Category Archives: Good Army Stories

SERGEANTS

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri June 14h 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email tcnpub3@gmail.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
I’ve written about Generals. This is about sergeants. Sergeants are Non-commissioned officers (NCO’s), they are the backbone of the Army. Officers manage the Army, Sergeants run it. Sergeants are the reason I stayed in the Army. I was a career soldier long before I got to know the generals.
I remember my sergeants from basic training, but nothing of note, I don’t remember those from AIT (Advanced Individual Training), and the only one I remember from jump school is a short oriental Staff Sergeant who I kicked in the chin, when I dropped down to do pushups. I was afraid to say anything as he walked around, put his face down next to mine, and said “You kicked me soldier!”. I then screamed “I’m sorry sergeant” as loud as I could, and he left me alone.
I arrived at my first company on March 1st, 1962, Company A, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 325th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was met by my Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Bryant, who took me and a couple other newbies up to the platoon bay to meet the platoon. All but Sergeants slept in one large room, the platoon bay, although we did have portable partitions for sleeping areas. Staff Sergeant Walker was the Weapons Squad Leader and he needed a machine gunner. SSG Bryant told SSG Walker to see if he could train me up on the machinegun. I spoke up and said that I learned all about the machinegun in AIT. They all grinned and said “OK then”. I guess I bought that one, that A6 .30 caliber machinegun weighed 31 pounds alone, and if you had to carry any ammo, or the spare barrel or the tripod, it was 50 pounds. I carried that gun all over Fort Bragg and the Carolinas, but it seemed worth it when my company won Division Machinegun Competition, with the “new” M60 in the spring of 1963. SSG Bryant and SSG Walker were both black men. I think most people my age understand why I mention that. If you grew up in Belle, Missouri in the 1950’s, you experienced prejudices, it was the culture then. There were no black people here. The only time we saw black people was when going to Jeff City or St Louis. I don’t think any normal person can spend a lot of time in the infantry and come out with any racial prejudices. Even in 1962 the Army was color blind. There was a saying then, “There is no black or white in the Army, we are all green, and we all bleed red.” SSG Bryant was a very intelligent and articulate man. He was only there a few months, after I arrived, he applied for and went to Special Forces. If you google William Maud Bryant, you will see a picture of him along with his posthumous Medal of Honor Citation. He was not only an excellent Non-Commissioned Officer, he was one courageous leader and fighter, before he went down. It was too late in the day to draw a bunk and linen from supply, so that first night I slept on my air mattress in SSG Walker’s room. SSG Tom Walker was 27 years old at that time. The other Machine gunner, in our squad, was also black, but SSG Walker never showed any preference to either of us, he treated us both like younger brothers. He taught us how to set fields of fire, interlock fields of fire, how to do range cards, and everything else that concerned the machinegun. He taught us how to prepare for inspections and pass inspections. He taught us soldiering. SSG Tom Walker went to Vietnam, when we all did, he was in a Recon Platoon, in the 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action July 26th, 1966.
The NCO who replaced SSG Bryant as Platoon Sergeant was SSG Raymond P Dial. Personality wise, he was the polar opposite of SSG Bryant. He had lied about his age and enlisted in the Army right at the end of World War II, where he was in the Combat Engineers. He had been up and down the ranks, he got drunk every night, had fog horn voice, and was tough as nails. If you were a good soldier, he was you’re best friend, but for the goof offs he was their nemesis. He led from the front and kicked but in the rear. I believe he could give any class, in relation to combat units, at the drop of a hat. We were in the field, with some dead time, when I saw our Company Commander walk up to him and ask him how long it would take him to prepare a class on DLIC (detachment left in contact) during a company withdrawal. He said, “How about right now, Sir. Let’s get the company together.” When we had Reserves or ROTC Cadets to train, in the summer, our platoon always got the job, because SSG Dial didn’t need any preparation time. Drinking was his downfall, he was just over 42 when he died.
The First Sergeant, of A Company at that time, was 1SG Marvin Register. At the morning formations we thought he talked more like a college professor than an army sergeant. He was 33 years old, single, and drove a new 1962 red Oldsmobile convertible. He had grown up in North Carolina, not far from Fort Bragg. He mentored and advised the good soldiers. After duty hours, he would occasionally load his convertible with sergeants and privates alike and go riding. I was invited along a couple times. We stopped to visit black families who he had grown up around and with whom he was still very close. First Sergeant Register, also went to Special Forces, went to Vietnam and survived, and retired as a Sergeant Major.
The next father figure influence on me was our Battle Group Sergeant Major, Aaron Gelber. He was a giant of a man, 6’6”, with hands large enough to palm a basketball. At that time, tall beer cans weren’t aluminum, they were tin, and I saw him absentmindedly crush them end to end, with one hand. He had a heart as big as his body, he took me under his wing, and by his actions taught me what it meant to be a sergeant. Cornelius Ryan came to Fort Bragg, and interviewed Aaron Gelber, along with several others, when he was writing “A Bridge too Far” (one of my favorite war movies). Aaron Gelber had been a mortar man, during Operation Market Garden, which is accurately portrayed in the movie.
I was promoted to Sergeant in July 1964, a month short of my three year enlistment. Throughout my Army career I was privileged to have worked for some really great NCO’s, and very fortunate to have had some really great ones work for me.
I have written about Command Sergeant Major John Pearce, twice the CSM of the 82nd Airborne Division. He loved the troops, and when the troops were doing their job like they should, CSM Pearce was their guardian angel. I saw him take young soldiers under his wing and run interference for them, when they needed it. I also saw him chew out Sergeants Major like they were privates, when they came up short to CSM Pearce’s standards.
I also had the privilege of working for CSM George Dunaway. When I worked for him, he was the Command Sergeant Major of the 5th Special Forces Group at Nha Trang, South Vietnam. He exercised more authority and power than any enlisted man I ever met. CSM Dunaway had three jeeps, with Chinese Nung (paid mercenaries) drivers at the Group Headquarters. Anyone could borrow one of the Sergeant Major’s jeeps. Just use it and bring it back. One morning a Captain arrived from the states, to work on the staff at Group Headquarters, he borrowed one the Sergeant Major’s jeeps. He turned it into the motor pool late that night. The next day, the Captain departed bag and baggage for a detachment in the woods. I saw CSM Dunaway look a Major in the eye and question him if that’s really the way it happened. The Major answered, “Yes Sergeant Major”. Life at isolated A Detachments would sometimes get a little “wild west”, but there was a very efficient and secret notification system in the operations section, of the 5th Special Forces Group, to keep everyone informed when the Colonel and the CSM were traveling. There was a saying; ”No hair on lip, no gun on hip”. CSM Dunaway went from there to be the Division Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne Division, and then became the Sergeant Major of the Army.
These great Sergeants who, by their actions, influenced me to stay in the Army, were honest, hard-working, intelligent men. Some had their faults, but they all had one thing in common, they were serious about their job, about the Army, and about training and protecting those for whom they were responsible. As I advanced in rank and moved around in the Army, I found some people in non-airborne support units who were just riding the system, doing as little as they could get by with, until they could retire. If you’re going to enlist – Go Airborne!

LGOPS – Little Groups of Paratroopers

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 26th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email tcnpub3@gmail.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Practically every soldier I have written about, I have made them airborne, and sent them to the 82nd Airborne Division. I have said that they are a cut above – elite, and they are. I will continue to recommend to anyone, man or woman, considering enlisting in the Army to take the “airborne option”. Some may say that the 82nd is simply a Light Infantry Division that jumps out of airplanes, once on the ground they work the same way as any other light infantry division. The 82nd is just better trained because they are always on alert. No, once on the ground, they work differently. I have previously written about the trust and confidence the US Army has in individual soldiers. Nowhere is that more prominent than in the airborne units. The Airborne community has a sacred term – LGOPS (Little Groups of Paratroopers).
One the first things a Paratrooper is taught is the Rule of LGOPs. The story goes something like this: On the drop zone there is chaos; collections of around ten Paratroopers form. They are well trained, highly motivated 18-25 year-olds who are armed to the teeth, lack effective adult supervision, and remember the Commander’s intent as, “March towards the sound of the guns and kill anyone not dressed like you,” or something close to that. Happily they go about their work.
In July 1943, the first night mass parachute jump was conducted in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Then Colonel James M Gavin led the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, with the 3rd Battalion, 504th attached. Winds increased to 35 to 45 miles per hour just before the jump, but it was too late to cancel. They were already in the air approaching their drop zones. Planes were blown wildly off course and some gliders crashed. Less than half of the paratroopers reached their rally points. The troops knew not only their unit mission, they knew the overall mission. When a small group of paratroopers got together they went into action. They cut every telephone line they found, they conducted ambushes and raids, and they accomplished every objective. That is where the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment got their name “Devils in Baggy Pants”. The passage in a German Majors’ diary read; “American parachutists … devils in baggy pants … are less than 100 meters from my outpost line, I can’t sleep at night, they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black hearted devils are everywhere …”.
In England, in 1944, training for the D-day invasion, the 18th Airborne Corps Commander, Major General Matthew Ridgeway, with the experience of the Italian operations, directed that the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions conduct night jumps, which they did until injuries became too numerous. Then they trucked the troops out into the training area, at night, and mixed them up. They also had intramural athletics, baseball, basketball, soccer, and flag football, but they couldn’t play unit against unit. They had to be mixed up, such as four players from B Company, 2nd Battalion, four from A Company, 1st Battalion, and four from D Company, 3rd Battalion. The idea was not only to get know troops from other units, but so they would learn to trust each other, because they knew there was a good possibility that the troops would be scattered in the jump.
The D-day invasion was led by the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, during the night of June 5th, 1944. Drop zones were missed; aircraft full of Troops were shot out of the sky; the fog of war that the US Army Air Corps faced over France directly contributed to creating LGOPs on the ground. These Paratroopers banded together, often creating teams of men from different companies, brigades, or even divisions. In route to their rally points, these little groups of Paratroopers caused havoc behind the German lines by setting roadblocks and impromptu ambushes with the effect that many German commanders thought that they were facing a much larger force than what was actually there.
The mentality of a typical Airborne Soldier lends itself to an attitude of doing whatever it takes to accomplish the mission, facing any obstacle, and, most importantly, bravery because they have experience in overcoming a natural human fear: acrophobia, or the fear of heights. For this reason, most paratroopers consider themselves better than others, because they have come face to face with their own mortality. The air is less forgiving than the sea, and if you find yourself in a situation where your main and reserve parachutes have failed, then you have the rest of your life to figure out how to deploy one of them. They are a restless group who don’t take well to ambiguous direction or wasted time. This can be seen with the Operations tempo of airborne units. Often it feels as if the command is trying to force 36 hours of duties and responsibilities into a 24 hour day. And, as much as they complain and bitch, paratroopers love it. When they walk down the street, there is a swagger; that maroon beret looks better on their heads than a black beret looks on a leg’s because they have a sense that they earned it. In paratrooper language a “leg” is a sub-human soldier who is not Airborne. There is an intensity about how they carry out even simple tasks because, let’s face it, after you have jumped out of an aircraft while in flight, life is a little different and doing things half-assed just doesn’t make sense.
In training, with no enemy shooting at you, night jumps are, for some, less stressful than day jumps, because you can’t see anything, no ground or horizon. Inside the big jets you can hear, but in the C-130, which will forever be used to drop paratroopers, because it will carry 60 jumpers, and it will fly like a fighter, you can barely hear the person sitting next to you. The C-130 is a four engine turbo prop – noisy. Jumpers are seated on red canvas seats along the wall of the fuselage and two rows, back to back, in the center. Parachute on your back, reserve on your chest, rucksack in a bag under your reserve, and your rifle in a canvas bag strapped to your side. Constant smell of exhausted jet fuel. Barf bags are issued. I never threw up on a plane, don’t know why, sat next to several who did. The lights are on inside the airplane, because the jumpmasters must conduct their safety checks. The pilots have slowed the plane to 120 knots, and leveled off at 1,200 feet, if it was an actual combat jump it would be 800 feet, or less. When 10 minutes out, the jumpmaster gives the warning “TEN MINUTES”. OK, wake up get ready. The next command from the jumpmaster is; “GET READY”, then, “OUTBOARD PERSONNEL STAND UP’. That takes a minute or two, you’ve got 150 pounds plus of stuff strapped onto your body, you have to get up, turn around, unlatch your seat from the floor, fold it up and hook it. Then “INBOARD PERSONNEL STAND UP”. Next, “HOOK UP’. At that time outboard and inboard personnel form single lines on each side of the aircraft, and hook their static lines to a cable running along the wall of the fuselage. Then, “CHECK STATIC LINES”. Make sure your static line and the one on the jumper in front of you is straight and where it should be. Then, “CHECK EQUIPMENT”. Make sure everything is secure – adjust crotch. There are two jumpmasters, a primary and an assistant, plus two jumpmaster qualified safeties, who are at that time checking everybody. Then, ‘SOUND OFF FOR EQUIPMENT CHECK”. The last jumper, on each side, slaps the butt of the jumper in front of them and sound off with OK, which goes up the line until the two jumpers standing in front of the jumpmasters yell OK. The jumpmaster then commands “STAND BY”. Around that time the Air Force Loadmasters raise both doors and fold out a step plate at each door. Then you really hear the engines and rush of the blast. There is a light, about an inch and a half in diameter, beside each door, they have been red all the time. A jumpmaster is at each door, they have checked the surfaces of the doors for any irregularities. Each jumpmaster has a grip on the first jumper at his door, and he is watching the light. GREEN LIGHT!! Each jumpmaster commands “GO!”, and releases his jumper. Everyone quickly shuffles to the door, there is no hesitation, just get out the door. I have been on full combat equipment jumps into unknown drop zones, when everybody couldn’t get out. The pilot ran out of drop zone and turned on the red light, had to circle around and make another pass over the crop zone, you’re standing, hooked up, with one hand holding your static line. As the plane banks and turns, your load gets heavier, the thought crosses your mind “just let me out”. You step out, elbows tucked into your sides, hands on your reserve, feet and knees together, head down, chin on chest, a good tight body position. You count, one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, you feel that great comforting tug of your main canopy opening. You reach up and grab the risers, and you look up into your canopy to make sure it is OK. You check for jumpers around you, if there is no moon, you won’t see them until you are really close. Clean air, the planes move on, silence. In a few seconds, you drop the bag with your rucksack, it hangs on a line about 20 feet below you. At night, you can sense the ground, but you can’t tell for sure, you take up a good “prepare to land attitude”, feet and knees together, relax, face the parachute into the wind, don’t look for the ground. Landings are not soft, like sky divers. You try for a good parachute landing fall (PLF), balls of the feet, calf of your leg, thigh, buttocks, and push up muscle. Down, WOW, good jump, don’t waste time, get out of that harness, get your weapon bag off, get your weapon out, and get your ruck sack. This is not combat, so you’ve got to turn in all that stuff. You “S-roll” your parachute, stuff it in the kit bag, attach your weapon bag, throw them on your back on top of your ruck and double time (trot) off the drop zone, and look for the turn in point.
Another good one in your jump log. GO AIRBORNE! ALL THE WAY!

THE GREAT US ARMY

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 19th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email tcnpub3@gmail.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
This week’s article is a little different, we take a look at the armies of potential enemy’s.
The United States Army is the greatest army in the world. It is the most feared by our potential adversaries, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, we have the best funding, the most advanced technology with the most advanced equipment, and the smartest soldiers. But what makes the US Army very different from those potential bad guys is the level of trust and authority given to enlisted personnel. A big part of that trust is culture. This country is a free and open society. Anybody can do anything or become anything that they have the brains and the drive to accomplish. Especially out here in the country, we generally take a person at their word. It doesn’t make any difference what a person’s status in life is, if we want information and they know what they are talking about, we listen. If we want to know how to do something and someone else knows how, we become their student. Our Army reflects that attitude. Going back over 50 years, I’ve only run into a couple of young officers who wouldn’t take the word of a private, if the private knew what he was talking about.
Russia; Twenty five years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian Generals came to the United States to observe our destruction of missiles and U.S. Generals went to Russia to observe the same thing. Our observers saw no trust given to individual soldiers, everything was micromanaged, with multiple layers of officers up to a General. The Russian Generals were amazed at how few soldiers we used to accomplish the same tasks, because of the trust and confidence the U.S. military had in individual service members. Russian soldiers lived in dilapidated buildings that would not be considered livable here. They were barely paid, poorly fed, and many never participated in full army maneuvers. The culture of the Russian army was brutal and harsh. It created hard fighters, but not competent ones. The Russian Army took what it saw of the U.S. military to heart.
Russia is the largest country in the world by land mass at 6.6 billion square miles, but it is ninth in population at just over 140 million. Russia has actually been in a population decline for the past few years, but there are indications that the birth rate may be increasing. Vladimir Putin’s mother was a factory worker and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, transferred to the Army and was severely wounded in 1942. Putin’s maternal grandmother was killed by German occupiers in 1941, and his maternal uncles disappeared at the war front. At 12 Vladimir Putin started studying Judo and Sambo, which appears to be a Russian version of our modern mixed martial arts. Putin studied law at St Petersburg State University (the Harvard of Russia) graduating in 1975. He went to work for the KGB, rising through the ranks. His last major assignment was in Dresden, East Germany, where his cover was working as a translator (he speaks fluent German) until the fall of the Berlin wall. He left the KGB, as a Lieutenant Colonel, in 1991 and went into politics. He rapidly rose through positions until he was appointed Prime Minister in August 1999. On 31 December 1999, Boris Yeltson unexpectedly announced his retirement making Putin Acting President. Vladimir Putin, who will turn 65 in October this year, has continued to maintain control of the Russian government. He helped create the political party “United Russia” which controls about 77% of seats in their Duma (congress). United Russia’s platform and policies were based not on a political ideology like conservative, liberal, or socialist but on Russian solidarity. Economic conditions for average Russians have steadily improved throughout Putin’s reign. Three years ago when the prices of oil fell, Russian went into a recession, but has since recovered. Their standard of living is not near to ours, but it has continued to improve. Putin is tremendously popular in Russia, enjoying about an 80% approval rating. There is rampant corruption in government and in business, and subtle to active suppression of opposition by those in power. Up to and including assignations. Putin has put billions into the Russian military, upgrading equipment, training, living conditions and pay, and creating a professional corps of career soldiers. In the past couple years the Russian Army has been on an intensive publicity campaign, interacting in public events, and developing a family friendly Army.
Russian males between 18 and 27 must perform one year of military service, but starting January 1st, they could choose to be drafted for one year or enlist for two years. Volunteers now outnumber conscripts. At the end of 2016 the Russian military had about 900,000 people, 384,000 contract soldiers and sergeants, 270,000 conscripts, and 225,000 officers. The Russian Army is not equal to the U.S. Army in core professionalism, but it is a professional army, with advanced technology. It appears that history is taught selectively in Russia, because the average Russian is proud of Russia and they are patriotic. When asked about the Lenin years, young people often answer “That was before my time”. Vladimir Putin is an aggressor, as evidenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the interference in Syria. He considers himself a man’s man, he once said that he learned on the streets of Leningrad 50 years ago, if a fight is inevitable, hit first. I think that he has a deep hatred for Germany, and would like to see it under Russian rule. As soon as we pulled our troops out of Europe, Putin started making noise. Dealing with Russia is serious business.
The Chinese army, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the largest in the world at 2.3 million, is a political army. Soldiers swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), not to the country. The PLA divides its active duty personnel into three categories, conscripts, NCO’s (Non-commissioned Officers) (Sergeants), and officers. All young men are required to register for the military. They are eligible for the draft between the ages of 18 thru 22. Women may join but are not required to register. Millions register for the draft, but volunteers fill most of the requirements. The PLA requires one third of draftees come from urban areas and two thirds from rural areas. Even volunteers are called conscripts during their initially required first two years of service, after which they may leave the service, apply to become NCO’s, or apply to a military academy to become officers. The PLA established a formal NCO corps about 20 years ago, but NCO’s only rise to the level of squad leader and have very little influence with officers. Conscripts are not allowed to marry. NCOs may only marry people from their hometown or village, cannot live with their spouses while on active duty, and may only stay off-base with their families during vacations and holidays. Junior officers also are not allowed to live with their families.
The Arab armies don’t have a good track record in winning wars. Their armies suffer the same problem as the Chinese, in that they don’t have a non-commissioned officer development program. Most Arab officers treat enlisted soldiers like sub-humans. Initiative is discouraged. Training is usually unimaginative, cut and dried, and not challenging. Part of their problem derives from their culture. The Arab educational system is based on rote memorization. The learning system tends to consist of lectures, with students taking voluminous notes and being examined on what they were told. A foreign instructor’s credibility is diminished if he has to resort to a book. That practice lessens a students’ ability to reason or analyze based upon some general principles. Thinking outside the box is not encouraged. Doing so in public can damage a career. Head-to-head competition is generally avoided, because losers are humiliated. Knowledge is hoarded and not passed on. If an officer passes on information to his men, then in his mind he loses power. If a soldier has a technical skill, he does not teach it to others, for he would then lose power.
North Korea is a country within an army, whereas other countries have armies within the country. Men must serve in the North Korean Army for 10 years, women for seven years. People who get space at the university are drafted after they graduate, and their time is reduced. Those with a bachelor’s degree serve for five years and scientists for three. The North Korean Army has about 1.19 million active, with 7.7 million trained reserves. It also has 3,500 battle tanks, 72 submarines, 302 helicopters, 563 combat aircraft and 21,100 artillery pieces, which, by numbers, makes it one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
On June 13th a North Korean soldier crossed the demilitarized zone on foot and surrendered to a South Korean soldier. No shots were fired. On June 18th another North Korean soldier, with makeshift foam floating devices, swam across a narrow part of the fast-flowing Imjin River, which crosses the demilitarized zone. Common soldiers are given only a few potatoes a day to survive. A North Korean said that in his high school class there were 25 boys. Five went to college and the remaining 20 went into the Army. When soldiers get too weak to perform, they are given leave to go home and recover. Their families pick them up and feed them back to health. Then they go back to the Army. Rape is common in their army. A female defector said that there were 120 soldiers in her unit, but only 20 males and they were high ranking officers. She said that every single female in her unit was raped. A set of summer clothes is issued to soldiers every two years. One defector said that they are so badly made that they cause pain. He said the insides of winter boots are stuffed with cotton and produced rather shabbily, so after you wear them a couple times the cotton starts to come out, then it hurts every time you wear them.
Army conscripts are taught to obey the teachings of Kim Jong Il and current leader Kim Jong Un. Soldiers are routinely brainwashed rendering them virtually incapable of any logic.
We need a strong military.

THE “NEW” ARMY UNIFORM

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, February 7th 2018. I feel that it an appropriate follow up to “Be All You Can Be”.

The US Army is in the process of making a uniform change, again. Except this time, 80 percent of active duty soldiers approve of the proposed change, and so do I.
First, some history. From the Revolutionary War to 1900, army uniforms were different shades of blue. In 1902 the army started issuing wool olive drab uniforms for work and everyday wear, but still kept a dress blue uniform. The olive drab uniform was tinkered with through World War I until around 1926 when the army settled on the uniform worn in World War II. It was basically an olive drab coat with different trousers, brown shoes and a service (bus driver) hat, or a garrison (envelope) cap. The requirement for officers to have a dress blue uniform was suspended from 1940 until 1947, the war years. That was the uniform until 1954, when Army leadership started wanting something new. The green uniform, with the same type headgear, but green, and black shoes was phased in until it was the only uniform in 1957. President Kennedy approved the Green Beret for Special Forces soldiers, during a trip to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1961. Many different units started wearing different berets in the 1970’s, which resulted in the Maroon beret being approved for airborne soldiers, and the Black beret for Rangers. In June 2001, General Eric Shinseki, the Chief of Staff of the Army, thought the black beret was cool and arbitrarily ordered the Black Beret as headgear for the entire Army, and a Tan Beret for the Rangers, in reference to the buckskins worn by Rogers Rangers in the French and Indian War. That was probably one of the most unpopular decisions an Army Chief of Staff ever made. It made Special Forces, Rangers, and Airborne mad, because their berets signified something special, which was earned. Every poll of soldiers since has said “get rid of the black beret”. Then in 2008, Army leadership again felt the urge to do something different. The thought was, we already have the dress blue uniform let’s just make it the only dress up uniform. The green uniform was finally phased out in 2015. So now it’s like you’re going to work in an office and all you have in your closet are coveralls and a tuxedo, nothing in between. No plain business suit. The result has been the wearing of the camouflage combat uniform almost everywhere. The Marines never gave up their green and brown uniform, but the Army has played around. I still have my Dad’s brown jacket he wore home from World War II. Although now moth eaten, it is just as he took it off, with Sergeant stripes, jump wings, a French fourragere over the left shoulder, and an 82nd Airborne Division patch on the left shoulder.
The light colored trousers worn with the green olive drab uniform, in WWII, were rose shade wool, and when the light was just right gave a pinkish look. That uniform was called pinks and greens, and it was one of the most popular. The current Sergeant Major of the Army, Dan Dailey, has had his ear closer to the troops than some before him.
The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) position was created in 1966, because the Chief of Staff of the Army felt that enlisted personnel needed a stronger voice at Army Headquarters. He is the principle advisor to the Chief of Staff on enlisted matters. The position has grown and evolved, over the years. Although an enlisted man, Army protocol affords the SMA the same courtesy as a four star general. The SMA’s duties are either what the Chief wants, or what he wants. Daniel Dailey, is the youngest person to hold the job. An infantry soldier all his career, he was 46 when he was appointed in January 2015, so on a normal four year tour, he has about a year remaining as SMA. Upon being appointed, he immediately started touring the Army, holding town hall type meetings with junior enlisted troops. One of the first complaints was tattoos, which resulted in him being instrumental in getting the tattoo rules relaxed and standardized. Almost all of the soldiers disapproved of the black beret, and that complaint grew into a general uniform complaint. The only Class A uniform is dress blues, which is too formal for wear to plain office work in a headquarters, or to informal settings, such as recruiting duty, so everyone wears camo all the time.
Pinks and Greens are coming back, complete with brown shoes, service hat and garrison cap. Sergeant Major Dailey has been working on this project for a couple of years. Different prototypes have been worn to official functions around Washington, DC, and he and Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, have both been fitted with prototypes. SMA Dailey wore his pinks and greens to the Army Navy Game. Changes have been made, based on responses from soldiers, long ties for both men and women and no pleats to a straight pencil skirt for women, as well as trousers, if they prefer. This is the first time junior enlisted soldiers, in the entire army, have been involved in selecting a uniform. A final decision on the exact uniform is expected this coming spring. Nothing has been mentioned about the Black Beret, maybe because Eric Shinseki is still alive. This is more than correcting something that should never have been changed. This is the Army going back to its roots.
I enlisted in the Army at the end of August 1961. I took basic training with the 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The 6th Armored had been reduced to cadre strength to put recruits through basic training. There weren’t any Drill Sergeants, at that time. Infantry AIT (Advanced Individual Training) was at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Most of the cadre had just returned from Europe or Korea. Then Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and finally to the 82nd Airborne Division. I arrived at my first company March 1st, 1962. From the time I enlisted I heard sergeants refer to the “Brown Boot Army”. “That wouldn’t happen in the brown boot army.” “I was in the brown boot army, things were different then.” Those were World War II veterans, who had been in combat in the war. They wore unit combat patches on their right sleeve, and Combat Infantryman Badges over their wings which were adorned with stars signifying combat jumps. When they “deployed” in World War II, it was for the duration of the war. The action they saw was measured in years not months. I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and they were willing to pass on that knowledge. I had a Platoon Sergeant, who I swear could give a class on any subject at the drop of a hat. That is “the greatest generation”.
I have previously written that I consider George C Marshall to be the father of the modern Army. The brown shoe army was his creation, and it is the basis of the modern army. That army passed on its knowledge, its clichés, its pride, and its language. I am amused at the current army language and the running and marching cadences, because they are the same as when I was in the army 30 to 50 years ago, and they originated in World War II. So when you see the “new” Army Uniform, probably next summer or fall, it is not new, it is correcting something that should have never been changed. If you are a young person considering enlisting, I hope that the uniform you will wear gives you an extra sense of pride, knowing that you are wearing the uniform of the United States Army. The Army that whipped the world in 1945.

BE ALL YOU CAN BE

This was published yesterday, July 18th 2018, in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri. I am posting it immediately because I feel passionately about the subject. If you agree please share it and pass it on. Thank You.
That used to be the Army slogan, and it could possibly again become the Army slogan. The current slogan “Army Strong” is going to be changed. Army leadership is currently wrestling with what will be the next slogan.
In the late 1970’s Vietnam was over, military funding was being reduced, and there was a reduction in force (RIF). Many officers were being released from active duty, they called it being rifed, and morale was low. The volunteer Army was new and morale among Army recruiters, who were under tremendous pressure, was low. Sergeants were being involuntarily assigned to recruiting duty, and many considered it a career death sentence. In 1979 the Army assigned a two star general named Maxwell Thurman as the Commander of the Army Recruiting Command. I knew Max Thurman when he was a Colonel commanding the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery. He was a small man in stature, but a tremendous moving force in the Army. Max Thurman coined the slogan “BE ALL YOU CAN BE” and started changing the image of the Army. He toured the country and would walk into Recruiting Stations unannounced. He identified recruiting problems at the lowest level and turned the Recruiting Command around. He was sometimes called “Mad Max” or “Maxatollah”. He subsequently directed the invasion of Panama, retired as a four star in 1991 and died of cancer in 1995.
The Army is currently facing a challenge. Recruit an additional 4,000 people a year, from now on, to grow the active army to half a million soldiers by 2028. The Army is in competition with the other services and a strong civilian economy. On July 9th 2018 Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper visited the 1st Recruiting Brigade at Fort George G Meade, Maryland to discuss recruiting. While there he swore eight young men into the Army. He said; “These are the elite one percent who will defend the other 99 percent of the American people. Swearing an oath to the Constitution and defending our way of life, is something millions of Americans have chosen to do over the past 243 years. The Army, he said, allows those who make the decision to join, an opportunity to “serve a cause bigger than yourself.”
One of the most significant differences between being a soldier in the Army and a civilian job, is that in the Army you will be challenged. Not only physically, but academically and occupationally. It has been my observation, in life, that most people are capable of much more than they do, and many people today who are in the age window for military service have never been challenged or had to endure hardship.
Maybe that is why many veterans say that the military changed their life. It made them reach down inside themselves and grab that inner strength and power, which was always there, but had never been challenged. Be All You Can Be.
Soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution of United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution is our operations manual. It took many smart men many years of arguing and yelling to finalize it. It is unlike the founding document of any other country, in that it was constructed to limit the power of the government, and place the real power in the hands of the people. The United States of America is the world’s shining beacon of freedom and liberty, and it has done more good for the world than the rest of the world combined. Defending this country is an honorable thing to do. Be All You Can Be.
American soldiers are some of the greatest ambassadors for the USA, they are not only fierce fighters, but honorable and compassionate men and women. Soldiers are also a fun loving group, after all, so is America. My Dad told of soldiers in France in World War II teaching French boys, who shined their shoes, English so they could advertise, by yelling “Damn poor shoe shine”. In Vietnam the kids trusted American soldiers so much that they would sneak out and try to sell cokes to them during a fire fight. And from Iraq there are many pictures of American soldiers in full battle gear, playing soccer with local children.
Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 titled “The Greatest Generation”, in which are many stories about different people, some famous, some not, who grew up in the Great Depression, and thecxwhipped the world in World War II. The depression lasted about 10 years, starting with the stock market crash in 1929 and ended with the military buildup for World War II. After the stock market crashed, cash dried up, banks closed, businesses closed, there was no work. Plus starting in 1930 the central United States (Missouri) suffered the longest drought on record. Record temperatures in the summers (many of which still stand today) and no rain caused many to sell all of their animals. Dad said that people walked starving cattle to the railroad yards in Belle, if the cows could make it up the ramp into the cars they were shipped, if not they were taken back and butchered. He said many collapsed trying to get into the rail cars, and were just shot and dragged off. A recent NASA study of the past one thousand years of weather proclaimed 1934 as the driest year on record. During the depression there was no social service assistance (welfare), no social security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, or any government assistance. People in the United States of America literally starved to death. People out here in the country fared better than those in the cities. My grandfather told a story of being called to grand jury duty in St Louis in the midst of the depression. In conversation with another juror he said that he didn’t believe it was as bad as some of the papers reported. Remember, newspapers were the primary source of news, no television and very little radio. The other juror invited grandpa to accompany him during lunch. They went downtown in St Louis and saw a church soup kitchen. He said there was a line of people waiting for a bowl of watery soup. They were carrying bowls, tin cups, canning jars, and old tin cans, they were skin and bones skinny, and for most, that bowl of soup is all they would eat that day. He couldn’t see the end of the line, it went for blocks. My Dad raised sheep, worked anywhere he could and put himself through high school during the depression. He was 20 years old when he graduated from Belle High School in 1937. Dad told a story about hearing of work somewhere toward St Louis. He and another found the place, they were digging in water lines. I’ve forgotten how much it paid, but it was only pennies. There was a line of men waiting for work, and if one of the digging workers sat down, he was fired and another was hired. My mother was the oldest of six children, she quit school after the 10th grade in 1934, and at 16 went to work in a small broom factory in Bland, Missouri to help support her parents and five siblings. People who grew up and survived the Great Depression were certainly challenged.
After the war that greatest generation came home, went to work and built America. My Dad got his pilot’s licenses through the GI Bill. The GI Bill paid for my bachelor’s degree in accounting and my son’s degree in computer engineering. But every generation wants its’ children to have it better than they had it growing up. The result has been that many people have grown to adulthood having never been challenged physically or emotionally. After a couple generations, some parents apparently try to be “buddies” with their children instead of being the parent that properly guides the kids through their adolescent years. That attitude was also absorbed by many school systems that lowered their standards, so more could get good grades and feel good about themselves. The result was many people graduating from high school were unprepared for the real working world. Many colleges started freshman English and math classes commonly referred to as “bonehead english and bonehead math”, because incoming freshmen weren’t prepared for college work. The Army was not immune to that attitude. I recently wrote that it got so bad that starting this summer the Army is turning the discipline in basic training back about 50 years by reinstituting “strict discipline”. Be All You Can Be.
Army leadership has vowed that during this buildup standards will not be lowered. I certainly hope not. BE ALL YOU CAN BE!

GENERALS

This was originally published May 10th, 2017 in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri.
This article is about my experience with Generals.
In December 1972, I was a Staff Sergeant (SSG) E6, in the 82nd Airborne Division, and I received a call from a Sergeant First Class that I only knew by name. He was the NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) (Sergeant) in the Command Section of the 82nd Airborne Division. He ask me to come to his office. I did, he was offering me his job, he had been in it two years, he was burned out and wanted to move. He told me about the normal 12 hour days, sometimes six days a week, sometimes seven days a week, and the stress of trying to keep a Colonel and three Generals happy. I told him “You’ve got to be kidding”, I didn’t want to do that. The next day my Colonel called me to his office and said; “I guess I should have talked to you before you went up there, I would really like you to take that job.” In other words, I had been picked.
The Division Headquarters, at that time, was in a building, built to be a barracks, so the Command Section was built into an area intended to be a 40 man platoon bay (living area), on the third floor. The swinging doors to the “platoon bay” remained, my office area was on the right and the first encountered, which made me the receptionist. Two stenographers sat behind me, and my immediate boss was to my right. He was a Major who’s title was (and is) the Secretary of the General Staff (SGS). A door behind the Major’s desk opened into the office of the Division Chief of Staff, a full Colonel, and a door behind the Colonel’s desk opened into the Commanding Generals’ (CG) office. There was a hallway from the swinging doors back to the CG’s office, with a door from the hallway into the Chief of Staff’s office. Across the hall, immediately inside the swinging doors was the Division Sergeant Major’s office, then an open area shared by the three a Captain and two First Lieutenants (Generals Aides), the three drivers and another SSG who was the Command Section Operations Sergeant in the field, he made sure that field equipment was setup and ready in the field. Then each of the two Brigadier General (BG), Assistant Division Commanders (ADC) had their own offices. One was ADC-Operations, and the other ADC-Support.
Major General (MG) (2 stars) Frederick J Kroesen was the Division Commander, BG (1 star) Calvin P Benedict was the ADC-Operations, and BG James A Herbert was the ADC-Support, Colonel Volney F Warner was the Division Chief of Staff, and Command Sergeant Major (CSM) George Ketchum was the Division Sergeant Major. CSM Ketchum developed some health issues, and retired. CSM John Pearce replaced him. This was CSM Pearce’s second tour as the Division CSM (the only man ever to do that), he had a reputation of being loud and in your face, he was loud, he told me to come and push his door shut if he got too loud. John Pearce was a Marine in WWII, he was so impressed by the 82nd Airborne Division, that when he was discharged he immediately enlisted in the Army, for the 82nd. He was very proud of having spent 21 years in a Rifle Company, 15 years as a First Sergeant, and 11 years in the same company. We were always receiving telephone calls from ex paratroopers wanting to talk to their old First Sergeant. He loved the Army, he loved soldiers, and he loved the 82nd Airborne Division, minus a couple trips to Korea and Vietnam, he spent almost his entire career of 32 years in the 82nd. I saw him viciously chew out Sergeant Majors, who he thought weren’t doing their job, and I saw him intervene for young soldiers, who he thought needed help.
MG Kroesen, was a tall, quiet man, who did not like personal attention drawn to himself. He quit school after three years at Rutgers and joined the Army, when WWII broke out. He made Sergeant, went to Officer Candidate School, and was a Captain by the end of WWII. He was the last commander of the Americal Division in Vietnam, when it was deactivated in November 1971, he then took command of the 82nd, so he had been the CG for about a year when I took the job. I don’t think there was a pretentious bone in his body. The staff would draft letters for him and include the phrase “my division”, he would change it to “the division” and include a side note, “I don’t own it, I’m just assigned here like you”. As I became close to him I discovered a light hearted sense of humor, he looked everybody in the eye and treated every soldier with the same personal respect, regardless of rank.
I became closer to Col Volney Warner, than the others. Col Warner’s job prior to being assigned as Chief of Staff of the 82nd was executive officer to the Chief of Staff of the Army. He had been considered for Brigadier General three times, they only get four looks, so he assumed that he had stepped on some toes in his previous job. He bought a house at Top Sail Island, North Carolina and came to Fort Bragg to retire. He was also a down to earth, non-pretentious, great, and brilliant man. I saw him come in from PT and immediately get a briefing on a new technology. He listened while in shorts and T shirt, wiping sweat off with a towel, and ask four or five pointed questions that sent the G2 (intelligence) people back to days of research. One time he asked me to take his wife to town to pick up their car, which was in for service. When I picked her up she had a terrible cold, she was really sick. I told her to go to the Division Clinic, she said she didn’t have an appointment, I told her to go anyway, that I would call them. I called the Division Surgeon (a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of all the medical people), who was in our office about every day, of course he said send her. When I told Col Warner, he didn’t like having jumped ahead of other people. I said; “I know you don’t sir, but she is sick and I did it.” He never said anymore about it. In early 1973 the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota revolted, they had all kinds of problems, they barricaded themselves in at Wounded Knee, the FBI arrived, an FBI agent was shot and a couple Indians killed. Hollywood got involved, and it became a national incident. The FBI requested 2,000 army troops to over run the place. Col Volney Warner was from South Dakota, and he was personal friends with Alexander M Haig, who was White House Chief of Staff. So he was sent to Wounded Knee, in civilian clothes, as the senior government representative. Everybody was to take their orders from him. He was credited with keeping the FBI and the Indians from killing any more people, defusing the situation, and convincing the Indians to lay down their guns and start negotiating. When the new Brigadier Generals’ list was released in June 1973, Volney Warner’s promotion orders came with it. He then became the ADC-Operations.
There were six full Colonels in the 82nd then, Col Warner and four of the other five were also on the list for promotion to Brigadier General. Volney Warner and two of the others, Roscoe Robinson, and James Lindsay, all retired as full four star Generals, as did Frederick Kroesen. I knew them all, up close and personal and they were simply great common people who loved what they doing and they loved being with the troops. When BG Volney Warner left the 82nd for his next assignment, he wrote the Chief of General Officers Branch at Army Headquarters. He said; “I don’t know what my future holds, I’ll accept whatever you have for me, but I would crawl through a mile of ground glass to get back here. These are the finest troops in the world, they will do anything you ask of them.” He did return to Fort Bragg as a 3 star commanding the 18th Airborne Corps, the higher headquarters of the 82nd. I talked to him just before he retired, he was Commander of the Readiness Command, which became Central Command. He said the further you get from the troops the more BS you have to put up with. At 91, he is still operating Volney Warner Consulting in McLean, Virginia. At the age of 94, Frederick Kroesen, is also still working, active in three organizations.
With one exception, which I have not, and will not name, all the General Officers I knew, including those who became generals did not consider themselves better than any soldier. A soldier is a soldier. Big generals grow from little second lieutenants, so they all have been where the troops are. They were great personable people who cared about their job, and they cared about the troops. Generals supervise/lead Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels, they encourage, mentor, pass on their experience and knowledge and allow the Colonels the freedom to do their jobs. It pained them to have to discipline Colonels. I saw two Lieutenant Colonel Battalion Commanders relieved of duty (fired). One was a training accident, involving mortars and a soldier was killed, an investigation revealed that all safety precautions had not been followed. Whoever failed to do their job, it was the Battalion Commander’s job to check, for it is his ultimate responsibility. The other was the result of a surprise maintenance inspection. Those inspections were constantly being conducted by a team from the Division G4. Maintenance records and procedures, as well as vehicles and equipment were checked. I was present when the Chief Warrant Officer, in charge of the team reported to the Assistant Division Commander for Support, because as soon as the G4 reported that a battalion had failed an inspection, it went straight to the General. The Chief said; Sir, it’s not that their system wasn’t in order, their stuff is sitting in the motor pool rusty, and hasn’t been touched in weeks.” The Battalion Commander and the Major, Battalion Executive Officer, who was responsible for maintenance, were both fired. When an officer is relieved of duty he might as well start working on his resume, because he will not go any further in the Army.
I’m sure that there are others who has not had the same experience with Generals. But that was the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army has always tried to keep the 82nd staffed with its’ best officers, because if somewhere in the world explodes, it’s the 82nd that goes to put out the fire.
General John W “Mick” Nicholson, Jr, the current commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, recently commanded the 82nd. He also has more time and experience in Afghanistan than any other Army General. General Curtis Michael “Mike” Scaparroti, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, also commanded the 82nd Airborne Division. There are many three and four star generals throughout the Army who have had multiple tours in the 82nd Airborne Division.

THE FLAG

Originally Published in The Belle Banner, in Belle, Missouri, September 27th, 2017. This is another article out of the sequence in which they were published, but with the apparent decision by the NFL to ban kneeling during the National Anthem, I feel compelled to post this now.
I graduated from Belle High School in May 1961. We spent eight years down stairs in grade school. In many classes, we said the Pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. When we moved upstairs to high school, we were joined by others who came in from the one room country schools. That summer I pumped gas in a service station, for Arlie Roesner. There was talk of war that summer. That was the Berlin Crises. The Soviet Union sealed off East Berlin and started building the Berlin Wall. American and Russian tanks faced each other, as the wall was being constructed. President Kennedy, on national television, said; “We seek peace, but we will not surrender”. He called for tripling the draft, increasing the size of the armed services, and possibly calling up the reserves. At the end of August, I enlisted in the Army, for Airborne Infantry. As a fairly immature 18 year old, I didn’t fully understand the tear in my Dad’s eye, as he shook my hand before I left to get on the bus, in Belle. Thirty years later, when we put our son on the bus, in Rolla, for the same trip, I did fully understand.
After training I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, my Dad’s old unit. My Platoon Sergeant, when I arrived at my company, was Staff Sergeant William Maud Bryant. Sergeant Bryant was a very smart, articulate man. After a few months, he went to Special Forces, and as a Green Beret was killed in action in Vietnam, and subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor. The Squad Leader of our Weapons Squad, in which I was a Machinegunner, was Staff Sergeant Tom Walker. The other Machinegunner, in the squad was named Jordan. Staff Sergeant Tom Walker taught us the machinegun so well that we won Division Machinegun Competition in the spring of 1963. Tom Walker was also killed in action in Vietnam. All three were black men, good men. My black friends, in North Carolina, first introduced me to “Splo”. Its’ popular name is “white lightning”, but whatever it’s called you never forget it.
I saw combat in Dominican Republic and in Vietnam. The Army was fully integrated, there was no “race problem” in combat units, we were all green and we all bled red. We depended on each other, and we became close to each other. What else I saw in different countries around the world were the some of the greatest ambassadors for the United States of America. Soldiers would stand down from a firefight and share their rations with hungry kids, they would pick up old women and kids and carry them out of the line of fire. Young children would literally try to sell cokes while under fire. I saw that people are pretty much the same all over the world. They want to protect and provide for their family, and they want to see their children grow up and be happy. I saw the United States as the worlds’ protector of individual freedom and liberty. I became acquainted with many Vietnamese. I knew Catholics whose families had been fighting the Communists for years, but the United States, at that time, had an administration that had no experience with war and did not understand it. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and their council decided in December 1965 that they could not win in Vietnam, but continued the war for another 10 years. The public turned so sour that we couldn’t wear our uniform among civilians, but soldiers only go where they are told to go and do what they are told to do. When congress finally folded, defunded the war, and we left, it has been estimated that about two million people were literally dragged out of their houses and killed, when the Communists took over. I knew many of them, and my memory of them suffering that fate will never fade, but Presidents change, administrations change, congressmen change, and time does heal.
I stood at attention and saluted the flag and the national anthem for over 20 years, then the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 authorized all veterans to render the hand salute to the flag, and that act in 2009 authorized all veterans to render the hand salute to the national anthem, so I again stand at attention and salute the flag and the national anthem. I sometimes get a lump in my throat when old glory flies and the anthem is playing, because to me it represents not only the military, but all the good that the United States of America has done in the world, but I hate Taps. Although Taps is played as the last bugle call of the day at every army post, to me it represents funeral.
In the last decade, US Army Special Forces have deployed to 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Not only training armies and fighting terrorists and drug cartels, but providing medical service in remote areas, building clinics and schools, and protecting the local people. The United States of America is doing more good in the world, than the rest of the world combined.
If professional football players are trying to bring attention to a wrong being perpetrated against black people, they are going about it all wrong. When they disrespect our flag and our anthem, I don’t care what they are protesting, because I am blinded by their heinous, violent act of disrespect.
Colin Kaepernick said; “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” The complaint is that white police are harassing and killing black people and that white supremacist neo nazi organizations are not being punished. Even if that is true, which I don’t believe, you get no sympathy from me when you disrespect my flag and anthem. To me that is worse than rioting where people are hurt. It attacks the very core of my being, I see and hear nothing else. You are disrespecting me, personally.
If someone is being wronged, I will help them anyway I can, but if you perform this hideous act then you become my enemy. I no longer watch NFL football, and if I were an NFL sponsor I would terminate those contracts. This is the most serious attack on this country since 9 – 11. I fear that the result of these “protests” will not be attention to a problem but the beginning of the destruction of our country.

Daniel Kcender II

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

We are with PFC Daniel Kcender for a second week. In May they trained with live fire exercises both in urban and field. Every year the week before Memorial Day is “All American Week”, where the 82nd Airborne Division opens its doors to former paratroopers and visitors and puts on a weeklong show, culminating in either a Division parade or a Division jump. All American Week started with a Division sized four mile run at 06:30 Monday morning, led by the Division Commanding General, and the Division Command Sergeant Major. Longstreet on Fort Bragg had an estimated 10,000 paratroopers running on it at one time. There were people lining the sidewalks on each side of the street, many were the families of paratroopers, and many were veterans, former paratroopers with the 82nd, all cheering the troops. There were many unit competitions scheduled throughout the week, basketball, flag football, softball, volleyball, soccer, combatives, tug-of-war, and more, most starting on Monday. There was also a “Paratrooper Breakfast” in one of the DFAC’s at 08:30 Monday morning, where current troops ate breakfast with former paratroopers. Daniel got to attend the breakfast. Daniel talked to former paratroopers, some had retired from the Army, and some had spent 2 or 3 or 4 years in the 82nd. Some were combat veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, some were not, but all said that their time in the 82nd was one of the high points in their lives. Some said that at the time they thought it was just a lot of hard work and misery, but looking back they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Most of the veterans belonged to the 82nd Airborne Division Association. He learned that there are 96 chapters of the 82nd Airborne Division Association scattered across the United States. The Fayetteville Chapter, there at Fort Bragg, hosted many events during All American Week. On Tuesday morning, Daniel got to attend the All American Week Prayer Breakfast. The host and guest speaker was a retired Colonel who was a former Division Chaplain for the 82nd. On Wednesday afternoon there was a very moving memorial service, at the Division Museum, where units honored those they had lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was told that in past years they had practiced for a parade on Wednesday and performed on Thursday. This year, the finale for All American Week, on Thursday, was a mass tactical parachute jump, an exercise, then a review on Sicily Drop Zone. Daniel didn’t get to make that jump, he was assigned to guide people around the static displays set up in front of the bleachers on Sicily Drop Zone. There he got to meet many more veterans and their families, who came to visit the Division. The Division Commander designated Friday of that week a “training holiday”, and Monday was Memorial Day, so he got a four day weekend. SSG Wright and his wife hosted the squad and their families to a bar-b-que that Saturday.
Daniel’s company trained on many live fire exercises, they practiced squad and team tactics, they conducted field exercises against aggressors, with graders, where leaders were “killed off” and junior troopers had to step up and take charge. They got at least one parachute jump a month, more if they wanted to go jump on Saturday, in the Saturday Jump Program. They jumped into field exercises, and they just jumped. They worked with helicopters for combat insertions and extractions. In October the Brigade conducted EIB (Expert Infantryman Badge) testing. It encompasses all skills an infantryman should know, it is hands on, intense and tough. It is graded by a GO or NO-GO system. The task is performed correctly or not. It is also voluntary. Daniel competed alongside sergeants and officers, and he started realizing that the skills being tested were what SSG Wright had been having them practice repeatedly for the past year. Daniel was one of the few PFC’s awarded the EIB.
Now it is the 1st of December again and Daniel has just been promoted to Specialist E4. He was also designated an Automatic Rifleman, trading in his M4 Carbine for an M249B SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). After the promotion ceremony, Captain Good, the Company Commander, called Daniel to his office. He asked Daniel to sit down and tell him how he felt about the army. Daniel told him that he enjoyed what he was doing, and thought the Army was great, but at this point he didn’t know whether he would stay in, or get out and go to college. Captain Good asked him what his score was on his ACT, and where he stood in his high school class. He then asked Daniel how he would like to go to the US Military Academy at West Point. Daniel said he didn’t understand. Captain Good, who was a USMA graduate himself, told Daniel that the Army has a program where they admit young, single, soldiers (USMA students must be single and not have reached their 23rd birthday when they report for their freshman year) either directly to West Point, or to a year of “Prep School” then to West Point. He told Daniel that it is very competitive, and that they have a limited number, but with Daniels grades and scores, and his proven ability and enthusiasm as a soldier, he felt that Daniel would be an excellent candidate for at least prep school. Specialist Daniel Kcender had to do some serious thinking.
Daniel liked the Army, and he had seen enough of it to know that the 82nd Airborne Division is an elite organization within the Army. If he applied for the US Military Academy and was accepted, that would be four years, granted it would be a top notch education. If he was accepted for Prep School, then it would be five years. Daniel had another problem, he had a girlfriend. They communicated regularly and they had visited each other a few times, since he had been in the Army. Daniel wanted to talk with someone. SFC Steady was now First Sergeant (1SG) Steady in another battalion, and SSG Wright was now SFC Wright and his Platoon Sergeant. Daniel’s Squad Leader was now SSG Smith who just made E6 and moved from another platoon. Daniel asked SFC Wright if it was OK for him to go talk to 1SG Steady. SFC Wright immediately called 1SG Steady and handed the phone to Daniel. Daniel told 1SG Steady what Captain Good had said, and that he needed to talk with someone. 1SG Steady told Daniel; “After you get off work, get some chow, change clothes and come out to my house about 19:00 (7:00 PM)”. Daniel knew where 1SG Steady lived, he owned a house off post with a big back yard where they had a platoon cook out last summer. After Daniel arrived and spoke to 1SG Steady’s wife and kids, they went to the living room, while the rest of the family was in the den watching TV. Daniel told him what Captain Good had said, also about his girlfriend and his dilemma. 1SG Steady asked Daniel if he considered staying in the Army, whether he went to West Point or not. Daniel said that he was beginning to think that he might stay, and that if he made Sergeant before his enlistment was up he probably would reenlist. Daniel said he wanted to know the difference in life between an officer and an NCO. 1SG Steady told Daniel that first, officers make twice as much money as NCO’s, they are the managers of the Army. They command platoons, companys, battalions, and brigades. They have a lot more responsibility, and they have a lot more stress. The crunch point for an officer comes when captains are being considered for major. There are twice as many captains as there are majors, so some captains are not selected for promotion, and if they are passed over twice they are released, i.e., kicked out. After an enlisted soldier makes Staff Sergeant, he can screw up and never get promoted again, but if he hasn’t done anything very bad, he can still retire at 20 years. Officers move often, they are purposely moved about every three years so they get the necessary schools and variety of assignments to provide them the experience to advance. 1SG Steady said that he had been in the Army about 15 years, and other than some trips to schools at Fort Benning, Georgia, he had only one three year tour away from the 82nd, and that was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy. He told Daniel that West Point is one of the finest schools in the country. West Point graduates have become Generals, Presidents, and captains of industry. As far as a girlfriend is concerned, all USMA cadets are single, in fact there is a tradition that upper classmen tell the freshmen to drop their girlfriend or boyfriend because they are a distraction. Daniel said that he didn’t want to lose his girlfriend, he said that they are not formally engaged, but just assumed that they would be someday. 1SG Steady told Daniel that if he decided not to apply for West Point he should get busy with what needed to be done to make Sergeant. He told Daniel that life changes after you make Sergeant. When you call battalion headquarters and Sergeant Smith answers the phone, you don’t know whether that is Sergeant E5 Smith or SFC E7 Smith, because all are called Sergeant. He told Daniel that his life as a soldier would also change if he got married. He would move out of the barracks to an apartment or house off or on post. He said that the Army is a separate and protected society, and if he got married his wife would become part of that society, but she should understand that like it or not, the Army comes first. He said; “My wife tells me that she is my mistress because I am married to the Army.” 1SG Steady recommended first getting a house on post. He told Daniel that if he liked the Army and is a good soldier, it can be a very rewarding career. He told Daniel that it took him 10 years to get his bachelor’s degree and that he was now working on a masters. He said, we don’t worry about medical insurance or making a living, we concentrate on doing our job.
Daniel thanked 1SG Steady and drove back to his barracks. When he got to his room, he got on his computer and went to work on his SSD-1 (Structured Self Development Course). The next day, Daniel told Captain Good that he had given serious thought to applying for the USMA, but instead he wanted to apply for Ranger School. Captain Good told Daniel that he would put him on the list to attend the Division Pre Ranger Course.

LIFE IN THE ARMY

Originally published January 18th, 2017 in The Belle Banner

This is the first in a series of articles about life in the military. I came to realize, after the Veterans Day Assembly, that very few local people know anything about the military.  The younger the person the less he or she is likely know about the military.  So yes I am talking to you high schoolers.  I have talked to 17 year olds who thinks life in the military is like the movie “Lone Survivor”.  Only if you were a SEAL in Afghanistan in 2007, sent on a questionable mission in the middle of Indian country, and everything went wrong.

The Army has Basic Combat Training, the Air Force has Basic Training, and the Navy and Marines each have their own version of Boot Camp.  They all have similarities, and differences, but none is anything like life in that service.  Nor are the movies anything like normal life in the military.  I will be telling about the Army, because that is what I know.  I spent 21 years in the Army, and have kept up with it on a daily basis, since I retired.

The Army and Marines have similar structures.  The Marines do a much better job of instilling pride and esprit de corps in just being a Marine.  Whether you’re a cook, clerk, mechanic or infantryman, a Marine is a Marine.  In the other services pride and  morale are more with specific units than the service as a whole.  In the Air Force the Special Operations Command is the top of the mountain for enlisted people, although very tough to get into.  For officers, if you’re not a pilot, you are a second class officer.  The Air Force supports airplanes, they fly them, maintain them, and support them.  Airplanes are the primary interest of the Air Force. In the Navy, if you can’t be a SEAL, I suspect working on the flight deck of a Ford Class nuclear powered aircraft carrier is about at the top of the heap.   In the Navy, Ships and airplanes are their primary interest.  In the Army and the Marines, people are the primary focus.  Because no matter how advanced technology becomes, to win wars and hold territory, there has to be people on the ground.

In the Army, Special Forces are the top of the elite soldiers, and although the army occasionally allows recruits to enlist directly for Special Forces, I do not recommend it.  The enlistment contract only means you get to try out for Special Forces.  The normal route is to make Sergeant, then apply for Special Forces.  About 27% of those who start the year and a half to two year training actually make it to becoming a Green Beret.  The same goes for ranger school.  If you want to be a ranger, enlist for airborne infantry, spend a few months in a line unit then apply for ranger school.

Normal life in the Army is very different for officers and enlisted personnel.  Normal life between junior enlisted married and single people is very different.  And life is different between various units.  I just said that the Army is a people organization, which boils down to leadership.  Changing commanders from company level to army level is a formal process.  The colors of the unit are passed from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander.  The commander alone, is responsible for everything his unit does or fails to do, so if the commander is a good leader, that is probably a good unit, if not, it is probably not as good as some others just like it.  So, if you want to go into the Army and you want to try to get into as good a unit as possible, what do you do?  The most elite part of the Army, you can simply enlist for, is airborne.  They jump out of air planes.  Don’t panic, it’s a rip.  One of the biggest thrills in life.

In times like these when the military budgets are being cut, and the services drawn down, all units are not fully funded. When a unit is not fully funded, its training is reduced, its services are reduced, and soldiers are used to perform jobs that civilians were previously paid to do.  It affects everyone’s morale, including the commanders.

The most famous unit in the army, or in fact all the military, is the 82nd Airborne Division, and I believe that it has the highest morale.  Pride is a large part of that morale, because the combat units in the 82nd train hard all the time, and the support units run hard to keep them supplied.  It is the most highly trained, well equipped, fully funded division in all the services.  The reason is that part of it is always on standby.  It is America’s fire brigade.  If America needs to put troops anywhere in the world fast, the President calls Fort Bragg.  The division has three Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) each composed of about 4500 paratroopers.  One BCT is always on standby as the Division Ready Brigade (DRB).  Within 18 hours of notification the DRB can be loaded and “wheels up” to any location in the world.  Every member of the division is airborne (parachute) qualified, and every piece of equipment can be dropped by parachute.  The standard mission is to jump into a hostile area, seize and hold an airfield until heavier units can be flown in.  In Iraq and Afghanistan they just went and did what all other units did, only better.

Enlisting in the Army with an “airborne option” guarantees only airborne school (three weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia), but after paying for a soldier to go through the school there is about a 100% probability that they will be assigned to an airborne unit. Those are; 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy.  The 173rd is the US fire brigade for Europe.  My family and I thoroughly enjoyed an assignment there.  The 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Anchorage, Alaska, and the 1st Battalion 509th Airborne Infantry, Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The Army tries to assign its best officers to those units. Good Sergeants usually stay.  I’ve known dozens of sergeants who spent their entire career in the 82nd Airborne Division, minus some mandatory schools, and perhaps one overseas assignment.  Of the ten current 4 star generals in the Army now, all are airborne qualified, six are master parachutists, having spent multiple assignments in the 82nd, and two of those six are former Division Commanders of the 82nd Airborne Division.

First, the Army works five days a week, Monday thru Friday. Hospitals, Military Police, Communications Centers, and Dining Facilities are some of the exceptions.  The individual soldiers still only work five days a week.  Everyone in the Army, who is not on shift work, does PT (Physical Training), first thing in the morning, usually 6:00 or 6:30 AM.  That is the first, and for many the only formation of the day.  Shift work soldiers still do PT, only at different times.  Single Privates, Specialists, and Sergeants live in the barracks.  Some barracks are now called dorms.  A normal set up for permanently assigned soldiers is a private room with a microwave and small refrigerator.  Some have baths, some share a bath with a suite mate (same sex) on the other side of the bath.  Married soldiers, who have their family with them, may live in family housing on post, which are nice houses or apartments, paid for with their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), or they may live off post.  All married soldiers receive BAH, unless the family lives in government housing, so even if their family is not with them, the BAH is paid to provide for their family.  BAH rates vary with rank and location.  At Fort Leonard Wood, a married Private First Class (PFC E-3) (about a year in the army) will receive an extra $903.00 per month, whereas a Staff Sergeant (SSG E-6) (five to ten years in the army) will receive $1,146.00 per month.  At Fort Bragg, North Carolina the rates are $1,179.00 for the PFC and $1,344.00 for the SSG.  PT usually lasts about an hour.  Many units vary regular PT (calisthenics and run) three days per week with athletics or gym two days.  After PT, soldiers living in the barracks go back to their room, clean up, put on their uniform and go to the Dining Facility (DFAC) for breakfast.  Meals in the DFAC are free for soldiers living in the barracks, those soldiers are issued a meal card. Married soldiers not living in the barracks receive an extra $368.00 per month for meals.  Married soldiers go home, clean up and eat breakfast.  Combat line units like Infantry, Armor, Artillery, or Combat Engineers (companies that have a single mission) will probably have a work formation at about 09:00 AM.  All members of the company are at that formation.  Soldiers who work in staff sections or unique sections, such as line medics usually just report to their desk or place of work at about 09:00.

Lunch is normally for an hour around noon. Anyone can eat in a DFAC, if they so desire.  Soldiers who have meal cards eat free, those who don’t pay, or they go home for lunch, or jump in their car and go to Burger King or one of the many snack bars on post.

The normal work day ends at 4:30 or 5:00 PM, and they are off until PT the next morning.   Except Friday, which means they are off until Monday morning.

Every Fort has at least one main PX (Post Exchange), it is like a Wal-mart, and several small exchanges, they all have a commissary, which is like a giant grocery super center, and at least one service station. There is a hospital, fire stations, a main chapel, plus other chapels, theaters, bowling alleys, gyms, and dozens of ball fields.  Most also have a “do it yourself” auto repair shop, with lifts, tools, and advice available to soldiers.  The family quarters have been contracted out to civilian companies, which has resulted in improved housing and service.  Every post, of any size, has an education center where several colleges and universities teach classes and conduct online classes.  There are six schools at the education center on Fort Leonard Wood, and ten at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Soldiers are highly encouraged to improve their civilian education. So much so that one promotion point is awarded for each semester hour of college, up to 100 points in an 800 point promotion system to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant.  All soldiers are automaticaly enrolled in Structured Self Development – 1 (SSD-1) when they complete their advanced individual training (AIT).  That is an 80 hour online course of military subjects, which must be completed, plus they must attend a four week Basic Leader Course before they can be promoted to Sergeant E-5.

Military pay is based on enlisted pay grades E-1 (Private) through E-9 (Sergeant Major) and officer pay grades O-1 (Second Lieutenant) through O-10 (General). Pay for grade E-1 is separated for those with less than 4 months in service and those over.  The base pay for a Private E-1 under 4 months is $1480.00 per month.  That translates to about $1,200 per month take home pay, for a single soldier, half paid twice monthly.  If the soldier is married they will also be paid Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).  That gets them through basic and part of the next phase, which is advanced individual training (AIT).  Then regular E-1 pay is $1,600 per month, which means about $100 per month increase in take home pay.  Private E-2 comes at about six months in service, that base pay is $1,793, which means about $1,450 take home.  Private First Class (PFC) E-3 usually comes at about a year in service, that is $1,886 base, which is a little over $1,500 take home.  Specialist E-4 usually comes at about 18 months service.  A Specialist E-4 over 2 years base pay is $2,089, equaling a little over $1,600 take home.

In the coming weeks I will attempt to portray the life of different soldiers in different jobs. In the next two weeks, I will take two different soldiers, both young women, through their training to their permanent assignment.  One enlists in the Army, the other finishes college and is commissioned into the army as an officer.  Both go into the same field and are assigned to the same unit and the same office, but their working relationships, living conditions, and pay are entirely different.