Category Archives: For you who are thinking about the military

A NATIONAL CRISIS

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 17th 2018.
The fiscal year of the federal government is October 1st of this year to September 30th.of next year. Last fiscal year the US Army failed to meet its recruiting goal. The Army’s original recruiting goal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 was set at 80,000 new recruits. In April that goal was reduced to 76,500 due to increased reenlistments. The recruiting goal was set to increase the size of the Army from the current around 476,000 to around 500,000 soldiers. About 70,000 new soldiers were enlisted in FY 2018. The goal was to have 483,500 by the end of FY 2018, the Army still has around 476,000 soldiers.
The New York Times recently published an article which said that the Army missed its goal even after lowering standards to let in more troops with conduct or health issues. That was an incorrect statement. Standards have not been lowered. Standards were lowered in 2007 during the surge in Iraq, after which the Army saw spikes in behavioral and other problems. The Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army have vowed that standards will not be lowered. Brigadier General Kevin Vereen, the Deputy Commander of the US Army Recruiting Command recently hinted that some waivers of disqualifications may be considered, which have not been previously. He said that some of the disqualifications are mind-boggling, such as eczema (irritated skin) and minor misconduct that boils down to kids being kids. He said; “There are some people who should be given the opportunity to join the Army and have not been given a fair shake.” He said there has to be a balance, he doesn’t want to see new recruits enter the Army and become immediate misconduct problems for commanders. He said the Army will not sacrifice quality for quantity.
A roaring economy makes recruiting for the Army tougher, and the United States has the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. Plus 75 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to join the military, even if they wanted to. According to reports, that means 24 million of the 34 million of that age group are not qualified for military service. About 25 percent of those entering recruiting stations nationwide cannot pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test. That leaves a very small group of people available to recruiters. The Army’s plan is to offer more money in enlistment bonuses and put more recruiters on the street.
Aside from walking in Indian country knowing you’re being watched, Army recruiting duty is one of, if not the most, stressful jobs in the Army. A small percentage of Army Recruiters volunteer for the duty, most are assigned by Department of the Army Headquarters to that duty. In 2008 Sergeant First Class Patrick Henderson a 35 year old combat veteran of Iraq, who suffered from PTSD, had been on recruiting duty for a year when he went into his backyard shed, locked the door and hanged himself with a dog chain. He was the fifth recruiter suicide in seven years in that Recruiting Battalion. Since 2001 there have been 17 Army Recruiter suicides. SFC Henderson’s suicide caused an investigation by Department of the Army, after which recruiting quotas were changed from individual quotas to station missions. That change allowed recruiters in an Army Recruiting Station to work together as a team, instead of each individual working alone. It has helped.
But, could this be the hint of a much deeper problem than the Army missing a recruiting goal one year. We’ll just throw in more money and recruiters and make it up next year. That may not be possible, considering the people available. Economics are keeping some of the world bad guys in check, but their thirst for power is obvious. China’s Navy is becoming very aggressive in the South China Sea and in particular around US Navy ships. Russia is aggressive in Eastern Europe and next door to Alaska. Hopefully North Korea is being brought under control. And then there is the leader of Iran shouting “Death of America”. At the height of World War II the United States of America had over 12,000,000 men in uniform. Today we have about 1,350,000 on active duty and another 800,000 in the Reserves and National Guard. So if we wake up one morning and were in a major war, where do we get the people to defend this country? Return to the draft?
China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran all have mandatory military service, plus 22 other countries, including Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Switzerland, and Israel which requires men and women to serve in the military. No politician is interested in reinstating the draft and neither is the military, but what if we have to. Lowering the standards may be necessary, but it would have consequences. When men were drafted they took all the tests, just like now. The AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) results are divided into four categories, if a draftee scored in category four, the lowest, he was rejected from military service. During the Vietnam War, Defense Secretary McNamara decided to allow 100,000 category four’s into service. They were called “McNamara’s 100,000”, and they caused many problems. I had four infantry privates, who had graduated from college and were drafted. They caused no problems, McNamara’s 100,000 caused a lot of the drug, fragging, and race problems in Vietnam. So what’s the answer, draft all the overweight, but otherwise qualified people and put them through several weeks of weight reduction, health, and strength training prior to basic training – possibly.
This could be a National Security crises. In February, The Heritage Foundation published a report that elaborated on the causes of this crisis. Of the 75 percent of the ineligible 17 to 24 year old people, 32 percent are because of health problems primarily obesity. The number of overweight kids grows every year. Improper diet, lack of physical activity, and too much sugar are the big culprits. Carbonated high sugar content soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and all their derivatives cause weight gain. Too much consumption along with chips or candy causes a lot of fat weight gain. I wonder if not having a Home Economics Class has anything to do with this. We now have a couple generations of mothers who have not had a class on setting a table and planning a nutritious meal. Inadequate physical fitness accounts for 27 percent. People who have never exercised or performed hard physical work, plus not following a proper diet, often takes many months of strict regimen to get their bodies in good physical condition. Lack of education, a high school diploma, is the problem for 25 percent. Current policy for those with only a GED is that they must have 15 semester hours of college before they can enlist. A full 10 percent are disqualified because of criminal history. The Department of Justice reported that in 2015 nearly one million juveniles were arrested, and according to The Pittsburg Youth Study 52 to 57 percent of those continue to offend up to age 25. In 2016 a third of all Americans had used marijuana within the past year and 50 percent in their lifetime. Sexual offensives and drunk driving prevent many from being able to enlist in the military. Kids involved in good organized programs like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, junior ROTC, and 4H don’t usually fall into this category. Belle High School is fortunate to have Mr. Chris Mertz, and now with the help of Mrs. James, guiding a tremendously successful FFA program. It is popular with the students and is producing good citizens.
What would happen if the draft was reinstated? Riots? The military is one percent of the US population. There has become such a disconnect between the general public and the military, that the military, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely ignored by a majority of people. Military service is almost becoming a family business. Children of career military people become career military people. Alabama, a state of 5 million people sends more people to the military than the cities of Los Angles, Chicago, and New York combined which have an area population of over 40 million, according to an Army colonel in April. Up until the Vietnam War most men accepted the call, when drafted, served their time, did their duty and came home. Some celebrities answered the call when they were drafted, some did not.

With the probability of going to war in Vietnam, protests, riots, and draft card burnings made national news. Some actually moved to Canada to avoid being drafted.
Serving in the military is a noble and honorable thing to do. Whether a combat infantryman, a cook in the chow hall, a clerk behind a desk or a mechanic in the motor pool, serving is an honorable thing to do and with that service should be pride. Society in the United States of America has changed much and not necessarily for the better since January 20th 1961, when in his Inaugural Address President Kennedy said; “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

WHY I LIKE THE ARMY

This was originally published with the title LIFE on May 3rd, 2017 in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri.

CareerCast is the internet giant for identifying jobs and matching people to jobs. Each year it also ranks jobs for desirability. According to them, the good jobs have great work environments, low stress, and high projected growth, whereas the bad jobs have poor work environments, high stress, and poor projected growth. For 2017, enlisted military personnel was number 196 on their list of 200 jobs. Fourth from the bottom. They rated it as the most stressful job in the world, period. They claimed a “very poor” work environment and poor projected growth. That irritated me, so I looked up who wrote different articles on the ranking, then I looked into CareerCast, who are they and what do they do. I found that the work environment they consider as that of enlisted military personnel is combat. Infantry soldiers engaged in combat. That is stressful, the first time an enemy shoots at you, the pucker factor increases 1000 percent in a millisecond. Then you start trying to figure out how to put the enemy out of business. General Patton said; “No dumb b***ard ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other poor dumb b***ard die for his country.” And not everybody who has seen combat gets PTSD, you try to remember what you did right and what you did wrong, and think about what you might do next time, if you’re an infantryman, it’s your job. The ratio of support soldiers to combat soldiers, in the Army is about seven to one. Seven support soldiers for every combat soldier, and if you throw in the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force the ratio is probably 20 to one. This reminds me of the young man who saw the movie “Lone Survivor” and assumed that’s what life in the military is like. It portrays the lack of knowledge about our military by the general civilian population.
When Betty and I got married I was a Sergeant E5 and Betty was a Registered Nurse. Four years later, when our first, Sara, came along, I was a Staff Sergeant E6 and Betty quit work. She never went back to work until we were back here and the kids were older, when she worked as a substitute teacher for a couple years. Two more, Richard and Heidi came along and Betty stayed home and raised the kids while I soldiered. We lived well (she kept the checkbook), we bought two houses, one of them new, and a few new cars along the way, and we didn’t do without, we lived comfortably. When I retired from the Army in 1984, my base pay was about what a Specialist E4’s pay is now, so the pay has kept up with the times. We enjoyed our time in the Army, you might say we had the time of our lives.
I found a forum question from a young person who was about to leave for basic training, and had read some negative comments from soldiers and wanted to hear some positive comments, so he or she asked for comments. Here are some of the answers:
1 – I love my PT shirt.
2 – I love my job, the unit I am in, and my duty location. To get where I am, I had to wade through some crap, deal with annoyances, suck it up and drive on. I also like that the Army is kind of a “safety net” for me and my family. No matter how bad the economy is, I will always have that paycheck on the 1st and the 15th, and me and my family’s health needs will be taken care of.
3 – Best thing about the Army? The people I work with. Worst thing? The people I work with. It’s a funny mix of the best people you will ever meet, scummy bottom feeding knuckle draggers, and those who are paragons of the phrase “good enough for government work” whose only goal in life is to retire before 40 and do as little as possible. Then there are the guys that really make you motivated.
4 – Female Soldier: The Army is where I learned about motivation, determination, leadership, mental toughness, resilience, brotherhood, and pride. I was weak before I joined – mentally, physically, and emotionally. The Army took a whiny little bitchass mouse who had panic attacks when asked to speak in class and turned me into a confident adult with skills and accomplishments I can take pride in. Before I joined the Army, I whined about waking up at 7:30 for an 8:00 class. Some days I just chose not to go out of pure laziness. Last Monday, I woke up before 0400 to go take a darn APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). And I freaking loved it.
5 – Four day weekends.
6 – I like it because for those who want to excel, you can. The Army, at least for officers and NCO’s, will continue to place you in positions of greater responsibility. I also have been incredibly fortunate to work with some great Soldiers. They are honestly what makes going to work every day, worth it. I also like DFAC breakfast. You can’t beat $2.50 for bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit.
7 – Pretty much getting paid to go to school, wish I had realized how awesome this was before I got a year of college debt.
8 – I view the Army overall this way; Navy – I hate water/boats and I didn’t like the lifestyle they have. USMC – They’re just not for me, I didn’t want to be a Marine. USAF – Too laid back and too corporate, I didn’t want anything cushy. The Army, in my opinion, is my happy medium. We are diverse and every unit has a different culture. To me, I think the Officer, NCO, Soldier relationship is different from the other branches. We just do things different and it fits me perfectly.
9 – I get paid really well to fly helicopters.
10 – The people and the simplicity. And how much it’s made me appreciate my free time and my sleep. 0800 used to be early for me.
11 – I love watching my Soldiers be successful in their careers. Awards, badges, ceremonies = I don’t care two cents for. The best award in the world is getting a random text or email that says “Thank you for mentoring and training me.” Nothing in the Army compares to watching that young SSG or SGT rise to become an awesome PSG or 1SG.
12 – Legacy. I believe establishing a legacy is one of the best things about being in the Army. I came from a divorced family and we lived close to poverty level. There was no way for my mom to pay for my school. I was looking at dead end jobs and college debt. Joining the Army, I have established myself as a professional. I have a rewarding career with pretty good retirement. I have earned my Associates, my Bachelors and am currently working on my Masters. Been married 14 years with three beautiful kids that will inherit my GI Bill (since I will finish my Masters prior to my retirement). What the Army has done for me is set not only me but my family on a great path. Instead of struggling day to day, I am able to make sure my kids will have better opportunities than I did. This is the legacy. This is what I love about the Army.
13 – I love the simplicity of it, there are very few grey lines when it comes to the day to day of it.
14 – Hands down the comradery. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in the Army, no matter what, you’re always surrounded by Soldiers who are there to have your back.
15 –“20+ years” – 1 -The comradery is unlike any other job. 2 – Travel (to good places, not just hell-holes), good pay/benefits, sense of accomplishment, the list goes on and on. 3 – They pay you to receive training and experience. The pay and benefits are very competitive to civilian jobs, 30 days paid vacation a year, full medical and dental, housing paid for, college education tuition paid for while in and after you get out, free legal services, name brand grocery shopping at cost, exchange privileges (-20% under average prices off post), free/low-cost tourism trips & activities, & more. 4 – As long as I can consistently go to sleep feeling like I’ve accomplished something, it’s a good job. As you move up in rank and start training others, it becomes even more rewarding. 5 – I initially joined because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I didn’t like what I was majoring in at college (Dentistry) and didn’t know what career path I wanted to change to. I joined for a short term to give me time to explore my options. I have enjoyed it enough that I’ve stayed in for over 20 years now. I’m starting to think about retirement, but that’s still a few years off. I’m looking at working with youth groups when I get out. 6 – Goes back mainly to my first answer. There is no other job out there where your co-workers will always be there for you no matter what. From something as simple as helping you move or picking you up from the airport to actually having your back when bullets are flying. Even if you don’t necessarily like each other, you still have respect and trust for each other.

ETHICS

This was originally published April 5th, 2017 in the Belle Banner, Belle Missouri.
I enlisted in the Army August 30th, 1961, fifteen years after my Dad was discharged, from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I went through basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, advanced infantry training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. The day we made our last jump in airborne school, the Sergeants told us; “You are now paratroopers, you can whip any five Marines”. Some went to the bars downtown that night and tried it. They were carried back to the barracks, and didn’t look so good for graduation the next morning. I was then assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was after sundown when we arrived, by bus, at the 82nd Replacement Detachment. A very tough sounding Sergeant briefed us on where things were located. The enlisted club was at the end of the street. The Sergeant told us that paratroopers didn’t drink that slop beer, paratroopers drank whiskey. At that time, if you were in the Army you could drink alcohol on post, regardless of age. Three years later I made Sergeant. The tradition then was to “wet down the stripes” of a new Sergeant, because he could now go to the NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) Club. The NCO club held “Happy Hour” every day the first hour after work, during which drinks were half price. Young officers held a ceremony called a “Prop Blast” to welcome new lieutenants. Prop blast is what paratroopers feel when they exit a propeller driven airplane, except in that case it culminated with the new lieutenant having to drink an unknown alcoholic concoction from a silver chalice.
Vietnam was terrible for the Army. I have not read Lieutenant General H. R. McMasters’ book “Dereliction of Duty”, but I have read much of the research material he used. After the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965 (realistically portrayed in the movie “We Were Soldiers”) Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara visited Vietnam specifically to find out what happened at Ia Drang. After that visit, he could not foresee a way the US could win in Vietnam, he recommended leaving Vietnam then. In December 1965, President Johnson met with McNamara and others and decided to send more troops to General Westmoreland in Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson had no real military experience. He was a Texas congressman when World War II started, he was placed on active duty as a Navy Lieutenant Commander and “observed” a couple operations, and was then recalled to the US Congress. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was teaching accounting at Harvard, and went on active duty in 1943, as a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, and spent the war in the Office of Statistical Control, doing analysis of bomber runs. After the war he helped rebuild Ford Motor Company and become known as one of Ford’s “Whiz Kids”. President Kennedy selected McNamara as Secretary of Defense because he wanted a smart man in that job. Kennedy was a war hero himself and understood war. In 1964, William C. Westmoreland was the Commander of 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was considered one of the top generals in the Army. He was a fine, smart man. I saw him greet sergeants he had met one time 10 years prior, call them by name and talk about what they were doing back then. He was promoted to 4 stars and given command of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). In retrospect I think that is where he reached his peter principle. In case you’re not familiar, in 1969 Dr. Lawrence J. Peter wrote a book called “The Peter Principle”. His thesis was, that in a large organization a person can do a good job and keep getting promoted up the line until he is promoted into a job he can’t handle. The military situation in Vietnam started improving when Westmoreland was replaced in 1968, but by then it was too late, the country had already turned against the war. The My Lai Massacre was on March 16th 1968, during which, between 350 and 500 Vietnamese civilians, including old women and children, were lined up and murdered by a US Army infantry platoon. The Platoon Leader, Lieutenant William Calley, was convicted of murdering 22 unarmed civilians, but only spent three months in military prison. It was national news for weeks, and many felt the lieutenant was simply a scapegoat. But, when all the facts were known, it was cold blooded murder of hundreds. The cause was a terrible leadership climate. In following months and years, charges were filed against the entire chain of command, including the Division Commander, a Major General.
In World War II units were shipped overseas and stayed, as did all the soldiers who went with them, for the duration of the war. In Vietnam it was decided that soldiers would only spend one year there, then return to the US, so units were constantly having experienced people leave and inexperienced people arrive. Company and battalion commanders spent six months to the hour in command, then moved, so more officers could get their “command time”, in a combat area. The enemy used drugs as a weapon. Heroin and pot were cheap and plentiful. A vile of 90% heroin was $2.00, I found them lying around bunkers. In some units, it didn’t have to be dark for the pot smell to fill the air in the evening. Back at Fort Bragg, a list of suspected drug users was sent weekly up the chain to Division Headquarters.
It was around that time that the leadership of the Army started attempting to change the ethical and moral culture of the Army. For about 30 years every Chief of Staff of the Army gave guidance to those writing manuals and lesson plans on the subjects of professional ethics and leadership. Army leadership developed and debated values that should be taught and finally established seven core values. Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Duty – Fulfill your obligations. Accomplish tasks as a member of a team. Respect – Treat people with dignity and respect. Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Honor – Live up to Army values. Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally. Personal Courage – Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). They are arranged to form the acronym LDRSHIP. By the 1990’s complete core and advanced courses in ethics were taught at West Point, the US Army War College, the Command and General Staff College and the 18 other Army service schools, and the ROTC Cadet Command. In 1998 the Army started teaching the seven core values in basic training. Army values have become more than just classes, they are pushed and emphasized as who soldiers are, and how they live.
Spiritual fitness has long been recognized by Army leadership, as a necessary component of a soldiers’ character. General George Patton recognized the power of spiritual strength when he circulated 250,000 copies of a weather prayer, one for every soldier in the Third Army, during the Battle of the Bulge. In Operation Desert Storm, in 1990, more than 15,000 soldiers of the 18th Airborne Corps attended worship one Sunday morning before the ground war began. Unit ministry teams, consisting of a Chaplain and a Chaplains’ Assistant are in every unit down to battalion level.
In 1970 there were three main NCO Clubs, two officer clubs and 11 annexes on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Now there is one “Club” open to the public and all ranks, and there are only three locations, on post, that serve alcohol to be consumed on the premises. There are now 11 chapels on Fort Bragg, including a large new “All American Memorial Chapel” in the 82nd Airborne Division area. That makes two in the division area.
The Army has matured from a culture of hard drinking, hard fighting, rough and tumble soldiers to one of dedicated and educated professionals willingly serving their country. Most are married, and the families are included, as part of the “Army Family”. Every company now has a “Family Readiness Group” composed of the spouses of the soldiers. They are funded and supported by the Army, they have monthly meetings and they are kept informed about what their soldier is doing on deployments, and what is in the future. They are great help to each other. There are now hundreds of dual military married couples. The Army has a formal “Married Army Couple Program”. The couple has to register in the program, then every effort is made to assign the couple to the same post or overseas location. Many couples have children and raise families while both are on active duty. It is rare that a married couple is separated. Basic training is tougher and more professional now than when I entered the Army, and it is tougher and more professional than it was when I was a Drill Sergeant 36 years ago. All training is professional and realistic.
In February 2012, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Kandahar Province, which includes the Arghandab River in Afghanistan. It was a large Taliban stronghold. From March to the end of July that brigade saw some of the most intense combat since the initial deployments in 2001. Performing with, what some have called, an almost perfect strategic plan they drove the Taliban out of the area. There were some casualties. Lieutenant Colonel (Chaplain) Jeffrey Watters was the Division Chaplain for the 82nd Airborne Division. He wrote the following article for the summer 2012 edition of the Paraglide Magazine;
“Much has been written about today’s youth – the generation which has grown up with computers, video games, and social media. What brought them into the Army differs widely from person to person. Some joined for college tuition, some for belief in something greater than themselves, some because of a military heritage, but they all have one thing in common. When they joined, they did so during a time of military conflict, knowing that they would deploy overseas and participate in the War on Terror. Coming from the generation often characterized by their elders as being weak, undisciplined couch potatoes, those who joined belied that claim and were transformed from civilians to soldiers, a claim only one percent of the American population can make. The remaining 99% go about their daily life giving little or no thought about what is occurring in the Arghandab River Valley of southern Afghanistan. But those one percent, they are the true American treasures. No matter where I travel in Afghanistan, what I see are exceptional Soldiers. They come from all walks of life and from every corner of America. They have been forged into a team, vetted in the crucible of suffering and sacrifice that only Soldiers can understand. In some sense, they have become what others of their generation can only view in a movie or play in a video game. They have become warriors, transitioned from isolated individuals to members of a close knit band with a mission greater than themselves. They keep faith with their fellow Soldiers who are on their left and right. They are unsurpassed in every way.
The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known, and in no small measure, that’s because of the American Soldiers’ commitment to make sure the mission succeeds, no matter the cost. I see it in their sun-baked faces, in their somewhat tattered bleached uniforms, but more importantly, I see it in their eyes. It takes fortitude, courage, and a solemn resolve to continue the mission, knowing that they may meet their untimely fate. Yet they push on. Because of honor, because of courage, because of the sacred trust that they hold with one another – not to let a buddy down.
As I participate in a Memorial Service, a Dignified Transfer or a Purple Heart Ceremony, I see extraordinary sacrifice. For every fallen and wounded warrior, we grieve. The sorrow is profound, the pain intense, yet our Soldiers continue on. The memory of those sacrifices goes with us, a constant reminder to honor their lives by committing to lead from the front, to share successes and setbacks, to share danger, to share sorrow and joy … tragedy and triumph. Yes, I see it daily – young Troopers displaying courage, fortitude, bravery, heroism, sacrifice. This is our 82nd heritage, handed down to us from the generations before. A heritage, upheld with respect and pride.”

GREEN TO GOLD

This was originally published March 29th, 2017 in the Belle Banner, in Belle, Missouri

This week we are revisiting Jane Doe. When we left her she had been in the army about a year, she was a PFC (Private First Class), Human Resource Specialist, working in the S1 section of a Brigade Headquarters in the 82nd Airborne Division. Jane had completed one semester of college, ran out of money, and joined the Army primarily for the GI Bill benefit. When we left her she had settled into her job and was planning to start taking evening college classes and classes online.
Now it is another year, Jane is Specialist Jane Doe and she has discovered something. She likes the Army. She likes the security, and she likes the not worrying about making a living, and she likes what she does in the Army, but she is not complacent, she wants more. Jane’s take home pay is now a little over $900.00 twice a month ($1,800 per month). Jane is a smart person and she knows that she can perform at a much higher level than where she is now. Being a Human Resource Specialist, (they used to be called personnel clerks), it is Jane’s job to know the system, and about the time we left Jane, she discovered an army secret. It is not really a secret, but it is not advertised outside the Army. She discovered the “Green to Gold” program. The Green to Gold program has three ways to apply, but basically it is a program where a young soldier has accumulated enough semester hours that they can complete a bachelor’s degree in 4 semesters (21 months), they apply for the program and if accepted they are released from active duty to complete their bachelor’s degree, take ROTC, get commissioned and return to active duty as an officer.
For the past year, Jane has been taking two 3 semester hour evening classes each week with Campbell University’s eight week semesters on Fort Bragg. She had to miss one semester because of a long field exercise, but she completed 24 semester hours, in class and 6 hours online, and CLEP tested (College Level Examination Program) for another 3 hours. With her one semester of college before enlisting, she now has a total of 45 semester hours. Her goal is to have 75 semester hours when she reaches three years in service. She has studied the three ways to apply for the Green to Gold program. First, she has to be accepted by the college, and the ROTC department at the college. The first way would be to apply for an ROTC scholarship, if approved, she would be released from active duty, the scholarship would pay tuition and fees, and she would receive her GI bill benefits and the monthly ROTC payment. The second option is to apply for the non-scholarship green to gold program, which means she would be released from active duty, and would use her GI bill to attend school. She would also receive the ROTC payment. But Jane is going to apply for the “active duty option” of the Green to Gold program. Under the active duty option she would be released (or assigned) to go to college, but she would still be on active duty, drawing full pay and allowances, which for her would mean losing $150 per month jump pay, but gaining about $1,000 per month basic allowance for housing, and $368 per month for meals. So she would be taking home about $3,000 per month from the Army, and the GI Bill would pay her tuition at the school. With that option, she would still be on active duty, so if she had any health problems, or pay issues she could go to the nearest Army post, which would be her support post, for help. Plus when she goes over three years in service she will be qualified for the full Post 911 GI Bill, which would pay for her full tuition and fees. She wouldn’t receive the housing allowance from VA because she would be drawing that from the Army.
Specialist Jane Doe also knows that the active duty option is very competitive. A soldier has to prove that they are officer material. She has been preparing herself throughout the year. Her college GPA is 3.8 and she intends to keep it there or higher, and she had an ACT score of 25 in high school, which still counts. So academically she thinks she will be OK. The Army now puts great value on physical fitness and marksmanship. She has been doing extra pushups and situps for the past year, she is now at 36 pushups in 2 minutes and 72 situps in 2 minutes, and she can run 2 miles in less than 15 minutes, which gives her a score of 280 of a possible 300 on the PT test. Every time a company in the Brigade goes for weapons qualification, she asks to go with them. She has fired on the record range six times in the past year and the last time she hit 40 of 40 targets. She is preparing to compete for Brigade Soldier of the quarter. In that competition she will have a PT test, fire on the range, ruck march, and demonstrate various soldier skills, then appear before a formal board in the Brigade Support Battalion, if she wins there she would compete against other battalion soldiers of the quarter at the Brigade board. Having been a soldier of the quarter will be an asset to her Green to Gold application.
Specialist Jane Doe demonstrates officer qualities, she is smart, articulate, courteous, and she is neat and has good posture (military bearing). She is cheerful and always volunteers to help with anything extra. She has become an asset to her bosses, and is known to the Colonel (Brigade Commander), and the Command Sergeant Major as one who can be counted on to participate in anything extra. She has become an avid handball player and one day a week, at lunch time, she plays handball with her boss, the new Brigade S1, Major Elizabeth Brown. For those who don’t know, that is American handball, not team handball. It is played in a racquetball court, 40’ x 20’ with 20’ walls and a ceiling (a box). It is a small hard rubber ball and players wear a small, snug fitting glove. The server bounces the ball off the end wall and the receiver tries to return it before it crosses the center line. It is fast, intense and exhausting. A 30 minute game usually leaves players worn out and drenched in sweat. She is also accomplishing some politicking with the first field grade officer in her chain of command.
Specialist Jane Doe has a goal, and that is to be commissioned in the Adjutant General’s Corps, then stay in the Army as an officer.

SIMULTANEOUS MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM (SMP)

This was originally published March 22nd, 2017 in The Belle Banner in Belle, Missouri. It was written to the local audience, but the program is nationwide. This is how an intelligent young person with zero resources can get a great jump start on life.

Last week I talked about Army Scholarships, this week the same theme but maybe even better.
If you graduate from high school and want to go to college, but don’t have the money, don’t think you can come up with enough scholarships, and don’t want to go way, way in debt to pay for it, here’s how, if you don’t mind joining the US Army Reserves or the Missouri Army National Guard. When you graduate from college, you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army, and you spend six years as an officer in the guard or three years active regular army then five years guard/reserve.
It is called the Simultaneous Membership Program, or SMP. You are in the US Army Reserves or the Missouri National Guard and in Army ROTC at college. You can do it in the Army Reserves, but the Missouri Guard doubles the tuition assistance. First you talk an Army recruiter or to an Army or a Missouri Army National Guard (MOANG) recruiter. You tell him or her that you want to get into the simultaneous membership program. The recruiter will probably send you to a unit commander, because in the guard and the reserve you enlist for a specific job in a unit, plus the commander has to accept you in the SMP program. You should also talk to the ROTC department at the college you want to attend. At MS&T you should talk to Mr. Chad Pense, who is also Lieutenant Colonel Pense in the US Army Reserves. He is the Assistant Professor of Military Science and the point of contact for SMP and scholarship candidates. He is at 573-341-6808, pensec@mst.edu. There is still a “split option” program where you can go to basic training between your junior and senior years of high school, then attend AIT (Advanced Individual Training), i.e., MOS (Military Occupational Specialty, i.e.,job) training after graduating. I do not recommend that. Many say they get out of shape and forget things between basic and AIT. I recommend graduating from high school then attending basic and AIT. That is no different than enlisting in the regular army. ASVAB tests, physicals, physical assessment, background checks and MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station). Except in this case, after AIT you get to come home take off the uniform and start school, which would probably be the spring semester instead of the fall semester. You will attend MOANG/Reserve drill one weekend per month. Drill pay for a Private E1 is $208.00 per month. The Federal tuition assistance and the MOANG tuition assistance will pay your full tuition and fees. Plus, having completed basic and AIT qualifies you for the Montgomery GI bill (MGIB), which pays $356.00 per month to a full time student.
The actual SMP program starts when you are an academic sophomore and have only three years left to graduate. At that time you sign an ROTC contract. Up until that time your guard/reserve duties took priority, at that point ROTC takes priority over your unit, and when you drill with your unit, you will drill as an officer trainee, and you will be paid at the rate of a Sergeant E5 at $297.00 per month, and you are non-deployable. Plus ROTC pays you $350.00 per month your sophomore year, $450.00 to juniors, and $500.00 to seniors. Plus if you were able to enlist for a critical MOS (job) and scored high enough on the ASVAB, which qualified you for a “GI Bill kicker” (ask the MOANG/Army recruiter and unit commander), you get another $350.00 per month. If you’ve been counting that’s $1,353.00 per month you are collecting, plus your tuition and fees are paid.
If you score high enough on the ASVAB, and are able to contract for a specialty that qualifies for the “GI Bill kicker”, it is worth $350 per month. However, what skill you learn is only of value to your unit that first year, because when you contract with ROTC, as an SMP student you become an officer trainee, which usually means you will be paired with a lieutenant during drills. Basic training would probably be at Fort Leonard Wood, which would be 10 weeks. AIT length varies with the job skill. Combat Engineers, MOS 12B, and Bridge Crewmembers, MOS 12C are 15 weeks in one company at Fort Leonard Wood. Those are OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies. Military Police, MOS 31B is 21 weeks in an OSUT company at Fort Leonard Wood. Other AIT’s at Fort Leonard Wood are; Horizontal Construction Engineer, MOS 12N, 9 weeks, Interior Electrician, MOS 12R 6 weeks, Technical Engineering Specialist, MOS 12T 15 weeks, Geospatial Engineering, MOS 12Y 18 weeks, Corrections Specialist, MOS 31E 8 weeks, Chemical Operations Specialist, MOS 74D 10 weeks, Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), MOS 88M 7 weeks, and Construction Equipment Repairer, MOS 91L 8 weeks. Other AIT’s are at different posts around the country. Basic and AIT would keep you in training around four to six months, and you would be taking home around $1,200 per month, while in training.
Fort Leonard Wood is the Army’s Maneuver Support Center. It is the center and school for Corps of Engineers, Chemical Corps, and Military Police. If you are in any of those three branches, enlisted or officer, your initial schooling and subsequent advanced schooling is at Fort Leonard Wood. If you get any of those three fields, your basic and AIT will be at Fort Leonard Wood, plus when you are commissioned upon graduating from college and ROTC your Basic Officer Leadership Course will be at Fort Leonard Wood. Officers are promoted to Captain at about four years time in service. New Captains are reassigned to their school for a six months Captains Career Course. For the above branches, that is Fort Leonard Wood.
MOANG/Reserve units are all over the state, there are some units in Jefferson City, a couple small detachments in Rolla, and some at Fort Leonard Wood. If you were lucky enough to get a position in one of those locations, travel to monthly weekend drill would be fairly short. Plus you would probably attend two week summer training before you contract with ROTC. Many MOANG/Reserve units are as professional regular army units. MOANG/Reserve units have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and performed alongside regular army units. The former weatherman at KRCG Channel 13, Mike Roberts, spent a year as a combat engineer platoon leader, with the Missouri Army National Guard, clearing IED’s in Iraq. He is now Major Mike Roberts, an administrative officer with the guard.
However, you are not married to the National Guard, when you graduate from college. When you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant, you may request that you stay with the guard or you may go on active duty with the regular army, or go to the US Army Reserves. You are a commissioned officer available to the United States Army.

ARMY SCHOLARSHIPS

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, March 15th 2017. The dates for the scholarship application window may have changed by a day or two, but everything else is still current.  Pay has increased.

HIGH SCHOOL RISING SENIORS, scholarship application time starts in June after your junior year. The window for applying for an Army Four Year ROTC Scholarship is June 12th to January 10th of your senior year. The earlier you apply, the better your chance of being offered a scholarship. ROTC is Reserve Officer Training Corps. An Army Four Year Scholarship pays; full tuition and fees, plus $1,200 per year for books, plus a monthly payment for the 10 months of the school year of, $300 for freshmen, $350 for sophomores, $450 for juniors, and $500 for seniors. The payback is eight years in the National Guard or Reserves, or four years active duty, and four years inactive reserve. The requirements are; Be a United States Citizen, Be between the ages of 17 and 26, Have a high school diploma, (you can still start applying at the start of your senior year). Have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher (it needs to be in the neighborhood of 3.5), score at least a 19 on the ACT, but you’re not really competitive until you score in the neighborhood of 24, Be medically qualified through DODMERB (Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board) (i.e., your physical exam and medical history is accepted by the Department of Defense), and be able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. The Army wants a scholar, an athlete, and a leader. Your GPA should be above a 3.0, 3.5 is better, and you should be in the top 20 % of your class, top 10% is better, score a 24 or higher on the ACT. You should have “lettered” in a sport, individual or team competition. You should have held a leadership position, i.e., elected class officer, FFA officer, FBLA officer, or some activity in which you were in a leadership position. Letters of recommendation from teachers, your preacher, and nonrelated members of the community attesting to your character your attitude, and leadership ability all help.
You can start the application online, however if you are serious, I recommend that you first visit the Army ROTC department at the school you want to attend. Missouri University of Science and Technology (MS&T), at Rolla, has an outstanding Army ROTC program, and it has degree programs other than engineering. MS&T has a top business program, plus English, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and History.
The Army is not as concerned with what degree you have, but that you have a bachelor’s degree. Some branches are degree specific, such as Medical Corps, Nurse Corps, Veterinary Corps, and Chaplains Corps. The Corps of Engineers likes engineers, Civil Engineers in the Army move beyond combat engineers to districts supervising the nation’s waterways. I have seen many Mechanical Engineers serve successfully in combat engineers. Some have served a full career and retired as Lieutenant Colonels and full Colonels. The Infantry actually likes history majors, especially military history. MS&T, in my opinion, is one of the top schools in the country for studying military history. Dr. John C. McManus, at MS&T, is an internationally recognized expert in U.S. military history. He has been designated a “Curators Professor”, which is the highest, and most prestigious rank awarded to a professor, by the University of Missouri, Board of Curators. His class sizes in military history and political science max out at about 19 – 20 students per class. In past years, during the summer months, he has taken students to different battle fields, all over the world. He has researched and written 12 books on military history.
ROTC is another college class, it is a four year program, and it is two parts, the basic course, which is the first two years and the advanced course in the last two years. Non-scholarship students may take every class in the first two years without any commitment to the Army. All taking the advanced course contract with the Army prior to starting their junior year. Scholarship students contract with the Army when they accept the scholarship. Four year scholarships are offered to high school students. Three year and two year scholarships are offered to those already in college. ROTC classes are an exciting break from other college classes. During the basic first two years you become acquainted with the Army, you learn not only the basics of military courtesy and drill but you will have some fun adventures like rappelling and rifle marksmanship. The ROTC student becomes part of a close knit campus organization, which is not associated with any academic discipline, but can help academically, if necessary. My last job in the Army was NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer in Charge) of the Army ROTC Department at MS&T (then UMR). I was once tasked with writing a study guide, for the ROTC students, on “How to Study”. Advanced ROTC students study leadership in more depth, plus they serve in leadership positions in the ROTC Cadet Battalion and they attend a four week leadership camp between their junior and senior years. When the ROTC student receives a bachelor’s degree, and has completed the ROTC program, he or she is commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army.
Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant at 18 months time in service, and they are promoted to Captain at about four years in service. Industry seeks out former army officers. Those who have been in combat arms or combat support units have “people leading” experience, plus the experience of managing large volumes of equipment and material. In Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers, Air Defense Artillery, Transportation, and Quartermaster a normal tour for an officer would start as a Platoon Leader of a 30 to 40 person platoon for probably six to nine months. Then if he or she is performing well, he may be moved to a more advanced (complicated) platoon for another six to nine months. By that time the officer is a First Lieutenant and may move to a staff job at battalion level, or may become a Company Executive Officer (XO) for about a year or more. There is one XO in each company, and he or she is directly responsible for all administration, logistics and maintenance in the company, plus the XO commands the company, if the commander is not present. Some very good officers actually get to command company’s before they make captain. Companies vary in size from around 130 people to around 250.
The combat maneuver officer branches in the Army are; Infantry, Armor, and Aviation, combat fires branches are Artillery and Air Defense Artillery, maneuver support branches are Combat Engineers, Chemical Corps, and Military Police Corps, special operations branches are Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs Corps, operations support branches are Signal Corps, Cyber Corps (new) and Military Intelligence Corps, force sustainment branches are Transportation Corps, Ordnance Corps, Quartermaster Corps, Adjutant General’s Corps (Human Resources), Finance Corps, Medical Corps (Doctors), Army Nurse Corps, Dental Corps, Veterinary Corps, Medical Service Corps, Army Medical Specialist Corps, Chaplains Corps, and Judge Advocate Generals Corps (Lawyers).
The Army lives by seven core values, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Officers live by those values and enforce them. I saw a captain company commander relieved (fired) because he didn’t tell his boss (battalion commander) the whole truth about why a sergeant was removed from contact with ROTC cadets, in basic camp. When the colonel discovered the facts, the captain was fired. I heard the guest speaker at an Engineer Basic Officer Leaders class give four thoughts of advice, to the new lieutenants. First, when in charge, take charge, don’t abdicate you’re responsibility. Second, make it happen, if a job or mission appears too difficult, figure out how to get it done. Third, do the right thing, you wear the uniform, the Army values are your values, and finally, have fun, have some recreation away from the job, for you to relax and recharge.
If an officer stays on active duty past his or her initial commitment, at about four years service, they are reassigned back to their branch school for the Captains Career Course. The course is about six months long, and teaches how to be a company commander, and how to work as a staff officer. Then the captain has about six years before being considered for promotion to major, that usually means two assignments, one in a unit commanding a company and working on staff, and another such as ROTC duty, a special assignment, or going to grad school. The Army encourages captains to get a masters degree. Sometimes the Army gives the captain the time to go to grad school, and sometimes the Army will send captains to grad school. An Army Captain, over four, makes about $100,000 a year. Monthly pay is; $5,398.20 base pay, $253.63 for meals (nontaxable), and an average of about $1,400 per month Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) (nontaxable). That is about $85,000 per year, plus completely free, zero-deductible medical care for the captain and family, plus the nontaxable benefit, a civilian would have to be approaching six figures to equal a captains pay.
Whether an officer goes on active duty or to the National Guard or Reserves, almost every field of industry looks at that individual as having had training and experience beyond that of his or her peers.

LIFE IN THE ARMY – DANIEL KCENDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel was assigned to a Rifle Company in the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division.  The 504th is known as the “Devils in Baggy Pants”.  The 1st Battalion are the “Red Devils”, and the 2nd Battalion are the “White Devils”.  The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment got its’ nick name from the diary of a German Officer, who was killed at Anzio, Italy in February 1944.  Allied forces made a beach invasion at Anzio, about 35 miles south of Rome, German forces counterattacked and tried to push the allies back into the sea.  The 504th was severely under strength from months of intense combat up the boot of Italy, but it was parachuted into Anzio to help stop the German advance.  The passage in the German Majors’ diary read; “American parachutists … devils in baggy pants … are less than 100 meters from my outpost line, I can’t sleep at night, they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next.  Seems like the black hearted devils are everywhere …”.   For that action, the 504th was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.  One of the first to be awarded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

LIFE IN THE ARMY – JOHNNY SMITH

Originally published February 8th, 2017 in The Belle Banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week another soldier.

SALLY SMITH WAS COMMISSIONED THROUGH ROTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JANE DOE ENLISTED TO BE A HUMAN RESOURCE SPECIALIST

Originally published January 25th, 2017 in The Belle Banner.

PFC Jane Doe has been in the Army about a year. She completed one semester of college, ran out of money and went to an Army recruiter. She was interested in the GI Bill and what kind of job she could get in the army. The recruiter told her that she would be in the “Post 911 GI Bill”. After three years in the army, the VA will pay full tuition and fees to an in-state public college, university or trade school, plus a sizable monthly housing allowance, and up to $1,000 a year for books. In other words a full ride. As far as a job in the Army, she would have to take the ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, a physical fitness test, and a medical exam. Plus a background check to make sure she had nothing derogatory in her background. Then, based upon her scores, she could choose from the jobs available, at that time. The recruiter was a former paratrooper and told her that she could also request an “airborne option” along with most jobs (jobs are MOS’s (military occupational specialties) in the army). He told her that paratroopers on jump status receive an extra $150 per month, and that the school is only three weeks long. She choose MOS 42A Human Resource Specialist with the airborne option. Her recruiter cautioned her to reveal absolutely everything she may have done wrong in her life, because MOS 42A requires a SECRET security clearance, and in that investigation all records are available to the Army, including juvenile. Her recruiter helped her set up her Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account, where she could monitor her records and request assignments. She went to the MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in St Louis, where she took the ASVAB for record, got a physical exam (she had been told to remind them that she was going Airborne, because it required a different exam), and talked to a counselor, who tried to persuade her to take a different job, but she insisted that she wanted 42A. She then signed her contract, stood with several others and took the oath of enlistment. At that point she was in the Army.

Her group was bused to the USO office at the airport, where they met other enlistees who had arrived by plane. They were loaded on a bus and transported to the US Army Reception Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood. The time at the Reception Battalion can be anywhere from four days to a week and a half, until they have enough people to fill a basic training company. They were met by drill sergeants, who didn’t yell, but briefed them about what they would do, while at the Reception Battalion. They ate dinner, then were issued the Army PT uniform, which they would wear the next day. Their cell phones were collected, to be returned at graduation from basic training. They separated men and women, then were moved to a barracks and assigned a bunk and wall locker (need lock). They finally got to sleep after midnight. They were rudely awakened at 4:30 AM and told they had 30 minutes to take care of their personal hygiene then clean their living area and the latrine (bathroom), and be outside in formation for breakfast. They were briefed by various people, then the men all got their hair cut off, the women had the option of having it cut to collar length or keeping it up (like a bun) above the collar. They were issued an “EZ pay card” (with $350.00 on it) to purchase necessary items. That money would come out of their first pay. They had blood drawn, got shots and had ID card photos taken. They were marched to the PX and told what to buy. Didn’t make any difference if they had brought the item with them. They were then issued uniforms and boots. The second day was eye, ear, and dental exams, and personnel affairs processing. She had to have her bank routing number and her checking account number. The military only pays by direct deposit. The third day were more shots, photos, ear plug brief, TRICARE brief, and Red Cross brief. The time at the reception station was extremely stressful, many had trouble adjusting to the regimentation. They were lucky, they shipped to their basic training company on day four.

At the basic training company, the drill sergeants did yell, a lot, and in their face. They were separated into four platoons of about 50 people each, assigned to barracks and bunks and wall lockers, where they would live for the next nine weeks. They were marched to pay phones and told to call home and give their family their address. Everyone was assigned a “battle buddy”. Some felt like they had made a mistake, and that they had arrived in hell. Basic training is in three phases – red, white and blue. Red phase (the first three weeks) was total control. Drill Sergeants maintained strict control at all times. In red phase they learned how to stand, march, salute, etc. They had PT every morning, Monday through Saturday, they had classes on army values, life in the army, first aid, hand to hand combat, and land navigation. They spent half a day on warrior tower and they went through the gas chamber. They received their first class on the M16A2/M4 rifle. It was around week three that most began to realize that the drill sergeants really did have serious concern for their training and their wellbeing. They found that the quicker they mastered a task, the happier the drill sergeants became. It was also around that time that they began to “jell” as a platoon, they became a unit, looking out for each other. They started having fun. They also got to use the pay phone on Sunday night. In white phase, weeks four thru six, they mastered their rifle. They learned disassembly, assembly and cleaning of the rifle. They fired on various ranges, and finally fired for record. They were told by some of the drill sergeants that a high weapons qualification score and a high PT score were two of the biggest things to bring out of basic. The drill sergeants became human, not buddies, but more approachable. The drill sergeants were beyond teaching them how to act, they were now teaching skills. They threw live hand grenades, went through the obstacle course, fired grenade launchers, pugil stick fighting classes, as well as ground fighting techniques. In blue phase, week seven and eight were more firing. Night firing, moving targets, close combat firing, convoy operations, moving under fire, rappelling, rules of engagement, and squad tactical training. Finally, week nine. The End of Course Test, takes all day. It is hands on performing all the things taught in basic. Then cleaning and turn in of field equipment, dress uniform inspection and practice for graduation. The day before graduation was “family day”. After the soldiers and the families were briefed on what they could and could not do, they got to spend the entire day with their family. On Thursday morning, Graduation! Graduation was a time of mixed emotions. There was elation at finishing basic, then there was the sadness of separating with some really good friends that she acquired over the past nine weeks. Many spent time thanking their drill sergeants for bringing them through basic training. They would never forget those drill sergeants.

After graduation, Jane and some others were given bus tickets to the St Louis airport, and plane tickets to Columbia, South Carolina – Fort Jackson, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in MOS 42A Human Resource Specialist.

The military liaison office at the Columbia airport put them on the proper bus which delivered them to their company on Fort Jackson. The barracks in some companies slept four to six people to a room, with a communal bath. Jane was lucky, in that in her company there were three people to a room, with its own bath. They got to keep their cell phones, ipads, laptops, etc, they just couldn’t use them during duty hours. Their day started with a 5:00 AM (05:00) wake up, clean barracks, PT formation at 06:30. PT lasts until about 07:30, then it is breakfast, personal hygiene, and be in formation at 08:45, to be marched to class. An hour for lunch, the DFAC (Dining Facility) was close, back to class, then march back to the barracks and released at 17:00 (5:00 PM). They could wear civilian clothes when off duty. After getting settled, Jane went to the ASK key (Assignment Satisfaction Key) on her AKO account, and saw that she was tentatively scheduled for assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division. During the first half of the course, they were free to go anywhere on post evenings and weekends. During the last half, they could also get off posts passes. During the eight weeks and two days of the course, six weeks were spent in class and two weeks in the field. They studied; Researching Human Resource Publications; Prepare Office Documents Using Office Software; Prepare Correspondence, Identify Human Resource Systems; Maintain Records; Interpret the Enlisted Record Brief & Officer Record Brief; Create Ad Hoc Query; Perform Forms Content Management Program Functions; Prepare Suspension of Favorable Action; Prepare a request for Soldier Applications; Process a DFR packet; Process Recommendation for Award; Process Personnel Strength Accountability Updates; Perform Unit Strength Reconciliation; Conduct a Personnel Asset Inventory (PAI); Issue a Common Access Card; Maintain Emergency Notification Data; Prepare a Casualty Report; Create a Manifest; Employ the Deployed Theater Accountability Software (DTAS); Prepare strength accounting reports; Process a Request for Leave, Pass, and Permissive TDY; Perform Personnel Office Computations; Review a Completed Non-commissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER); Process Enlisted Advancements for PV1 – SPC; Process Semi-Centralized Promotions; Research Finance Actions; Determine Entitlements to Pay and Allowances; and Employ the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) System.

After graduation, Jane and a few others who were going airborne were given bus tickets to Columbus, Georgia – Fort Benning. At Columbus they caught the bus to the Airborne School. Monday of the following week training started. The very first period is the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and the Flexed Arm Hang immediately after the APFT. The Flexed Arm Hang is; Hang on the pull up bar, arms completely straight, palms facing you, pull up until the chin is above the bar, and hold that position for 20 seconds. The purpose is to make sure a person can pull down on the parachute risers with sufficient strength to guide the parachute away from other jumpers or obstacles. Jane did it, plus she weighed 120 lbs, 10 lbs over the minimum for a paratrooper. Intense PT and long runs every training day, Monday through Friday. The first week (ground week) was spent learning parachute landing falls (PLF). They did them on the ground, they did them off 2 foot platforms and 4 foot platforms. Then they did them when being dropped from a swing landing trainer. The second week (tower week) they jumped from a 34 foot tower, in a parachute harness and slid down cables to a mound a couple hundred feet away. Then, the 250 foot towers. They put on a parachute, which is deployed and attached to a metal cage above the jumper pulled up 250 feet, then released. That is to teach jumpers how to maneuver their parachute. And the final week (jump week), they made five parachute jumps including one at night. On Friday or Saturday they graduate and receive their wings, which they wear on all uniforms as long as they are in the Army.

Finally, after almost six months in the Army she was on her way to her first permanent assignment, the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. So it was back on a bus to Fayetteville, North Carolina. At the Fayetteville bus station they caught the post bus which dropped them at the 82nd Airborne Division Replacement Detachment. She spent three days there, processing into Fort Bragg, and drawing field gear, then finally, her assignment; Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), of a Brigade Combat Team. She was assigned to the S1 Section of the Headquarters. Staff Sections of army units commanded by colonel’s and below are designated S1 (Human Resources), S2 Intelligence, S3 Operations and Training, and S4 Supply, Logistics, Maintenance, Transportation. The S1 of the Brigade is a Major, and the NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge) is a Master Sergeant. The S1 shop consists of two teams. The Human Resources Services Team consists of a Chief Warrant Officer, a Staff Sergeant, two Sergeants, and three Specialists. It processes all personnel actions. And, the Personnel Readiness Team, which consists of a Lieutenant, a Staff Sergeant, and two Specialists. They maintain personnel accountability, personnel readiness management, personnel information management, strength reporting, and casualty reporting. Jane was assigned to one of the Specialist positions in the Readiness Team.

She lives in the barracks – they are sometimes referred to as dorms now. She has her own room with a small refrig and a microwave, plus she has her own TV, stereo, and computer, she shares a bathroom with a suite mate (female) on the other side of the bath. Her weekdays start with a formation at 06:30 for PT (Physical Training). PT is about an hour. Most units do actual PT (calisthenics and run) three days a week and athletics or gym two days. After that its shower, dress, breakfast and be at her desk by 9:00 AM. Lunch time is usually noon. Since she lives in the barracks, she has a meal card, which means she eats free in the DFAC (Dining Facility). There are two DFAC’s within 10 minute walking distance. If she doesn’t like what the DFAC’s have, she can jump in her car and run to Burger King or one the other food places on post. She has been in that job about six months. She has just been promoted to Private First Class E-3. Her base pay is $1,885.90 plus $150.00 jump pay, per month. Her take home pay, after taxes and deductions is about $1,600 per month, $800.00 paid twice a month. All military personnel are paid twice monthly by direct deposit, so she opened an account in one of the banks on post, for the convenience. She has made three parachute jumps since she arrived, she must make at least one jump every three months to maintain her jump pay. At 17:00 (5:00 PM) she is off until 6:30 AM the next morning, except Friday, which means she is off until Monday morning. When she arrived at her company, her team sergeant told her about the Fort Bragg BOSS program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers). Last summer she went on two day trips to Myrtle Beach with the BOSS people. Cost was $10.00 for the trip down, day at the beach, and trip back. She has been bowling with the BOSS soldiers, and performed some community volunteer work with them. She has a weekend ski trip to Sugar Mountain planned with MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation). Cost is just over $200, which includes everything, transportation, equipment, instruction, and overnight at the hotel. All details are handled by the MWR people. Being the largest Army post in the US, Fort Bragg also has great facilities. Fort Bragg also has ten Universities and Colleges conducting classes and online courses on post. PFC Jane Doe has already learned that more college hours mean more promotion points, she plans to resume classes in the next semester. She expects to be promoted to Specialist E-4 within the next year.

Next week soldier number two.