Category Archives: Life in the Army


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

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

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

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

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




The most “in the know” job in the Army is Human Resource Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 42A in the Adjutant Generals Corps. It is physically one of the easiest jobs in the Army. It is a solid desk job, and is continually rated high by the people doing it. The big jobs website “Glassdoor” has workers rate companies on a scale of 1 to 10, and they have workers rate how they like their job on a scale of 1 to 5. In 2015, Glassdoor surveyed soldiers to have them rate their jobs. The top rated job in the Army, by people doing it was Human Resource Specialist, 42A’s gave their job a 4.3 out of five rating.

If you want to do a lot of shooting, blowing up things, and kicking down doors, this is not your job.  If you can’t stand being inside all the time, this is not your job.

            They qualify with their rifle, go through the gas chamber, and take a PT test once a year, and they do PT (Physical Training) every weekday morning just like every other soldier, but their working day is behind that desk and computer.  If they go to the field whether they are in a tent or a mobile shelter, they are behind a desk and a computer.  If they deploy they rarely go outside the wire, because their job is behind a desk and a computer.  If they are airborne they will probably jump once every three months, to keep up jump pay.  Promotions are in line with most support jobs, and they are the ultimate POG’s (Person Other than Grunt), but they do get a lot of satisfaction in performing their work, because their job is taking care of soldiers.  Every personnel action that affects a soldier is handled by a Human Resource Specialist, including awards, promotions, schools, and assignments.  HR Specialists know more about assignments, advanced schools, and promotions than any other soldier, because that is their job, from battalion to the Human Resource Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where there are a gazillion HR Specialists determining all soldiers’ assignments.

Sergeant Isabel Giron, a 42A at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany

In answer to a question from a future enlistee considering 42A, one 42A said this; “You will be at your desk for majority of your time.  You network a lot being a 42A, whether it’s in your own battalion or around your brigade. If you learn your job, news will travel fast and you will get the respect of guys in your unit. That goes from the joes on the line to the CSM (Command Sergeant Major). Day to day, it’s not bad. You stay busy and learn a great deal about the Army. Of course you’ll have crappy days, but what job doesn’t have those?  One piece of advice that I’ll share with a future 42A – No matter what you’re working on, take care of the Soldiers and treat their paperwork as your own. To you, it’ll just be another action, promotion, leave form or whatever. It’s just another piece of paper in your stack of stuff to do for the day, but that piece of paper might be the whole world to the Soldier at the time. That promotion they’ve been waiting on for months, the leave form to fly home to see their family or the packet to get their family overseas with them. Complete your mission so these guys can focus on their mission.”

            MOS 42A Human Resource Specialist encompasses a large area.  The Army used to have an MOS for Personnel Specialist, one for Administrative Specialist, and one for Postal Specialist.  They were all consolidated into 42A.  To be qualified to work in an actual Army Post Office, there is an additional five week school after AIT, for those who want to go that route.  MOS 42A requires a Secret Security Clearance, you will be investigated, so reveal everything, even a minor parking ticket.  The ASVAB scores required to get this job are not high, but I personally think that they should be higher.  To qualify for 42A, ASVAB scores of 100 in General Technical (GT) and 90 in Clerical (CL) are required.  GT is Verbal Expression and Arithmetic Reasoning, CL is also Verbal Expression and Arithmetic Reasoning, plus Mathematics Knowledge. In other words – English (Language Arts) and math.  If your ASVAB GT and CL scores are not at least 120 you may want to consider another job.  This job may not appear to be a brainy job, but it is.  The Army Regulations that governs and guides the work that 42A’s perform are several feet thick, when in print.  Army Regulation (AR) 614-200 on enlisted personnel management is about 3 inches thick, AR 635-200 on enlisted separations is about the same.  I once knew a man who could quote paragraph for paragraph from either.  He made Master Sergeant E8 in eight years, can’t be done today. 

Specialist Travis Campbell, a 42A in a battalion S-1 shop at Fort Carson, Colorado, likes knowing that what he does everyday makes a difference for individuals and for the unit.

The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for MOS 42A is nine weeks long at the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Summers are just as hot in South Carolina as in Missouri, but the winters are not nearly as cold.  A recent graduate described 42A AIT as really easy.  The dorms are three people to a room with one double bunk and one single, three desks, three closets and a bath/shower.  Class is Monday through Friday.  A typical day is 4:50 AM wake up, clean area, accountability and PT (physical training) formation at 5:20.  PT usually lasts to about 7:00, then shower, get dressed and breakfast and be in formation at 8:45.  March to class, lunch is in a nearby DFAC (Dining Facility) and released at 5:00 PM.  They keep cell phones, ipads, computers, etc just not during duty hours.  Civilian clothes when off duty. During the eight weeks and two days of the course, six weeks are spent in class and two weeks in the field.  Class sizes are small, usually about 30 people.  A platoon is a class.

The study includes;  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 (Dropped from the rolls) 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 (ID 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 (Temporary Duty); Perform Personnel Office Computations; Review a Completed Officer and Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER); Process Enlisted Advancements for Private through Specialist; Process Semi-Centralized Promotions; Research Finance Actions; Determine Entitlements to Pay and Allowances; and Employ the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) System. 

42A AIT class graduating

Army Human Resource Specialists are literally on every US Army post in the world, so they can be assigned anywhere in any type of unit. 

Specialist Aaron Beirels at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, amending nearly 8,000 temporary change of station (TCS) orders.

I always push going airborne, jumping out of airplanes, it’s a blast.  Plus enlisting as a 42A with the airborne option, will put that person in an airborne unit, probably in a battalion headquarters, the lowest level at which 42A’s are used. 

A Human Resource Specialist, in the field, using the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) system

Those are the best units in the Army, the best leaders and the highest morale, plus that is where Human Resource Specialists really learn their job.  They deal with soldiers face to face on a daily basis, it pays to be a people person.  In the S1 (Administration) Section of a battalion is an Adjutant Generals Corps Captain, and a 42A Sergeant First Class NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge), plus a Staff Sergeant, two Sergeants, a Specialist, and three Privates First Class.   So, for the new enlistee who happens to be in the almost 20 percent of enlistees who will retire from the Army 20 years later, that is where he or she would want to start.


     This was originally published in the Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, May 6th 2020. Unfortunately, as with many print newspapers, both large and small, the Belle Banner has closed. May 6th was the last issue. I will continue to post Army stories on this blog, because I’m 76 I have lived life, and I believe that life in the Army is a better life than the life I see many young people living, now.

     Seniors – you are now on your own. Maybe Dad and Mom are paying for college, whenever college classes start again, or maybe you are going to work, whenever work opens up. The Army is hiring.
     First contact a recruiter. Some of you seniors are already facebook friends with SFC Jeff Escott at the Rolla Army Recruiting Office, so that shouldn’t be hard.
1 – Get in shape. You’re in shape? Get in better shape. Run. Run until you get your pace and breathing coordinated to the point where you can run for hours. In other words – become a runner. Start slow and build up. Do pushups, situps, and pullups, also walk – a lot, then walk, wearing boots for the ankle support, and carry a rucksack. Walk more, with a heaver ruck, up to about 40 pounds.
2 – Study the ASVAB. Don’t care if you were at the top of your class, study for the ASVAB, before you take it. The ASVAB is the military IQ test, and it will stay in your records as long as you are in the Army. You want as high a score as possible, especially in English (language arts) and math.
3 – Tell the recruiter everything about your life. You smoked pot and don’t anymore, or you tried it and didn’t like it, or you never touched it. Traffic tickets or any trouble with the law, some things can be waived (forgiven). Medical problems. You had a broken bone as a young child – anything.
4 – You will take a practice ASVAB. Study it first.
5 – Pick an army job. Go online, find out what they do, find comments by current and former soldiers. The recruiters can tell you a lot. Talk to me, I will tell you what I think are the crappy jobs and the great jobs.
6 – You may have to make a preliminary trip to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in St Louis.
7 – You will get a ship date to basic training. Up until that day, continue to build your physical condition and endurance.
     RECEPTION: THE ORDEAL. Your first stop is the Reception Battalion. That week, which does not count for basic training, has forever been miserable. Everything is different, standing in a formation, being told what to do, then wait for something to happen. Because of COVID-19, social distancing will be practiced, formations are at double arms-length, and processing groups will be small. The first day you will get PT (physical training) clothes, which you will put on, then pack your civilian clothes, including your cell phone, which you will get back after basic training. The second day men get their hair cut off, women either put theirs up in a bun or have it cut to collar length, uniforms are issued and ID Cards processed. The next day is shots, dental exams, and eye exams. The fourth day is a physical assessment test. That basically completes in processing, but you may be held at reception for a couple more days, until they have enough recruits to fill a basic training company.
     ARRIVAL DAY AT THE BASIC TRAINING COMPANY: That is when you see pictures of drill sergeants all over trainees. It has always been shock, and awe day. It is meant to get your attention that you are now in the Army and are bound to do exactly what the drill sergeants say. But, because of COVID-19, there are some changes. Drill Sergeants will not get in your face, they will stay five feet away from you. Instead of being separated into platoons of 60 soldiers, platoons will now be about 25 soldiers, resulting in a basic training company of 100 soldiers, instead of the normal 240. Barracks are being rearranged to put more distance between trainees sleeping areas. Basic training is as tough now as it has ever been. The drill sergeants are not unnecessarily mean (unless you really tick one off), but it is physically demanding 12 to 14 hour days, six days a week (you will love Sundays). It is professional, and covers a wide array of subjects, so it is “on the run”.
The following is the normal schedule for Basic Combat Training, but because of COVID-19, it is being modified so that the first two weeks are all classes, outside when possible, and frequent COVID-19 tests, satisfied that there is no virus in the company, normal training will then continue. The biggest difference will be the smaller groups. I’m not suggesting that it will be easier, but it will be better. Just like school, smaller classes means better teaching and learning. Now could be a great time to go through basic training.
PT (Physical Training) every morning, six days a week.

                                         PT Every Morning (except Sundays)

Week One: Arrive at company, drill – lots of drill, stand at attention, right face, left face, march, keep in step. Classes on Army Values, first aid, nutrition, army history. Diagnostic PT test. Draw and assemble field equipment.
Week Two: Rappel tower, Team Development Obstacle Course – forces everyone to work together, and Fit to Win Obstacle Course. You realize this is going to be fun. Electronic Skills Trainer (EST) (indoor computerized rifle range), road marches – 2 ½ miles and 5 miles.

                                                           Rappel Tower

                                                 Team Development Course

Week Three: Combatives, hand to hand and pugil stick fighting (turns snowflakes into fighters), land navigation (map and compass reading), basic tactical field training. The first field exercise called “The Hammer”, which is a one day and night in the field using what you have learned, so far.
Week Four: Starting White Phase “The Anvil”. Another diagnostic PT test. Most of that week will be rifle marksmanship. Classes, zero the rifle, practice qualification, day qualification, then day qualification wearing gas masks, then both at night.
Week Five: First aid lifesaving, radio communications, more land navigation, more combatives.
Week Six: More tactical field classes. The field exercise “The Anvil” – a 7 ½ mile road march to set up a patrol base, conduct a patrol, react to being attacked.

                                                            Road March

Week Seven: Hand Grenades, classes on casualty movement and evacuation, buddy live fire course, final PT test.
Week Eight: Blue Phase. The field exercise “The Forge”. The Forge is not a “walk in the park”, it is four days covering about 45 miles, not much sleep, only two MRE meals per day, doing and being tested on everything you’ve learned in basic. It is land navigation, patrolling, being attacked, carrying out “casualties”, calling in medivac helicopters, a night infiltration course, and live fire when you’re dead tired. Everything is tested and everything must be passed. The Forge ends at night with a company formation around a large bonfire, and the Commander announces, “You’ve made it – you are no longer trainees, you are now soldiers in the United States Army”. You then put on a beret and a US Army shoulder patch. THE TRIUMPH.

                                                    The Forge – It’s Over!

Week Nine: Clean and turn in rifles. Clean and turn in field gear. Uniform inspection, and a couple classes.
Week Ten: Practice graduation. Wednesday is family day – you get to leave the company area and spend the day with your family. Thursday -Graduation!
You will never forget your drill sergeants, whom you thought was crazy on that first day, and then along the way you realized that their mission was to get all of you through basic training.
     From basic you go directly to AIT (Advanced Individual Training). The infantry, armor, cavalry scouts, and combat engineers do basic and AIT combined into one company, called an OSUT company (One Station Unit Training), everyone else moves to a different company, even if on the same post.
     If you are serious about trying the Army, spend a lot of time researching the jobs you think you might want. I can’t emphasize that enough. What you choose, and are accepted for, is what you are going to get, and what you will be doing for, at least, that entire enlistment. Talk to all the former soldiers you can find, and ask them if they know anything about the jobs in which you are interested. I will talk to anyone, anytime about army.
     I also encourage everyone who can get the airborne option in their enlistment contract, to please do so. It is jumping out of airplanes, but it is more than that. It puts you in an airborne unit, which are the most elite units to which you can be assigned, with simply enlisting and going through regular training, plus the three week airborne school. The 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina has about 18,000 paratroopers in it, working in most of the jobs the Army has. Fort Bragg is the biggest and best post in the country and the world famous 82nd Airborne Division has the highest morale (happiness) in the military. There is an airborne brigade (about 4,500 paratroopers) in Italy, and another at Anchorage, Alaska.
Again – if you’re interested, talk to me.
Next, some details about specific jobs in the Army, their AIT and their work.


     Since I wrote this, COVID-19 has happened, causing the military to modify operations.  Hopefully, it will return to normal soon, although “normal” may be changed.

      This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri March 25th 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
     Being a drill sergeant was the hardest job I had in the Army, no question, but on graduation day when parents tell you, “He (or she) stands so straight and confident, you’ve done in 10 weeks what I couldn’t do in 18 years”. That’s rewarding.

     Joining the Army is a scary thought to many. “I will disappear into the Army, I’ll be alone and be away from my family.” Yes, you leave your family here, but you don’t “disappear” into the Army.
The conversion from civilian to soldier starts the first day of Basic Combat Training. There are a few days of boring, frustrating processing, but the abrupt change starts upon arrival at the Basic Training Company. That is “shock and awe” day. You have all of your gear in a duffle bag, you are wearing a new uniform, new boots, and, for some, new glasses. You will have heard stories about the “mean and crazy” drill sergeants. The bus comes to a stop, and it is like hell itself has descended on you. There are a dozen drill sergeants scattered among the four or five busses, all screaming at you to “GET OFF THE BUS”, stand there, you behind her, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, YOU ARE AT ATTENTION, DON’T MOVE THOSE EYES. Platoons of 40 to 50 people each are identified and separated. The Army has gotten smarter about that. Haley Shanks entire platoon enlisted to be parachute riggers. They went through basic training, airborne school, and rigger school together, greatly improving their opportunity for success. Move to the barracks, bunks are assigned, women on one floor, men on another, and battle buddies are assigned. Nobody in basic training goes anywhere alone, always with your battle buddy. You learn, that day, that you don’t move or do anything that is not directed by the drill sergeant. The first two to three weeks is called “total control”, which means that trainees don’t do anything on their own, the drill sergeant has total control. One of the platoon drill sergeants will probably be present until “lights out” at 2130 (9:30 PM), during total control. That means, being available for questions, nobody watches you take a shower or go to the bathroom.

                                       Arrival day at Basic Combat Training

     Around three weeks you’ve gotten to know everybody in your platoon, and platoon pride surfaces as everyone starts to work together to get everybody through. You’ll see drill sergeants spending extra hours couching someone having difficulty with a particular task. You’ll see drill sergeants spending time with someone who is having personal difficulty. Sometime in the last part of basic you will realize that while on a break, during training, the whole platoon is sitting on the ground bantering with the drill sergeants. The drill sergeants are still the drill sergeants, whom you obey to the letter, but by then you realize that the mission of the drill sergeant is to convert you to being a soldier, and GET YOU THROUGH BASIC TRAINING.

             Haley Shanks platoon taking a break during basic September 2019

     Graduation from basic training is a giant step in life, you are now a soldier, the less than one half of one percent of Americans who will defend this country. Now it is off to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) to learn the job for which you enlisted. Chances are, there will be several others going with you to AIT, so it will probably not be a completely new start. AIT varies from six or seven weeks to a year, depending on the particular job. After AIT, it is off into the real Army, and no, the real Army doesn’t even resemble basic training. Basic training’s purpose is to create soldiers. Soldiers work together on jobs to accomplish missions.

               Graduation from Basic Training — the end and the beginning

     There is another element of training between AIT and the regular army, which I highly recommend. Airborne School. If you can get the airborne option in your enlistment contract, do it, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Jumping out of an airplane, in the Army, is safer than driving a car. You are taught over and over how to wear the parachute, how to get out of the aircraft, what to do in the air, and how to safely land, and that is reinforced before every parachute jump. In the airplane there are two jumpmasters and two jumpmaster qualified safety’s, who constantly check and check and check everything. Safety is the utmost concern, and when you go out that door, the chute opens and you’re in the air, the sensation is indescribable. The high is ultimate. You will never be able to describe, to your family, why you love jumping out of airplanes.

                                                    Paratroopers in the air

     Airborne school (jump school) is not that hard. I don’t mean it is a blow off, but if you’re in good shape physically, and you can jump out of an airplane, you can make it through jump school. Women may have to practice the flex arm hang prior to jump school.
     Being airborne qualified will place you in a different assignment pattern than your friends who are not. If your first assignment is overseas, it will probably be Italy (the most requested assignment in the Army), or Germany if artillery or cavalry (the second most requested assignment in the Army), or Alaska. If assigned in the states, there is about a 90 percent chance that you will be assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Combat arms soldiers will surely be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Support soldiers have about a 90 to 95 percent of being assigned to the 82nd, and a small chance of being assigned to another airborne unit on post, such as the Special Forces Command or the Special Operations Command. The 82nd Airborne Division higher headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps is on Fort Bragg, as well as its higher, US Army Forces Command.
     Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the biggest and best post in the country, covering over 250 square miles. Population wise, it is the largest, with over 50,000 active duty soldiers, over 4,000 reserves, 12,000 civilian workers, and about 75,000 dependents living on post, giving it a daytime population of around 150,000. Within the Army it is called the center of the military universe, or sometimes, Pentagon South, or mother Bragg. Fort Bragg has multiples of about every recreation facility you can imagine, on post, including two 18 hole golf courses. The hunting and fishing crowd usually eat lunch on post at McKellar’s Lodge, home of the McKellar’s Rod & Gun Club. Fort Bragg has two large main exchange/commissary complexes, with dozens of annex’s scattered throughout post, and a third 83,000 square foot complex scheduled to break ground this fall.

      Airborne and Special Operations Museum – Fayetteville, North Carolina

     The adjoining city of Fayetteville, population of about 220,000, has gone from a rough “GI town” in World War II and the nick name “Fayettenam” 50 years ago, to a very nice city, which is a three time winner of an “All American City” award, with a huge retired military population. The retired military community in Fayetteville started growing in the early 1960’s, when career soldiers, who staid in the Army after World War II, and spent their entire career in the 82nd Airborne Division and/or Special Forces, started retiring. When I came back from Vietnam in 1967, I got out of the Army and we returned to Fayetteville. It is pine trees and sand, a moderate climate, and great congenial southern people. I walked into Gene Autry’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, looking for a job as a mechanic, and was hired as a salesman. I was selling cars there when Fayetteville got its first black car salesman, Boyd Harris. When civil rights was front page news in the 1960’s, and some places were having trouble, including riots, trying to forcibly integrate black and white communities, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as much of North and South Carolina, it was invisible, there were no fights, it just happened. In 2008, Time Magazine named Fayetteville, North Carolina, America’s most pro-military town. The “Airborne and Special Operations Museum”, which opened in 2000, covers about two city blocks in downtown Fayetteville.

                     Senior Drill – SFC Stockton under the hat and on the trail 1980

     If any of my grands enlist in the Army, I will encourage them to try for Fort Bragg, not Fort Leonard Wood.


     This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri March 3rd 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
     Building trades students. Do you like construction? Think that’s what you want to do? The Gehlert family has been educating builders at Belle High School for decades, and most of you can get a job, with a company building or remodeling houses, after you graduate. But, how would you like to be in charge? Surveying the site, deciding if the ground will really support construction, produce plans that adhere to either local codes or some set of specifications, and supervising the project until completion? That means a four year degree in civil engineering, unless you are able to enlist in the Army for Technical Engineer MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 12T.

                                          Army 12T checking construction

     The US Army has dozens of enlisted jobs, where the enlisted soldiers are performing the same job as civilian college graduates. Some may think, “Well, those soldiers are not as well trained as the college grads.” Horse hockey, many of those are admitted, by their industry, to be even better trained than their civilian counter parts, such as Geospatial Engineer. Army courses of instruction don’t include, history, socially, psychology, basket weaving, or any other elective included in most bachelor’s degrees, deemed as necessary to “round out your education”. The Army teaches the core functions of the job, purely and intensely. It produces construction engineers in four and one half months.
     Army engineers are constantly building things. Training air strips, training buildings, permanent buildings, and training structures of various types. You will see bulldozers and earth movers moving earth, electricians stringing wire in a framed structure, and off to the side is a single soldier, maybe with a small table with a drawing, watching. You might think that is the engineer, probably an officer with a degree in mechanical or civil engineering. You would be wrong, that is the Technical Engineer, MOS 12T. And whatever his or her rank, Private First Class, Specialist or Sergeant, that person, although not officially, is in effect, in charge of the project, making sure that it is being completed according to plan.

                                  Army Technical Engineer in Afghanistan

     Before carpenters can start framing, or electricians wiring, plumbers laying lines, or a road grader can start leveling an airstrip, the site must be surveyed and the soil tested to determine its capability for supporting construction. Once the survey and testing is complete, and the final site determined, elevation drawings and utility drawings must be completed, then foundation drawings, floor plans, building elevation drawings, sectional drawings, and framing, wiring, and plumbing drawings.
     Let’s say that an Army Engineer Battalion is given the mission of constructing a fair size building, with a couple class rooms, a large room for a sand table, and two latrines (restrooms), out in the woods on a training site. The 12T, whoever or whatever rank he or she is, goes to the site and does a site survey, and does soil tests, to determine, in place soil density, compaction, and moisture content. An Army 12T no longer has the work “dirt” in his vocabulary, that stuff is now “soil”. He then sits down with Auto Cad and designs the building, producing several sets of drawings to include, floor plan, foundation drawing, building elevation drawing, sectional view drawing, and utility plan drawing. After his boss, the colonel, approves and signs off on the plan, it is back to the site, where he places survey stakes, and checks earth work. He checks slump when receiving concrete, and takes samples on which he conducts break tests. During construction he is constantly checking material and checking construction against plans. He produces separate drawings for carpenters, electricians, and plumbers.
     If our 12T Engineer Technician leaves the Army, after his or her enlistment, he doesn’t have to look far for a job, his skills are highly desired by many civilian construction companies. One 12T graduate said this; “It’s a pretty stellar MOS… Not many of us around. I was part of a Reserve Component out of NEPA. AIT consisted of hand drafting, Auto CAD, surveying with GPS and theodolite and, my fav, soils n materials testing! I used that MOS to go on to earn an AAS in Construction Management and worked for a local company, moving up thru the ranks from laborer/traffic control to construction admin to grade foreman to safety director… Wouldn’t trade my MOS for anything!”
This is a great job for construction people, but you might have to wait for it. It is a small field, but if you think that is what you want to do in life, it may well be worth the wait. The requirements are, have an ASVAB ST (Skilled Technical) score of at least 101, but to be competitive for this job, that score needs to be, at least, up in the 120’s. ST consists of the general science, verbal expression, mathematical knowledge and mechanical comprehension tests. The Army will also check your transcript to make sure that you have credit for two years of math, including algebra and general science.
     Everybody who enlists in the Army goes through 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training (BCT). BCT is as tough now as it has been since World War II, but no it is not the same. Gone is the unnecessary physical and mental harassment, replaced by demanding, intense, professional training. Anyone who is physically and mentally capable, and does not “give up”, will make it through basic training. On the first day of basic training, new arrivals may think that the Drill Sergeants job is to eliminate the weak, their job is to convert trainees into soldiers and GET THEM THROUGH BASIC TRAINING.
     Army MOS 12T AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 18 weeks long at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It is divided into four phases. Phase I is a four week cram course on Auto Cad. Auto Cad is the world’s primary computer aided design program, used to design everything from simple buildings to jet airplanes and rockets. 12T’s will be near experts in Auto Cad, by the time they complete AIT. The second phase is six weeks of surveying. You learn every element of surveying, and become a qualified surveyor. The third phase is four weeks of soils. That is where dirt leaves your vocabulary. You learn to perform every soil and concrete test. The final four weeks is advanced surveying, using Trimble 8 satellite receiver systems, with survey equipment, to tie government Global GPS into digitally accurate surveying. Some time is also spent specifically on airfield surveying.

          Army Technical Engineers conducting GPS Airfield surveying.

     After AIT, 12T’s can be assigned anywhere in the world, where Army engineer battalions are located, which is just about everywhere. Taking the airborne option will give you a good chance of being assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

                    Army STEM  Science Technology Engineering Math


     This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on April 15th 2020.
     In the Belle Banner, I titled this article “I Lost a Friend and so did the World”. I titled this blog as a eulogy because I saw that West Point did not yet have a eulogy posted for Volney Warner, so perhaps the USMA will a use find a use for this story.

General Volney F. Warner Commander in Chief US Readiness Command 1981

     In December 1972, I was a staff sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. I got a call from a sergeant first class, whom I did not know, asking me to come to his office in the 82nd Airborne Division Command Section. Considering that he worked for the Division Chief of Staff and the Commanding General, I went to see him. He was offering me his job. He had been there two years and was burnt out. He told me about the high pressure, classified work, the 10 to 12 hour days, sometimes including weekends, and the balancing act of keeping three generals, a colonel, and the Division Command Sergeant Major happy. I told him that I didn’t think I wanted to do that. The next morning, my colonel called me to his office and said something like, “I guess I should have talked to you before you went over there.” In other words, I had already been picked.
     Two stenographers worked for me, and my immediate boss was a major, the Secretary of the General Staff (SGS), and his boss (my endorser) was a full colonel, the Division Chief of Staff. That was Colonel Volney Frank Warner. He was congenial, always in a good mood, brilliant, common – no pretense, just a great guy and a great boss, from the first day. Always willing to take time to make sure that I understood what ever was happening, at the time. As time went by, I met Mrs. Warner, their two sons, and a daughter. The daughter I met, Valerie, was 16 at the time – and yes typical. An older daughter, Victoria, was away in college, and the two sons, James and Jerry, although a year apart in age, were in the same class at West Point, their first year. One of the boys had a rocky period, for a time, which took some of their dad’s telephone time.
     Volney Warner grew up in Woonsocket, South Dakota. In his third year of high school, World War II was still on going, his father was head of the local draft board, and his mother the recorder, so he decided to relieve them of having to decide whether or not to draft their son, and joined the Navy. He had also applied for West Point, and after a little over a year in the Navy, he received an alternate South Dakota appointment to West Point. He graduated from West Point in 1950, and went home on leave, before reporting to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, for the Basic Infantry Officer Course. While home on leave, the Korean War erupted. He didn’t go to Fort Benning, he went directly to Korea, and was assigned as a replacement infantry platoon leader, for one of the many lost. The US Army was not supplied, equipped, or trained, for combat, when North Korea invaded South Korea, and after China entered the war, the US Army sometimes faced enemy attacks of 500 to 1 in the enemy’s favor. Volney Warner said that during his year in Korea, his 100 man company suffered over 200 casualties as killed, wounded, or captured. They were unsupplied to the point that they stole chickens and butchered oxen for food. It was a miserable, kill or be killed introduction to the military.

                                      Lieutenant Volney F. Warner, Korea 1950

     In 1963 he was assigned to Vietnam as a province advisor, in the Mekong Delta. The US had no combat troops in Vietnam, at that time, only advisors. It was during that tour that he and his counterparts came to realize that what was happening wasn’t just communist aggression, it was often neighbor against neighbor. More like a civil war. Back from Vietnam, he worked a couple years at the Southeast Asia Desk in the Pentagon, then as military assistant to the Special Assistant to the President on Vietnam, in the White House. He was part of what became a “think tank” on what to do in Vietnam, a course on which they could never agree. In 1969, as a colonel, he went back to Vietnam as a brigade commander. He said that, at that time it became a game. You did the best you could, even if you didn’t believe in it, so he tried to minimize casualties and do the best job possible.

     Upon returning, that time, he was assigned as the executive to the Chief of Staff of the Army, General William C. Westmoreland. Army colonels get looked at four times in consideration for promotion to Brigadier General. If not selected during those four considerations, they will retire as colonels. Colonel Warner had been considered twice, and assuming that he had stepped on somebody’s toes, and been black balled from promotion, decided to retire, but his boss, General Westmoreland, convinced him to stay longer, and assigned him as the Chief of Staff of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He said, in later years, that when he arrived, the Commanding General (CG), Major General (MG) Frederick J. Krosen, who also attained four stars, told him; “I’m going in my office and do what I do, you go in your office and go to work, and in six months you’ll realize that you are running the division.”
I remember the day I started to realize that Col Warner really was a mental giant. We usually ran PT, then cleaned up and had staff call, which included about 15 members of the division staff, I sat in to record. That particular morning, during PT, we had tagged onto a company preparing for jungle school, and ran about six or seven miles. So, at staff call time we were still in shorts and T-shirts, soaked to the skin. The G2, the Intel people, had prepared a briefing on Unattended Ground Sensors, which were just being introduced. Col Warner sat, red faced, wiping sweat with a towel, listening to the briefing. At the end of their briefing, Col Warner ask about four or five questions which sent them back for days of research, such as, can we locate ourselves from those things, and can we triangulate their signals with ours and adjacent units to pin point us and them on the battlefield. Keep in mind, that was almost 50 years ago.
There are few people, in the world, who easily see through smoke and mirrors and BS, and can identify the real issue at hand. Volney Warner was very good at that. Alexander Haig was two years ahead of Volney Warner at West Point, then they had worked together at the pentagon and in the White House, and they and their families had become personal friends. President Nixon had promoted Al Haig from two to four stars, then pulled him in to be White House Chief of Staff. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota was having an internal fight trying to impeach a corrupt leader. After failing to obtain a formal impeachment, on Tuesday February 27th 1973, about 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, on the reservation. Initially about 50 FBI agents descended on the town, surrounded it, and had police set up road blocks surrounding the town, and started arresting people leaving. In the first couple days, an FBI agent was shot and a couple Indians were killed. The FBI requested the Army’s help. On Friday morning, March 2nd 1973, Col Warner got a call from Al Haig, then White House Chief of Staff. It went something like this; “You are going to Wounded Knee to be the senior federal representative on site, everybody answers to you. Wear civilian clothes and pack for an extended stay. A plane will be at Bragg to pick you up in a few hours. Defuse the situation and don’t kill anybody.”

                                           FBI car shot during Wounded Knee

The first thing was to change the FBI’s orders from “shoot to kill” to “shoot to wound”. Then with a paper topographic map, a compass and a pencil, he walked the ground to learn the terrain. He started trying to get the FBI and the Indians to talk. He would call back to our office at least once daily, with a detailed update which myself or one of the stenos would record on paper. He played little tricks, that the news never got wind of, to get the Indians to come out and talk. He brought in an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) with a built in flame thrower. In front of the Indian positions, he set up a bunker, brought the APC up, and from 200 yards away, shot a flame that incinerated the bunker. The Indians finally agreed to talk. It was late April or early May before the situation at Wounded Knee was defused and Colonel Warner came home. In the first few days, he was visited by several top FBI people, who heaped praise on him for keeping them from doing something really bad.

Negotiations between American Indian Movement and Federal Agents, Wounded Knee, 1973

     In late May, the Brigadier General board was also in session at the pentagon, which meant the fourth and final consideration for Col Warner. The first week of June, the CG, MG Krosen had a meeting of all the Brigade Commanders and Col Warner (all the colonels), in his office. During the meeting, the CG’s Aide got a call from Washington that the Brigadier list had just been released, and Col Warner was at the top of the list, to be promoted immediately. He was messaged a copy of the order. Not to reveal the surprise, the CG told the Aide to say that he forgot something, and get them all back to the office. One of the stenos got a star from one of the Brigadier’s Aide and pinned it on Col Warner’s cap, I grabbed a cloth star and Warner’s helmet and ran home, where Betty sewed it on the camouflage helmet cover. When all the colonels returned to the CG’s office, the CG opened the doors, so we could all see, he then said; “everyone come to attention”, the Aide read the order and MG Krosen pinned stars on then Brigadier General Warner’s collars. The colonels and generals then moved to MG Krosen’s house, to celebrate the promotion.
     For the next year BG Warner was the Assistant Division Commander for Operations and Training. He said that when he asked MG Krosen what he wanted him to do, MG Krosen said; “You run the field, if I see you in your office, I know that you are not doing your job.” That year was like a marathon, I did a lot of communicating and movement coordinating for him, because it was often more than his Aide could handle. I remember an intense exercise when I had a couple jeeps, and three helicopters, carrying, waiting for, or moving to pick up BG Warner. When that year was over and he was moving on to another assignment, I typed a letter for him to the General Officers Branch at the Pentagon. In it, he said that if ever there was an opportunity for him to come back here, he would crawl through a mile of broken glass to get here. He said, these are the finest troops in the world, who do anything you ask of them.
BG Warner spent a year at Forces Command Headquarters, then was promoted to Major General and given command of the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, after which he was promoted to three stars and returned to Fort Bragg, as the XVIII Airborne Corps commander. In the summer of 1979, he was promoted to four star General, and given command of the US Readiness Command (which later became Central Command) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He retired from the Army in 1981.
I talked to him, on the phone, just before he retired. There were rumors that he would be the next Chief of Staff of the Army, but his comment to me was; “when you get too far from the troops, there’s too much BS.”

General (Retired) Volney F. Warner at a West Point interview 2008

After retirement, he was hired as Vice President of Applied Technology for Vertex Systems, then established V.F. Warner and Associates Consulting in Washington, DC, which he managed until shortly before his death in November 2019. His family now runs the company.


     This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on February 26th 2020. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
     An Army Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 46S is a news reporter.
     This is an update of an article from a little over a year ago, because there have been some significant changes in the Army training for this job.
I have often said that this one of the best jobs in the Army. From the time a new Army Private 46S gets to his or her first unit they will have more autonomy in their job than most soldiers. For presentation of awards, promotions or changes of command, a military formation will be standing at attention with sweat rolling down their backs and feet sore, but one soldier will be walking around, taking a knee or moving to the shade to get the best angle for pictures. That would be the Public Affairs Mass Communication Specialist, because his or her job is to record the event and publish a story.
The mission of Army Public Affairs offices and people, is to tell the Army story to the rest of the military and to the world. They are the story writers, the photographers, the video developers, and the radio and TV broadcasters on Armed Forces Radio and Television Stations worldwide.

                             Radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio and Television

     Until a couple years ago, the Army divided those jobs between two MOS’s, 46Q Public Affairs Specialist and 46R Public Affairs Broadcast Specialist. The 46Q’s were the photo journalists and the 46R’s the radio and TV broadcasters. They have been combined into one job, MOS 46S Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist.    

                                            To get the story, you have to be there.

     There was a time when the Army only took enlistees with a bachelor’s degree for this job, then at least a couple years of college was required. A fully qualified high school graduate can now enlist for MOS 46S.
Army MOS 46S AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is now the Mass Communications Foundation Course at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC). It is 26 weeks long, attended by all of the military services and civilians.
Course Description:
     “The Mass Communication Foundations course teaches concepts and skills needed in both public affairs and visual information specialties. Students learn and apply design thinking principles to question effectively, identify problems and provide a solution-based approach within a communications framework, applying the fundamentals of journalistic writing, still photography, videography, digital graphic design, and interactive multimedia. Students are introduced to and apply the fundamentals of English and journalism to news and narrative stories, captions, and video scripts for use in both internal and external communication products. Instruction includes public affairs internal and external communications, media and community engagement, and preparing information for public release in accordance with Department of Defense directives. Students learn and apply basic photography fundamentals, including optics, light and color theory, composition, exposure and lighting, studio photography, and use a digital single-lens reflex camera to capture both still and motion imagery of controlled and uncontrolled action in support of DoD themes and messages and for historical documentation. Students learn digital audio capture methods and editing techniques, then use recording tools to capture audio they integrate into video sequences and digital media products. Applying video and editing techniques, students create video products to support military operations, training, and public affairs missions.
     Additionally, students study integrated multimedia best practices and apply design and layout fundamentals, including color theory and typography, in the creation of all products. Each student will create vector-based products and raster-based graphics, and incorporate these and elements of previous projects into interactive multimedia packages for use in multiple print and browser-based platforms. The course culminates with both individual and group capstone exercises, where each student will demonstrate the ability to integrate and apply the diverse knowledge and skills attained throughout the entire course.”

                                              Defense Information School

     DINFOS is fully accredited with the Counsel on Occupational Education (COE) and the American Council on Education (ACE). I found one college that awards more than 60 semester hours for that course, so you’re half way to a degree when you complete 46S AIT. DINFOS has a facebook page, which anyone can see.
     This is a great opportunity for a high school senior who has had at least two years of language arts and is articulate with English, both speaking and writing, and is aggressive and not intimidated by senior people. Working on the high school yearbook, public speaking and serving as student advisor to the school board are activities that help develop a news or TV reporter.
     Army recruiters say this is not a large field, therefore it is not always available. It is not a terribly large field, but is also not tiny. Every brigade sized unit has a public affairs staff of three to five 46S’s, starting with a Sergeant First Class. The brigade, plus the division headquarters PAO section, headed by a Master Sergeant, makes about 25 in a division. Corps PAO sections have a sergeant major. Then there are four Mobile Public Affairs Detachments, each with 15 46S’s. The problem with availability is that it has a very high reenlistment rate. They appear to love what they do, and stay in the Army, so if you really want this job, you may have to wait for an opening.
     Sergeant First Class (SFC) Kissta Digregorio is the NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) of the Public Affairs office of the 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She enlisted after high school to be a public affairs specialist, with the airborne option. She was Kissta Feldner before she married. Her stories and pictures have been all over the military for the past 10 years. I first saw her picture as a little blond Private First Class, wearing a maroon airborne beret, having her hand kissed by a World War II veteran at a liberation ceremony at Nijmegan. The Netherlands. She was in the Public Affairs office of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, there with the 82nd contingent. She wrote about jumping at night with her camera safely bubble wrapped in the center of her rucksack, and moving out with her rifle and camera, with an infantry platoon on a three day exercise. After receiving some “camera girl” hazing and keeping up with them for a couple days, she was finally accepted as just another paratrooper. She got to travel covering brigade events, taking photos from horseback in Little Big Horn, Montana, and interviewing Queen Elizabeth’s guards, while in Holland. She covered her brigade’s humanitarian mission to Haiti in 2010. She taught photo journalism to the Iraqi army in 2011. She is now married to another soldier, and has a new baby. She supervises the privates, specialists, and sergeants telling the Army story about the Green Berets.
     On the surface, the requirements to enlist for this job do not appear to be high. Have an ASVAB test GT (General Technical) score of 107 or above. To be accepted for this job, right out of high school, your GT score should be in the high 120’s, preferably in the high 130’s. The GT score is the composite of three tests out of the nine ASVAB tests; Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, and Arithmetic Reasoning. Word Knowledge test your ability to understand the meaning of words through synonyms and antonyms. On Paragraph Comprehension, you read a few paragraphs (usually a few hundred words), then answer questions based on what you read. Arithmetic Reasoning is word problems that require simple calculations. I also suggest that you pay attention to the Mathematics Knowledge test, which is high school math, algebra and geometry. Those four tests comprise the Clerical (CL) score, which you want to be high, plus they also comprise the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) score.
     This is a great Army job, with a very high re-enlistment rate. After all, they spend 20 years in the Army, get promoted up the ranks, and retire when still young, as an experienced journalist.
Go Airborne!



     This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on October 16th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.

                                       Prologue to the original story
     Since this story was written, COVID-19 has caused some radical changes to day to day life in the Army. At first, it was just keep your distance and refrain from large formations or groups, but as the virus has spread, most training has stopped, and most soldiers in regular units are at home, or in their room. Fitness centers and education centers are closed, DFAC’s are working, but for take out only, no dining in. Transition to the new ACFT has been suspended. All large training activity has been cancelled. America’s Global Response Force, the 82nd Airborne Division, still has to be ready to go to combat on a moments’ notice, but for now, the first priority is to protect it from COVID-19, and try to keep it healthy.

     After a single soldier has completed basic combat training and advanced individual training (AIT) in a particular MOS (military occupational specialty) (job), and any other schools, such as airborne, he or she is assigned to a permanent unit. There are a dozen or so forts in the US and many units permanently stationed overseas. We will look at a soldier assigned to an army fort in the continental US.
     First – living. Single soldiers in the rank of Sergeant and below live in the barracks. Those are more like college dorms. The entrance looks like a hotel lobby, and they are two to five stories, with elevators. There is a large ground floor day room with tables, chairs, pool tables, and big screen TV’s. Suite entrances are indoor, from a hallway, with card security entrances. Two soldiers of the same sex, in the rank of private through specialist, share a suite, and each has their own bedroom with a large walk-in closet, large enough to store all their military gear and uniforms and civilian clothes, and they share a bathroom and a fairly large kitchen with sink, cabinets, stove, refrigerator, and microwave. Dorms at some posts have a washer and dryer in the suite, others have a room on the floor full of washers and dryers. Their suite is their suite, they can hang posters, pictures, put up decorations and generally put things where ever they please. The only room inspections, in some units, are monthly, and those are only to ensure that they are clean. Sergeants do not have a roommate.

                     Single soldier Dorm in the 82nd Airborne Division

                                                      Dorm entrance

                                                        Dorm Dayroom

                                                Soldiers Suite Kitchen

                                          “Lived in”  soldier’s dorm bedroom

     All soldiers, regardless of rank or job, who are not on shift work, like hospitals, military police or communications centers, have a weekday morning formation at 6:00 or 6:30 AM. That is the PT formation (physical training). That has been true forever. PT has always been the first thing in the morning. However, the Army learned many things from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, one of the most significant is that soldiers have to be in much better physical condition. The desert heat of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan took their toll on our soldiers. For the past four or five years the drive for better physical condition has grown. The method of measuring body fat has changed, and the old Army PT test pushups, situps, and a two mile run is out. This is a transition year. Effective October 1st 2020 the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) will be the test. It is a six event test, with weight lifting, dead weight dragging, backward medicine ball throws, a different chest on ground pushup, a two mile run, and a leg tuck which is – grasp a horizontal bar and bring the knees up to touch the elbows – it’s a bear. The old PT test had different standards for men and women – no more. There is one standard and grading method for both men and women. So, PT is no longer just going through the exercises and running, it is actual physical training – every soldier an athlete is no longer just a phrase. That is a good hour to hour and a half work out, some days outside, some in the gym. Every post now has multiple fitness centers. There are three things that help a soldier get promoted from Specialist to Sergeant regardless of the job, high weapons qualification score (the more targets hit the more promotion points), civilian education, and PT test scores (the higher the score the more promotion points).

                                               Dead weight dragging

                                                       Weight lifting

     When PT is over, it is back to the room, shower, cleanup, get in uniform, and get some breakfast. They can fix it in their kitchen, jump in their car and run to the Burger King on post for a sausage and egg biscuit, or go next door and eat in the DFAC (Dining Facility), which is free for soldiers living in the barracks, most do eat breakfast in the DFAC. Soldiers can eat in any DFAC, the one next door or one down the street, so there is now competition between DFAC’s, which has created three great meals being produced every day in every DFAC.
     The next thing in the soldiers’ day is work. Combat soldiers, infantry, artillery, armor, and combat engineers have a work formation, which varies with units from 8:30 to 9:00 AM. They then start training for the day. Support soldiers, clerks, mechanics, tech soldiers, etc., normally just report to their place of duty, the office, the motor pool, supply room, etc.
Lunch is normally an hour. Units designate the lunch hour, 11:30 – 12:30 or 12:00 to 13:00 (1:00 PM), but that will be staggered in sections that have to be staffed during lunch. Soldiers can eat where ever they want, but the combat soldiers in training have to eat where the food is located at that time. Lunch is the biggest meal in the DFAC. For lunch, many people like to just grad something and go, so all DFAC’s have a fast food line, and some even have drive-up windows, just like MacDonald’s. They also serve everything from steak to shrimp.

                                 Army Human Resource Specialist at work

                                                    Army mechanic at work

     After lunch it is back to work. A normal quitting time is 17:00 (5:00 PM), then the soldier is off until PT formation the next morning. There are some exceptions, such as parachute riggers who are allowed to pack only a certain number of parachutes during a workday, don’t want a tired and exhausted rigger packing parachutes. When the rigger has packed his or her quota, they are released for the rest of the day. Single soldiers living in dorms do not have bed checks, they are on their own until the next morning. The dorms have built in Wi Fi, plus there are many different recreational activities on posts. Many soldiers spend time in a fitness center some evenings. Every post has a BOSS program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers). It is a program for lower ranking single soldiers, run by lower ranking single soldiers. They do all kinds of things from organizing bowling tournaments to trips to the beach or mountains, to doing volunteer community work off post.
     After quitting time on Friday evening, the soldier is off until PT formation on Monday morning. Some soldiers consider that to be an easy life, some do not. When a soldier makes sergeant, life changes. Sergeants have their own suite, they are paid more, they are addressed as Sergeant, and they have more responsibility. Combat arms, particularly infantry soldiers make sergeant faster than other jobs. It takes anywhere from 30 months on the fast end to around five years, in the extremely slow jobs, to make sergeant. One thing in which all soldiers are highly encouraged to participate, is education. Every college semester hour, regardless of subject, is worth one promotion point to sergeant, and Army tuition assistance pays for up to 16 semester hours per year. If a soldier wants to accumulate hours faster than that, they may pay for it themselves or use part of their GI Bill. There are soldiers who have gone from zero to a bachelor’s degree in less than five years, some of them in infantry. It’s just how the soldier wants to spend his or her time, and as you can see some of them have lots of time.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on February 5th 2020. 

            In over three years of Life in the Army articles, I’ve written about many jobs.  This is about my favorite – Infantry. The Queen of Battle. 

Expert Infantryman Badge – top, Combat Infantryman Badge – bottom. Two of the most prestigious badges worn on a military uniform.

The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault with fire, close combat, and counterattack. FM (Field Manual) 3-21.8 THE INFANTRY PLATOON AND SQUAD.  That means COMBAT.

Every other job in the military exists to support the infantry, because no matter how far advanced military technology becomes, there must be soldiers on the ground to hold territory.  It is the hardest, most demanding, most frustrating, most challenging, greatest badass job in the world. Here are some comments from real grunts;

“It is the worst, most terrible, difficult, strenuous, testing job there is. It is also the best. Hands down. Bar none. I absolutely love it, and many others do as well. So, stop smoking weed and wasting your life, and learn it for yourself.”

“I freaking love it. Because one day when I have to work till six at some dumb civilian job and I’m all butthurt, I can think to myself well at least it’s not the middle of a brigade exercise, day three of straight rain, and I just got done digging a foxhole with overhead protection with proper camouflage, and oh what’s that? Roger sergeant I’ll be ready to move out in ten so bravo company can move into my just built home and I can stay up all night digging another foxhole 2 kilometers to the east. Then I’ll smile and wonder why I chose a job that the only transferable skill is landscaping. But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Some of the smartest and greatest people I’ve ever met have been infantry. The bond you make with the guy to the left and right of you is something most people will never know, and when you cement those bonds with the amount of bs and hardship you make something near unbreakable. It’ll also teach you a lot about yourself. Plus, it’s freaking badass.”

            “I couldn’t imagine being any other MOS, I get paid to hang out with my best friends and shoot stuff all the time.”

            “Honestly, if you enjoy pushing yourself (on sleep, physically, mentally) it’s an amazing job. It’s really hard work, but you get through it with your boys and you all form a cohesive bond. The camaraderie of infantrymen is something I’ve never seen anywhere else; true ‘ride or die’ dudes that will go over the edge for you, no questions asked. I will never experience anything as scary, intense, frustrating, or rewarding as my time in the infantry ever again, and it genuinely makes me sad. When you get out you realize how remarkably tame life is back home.”

82nd Airborne Division Infantry Battalion Awards formation.

There are requirements to enlist in the military.  You must meet those requirements, for some medical and discipline issues, waivers are granted.  Here are my ideas of other aptitudes you should have before enlisting for the infantry.  First you have to have that desire, that inner hunger for something more.  More exciting, more challenging, more rewarding, and more pride.  A desire to be the best at what you do.  You have to be fairly smart – of average intelligence.  That old tale that all the dumb guys get sent to the infantry, is not true.  Some of the smartest soldiers I served with were in the infantry.  Infantrymen have to think on their feet, fast.  When the shooting starts, there is chaos and the infantrymen have to very quickly figure out either how to put the bad guy out of business, or how to get out of Dodge if there are way more of them than you.  You have to have a good body.  Not a muscle builder body, just a good body, with no weak areas.  I have had infantrymen in my platoons who were 5’ 5” and weighed 140 pounds, but they could hump a 65 or 70 pound rucksack all day, every day, and they could run 7 to 8 minute miles all day.  You have to have endurance, and you never quit.  There is also another issue, you have to be honest with yourself and everyone else.  If you’re not, you will be soon.  An infantry platoon of 40 soldiers, will spend days, sometimes weeks, and during deployment, months sharing foxholes, MRE’s, water, canteens. razors, socks, ammo, and stories.  They support they guy who feeling down, razz the guy who screws up, and pull pranks on the guy who is too proud of himself.  And will put their life on the line to cover your back.  Any BS a new platoon member brings with him soon dissolves.  Everybody is just who they are.  Maybe that’s why I and thousands of other former grunts and current grunts love the infantry, you learn things about each other that no one else knows, including family.  You share the worst of times and the best of times.

An 82nd Airborne Division infantry platoon in a live fire exercise August 2019.
Private First Class Noah Young, Soldier of the Quarter, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, MOS 11B

            There are two MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) in the infantry, MOS 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, and MOS 11C Heavy Weapons Infantryman (mortars).  A person enlisting for the infantry, enlists for MOS 11X, then whether the soldier becomes a 11B or a 11C is determined, by the Army, while that soldier is in training.  There are way more 11B’s than 11C’s.

All Army infantry training is on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Infantry and Armor Center and School.  Infantry training is conducted in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning both basic combat training and advanced infantry training is in one company – straight through.  Until about a year ago, Infantry OSUT was 14 weeks long, 10 weeks of basic and 4 weeks of infantry familiarization.  Major Army Commanders complained that infantry trainees weren’t being thoroughly trained.  Infantry OSUT is now 22 weeks long, 10 weeks of basic and 12 weeks of infantry training.  Those who graduate now (not all do), really are well trained infantry soldiers, ready to step into a squad and perform. 

            The Squad is the basic maneuverable unit in the infantry.  There are nine soldiers in a squad, led by a Staff Sergeant.  It takes between five and seven years to make Staff Sergeant in the infantry.  The Squad is composed of two four man teams, each led by a Sergeant.  It takes, on the average, around 3 to 4 years to make Sergeant.  There are three rifle squads and a weapons squad in a Platoon.  The weapons squad has two machine guns and two anti-tank weapons.  Those are all MOS 11B. There are three platoons in a company, plus a mortar section.  The mortar section is MOS 11C.

            There are three basic types of infantry units.  Light Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry.  Stryker is the newest, built around the Stryker vehicle, which is a heavily armored, eight wheeled, fast moving, (62 MPH) vehicle carrying a nine man infantry squad.  It comes with various weapons systems from machine guns to 105mm tank guns, to hellfire missiles.  Mechanized Infantry rides in Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  The Bradley is a lightly armored, tracked vehicle, with a 25mm cannon, designed to transport an infantry squad, and keep up with Abrams tanks.  A plain infantryman can end up in any of these types of units, however if the soldier has the airborne option, he will be in an airborne unit, which are all light infantry.  There are five airborne Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), three in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Vicenza, Italy, and the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson (Anchorage), Alaska.  The 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York is light infantry, with two BCT’s, and the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky is light infantry, with three BCT’s.  The 101st is called an Air Assault Division, because they ride in helicopters, but they are basically light infantry. 

            For the past few years, the Army has been trying to increase its size and particularly the number of infantrymen.  When this was originally published in February 2020, MOS 11X was in the top tier of enlistment bonuses, getting $40,000 for a six year enlistment.  However, bonuses change as MOS requirements change.  Currently a three year enlistment for MOS 11X gets an enlistment bonus of $4,000, four years gets $7,000, five years – $8,000, and six years gets a $9,000 enlistment bonus.

            The Mechanized and Stryker grunts get to ride some, but they also have to maintain that steel monster in the motor pool, and they still walk about as much as light infantry.  I prefer light.  Go Airborne!!!

050320-N-9588P-027.JPG US Army’s 123 Infantry “Alpha Company” Stryker Unit team members deploy out of the back of the Stryker to provide suppressive fire on the enemy during a simulated convoy attack during Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration/Foal Eagle exercises (RSO&I/Foal Eagle). RSO&I is a complex multi-phase exercise conducted annually, tailored to train, test, and demonstrate United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) Force projection and deployment capabilities. Foal Eagle exercise runs simultaneously and trains in all aspects of Combined Forces Command’s mission. U.S. Navy photo by JO2 John J. Pistone
U.S. Soldiers of Alpha Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division exit a M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle to mark a cleared road while conducting movement to contact training during exercise Combined Resolve IV at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, May 25, 2015. Combined Resolve IV is an Army Europe directed exercise training a multinational brigade and enhancing interoperability with allies and partner nations. Combined Resolve trains on unified land operations against a complex threat while improving the combat readiness of all participants. The Combined Resolve series of exercises incorporates the U.S. Army’s Regionally Aligned Force with the European Activity Set to train with European Allies and partners. The 7th Army JMTC is the only training command outside the continental United States, providing realistic and relevant training to U.S. Army, Joint Service, NATO, allied and multinational units, and is a regular venue for some of the largest training exercises for U.S. and European Forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Cress Jr./Not Reviewed)
Airborne Infantry boarding their ride to the battlefield.
Airborne Infantry arriving on location.