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Posts from the ‘Find Veterans’ Category

30
Oct

Featured Military Association – USS Forrestal Association

Together We Served is pleased to highlight the work of the USS Forrestal Association. The USS Forrestal Association is a non-profit veterans organization established in 1990, with a current membership of over 3000 members. The organization is committed to preserving the memory and spirit of the USS Forrestal and all who sailed on her. The Association’s main focus is on preserving old memories, to honor those members who have now passed on and to remember shipmates who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Association is inviting its members to join Together We Served to help preserve their service history and record their legacy.

For more information on the USS Forrestal Association, please contact TWS member Bob Kohler at bobkohler1930@gmail.com

If you would like to join the USS Forrestal Association, click here

11
Aug

About Together We Served

 

ABOUT TOGETHER WE SERVED

If you or a loved one has served our country as a member of the United States Armed Forces, then you’ve come to the right place.

Together We Served (TWS) is the online community connecting and honoring every American who has worn the uniform of the United States military. This is where you reconnect with old friends and share your service story as a lasting legacy for generations to come.

More Than A Decade & Growing

TWS launched in 2003 with a website specifically for Marine Corps veterans. Since then, we’ve expanded to five websites, welcoming members from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Coastguard. Our vision: to create a unique place for all service members, run by service members, sharing real-life history IN THEIR OWN WORDS. TWS is detailed, honest, and real: an authentic recounting of history as-it-happens.

Today, TWS has more than 1.4 million members and has reconnected more service men and women than any other website or organization. Reunions happen every day. Some veterans haven’t seen each other in 40 years. Some are healed through the reconnections made here. Still others find old friends they thought lost forever. These miraculous stories are inspirational.

A Larger Purpose

On the surface, TWS is a social networking site. However, there is a much larger purpose, one we hope you’ll participate in. TWS is a living, breathing national archive of the most important events in our nations’ history.

Each story and profile here takes its rightful, permanent place in our collective consciousness. In this new, virtual world, every time you log on, share a photograph, recall an experience, or find a comrade, you are contributing to what will be the most intriguing, comprehensive and expandable military archive available.

Our Roll of Honor is a gift to every family who has lost a loved one in service – a personalized online memorial they can contribute to, preserve, and share for posterity. More than 100,000 profiles of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen who died while serving in all major U.S. conflicts since WWII already exist here.

Our work is hardly complete. There are currently just over 21 million veterans; nearly 60% are from the Vietnam, Korean and WWII era. We are in a race against time to capture their stories now, while we still can.

What Is Your Story

If you have served this country, you are already a part of this community. And your friends are waiting for you. Welcome to the most important online presentation of our nations’ military history available.
Welcome to Together We Served.

 

Very Respectfully

Brian A. Foster
President and Founder
Together We Served

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.

5
Apr

Sgt Don McKeefery U.S. Marine Corps (1979-1983)

Read the service reflections of

profile3Sgt Don McKeefery

U.S. Marine Corps

(1979-1983)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/222662

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

Three things:

First, the company where my Dad worked closed their doors during my senior year in high school, so I didn’t want to be a further burden on my family with college tuition. And, unfortunately, coming from a small town and thus small school system, our guidance counselors weren’t thebest at providing guidance.

Second, I scored very high on the ASVAB test and all the services were recruiting me (lots of calls and visits). I recall the Navy recruiters coming after me to be in their nuclear programs, but the Marine Corps was talking to me about aviation electronics and that interested me the most.

Third, my brother went into the Corps a year before me. I figured if he could do it, so could I. After boot camp I had a new respect for my brother. As he was going through, and I had decided to join, we never talked about the challenges of boot camp. What an eye-opening experience, starting with getting off the bus and onto the yellow footprints.

Oh, and the Dress Blues uniform is the best!

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?

At the time I went in, I had 3 goals:

1) Make Sergeant.

2) Never get busted.

3) Don’t go to Okinawa.

I satisfied all 3, though now I regret #3. I made E-5 within 3 years and feel that the lessons I learned from boot camp helped me to
accomplish that goal. Work hard and go above and beyond and you will be rewarded.

I came close to not accomplishing #2. At one point my roommate had taken a bunch of us out into town to meet with a bunch of college girls who were visiting with his girlfriend and her family. They were in town for about a week, so we spent quite a bit of time with them. They were interested in seeing what our rooms were like so we decided it would be a good idea to sneak them in the back way. Since we lived on the second floor of the barracks, there was quite a long ladder (stairs for the civilian crowd). We thought we had it all covered since the Duty Sgt. sat near the entry at the front of the building. What we hadn’t counted on was an MP on patrol in the area. He apparently saw our actions and brought the Duty Sgt. up to our wing and went door-to-door until they found the room with the girls…our room.

Fortunately, our Sgt. Maj. seemed to have a soft spot for us. Instead of formal charges and a trip to see the “Old Man”, he decided an appropriate punishment would be for us to clean up the squadron area. Man, I’m thinking NJP (office hours) would have been an easier thing to go through. Needless to say, we learned our lesson…and the squadron are was spotless. Oh, and several of us continued to date the girls for years to come.

Regarding my decision to get out of the Marine Corps, I was notified by my monitor a few weeks before I was due to sign my re-enlistment papers that the school I was going to re-enlist for had just cancelled and would not be offered for another year. I had no guarantee it would run the following year so I decided to take my chances in the civilian world. To this day I wonder if that was the right decision. I’ve had a great career, but…

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 am a Cold War Era Vet. I was proud to have served no matter the time in our history. The Marine Corps makes and needs Marines who are ready at a moment’s notice. I, and my fellow Cold War Marine Veterans stood ready to carry on the traditions of
those who went before us and were tested in battle.

The closest I got to action was when we went on a heightened state of alert when a Russian submarine and Russian aircraft were spotted off the coast of North Carolina. We, and the Air Force, scrambled some planes to go take a look. We stood down shortly thereafter, but it was exciting while it lasted.

The next most exciting thing happened during a NATO exercise in Denmark. On our last night in country we had moved most of the squadron to a staging base for their flight home. Since I was with the advance party and the return party, I and several others were left at our field location to guard the equipment prior to its removal. A few of the locals had caught wind of the fact we were leaving the next day and thought they would travel out from town to our base.

I was on duty while the others slept, awaiting their turn. A car passed the gate but stopped just beyond. Two guys got out and staggered over to the gate and wanted to come in and party with us. I explained the situation to them and kindly asked them to return to their car and go back to town. The driver insisted they be allowed to come in and continued to move forward.

During this time we were not allowed to have loaded weapons on guard duty, so I was playing through my mind my options, and how, if possible and necessary I was going to get a shell in the shotgun for use.

My first thought was to cycle the pump and scare them, which is precisely what I did, but it only had an impact on the passenger. He ran to the car rather quickly. I also think I smelled an odor as he did so. Unfortunately, the driver was not fazed by this action. So, I asked him to follow the actions of his passenger and kindly return to the car before this escalated and something happened that we both didn’t want.

He once again advanced, and it was at this instant I raised my weapon to let him know I was not going to allow him in or take one more step towards me. Upon seeing the working end of the shotgun he decided his passenger was not so dumb after all. He returned to the vehicle and they turned around and headed for town.

At least that’s what I thought until I saw brake lights about a half mile down the road.

Next I heard a sound of something rustling off to my right (from the direction they would have come back). I shouted out, “Halt, who goes there?” Nothing in response. I woke up the next guard and instructed him to watch the gate while I investigated. As I got nearer, I could see someone stumbling in my direction. Again, “Halt, who goes there?” Again, no answer.

I advanced once more and instructed the person to immediately halt, place their ID on the ground and back up 10 steps and get face down in the dirt. This time they complied. Once I arrived at the ID I picked it up and shined a light on it. It turned out it was one of our officers returning to base after being out in town. False alarm. He and I never spoke of the event again.

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

It’s a toss-up between 29 Palms, CA and Cherry Point, NC, for my fondest.

29 Palms is special because I was stationed there with my brother for a year. He was with 3rd Tank Bn, and I was going through MCCES. We spent a lot of time together when he wasnot out in the field for training maneuvers. I’ll never forget the weekend he and another Marine from 3rd Tanks were working on a tank and were just wrapping up putting “the pack” (engine and transmission) in, and were going to take it for a test run. They invited me to come along for the ride. What an experience it was. They even gave me an opportunity to drive the tank once we were out in the open. I recall them telling me that if I threw the track, I got to put it back on. Needless to say, I drove it with caution, but still put it through some paces.

A fun fact about while we were out testing the tank out was that while on our way out towards Camp Wilson, my brother saw a car driving along the road parallel to us. It turned out to be their XO. My brother and his buddy hopped out of the tank and did everything they could to keep him from coming over to the tank, because if he saw me, they would be in deep trouble. He did come over and was getting close to getting in when all of a sudden he decided he needed to get on his way. Phew! Three Marines were finally able to exhale and start breathing easy again!!

Cherry Point was a great duty station for me. I had a car by then and enjoyed the fact it was only a half hour drive to the Atlantic Ocean. My buddies and I spent countless hours there when we were off duty. I also made a number of life-long friends at Cherry Point. We have stayed in touch all these years and enjoy looking back on our times together when we talk. I’m sure there is some exaggeration in our stories, but not a lot!

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

A joint services op we did at Holloman AFB. We were stationed atop North Oscura Peak. The last day the fly boys put on a show for us. They flew low to the ground across the White Sands Missile Range, then at the last moment went vertical up the faceof the mountain we were atop. As they cleared the top, one seemed to go 90 degrees horizontal just clearing our radar antennas and the others peeled away like a banana. Awesome display!

I also never forget an event I saw take place in our tent. One of the Corporals in our unit decided to mess around with one of the Sergeants who was sleeping (he was on night shift). The Corporal, Sammy, decided to use a feather to tickle the Sergeant’s (Andy) nose. It was all fun and games for Sammy until Andy came up out of the rack with his Ka-Bar on Sammy’s neck. Sammy forgot Andy had served time in Recon and was not one to mess with, especially while he was trying to sleep.

Another exercise we were on took us on a float. I was one of the lucky ones from our squadron who managed to make the trip to Denmark on board a ship, the USS Raleigh (LPD-1). Much of the rest of the squadron traveled via airplane and arrived well after we arrived and set up camp.

The trip was quite the experience, from the rough seas to one of the guys in our unit being seasick the entire way there (and the rough seas didn’t help him one bit). As a consequence of the rough seas we were able to “Shoot the Channel” and got certificates from the Navy for such. Our original travels were to take us over the North of the British Isles.

There were some good days, however, and we were able to spend a fair amount of time above decks. As for the stormy days, well, we managed to find a hatch that contained a small-ish room with nothing in it. It was in this area that we disappeared and played tons of pinochle. Our game was quite polished by the time we arrived after a 2 week journey.

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

I’m most proud of my Rifle Expert qualification badge. I don’t know if it was because I served in the air wing, or if it was normal, however, I only qualified with the rifle twice while I was in the Marine Corps. Once was in boot camp, where I was lucky to shoot Marksman and earn the coveted toilet seat. Not a badge you wanted to wear on your uniform for inspections, but it was what I earned.

Fast forward nearly 3 years and it was time to qualify again. This time I shot and qualified as a Rifle Expert, and quite timely since I needed the score to put me above the line for the cutting score for Sergeant.

To this day I continue to enjoy shooting and have been able to maintain my expert shooting. On a fairly recent hog hunting trip a group of hogs were running by at full speed. I put my scope on my first target and fired, I saw it drop as I was cycling the bolt and acquiring my next target. Target acquired, I fired the next shot and saw it drop, too. Total time to take out two rapidly moving targets…1 second! My hunting buddies commented that they were never going to f*** with me again!

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 a Meritorious Mast for work I had done with organizing and identifying all the manuals which made up the entirety of the documentation for the system I worked on, the  AN/TYQ-23 (TAOC). For those who have seen the library of manuals for this system, you’ll understand what an undertaking this was. It was a bookcase that was 5 rows high on a wall that was at least 12 feet long. For those in my unit who used the manuals, my efforts were greatly appreciated. I was honored to have been recognized.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
My SDI, SSgt Ahnen. He was firm but fair. Had a fatherly and grand-fatherly quality to him that cut down on the stress levels of boot camp at just the right times and in the right amounts. He was able to keep you right on the edge.

I try to model my actions with my direct reports after his. I have high expectations for them, but none higher than those I have for myself. I spend the time to impart knowledge on why we are taking particular action, and how things are done in order to achieve the maximum operational efficiency. I want them to take over my job some day (so I can move on to my boss’ job!).

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.

The list is long and distinguished. Here are the ones I can recall:

Jim Van Dam – Cherry Point – in touch ever since the I got out
Carl Weber – spent every day of our enlistments together, both from Ohio
Alan Mauer – 29 Palms & Cherry Point – recently re-connected,
and planning to see at a reunion in 2017
Wayne (Stanley) Newman – Cherry Point – passed away in 2016
Sammy Helton – Cherry Point – recently re-connected
Dawn Carter – Cherry Point – recently re-connected
Warren Gilsdorf – Cherry Point – recently re-connected
Cornell Russell – Cherry Point – recently re-connected
Guy (Fish, Opie) Fisher – Cherry Point – in touch over the years
Don (Gunny) Webster – 29 Palms – instructor in TAOC schools – recently re-connected
Jim Mysliwiec – Cherry Point – recently re-connected
Kim Crawford – 29 Palms – re-connected years ago
Lowell (Lou, Swanny) Swanson – Cherry Point – lost contact
Mike (Stick) Rushkowski – Cherry Point – lost contact
Mike (Ski) Krawczyk – Cherry Point – lost contact
Dave (Nick) Nichols – Cherry Point – re-connected years ago
Myron (Gunny) Burrows – Cherry Point – lost contact

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?

In boot camp our light A DI had the darnedest time saying “Shoe Trees” as he was demonstrating how to spit polish our dress shoes. He kept saying, “True She’s”. As you can imagine, we tried our best to not laugh, but after the 3rd or 4th time we all let loose, especially when he finally gave up and said, “these damned things here”.

Our gift for the outburst, some time in the Rose Garden! Well worth it.

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 stayed working in the electronics field for quite a while as a field service engineer. I started out working on main frame computer peripheral devices, then moved into the bio-medical field working on equipment that was used for the Human Genome project.

I followed that up with moving into the male urological field, specifically working on equipment to treat enlarged prostates. Eventually my career took me into Program Management, again, in the bio-medical field followed by working for a major hard drive manufacturer. From there I wound along the path until I worked my way up to Chief Operating Officer of our company.

Now I am working on starting my practice for CEO peer-to-peer advisory boards, enabling CEOs to come together and work on issues they are facing, but with the input and advice of other CEOs who may have had similar issues in their careers.

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

I belong to the American Legion. I’ve been a member for many years now, but still have not committed to a single post.

I’ve attended a few Marine Corps League meetings, but have not decided if they are for me.

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

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. What more is there to say? These 3 words and the discipline that boot camp instills in every Marine are all that are needed to be a success. I carry a challenge coin in my pocket every day, which contains these words, to remind me that everythingis possible.

Honor, Courage, Commitment. These are another 3 very powerful words. All put together, it seems that 6 words are an easy way to live your life and make your way through your career. However, it takes a daily reflection on what these words mean, along with a renewed dedication to upholding the true meaning of each word individually and together in order to really do them justice.

Every day I start my day thinking of how far my career has advanced, and know that it is a direct result of my time in the Marine Corps. I was formed and molded by three very powerful individuals, who had help from many of their colleagues. I do my best every day as a tribute to their efforts.

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

First, I want to say thank you for your loyalty, dedication, and service. You are carrying on a fine tradition of protecting the freedoms upon which this country was founded.

Second, I always make the time to thank all service members personally when I see them, and I see manyin my travels. I spend a little extra time with my Marine brothers. I don’t think they expect it, but I know they appreciate it.

I also make it a point to attend a Memorial Day ceremony every year. I have met and enjoyed the conversations of many veterans as we celebrate those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Their stories are priceless, but I fear we are losing the opportunity to capture them with each passing year and the losses of these men and women.

As for advice, my advice is to remain proud of what you do. No other service has the bond or brotherhood we have, and there is a reason for it. We are Marines. Once a Marine, Always a Marine!

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

I have been able to connect with many of my lost brothers, folks I thought I would never be able to find again. It has also given me the opportunity to expand my brotherhood and meet new Marine buddies. I find that I participate more and more every day on the forums. There are a lot of interesting Marines, with plenty to say.

I also like the way we can share our memories and the history of our Marine Corps through the various vehicles made available by the site. Reading the Reflections of others, especially those from eras that predate mine, gives more flavor to the history of the Marines. Thanks!

21
Dec

MSgt Barry W Parker U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) (1977-2008)

Read the service reflections of US Marine:

profile1MSgt Barry W Parker

U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

(1977-2008)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/bio/Barry.Parker

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

I’m one of seven Children and my parents believed it was a good idea to have each of us tested, in our pre-teen years, to find our path in life based on our interests. This was back in the early 70’s and to my knowledge, testing your children to see what job in life best suited them, was never heard of. My parent were way ahead of their time in a lot of aspects and have aways been a great influence in our lives. The results of my tests came back and stated, I would be highly succeed in the military. With that, I picked the Marine Corps of course, because I believed then and still do today that we are the finest fight force ever. I’d gone to College for a bit before I joined the Corps and got an AA on my own dime. Then a friend, who I worked with at the time, told me he was going in the Corps and asked if I’d like to go in with him on the Buddy Program. It seemed as good time as any, so I informed my parent that it I was joining the Corps. They of course were very happy and supportive of my decision. About a week later I was on a Plane to MCRD San Diego.

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 started out in RECON in 1978 in Okinawa Japan, which was awesome. The NCO’s and Officers I served with as a young Marine, I believe, were the basis of my success. They gave me a good foundation to work on, so I spent the first couple of years jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, scuba diving, swimming out of subs, shooting and blowing stuff up. It was great training. The picture is of our platoon in 1978. Ona Point, Okinawa Japan. Later in my career, (SGT) I decided to re-up because of an opportunity to join Marine Corps Aviation. So I went from Hopping and Popping, Snooping and Pooping, Looting and Shoot to Swinging with the Wing. I was sent to ADJ school in Millington TN for my new A school, then got orders to New River, NC and worked as a T-58GE-16 (CH-46E) Engine Mechanic. Back then it was H&MS-26 (Headquarter and Maintenance Squadron) which later became MAL-26 (Marine Aviation and Logistical Squadron) which is Intermediate level Maintenance. From there I went to the Organizational Level Squadrons, as a Senior Sgt, and the real fun began.

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

Beirut 4 times with HMM-261 Raging Bulls. We were there so many times we thought about renaming ourselves “The Beirut Bulls”, Then 1st Gulf War, then Operation Restore Hope Somalia, Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom. Mostly sitting off the Coast of one Country or another waiting for the word to go in and pick up or drop off the Marine Landing/Assault Element. “We’re have fun now bro’s!” Going 120 Knotts, tree top high with 50 Cals out each side of the Aircraft, ready to rock! Hitting the LZ hard and fast. We also did a lot of aid work in poor 3rd world countries that needed basic necessities like food, water and medical supplies. I remember flying lots of hours over the years providing medical support and care workers into Impoverished country.

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

East Coast, HMM-261, Raging Bulls was my first Squadron where I got my Aircrew Training. Deployed to Beirut several time and did a lot of Mediterranean cruises. The crew pictured below were all senior NCO’s and Staff NCO’s. Best and Tightest crew I’ve ever served with. Over the years I’ve spent sometime looking for these Marines pictured and catching up on how there lives turned out. Marriage, Kids, Jobs and such. I found most of them on Together We Served or Facebook. Most of them, I’m happy to say, have had great and happy lives. Whenever I tracked down one of the crew that had been missing, I reach out to the others and let them know how they are doing and how to look them up. It’s been great. After several Med. Cruises, I was sent to the West Coast, to HMM-268, Red Dragons. Great team of Marines there as well. Deployed to the First Gulf War and then the ongoing peace keeping forces in Somalia, back to Kuwait on the 5 year Anniversary.

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

Surviving some pretty hairy situations. Mostly support the ground element ashore with P.M.C. (Packs, Mail and Cargo) and Medivac missions. While doing so, getting shot at from below. Lost some great Bro’s but felt proud as hell to have serve with them. Always in my thoughts and prayers.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR OTHER SIGNIFICANT AWARDS, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

3 Combat Action and 3 Air Medals from Beirut. 1st Gulf War, Operation Restore Hope/Battle of Mogadishu and Iraqi Freedom. Meritorious Service Medal for the Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1. All in all it was a great ride and great memories. “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” I was selected to server as the Quality Assurance Chief at Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1. Pictured is myself and the Flight Crew, supporting the President on one of his trips.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Scuba Dive Badge: Naval Dive School back in the 70’s was one of the toughest I’ve been through. Army Airborne School, known as Jump School was a piece of cake. I got tired of jumping out of perfectly good Aircraft, had a wife and baby on the way so I joined the Air Wing. Can’t say it was any safer but I believed and was correct in thinking, that this move would give me some great opportunities when I retired. So I joined the Air Wing, went to Aircrew school and got my second set of Gold Wings (Aircrew Wings).

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

First I’d say it was my NCO’s, Staff NCO’s and Officers, when I was a young Marine in Okinawa. They gave me a good base of knowledge to start with. You have to remember it was Post Vietnam then and a lot of the Senior Staff NCO’s were combat vets of which you could learn a lot from. Later on in my Career I had the pleasure of meeting and working with General Al Gray, Twenty-ninth Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major Harold G. Overstreet,12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Other than that, I could spend all day telling you of all the great people I met, worked with and who influenced me to be the best Jar Head I could be. Sergeant Major Overstreet is a big supporter of our annual Rolling Thunder ride to DC in support of our POW/MIA’s. Sergeant Major Overstreet would ride his Motorcycle from Texas, some 18 hundred miles to support and ride with us to the Wall. The Picture is of me shaking hands with the SgtMaj. at the Pentagon parking lot waiting to roll out 750 thousand motorcycles into downtown DC.

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?

The Navy Shellback Initiation and Certificate. It was some silly stuff but a lot of fun to go threw and help pass the time and built moral. Flying with the Presidential Clinton’s Staff, the Secret Service and the Press that covered his movement was something else. Met some awesome people and have some great stories to tell. Not sure if I can tell them all here because they maybe classified 🙂

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?

After I retired and I then got a job supporting the Army PEO Soldier at Fort Belvoir. I did that for several years, supporting their Weapons Systems programs. Then an opportunity opened up, of which I’m now back with the Marine Corps at Marine Corps Base Quantico G-4. Back with my Bro’s! I’m working for the G-4 Operations and Logistics Branch now. I retired in this area and think it is the best place, for a veteran, to get a job or maintain a job. I also can help out our troops and our Vets in the area.

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

NRA Life Member, Pop a Smoke Association, Force Recon Association, Marine Corps League life member at Mickey Finns detachment Veteran of Foreign War life member and Band of Brothers Motorcycle Riding Club. The picture is of the Band of Brothers Motorcycle Riding Club on our annual Toys 4 Toys run. We do this every year along with Rolling Thunder, IWO Jima Wreath laying ceremony, Walter Reed wounded veteran, Children’s Hospital fund raiser and poker runs supporting our Wounded Warriors.

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

Always Faithful to my family: The importance of my family and family values was taught to me by my Parents. Married over 60 years, my parents were a great role model for me growing up and it was reinforced in the Marine Corps values. Keep the faith with my Marine Corps Brothers and Sisters: This was always stressed to me as a young Marine and I always passed it on to the younger Marines I taught and served with. The Mission comes first: This was always stressed to me in my younger days but I always believed if you didn’t take care of your Marine and train them properly the Mission would not succeed. God, Country, Corps. and helping out your Veteran and Wounded Warriors is also a must and something I taught and believe in.

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

Take advise from your senior enlisted. Keep on training. Keep the Faith. Know thyself and seek improvement. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The only dumb question is the one not asked. Call your Mom and Pop once in a while, for goodness sake, you don’t know how long you might have left with them. Semper Fi, Snoot out!!

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

Long story, short. I came out of a 3 month coma from a motorcycle accident. Had some memory loss of my past. So my Doc. says, try reaching out to people who might remember you and ask them about your past to jog your memory. I signed up on Together We Served, dug through all my photo albums, reached out to my family and friends, to ask about things I’ve done, places I’ve been. When I joined Together We Served I got all kinds of hits and calls from Marines I knew from my past. I used T.W.S. to rebuild the memory of my past experiences and people I knew. What a trip. “I did what!” 🙂 It’s been great therapy.

11
Nov

Together We Served Launches “Save Our Stories” Campaign To Preserve Legacies of Military Veterans

This Veterans Day, Military Heritage Website Embarks on Special Mission to Save Our Veterans’ Stories

screenThis Veterans Day, Together We Served (TWS) – the leading online military heritage organization, with over 1.6 million U.S. military veteran service profiles, is sending a heartfelt S.O.S. to all family members of living military veterans. Together We Served’s “Save Our Veterans’ Stories” initiative is an unprecedented national campaign inviting family members to gather their veteran’s service history, memories, photographs, and memorabilia and preserve these for posterity on TogetherWeServed.org.

Each day, more than two thousand WWII, Korean War, Cold War and Vietnam War era veterans pass away, often taking their stories with them. Together We Served is in a race against time to help capture the service history and memories of these aging former servicemen and women before it is too late.

With the help of a fully illustrated guide, creating a veteran’s military service page on TogetherWeServed.org has been designed to be an easy and rewarding experience. Once completed, each veteran’s service page contains his or her photo in uniform, entire service history, plus all medals, badges, insignia and sosphotographs presented in a unique, “shadow box” format which can be printed, framed, and shared via a personal web-link. Also included, is a self-interview called “Service Reflections” which helps veterans recall the people and events that shaped their lives forever.

“The legacy of the men and women who served our country are some of our most precious national resources,” said Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran, HM2 Donald Ballard, USN.  “Together We Served is providing a great service to our veterans, their families, and our nation by providing a convenient place to capture these stories. This is living history that must be preserved.”

“The stories that we’ve collected never cease to amaze me,” said TWS’s Chief Administrator and Navy veteran, Diane Short. “I’ve helped several veterans complete their military service page and some of the photos and memories we have saved are truly heartwarming.”

Together We Served also provides a unique opportunity for family members to bond with their veteran on a different, more emotional basis. “My children often asked me about my time in the service, and I never quite knew where to start,” said Vietnam Veteran and twice Silver Star recipient, LtCol Mike Christy, USA Ret. “My military service page on Together We Served not only made it easy for me to record what I did in the military, but it also gave me peace of mind knowing that my story will be read by my grandchildren and future generations long after I’m gone. I was a combat veteran — being able to open up in this way after so many years of bottling up memories has been a truly cathartic experience.”

To assist family members and veterans with any questions, Together We Served operates an online help desk on its website, manned entirely by disabled veterans, that is available seven days a week.

If you have a military veteran in your life, please go to TogetherWeServed.org today and join this important national campaign to Save Our Veterans’ Stories.

For further information contact:

Diane Short
Email: admin@togetherweserved.com
Phone: 888-398-3262

ABOUT TOGETHER WE SERVED

Run by veterans for veterans, Together We Served (TWS) is the largest exclusively military resource for U.S. military veterans to reconnect with those they served with and create a lasting legacy of their military service. Launched in 2003 as a military heritage website for connecting U.S. Marines, Together We Served has expanded to five websites, serving veterans of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard. Together We Served is free to join, and aims to capture the service stories of more than 5 million veterans over the next five years. www.togetherweserved.org

Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fXlpfQBUoI

2
Nov

Sgt Jerry D Dennis U.S. Air Force (1970-1974)

Read the service history of U.S. Air Force Airman:

profileSgt Jerry D Dennis

U.S. Air Force

(Served 1970-1974)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/85070

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

While a senior in high school, I applied for appointment to Senator Fulbright, a Congressman from Arkansas, for appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. I did well with the academic portion, but wasn’t up to par physically. My parents and I visited the Air Force Recruiter in PineBluff, Arkansas where I signed up for the 90 Day Delayed Enlistment Program.

In early childhood I “played” the role of Soldier. I really didn’t know much about the Air Force. That exposure was brief. I played with small plastic Army men from a very early age and was hooked on the military. As youngsters, my brothers and I would “patrol” the ravines of New Mexico and chase each other behind the trees. Dad insured that I watch movies about the military, particularly ‘Pork Chop Hill’ and ‘The Longest Day.’ He also drilled into me the necessity of being in the military “to build character.”

However, because of the family’s continuously moving from place to place, there was little opportunity to join a high school Junior ROTC program. To me, the military in the movies was exciting but not reality and I had no scope of that reality. Dad even emphasized the great traits of General Douglas MacArthur when we lived in Little Rock, AR, and called him “the Greatest Soldier.”

In truth, there were no monies available to go to college. That left one opportunity: the military, particularly the Air Force. Dad frowned on the Army, even though he was once part of the Arkansas National Guard, and feared I might get caught up in combat in Vietnam. I never saw the number assignment by Selective Service. I’m glad I enlisted. It is a legacy I will never forget.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

On Nov 19, 1970, I entered Air Force Basic Training and was assigned to Flight 1355, 3727th Training Squadron, under the instruction of SSgt Houston, TSgt Medina, and TSgt Rhoades. As the night sky darkened, I became just one more recruit in a succession of recruits. I began to giggle under my breath until I hear the deep baritone voice of a tall black man who set me back in order. My nerves suddenly frayed, but I kept in step. SSgt Houston became a great inspiration to me throughout my training, and I enjoyed the training.

Midway through Basic, I volunteered for the Linguist Program, not knowing what it held. I made my own decisions.

I graduated from Basic Training on Jan 1, 1971 and entered ‘Casual’ until orders were cut for Language School. I finally received my orders for training as a Vietnamese (Hanoi Dialect) at DLISW, in El Paso, Texas and began in Feb 1971. With my training completed in November 1971, I was sent to Goodfellow AFB Texas to attend Specialized Training for six months. Additionally, I received training in Cabin Depression in Mineral Wells, Water Survival in Florida where I discovered the Air Force had its own Navy, and then two weeks at Survival Training in Washington State. My next orders were for OLBB, 6948th SS, at Fort Mead, MD, beginning May 1, 1972 as a Cryptologist/Transcriber.

In late October, early November, I received word that there were two places I could be assigned: Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base (NKP), Thailand for 18 months as a Ground Operator at the Det 3, 6994th SS flying or Danang AB, Republic of Vietnam. I chose Det 2, 6994th SS. I took 30 days leave, and arrived in Vietnam on Dec 12, 1972 to begin my training as an airborne radio operator. The unit closed Feb 28, 72. I was reassigned to Det 3, 6994th at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand.

In August 1972, I learned my father-in-law was in critical condition and was released from Det 3, 6994th, and sent back to the States on Emergency Leave. Not too long after I arrived my father-in-law died. I was in “assignment limbo” for over 30 days. I finally received orders to return to OLEB, 6948th at Fort Mead. I put in for another language, and my last assignment was DLI West Coast with Arabic Language Training. That was my last assignment. I requested a “hardship discharge” due to my mother-in-law’s health.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

I participated in Combat Operations as a Vietnamese Linguist flying combat sorties from December 1972 through February 1973 aboard unarmed WWII vintage EC-47 aircraft as a member of Detachment 2 and 3, 6994th Security Squadron. Our motto was ‘Unarmed, Alone, and Unafraid.’ In Vietnam, we operated out of Danang AFB (commonly called “Rocket City”) and in Thailand at Ubon Royal Thai AFB.

Our mission was to fly above and all over Southeast Asia locating and identifying the enemy using airborne radio direction finding (ARDF) techniques and collecting intelligence information in support of ground combat commanders. As a result of our work, many attacks on friendly forces were mitigated and it has been reported that up to 95% of the B-52 attacks in Vietnam were based in part on information collected by our squadron.

While in DaNang I experienced a “”Friendly fire” experience on Jan 6, 1973. I awoke to the sound of 500 pounders exploding just across the street in the hangers situated in “Gunfighter.” I rolled out quickly from my bunk thinking it was the NVA Rocket Battalion giving us “what-for.” I found out later a Marine colonel and his F-4 squadron dropped his remaining ordnance with heavy cloud cover and did not even realize he was bombing the Air Base and destroying the giant petroleum drums and many of the OV-2’s and OV-10’s aircraft which were in hangers. As I understand it, the Marine colonel never flew again and the only sound he heard was a pencil sharpener and typewriter to remind him of his faux pas. To date, I have found no comments regarding this episode, but I remember it vividly.

I also experienced other several close calls while in Vietnam. One was when a 122mm Soviet made rocket struck right behind the hanger where I was preparing my radio. I heard the explosion, but did not realize it was so close. I turned around to let my AMS know I was ready and noticed all but the pilot, copilot, and navigator were gone. I ran out the back of the aircraft taking my headsets with me and almost gave myself whiplash. I jumped onto the tarmac and took cover.

On the day the Cease Fire was to be signed, I was in the Operations Quonset Hut. We intercepted a North Vietnamese Message that indicated there would be a rocket attack at midnight, and notified our HQ in Saigon. Those in Saigon blew us off. At midnight, one of our aircraft on the tarmac was hit by two or three 122mm Rockets and completely destroyed. When time came for the signing of Peace Accord in Paris, the NVA Rocket Battalion fired all of their rockets which passed over us and hit Monkey Mountain. After it was all over, it was surreal. There was a stunning silence in the air…no more AC-47, AC-123, or AC-130 firing from the around the perimeter, no Vietnamese Artillery Rounds being fired. All was quiet. The sun was coming up on the horizon, the sky was bright blue, and only a few clouds filtered by.

In February 1972 we began breaking down the unit, and afterwards, celebrated at a Korean Restaurant nearby Gunfighter.

In the early hours of Feb 28, 1972, Sgt. Sullivan, an SP, and I settled down on the duffle bags prepared for loading later that day. We sat there in the darkness and could see that the fighting was not over: artillery fire, possibly armor units, and a light show to outdo all light shows were occurring. We were out of it, but the North Vietnamese were just settling in against South Vietnamese units.

As we prepared to say goodbye to Det 2, 6994th Security Squadron, we noticed that the United Nations troops had arrived. As we made our way to the KC-130, I notice a well-dressed North Vietnamese Officer, well-polished, with a scowl on his face, and with him was a Viet Cong soldier observing. As we boarded, I tried to put it all behind me as we left a “war zone” and enter “the real world” Air Force.

When I arrived in Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base it was a whole new world, and with it, more flight time over combat areas in Southeast Asia.

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

The duty station at the OLBB, 6948th Security Squadron, located inside the National Security Agency stands out. The work challenged me and those above me, both military and civilian, provided me an opportunity to work independently. I thank those people who schooled me, showed confidence in me, and considered me more than just a low ranking individual in the Air Force chain of command.

In one way, I wished I could have stayed and worked there as a civilian.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

My time in Vietnam and Thailand as an Airborne Voice Intercept Operator stands out the most. I had the privilege of flying 46 combat sorties with the 6994th Security Squadron and contribute to the most highly decorated squadron in the history of the current Air Force Intelligence and Surveillance Agency and all of its predecessor organizations.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

I received no individual medals or awards received for Valor, but I did receive a “V” for Valor on my Outstanding Air Force Unit Citation for my participation with the 6994th Security Squadron while in Vietnam.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Among the medals, awards and qualification badges, the one most meaningful is the award for the Permanent Crew Member Badge I received for flying combat sorties while serving with Det 2, 6994th Security Service.

This award was most memorable because it was “permanent award” much like the “combat infantry badge” which was earned by Army Infantry troops in Vietnam.

I consider it to be higher than even the single Air Medal I received.

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

This is a difficult question to answer. However, I believe it would be my TI, SSgt Houston who served as one of my Training Instructors in Basic Training because of his patience, humor, and reflection of the honor. Without him, I might not have made it through Basic Training. He proved a great mentor as well as Training Instructor, and had great patience even while in Basic Training.

I recall how proud I was seeing him as a Master Sergeant in an Air Force Now Video while I was at DaNang Vietnam. Two years had passed, and the last time I saw him in person, he was a Staff Sgt. I’ve tried to locate him, but I don’t even know his first name. He was a great inspiration.

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?

That particular incident would have to be in Basic Training in November 1970, when I became a member of Flight 1355 under the guidance of SSgt Houston and TSgt Medina.

During the first week, Medina called the flight together and asked for “volunteers for a very special assignment.” I raised my hand, as did others. Come to find out it was to perform latrine duty: Cleaning showers, mopping floors, scouring commodes and sinks. I still laugh at how naive I was back then.

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?

The highlight of my profession outside military service involved my 25 years of commitment to serving veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs working at VA Hospitals.

I served at Overton Brooks VAMC, Houston VAMC, Amarillo VAMC, the Texarkana VA Outpatient Clinic, and the Albuquerque VAMC. It was a wonderful experience to give back to those who gave so much to their country while serving in the U.S. Military. I felt a great affinity for those in every branch, and even two gristle Marine veterans who served at Iwo Jim counted me as one of their own, and often asked if I was at Iwo. That was a great honor for me and I will never forget them.

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

Discipline, commitment, honor, sacrifice, and fellowship from my time in the military have followed me even to where I’m at now. Forty years have elapsed since I first went into the military. I’m glad I did. That camaraderie continues every time I shake the hand of other military service men that have come before me in appreciation of their service.

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

Build on the examples of those who served before you. Get to know those unknown heroes seen every day. Learn about the stories they would like to share. Be guided by your leaders and be patient. Even if you don’t meet your goals for rank or assignment, be thankful and help others achieve their goals. I have learned from the old expression, “what goes around, comes around”. Others taught me.

It is my honor to encourage those who are still in the battle to protect America.

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

Togetherweserved.com has helped me expand my horizon. One of my greatest interest is to give recognition to those who will not be recognized in today’s world without the assistance of others, to be aware, that despite the deactivation of my units, to keep them aware that life is like Forrest Gump says “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Forrest Gump became a hero even if his only desire was to get Bubba out of harm’s way and took everyone back until he found him.

19
Oct

SP 4 Tom Hirst U.S. Army (1969-1971)

Read the service reflections of U.S. Army Soldier:

profile3SP 4 Tom Hirst

U.S. Army

(1969-1971)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Tom.Hirst

(Veterans, if you would like to share your story and leave a lasting legacy of your time in the service, join us at  http://togetherweserved.com

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

After graduating from high school in 1967, I did what my parents wanted me to do: Stay in school. So I went on to college for one year and maintained my II-S student deferment. I left college and took a job at the local Dodge dealership in Washington D.C.  My life was work and fast cars, a girlfriend and spending most every weekend at the local drag strips. Life was good! The realities of the “my world” were measured in a quarter mile at a time. Not that I wasn’t aware of the escalation of the Vietnam War. I watched footage of it on the evening news but I didn’t really pay too much attention. It never occurred to me that I might be in those news reels myself someday. I guess I was a little naive about what was happening in the “real world” and what losing my student deferment would really mean.

I got my first reality check in December 1968, when I received word that one of my high school friends had been killed in Vietnam. Nolan Byrd had been “In-Country” for a short time when he was killed in a fire fight. Nolan became a “Medic, which was unusually for a couple of reasons. At my high school, everyone was trained to be a Medic. We even had a pseudo military organization called the Medical Cadet Corps. Also, because of our religious beliefs and family upbringing, we considered ourselves “Consciences Objectors” (COs). All us guys knew we might eventually be called upon to fulfill our military obligation but because we were assigned a draft rating of IA-O, we knew it would be in a noncombatant position.

Returning home from work during the first week of August 1969, I found a letter in my mailbox from the Selective Service System. Printed at the top of the letter were the words ‘ORDER TO REPORT FOR INDUCTION.’ The body of the letter began with the word “Greetings…” As it turned out, this was the last draft call before the lottery system took effect. My induction was postponed until October 1, 1969 because of my job, but they got me after all. If I had been fortunate enough to skate by for two more months, I would not have been drafted. My lottery number was 322.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

I don’t know think “career path” applies to me as I was a two-year draftee and a conscientious objector with limited possibilities. As it turns out and what I had already figured, the only MOS for me was Medic 91A10 . I was sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to attend a 10-week Combat Medic Course.

One night in early December 1969, a sergeant with a clip board greeted us outside the mess hall one evening and said, “Listen Up! If your last name falls between the letter “A” through “M”, you are going to Vietnam!” My “career path” just got a little clearer. Of the 150-200 medics in training at Ft. Sam. half of us went to ‘Nam and the others went to Germany.

As the plane descended into Bien Hoa AFB in the early morning hours of March 5, 1970, I wondered where I was going to end up. As we taxied to the terminal, the stewardess’ attitude changed from “Fly the friendly skies” to “In the case of a rocket attack……” When we boarded a bus taking me to my next adventure, I was starting to realize that things could get a little hairy. I asked the soldier next to me, who was on his second tour, if it was this hot all the time and what the metal screen was for over the bus windows was for? He looked at me and said, “Well, FNG, this here heat is cool ’cause it still early. The ass kicking heat begins a little before noon and lasts until nightfall. Now that mesh there, it’s to keep grenades from being thrown into the bus!” I rode silently for the rest of the bus ride.

I was dropped off at the First Team Academy which I found out was the “Orientation Center” for the First Cavalry Division. Up until this time, I didn’t actually know where I had been assigned or where I was going. After a few days there, I watched as some of my fellow Medics were sent to their respective duty stations. I figured that they must be saving a really good assignment for me.

A couple of days later I got my assignment and took my first helicopter ride to a place called “Song Be” where I was to report to the 12th Cavalry Regiment’s Battalion Aid Station. It was hot when we took off but as we climbed higher, cool air blew through the open side doors. It was a refreshing surprise. Below the countryside was becoming more rural, some farms but mostly rice paddies and green jungle as far as the eye could see. But mostly my attention was on the two gunners on each side of the helicopter. Both looked to be seasoned warriors ready to immediately swing their M60 machine guns into action. That’s when the realization hit me: I was heading into a real war where people are trying to kill each other.

Arriving at the Aid Station, I spent a few days handing out pills at Sick Call. This wouldn’t be too bad. It was more like a dispensary with no badly wounded to take care or bed pans to empty. A week went by and finally I was told that I was going to replace one of the field medics in the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. More reality set in when they offered me a .45 caliber pistol and said, “You might need this!” and that I would probably spend the next 6 months with an infantry company in “the bush.” I thought about the impending journey and opted for an M-16, rationalizing it would be a much better “patient protector” than a .45 caliber pistol.

Landing Zone (LZ) Snuffy was at the end of my next chopper ride. Wasn’t much there other than mud, sandbags, bunkers and 105mm artillery pieces. I was told that “log day” (resupply) was the next day and it was time for me to get ready to meet Charlie Company’s third platoon already in the field. There seemed to be a lot of excitement that day since the company had been in “contact” that morning and there was one KIA and one WIA. When the chopper landed, I jumped off as a “body bag” was loaded on. One hell of a way to spend Easter Sunday!

For the next 7.5 months, my career path would be humping the jungles and hard packed, slick trails with 75 pounds on my back.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

When I flew out to join Charlie Company for the first time, I’d been told we may be landing in a “hot LZ,” meaning there had been a firefight in the area earlier. The LZ itself was small, just big enough for one helicopter and surrounded with thick jungle on all sides. When it set down, I jumped off and Ken Garski, the soldier that had been killed, was placed inside and the helicopter took off.

That evening as we set up our NDP (night defensive position), I found out what an “ARC Light” felt like when 500 pound bombs dropped by B52s thousands of feet overhead exploded a few clicks (kilometers) from our position, shaking the earth like a 6-point earthquake.

For the next few weeks Charlie Company conducted “search and destroy” missions along the Cambodia border. I spent most of my time treating minor injuries and jungle rot as well as dispenses anti-malaria pills. In fact, malaria was so bad, the company had to report to battalion every morning that all men had been seen taking their pills. I also had my first Medevac when Greg Egan got a bad reaction to a bee sting.

After I had been with 3rd platoon for about a month, we were called back to Fire Support Base (FSB) Buttons near the village of Song Be for a “secret mission.” We were issued a lot of replacements and new equipment, some we normally didn’t carry such as handheld M-72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapons) and 90mm Recoilless Rifles. On the minds of all of us was, where are we going? We found out that night.

The next day, May 5, 1970, we made a combat assault into Cambodia where we spent the better part of the next two months before returning to Vietnam June 29, 1970. It didn’t take too long to find the enemy. We had many encounters with Vietcong and North Vietnamese Regulars during this operation. [See VIETNAM MAGAZINE, AUG 2010 issue]

One night, as we sat in our NDP, we saw flashlights and the sound of a small group speaking Vietnamese coming toward us. What they didn’t know is we had put out a number of automatic ambushes (AA) along the trails leading into our NDP. Automatic ambushes were claymores daisy chained together by electricity that would go off when a trip wire was engaged. Anyone caught in the killing zone would be a goner. We heard one explosion go off. A few minutes later, another went off. We heard moaning for a few hours and then a single gunshot. In the morning we found 9 NVA bodies, one who had killed himself with his rifle by his pulling the trigger with his toe. We also found one wounded who had survived the blast. He was put on a helicopter but we heard later he too had died.

We found many bunker complexes of significant size during our patrols. As odd as it may seem, while the NVA higher command knew we had invaded their sanctuary , many field units didn’t know we were in the area. On one patrol we walked right up on soldiers playing cards after dinner. The platoon sniper started the firefight by doing his job and the rest of us chimed in to help. We called air support and the Cobras showed up and did their work for the rest of the day. The next day we returned to recon the area. It was a huge complex and we were only platoon size. There was a brief firefight before the few enemy withdrew. We were lucky that the rest of the NVA were not at home that day.

For a month and a half, we had suffered a few minor wounds but no deaths while eliminating dozens enemy. But our luck changed on June 14th.

While following a very well-used trail with signs of recent movement, we ran into the proverbial “hornet’s nest.” First Platoon was on point and my 3rd Platoon was on drag. Second platoon was in the middle. Moving slowly and looking in all directions, the point element spotted NVA in the processes of setting up a hasty ambush. They signaled their sighting and then let loose with their M-16’s on full automatic. The enemy fired back with everything they had and because they were in bunkers and semi-set up, they had the advantage. The first platoon and my platoons moved against the bunkers under heavy fire. Second platoon became the center of our hastily drawn perimeter. Within a few minutes, we suffered our first casualty while in Cambodia. Sgt. Mickey Wright was killed and Tom “TJ” Johnson was badly wounded. Making things worse we were in an area that hampered our radio contact with any support elements. Eventually with the heroics of one of the forward observers, Spec. 4 Tom Thon, who held the radio up over his head while hiding behind a tree, we were able to get air and fire support. We found numerous blood trails and the next day found 10 freshly dug graves.

The next morning we evacuate Mickey’s body and stayed in the same LZ for a resupply. As food and ammunition was coming in, we heard a loud explosion coming from the bunker complex were we had the firefight the day before. We figured it was the automatic ambushes our company commander, Capt. Michael Christy, wanted left in place until after we were resupplied. When we checked it out, we found three dead enemy; one was carrying an RPG with many rounds and other two carrying AK-47s with hundreds of rounds ammunition. They ‘d plan to hurt us bad but never got the chance.

Our tour in Cambodia turned out to be pretty devastating for the enemy. We found many caches with tons of rice, 55 gallon drums of gasoline that were destroyed and a large motor pool with 25 trucks. Drawing from my old “drag racing” days and tinkering with cars in general, I was able to “hot wire” many of the trucks and jeeps that we found. Using the captured trucks, we loaded up all of the usable supplies that we found in that “motor pool cache.” Tires, tools, bicycles, spare parts and even a diesel powered arc welder were “convoyed” back to LZ Evans with the 1/9th Pink Teams flying “cover” for us and telling us which way to go. At LZ Evans the equipment was airlifted back to the rear area in Bien Hoa. Chinooks with deuce and half’s underneath them made for a pretty strange picture! The unserviceable trucks we destroyed. We keep two trucks to carry our heavy packs marking Charlie Company a kind of a quasi-mechanized unit. It only lasted a couple of day until we got back into thicker jungle but those two days were like heaven.

On June 28th we were told that we had to be back in Vietnam by noon on the 29th, the next day. Although Nixon’s “incursion” was to end June 30, he had ordered us out one day earlier. We had a pretty good distance to travel but in the open fields of Cambodia, the “humping” was easy. Midway between the river we were to cross into Vietnam, a dozen print and television journalists were flown in to accompany us the rest of the way out of Cambodia. It seemed we were the last rifle company to leave Cambodia. With movie cameras and note pads in hand, they interviewed people from their own hometown areas and we got our 15 minutes of fame.

We made it out by the deadline only to be caught up in another unfortunate circumstance later that night. In the early morning hours of June 30, 1970, three mortar rounds from our own fire base smashed into our perimeter. The intent was to fire at suspected enemy positions. Only two of the rounds exploded, but those two rounds killed Denny Dentino and Michael Waters and wounded more than 25 others from our company. Forty decades later we are all still trying to come to grips with that tragic incident.

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

According to my DD Form 214, I spent 13 months and 5 days in ‘Nam which was my only duty station other than basic training and AIT. After my 7 months “in the bush” with Charlie Company’s 3rd platoon, I got a really “cushy job” as the Colonel’s driver at the Division Surgeon’s Office, 15th Medical Battalion at Phouc Vinh.

I was truly a R.E.M.F.! Every day I “broke starch” and wore jungle boots shined by mama-san and every night, I went to sleep in a bed. I also had a 24 hour dispatch on the Colonel’s jeep! After I drove the Colonel to the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) around 6:45 am each day, I was off for the rest of the day unless somebody needed a jeep to go do an inspection or to the PX or just take a ride around Phouc Vinh on a “photo op”. [See my profile photo section for scenes around Phouc Vinh and Song be and many “BUSH” pictures]

One day the Colonel said he wanted to go to Vung Tau and do some in country R&R. He added that he would like to have the jeep down there as well. The Colonel took one of our choppers and flew down while I grabbed one of the other guys from 15th Med and a couple of M-16s along with the .45 caliber “grease gun” that I brought back from Cambodia and drove down to Vung Tau from Phouc Vinh. This was a distance of 150 miles or so. Everybody thought I was NUTS! A single jeep with two people all the way down through Bien Hoa/ Long Binh to Vung Tau and back. No big deal. Maybe that R.E.M.F. mentality of invincibility had actually taken effect.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

Sadly, the things that made the biggest impression on me were the men killed in my company. The things that I saw being a combat medic were pretty horrific. I suppose it can be rationalized that combat deaths are inevitable in war, but the stupid mistakes that kill and wound people, like “friendly fire” is an OXYMORON!

The company was supposed to be airlifted by Chinook for an in-country R&R in Bien Hoa once we arrived at FSB Thor. Unfortunately for us, there were not enough helicopters available that afternoon. This forced us into an NDP outside FSB Thor until the next day. During that night of 29/30 June, our mortar platoon, “E” Company 1/12th, fired mortar rounds at a “suspected enemy” trying to get back across the border into Cambodia. Three rounds fell short of the objective and landed directly on top of Charlie Company’s NDP, killing two and wounding twenty five. This horrible incident is the one memory that stands out the most and it is the one that can never be erased from my memory.

A better memory stems from the recent visit to the Vietnam Memorial where Danny Long, Al Wall, Keith Forry and Mickey Wright’s little sister Anita Rosenberg and her husband joined us in honoring our fallen brothers. “Operation Wall to Wall” was originally spawned one day when I realized that I still had four T-Shirts that were not “claimed” after the reunion in Myrtle Beach. I figured these are the T-Shirts I that would have been worn by Mickey Wright, Denny Dentino, Michael Waters and David Osborne.

Unfortunately these were the four brothers in arms that were killed while I was with Charlie Company. Using the T-Shirts as the back drop in a shadow box worked out well.

Danny Long made DVD’s of photographs that plays a slide show with music. Name plates were donated by the local trophy company and Vietnam magazine donated copies of the August 2010 issue that we put in the back of the shadow box. Each soldier’s medal board from The Wall was also printed out and placed in the shadowbox. It was my first trip to The Wall and it felt pretty good. I tried to visit the Moving Wall back in the 80’s when it came to town, but I couldn’t finish the visit. I got as far as the directory for panel numbers but could not make it down to The Wall itself.

Two more donated T-Shirts made up shadow boxes for Larry Downs and Ken Garski. All total, we left six shadow boxes to honor Charlie Company Brothers. I also left tributes to two high school and college friends who died in Vietnam. Both were medics: Nolan Byrd and Jay T. Diller.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

The other two Medics, “Doc” [Steve] Willey and “Doc” [Larry] Stansberry and me were all awarded the Army Commendation Medal for our actions on June 30, 1970. We had dead and wounded troopers all over the place. It was a pretty hectic/chaotic morning. I guess this medal is the most important to me. I realize that it is below the Bronze Star that I received, but I think it is the most important one in my collection. My Combat Medics Badge ranks right up there as well.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Of the awards I received, my Combat Medics Badge is one of my more prized possessions. It is the single greatest recognition for all combat medics. It tell the world that I served as a combat medic while serving the infantryman “out in the bush.”

The other medal that I was presented was the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for the not so “friendly fire incident” on 30 June 1970. Our head medic, “Doc Johnson” was severely wounded by the mortar rounds that hit us. This left us one medic short to treat all of the wounded and we did the best we could. Captain Christy nominated the three remaining medics, “Doc Willey”, “Doc Stansberry, and me, to honor our efforts that early morning. I think if you ask the other two “Doc’s”, they would have the same response.

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

To say any “ONE” individual had the biggest influence on me would be negating my respect for all of the people that helped me during these days. My first day, 3rd platoon RTO (Radio Operator) Gene Tetzlaff took me under his wing and helped the “FNG” get squared away.

As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized just how lucky I had been being assigned to a very competent bunch of INDIAN FIGHTERS! Capt. Michael Christy led Charlie Company; 1st Lt. Rick Friedrich was my platoon leader in 3rd platoon (photo is Lt. Rick on left and me)and other enlisted NCO’s like “Pappy” and “Oz” kept us all inline.

The simple fact that I AM HERE to report on the days that I spent with Charlie Company is what makes the biggest impact on me!

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?

We lived in miserably hot, humid weather most of the time and because we were out humping the jungle 30-days at a time, we went weeks without bathing. That’s why I spent a lot of time dealing with hygiene problems. And the two most common problems were ringworm and crotch rot, both made worse by a lack of clean clothes.

The subject of ringworm came up at our 40th reunion in Myrtle Beach 2010. Jim Wilson, one of the guys in my platoon came up to me and said, “Doc, I think about you every time my ass itches!” That made me laugh and reminded me of the antifungal medication treatment I used on ringworm that the guys called “liquid fire.” It never seemed to fail that Jim or somebody else would show up for “treatment” just when I was ready to eat my dinner. Thinking about it now, I did take some perverse pleasure in watching them run around the NDP wanting to shout out just how much this stuff burned, but they COULDN’T MAKE ANY NOISE for fear it might be heard by the enemy.

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?

After Nam, I went back to the Chrysler/Plymouth Dealership in Washington D.C. before I got drafted. Things in the “postwar era” were pretty dull considering where I had spent the previous year or so. I worked for a year and then decided to quit working and take advantage of the GI Bill. Seven to eight years later, having exhausted the government dole, I opened my own auto repair business. During this time period, I discovered the marine industry.

Using my mechanical abilities to repair boats seemed like more fun than working on greasy old cars. Besides, people that owned boats were more “appreciative” than people that only owned cars. During this time period, I worked for Zodiac of North America in a support role for the Government Sales Division. In 1980, we developed the “prototype” of the F470 Assault boat which the SEALS and Rangers still use today. You probably have seen the ARMY STRONG commercial where they drive the inflatable boat up into the back of the hovering Chinook and take off….this is the boat that I got to develop and play with. I spent time with the Army Rangers at Eglin AFB, Florida and the Navy Seals at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia and the Forward Air Control at Pope AFB in the middle of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. All these guys are pretty crazy!

After my move to Florida in 1984, I went back to the “civilian” boating business where I still work in today. I have worked with all of the marine manufacturers from Johnson/Evinrude to Volvo. Currently, I am still working in the marine industry with the Cummins/Mercury/Suzuki companies. I run the parts department here at the Cummins Dealership in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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

I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) because I think that this is the best forum for people of our time period. I enjoy their newsletters every month and like reading how other people were affected by their tour of duty.

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

I am convinced the biggest impact the military had on my life was that it “cut the apron strings” and made me survive on my own. It also opened my eyes to all the possibilities that exists for those who spend a couple of years within a disciplined structure where following the rules creates good order. It also makes a person grow in self-esteem, giving them the confidence to take risks in order to achieve great results. Frankly, I think a couple of years of mandatory military/civil service would work wonders for today’s youth. It may also reveal a talent they didn’t know they had.

If nothing else, a couple of years in the military makes a person grow tenfold over most entry-level civilian jobs.

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

For the active duty folks, I advise them to learn their jobs and the job of the person above them. I also recommend that you consider your time in the military as a valuable learning experience on how to get along with others who have nothing or very little in common with yourself. It’s a skill you can use in your community and in your chosen work field. It will also keep you out of trouble.

I also have some advice for those who got out of military service recently or for old guys like me: Take advantage of the GI Bill, especially the college benefits. I did and I am forever grateful. However, there was one huge benefit I ignored for years: The many program offered by the VA. I just didn’t realize or didn’t want to accept how things I experienced in Vietnam affected me emotionally and physically. Not wanting to come to grips with this reality intensified as the years crept up. A few years ago I finally enrolled in the VA and now use it on a regular basis. My advice to you? Don’t wait like I did.

Fortunately for me, I had developed a skill I could return to in the automobile business where I was employed before I was drafted. Hopefully you active duty types and veterans acquired a skill set that can be employed in today’s work place. If not, use the tools at the VA and get some specialized training in a field that interests you. There’s nothing wrong with working with your hands building or repairing something. This ability is fast becoming a “lost art” in America today.

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

Seventeen of my company met at Myrtle Beach for our 40th reunion. I had not seen 16 of them since I left ‘Nam. I even found out one of them from my platoon, Danny Long, live within an hour of my home. I discovered Danny and I had the same email provider which led to our reunion after 38-39 years. (Danny is second row, last person of left. I am just below him in green shirt.)

ATWS also helped us locate many of the other members of Charlie Company that attended the reunion. Danny and I also made a trip to the Vietnam Memorial where we were joined by Al Wall, Keith Forry and the adopted “little sister” of Charlie Company Anita Wright-Rosenberg, sister of Mickey Wright who was KIA in Cambodia.

Hear Tom tell his story in his own words:

29
Aug

The Hunt for “Wolfman 44”

From the TWS Archives
By Loyde W. McIllwain & Jon YimOn Dec, 19, 1972, an OV-10 Bronco observation plane flew through the scattered clouds over South Vietnam’s northern region west of the South China Sea. At the controls was Air Force pilot Capt. Frank Egan. His aerial observe (AO), a Marine officer known by the call sign, “Wolfman 44”, carefully searched for enemy activity in the rain soaked jungle and mountains below.

Suddenly, the twin-engine Bronco was hit by an enemy heat-seeking missile. Damage was extensive. Not wanting to crash in thick jungle, Egan turned his crippled aircraft out to sea in an attempt to ditch it over water. As luck would have it, an Army U-21 Ute conducting electronic battlefield surveillance witnessed the incident and descended towards Egan’s damaged plane. The pilot, Army Capt. Warren Fuller, contacted Egan on the aircraft emergency frequency and was told by Egan that he planned on punching out when he got to 800 feet.
Declaring himself the ‘on-scene commander,’ Fuller established radio contact with everyone that he thought could help. He requested a Navy warship to steam toward the damaged Bronco and contacted a local ground commander in the general area and a pair of jet fighters that had been working earlier with Capt. Egan. Fuller also enlisted the help of a flight of UH-1 Huey helicopters from Da Nang.As Egan’s crippled Bronco approached the coast, both he and Wolfman 44 ejected at about 800 feet, but Fuller saw only one parachute open. “Wolfman 44 contacted me when he hit the ground and told me Frank’s parachute never deployed and that he appeared to be dead,” Fuller said. “I found out later that a D-ring prevented (Egan’s) parachute from deploying.”  Wolfman 44 and Egan’s lifeless body were picked up by a Huey and taken to the Navy warship, where Egan was officially pronounced dead. Photo is of Capt. Francis X. Egan.

A few days later, the Marine aerial observer came over to Fuller’s outfit hoping to meet and thank him for his help, “But I was out on another mission,” recalled Fuller.
That was the last time Capt. Fuller would ever hear from Wolfman 44.For some 30 years since then, Warren Fuller had been personally searching for the man known as “Wolfman 44” but all he had were mere scraps of information: The aviator’s call sign and a tip that he was a Marine attached to the 1st ANGLICO (Artillery-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company). In this age of rapid communications and social networking, he turned to the internet, posting his search on various military website forums for any details on the Marine aerial observer. Photo is of Capt. Warren Fuller.

One of Fuller’s posts caught the attention of members on the US Marines heritage community website, TogetherWeServed.com (Marines TWS). After reading the information posted by Fuller, several members took-on his quest as their personal mission. Within days of the post, there were many leads to the possible identity of Wolfman 44 but none panned-out.

On New Year’s Day 2010, a TogetherWeServed.com administrator received a phone call from former Army Specialist Mark Stovall, a member of the Marines’ sister site, Army TWS. Stovall saidhe had first-hand knowledge of the events of Dec 19, 1972: He was the one who pulled Capt. Frank Egan from his downed aircraft.

Captain Egan didn’t eject, recalls Stoval. “I found him still strapped in his seat. I can’t remember if he (Wolfman 44) was in the bird when I got there or was running like hell with me to get there himself.”

Stovall added that it’s hard for him to recall exactly what happened with all the activity that was going on at the time, as combat adrenaline tends to lend itself to distorted sensory perception.

“I don’t remember much about Wolfman getting to Da Nang with us,” said Stovall.  “But I have to assume Wolfman got there as well and was likely taken to the Gunfighter Compound at Da Nang Air Base because I didn’t see him at (our) compound and it was just across the road.”

As to Wolfman 44’s name, Stovall said it must be in Air Force records of the event, since the Army had nothing in their documents mentioning any names of those flying with Egan that day. “It says the pilot died from ‘injuries incurred during ejection,” Stoval recounts. “That was wrong, of course, because I found him still strapped-in.”

The search for Wolfman 44 went on as Fuller and Stovall, along with Marines TWS members, pressed-on by keeping track of every lead. Then on Jan. 5, 2011, a big break came from a Marines TWS member, retired Marine Sergeant Major James Butler.

“There was an aerial observer in our unit, a 1st Lt. J.F. Patterson,” said Butler. “He was recommended for the Purple Heart in Dec. 1972.”

With that vital piece of information, Marines TWS members called upon their vast resources to locate information on 1st Lt. Patterson. As it was a common name, there were several leads. TWS members narrowed and focused the search on those that fell within the age range to have served in Vietnam; narrowing a list to seven possibilities scattered throughout the United States.

The search for the enigmatic “Wolfman 44” was officially ended with a post on the Marines TWS site by member George Reilly of the TWS Personal Locator service: “Warren is on the phone with Wolfman 44 right now!”

After some 38 years of searching, former Capt. Jonathan F. Patterson, aka “Wolfman 44,”was located and reunited with Capt. Warren Fuller.

In a letter to all the Army and Marine TWS members involved in the successful search of Wolfman 44, Fuller wrote, “Today, my wife Janie and I hosted a luncheon with Jon and his wife Gail in Winston-Salem, NC at a very nice restaurant called Paul’s Fine Italian Dining. We talked about many things over lunch, but the topic of the OV-10 shot down on December 19, 1972 always seemed to surface. I also learned this was Jon’s 3rd ejection out of an OV-10. Jon and I will continue to stay in touch.”

Jon Patterson is now a member of Marines TWS, the website whose members worked every lead and put a name to the call sign “Wolfman 44.”

IF YOU HAVE A STORY ABOUT FINDING AND REUNITING WITH AN OLD FRIEND AS A RESULT OF TOGETHERWESERVED, PLEASE CONTACT ADMIN HERE. WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR STORY.

21
Sep

LTC Michael Christy US Army (Ret) (1966-1984)

mikeLTC Michael Christy US Army (Ret) (1966-1984)

http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Michael.Christy

http://army.togetherweserved.com/timeline/Michael.Christy

There was no single reason that persuaded me to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1956 or to join the Army ten years later in 1966.  It was a combination of reasons, strongly influenced by the world in which I lived at the time.  When I graduated from high school in 1956 I had no clue on what to do next.  I knew I wouldn’t be going to college like some of my friends.  College was never a family tradition nor could we afford it.  Besides I wouldn’t have been accepted anyway because of my miserable grades.

I had been working a part time job counting coins and wrapping them into rolls at a bank since the 11th grade but now that school was behind me I wanted a fulltime job.  I looked for work wherever I could but nothing panned out. Failing to hit upon fulltime employment, I decided to keep my part time job at the bank with plenty of off time for bumming around dating girls, swimming, playing baseball and going to parties. But before I knew it, my lazy, crazy summer ended and it was time to get serious about finding work.  I began by returning to many of the same places I started with at the beginning of the summer but still no work was available. That’s when I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.

One hot late August day I climbed the steps to the Marine Recruiting Office on the third floor of a downtown building.  I was met by a tanned, physically fit, spit-and-polished Staff Sgt. who was eager to sign me up. He told me a lot of things about the Marine Corps but what sold me was when he said Marines are lean, mean fighting machines (this was before J. Walter Thompson advertising coined the phase “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.”).  It all sounded like a perfect place for a tough, scrappy, streetwise kid with a questionable future.  With my mother’s permission, I signed up.  Three weeks later I was standing at attention for the first time on the ‘grinder’ at MCRD San Diego.  My journey from adolescence to manhood had begun.

The draft hanging over my head and no job had a lot to do with why I joined the military.  But there was an even greater, more powerful influence that convinced me to join the Marine Corps and later the Army: I grew up during World War II—an experience that shaped forever my passion for the military.  I was three years old when the war started and eight when it ended.  The war was ever present and all consuming during those five years—not only for the military men and women but the entire nation.

The patriotism that had been hammered into early on during the war took a more realistic turn in 1944.  Every since I could remember our next door neighbor, Harold Bradley, was my boyhood hero.  The 19-year-old Harold was handsome, athletic, smart, and women (girls) loved him.  I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  When he joined the Marine Corps, I wished I was old enough to go too.  To remind myself that the vanished Harold really did exist somewhere, I often stared for long periods of time at the patriotic red and white flag with its blue star hanging in the Bradley’s front window.  One day in early 1945, I noticed the blue star had changed to gold.  Harold had been killed on the beaches at Iwo Jima.  Perhaps that’s the moment a subconscious seed was planted in my mind that would one day sprout into my wanting to make the military a career.

It was also at this time that I believed war was a natural state of affairs.  I assumed I too would march off to war one day.  But that isn’t what happened during my time as a peacetime Marine.  Our war was the ‘cold war’ and our single mission was preparing for a future war.  I secretly wished a shooting war would erupt but it never did, until that all changed nine years later.

Like many Americans in the mid-60s I sat in my living room watching the Vietnam War unfold on television.  Every night I noticed the war getting more and more intense.  I also noticed my desire to be part of it was growing as well.  By early 1966 I made up my mind. I was already a 2nd Lt. in the National Guard so I put in my papers for active duty as a commissioned officer.  My application was accepted and in Nov 1966 – 9 years and two months since I first put on a marine uniform  – I was back on active duty.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE? 

I reported to MCRD San Diego in September 1956.  Although I had been somewhat athletic as a teenager I had a rough time physically for the first half of boot camp beginning with the excruciating pain of squatting for a very long time going through my ‘bucket issue’ of toiletries piece by piece.  What I found equally difficult was the duck walking with foot lockers held overhead or standing at attention for long periods with my M1 Rifle fully extended in front of my chest.  All of the physical training eventually made me stronger.  In fact, the cumulative effect of boot camp’s physical training and behavioral modification fostered a remarkable degree of strength, discipline, teamwork and esprit de corps that not only helped me make it through the 13 weeks, it shaped me into a remarkably more confident person ready to do great things in the world.

Following boot camp, I completed AIT at Camp Pendleton and cold weather mountain training at Pickel Meadows in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  I then sailed off to Japan aboard the U.S. Breckinridge where for half of the trip I was seasick.

I was originally assigned as a truck driver in the 3rd Tank Battalion at 3rd Marine Division Rear at Camp McGill, Japan.  But shortly after arriving I retired my greasy dungarees for a clean white pistol belt with a shinny brass buckle and the crimson and gold brassard of a military policeman.

What I really loved about Japan was the experience of living in a foreign country.  I mingled with the people, climbed Mt. Fuji and visited many historical landmarks such as the Imperial Palace and the Great Buddha in Kamakura.  I also had a couple of girlfriends and through them, learned how to speak and write a fair amount of Japanese.  I returned to the United States after 13 months overseas and ended my enlistment as a ‘brig’ guard at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Illinois.

I almost ‘shipped over.’  So strong was the possibility, some of the guys took bets.  I can’t remember who won or lost but I bid them all farewell, grabbed a Greyhound bus and headed home having concluded my time on active duty in the Marine Corps.

Shortly after active duty I joined a Marine Reserve Rifle Company.  I was then married with a fulltime job in a factory and going to junior college part time.

In 1962 I left the Marine Reserves and enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard.  I quickly made it to Sergeant but I wanted to be an Officer.  I passed the prerequisite tests and was accepted to the 9-week reserve component OCS at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  But five days before I was to go I was told my allocation was given to an older guardsman, this being his last chance to go.  I was disappointed and frustrated but when my chain of command said I had to wait another year, I became determined I was going to OCS and soon.  I called the commanding general and told him of my plight.  A couple of phone calls later I was soon on my way to the regular Army 26-week OCS.

In September 1963 I traveled by train to Ft. Benning where I was met with a hard core reception reminiscent of my arriving at Marine boot camp.  I was the only reserve component candidate in my class and 20-minutes after I arrived the company commander sought me out, braced me against the wall, stuck his face next to mine and threatened me not to screw up his class or else.  That threat hung over my head like the Sword of Damaclese for the duration of the course.  It also gave me all the motivation I needed to succeed.

Following graduation I returned home to college, my family, a new job as a Pinkerton’s private detective and the National Guard where for the next three years I was a rifle platoon leader.  During this time I became more aware of the growing war in Vietnam.   One night while watching the nightly news about the war, I decided go on active duty.

I received a commission in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer in 1966. I trained for a year and went to Vietnam.  Following one year back in the states, I volunteered for a second Vietnam tour of duty.  When I returned in 1970 I had orders to go to the career course at Ft. Benning but I declined.  My absence from my wife and two children had placed a strain on the marriage and I had planned on resigning.  But infantry branch suggested I take a job in my hometown of Grand Rapids as a National Guard Advisor – the very same unit I had been in when I was in the Guard.  If I still wanted to stay in the Army following the assignment I was told that I could then attend the career course.  I took the job.  I also finished my college education with a BS in Political Science.

I decided to stay in the Army and attended the career course in 1973, a decision that brought my marriage to an end.  Following the career course I was assigned as the infantry tactics instructor at the transportation school, Ft. Eustis, Virginia.  I taught patrolling, survival and guerrilla warfare to freshly minted Lieutenants.  When I was promoted to major, I took over the combat arms branch.  In my spare time I got my Master’s in counseling and guidance and I also got remarried.

About this time the army put into practice a ‘dual-track’ system.  This meant that all officers would be given at least one assignment in another MOS, my alternate field came up as a public affairs officer.  The plan was to have one PAO assignment and when that was over, I would revert back to an infantry assignment.

My PAO assignment was a two-year, family accompanied tour with the 8th Army/United Nations Command.  My wife, her three children, my two from my previous marriage and our two dogs packed up and flew off to Korea in 1978.

We tried learning the language and would spend equal time with Korean and military friends.  We also got deeply involved in helping Father Keane with his poorly funded orphanage.  At the orphanage we met an Amerasian brother and sister. We decided to foster them and through an international adoption agency, we adopted a beautiful nine-month old Korean girl.  Living under the same roof were now eight children, two adults and two dogs.  I think it was too much for some of the children as three decided to return home.

I discovered I liked the PAO business and asked HQ for another PAO assignment.  Following two wonderful years in Korea we returned home with five kids, including our two fosters.

My next assignment was PAO for the Presidio of San Francisco.  We lived north of the Golden Gate Bridge and every work morning I marveled at the beauty of Marin County as I carpooled into San Francisco.  I wanted to retire there but of course I didn’t.  My final assignment was Deputy Chief of Staff at Ft. Ord, I retired in 1984.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?

My first combat tour was 1967-1968 with the 5th Special Forces Group.  Two Sergeants and I were flown into A-102 (Tien Phuc) in I Corps when a number of their outposts were captured by NVA troops.  For five months we augmented the A-team stationed there.   The outpost was a magnet for enemy and rocket fire and an occasional “probing” by enemy sappers.  A few months after I was there the Detachment Commander, Capt. Mac Speaks and three Army engineers, along with a half dozen camp mercenaries, were killed in a brazen night-time attack.

When I made captain I requested a transfer to Project Delta (B-52) in Nha Trang.  I was the senior advisor to a company of the 81st Airborne/ Ranger Battalion under the control of South Vietnam Special Forces.  We were a reaction force that would go in if one of our reconnaissance team was in trouble.  We also ran routine, company size missions in areas where our reconnaissance teams found signs of large enemy activity.  Following Tet 1968, we patrolled the jungle south of Tan Son Nhu Air Base for a couple of months.

My second tour was with the 1st Cavalry Division in 1969-70.  I commanded Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment for seven months. We conducted “search and destroy” missions in the Bu Dop/Song Be region in III Corps along the Cambodian border.  The area really belonged to the enemy as American or South Vietnam combat troops had not operated in the area for years.  This often proved to be more than a little exciting.  In May and June 1970 I took the company into Cambodia as part of Nixon’s incursion.

My final assignment was assistant operations officer in the 1st Brigade at Bein Hoa.

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