches. An average of one man in each boat was killed, although boats 4 and 5 of H Company escaped with none wounded or killed.
As a devout Catholic, Major Julian Cook loudly recited Hail Mary during the crossing, spurring his men on under the withering fire. He took charge of the boats, redirecting those who were disoriented and pushing the men along. Once ashore, the Parachute Infantry Regiment cleared the river bank and assaulted the highway bridge. The 3rd Battalion, 504th PIR finally captured the bridge at 1900 hours, and the first tanks crossed the Waal River.
The price was high, the 504th had lost 24 men killed and 70 wounded in the river crossing, and taking the bridge.
The British General, Sir Miles Dempsey, after witnessing the 504th crossing the Waal, characterized the attack with a single word as he shook his head and said, “Unbelievable.”
But XXX Corps did not move until the next morning, they said their tanks couldn’t move at night, and by that time it was too late to save the British 1st Airborne. Lieutenant Colonel Frost’s battalion held out on the bridge for three days and three nights, before they were mauled to the point that they were overrun and taken as prisoners of war. Finally, on the night of the 25th, Major General Urquhart the commander of the British 1st Airborne, and about 2,000 of his men, who were able bodied, managed to escape across the river and reach allied troops. Almost 6,000, mostly wounded, remained to be taken as prisoners of war, while almost 1,200 had been killed in action.
The German Army quickly reorganized for a counter attack on the Nijmegen Bridge. Early on the morning of 21st, Company C, 1st Battalion 504th was defending the bridge that was just captured, when a strong enemy force of approximately 100 infantry supported by 2 tanks and a half-track attacked. Without being ordered to do so, a C Company soldier, Private John R. Towle, left his foxhole and ran 200 yards forward to a position on an exposed dike roadbed. From there, Towle fired his rocket launcher at both tanks, inflicting damage that forced both of them to turn back. When he drew fire from a nearby house being used by nine Germans as a strongpoint, Towle fired a single rocket into the house, killing all nine of the enemy. He then rushed forward through enemy fire again to get into a more advantageous position to fire his bazooka at the advancing half-track. Towle was kneeling and aiming his bazooka when fragments from a German mortar round fatally wounded him. He had singlehandedly broken up the enemy counterattack, which had posed a serious threat to the security of the Nijmegen bridgehead. For his self-sacrificing bravery, Private John R. Towle was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Although most of the men expected to be pulled out of the line at the end of September, the 82nd and 101st were placed under the control of the British XII Corps on the 28th and transferred north to the front line in an area known as the Island, a 5-kilometer strip of land between the Neder Rijn and the Waal. Due to heavy demands for manpower, the British were pressed for troops, and both the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions found themselves in positions that resembled the trench lines of World War I, they were relieved in November, and pulled back to France. Officially called the Holland Campaign, it was perhaps the most savagely fought single action in the history of the U.S. Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions — and the least publicized. There are conflicting reports of casualties, but figures often used are; 82nd Airborne Division – 215 killed, 790 wounded, 427 missing, 101st Airborne Division – 315 killed, 1,248 wounded, 547 missing.
Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton, the 1st Allied Airborne Commander, said of the operation: The 82nd and 101st divisions…accomplished every one of their objectives….In the years to come everyone will remember Arnhem, but no one will remember that two American divisions fought their hearts out in the Dutch canal country and whipped hell out of the Germans.
If this interests you, it is very accurately portrayed in probably the best war movie ever, “A Bridge Too Far”. The 307th Engineer Battalion, in the 82nd at Fort Bragg, North Carolina does an annual reenactment, of the Waal River Crossing. It is “bragging rights” competition among boat crews.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 25th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
With this Army job, you can take off the uniform one day and go to work the next, doing the same thing at an excellent salary. Army Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 12Y Geospatial Engineers are trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
Geospatial technologies is a term used to describe the range of modern tools used in geographic mapping and analysis of the Earth and its population. In the Army, Geospatial Engineers are trained and become experts in GIS (geographic information systems). One of the primary tools is a computer program called ArcGIS, through which geographic information is collected from satellite imagery, drones, the National Geospatial Agency, the Army Geospatial Center, photos and videos from troops in the field, and many other sources to produce very detailed 2D and 3D geographic maps to help commanders visualize the battlefield. They also support civilian operations for disaster relief and Homeland Security.
Other Government Agencies that use people with that skill are the FBI, CIA, NSA, USGS, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Land Management, and state and larger city governments. Civilian jobs are in engineering companies, many dedicated to GIS engineering, oil and gas companies, utility companies, defense contractors, plus many others.
The Army Geospatial Center, at Army Headquarters in Washington, DC is a subordinate command to the US Army Corps of Engineers. In 2012 the Army moved geospatial training from Fort Belvoir, Virginia (Washington, DC) to Fort Leonard Wood. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is located in St Louis, and is presently purchasing and clearing 99 acres in North St Louis for a new 1.75 billion dollar facility. USGS in Rolla is one of two National Centers for Geospatial Information Science, and it is the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center.
The 18 week Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for MOS 12Y at Fort Leonard Wood doesn’t give you a degree in Geospatial Engineering, but it does give you the knowledge. High tech army schools, like this one, do not teach history, sociology, and all the other electives that are included in a college education. They teach the subject, pure, simple, and hardcore. The cadre of the Geospatial School says that entry-level students leave the AIT course with the same level of education and training that most two-year college students receive. They say that it is really at their permanent duty station where they surpass their civilian counterparts due to the extensive on-the-job training, especially if they are in a combat area.
The lowest paying job a person with this training and experience, but no degree, may qualify for is Mapping Technician, which starts at about $40,000 a year. They would be more likely to land a job as a GIS Specialist, which usually starts around $50,000. With a bachelor’s degree in geospatial engineering, the salaries about double. Historically colleges have taught GIS as part of Geology or Petroleum Engineering degrees, however there are now several universities offering pure Geospatial Engineering degrees, and several offer good online programs. Geospatial Engineers also get a course on how to present briefings, because part of their job is to relay what they learn to the commanders.
The Instructor Development Chief for the 12Y course said; “It’s like Google Earth on steroids. For instance, when we moved from Kuwait to Ramadi, one of the jobs of a geospatial analyst was to brief the commanding general on where they should and shouldn’t go, lines-of-sight, best routes, and different things that could affect the movement of that element. Our main job is to allow the commander, at whatever level, to be able to accurately visualize the battlefield, so that any decision made – – when it affects the terrain – – can maneuver and save lives.”
A former Combat Engineer Sergeant recently told me about preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, with a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was to be on the Advanced Party, which is usually one plane load of soldiers who go first, find everything, and find where everyone is supposed to be when they get there, and get everything set up, so there is no confusion when the main body of troops arrive. He needed maps of the area where they were going, so he went to his Brigade S2 (Intelligence) shop. He ended up in the Geospatial Cell within the S2 shop. He said he was amazed at what he saw and what they could do. He described the room as having a table about 12 feet by 20 feet with 3D maps, four large screen monitors, and they were watching what a drone was seeing in Afghanistan at that minute. They printed a 3D foam map of his area, and printed several, very detailed, flat maps for him.
While deployed in combat areas, the Geospatial Cells work in large air conditioned vans, because their equipment can’t be exposed to the elements. Some have complained that some staff officers use them like “Kinkos” because they are the only section with large printers and plotters. And due to the sensitive nature of their work, they are always placed well within the most secure area of a compound.
After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, future enlisted geospatial engineers move a few blocks to B Company, 169th Engineer Battalion for 12Y AIT. That is about as close to college life as an Army AIT is going to get. It is still the Army and it is still AIT, but after PT (Physical Training) for about an hour in the morning, it is primarily classroom and lab work. The 12Y course is conducted in Brown Hall, which is across the street from the barracks, in class sizes of around 15 students. Geospatial Engineer Sergeants also attend Advanced Leaders and Senior Leaders courses there. Chief Warrant Officer William Jones, a Geospatial Technician, and the Geospatial Skills Division Chief said that AIT students comprise the majority of the student population because, over the years, these soldiers have been leaving the Army after one enlistment for the lucrative salaries geospatial professionals command in the civilian and government sector.
Who can get this job? First, you have to be generally eligible to enlist, medically, physically (in good shape and not over weight), be a high school graduate, although you can start the process before you graduate. The ASVAB requirements are fairly high, scoring 95 in ST (skilled technical), which is comprised of the following tests; word knowledge, paragraph comprehension (English), general science, (earth science, biology, chemistry, physics), mechanical comprehension, and mathematics knowledge (algebra). And, you will need a Secret security clearance before you start AIT, and you will need a Top Secret clearance in your actual assignment. The paperwork for a Secret clearance can be completed before, but the investigation starts when you start basic training. A national agency check is conducted for Secret clearances, and that process usually takes about two months, so if a person has answered all the questions honestly and has nothing derogatory in their background, the clearance should be granted by the end of basic training. A complete background investigation is required for Top Secret clearances. That means everyone listed on the application will be interviewed, by field agents. Friends, neighbors, teachers, preacher, and others (not relatives) identified in the interview process. That takes about six months.
As of September 27th, 2017 the national average salary for a GIS Analyst I (entry level, with no degree) ranged from just over $42,000 to just under $50,000. One web site has 54 geospatial analyst jobs available in the St Louis area, most require a bachelor’s degree, but many do not, with the starting salary around $50,000. The salary range of those with degrees range from the 60’s to $110,000, depending on experience. There are many geospatial companies, in the St Louis area, that do contract work for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. They all require a Top Secret security clearance.
The new facility, in St Louis, for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023. I would assume that there will be many new government GIS jobs available there, at that time.


Continuing with training at Fort Leonard Wood.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 14th 2017.
I have previously written about Combat Engineers and I am going to visit them again, because they are also trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
The Engineer Center and School was moved from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to Fort Leonard Wood in 1988, as a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) approved by congress. The Military Police Center and School, and the Chemical Center and School were moved from Fort McClellan, Alabama to Fort Leonard Wood in 1999, also in BRAC that year. Our District US Representative, at that time, was Ike Skelton, who was a long time member, and finally Chairman, of the House Armed Services Committee, and was very influential in those moves. When the Chemical and the MP folks moved to Fort Leonard Wood it became the “Maneuver Support Center”.
In the past, Fort Leonard Wood was referred to, by the troops, as “Fort Lost in the Woods”, “Little Korea”, and various other less respectful names. The families assigned there complained that there was nothing to do, and no shopping. That has changed. In the last 20 years, there has been a tremendous explosion of business and population in the St Robert/Waynesville area, as well as an explosion of construction on the Fort. In researching these columns, this year, I have read many comments from wives of soldiers, and trainees alike that say Fort Leonard Wood is great. Some have called it “the best kept secret in the Army”.
Combat Engineers are as close to being Infantry as you can get, and not be Infantry. Combat Engineers are trained at Fort Leonard Wood. 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). Both are 14 weeks long. Actually 15 to 16 weeks when you throw in processing at each end. The MOS (military occupational specialty), i.e. job, for light weapons infantryman is 11B. The MOS for combat engineers is 12B. 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 is basic training, which is normally nine 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 BCT final tests, and then continue on with their MOS training. Infantry soldiers spend six weeks studying and practicing 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 Engineer soldiers who stay in the Army will return to Fort Leonard Wood, on temporary duty, after they become a Sergeant, to attend an eight week Advanced Leaders Course, as will Military Police and Chemical soldiers. After they make Staff Sergeant they will return again for a 10 week Senior Leaders Course (MP’s & Chemical also). 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 or five years of service they return on a permanent change of station (PCS) to attend a six month Captains Career Course. Military Police and Chemical Corps officers follow the same pattern. 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.
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. 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.
In 2007 the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, having already deployed to Iraq for a year, and another year in Afghanistan, was again in Afghanistan on a 15 month deployment. Elite troops earn that title, they get used more than others, and naturally they were in one of the hottest spots in Afghanistan, the volatile Korengal River Valley. On November 16th, 2007, a squad from the Route Clearance Platoon of the Brigade’s Engineer Company was doing what they did about every day – route clearance: “Out looking for bombs”. Staff Sergeant Lincoln Dockery was the Squad Leader. They left Forward Operating Base (FOB) Asadabad in Kunar Province to clear the same stretch of road for the third consecutive day. Intelligence had reported hostile activity in the area. Staff Sergeant Dockery’s lead vehicle, a Husky mine-detecting vehicle, activated an IED (bomb). Rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) started hitting the damaged vehicle and it became clear that they were in the middle of an ambush. Staff Sergeant Dockery first went to see the condition of the driver, PFC Amador Magana, of the damaged vehicle. Staff Sergeant Dockery said, “I could see RPG’s and rounds impacting all over the vehicle, and the front windshield was about to cave in from all the (AK-47) bullets.” He then snuck around from the other side, climbed up the back tire, knocked on the window and saw that Magana was barely conscious, but not wounded. Magana managed to give a thumbs up, then stood up and started returning fire at the enemy with his M-249 machine gun. Staff Sergeant Dockery said; ”We could see RPG’s and small arms fire coming at us from across a river. But when I looked to the right, I could see RPG’s hitting our side of the vehicle”. Staff Sergeant Dockery said that he realized that another enemy fire team was much closer, actually about 20 meters (60 feet) from our position. He said; “If we didn’t assault the hill they were attacking from, they would have taken us out. They couldn’t miss, with their weapons, they were so close”. At that point, with the squad firing at the enemy, to keep their heads down, Staff Sergeant Dockery and Specialist Corey Taylor, one of his soldiers, charged the enemy. They were firing and exchanging hand grenades. “Someone yelled out, and I looked up and saw it coming. My hand went up and a hot, sharp feeling went through. The shrapnel didn’t really hurt initially. We also had to dig shrapnel out of Taylor’s leg later,” he said. The pair low-crawled the rest of the way up, watching bullets kick up rocks and dirt all around them, then they pushed the enemy back from their position and found the IED command detonator and wire. Indirect fire, air strikes and other close air support was called in later to deal with about 30 fleeing enemy, but Staff Sergeant Dockery’s assault kept everyone in the patrol alive.
Sixteen months later, Lieutenant General Kenneth Hunzeker, Commander of V (5th) Corps in Europe, awarded Staff Sergeant Dockery the Silver Star. In his remarks, General Hunzeker said; “Truly, Sergeant Dockery is an NCO (non-commissioned officer) who has stepped forward”. At the ceremony, Captain William Cromie, who was Staff Sergeant Dockery’s Platoon Leader that day in Afghanistan, said; “I don’t want to think about what would have happened had he not been there. It would have been a completely different day. While described in the infantry field manual, and taught at every schoolhouse in our career, if asked to charge into an enemy, uphill and within hand grenade range, most people only know yes as a book answer.”
Staff Sergeant Dockery’s wife, Dominika, his son Lincoln, 4, and daughter Pria, 2, were at his side during the ceremony. In his remarks, Staff Sergeant Dockery said; “It was my third deployment, but my best deployment. All our guys made it back.” He also said that his main goal, in life, was to be a better husband and father.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri August 30th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Another of the AIT’s (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Leonard Wood is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 74D Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist. It prepares soldiers for contingencies that they and we hope and pray never happen. 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).
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 line company in the Army has a CBRN NCO (non-commissioned officer) (sergeant). Every line company has not only a protective mask for every soldier, but a complete MOPP suit. That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. It is basically a rubber (not really-special chemical compound) suit. Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s hot! Training in MOPP gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it is hell.
Tear gas is not the reason the Army’s focus on CBRN is so intense. 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. So 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. So 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. The training models are filled with water. When I went in the Army we carried a small plastic syrette, you just flipped the plastic cover off the needle, slapped your leg, stuck the needle in and squeezed. The gas chamber, masking and atropine injection are annual training requirements for every soldier in the Army, along with qualifying with their rifle and passing a physical fitness test. We have Special Forces (Green Berets) in Syria now and they have CBRN Detection Teams attached.
Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Chemical Center, School and Museum. Chemical Corps officers take their basic and advanced courses there, plus special courses. The AIT is 11 weeks long. 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. Students get to keep cell phones, ipads and computers, just not during the day in class.
Many graduates go to chemical units in South Korea. Those assigned to a chemical unit will continue to work with what they learned in AIT. Those assigned to other units may or may not. The CBRN Specialist maintains the CBRN Room, the masks and protective gear and equipment. If the company doesn’t train CBRN often, the specialist gets used for other duties like clerk or driver. I read comments from some who were frustrated at being used for other duties, still others who enjoyed learning different jobs, and still others who took the job as a challenge and aggressively pushed for CBRN training, because they were the most knowledgeable person in the company on that subject. The CBRN position at company level is for a Sergeant E5. Privates, just graduating from 74D AIT are very often assigned to those positions. Promotion to Sergeant E5 is faster than other support jobs. The cutoff scores for promotion to Sergeant E5 in MOS 74D for August 2017 are on the bottom, so everyone on the list for promotion to E5 gets promoted. I read comments from some who had been promoted to Sergeant E5 within two years. Airborne units do train on CBRN, a lot. Enlisting with the “airborne option” gives the new 74D about a 95 percent chance of being assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd Airborne Division trains on CBRN frequently. At battalion level the CBRN NCO is a Staff Sergeant E6, and at brigade headquarters there is a Chemical Corps Captain and a Sergeant First Class E7. One of my earliest memories of training in the 82nd was, as a brand new Private, crawling on my back under a barbed trip wire mat stretched 12 inches off the ground, and having a CS grenade land about two feet from my head. I did get my mask on, but I burned the rest of the day. The 82nd has a Chemical Company as well as CBRN NCO’s and officers in all the company’s, battalions and brigades. Each Special Forces group has a Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, whose job is to go look for chemical agents, in support of Special Forces operations. No you don’t go through Special Forces training and no you don’t wear a green beret, you go to airborne school and wear a maroon beret, but you can be assigned to a Special Forces unit.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division (The Falcon Brigade), has been in Iraq since December 2016. They have been side by side with the Iraqi Army in driving ISIS out of Mosul. They conducted extensive CBRN training at Fort Bragg, and in 2014 they were trained at Fort Polk, Louisiana by the US Army’s 20th CBRN Brigade, and in 2015 they jumped into Fort Leonard Wood and trained at the Incident Response Training Detachment on Fort Leonard Wood. The 82nd Airborne Division is America’s Global Response Force, and it is very serious about CBRN training.
I have seen non-airborne support companies that didn’t train CBRN often and the CBRN specialist only worked on CBRN once a year, when the company went through the gas chamber. They worked as supply or admin clerks or drivers. In airborne companies it is a full time job, CBRN exercises are built into most training. In Iraq there have been several chlorine bomb attacks, and in Afghanistan there have been many poison gas attacks directed primarily at civilians. Those appeared to be composed of pesticides. The Army is very serious about CBRN, as evidenced by the new state of the art training facilities at Fort Leonard Wood.
The civilian occupations which are available to someone who has had the training and a tour in the Army as a 74D are Hazardous Materials Removal, Occupational Health & Safety Specialists and Technicians, Chemical Technician, and Municipal Firefighter. Those leaving after an Army career as a 74D are more in line for Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors, Nuclear Monitoring Technician, or Emergency Management Director.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri September 6th, 2017.  If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013.  Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.

For those interested in Law Enforcement, another army job that is trained at Fort Leonard Wood is Military Police – MP.  In fact, all services, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Department of Defense Civilian Police are trained at the US Army Military Police School (USAMPS) at Fort Leonard Wood.  USAMPS is fully accredited by FLETA (Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation).

Up until a few short years ago, when the question was asked; “Does being an MP in the military help you get a job as a civilian police officer?” The answer was a flat NO.  In fact many law enforcement agencies, while eagerly accepting veterans, preferred that an applicant not have been a military MP.  First, the military didn’t teach the subjects taught in civilian police academies, they didn’t do much of the same type of work, and they were in the military.  To many civilian police forces, having been an Army MP was a detriment, because they came with bad habits.  The military had different forms, different reporting procedures, and they were soldiers.  A soldier is a soldier, regardless of job.  While in service, they think differently, act differently, and speak their own language.  So regardless of the military experience, most civilian police forces required veteran applicants complete a civilian police academy.

That started changing in 2011 when a military police captain and a lieutenant, at Fort Leonard Wood, took the Missouri POST (Police Officer Selection and Training) Exam.  They identified the subjects tested in the exam which were not covered in their military training.  Their boss, the battalion commander, of the 787th MP Battalion, contacted the University of Missouri-Columbia Law Enforcement Training Institute.  In 2012, Mr. William Stephens, the senior instructor at the Columbia Institute partnered with the USAMPS to help them evaluate their training and re-develop it to meet the 600 hours of training required by Missouri.  Initially a core of instructors were trained, and in January 2013 twenty one officers, non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) (sergeants), and two civilians from USAMPS took the Missouri POST exam.  All passed and subsequently received their State of Missouri police license.  After redeveloping and extending the initial military police training, Missouri recognized 722 hours of training, well exceeding the 600 hour requirement.

Army military police, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 31B, are trained in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning that their basic combat training and their advanced MOS training is conducted in the same company, all together.  The basic training phase is ten weeks and the MP phase is 11 weeks.  In February 2013, Company E, 787th MP Battalion, having most of its cadre Missouri POST certified, was designated as the pilot company to test the new curriculum.  At graduation, 69 members of the class, who were age 21 years or older, took the Missouri POST Exam with 62 (90%) passing and receiving their state license.  Now, all 31B graduates, who are 21 or over, take the Missouri POST exam.

The Missouri POST examination is a 200 question exam, which covers constitutional law, Missouri statutory law, traffic law, ethics and professionalism, domestic violence, human behavior, patrol issues, jail population management, traffic accident and law enforcement, criminal investigation, offense investigation, report writing, juvenile justice and procedures, first responder, defensive tactics, firearms and the fundamentals of law enforcement driving.

In addition to the required civilian subjects, military police training covers advanced communications and advanced map reading skills, the M2 .50-cal machinegun and the MK 19 .40-cal automatic belt fed grenade launcher, vehicle Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) and driving the HMMWV on and off road, pistol qualification, MP Law Enforcement Operations, Defensive tactics and techniques, Detainee Operations, Active shooter response, Tactical operations, and Battlefield Forensics.

Much of the training is conducted at Stem Village, a mock city on Fort Leonard Wood named for a former MP Corps commandant.  The village covers 77,670 square feet and is constructed of dual purpose buildings like a movie theater which also contains weapons training classrooms.  There is a mock MP Station, bar, strip mall and gymnasium.  Another part of the village, used by officers and NCO’s that attend nine different courses from special police operations to anti-terrorism and counterdrug, has a credit union, shoppette, health clinic, family housing and other buildings that might be encountered on a military base.  There is also a state-of-the-art urban operations training area that resembles areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There is also one of the most realistic anti-terrorism evasive driving training areas for Department of Defense drivers for general officers and VIP’s.

MP duty varies with the unit and its mission.  The following was written by an MP stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.

“Most units rotate trough a cycle on a base. Here at Ft. Leonard Wood we have a pretty average cycle. One month Law Enforcement, one month Access Control, One month training. During the Access control month we work the gates checking IDs. We issue passes and ensure that only authorized personnel and their vehicles enter the post. During the Law Enforcement month we patrol the base in vehicles and on foot. We respond to 911 calls and general complaints. We use RADAR to enforce speed laws and of course watch stop signs for violations. The training month is used to prepare for field missions. These can consist of basic soldier skills or advanced unit specific missions. Some units train to escort POWs during war, others train to support forward units in finding their way. A unit may be tasked with setting up a holding compound for prisoners or detainees.

A big question I get asked is, Are you treated differently as an MP? The answer is yes and no. Some people are afraid to approach police officers. They picture us all a mean, power hungry people. Others love to taunt cops. Most people are indifferent to us though. They know we are around they just don’t think about us much. We are by the nature of our duties different. While many people sleep or take holidays, we work the roads and gates.

24 hours a day you can find a crew of MPs standing guard or working a beat. 365 days a year you can call the MP station and get a dispatcher on the phone. That’s the nature of MP work.

Military Police are just soldiers doing a different job. We carry weapons with live ammo every day. We write tickets for people well above our own pay grades.

We face combat situations in the front lawns of soldier’s homes weekly. And when we see a cop behind us we think, “What does this jerk want”.”

Another wrote; “God forbid you write a Colonel’s wife a ticket and it gets pulled.”

In combat areas MP’s can and do see combat.  They are occasionally used for route reconnaissance, and sometimes for convoy escort.

On Sunday, March 20th 2005 a squad, in three Humvees, from the 617th MP Company of the Kentucky National Guard was escorting a convoy of 30 civilian tractor trailers in Iraq.  Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein was the Squad Leader and Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester the assistant.  The MP vehicle, leading the convoy, came under attack from insurgents in a pair of dry irrigation ditches that ran parallel to the road.  They were firing AK-47’s, machineguns, and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.  The other MP’s all sped down the shoulder of the road to get to the front of the convoy between the insurgents and the trucks.  They made a right turn onto a side road, in an attempt to flank the insurgents, when the lead vehicle was hit by an RPG round, wounding the three MP’s in that vehicle.  Simultaneously, ten insurgents, firing their rifles, ran across a field to within about 60 feet of where the MP’s had come to a halt. Two MP’s in the second vehicle ran to give aid to the wounded, while one continued firing a Humvee mounted .50-cal machinegun. Staff Sergeant Nein and Sergeant Hester, in the third vehicle, ran to a nearby berm and started firing their M4 carbines, Sergeant Hester also had an M203 Grenade Launcher, with which she pumped out several 40 mm high explosive rounds. By that point in the firefight, the attackers had moved into the ditches and hidden behind several trees. The two MPs treating the wounded on the ground then came under sniper fire as the skirmish continued to escalate. Both soldiers responded by firing AT-4 rockets toward the farmhouse where the sniper was hiding. With the fire of the .50-cal. machine gun beginning to thump away at the enemy’s flank, Staff Sgt. Nein and Sgt. Hester laid down a continuous volume of fire at the 10 insurgents in the closest ditch. Although the Americans were fighting back, the situation had reached a stalemate. The MP’s were greatly outnumbered and had wounded, they couldn’t withdraw, and they would run out of ammunition long before a relief force could reach them. Staff Sergeant Nein and Sergeant Hester had only one option – attack. Realizing that their ammunition was dangerously low, Sergeant Hester ran through the fire back to a Humvee for ammo and hand grenades. Resupplied, the two rolled over the berm and attacked the ditch, while the .50-cal was forcing the insurgents to keep their heads down. Sgt. Hester killed three insurgents with her M4 Carbine and a fourth with her M203 grenade launcher. “It was either them or me—and I wasn’t going to choose the latter,” she later recalled. At the end of the 30 minute firefight, the MP’s had captured one unwounded Iraqi, six wounded, and found 24 dead. They also found 22 AK-47 rifles, 6 PRG launchers, 16 rockets, 13 RPK-type light machine guns, three PKM belt-fed machine guns, 40 hand grenades, and a mountain of small arms ammunition, plus one other chilling discovery – the insurgents were all carrying handcuffs.

Both Sergeants were awarded the Silver Star for valor, for that action. Making 5 foot 4 inch, 23 year old, Leigh Ann Hester, who was a Shoe Carnival store manager in Nashville before her guard unit deployed, the first female to be awarded the Silver Star, since World War II.