Skip to content

Posts from the ‘About Together We Served’ Category

21
Jun

FC1c Daniel Galvin, U.S. Navy, 1940 – 1951

Tribute to a Veteran – Together We Served Member: FC1c Daniel Galvin, U.S. Navy, 1940 – 1951
If you wish to create a Remembrance Page for a Veteran, please go to https://TogetherWeServed.net

19
Jun

Preserve Your Old Photos: Let Us Help for Free!

Do you have old photos from your service days stashed away in a drawer or in a shoebox in your attic? Old photos fade with time and if they are not scanned and preserved digitally, they risk eventually being lost forever. This is where TWS can help.

We have just invested in a high quality Fujitsu book and photo scanner that can scan any size of photo or yearbook. As a service to our members, we would like to offer you a free photo scanning service for your most significant photos from your service which we will then return to you, in original condition, along with a CD containing your photo files.

In addition, we can upload your photos for you to your Photo Album on your TWS Service Profile which will also appear in your Shadow box and available to you to access or download at any time.

This service is available only to members of Together We Served. If you are not currently a member, join us today at https://togetherweserved.com/landing
Please contact us at Admin@togetherweserved.com for full details on this Free Service or call us on (888) 490-6790.

14
Jun

SSgt Dale VanBlair, U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942-1945

Tribute to a Veteran – Together We Served Member: SSgt Dale VanBlair, U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942-1945.
If you served, reconnect with old Service Friends at https://Togetherweserved.com/landing

12
Jun

Band of Brothers

By LtCol Mike Christy-TogetherWeServed Dispatches

Once the long line of passengers ahead of me finished fumbling with stowing their carry-on luggage in the overhead bins and taking their seats, I at least reached my aisle seat near the center of the plane. I sat down, buckled in and exchanged “hellos” with the young man sitting in the center seat next to me. I then closed my eyes in preparation for my normal routine of falling asleep even before the plane leaves the ground. This day was different, however. I was too excited to sleep.

Forty-two years ago, I had met some exceptional young men. We were all part of a rifle company humping the jungles of Vietnam, including two months during the Cambodia incursion in 1970. Now, in a matter of hours, I would be seeing 18 of them at a reunion in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I knew they would have aged, but in my mind’s eye, they are still the brave young warriors who did their duty in a nasty war they didn’t totally understand. And through it all, bonded together as brothers, placing their lives in each other’s hands. I was proud to be one of them.

When the plane reached cruising altitude and the pilot finished welcoming us aboard, I began a conversation with the young man. His name was Jason, an engineer from Atlanta, who was heading home following a business trip to Los Angeles. When he asked me where I was going, I told him about meeting up with some men I served with in Vietnam. “We read about Vietnam in high school,” he said, “but I didn’t learn much. There were only four or five paragraphs about it in our history book.” That amazed me. How could a 10-year war that changed the United States in so many ways rate less than half a dozen paragraphs? I decided to tell Jason as much about the hows and whys of the war as best I understood them and what I observed from my ringside seat.

When I finished, Jason wanted to know how the men felt about the war. “They didn’t want to be there,” I answered. “They were a long way from home in a hot, dangerous place full of bad smells, bugs, and snakes. Every step they took, they didn’t know if it would be their last. Yet in spite of all the uncertainty, the camaraderie we built among each other is what kept most of us going. We had each other’s back.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a pretty flight attendant asking us what we’d like to drink. I got some water and Jason got a coke. Sipping our drinks, we both fell into silence. Soon Jason closed his eye, perhaps contemplating what he had just learned about the Vietnam War from an eyewitness. I stared ahead, lost in thought about the reunion and how it would not have happened without a website exclusively for veterans.

TogetherWeServed.com is an exclusive website where former, retired and active duty men and women reconnect and bond. It’s also a place where I met some really great people.

The first time I signed on, I was surprised how easy it was to navigate and within a couple of hours, I found six old army buddies. When someone becomes a member there are encouraged to fill out their profile page with as much personal information about their military and personal history. There are places for unit assignments, awards, schools attended and military and personal photos. To capitalize on this powerful search capacity, I filled out my profile on both the Marine Corps and Army site as completely as possible.

I had joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1956, then joined the Army as an infantry second lieutenant in 1966 during the height of Vietnam War. Following a year of selected training, I was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in 1967. My first four-month was on A-Team 102 Tien Phouc along the Song Tran River southwest of Na Trang for four months. The remainder of my tour was with Project Delta, a special operations units running small reconnaissance teams deep in enemy-held territory. Today the unit is known as Delta Force.

My second tour began in 1969 when I was a rifle company commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). In May 1970, we operated for two months in Cambodia. I retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 1984 and jumped into a career as a writer and documentary filmmaker.

With my entire military career uploaded on both my Marine Corps and Army profiles, it wasn’t long before I begin getting messages from old Army buddies, most of whom I served with in Vietnam.

After months of exchanging emails and messages over the TWS message center with Vietnam comrades, the idea of holding a reunion began to take shape. There was a lot of enthusiasm and the beginning of some planning. The final shove, however, came from somewhere else.

One day, I got a TWS message from an unknown veteran. He wrote he had been a member of our company when it arrived in Vietnam in 1965 and for the past eight years, the original members had been meeting for reunions every two years. He wanted to open up the next reunion to be held in Myrtle Beach to all veterans from all years who served in the company. I wrote back we would be there and got busy getting the word out.

Reflecting on how it all came about, I was struck by the versatility of TWS. It not only brings together long-lost friends, it’s a national archive where millions of stories and photos are posted, and with each, a lasting legacy of America’s military heritage.

Whenever I get the chance, I like to search for photos and stories posted by vets who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It never fails to amaze me the detail some of the veterans have posted. It is better than a history book because it’s personal and because of these living, breathing “scrapbooks” come straight from the gut and the heart. The postings by friends and relatives honoring the men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice are the ones that get me the most.

Somewhere in my mental praising of why I love Together We Served, I’d fallen asleep. The next thing I felt was the plane leveling off and the pilot telling us we would be landing in 15 minutes. The head flight attendant got on the horn with some gate numbers for some connecting flights and thanked us for flying their airline.

The plane landed at the Atlanta and parked at a gate. Walking off the plane I said goodbye to Jason and headed for the gate my flight to Myrtle Beach would depart. Two hours later the commuter plane landed. I called the hotel where I would be staying and where the reunion was being held. In a matter of minutes, a van picked me up.

The excitement and anticipation was growing inside as I realized that within minutes, I would be coming face-to-face with some of my combat buddies after more than four decades. They understood better than anyone else about what Vietnam meant because they were there, they shared in the experience too. No doubt Shakespeare had us in mind when he wrote in Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”.

This article appeared in the April 2013 Vietnam magazine

5
Jun

View Your Entry in Our Roll of Honor!

As a fitting tribute to our Members of Together We Served, your service to our country is now honored in our Roll of Honor, the most powerful online display of Living, Fallen and Deceased Veterans existing today. Our 1.67 million Veteran Members, who served from WWII to present day, now have a dedicated entry displaying a brief service summary of their service and their photo in uniform if posted.

You can find your Roll of Honor entry easily – click on the graphic below and select your service branch. Then enter your name in the Quicksearch window. Alternatively, you can select your service separation year and scroll down. Please check your entry for accuracy and update any information, such as your Last Unit, plus add your service photo for completeness. You can do this by logging into TWS and clicking on the “My Profile” tab.

If you have any questions regarding your entry in our Roll of Honor, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Admin@togetherweserved.com or contact our Live Help Desk at the bottom left of your TWS website.

 

24
Apr

TWS: “Buddy Statements”

buddy statementHas the VA denied your claim because you cannot verify through your records what happened? Did you know they will accept two “Buddy Statements” from those you served with as evidence?

Complete your profile and you can then contact those listed for the same unit/duty station for the same time frame to see they can verify your claims for you.

12
Apr

1LT Victor Lawe U.S. Army (1987-1997)

profile4Read the service reflections of

1LT Victor Lawe

U.S. Army

(1987-1997)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/135985

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?

My Uncle Stanley Shelton (1SG, Retuncle stan) influenced me to join the Army. I was frustrated after graduating college and not finding a job in my major of Journalism in the Washington, DC area. I visited the Navy recruiter who gave me an aviator test that “wasn’t even competitive.” Code for I flunked. I visited the Air Force recruiter who could not offer me any military jobs that I liked. My cousin Jan and my Uncle Stanley advised me against joining the Marines. I went into the Army recruiter’s office and was told that 81E illustrator job was closed, 33J journalist job was closed, and 33R combat photographer job was closed. All of those jobs were under the Signal Corps so he showed me every laser disk they had for the Signal Corps. I settled on three jobs, 31C Single Channel Radio Operator, 72E and 72M multi-channel radio operator. After some closed doors discussion among the recruiter and his commander I was told the 72-series were closed but there was an opening for 31C Single Channel Radio Operator.

I took the ASVAB, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and scored very high. The commander noticed I had a college degree and asked if I was interested in Officer Candidate School. I said yes. He advised me of the process. I was an Option 19, delayed entry enlistee. Option 19 meant I had station of choice after graduating AIT (Advanced Individual Training). [Untrue] During my last 90 days of civilian life, I became addicted to crack cocaine and my life became unmanageable. I didn’t want to dishonor my commitment to the Army, so I checked into a rehab facility in Baltimore, MD. Two weeks after a 28-day program I boarded a bus to the MEP station in Baltimore. Many of my fellow enlistees were busted for drugs and alcohol consumption after being briefed that these substances were not allowed.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I completed basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ. That coincidentally was the last duty station for my Uncle Stanley who retired as a Company First Sergeant. I boarded another bus for AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Ft. Gordon, GA. It was different being “off the choke chain” and having certainfreedoms that were denied to me before in basic training. I was fortunate to be in a roomful of experienced and squared away soldiers. We had E4’s in our room who had signed up for IMC (International Morse Code) and they knew the drill on how to prepare for a room inspection. Our rooms always passed with flying marks until one day a drill sergeant gave us a block of instruction on humility. It involved push-ups and some insider tips we knew nothing about. He showed us how to make a challenge coin or quarter bounce or fall flat on a bunk. He made us all take a half step backward and wiped his hand across the floor where we were just standing at parade rest to prove that if he really wanted us he could get us.

My first duty assignment was with the 532nd Signal Company, 39th SIG BN (Signal Battalion), 2nd SIG BDE (Signal Brigade) in Geilenkirchen (GUY-lin-kur-chin) Germany at a NATO Air Base. Our unit provided unsecured (redundant) AM comms to NATO forces, and the 85th USAFAD (Pershing Missiles) in support of the German Defense Plan. This was during the Cold War when Germany was split in half. I resisted the assignment tooth and nail. As an Option 19 I chose Italy, Australia or France for my assignments, my recruiter had told me I would have my choice of assignments, I found out that these were not options for me and was assigned to Germany. I was on foreign soil with too much time on my clean and sober hands. We had a Coke machine in our barracks that sold Bitburger beer. “Lead me not to temptation, it is right down the hall next to the day room.” I continued the paperwork process for applying for OCS (Officer Candidate School). It was painful as the upper echelons of my chains of command were far, far away. My company HQ was located 40 miles away in Rheinberg, Germany. My battalion HQ was located in Chevres, Belgium. My brigade HQ was located in Manheim, Germany. After one unsuccessful attempt where my packet got lost between HQ, I simply gave up.

In January 1989 we were playing a touch football game between the barracks and I was recruited to play contact football with the Dortmund Giants of the bundesliga [German-American Football League]. It was the best thing that happened to me it gave me a sense of purpose outside of being a soldier. I got to see more of Germany than I would have as a barracks rat.

I completed the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) board as an E4 in the secondary zone just before I transferred to my next duty assignment at Ft. Bliss, TX. I was assigned to A Btry, 5/62 ADA (Air Defense Artillery), 11th ADA BDE as a radio operator for a Vulcan platoon. I completed PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) and restarted the OCS application process where all of my commanders were co-located on the same post. I wrote the essay “Why Do I Want To Become an Army Officer?” and went through the interview and received high marks.

My assignment changed as I transferred from the Vulcan platoon to HQ platoon as a maintenance clerk. Our assigned clerk tested positive on a drug test prior to deployment as our unit was alerted for Operation Desert Shield. We started deploying advance parties on 15 August 1990. We painted our vehicles sand color, drew desert combat fatigues, went through intense aircraft friend-foe recognition training, rules of engagement, physical training in full MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear and weapons, combat lifesaver training, SEER (Survival, Escape, Evasion, Resistance) training, handling of POW’s in addition to normal skill level training. Our unit closed on Saudi Arabia on 30 September 1990. It was a lot of hurry up and waiting. We convoyed to our tactical assembly area 15 km away from the Kuwaiti border. We trained with different units as our attachment orders were always changing. First we were attached to 75th FA BDE (Field Artillery Brigade) from Ft. Sill, OK, then a FA unit from the WV NG West Virginia National Guard), then 3rd Sqdrn/3rd ACR (Armored Cavalry Regiment), then 17th Cavalry with XVIII ABN Corps. We became part of the left hook during the Desert Storm phase of the operation.

After the war, the parades and the awards I finally got promoted to SGT. Shortly afterwards I received my orders to report to OCS at Ft. Benning, GA. Our class was the first class that was top heavy in every category: most drill sergeants, most recruiters, most warrant officers, most college options, most E-7’s, most Rangers, most Special Forces soldiers, and the biggie: most combat experience. We had folks whose combat experience stretched back to Urgent Fury in Grenada to Just Cause in Panama and a busload of us fresh from Desert Storm. 151 in-processed and I was among the 74 graduated. I received a commission in Armor.

I completed Armor Officer Basic Course at Ft. Knox, KY. I volunteered for Battalion Maintenance Officer course, Dismounted Armor Scout Course (the Armor Center’s version of RIP), Ranger school and Airborne school. I disqualified myself for Ranger school after getting dehydrated twice in the same day for the day and night land navigation courses.

I reported to Airborne training back at Ft. Benning, GA. My orders for my next duty station changed about every 2-3 weeks as I was being assigned a different unit that was going through or completed a post-war draw-down. By the time I made it to Airborne school I received two sets of orders: one for BNCOC (Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course) for 31C20 Single channel Radio Operator NCO, (obviously the left hand of the Army didn’t know that the right hand had given me a commission) and another set cancelling my orders for 72nd Armor Bn, 82nd ABN DIV. I saw my former AIT drill sergeant in my Airborne class. I asked him what would happen if I showed up at BNCOC as a 2LT? “The Commandant would congratulate you on your commission and he would politely show you the door, sir.”

I was finally assigned to A Co. 2/67 AR BN, 1st BDE, 1AD in Friedberg, Germany. The former home to Elvis. I know this because a lock of his hair still exists in the barber shop at the kaserne. As the 3rd platoon leader, I had the fortune of inheriting the best platoon in all of VII Corps. They had a five foot trophy to attest to their gunnery and maneuvering skills. Here I had the opportunity to make some unoriginal mistakes and at the same time hone my craft. By the time I got really good at tanking, I was branch detailed (reassigned) to the Signal Corps.

I went to Signal Officer Branch Qualification Course in Ft. Gordon, GA. It was a homecoming for me as I saw a lot of my former NCO’s that I served with in Geilenkirchen, Germany. I was reassigned as the node center 74 platoon leader of C Company, 141st SIG BN, 1AD in Bad Kreuznach, Germany home to 1st Armored Division HQ. Again I inherited the best signal platoon in the battalion for Signal Stakes. Again I had to learn my craft. I had ample opportunity to do so as signal is very inexpensive to deploy and we deployed in support of anybody and everybody in the division and in the corps that had a need for our comms. I was fortunate to have a platoon full of professional NCO’s who knew their craft.

A year later I was promoted to company executive officer and we received notice from the Pentagon to downsize our battalion and my unit was chosen for its strength. “Tis better to divide the strength than the weaknesses.” I was given a $100,000 budget and a six month timeline to get our equipment to direct support unit (DSU) level maintenance readiness. Our equipment went to the four winds. Our secure communications went to CECOM in Tobyhanna, PA. Our tactical vehicles and comm shelters went to Ft. Riley, KS. Our excess durable items went to Pirmasens depot in Germany. Our recovery vehicles and cargo HEMTT’s (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks) were dispersed throughout V corps.

Our personnel stayed within the battalion as we received orders to deploy an advanced party to Hungary in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. I transferred to HHC (headquarters and headquarters company) as their first XO (Executive Officer) in a l-o-n-g time. I was sent to Observer-Controller school in Hohenfels, Germany to support 7th ATC during Exercise Mountain Guard. This was our capstone exercise to help us train for Bosnia and peacekeeping operations. We deployed January 1996. I served my last year as the Battalion Maintenance Officer under two commanders. In support of this operation we fielded new M40-series masks, new mine detecting equipment, XM1107 armored Hummers, and Windows 95.

As the BMO (Battalion Maintenance Officer) I was responsible for every piece of equipment within the Task Force South sector spanning 13,000 sq. km. Communications were key to find out the unit’s maintenance readiness. The down-sizing came at the wrong time as we were under-strength to handle the communications support mission. As a result we were tasked organize to 22nd SIG BDE to fill in the blanks to make the network more robust from Germany to Hungary to Croatia to the southern tip of Bosnia. It was a rough mission to transition from combat operations to peacekeeping. We were rewriting doctrine and sending in lessons learned every day. After that 1 year peacekeeping tour I left the Army on 1 February 1997.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

I participated in Operation Desert Shield and Storm. My unit deployed a month after the initial invasion of Kuwait. Up until 1 January 1990. War was a distant concept. It had no real meaning to me. It was the stuff of legends and movies. During the Shield phase, I activelysought out every Vietnam and Panama vet in our units to mentally prepare myself for the worse situations possible. Our senior NCO’s spoke to us informally and formally to break us in to the horrors or war. It bonded us in ways I cannot really describe. All of the petty BS went away and it became all for one. Us or them. Victory or death. At the same time we remembered our training: MOPP4 (Mission Oriented Protective Posture level 4) training, NBC training (Nuclear Biological Chemical), SEER (Survival, Escape, Evasion, Resistance) training, EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) procedures, mine clearing, rules of engagement, proper SITREPs (Situation Reports), battle drills, change of formation drills, it all came together. All of the different units we were cross-attached to forced us to learn how a field artillery unit shoots, moves and communicates. We applied that principle to armor units, and cavalry units.

During the war  I saw the devastating affects of gunfire on the human body up close and personal. Seeing Iraqi tanks with their turrets blown off and the charred remains of enemy soldiers. Being coated in oily mist after the oil fields were set on fire. Seeing the innocents who were caught in the crossfire. Seeing nomads wandering the desert not knowing where there next meal was coming from. Processing three Iraqi militia who seemingly materialized out of the morning fog as EPWs made me realize how close to dying we were.

After the war, it was difficult dealing with the nationwide accolades, the parades, the speeches and the multiple awards.It changed the fact I can wear my BDU’s or my Class As in public. I can get discounts that were previously unavailable to me. The strangers who waited for us to touch down at Biggs Army Air Field at Ft. Bliss, TX, at oh-dark-thirty to shake our hands and pat us on the back for a job well done was awesome and bewildering. As a soldier, my mindset was that I did my job. I did what I was trained to do. I didn’t do anything heroic or special. To the civilian the contrary was true. I didn’t see the big picture that I was a part of an armed force that helped free the oppressed and liberate a country from the tyranny or a dictator.

My last tour was in Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. As soon as we crossed the border experiencing the tomb like silence and seeing all of the war torn homes and burned farms. Seeing children rush towards our convoys because we represented a mobile food source. It hurt my heart to see it.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My signal assignments were the best. During my first signal assignment I had the opportunity to go skiing at Garmisch, design a unit t-shirt, design a company certificate of achievement, and play football with and against German nationals.

My second signal assignment it was homecoming of sorts. I had been away from the signal community for 4 years. I was married, and had achieved my goal of being a commissioned officer. Though I didn’t meet anyone from my enlisted past, I was able to apply many combat arms experiences with my troops. I knew the principles. I knew the jargon. I worked with my soldiers and they worked for me. Both were more family oriented and more comradeship between ranks. Everyone looked out for one another.

Least favorite: Both of these units I will highlight were bad at first until a change in both leadership and philosophy helped turned sagging morale and performance around.

At first Ft. Bliss was a mess. Soldier morale and discipline was at an all time low when I arrived. The barracks were shooting galleries when I arrived. The barracks air conditioning was ignored. Outside it was 100 degrees inside it was 18 degrees hotter. It took several Sergeants Major and an engineering Colonel to get that situated. After a change of command and leadership philosophy things started to get better and then we were deployed which in my opinion united us into an “all for one” attitude. My last company commander CPT Anthony English worked with the soldiers to make the unit better than it was by focusing on the basics.

67th Armor BN in Friedberg, Germany started out a cannibalistic environment wherein fellow lieutenants would turn on each other in an effort to gain favor with the battalion commander rather than perfect their craft and learn from the soldiers they led. It took a transferred company commander and a courageous 1SG to turn that around in our company. Esprit de corps began to improve as I was leaving as our unit got its swagger back through tough, realistic training and teamwork.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Exercise Protect the Force 1994 at Darmstadt Training Area. I was given free reign to formulate a program of instruction to support training a battalion objective of Occupy and Defend a Signal Site. I was allowed to hand-pick my cadre, my OPFOR (Opposing Forces), my ROE (Rules of Engagement), and
my pick of the training ammo and explosives I needed to achieve it. My OPFOR and I trained in the rain, heat and cold to prepare prior to the battalion closing on the training area. We had so much fun providing tough, realistic training.

We trained our units to standard. If you failed a critical task on our lane, your unit was recycled until you learned the lesson. Our BN S-3 supported that objective. We learned so much about each other and our co-workers in the battalion. That situational training exercise was a success due to the planning, personnel and execution that is still talked about decades later.

One scenario that is still talked about was when one unit frustrated my OPFOR. My OPFOR could not take the site away from the unit, so as the officer in charge called a “drive by” audible. We loaded up all the soldiers from the far side of the objective into a Hummer and drove into their site and unloaded our soldiers from the rear of the Hummer into their perimeter. Shock, awe and confusion ensued, fun was had by all, mostly by me and my OPFOR.

Another scenario was the “air assault scenario.” The BLUFOR unit set up their headquarters next to a tree with a purple rope hanging down from it, they did not put the rope there nor did they question why it was there, more about the rope to follow. They did not have complete control their site security, on top of that I had an OPFOR soldier buried under leaves ten feet away from them. We unloaded an artillery simulator, for those who don’t know, this makes a big badda boom, to the near side. While they were distracted, the soldier under the leaves killed everyone in their headquarters that was set up by the tree. The soldier that I had in the tree came down the purple rope upside down and killed everyone who was still standing, from the rear.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 

Volunteering to create Operation Talk To Santa that was born out of boredom in the site radio room with my old squad leader SGT Tonora Butler. It started with a what if? conversation and ended with my unit providing two radio shelters. One for the kids and one for Santa(me). It was such a hit that the following year I was in demand for two military communities mine and Rheinberg where the company HQ was located. These radio broadcasts lasted for one week, from the 11th of December to the 18th of December, for 2 hours twice a day. The broadcasts went out from the Geilenkirchen School. There was a teacher present to make sure that the children were all allowed a chance to talk to Santa. I received a letter of appreciation from the principle of the school and one year a chaplain got on the air to thank all of us involved for doing what we were doing. He stated that it meant a lot not only to the American children but to the rest of the children as well as it exposed them to a bit of American culture and an idea of what Santa in America is like.

As the newly minted NBC officer going from worst to first in a short amount of time. My assigned NBC NCO committed suicide before the BDE Command Inspection. Even with battalion NCO’s to help my unit bolo’ed the inspection and my unit was placed on the needs improvement list. I received an excess tanker who was not NBC NCO certified to help me organize the mess I had and get our NBC room up to standard and beyond. Within a year our unit became the sterling example for others to follow for best practices. I simply employed a visual tracking system for everything NBC related. This system was implemented by the BN CHEMO (Battalion Chemical Officer) to help B Company win the Draper Award (for excellence in leadership).

Being cross-attached to D Trp, 3/5 CAV during maneuver exercises in Hohenfels, Germany. We had so much fun and learned more about cavalry tactics and strategies. We stopped being concerned about what people thought and focused on basic performance. Our team commander, CPT Farquhar, kept everything simple and stupid. He taught me how to quickly write OPORDERs so that they had SMART (Specific Measurable, Realistic Timely) goals within. Doing the simple things correctly delighted the TF Commander from 3/5 CAV. He loved that we were precise on the radio and could navigate mounted between objectives. We got our swagger back by being bold and audacious.

Being selected by the S-3 SGM to represent our unit to travel to Orleans, France to help that town celebrate their 51st liberation anniversary. Our honor guard cadre and I had the opportunity to see our sister unit the 28th Signal Regiment and participate in parades and enjoy a seven course dinner. The townspeople of Orleans treated us like gods. We met a WWII Medal of Honor recipient. We received a tour of the town and saw the ancient church that Joan of Arc worshiped in.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

My first challenge coin for winning the Soldier of the Month Board at Ft. Gordon, GA. I was pulled from formation after class one day and placed in a room full of senior NCO’s with no prior study time as they asked me soldier of the month board questions in rapid succession. Out of all of the random soldiers they pulled I performed the best and received a 361st SIG BN challenge coin.

A certificate of achievement for “The Run to Belgium”. That was my first gut check. I had run a 10k before, but never a 14k. It was 8.8 mile run from the Germany-Netherlands border to the Netherlands-Belgium border. It was confusing as we didn’t really know where we were going. There were no guides along the route. There were no water points. We just followed the herd as thin as it got along the way to where we thought we were supposed to go. We were lucky no one got hurt or lost.

As an acrophobic soldier, this was another one of the manhood tests that I felt I had to overcome while I had the opportunity. I had to recycle after a jammed neck injury during ground week working on PLFs. I left C Company, 507th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) and transferred to the next cycle with D Company. I locked up in fear on the 40 foot tower and was consequently “skinned up” and reminded to have faith in the equipment by the Black Hat. I had to let go of my fear. I had to commit to a leap of faith as it were. After successfully negotiating the 40-foot tower I later learned that I was not the only scaredy-cat. There were a lot of aviation warrant officers who were scared of heights now that they were separated from their metal wings. My first jump was disastrous as my right leg was hung in the risers due to a weak exit through the prop blast. I figured out how to undo the mishap and landed safely. My successive jumps were uneventful and safe.

A TOP GUN hat for getting the best Table XII gunnery score in the battalion. It was my last gunnery and the BN CDR (Battalion Commander) flexed us all over the range in MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture). Every target that popped up got laid down in and out of sector. My platoon outscored 11 other platoons in the battalion to earn that honor.

A letter of commendation from General Cherry for my outstanding support of Exercise Proud Lion. I was assigned as the liaison officer from my unit to brief the simulated and actual deployment of my units in support of the exercise. I was the lowest ranking officer on deck. I was nervous in the service when the chief of staff COL Ryan announced OPBRIEFs were due in 24 hours. I consulted with every captain I could find and consulted with my S-3 MAJ Neil about what to do and what not to do. I rehearsed numerous times before I was ready to brief. I was the last one to brief the ADC-M (GEN Cherry) and his G-3 LTC Kostich (my former BN commander from 2/67 AR) on my OPPLAN. After the brief, the room was silent and GEN Cherry thanked me for my time and effort and asked if anyone had any further questions for me. None came, I was dismissed. He came to me and asked how long I had been doing this in front of a group of senior officers. “This was the first time sir.” I wish I had a coin, but I don’t, so I will have to get creative, have a good Iron Soldier Day Lieutenant.” Weeks later I received a letter of commendation from him that made me the envy of all of my peers and superiors.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

SSG Anthony Dokes my second squad leader at 532nd SIG CO. He believed in me and realized the untapped talent he had in me and allowed me to use that talent to be creative and do things to improve morale. He supported my application to OCS. He knew how tomanage me. He got ME! He allowed me to create my own additional duties like site photographer, site illustrator, and unit supply specialist. He supported me playing football and doing things a normal E4 should not be doing. My extra-curricular activities benefited the unit and myself.

SGT Jerome Taylor my squad leader at Ft. Bliss, TX. He was a combat vet from the 509th PIR (Parachute infantry Regiment), Operation Just Cause in Panama. He was instrumental in training us on the do’s and don’ts in combat. You would have thought he was an infantryman but he wasn’t, he was a 63B (Light wheeled mechanic). He and three other NCO’s were from my hometown of Washington, DC. He put the fun in functional training. When I was getting in shape for OCS he led a bunch of volunteers on Sunday runs through the Franklin Mountains. The higher elevation and consistency paid off! When I got to OCS I was running like an Olympic grade turbo-charged cheetah.

Captain Miciotto “Bear” Johnson was my last tank company commander in Friedberg, Germany. He said something to me that hearkened back to my enlisted days, “I take care of all my Soldiers, that includes officers. You need to do the same. If a fellow officer needs help, give it. Don’t do things with a favor attached. Just do it and move on to the next objective. If you do it for one, do it for all of us. We are on the same team and we need all the help we can get when we need it.” He gave us our tanker swagger back by asking every tanker who the best loader was, who the best driver was, who the best gunner was, who the best master gunner was, who the best TC was. It was a test to see if the soldier mentioned someone else or were bold enough to say themselves. It forced soldiers to acknowledge there was someone better than they were. He would follow up if they mentioned another tanker, “So what are you going to do about it?” This forced soldiers to create their own solutions to move up in talent if not rank. It worked. It tore down the platoon fiefdoms and implemented more intra-unit collaboration.

Major Hruska the best BN S-3 I had ever witnessed. It wasn’t that he knew his training and doctrine. He knew everyone else’s too. He was a history buff. He studied tactics and strategy. He was a Jedi among men. He could manage or lead a battle blindfolded. He knew the precise moment to deploy task force reserves and where. He knew enemy capabilities before they deployed. He was THAT guy.

Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Strong saw something in me that I hadn’t recognized in myself. I had not been in the unit very long. I am still in transition from tank platoon leader mode when he walked in on an NCOPD session I was having with platoon’s NCO’s in the mess tent during an exercise. This was a rare if not unheard of event in his battalion. From that point on he made it a point to keep tabs on me and my accomplishments. During my OPPLAN brief for Exercise Protect The Force he stopped me before I finished and announced he had heard enough and left me with the S-3 and his staff. I thought I did something wrong. MAJ Neil and the assistant S-3 assured me everything was fine. “LT Lawe you just watched the colonel get his mind blown with your level of detail and contingency planning. We saved you for last for a reason. He has made all of your peer OIC’s rewrite their plans because they failed to consider all of the what if’s you covered in the second paragraph.” He who takes more than his fair share of objective shall receive more than his fair share of objectives to take. I don’t who said it first but that was my career under LTC Strong and I was okay with it.

PLEASE RECOUNT THE NAMES OF FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH, AT WHICH LOCATION, AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THEM. INDICATE THOSE YOU ARE ALREADY IN TOUCH WITH AND THOSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE CONTACT WITH.

SPC Robert Boyles-a native from Oregon, a fellow comic book geek with a great sense of humor. We traveled together from AIT to first duty station in Germany.

SFC Don Fulton-Excellent platoon sergeant. We were both long time Redskin fans, we were both Geminis, and we were both from the AtlanticEast Coast. Me from DC and him from SE Virginia.We were finishing each other’s sentences within a week. He helped me through the transition from NCO to officer.

SFC Louis Imbrogno-excellent platoon sergeant He was a member of a motorcycle club and owned a boss Harley. He helped me weather the constant turnover of gunners I had on my crew.

SFC Bowie-he was my acting 1SG while I was the acting commander. We kept each other honest and ensured we were prepared to do the extra work to ensure the in boxes remained empty.

SPC Cornelius “Boosie” Davis, a native of Alabama who had a great sense of humor. He was a superb all around athlete. I wished we could have played football together at Dortmund.

SPC “Wild Bill” Massey. We became closer after I left the unit. I was the photographer at his wedding in Germany. When I returned to Germany as a 2LT, SGT and his wife were there to pick me up from the airport and ferry me to brigade headquarters.

CPT Ronald Woodman we were OCS classmates and we linked up again at 14st SIG. Both us were former combat arms platoon leaders relearned our craft in the world of communications. We maintained a constant buddy watch over one another.

CPT Stephen Cichocki- he was my OCS classmate and a former master gunner who was my sounding board throughout my commissioned career.

SPC Verburg-he was my go to guy in the platoon if I needed something done right now! He would assess the hey you mission and would enlist his buddies to make sure it was done in a timely and stealthy manner. I loved playing dirty hearts or spades with him. Lots of mutual respect.

SGT Rosamund, SGT Wrzenski, SGT Danielson, CPL Pena, CPL Raymond, among others- all were high speed low drag NCO’s. They were masters of their craft. I learned so much from them during my transition from armor to signal.

SGT Turner- he was my first motor pool NCO who kept me honest on so many occasions with the BN XO.

SSG Cole-he was my go to NCO in the platoon. He was the NCO version of Verburg. Another great card player.

CPT Ian “Frenchie” Forbes-it was his signal platoon I inherited at 141st SIG BN. He provided me with wise counsel on the tribal customs of my new home.

CPT Stephen Bates-we were the noisy outlaws of the battalion who got shit done. We were peer XO’s in different companies who sought each other out just to vent if nothing else. I think we were the founding members of the LPA in the unit.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

My tank crew pranked the platoon sergeant’s tank driver who was from Brooklyn, NY. he was deathly afraid of the VW-sized boars in Germany. He fell asleep on guard duty at night, so we poured garbage all around his tank to attract the boars so he would stay awake on duty. If there were no boars we would make hog noises to spur his alertness levels.

My section in Armor Officer Basic Course pranked a certain cadre officer who used to zeroize our SINGCAR radios (Single Channel Air-born Radio system) on every break or AAR (After Action Review). Our section has some former tankers who had ties to the training NCO’s. We convinced one to let us have a smoke grenade. One of our classmates rigged it to the half shaft under his Hummer with communications wire. The more the half shaft rotated it tightened the wire connected to the quick release pin and the spoon and broke. His Hummer quickly filled with emerald smoke. We saw him through our binoculars coughing and gagging several hundred meters away. No retaliation came our way.

I pranked the BN S4 CPT Jonathon Long at a Hail & Farewell into thinking he had left his Vinson KY-57 unsecured in the motor pool and I found it as such during a routine staff duty inspection. I produced an extra one from my CVC (Combat Vehicle Crew-member) helmet bag as proof. It was an extra one I signed out from the communications shop.

I pranked the BN S-3 into believing that such a thing as snow snake repellent existed. I took a can of WD-40 and covered it with a piece of paper that generically said snow snake repellent and made up a stock number to go with it. I referenced the newly issued field manual that referenced snow adders indigenous to Bosnia. He took it and ran with it to the division commander’s weekly readiness briefing. The commander added it to the list of things units needed to order and would be briefed as red, amber or green status. Confession may be good for the soul yet my body paid for that one in the form of push-ups, a one-sided ass chewing and a week’s worth of convoy commander detail downrange in Bosnia.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I have been in manufacturing management ever since. I have been in the metals industry twice as a shift supervisor.

I was in the automotive industry as a shift supervisor. That was fun believe it or not giving back to the armed services. I worked for Oshkosh Defense making trucks like the PLS , HEMTTs, HETs, LVSRs and the newly designed MATVs for the Marines and the Army. It was eye-opening to read the laudatory e-mails from congressmen and service members remarking how our product helped saved lives down range. Also meeting service members who arranged to visit the plant and shake everyone’s hand who helped build these amazing mine resistant vehicles. That organization was the most top heavy with veterans from white collar to blue collar.

I have been in the plastics industry two times-once as a supervisor and currently I am a production manager.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I have let my memberships lapse for the Signal Corps Regimental Association, the US Armor Association and the NCO Association.

When I lived in Indiana, I became a mentor at Handley Elementary and was invited to their Veteran’s Day celebrations. When I lived in Wisconsin, I would march in the Memorial Day parades as an ad-hoc flag bearer in full BDU’s.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

It has influenced how I am as a leader in charge of personnel, resources and time. No matter where I worked I employed the same techniques that made me a successful NCO and officer. I was a fit, firm and fair leader. I made it a point to learn the process and implement change to streamline the process and eliminate waste for the better not just change’s sake. Over the years I have had to soften the sharp combat edges I had developed to negotiate more win-win scenarios. I have implemented recognizing individuals and teams who have exceeded performance expectations at the various organizations where I have worked.

Having qualified on numerous weapon systems, I don’t own nor care to own any firearms. I am of the mindset that firepower attracts more firepower. I do not feel the need to conceal and carry. I learned through my military training and as a former range safety officer to respect guns, bullets, weapons of any kind and what they are designed to do. I do not hunt. As long as there are Piggly Wiggly supermarkets I don’t see the need. I have seen up close and personal the effects of small arms fire on the human body. I have witnessed the carnage of large caliber weapons. It would take a lot to motivate me to fire a bullet in anger outside of a high intensity combat environment, and even then (?). My relatives have reluctantly asked “have you killed anyone in combat?” My answer is no. A few will follow-up with “Did you want to kill anyone in combat?” My answer is yes. Does that make me a bad person? Those situations where that was a possibility have long since moved on and so have I.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?

Get your mind right and the body will execute each and every time. I have done it and I have witnessed it in others. The synergy between the two is awesome. Tap into it. If you declare it, it will become reality. This is a rare environment where you
are getting paid to find out your potential. Numerous soldiers sign up for one MOS and later transfer to something more of their liking. Numerous more soldiers make a career out of the service because it fills their needs and they are good at what they do. Remember “Good gold will not net you good soldiers. It will get you mercenaries until the gold runs out. Good soldiers will get you good gold.”

Join with some goals in mind. At the end of your tour, what do you want to be? My goals were to improve myself as a leader, graduate OCS and to overcome my fear of heights and graduate Airborne school. The last two I accomplished. The first one was a constant work in progress. I was continually learning and sharpening the saw. I read numerous books, field manuals, Army Regulations and had lots of training which were a good base for starting out. To be a good leader, you have to be in a leadership position and learn from your mistakes. The more your do certain things, the more comfortable you will become with your particular leadership style.

If and when you deploy to combat, pay strict attention to your training. Study and ask lots of “what if?” questions. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. No one likes it, but it pays dividends tenfold when the scenario is upon you. Learn from every subject matter expert you come in contact with from drill sergeants to platform instructors to squad leaders to officers. The knowledge is free and it is power. Volunteer for whatever training is available and give it your all.

When you are deployed overseas remember you are an ambassador for your country in whatever role you are assigned. Make the Army values (Loyalty, courage, selfless service, respect, honor and integrity) your values not just buzz words you recall during evaluation time. If you live it, walk it, your soldiers will reflect it.

Volunteer for every training class available, you never know where it will take you. At the very least you will learn something that is benefiting you, the unit and you may be able to apply as a civilian. Seek out the best soldiers, the best NCO leaders (informal and formal) and make them your mentors. Learn by reading the regulations, the field manuals, and the technical manuals. Learn through correspondence courses. Learn through hands-on training, classroom training, cross-training and hip-pocket training. Education is the one promotion no one can take away from you. The positive example you set is the one most will follow. Have a goal and do what it takes to achieve it. If you fail, it’s your goal, no one else’s, the goal police will not drag you away to jail. Dry your tears and try it again. Or simply pick a more achievable goal and pursue that. Specialized qualifications like Ranger and Special Forces are NOT made for everyone that is why it is an elite specialization. The standards are higher to attract the best of the best and even some of them fail.

When people ask me if I miss the Army, I tell them I miss the people more than anything. The soldiers, NCOs, and the officers I served with made up the difference. They made “embracing the suck” missions bearable. We buoyed each other’s spirits to get it done. We did what we had to so we could get back to doing what we wanted to do. The down time spent with each other was worth it. The war stories told around the fire barrel, the pranks, the lies and alibis bonded an unlikely band of brothers and sisters when things were at the worst yet it brought our best.

When people ask me if I would go back, my answer is no. My Army has changed. I would be perceived as a man out of time like Captain America. My old school habits would not blend well with today’s leadership climate.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
In beginning it helped me network with former soldiers, NCO’s that I hadn’t been in contact with in years. I later networked with them over Facebook, e-mails and phone calls. The stories I had read about other soldiers some were intimidating reading all of their accomplishments, then I read others that were seemingly uneventful yet the soldier got something out of their service if it was nothing more than interacting with different people on foreign soil. I connected with that.

22
Mar

SSgt Walter Madden U.S. Air Force (1958-1966)

profile1Read the service reflections of

SSgt Walter Madden

U.S. Air Force

(1958-1966)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/164873

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?

The decision was made while I was still in high school. During my junior year, the Air Force invited our Scout Troop to Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Md. We were taken on a tour of the base and fed in the mess hall. But the biggest thrill of the entire trip was when they flew us around in a C-130, allowing each of us on the flight deck where we could ask questions. When we landed, I was hooked! I wanted to fly! I set my mind on getting good grades, going to college during my junior and senior years of high school, all to qualify for pilot/navigator training.

Most of my senior class had plans of going to college, but I couldn’t afford to go. So certain of my plan, in the middle of my senior year, I went to Philadelphia’s All Services Induction and Physical Center and signed up for the Air Force program of induction right after high school graduation. I even took the tests and physical so I could go straight to training.

That is when the first setback occurred. The doctor noted that I had asked for pilot/navigator training and said that I had failed the physical. My two right shoulder operations (one while an infant, the other at three years old from a car accident) had left me with an inability to turn my head to the right far enough to look over my right shoulder, a necessary requirement for flight training. I still wanted to fly, so I went ahead with my enlistment. I graduated high school on June 10, 1958 and within two days, I was in Lackland AFB, Tx. to start Basic Military Training.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

During my little over eight years in the Air Force, I had many jobs, some better than others. Of course, my training began with basic training. As we rolled off the bus for our first day on the base, I found that the Training Instructor (TI) was yelling at everyone but me. This was because of my years in the Boy Scouts, I knew what was meant by hurry, fall in line and stand at attention, stop looking around and so forth. I also already knew most of the marching and parade commands since I had instructed other scouts in these same things.

The TI asked the group, “Any of you had any college?” There were only two of us who had, one tall young man who looked older than the rest of us and myself. He made us the Flight Leader and Assistant Flight Leader, respectively.

Most of the young men in my training flight were Southern farm boys who struggled with learning the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the chain of command. I’d been ordered to teach those in my bay in the barracks. However, they had very little trouble with the physical and marching part of the training except with the sweltering heat, which bothered all of us. It was so hot on the day we were at the rifle range, the TI’s took each of us off of the range as soon as we’d qualified. Only the those going into the Air Police (AP) were required to remain for Marksman, Sharpshooter, and pistol qualifications.

We were given a battery of tests at the Philadelphia Induction Center. I did well with the electronics test with a score of 80. I figured if even if I couldn’t go to flight training, I would qualify for a flying job in Electronics. But I was wrong again. I was told that Electronics was not what the Air Force needed. I was also given the Radio Operator Code Test but I purposely did poorly so I would not be forced into a job listening to code all day long. Eventually, I was assigned to “General” which gave me a choice of Air Police, cook, or medical. Since I was always good at first aid in Boy Scouts, I took medical.

After Basic Military Training I was sent to Basic Medical School (on the ‘other side’) of Lackland. The 8-week course was exceptional and I learned a lot. I had made a good career choice. After graduation and a week on casual status, I was assigned to the Air Force Headquarters Hospital at Andrews AFB, Md.

My first assignment was as a Psychiatric Technician with Medical Air Evacuation Unit. I was given the responsibility for moving patients from incoming aircraft to the hospital or from the hospital to outgoing aircraft. Apparently the reason I was assigned to this unit was to be available to help with any incoming or outgoing patient showing signs of psychiatric issues.

My shift was 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off. On my days off, I mostly spent taking classes at the University of Maryland. I used the time between flights coming and going to study my college course home work. The great thing about the job, however, was I got to fly some of the patients to their new hospital or from their old hospital back to Andrews. Shortly after I got married and about eight months into this assignment, I was transferred to the Hospital Psychiatric Ward, where I found I enjoyed working with the patients.

While I enjoyed my work, I came to realize promotion possibilities were slow in the medical field. That’s when I started looking around for a career field that had higher visibility for promotion. I discovered the Air Force was looking for Manpower Engineering people so before reenlisting for my second tour, I switched to the Manpower Management Technician career field.

I was sent to Rock Island, Ill for Engineering School and soon got overseas orders for either Lakenheath AFB , United Kingdom or Bitburg AFB, Germany. I took Germany. The three year tour requirement for a married airman forced me to extend my current enlistment beyond eight years.

My assignment at the 36th Air Base Wing was that of an instructor for the 50 hour Air Force Leadership Course. The students in my class were senior NCOs and officers through the rank of Lt. Col. What amazes me about the whole experience is, I was only a Senior Airman (E-4) and yet all those high ranking students respected me because they knew I knew what I was doing. Later I was transferred to manpower management at the 7101st Air Base Wing for the United States Air Force Europe out of Wiesbaden, Germany. I also made Staff Sgt.

I was still in Germany when it became apparent I needed to leave the Air Force. My wife at the time hated the Air Force and hated Germany even more. Also, I was having severe problems with one of the officers I worked for in the Manpower Detachment. So with eight years, one month, and seventeen days, I came back to McGuire AFB to be discharged, which was maybe the biggest mistake I have ever made.

After my discharge, a friend of my wife, offered me a stripe in the Army Reserves. But when my wife found out that I was considering joining the Army Reserves she threw a real fit! Looking back, however, the marriage only lasted 5 more years and then I met the love of my life and at this writing my second marriage has lasted 40 years. I do not think if I had remained in the AF I would have met my wife. God works in mysterious way–and always for what best.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

The three years I was stationed at Bitburg were by far the best of my career. The winters were mighty cold there, however. Teaching the Air Force Leadership course gave me the confidence that carried throughout my entire career and the rest of my life. Even some of the best working conditions I had at my civilian jobs do not compare to this experience. The people I met there were the best (and the worst) of any place I was stationed. They all taught me how to deal with and react around people so that you get the best outcome.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

The first outstanding memory was when I was on Andrews AFB, Md. I was befriended by the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Detachment on the base. He invited me to ride along on a post-maintenance test flight. The flight took us over Eastern Maryland and before he turned back, he had the co-pilot come get me and had me sit in the co-pilot’s seat. He instructed me to turn the plane around (same plane as an AF C-124) and gave me all the altitude and headings needed to get us back. I flew it with only the altimeter and compass headings and never looked out the window. After some time he firmly said, “I got it!” I released the wheel and pulled my feet off of the peddles. I looked up and out the front windshield and we were several hundred feet off the end of the runway in perfect alignment to land. What happened next was enough to give you a required underwear change.

A few seconds after the Marine Major took control, we hit a crosswind and were headed down between the runway and the taxi way. The major corrected and put the plane down right on the runway. After we landed the major said that the only trouble I exhibited during the flight was that I did not keep the nose down. He kept rolling the nose wheel down during the entire time I was at the controls, but I was flying the plane. What a great experience!

While hardly a fond memory, I must mention what happen at Bitburg, Germany. My wife and I had been there about two and a half months and had just gotten settled into our in-town apartment. While moving stuff in, an airman from down the street came to our home. He asked if I had heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I was totally shocked and somewhat in the dark. We went back to his home and listened to the radio for a few minutes and then realized that we had better get into uniform and get back to base. We were on alert with the base on lock down for over three weeks. What a time, with little news, and no one really knowing what was going on back in the U.S.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award given to Andrews AFB Hospital in 1961. I was proud to be a part of that group. I also thought it was neat that the my first Good Conduct Medal was an Army Medal; I later received the Air Force version.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Anyone in the military for any length of time are impacted by others. But the first one I can recall is Tech Sgt. Clayton Riegel at Andrews AFB Hospital. He taught me the skills necessary to be a good Corpsman and how to care for the people with whom we were charged. They were all hurting, although not by something you could see externally, but mentally.

The second was Airman Alvin (I do not remember his last name) who ended up in our Psychiatric Ward after he had been thrown off of a high voltage utility pole after his Sgt had told him the power was off. He was in a near vegetative state when he arrived. Doctors and nurses told him he would never walk or talk again. Everyone working in the ward thought differently. Day and night, we all took turns caring and feeding him. Most of us being about this Airman’s age, we interacted with him to encourage him to do more and more. Long story short and against all odds and many long months, Airman Alvin walked out of the hospital talking to his parents. I have never seen the courage and determination that Airman Alvin displayed by anyone before or since.

Finally, there was Master Sgt. Jim Bratton. A practical man, he made sure the first things I did arriving overseas was to get my family there and settled. He rightly figured I would learn my new job more completely and quickly if I knew my family was settled. He helped me to understand what was important for both the Air Force and my personal life.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I had rich and varied career after leaving the Air Force, beginning as an management engineer for United Parcel Service (until the Teamsters Union went out on strike and closed down Eastern Pennsylvania).

Other jobs I held was an engineer for ACME Markets (American Stores) and in retail as an Operations Manager for J. C. Penney Company where I was in charge of all the credit, accounting, receiving, cashiers and both internal and external security. This was a lot of responsibility for a young man of 27 years of age. It is doubtful that without the experience the Air Force had given me, the success I enjoyed would not have been mine.

I returned to engineering at The Hartford Insurance Group in both the Claim Department and as a project manager in the Operations Department. I was responsible for seven to fourteen projects at the same time, making sure the design, testing, and installation at each regional office in the system. My Air Force engineering training and the experience of handling a class room full of people who all out ranked me was what had given me what I needed to succeed.

Over the years there were many times I would be called into a corporate officer’s office to explain where a project was or what had gone wrong to cause the project to be delayed. These officers were pussy cats compared to the officers I had to deal with in the Air Force. This lasted over 22 years. It is also where I met the woman I have been married to for over 40 years. She and I both worked for The Hartford and both retired early at age 50 and 52 respectively.

In all of these positions the impact of my service training and my experience of interacting with people (both good and bad) has taught me some very great lessons. The most significant of which was how to handle people with whom you do not agree. It helped me work toward the position of disagreeing without being disagreeable or coming to a mutual position of “agreeing to disagree.”

After retiring from the civilian working world, I have since become a real estate broker, real estate instructor, and Real Estate School administrator after having held a real estate license in three states with lots of experience in real estate investments.

But my military training was not only helpful in my work world, it also helped me succeed as ‘Guardian ad Litem’ (GAL) for the children caught up in the Florida family court system. We represent one or more children before the family court, making sure the court makes the right decision is in the best interest of the child while the system works with parents to overcome their substance abuse or child abuse issues. This has been some of the most rewarding work I have done since I have left the service!

Much of what the military taught me in organizing and sticking with the details has helped me handle as many as seven cases at a time and still keep on top of all the issues the children are having.

Though most of the Guardian ad Litem (GALs) are woman the need for some men in the program is constant. Many times you are dealing with unruly fathers who try to bully the woman GALs, so men work out better those cases. The program phrase is It take a special man to be a GAL. I also like to remember that a man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

As a young man straight out of high school the Air Force not only set me on the right path but gave me the training and the discipline to be successful. In the military I learned how to respect other people and how to act to be respected, especially in the medical career field where compassion and caring are critical for our patients at what may well be the most difficult time in their lives. Also, the engineer training I received showed up in every work situation I’ve been in as a civilian.

What I learned in the service about dealing with difficult people and problem situation has served me very well in my civilian careers. The foundation of military training such as attention to detail, doing things the right way the first time, and being satisfied when you know you have done your very best has been the guiding principle throughout my work and family life.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?

Try to find the part of the job you enjoy and capitalize on that area. Do not be afraid to change career fields if you find something more interesting and enjoyable. Strive to be the best in your duties, your job, and your career field. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you really enjoy a career in the military, find ways to overcome any distraction or interference with that desire. My biggest mistake in life was not staying in the Air Force.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

I have not been a member very long, which is not surprising then that I have not yet found anyone I served with through the site. Still, I know if I keep looking and use the many search capabilities of TWS, I will find old friends. I have however made friends of other service members of Together We Served and enjoy the interaction with them. Reading other members reflections, especially those with totally different experience in both war and peace, had made me appreciate their service and the things that they have been through.

15
Mar

CAPT James Garrett U.S. Navy (Ret) (1966-2008)

Read the service reflections of

profileCAPT James Garrett

U.S. Navy (Ret)

(1966-2008)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/390043

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE NAVY?

I was graduating from Westminster High School in a few months (1966) and knowing that I would not be able to afford college, I thought enlisting in the military would be a good thing, especially if it was possible to get college paid for afterwards. Being landlocked and with Lowery Air Force Base across town, the recruiting ads I thought the Air Force might be a good place to go. The Air Force recruiter came to my house to talk with me but to my amazement the recruiter told me there was a waiting list, imagine that with the Vietnam War going on.

I couldn’t wait so I talked with the recruiter for the Navy and a month or so later I enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice in the Naval Reserve until after graduation from high school. I enlisted at the age of 17 in what was called at the time a minority enlistment since I would not turn 18 until after I entered Boot Camp in San Diego.

After watching Victory at Sea and Silent Service episodes on TV, I thought that I would be a sailor in submarines. After Boot Camp, the Navy had the same but different idea, I was assigned to a Submarine Rescue Ship (ASR) in SubPac (Pearl Harbor).

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I went to Boot Camp in San Diego in August 1966 and tested well for the ratings of Sonarman or Radioman. Upon completion of Boot Camp I was assigned to the USS Greenlet ASR-10 in Pearl Harbor, HI. Later I was told that I could be accepted for Sonar School on the STAR program which would have sent me to Class “A” School, promotion to Petty Officer Third Class with a requirement to reenlist up to six years. I was already focusing on the rate requirements for Signalman so I declined the “A” School for Sonarman.

With my mother being really ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease I got out of the Navy and went home. When her illness became terminal I tried different things, went to college and subsequently applied for and was accepted by the Denver Police Department. A couple of my police buddies were in the Army National Guard and wanted me to join as well, particularly with the Military Police. I checked it out, was even offered an opportunity as a Warrant Officer, but declined and decided to re-affiliate with the Navy. A sharp recruiter obtained my Second Class Crow even with time served and I signed on the dotted line and stayed for the next 30 plus years.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

While on-board the USS Greenlet ASR-10, we participated in operations off the coast and in some coastal ports in Vietnam especially assisting the Air Force in salvaging equipment from aircraft that went down off the coast of Cam Ranh Bay. (There’s that Air Force connection again)

In 1968, a few months after the Pueblo capture, we met with the USS Banner, Pueblo’s sister ship, refueled her, provided stores to assist in her return to Japan. ASR’s normally don’t underway replenish other ships as a rule. I was the main helmsman for submarine rescue ops (four point moor) and this underway replenishment operation.

While aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and part of the USS Enterprise task group we conducted SAR OPS as she conducted flight ops and sorties into Vietnam. Later we were called to assist with a task group to search for the wreckage of the EC-121 aircraft that was shot down by the North Koreans in April 1969. Those were tense, edge of your seat times. We were already heavily involved in the Vietnam War, now with a second incident with the North Koreans (the first being the capture of the USS Pueblo a year earlier) was it going to escalate with the North Koreans? The Soviet Navy was ever present which was an experience in itself.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

I enjoyed duty on both the USS Greenlet and USS Dale.The Greenlet was a smaller ship therefore I got to know all of the crew. The Dale was much larger but allowed me to practice my Signalman rate in a more operational way. The Greenlet even though a Navy ship was part of SubPac so we got to enjoy some of the perks like great chow, we ate off of plates instead of steam trays and didn’t have to be as spit and polish. The CO liked to take cruises that took us to Lahaina, Maui with skeet shooting and fishing on the way and great liberty. We had to play target and torpedo retriever for the subs while there, but that was fun and hard work as well.

The Dale involved operations with task groups but the liberty ports of Chinhae (South Korea), Nagasaki, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Japan, Keelung, Taiwan, Subic Bay, and Auckland New Zealand, were the best. You couldn’t script a busier schedule of “steaming”, port calls, crisis events, and an ASW exercise of four countries (US, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand) participated. I think the sailors of navy of the host country, New Zealand, weren’t very thrilled.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Recovery operations after the EC121 was shot down by the North Koreans in Jan 1969 and subsequent interactions with the Soviet Navy. This was the cold war, with the Soviets trailing us around, the unpredictable North Koreans (the capture of the USS Pueblo was only a year before) and the Vietnam War in full swing. It was cold and scary at times. We looked for survivors but only found debris and a couple of bodies. Reminds you of your mortality, especially so far from home.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 

Promotions as a Signalman to First Class, then with great mentoring from my Reserve Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, CAPT Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi respectively, I was given the opportunity to test and interview for a Direct Commission as an Ensign in the Intelligence Program. I was commissioned as an Ensign in 1984 and through the years and the ranks I enjoyed numerous assignments and was given increasing levels of responsibility which culminated in being selected for Commanding Officer a Naval Reserve unit and final promotion to Captain. From E2 to O6 I enjoyed a career that was fulfilling and rewarding. I gave 100 percent to the Navy and the Navy reciprocated with great mentors and service members to work with and work for.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

I received the typical commendation awards, marksmen badges and ribbon devices but the two most meaningful accomplishments were my crows and rating as a signalman (E4-E6) and later my selection and promotion to Ensign with subsequent leadership positions and final promotion to Captain. I enjoyed working with outstanding shipmates, enlisted and officer. I achieved a very successful career from E2 to O6 because of outstanding shipmates and mentors.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

I worked for some great people Officer and Enlisted who mentored me to work hard, volunteer for hard jobs and inspired me to do great things for the Navy and myself, even when things may not have going so well. When I was a signalman striker, SM1 Charlie Yates was a great mentor in helping me to achieve rate and move away from deck division which was not my favorite assignment. I still do not like painting!

I had great Senior Officers who mentored me to achieve the memorable milestones in my career. CDR Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi were instrumental in my applying for a commission. CDR Monroe worked tirelessly to find out what the barriers were in the selection process. I can’t thank him enough.

As I progressed through the ranks in my Navy Reserve career, I experienced great counsel when personal problems could have derailed me as I contemplated retiring many times. They provided wisdom and kept me going through thick and thin. As a result of their commitment and leadership when I needed it most, I was able to return that same advice to junior officers as a Commanding Officer and a Senior Officer. It is a great feeling of satisfaction when the one you mentor does well and is successful.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Still get a chuckle about this. I was a Signalman aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and we made a port call in Taiwan. One afternoon the signal gang went on liberty to one of the bars in town. A group of bar hostesses came to our table and sat with us but they also began conversing with each other in Chinese and laughing among themselves. That has occurred to many of us, right? After a period of time this became annoying to us as a group and we began to converse among ourselves too, only using semaphore with our hands (no flags)!! No vocal conversation at all. We did this for awhile, totally ignoring the girls in the process, and by the way we were laughing our butts off as well.

The bar hostesses eventually caught on to our game and their conversations changed to English. It was fun, it was humorous, and great rate practice.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I was hired by the Denver Police Department as a Law Enforcement career I had been thinking about while on active duty. I stayed in the Navy Reserve during my entire career and I always had to be careful which uniform or parts of uniforms I put on when reporting to police roll call at 2am. Cops like military members like to have fun at your expense especially when it is self-inflicted. I retired from the DPD after 32 years of service.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

Naval Institute, American Legion, and MOAA. I am also a volunteer with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). We work with employers and Reserve Component members in all aspects of educating and mentoring them about employment rights as well supporting employment initiatives. Being a Reserve member for many years it is gratifying to do whatever can be done to help our Guard and Reserve members in whatever capacity is necessary.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

I enjoyed my service with the Navy, the Navy was good to me as well. The Navy taught me Duty, Honor, and Commitment, traits the served me well with my Police Service. As I tell a lot of young people, the military will instill in them a strong work ethic and pride in who they are. By listening and hopefully emulating those who were in leadership positions both formal and informal, I gained confidence in my abilities and always sought after worthwhile assignments that tested me and looked forward to gaining positions of responsibility. This led to experiences that were stressful at times, but for the most part were fun and rewarding.

My experience and discipline gained from the military assisted me in all aspects of my civilian career in the Denver Police Department. Being a police officer and serving in Navy Reserve for just as many years was very special. I served my community and my country, it doesn’t get any better than that.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE NAVY?

Duty, honor and commitment. Be the best you can be and always try to achieve your goals. I learned that if you do the best you can, volunteer for the hard jobs and commit 100%, promotions, recognition and job satisfaction will come two-fold. The Navy was good to me inthat I got to do and see things that I would have not been able to do without those three ethical standards. Most of all, don’t think of naval service as a chore, but as an adventure, a life experience others will never get to have in their lifetime. I went from Seaman Apprentice to Captain in my career, something the recruiter did not tell me could be possible, nor did I ever think while chipping paint in deck division on my first ship that I would accomplish all that I have. I learned to watch and listen to those around me, especially the great First Class and Chiefs that I worked for and later as a Commissioned Officer those Chiefs who made me look good and provided sage advice.

As a young Junior Officer I was seeking an assignment in a particular unit, I told the CO I would take whatever assignment he had. Without pause he selected me because as he said, I volunteered for a hard job, something not many were willing to do. You have to put yourself out there, accept the responsibility in order to gain more responsibility. During my retirement from the Navy and answering questions, I had young enlisted Sailors come up and look at my brag book and memorabilia and heard them remark about my career path and promotions. They asked if E2 to O6 was possible for them and I said, yes it is, work hard for it!

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

I have been able to touch base with some of my shipmates that I have not communicated with in years. This has been a great website that is secure that I can place items, photos and remembrances of my military career. More importantly, it is fun and also humbling to see what others have done in the service of their country. Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve.

27
Feb

TWS: Basic Training Photos

Do you still have your Basic Training photos? Many of us have lost ours along the way. That is one of the reasons that TWS has started reaching out to find as many Basic Training Photos as we can.

In the last few weeks TWS has added over 6000 photos to our database. This now allows you to display your basic training photo above your listing on your profile. If we have found yours, you will see it there.

If you have your basic training info on your profile, great! When we find your photo, you’ll be notified. If you have your photo, you can email them to us at admin@togetherweserved.com along with where it was, Platoon, Company, Division, Flight or Battalion, along with the year and we will get it added for you.

%d bloggers like this: