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MSCS Steven Karoly US Navy (Ret) (Served 1970-1999)



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 Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

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Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy?

2017-05-14_14-44-16As long as I can remember I wanted to join the Navy upon graduation from high school. Both my father and his older brother served in World War II. Dad enlisted in 1943 as an Apprentice Seaman in the Navy V-12a program. After graduation from Navy college, he entered aviator training as an Aviation Cadet in the V-5 program and earned his wings and commission as an Ensign, USNR, in December 1945. My uncle deployed to Africa and Italy with the 329th Bomb Squadron, 485th Bomb Group, as a waist gunner in the B-24 bomber. My uncle’s aircraft went down over Bulgaria in June 1944 and he spent 90 days as a POW. And during junior high school, my mother’s sister’s husband deployed to Vietnam as an advisor in Vietnamese river gunboats.

While neither family had long traditions of military service to the country, the quiet influence of those that served motivated me to enlist in the Navy delayed entry program in April 1970. Foothill High School, Bakersfield, California, buddy Jim Anderson enlisted at the same time (though not in the buddy program). We signed our respective yearbooks as “(Name), SR, USNR”! Jim ultimately asked to go to boot camp early, while I waited until Labor Day weekend 1970. (As an aside, never report to boot camp on a holiday weekend. You learn firsthand of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait” culture!)

Company 369, under the capable leadership of MMC Barr, was a great boot camp company. Chief Barr appointed me as a Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader in the first week of boot camp. I was one of three squad leaders that retained his position for the 11-week boot camp. (The other three were replaced at one point or another.)

My early goal was to join the US Navy Seabees. However, the Navy had different plans. As the Vietnam War was winding down under President Nixon’s Vietnamization program, the Navy needed a smaller construction force. With battalions being decommissioned and the resulting overmanning in Seabee ratings, the boot camp classifier said that I couldn’t request Engineering Aid (EA) Class A School. EA seemed to be a worthwhile course as my father was a civil engineer and I had worked the summer of 1969 on a survey crew pulling rear chain.

The classifier would only let me volunteer for general duty in the Seabees. I also requested the following Class A Schools on my dream sheet: Commissaryman (CS), Quartermaster (QM), Aerographer’s Mate (AG) and Photographic Intelligenceman (PT). The Navy obliged by sending me to Commissaryman/Steward Class A School in January 1971. Since I already had an interest in cooking, I accepted the Navy’s wisdom and never looked back. The culinary arts have been my life’s work on active duty, in the reserves and in my civilian career.

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 have never seen my active duty career and subsequent reserve career as spectacular or impressive. I answered the call by enlisting in the Navy during one our country’s most unpopular wars. Even th2017-05-14_14-46-12ough she signed for me as a 17-year-old, I knew that my mother had reservations about my enlistment during a period of war. I later learned that I first walked while dad was performing his two weeks active duty at NAS Oakland with VS-873 in the summer of 1953. This with the fact that I was the oldest and first to leave home added to her trepidation. I think this motivated dad to cut his Naval Reserve career short in 1956.

Despite rumors that CS/SD “A” School Class 7124 was being shipped en-masse to Vietnam upon graduation, American involvement in the war was winding down. There was little chance (for the moment) that I would deploy to a war zone. I later comforted mom in this regard, at least until my battalion, NMCB-17, was being trained for mobilization to Operation Desert Storm in the winter of 1991.

I served eight and one-half years on active duty, from September 1970 to February 1979. Looking back, I should’ve remained on active duty to complete my 20 years. I did enlist in the US Naval Reserve and served until May 1999, retiring a Senior Chief Mess Management Specialist (MSCS). Looking back at my twentieth year, my enlistment would’ve been extended due to Operations Dessert Shield and Dessert Storm had I remained on active duty. Of course, my life would’ve taken a different track and I wouldn’t have met my lovely wife, Debbie, in 1979.

Attack Squadron 127 at NAS Lemoore was my first duty station out of Class A school. For someone who’d “joined the Navy to see the world,” I’d landed on shore duty in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley–sandwiched between my boyhood homes of Fresno and Bakersfield. It took a special request chit to get me to sea. I figured why be in the Navy if you don’t go to sea? After all, that’s what makes the Navy stand out from the Army and the Air Force.

The Navy obliged in May 1972 and ordered me to the USS Cocopa (ATF-101). I met the fleet tug at NAVSTA Guam after 10 days in transit (I flew over the ship one-hour west of Hawaii). The next three years were spent cruising between Da Nang, Subic Bay and San Diego on the Cocopa and the USS Stein (DE-1065). A brief visit to the Indian Ocean in the winter of 1975 convinced me that world politics was shifting fleet operations to less exotic ports of call. So, I shipped over for foreign duty.

My reward for shipping over was a tour in the Philippines at the sprawling Seabee-built air base at Cubi Point. Then sixteen short months later, I again landed at a state-side naval air station, this time NAS Kingsville, Texas. Two years and a few college classes later, I was back in San Diego on the USS Robison (DDG-12). By this time, my experience at Georgia Military College (they had a contract with the Navy in Texas) and the quiet influence of my parents convinced me to get out and return to school.

Six days before my discharge, the Navy advanced me to MS1, a move that surprised me. Previously in 1974, I had to extend my enlistment to accept the rate of CS2 on the USS Stein. (The Commissaryman (CS) rating was merged with the Steward (SD) rating to form the Mess Management Specialist (MS) rating in January 1975.) As it turned out, the Navy had relaxed the requirement that you have one year remaining on your enlistment to accept advancement to PO2 or PO1.

The day after my discharge in late February 1979, I enlisted in the Naval Reserve at the Naval Reserve Center, Bakersfield, California, and was assigned to Detachment 0717, Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 17. As a Headquarters Company Seabee, I frequently drilled at the battalion Permanent Drill Site at NCBC Port Hueneme.

I count two duty stations as my favorite, one for active duty and other in the reserves. The first was the USS Cocopa. As a shall ship, I prepared the whole meal each day. Unlike the NAS Lemoore operations galley, where I grilled endless quantities of chicken fried steak on the flat top griddle, you got to know all 70 members of the fleet tug’s crew. Among those were the tall, lanky EM3 that only ate scrambled eggs. Or the EN2, complete with biker beard, that consumed massive quantities of food during storms, when the rest of the crew avoided the chow line.

NMCB-17 was my favorite reserve duty station. I had never experienced a unit with such great morale and dedication to the mission as I did during our three-week pre-mobilization active duty for Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The Seabees of “The Desert Battalion” were pumped, ready to accept deployment orders to anywhere the Navy needed us. Battalion leadership was listening to returning active and reserve S4 (Supply Officer), S4A (Assistant SupO), S4C (Supply LCPO) and S4G (Galley LCPO).

As the second senior Seabee in the Supply Department (The S3C, SKCS Bill Tinsley, was senior to me), I prepared the General Mess for duty in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. Had we been deployed, I would have had many challenges. Foremost was the fact that my Assistant Leading Chief MS, MSC Bob Voigt, was also the Battalion Mortar Platoon Commander. And the General Mess was undermanned in junior MS3s and MSSNs. Thankfully, my galley leadership was in place (MS1s and MS2s). I would’ve been able to absorb SNs and SAs and train then to be Seabee cooks and bakers. In the end, NMCB-17’s deployment orders to the Seabee deployment camp, Camp Covington, Guam, were canceled after the ground war ended.

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 have never involved in any direct combat during my eight and one-half years active duty and twenty years reserve duty. My first WestPac cruise on the USS Cocopa (AFT-12017-05-14_14-48-0101) was the closest that I came. In the summer of 1972, the Cocopa deployed the Subic Bay Naval Base and the Seventh Fleet area of operations. During the eight-month cruise, the tug only served some 40 days in the territorial waters of Vietnam, including one three-week period as “duty tow and salvage” in Da Nang Harbor and off China Beach. The closest we came to “combat” was the observation of tracers and star shells along the coast as the Cocopa cruised out to sea each evening at dusk.

The Cocopa was a working ship. I’ve told my kids and grandkids, “We went to war to work.” Our task was to tow disabled ships, craft, and barges. With divers on board, the ship could assist with minor repair and salvage operation. The Cocopa spent 10 days in June 1972 searching for the wreckage of a C-130E from the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing off Makung P’eng-hu Island, Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Strait of Formosa. Our divers located the wreckage on June 8. During this mission, I savored some of the best watermelons I’ve ever tasted, brought to the ship by Chinese UDT sailors.

Several years later, while assigned as the Night Galley Watch Captain at the NAS Cubi Point General Mess, I had the opportunity to feed the Marines (possibly of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines) that boarded the SS Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge in the wake of the Vietnam War. As I supervised midrats, a large group of Marines entered the mess decks to eat. I asked a Marine with his right arm in a sling where they were from. The Marine explained their role in the rescue of the Mayaguez. He then reached into the sling and pulled out his Purple Heart.

I realize this event pales in comparison to the experiences of those of others. Yet it came at the moment when NavSta Subic Bay and NAS Cubi Point were ramping up to care for the Vietnamese escaping the country as the NVA overran Saigon. For the next several months, the cooks of the NAS galley shifted into working 12 on/12 off to feed the refugees. The NavSta galley prepared the daily meal for the refugee camp on Grande Island while we cooked tons of rice and assembled flight meals for their transit to camps on Guam.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

I’ve often wondered if our collective memories of our time in the services sweeten with age. In2017-05-14_14-49-23 July 1972, the USS Cocopa departed Naval Station Subic Bay and slammed directly into Typhoon Susan as she entered the South China Sea. The ensuing ride was one of the roughest I’ve ever encountered on any of my three the ships. At one point I honestly thought it would’ve been easier to jump into the sea than to endure the storm. I never want to experience a typhoon of that magnitude again.

Yet, I look back on the Cocopa with much fondness. I now talk about the typhoon as if it was a rite of passage, one that every fleet tug sailor had to endure, much like crossing the Equator or going through CPO initiation. If I have any regret of my time on the ship, it’s that I sought orders to the USS Stein so I could return to the Philippines. Of course, had I not returned to the Western Pacific in the spring and summer of 1973, my life would’ve taken a much different course.

This experience, and many, many others, have taught me how to endure the trials and tribulations in life. While they are unpleasant at the moment (and that may be an understatement when talking about typhoons), these events teach you to patiently endure to the conclusion of the matter. The help you develop a steady character, one that prompts you to place your faith in God.

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?

Since I don’t have any combat awards, the most meaningful would have to be my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, three Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals and the Air Force Achievement Medal. The remainder qualifies as 2017-05-14_14-50-50“gedunk” medals, meaning you were in the right place at the right time to earn them. Heck, one was awarded the National Defense Service Medal upon graduation from boot camp. I guess it’s DOD’s “participation award.” We always honor those awards that were righteously earned above the others.

The most interesting award was the Air Force Achievement Medal. While I never served in the U.S. Air Force, the medal was awarded to myself and 47 other Seabees of Detachment 0402, NMCB-2, for the construction of a 880′ railroad spur and 240′ loading dock on McClellan Air Force Base in 1982 and 1983. I was assigned as the Detachment Career Counselor at the time. In order to complete my task, I held tailgate counseling sessions at the job site during drill weekends. I helped with the project when time allowed and drove a number of railroad spikes. Today, I’m a Maintenance of Way volunteer for the El Dorado Western Railroad in my home county.

The most memorable is a Certificate of Appreciation from Cmdr. M.D. Langohor, SC, USNR, Logistics Officer of the Third Naval Construction Brigade Headquarters Det. in NCBC Port Hueneme, Calif. I was the Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for the brigade at the time. My file contains many letters of achievement and commendation, too many to mention. Many were for recognition of one accomplishment or another, including the field exercise when I was Acting Supply Officer in 1993. But this one stands out because it represents hundreds of hours of hard work to develop and lead the Seabee Field Messing Course in Port Hueneme in 1995.

Seabee field messing was my passion in the Seabees. As the senior Pacific Fleet Seabee MS, it was my responsibility to train the cooks in the operation of the M-59 Field Range and the General Mess when deployed to the field. The certificate reads: “MSCS Steven C. Karoly, USNR, who successfully participated in providing a course of instruction on ‘Seabee Field Messing’ covering operation and maintenance of the M59 Field Range, immersion heaters, menu planning and food production, field rations, site selection, mess layout, tent setup and field sanitation to Mess Management Specialists of the THIRD Naval Construction Brigade.” The shining moment of this accomplishment was bringing the Navy Food Management Team, San Diego, on board as an active participant in the training.

I later received my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal from Rear Admiral Thomas A. Dames, CEC, USN, Commander, Third NCB, for my assignment as the Brigade Logistics Training Chief, which included work on the Seabee Field Messing Course. But it’s that simple recognition from my supply officer that means the most to me today.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

With 29 years of service to my credit, it’s difficult to pinpoint more than couple individuals and their respective impact on my life. When I think about it, those in a l2017-05-14_14-52-12eadership position over me had the most impact on my life. Several come to mind:

**Chief Barr, my boot camp Company Commander, who took a chance and elevated me to Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader of Company 369.

**The HT1 on the USS Cocopa who convinced me to take the CS3 exam when I wanted to skip it. Yes, you could describe his tactics as “strong arm,” but that’s what this hard-headed Seaman needed at the time.

**CS1 George Rooney, Leading CS of the Cocopa, for his hands-on approach to leadership in the galley.

**MSC Oscar Ray, Leading Chief MS of the USS Stein for his dedication to excellence and hands-on approach to leadership in the galley. We thought Chief Ray was over the top when he wanted to make sandwiches with shaved meat for battle feeding! Yet, it’s these examples that stick in your mind and help direct your career.

**PNCM Jimmy Garcia, Detachment OIC of NMCB-2 Det. 0402 in Sacramento, Calif., for showing me that a non-Seabee rating can lead a bunch of Seabees.

**MSC Bob Voigt, Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 in 1986-87, for his leadership in General Mess operations at Camp Shelby, Miss., when I was his Training and Records Chief. I’ve never seemed more grace from one man when I put on my star in 1989 and became the Leading Chief MS.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? 

After my honorable discharge from active duty in February 1979, I continued my Navy career as a reservist with three Seabee units (NMCB-2, NMCB-17 and Third NCB). I entered Bakersfield College in September of that year (where I met2017-05-14_14-53-57 my lovely wife Debbie), married and transferred to University of California, Davis, where I completed a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in June 1984.

A short career in hospital food service led to a 22-year career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I retired in August 2008 after working in three prisons and at headquarters. My last leadership position was the Food Manager for Folsom State Prison. (My desk was located 20 feet from Dining Room One, where Johnny Cash performed on January 13, 1968.) I closed my career with the State of California as an Associate Budget Analyst with Correctional Health Care Services in Sacramento.

Following my career, I realized a lifelong dream to work in summer camps. In the summer of 2009, I was the head cook for Deer Crossing Camp at Loon Lake in Eldorado National Forest. My service in the Seabee certainly helped me with this short job (the season was only 10-weeks long). In addition to cooking for 65 campers and staff, I was responsible for testing water quality, lighting off the generators and teaching English to my Mongolian assistant cook. My only regret was that the need for year-round work precluded my return in 2010.

After a very short job with a local casino (just 50 shifts), I landed a position as the House Chef for the Female Residential Multi-Service Center in Sacramento, California. It was the perfect job for this retired Senior Chief and correctional food manager. I was able to help mold the lives of several women in the program. As the only male on staff (other than the maintenance guy, who came in and of the house), I built a reputation as the “house dad.” I assisted the women with work skills as they rotated through the kitchen for their weekly chores.

Unfortunately, I was once again on the job market when the facility closed in March 2013. However, with two retirements (my Navy Reserve retirement started in 2012), I was able to focus on summer work and devote the rest of the year to volunteer work with the El Dorado Western Railroad, a program of the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California.

Since April 2013 I have been the Executive Chef and Food Service Manager for Oakland Feather River Camp in Quincy, California (more about this job below). Except for a couple short periods, I have continuously worked as a cook and chef for the last 45 years. Looking back, I would have it no other way. It seems every time I tried to leave the galley, I missed it so much that I did everything to return. I can see no other career, both in the Navy and outside, for me.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

As the chef at Oakland Feather River Camp, Quincy, California, I practice deckplate leadership. One aspect of leadership that differentiates a chef (or Chief Petty Officer) from a Food Service Manager (m2017-05-14_14-55-10y official title at the camp!) is the chef is constantly moving about the kitchen, leading the cooks and ensuring meal quality for campers. Following my practice as a Chief Petty Officer, “visible leaders who set the tone, know the mission, know their people and develop their people beyond their own expectations as a team and as individuals” (

The stereotypical FSM “leads” from the office, where his day is relegated to paperwork, orders, and schedules. I do all those things and cook and lead my crew into excellence six days per week (yes, I do take one day off to recharge and rest!).

Many of these skills were learned in the Navy, both from active duty, where I served as Galley Watch Captain at every ship and shore command until advancement to Chief, and reserve duty, where I honed my leadership ability as the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 and later as Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for N4, Third Naval Construction Brigade in Port Hueneme.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?

To those that desire a career in Navy food service as a Culinary Specialist (CS), I’d say learn, learn, learn. Take every opportunity to learn everything you can about your chosen rating, even beyond the scope of Navy food service. Today I would seek assignment to the CPO Mess or the Wardroom Mess, in addition to2017-05-14_14-56-48 working the General Mess. This will not only enhance your career but will give you an opportunity to expand your culinary skills, especially in terms of plate presentation, sauces (beyond the five mother sauces) and upscale cuisine.

At the time, many pre-1975 CSs (including myself) saw the Wardroom Mess as degrading work that was relegated to the Stewards. Many of us avoided such assignment. I changed my mind after my advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17, I was responsible for the General Mess, CPO Mess, Wardroom Mess and the BEQ. I slowly realized that officers “put their pants on one leg at a time” just as I do. I accepted my assignment with pride and served the Chiefs and Officers, in the same manner, I had served enlisted Sailors. Only now, I was performing that role in a position of leadership. It was my duty to pass this enthusiasm on to my cooks.

My other advice is to accept increasing responsibility, especially leadership roles. The goal for every enlisted sailor, especially those with a career (active or reserve) in mind, should always be the advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the most effective leaders in all of the services, being “The Chief” teaches you a lot about humility, motivation, and leadership. You’re the man in the trenches who gets the job done (and trains your Division Officer!).

And seek leadership roles beyond the galley. While Leading Chief CS is a worthwhile goal (and necessary goal for a career CS), extra military leadership roles expand your career. During my 20 years in the Seabee reserve, I served as Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader, 80mm Mortar Team Leader, Headquarters Company Chief, Platoon Chief for crew-served weapons school and career counselor, among many other assignments. This was in addition to fleet assignments as Division Damage Control Petty Officer, sight-setter on a 3″ 50 cal. gun. and 1JV fantail photo talker during Sea and Anchor Detail.

In what ways has helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

Since my retirement in 1999, I’ve maintained the connection with several Navy shipmates on my own. Among those are MSC Bob Voigt, my Assistant Leading Chief MS from NMCB-17, and CS3 Dave Staken, fellow ship’s cook from the USS2017-05-14_14-58-09 Cocopa. I had dabbled in several other military Internet sites.

Together We Served has helped me locate a number of shipmates from a long career, especially those from my shipboard days in the 1970s. I have since become the unit historian for the USS Cocopa (ATF-101).


1LT Victor Lawe U.S. Army (1987-1997)

profile4Read the service reflections of

1LT Victor Lawe

U.S. Army


Shadow Box:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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 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.


Maj Dale T. Armstrong U.S. Marine Corps (1983-1995)

Read the service reflections of US Marine:

profile2Maj Dale T. Armstrong

U.S. Marine Corps

(Served 1983-1995)

Shadow Box:


Several things really. I grew up on our family farm outside a tiny hamlet in central Pennsylvania (Lockport, near Lewistown, PA). My brothers and I played “soldier” all the time, and “cowboys & Indians” of course; and we had toy guns. Later we had the real thing; went hunting on our
413 acres. Then I heard all the stories growing up, essentially all of my uncles served in the military during WWII: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and my mother’s oldest brother, John Hite, was killed in Aachen, Germany by a sniper, on the tail end of the Battle of the Bulge. My dad’s younger brother was in Korea for two years during that War; my father himself was in Army Air Corps ROTC at Penn State during WWII, and desperately wanted to be a pilot, until an accident on his summer construction job almost severed his left arm completely, and they 4F’d him out of the ROTC.

Later, when my father worked for USAID, and we spent six years in Nigeria in the 1960’s and 4 years in Cairo, Egypt during the late 1970’s, I got to meet and hang out with the Marines in the Embassies. Of course I was impressed with the uniforms! I was hanging out at the Marine House in the AmEmb Cairo, telling the Marines I was friends with that I was going to finish up college and “enlist” in the Corps to be just like them. They just all laughed at me and told me I was crazy, that I was going to college and that I could be an “Officer”, and that I should not “enlist”. I was that naive about the Corps/Military at the time, and I didn’t know that.

I returned back to the family farm, and went to Penn State as my father had before me, to finish my degree. I was walking home one day to my apartment from class, and got lost in State College, and walked by the Recruiting Office by mistake. There was this Gunny on the front steps in his Blue “D’s” I think. He saw me, and said “Hey, do you like to climb?” That was a weird “sales” line; but I said “Yes”, and he said “Can I have 30 minutes of your time? I just smiled to myself and said “Sure”. I smiled because I was thinking, there’s no way this guy can get me to sign up. Thirty minutes later, I was signed up for OCS, and never looked back!

When I got home to my apartment, I called my parents on the phone, and I told my Mom, “Hey Mom, I think I just signed up for the Marine Corps!”, and she started crying! All she could think of was her brother!


I went to OCS at Quantico; the combined 10 week course called PLC, in June – August 1982. I had officially signed up with a PEB of 21st of October, 1981. Two weeks after I started OCS, my OSO from Penn State came down to visit me and one other
Penn State guy in the same Platoon as me, and he said “What do you think?” I said without hesitation “I love it Sir, sign me up for TBS, I’m ready now!”

After OCS, I went back and finished up my degree at Penn State, and then it was off to F TBS, in May ’83. I chose Infantry, and after TBS, I went right into IOC at Quantico, from Dec ’83 until Apr ’84, I think.

I received orders to 2nd MarDiv, 8th Marines. I was to go to 2/8, but they were still out in Beirut after the Grenada Op; so I hung out at 8th Marines as the S-2 “Zulu” for awhile; got TAD’d over to 2nd Marines for a month as a fill-in Plt Cmdr, did an exercise/deployment to Guantanamo Bay with them; then back to 8th Marines when 2/8 came back from Beirut, commanded by then LtCol Ray Smith, and picked up 3rd Plt in G Co., 2/8. We did a Med Deployment, during the TWA hijacking into Beirut in ’85, and we did a number of weeks in MODLOC off Beirut, thinking we were going in, but it never materialized, and we went back to CLNC. I had been promoted to1stLt on the “pump”, and when we got back to CLNC, I transferred over to E. Co., and became the Weapons Plt Cmdr.

A short while later, word circulated that they were forming up a LAV Battalion over at French Creek, and they asked for “volunteers”. I thought about it for awhile, and decided to volunteer. I was transferred over to 2nd LAV Bn, and picked up 1st Plt, C Co. After a deployment to Fort McCoy, WI for cold weather training with them. I was chosen to be the Bn S3-A. Then, our Battalion Commander, an amazing Officer named (then) LtCol Andrew Finlayson showed extreme special trust & confidence in me, and picked me to become the CO of A Co, 2nd LAV Bn, while passing over a handful of more senior Lt’s & even a couple of Capt’s on the Bn Staff. I took A Co back to Fort McCoy, and then over to Norway for the Cold Winter/Alpine Warrior exercises, and when I got back, LtCol Finlayson helped me get augmented into the Regular Marine Corps. But, I was no longer “Infantry/LAV”, I was now an “Intelligence” Officer…so, I became the S-2 of 2nd LAV Bn, the 4th different type of billet I held in the Bn in 3 years! Plt Cmdr, S-3A, Co Cmdr & Bn S-2!

Shortly after that, 2nd Mar Div said they needed an Intel Officer out in the Arabian Gulf to augment COMIDEASTFOR during the “Earnest Will” tanker war ongoing with the Iranians. I was initially attached to the then-standing up SPMATF 2-88 as the S-2A, but when the total end strength was arbitrarily cut because someone in DC told President Reagan that a SPMAGTF had no more that 300 Marines in it, they cut all the “extraneous” personnel, sent me back to Division, and they turned around and sent me out to the same place anyhow. This time, as a member of the J-2 staff on board the USS Coronado/COMIDEASTFOR. I was there six months.

My parents at this time were in AmEmb Khartoum, Sudan; so I flew down and spent a week with them. Then later, my older brother got killed in a car accident back in Pennsylvania, so I flew home for a week for the funeral. When I got back to COMIDEASTFOR, I finished up my six months, and returned to 2nd MarDiv just long enough to pick up my orders to FOSIF, Rota, Spain. I arrived in Rota in September 1988.I spent three years there. During that time I was augmented to the CJTFME Provide Comfort in Incirlik, Turkey, handling the Kurdish situation in Northern Iraq. I went down to Zakho, Iraq, to visit the 24th MEU, then commanded by Col Jim Jones, and was briefly asked to augment them as the 24th MEU S-2A. I returned back to Rota, Spain, just in time to pick up my new orders to AWS in Quantico, VA. I finished AWS in May ’92, and was ordered to 9th Marines at Camp Hansen, Okinawa. After six months as the S2-A & then the S-2 of 9th Marines, I was transferred to 12th Marines down at Camp Foster, and served there until August ’94, also as the Regimental S-2. I left active duty in August, ’94, and returned home to the US just in time for HQMC to ask me to come back on active duty as a Reservist, and work in the J-2, DIA as a Intel Doctrine writer for six months of ADSW. I was promoted to Major in the Reserves at the very end of that six months, left active duty again, and that was the end.

They sent me my Major’s Commission in the mail! I never had a promotion ceremony; never “pinned” it on; never bought a pair of gold oak leaves to wear on a uniform, and never wore a Major/Field Grade Officer Uniform or owned one of any type. So technically, somewhere I’m listed as a “Major”, but psychologically, I still consider myself a Captain, and I’m happy with that. I got to do things in my brief career that will always stay with me.

Most Lt’s were lucky to get one Platoon to lead. I had four! Two Infantry Platoons, a Weapons Platoon, and a LAV Platoon. Again, Company grade Officers back then, were lucky to get a Company, and then, only when they made Captain! I got a Company to command while only a mid-level 1st Lt, and I took them on a major overseas exercise. I then became an Intel Officer, and was awarded the LOM as a Captain. Finally, I was the S-2 of two separate Regiments as a Captain, which is normally a Major’s billet, so I can be proud of those highlights in my career.


The “short answer” is no, I did not participate in any “Combat Operations”; but several of the others. Technically, somewhere in the bowels of HQMC or Kansas City, it might say I participated in “combat operations”, as I received “Combat Pay” twice in my career, and one of my FITREP’s
even says “This is a Combat Fitness Report”. But to tell the truth, to claim “combat experience” for myself is an insult to all those fine Marines who have faithfully served their Country & Corps in REAL Combat; especially over the past 12 years+ since 9/11 in Iraq & Afghanistan & elsewhere. My respect and admiration for all those fine young Marines, and all our fine Men & Women in uniform, who’ve put up with family separations, deprivations, hardship, deployments, combat, wounds & worse; knows no bounds.

I cried for days watching the march to Baghdad back in 2003 on TV, wishing I could be there to share that hardship with them. I’ve read other “Reflections” pages, and I see these young Marines now, who’ve done 3, 4, 5 tours in Iraq, and maybe that many in Afghanistan! They have 2, 3 Purple Hearts, and I’ve even read about one Marine who has 8 or 9 Purple Hearts! That’s just crazy! Because even though I never had a similar experience, I do have a small hint of what it took to earn that. My respect, admiration, and pride in these outstanding individuals is just boundless. I make sure any time I see a young Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman anywhere in uniform, that I walk up to them and shake their hands and thank them for their service!

When I was at COMIDEASTFOR, we had the “USS Vincennes”/Iranian Airbus/Praying Mantis Operation, and that’s where the “combat” FITREP came in; but the truth is, I was aboard the Flagship, the USS Coronado 200+ miles from any real combat, and the ship actually never even left the port of Manama during the whole event! So, the only danger I was in, was of over-eating. When I went into Zakho, Iraq, with first the CJTFME, and then 24th MEU at the tail end of the Gulf War, it was technically a “permissive” environment, and we had more Marines/Soldiers hurt in accidents than anything. We were not awarded a CAR (and correctly so), and got the HSM instead, so I think that pretty well sums up my Non-combat “combat” experience.

Basically, I got into the Fleet right after Grenada/Beirut, so I missed that, I was stymied in FOSIF, Rota during the Gulf War, despite my wishes otherwise, and I was out before the whole cycle of Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., even began!

My experiences in Northern Iraq/Zakho were the most significant to me and life-alerting in a way, even though it was a “permissive environment”; I got to see what Saddam had done to the Kurds! It was Genocide; pure and simple; and though it’s not a popular thing to say these days, I will always support the Invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam in 2003 as the correct thing to have been done!


I consider myself extremely lucky to have had two absolutely amazing overseas tours. My three years at the FOSIF in Rota, Spain, was not only an amazing professional experience, but a tremendous personal/cultural experience as well. Spain is just a crazily amazing country. I remember one of my fellow IntelOfficers, then Major Ric Raftery came out to visit us in Rota in early ’91. He had been the senior Marine Intel Officer at FOSIF Rota a few years before, and was now the 24th MEU S-2.

Anyway, we went out to lunch with some of the Navy Officers, and we were sitting on top of this small mesa in one of the small Andalusian “Los Pueblos Blancos” (White Towns) named Vejer de la Frontera, chilling out, drinking sangria and eating the amazing Spanish food. About six weeks or so later, we were sitting on opposite cots in an old Iraqi Army base in Zakho, Iraq, eating MRE’s, looking at each other and just laughing going “Man, how long ago was it we were just eating Garlic Chicken in Verjer. Ric was also the S-2 for the 24th MEU in Zakho.

Then, later on, I was in Okinawa for two years, and that again, was just an amazing experience. Okinawa will always be special to me for another reason as well; its where I met my future wife, and the mother of my three amazing girls, and our “late life” special blessing, our son! As a “2a” -type experience, I will say that my six weeks or so in Zakho was also amazing. Since we were not getting shot at by the Iraqis, I had time to roam around and gather Intel, and I can say, without trying to rub it in on all the fine Marines who had to fight in the “sandbox” down south, that northern Iraq is truly beautiful; stark mountain peaks, waterfalls, wheat fields, and picturesque Kurdish towns and villages hanging on cliff edges over vast valleys below. Well, at least the few Kurdish villages & towns that Saddam had not bulldozed to the ground and wiped out all the inhabitants!

I enjoyed them all in some manner; can’t really say I have a “least favorite”! I didn’t enjoy Korea that much; but was only there for three weeks; it sure was freaking cold though, no doubt about it!


I don’t want to sound cliche, but frankly I enjoyed almost the whole thing, start to finish, from my first day in OCS, to almost my last day in Okinawa! I loved the Marine Corps. I still do, even though I haven’t worn a uniform in almost 20+ years.
I always will.

A Major I knew in Okinawa explained it to me one day, in a way that I’ll never forget: “Dale, remember we love the Corps, but she doesn’t love you back!” I found out the hard way that was true! Doesn’t matter though, I still love the Corps; still love the time I spent in the Corps (most of it!), and will always do so They can’t take that away from me, no matter what.

And it is the personal memories that make it live on; the bad/hard times fade with age, and you remember & smile when you think about the good times and the good things you accomplished.

The camaraderie is the hardest to replace, and it’s what everyone recalls fondly, years later.

My Platoon in OCS; 2nd Plt, A Co; PLC Combined Course the summer of 1982, won the Drill Competition. I think there were 52 or 53 of us in the end; we were locked and cocked and tight! We moved and reacted as a single unit, and we won that competition going away! I don’t think anything will ever replace that feeling! Our amazing Platoon Sergeant, SSgt Thomas Frush, set that as our goal from day one, his previous Platoons had won a couple of other times, and he was amazing; he put us on a ten week course that took us to that plateau, and we got there; he was a maestro!


No, I did not receive any awards for Valor, and I never had the opportunity to find out. But one cannot second guess that aspect of your career; one never knows or can predict how they’d react under fire. You can think you’re the bravest person in the world, but
the minute that first round zinged by your ear, you may just not be all that brave after all!

MajGen Wayne Rollins said something to my TBS class once, when he was still a LtCol and head of Tactics Instruction at TBS. He was watching us LT’s do an exercise out in the field at Quantico, and afterwards, the junior instructors were yelling at us for not having been crawling low enough when the “enemy” was firing at us. He said: “Don’t worry about telling them to get low, when they’re in combat and the first real rounds zip over their head, they’ll get so low the buttons on their utility blouse will get in the way!” That was from an Officer who had been there, and been in it, Vietnam; where he earned a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star & two Purple Hearts! He knew the deal!


I guess if someone were to look at my record, they’d think that I’d reply that I was most proud of my Legion of Merit Medal, which I received in 1992, as a Captain; which you have to admit, is kind of unusual. I was involved in a “CI Op”
while in the FOSIF, that was tailored to support CENTCOM during the Gulf War. Someone, somewhere, decided that it was successful, and purportedly contributed to CENTCOM’s success in the Gulf War in some extremely miniscule way, and I was awarded the LOM later on while I was back at AWS after my FOSIF tour.

But frankly, I’m most proud of the three medals I didn’t receive! When I went to leave 2nd LAV Bn, the Bn CO recommended me for a Navy Achievement Medal, because I had been there for 3+ years, and as mentioned before, I had been a Plt Cmdr, the S-3A, a Co.CO as a 1stLt, and then the Bn S-2. Company Grade Officers back then just didn’t get “End of Tour Awards”; so I was honored. As I was checking out, the Major XO, who was a very strange individual anyway, casually said to me: “Hey Armstrong, the Colonel said you deserve a NAM for what you did here, but since you’re headed out to COMIDEASTFOR and will probably get a bunch of Joint Medals out there, I’m going to make sure you never get your NAM, regardless of what the Colonel says!” I was shocked, and couldn’t believe that anyone would actually do that, and be so petty. It was the first of my extremely painful experiences dealing with medals in the rest of my career. But the XO was right, I never got the NAM, he back-doored the Colonel, and cashiered it! I stopped by the LAV S-1 section a year or so later, when I was in CLNC on a TAD/visit, and mentioned to the S-1, “Hey, where’s my NAM”, and he just said, “Dale, I tried to let the Colonel know what the XO did to you, but he threatened to give me a bad FITREP if I told, so I had to let it go!”. In what I can only describe as “karma”, a short while later, that particular Major/XO was forced out of the Corps for being involved in a Jeep/LAV stolen parts trafficking ring on/off the Base! That one still burns, to tell the truth, because of that as a result, I never did end up getting an Award from the Marine Corps.

Later, when I was in the FOSIF, and during the Gulf War, we were providing Intel support to SIXTHFLT. Me and the other Marines in FOSIF tried to get reassigned to CENTCOM, to get in on the action, but HQMC said we were in “critical” Intel billets in support of SIXTHFLT & theater Marines, and we couldn’t leave. So, I busted my butt, 24/7, for months, handling probably 95% of the Intel support to the deployed forces in the AOR concerning the Geopolitical NorthAfrican/Levant Intel support by myself. One day, my boss, a Navy Officer, came to me and said “Dale, you’ve done just an incredible job with this, and the CO asked for Award submissions, and I nominated you for a NAM; and you’ll get it because you deserve it!”. Additionally, the year prior, I had been nominated and won the Command “Intel Analyst of the Year” award, and was awarded a NAM for that, so this was my second NAM nomination within a year in that command. Regardless, about a week later, I was called into the FOSIF CO’s office, and he proceeded to tell me that “you do deserve the NAM, you’ve done about 95% of the Intel support by yourself, and done a great job of it, but, you have TOO many medals now, and we need to give one to someone else!” He also added: “I can’t have one Officer looking like a Christmas Tree!” I found out later that the CO was put up to this by the XO, a Navy Officer also, who did not “like” me. They gave the NAM to a Navy Officer, a great guy, an outstanding Intel Officer and a close friend of mine as well, who bewilderingly came back after they basically snagged him one day, and pinned the NAM on him, and asked me: “Why did they just give me your NAM?” The exact same question that my Intel Marines came and asked me after they saw that Officer receive the NAM. I could only say “The CO made a decision”. In another, in this case sadly unfortunate example of “karma” that I took no delight in, for despite what the XO manipulated him into doing, that CO was a kind, decent man; he committed suicide some years later.

Months later, I was sent out to Zakho, Iraq as mentioned above, and spent six weeks wandering around the place with a GySgt for a driver, collection Intel, meeting with the Peshmerga, documenting Saddam’s campaign of extermination against the Kurds, and collecting over 2 tons of Iraqi Military documents to ship back to Washington DC/the DIA. I was told later on that I was nominated for a JSAM, but when it got up to CINCUSNAVEUR from the CJTFME, as FOSIF Rota fell under CINCUSNAVEUR in London, someone up there heard about my pending LOM due to the completely unrelated “CI Op” that I had done the previous year, got mad that an “O-3” Marine was getting a LOM, and they cashiered that JSAM medal as well!

So, in reality, I’m proudest of the three medals that I never received and will never wear; I earned them, or so a lot of people thought, but “politics” killed them all! They were not awarded to me because it was determined I didn’t merit them, they were not awarded because someone in a position of power, each time, decided that they were jealous of me! That’s something that should not happen in our Corps, and our Military! Which was really a shock to me, because I still was naive enough to believe that if you did well, you’d be rewarded for it. And, I was happy for people that received medals, because I didn’t know that sometimes the system was unjust. And since I was happy and proud of other people when they were rewarded, I foolishly assumed they’d be happy for me!

I’ve read in other Marine’s “Reflections” pages, that the whole issue “medals” is still controversial, and I’m not the only person who was ever caught up in all this nonsense, as that is exactly what it is. Because our Corps should be better than this, our Corps should not be unjust, and petty, and punish people that did something for the benefit of our Country & Corps, and yet, end up being treated as one of the “enemy”. I knew people when I was in, who literally, begged the people senior to them to give them an award for something, anything, especially the dreaded “end of tour award”. I knew many, many instances of Officers senior to me, writing or submitting their own awards! And, I knew people, peers of mine, who talked endlessly of getting an award, and that they’d do anything to stand out, get noticed, and get nominated for an award. I can state unequivocally that I never did any of those things, and I professionally despised those that did.

My LOM, I have mixed feelings about. I thought I did a “good” thing! I mean, how many Marine Corps Captains have ever gotten an LOM? But, less than six months after I received it, I went to Okinawa, and ran into a Colonel who didn’t have one, and he was my boss! He let everyone know that he’d show me, the Capt with the LOM, and he sure did! He “fired” me from my job, transferred me to another Regiment, and gave me a career-ending FITREP. Even the Regt SgtMaj came up to me as I was leaving and said “Sir, you’re one of the finest young officers I’ve ever known, and you are highly respected by the Regt SNCO’s, I have no idea why the CO is doing this to you, but it makes me glad I’m an enlisted man and not an officer, and I don’t have to put up with this political bullshit!” He shook my hand and turned around and walked away. When I went in to see the S-1, to check out, a 1stLt, he was handing me my transfer orders, and he looked at me and just shook his head. I said what’s wrong, and he said to me “I’ve never seen this Colonel treat anyone like he’s treating you, I don’t understand it, you are a good guy!” All I could say was “I’m getting that a lot right now!” As for the CO, he later made LtGen, so I guess he was “right” and I was wrong! I left the Corps 18 months later, because that’s what he wanted, and that’s what he engineered. Truthfully, as crazy as it sounds, my career in the Marine Corps came to an end, because the very man that was supposed to be my boss, my leader, my CO, my “mentor”, was jealous of my medal! Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

I confess, I was bitter about the way it ended for a long time (but not about the rest, the good times, the Marines, etc.), but hindsight has brought some small modicum of wisdom over the issue. It wasn’t the “Corps” that did it to me, it wasn’t that honorable “institution”; it was one or two petty individuals in certain places in certain times, that intersected with me, and allowed that most base aspect of human nature, jealousy, drive their actions. I can put my head down on my pillow at night, knowing that I never did that to another fellow Marine; but I do wonder how they sleep at night?

My father taught me never to toot my own horn; so when all this crap was happening to me, I never stood up for myself, I kept foolishly believing that if I just worked harder, and did the right thing, that the “system” would take care of me! That didn’t work out that way.

A few years ago, I decided I was going to finally stick up for myself, and even though I had been awarded a LOM, that I was going to go back and get those medals that had been taken away from me! I mean, just like my career, I had a crazy run; between ’86 – ’92, a span of 6 years, I was awarded 4 personal awards, including a LOM as an 0-3, I was written up for 3 others, that jealous XO’s mainly, cashiered, and I was strongly considered for 2 others, that I was told in each case I probably should’ve gotten, and there was the probability of a 10th one as well. 3 were Marine, 3 were Navy & 4 Joint… baseball, .400 is pretty good.

So I decided a few years ago, that despite the LOM, and despite the wars and all the people who’ve served & sacrificed for real and never even gotten any medals; I was going to go back, and file petitions for as many of them as I could. The CO of 2nd LAV Bn at that time, Col L.C Gound, USMC (Ret), was a good and honorable man, who I knew didn’t know what the XO had done, and probably would’ve rectified it if I had looked him up, and told him. But, as with everything, I procrastinated out of guilt, and finally when I got the courage to Google his name a few months ago, and begin the process, I found out that Col L. C. Gound, a Marine Corps Hero from Vietnam, had passed away last year at the young age of 73; that kind of took the wind out of my sails; because the disgraced XO would never admit to having done what he did; and there is no one else that knew about it, except maybe the Adjutant. I’ve kind of given up on the Navy & Joint ones; no one involved from those days/times has enough integrity or honor to admit what they did, and rectify it; especially the former XO of the FOSIF!

I’ll also add this: IF I had it to do all over again; I’d turn down EVERY single medal I was ever nominated/written up for! I sincerely would! If I had been smart enough to do that in the beginning, I’d probably be a retired Colonel right now. The grief I had to bear, for a bit of colored ribbon, has not been worth it; not one iota!

As a postscript, I’d like to say I’m also very proud of the fact that while in Zakho, Iraq, the Recon Plt Cmdr & his Marines inducted me “honorarily” into the Recon Marines for something I did; hazing me, soaking me with water, then duck-taping me to a pole and giving me a nail file to free myself with. They also made me up a “Honorary” Recon Marine Plaque on an MRE case sleeve; which I still have & cherish. One of my prouder Marine Corps moments, and no one tried to take that one away from me!


I served with, and for, many outstanding Marines. MajGen Ray Smith; MajGen Wayne Rollins; Col J.J. Kispert; General Johnston; Col Tony Gain; Col Andrew Finlayson; General Jim Jones; Lt Gen Mike Byron; MGen David Bice; Col Joe Streitz; Col Chris Gunther; Col Tommy Tyrrell; Col Phil Smith; Col Walt
Ford; Col George Bristol (he’s the Marine who instituted the Marine Corps Martial Arts program! George and I were in the same TBS Plt, and then in the same Basic Intel Officer’s Course) Capt Marc Luoma (USN); Capt Eileen Mackrell (USN); LtCol Ric Raftery; Capt Ray Cross (USN); Admiral Tony Less; Col L.C. Gound; Col Steve Hanson; Col Kyle Watrous; Col Eric Walters; LtCol Ray Leach; Major Mike Camstra; Major Mike Ettore; Major Terry Slatic; Sgt. Maj Len Koontz; etc.; and the many fine Marines that served me: Sgt Delgado; Sgt Martin; SgtMaj Jackson; Sgt John “Bo”; Sgt Nelson Torres; Sgt Watson; Sgt Boyce to name but a few. And, seven of my peers have made General, I found out some time ago (doesn’t say much about me, does it?) I was in OCS with MajGen Lew Craparotta; and I was in AWS with MajGen Mike Dana & BGen Dan Yoo. TBS & AWS MGen Richard Simcock; TBS with MGen Robert Hedelund. There’s two more, but I can’t remember their names right now!

But there are two Marines who stand out to me, for different reasons. One that will always epitomized the “Corps” to me, from the first time I saw him, to the last time I saw him, was SSGT, and later WO, Thomas Frush, who was my PltSgt in 2nd Plt, A Co., when I was at OCS! What an amazing, all around, squared away Marine.! And because of him, our Plt won the Drill Competition in OCS that year! Solely because of him. Don’t get me wrong, he WAS an “ass” a lot of the time, because he was doing his job! But he was ALL “Marine”! I only saw him once, after OCS; when I was at TBS, I was out running a trail one late Friday night by myself, and he comes jogging by! I stopped and said “SSGT Frush?” He stopped running, turned around, looked at me and said “It’s Warrant Officer now, Sir!”, and kept on running! Last I ever saw of him was his back! He was a hell of a Marine!

The second is Major Terry Slatic. Terry and I were LT’s together in 2/8, then l moved to 2nd LAV Bn and he came over there as well. When I became the CO of A Co, he was one of my Plt Cmdrs, and he did a great job. But Terry got a little disillusioned with the Corps, and got out as a Lt. Eighteen years later! During the height of the Iraq War, Terry, this time disillusioned with the way the Iraq War was being portrayed in the press, and the way the Marine Corps was also getting bad publicity, knocked himself in shape, and re-applied for his Commission! He got thru all the hurdles, paperwork, red tape, as well as physical requirements, and was re-commissioned a Captain in the United States Marine Corps after an 18 year gap! He was told by HQMC that he was the oldest Captain in the Corps, and he also set the record for “broken service”! After that, Terry deployed to Fallujah, Iraq for a tour, and the next year did a tour in Afghanistan. It’s an amazing story, and he has my complete, utmost & total respect & admiration for it.


Col Phil Smith, USMC (Ret); will always stand out to me. When I went into 2/8 in ’84 after they got back from Granada/Beirut, Phil was a Plt Co in G Co. Phil had been a GySgt (Sel) when he graduated from Texas A&M, and he was like a grandpa
when all of us new, hot-shot LTs got into the Bn. We were room-mates on the 85 float to the Med, and later on, it seemed that wherever I went in the Corps, there was always someone who knew Phil! Phil should’ve been a General, but retired a few years ago as a Colonel. Sometimes the Corps misses one I guess. I learned from Phil; the most important thing (not surprising, considering his background!): The MOST important thing you can do as an Officer, is take care of your MARINES! That’s it, that’s what it’s all about. Other than your primary mission as a Marine: “Close with and Destroy the Enemy” or “Accomplish the Mission”; there is no other single more important duty of a Marine Officer. Phil lived and breathed it, every single second he was an Officer. I’m not saying I was anywhere as good as him at it; but I did learn that from him, and I did try to emulate him after I learned it. I can say with humility, I had some small success with it though.

A couple of other good friends stand out too; Col Kyle Watrous, who was a peer & friend from my days in 2nd LAV’s; Maj Mike Camstra, from AWS & Okinawa, who became one of my best friends from all of my Corps days; Capt Paul Tiede, from 9th Marines in Okinawa; and Col Stephen McNulty, from my days in G/2/8; are all good people, Good Officers, Good Marines, one and all; and it was an honor to have them as Brothers-in-Arms! I’m a better person for having known them, and they made me a better Marine.

I could list many more, and may update this space later, but that’s the main one now; and via Together We Served, LinkedIn & Facebook; I’m now connected to dozens of my former Marines and peers & even seniors, that I want to be in contact with.


Most former Marines I talk to always say “It was the funny, or good times, that made it all worthwhile”. I second that emotion! The one story that always makes me laugh, at myself actually, happened when I was in TBS during the Fall of ’83. We were doing
our Long-Range Patrolling Tactics Package, and we were being instructed by a Captain Anderson, one of the few black Officers on the TBS staff at the time. Really good Officer, great Marine, and he knew his stuff, and was very impressive in his uniform and everything.

Anyway, I was out “patrolling” with my fellow LTs in our “Squad”. I was in the Recon element in the front of the main body, and there was about 3 other LTs who were in the recon fire team ahead of me, then me, then the main body behind me. We were out in those infernal Quantico woods, it was a sunny day, around noon, and it was very cool. I was coming down a steep slope, staying in contact with the LT in front of me, and I saw there was a good sized stream up ahead. As I got closer, I saw the LT ahead of me was crossing the stream, but he was very clever! He had found a tree which had fallen across the stream, and he just walked across it, staying completely dry of course! I got down to the stream, and I just knew it was cold, and I didn’t feel like getting wet or getting my M-16 wet, so I decided to follow suit, and I started across the log; which was only about 8 inches in diameter, and as soon as I started across, it started shaking like crazy, and I was wondering how my buddy had actually crossed the darn thing without falling off! I was about half way across, concentrating like crazy, trying not to fall in, and not drop my rifle when I heard this stentorian voice right behind me, to my right, shout “FREEZE Lieutenant!”.

I know, I was in TBS, and not in OCS, I was a commissioned 2nd Lt, not a “candidate”, but there was still enough of the “Candidate” in me that I immediately tried to come to the position of Attention, as I recognized Captain Anderson’s voice! I stayed upright on the log, at some semblance of “attention” for about 3 seconds, and then slowly tiled to my left, and started to fall into the stream! First though in my brain: DON’T GET YOUR RIFLE WET!” So, I opened my legs, and tried to drop down onto the log into a sitting position. I had been a wrestler in high school, and it flashed through my mind that I could actually drop down onto the log this way, straddle it, figure-4 it, and lock my legs underneath, and avoid falling into the stream, stay dry, and also keep my M-16 in hand! As soon as I started to fall towards the log, I had another flash thought go thru my brain: if I did this, I would land squarely on the log on my “family jewels”, and crush them to smithereens! So, halfway down, I kind of threw myself to the left, and still tied to wrap my legs around the log, but this time, with my right thigh as the center of gravity!. I actually accomplished it somehow, and grabbed onto the log, and wrapped my legs around it tight, and sat there for about 2 seconds. And because I was now about six inches out of the vertical, and leaning to the left, I, in slow motion, rotated to the left, and turned upside down, still gripping the log between my thighs. Only now, my head, shoulders, and upper torso were under water, as the stream level was only about 18 inches below the log! So here I am, hanging upside down under this darn log, head, upper body & my M-16 now in the water, and I’m trying not to panic, and decide what to do next, because everything had gone wrong.

My M-16 was wet, I KNEW Captain Anderson was watching, and I figured by now, probably most of my Plt! So, I did the only thing I could do, I let go of the log with my legs, and sank head first to the bottom of the stream! And my helmet, with my head in it, wedged in between two rocks on the bottom of the stream, and my feet were sticking up out of the water! Now I was in real trouble, because I could not free myself, without letting go of my rifle in the stream, and using my hands! I’m gulping water too by this point, and I opened my eyes, watched where I dropped my rifle, pushed up from the bottom of the stream/rocks with my hands, fortunately got my helmet (with my head still in it!) out of the rocks, reached down and grabbed my rifle, and started to surface! It then flashed through my mind, that I had to be “tactical” as I came out of the water, so I s…l…o….w…l…y let my helmet break the water, then my eyes, then I looked around s…l…o…w…l…y…stood up, and exited the stream on the far side, trying desperately to act “tactical”, also act as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, and also desperately trying to retain even a minuscule shred of my dignity & professional reputation in front of my peers, but ultimately knowing I was failing! My fellow LTs in the Advance Recon element on the far side of the stream, were literally rolling on the bank laughing; I think one guy even peed himself. Back on the other bank Captain Anderson was just standing there, hands on his hips, staring at me! He finally said something to the effect of “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”; turned around and walked away shaking his head, and I never saw him again; ever!

Wish it was the cellphone-with-camera-age back then, I bet a video of that would go viral on the Internet within hours!


Well, I gravitated naturally to the Intel field; though I took a few detours. I tried private business for awhile, as a small business owner, and that didn’t work out. I then got into the Technology Recruiting field for about ten years. I did it, had some small success at
it, but didn’t really enjoy it. My first love has always been Intel Analysis, and with my background, over 35 years of experience now in the Middle East; I have worked for most of the past seven years doing North African/Middle Eastern/Levant/SE Asian OSINT analysis; with an emphasis on Islamic Fundamentalism, Jihadism, the Qutbiyyah, Salafiyyah, Sufism, etc. I’ve written a ton of Theological research papers on what drives the Salafi-Jihadis, something I’ve been research/writing on for more than 35 years; most of which I was able to get to a limited audience inside the Beltway over the past 20+ years; I even had a contract up until 7 years ago, to provide this type of insight to this “audience”. But we had a change in the Oval Office 7 years ago, and shortly afterwards, I was informed that my “opinions” were no longer needed, and since that time, I’ve gone to the Internet with a few articles; at; but my stuff is more in-depth, detailed, and exhaustive than they want to put up there on a daily basis, so right now, I just keep up with my research, and write for my own edification. Maybe another change in Administration, and we can get back to focusing on the real threat; I’m ready if called! That was the second time in 13 years that I was told that my “opinions” on the Salafi-Jihadis were not wanted in the Oval Office/IC; the first was in June ’95, when I told a gathering of the IC down at FBI School in Quantico, what was coming with the Salafis! I was told my opinions were not valued in the Oval Office! I left the IC shortly afterwards! That attitude worked out real well for us, didn’t it?

In fact, as this section is being updated, the horrific attacks on Paris are unfolding, it’s just painful to watch, and humiliating to know that I I can add so much to this fight, but that we lack even the courage to admit that we are in a fight. We are NOT in a fight with a “group” or “terrorists” or an acronym (ISIS, IS, ISIL, AQ, or whatever!); we are in a much more difficult fight with a THEOLOGY! Until we admit THAT, we’re just pissing up a waterfall! It’s called Category Error: when you cannot even correctly define the problem, you cannot come up with correct solution! Political Correctness has now migrated down from the Oval Office to infect our very own Chain-of-Command from the DOD/Pentagon/Senior Officer Corps. When you have 0-6’s and above, saying that non-existent Climate Change is our single greatest National Security Threat, I know that we’re in severe trouble! I always end that discussion with: “Do you know they have found Dinosaur Fossils down in Antarctica” (A Fact, by the way, they even evolved HUGE eyes due to the low light levels, which proves they lived there for millions of years!) “So what Humans caused the Climate Change that turned Antarctica into a Hothouse for Dinosaur evolution for tens of millions of years! That ends the discussion every single time!


You know, basically none. I was in MCROA for awhile, but let that lapse. I haven’t joined the Legion, the VFW, or anything like that. So, no basic benefits for me! Right now, I think TWS is the only thing I belong to as of right now. Maybe I’ll join some later. I live in an isolated little rural town now, and we don’t have much of a veteran’s infrastructure around here, to tell the truth.


Well of course it has in some ways, impacted every single day of my life since I left for OCS back in June of 1982. When I look back on my career, and the way it ended, and why it ended, I think of my father. He passed away sixyears ago at the age of almost 89, thinking I was a failure. A failure because I got passed over for Major in the Regular Corps, because of the imbroglio over my LOM. He couldn’t understand how I had been awarded so many medals for doing such a good job in such a short time, and still get passed over and have to get out.

But actually I attribute all that success, as shortlived as it was to him! Because he taught me one simple thing in life I always remembered, and which I always tried to live up to: “Do the best job you can, all the time, regardless of the job, and you’ll be successful”. He was right; that’s how I approached my time in the Corps, and that’s how I approach life nowadays if I can. In fact, my father’s approach, without him having ever served in the Corps, was a “Corps-like” approach, if you think about it., and that has always influenced me.

I’ve been out of the Corps, effectively since April 1995. That’s 20+ years! I only served a bit less than 12 years; so I’ve been out way longer than I actually served; and in fact; it still impacts my life on a daily basis; unfortunately, most of it negative. I never recovered personally or professionally from the whole LOM-fiasco; and the negative ramifications of it impact me to even this day; some seriously. I’ve lost family, friends, peers & even jobs over it; heck, a whole career, because of it.

Hence, it wouldn’t be complete without thanking the two women in my life; my mother Lois Armstrong, and my wife Marlyn; without whose unwavering support from both, I would’ve never made it through the past difficult 20+ years!


I’m not egotistical enough to assume that I can give any Marines currently serving cogent, relevant advice! In the 20 years that I’ve been out, the whole landscape has changed; what with the two wars, the sequestration issue, changes in policy, tactics, promotions, etc. I guess I just basically can
say only things that sound kinda trite, but nonetheless are true: “Do your best; have fun; love your country & love your Corps”; but…and most important, because I did not do this: Have a plan B, just in case!!

That said, I will relate one thing that a wise General said to me once. It was then MGen Ray Smith. We were at a Mess Night in Okinawa, in 1994; it was several months before I got out of the Corps. After the meal, we were all sitting around the long table in the O’Club at Camp Foster, and MGen Smith was talking informally to a bunch of us Junior Officers. He said one thing that up until then, I had never heard anyone say before, when he was addressing a question someone asked him about what, in his experience was the difference between the Marine Corps and the other services. He said simply: “The Marine Corps is an Institution! We don’t run the Corps as a business, or a corporation, or a company; we are an institution. And, you do you know what an institution is, verses a business, or a corporation, or a company? An institution has history, and traditions, and rules, and values, and honor, and integrity, and culture!”

That was the most impressive thing I ever heard anyone say about the special, unique nature of the Marine Corps, and I’ve never forgotten it.


Love it, ever since a friend of mine invited me to join. It’s the “Facebook” of the Corps; and it’s a great tool. I appreciate it being there, and I’ve managed to connect with a few old Devil Dogs I served with. It’s also made me reflect back on everything; good & bad; motivated me to write my Reflections, and tell my story.

We used to say in TBS/IOC, when things were getting tough; “They can kill us, but they can’t eat us!” Just one of those ironic, nonsensical humor things to break the tension; of course, sometimes, we also reversed the saying a bit too, if we were really in a bad mood, but you get the idea.

Anyway, TWS has challenged me to confront my demons, and hopefully, it will be a positive experience going forward.


1SG Carl E. Howard, U.S. Army (Ret) (1986-2007)

Read the service reflections of US Army veteran:

howard1SG Carl E. Howard

U.S. Army (Ret)


Shadow Box:


Growing up in a poor neighborhood and wanting to make more for myself than what was around me played a major role in my decision to join the military. Not to mention the attractive GI Bill sold very well by my recruiter. I knew early on that serving my country would be the biggest event I ever took on in my life. I was so right!


My service career path started out in the administrative field. I initially wanted to serve three years, earn my GI Bill, and go to college. However, towards the end of my 1st term, I realized that the Army meant so much more to me than just the GI Bill. It had become a way of life for me, so I changed my MOS to Infantry to be all I could be and the rest is history.


I participated in four areas of combat operations. The Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. All of these operations were significant in their own individual ways. The Gulf War was my first combat deployment as a Specialist/E-4. I can remember being on edge almost every minute of the day not knowing what the unexpected was. It was a life changing event for me and I’m sure for all who experienced it. When I deployed to Kosovo, I was a fully mature Infantry Platoon Sergeant (Bradley Fighting Vehicles). It was my responsibility to ensure all of my men (The Mad Dogs) returned safely home. I did just that! My next experience was Afghanistan. I deployed an Infantry Company to Afghanistan by volunteering to put on the diamond. This was another unique experience as we delivered a shocking blow to the Taliban fighters deep in the Afghan mountains. This was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t lose a life, but some of my brave warriors were bruised up. (Don’t feel bad, you should see the bad This was the decision maker for retirement. Upon retirement, I took a job in Iraq for a year (as a Defense Contractor), where I experienced a whole new set of emotions. Needless to say, I came home (for good) after completing my tour of duty.


Another tough one! Choosing one, I would have to chose Fort Benning, GA. Fort Benning really allowed me to grow as a Non-Commissioned Officer. This is where I served as a Drill Sergeant, met the love of my life, had my first child, was blessed with another child, and was promoted to senior NCO. Yeah, this had to be the one!


My Mad Dogs! These Soldiers were amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I have served with some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. However, my Mad Dogs were more like family. These Soldiers looked after one another and exemplify the phrase “Brotherhood”. Also, my memories as a Drill Sergeant are forever imprinted in my mind. Those were some of my most fondest memories as I was fortunate enough to train and mentor some of Americas bravest Soldiers. I am truly grateful!


That’s a tough one. I have many medals, awards and qualification badges that mean a whole lot to me. If I had to choose only one, it would probably be my Drill Sergeant Badge. A Drill Sergeant is the epitomy of the Army’s NCO Corps. The Drill Sergeant is the first impression a Soldier receives upon enlistment. You have a very demanding and tough job instilling Army values, training and discipline in new recruits. There is no room for error! Your dedicated from sun up to sun down seven days per week. The reward is watching the look of achievement and pride on the faces of the Army’s future march on the parade field. What a great feeling and joy!


Wow! Another tough one. I had so many who touched my life both NCO and Officer. The one that stands out the most would be Sergeant Williams. SGT Williams was my squad leader when I was a Private. He basically taught me everything about being “Squared Away”. From unannounced room inspections to surprise “GI Partys”, SGT Williams was on the job. Thank you SGT Williams!


I can remember when I was in Saudi Arabia, I was detailed to drive a 4×4 pick up truck to the burn pit outside the Assembly Area (AA) along with SPC Brown. Brown was the TC and I was the driver. After we burned all of the material, we headed back to the AA. SPC Brown rode in the back of the truck and was standing up holding on to the cab. As I approached the entrance to the AA, Brown said “I bet you won’t floor it”. Of course, I did floor it and the truck (and Brown) went Airborne. As we went through the entrance, I saw the Detachment Sergeant (SFC Johnson) running behind the truck trying to signal me to stop. I was hysterical. When he finally caught up with us, he went off. He said ” Are you crazy! You could have killed him”. His kevlar was on his head sideways, his weapon was at sling arms and I just burst out laughing. He was so furious, he just walked off. SFC Johnson was a Soldiers’ Soldier and a true warrior, but that was a hysterical event.


I decided to become a Defense Contractor after the service.


I am a life member of the VFW. The benefits I derive are knowing that the VFW goes the extra mile to care for our Veterans in need.


The military has been the best decision I have ever made. I am a disciplined person who has a purpose in this world who prides himself on contributing to the workforce post retirement. I am a dedicated citizen who believes in giving back to the community and to the less fortunate. I am a supporter of my civilian and military leadership, no matter who’s in office or position. I am conservative in what I do as far as resources. I ensure my children appreciate everything they receive and I teach them that helping others and doing something bigger than yourself is the way to success in this life. I contribute 90% of that to the military.


Selfless service will take you a long way in life. Go after your dreams, but never forget who you are. Always remember, someone helped you get there, be sure to do the same for someone else.


Togetherweserved is outstanding! I am sharing it with anyone I come in contact with associated with the military. This is truly a remarkable way to stay in contact and to find those with whom you served so many years ago. I love this website.


Capt William M Pierce U.S. Marine Corps (Served 1985-1992)

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profile2Capt William M Pierce

U.S. Marine Corps


Shadow Box:


I suppose my decision to join the Marine Corps was due to many reasons. First, my family has served in the military since at least the Civil War. My great grandfather served with the Union from Maine. My grandfather served in the Army and fought in Belgium, participated in D-Day and, later Korea. My brother was a Naval Officer submariner. I still have several relatives who have served or currently serve in other branches of the US Armed Forces.

My father also served and was a USAF Aviator (Captain-then Major during Vietnam) flying B52’s in Vietnam 1968, 1969 and 1970. He served 3 tours. He was later involved in “Rolling Thunder” among other USAF ops. He retired a Colonel.

He was very pissed when I graduated from Florida State University as he wanted me to either become a USAF Aviator like him or enter the MLB draft. I played baseball for Florida State University and was courted by the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. I’ll never forget the things he said and the look on his face when I told him that I wasn’t going to declare for the MLB draft because, at best, if I entered the MLB draft, I’d go to AA. I was already 22 and would be too old to enlist in less than 4 years. I could languish in the Minors or “Do something with my life.” He just mumbled something and walked away.

I always had a desire to be a Marine, so that’s what I did. My father just couldn’t understand how being a Marine Infantry Officer would help me find a job when I separated. “Shooting rifles, throwing grenades, etc.- “What kind of job skill is that?” he said. He told me that if I became an Aviator like him, after I left the USAF, I could get a job flying for a civvy airline. A “real” career in his opinion.

I joined the Marines because I wanted the brotherhood and camaraderie of being a part of the world’s finest military organization.

Also, I remember during Boot Camp at Parris Island screaming ,”Sir, yes/no, Sir” or “Sir, aye, aye, Sir” until it hurt was a real reality check for me. I remember the squad bay deck swabbing parties at the Island. With rolled up towels and “turtle” crawling” during the floor squaring away and weekly waxing parties done the same way. My final rating at the end of Boot Camp was in the top 10% so I got me a PFC stripe!

But, in the end, I did it for me.


Initially, I wanted to make a career commitment to the Corps and serve until retirement, but my family was also important to me. My wife, son and daughter rarely saw me. They did go to California and MCBH with me at the end of my days as a Marine Officerthough. I always felt it best if they stayed in Tampa to have a more “Normal” life staying in one place. I would report for duty stations alone.

After 7 1/2 years of this, I decided to separate and go to Graduate School back at Florida State University. I got my Ph.D. in Mental Health Counseling and worked for the VA for many years. I counseled mostly (about 50%) Marine 03s and Army 11Bravo- combat vets with PTSD. But, many had other issues as well.

I decided to leave spend more time with my family.

As it turned out (and I couldn’t know this) I’m glad I did spend more time with my family. In 2012, our beloved daughter, Michelle, who was my “Daddy’s Girl” was killed by a drunk driver. She was a perfect child and so is our son, Alex, who is currently a Navy Lt. Physician.

Michelle was very, very bright and so is Alex. We sent her to a private Prep School where she graduated at 16 while taking college credit courses. She got her B.A. at barely 20, her M.A. at 22 and was beginning to pursue her desire to become a Professor of English Literature. She was just starting Doctoral School at the University of Florida when the drunk driver killed her. I recall as she became an older teenager, then young adult, her brother, Alex, was always her “protector.” I worried, but he always watched out for her. If some guy ever, ever did ANYTHING untoward to her, he’d thump their ass and that would be the end of it. I’m glad I wasn’t continually gone as I would have missed the years we had before her death.


I participated in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. My Unit was one of the first into Kuwait- Golf 2/3, along with Hotel 2/3. We were attached to the 1st Marines . Our units were heloed to about 3 klicks from the airfield and dismounted around 0530. We humped to the airfield and Captain Soon-Ye and myself set our lines and got ready for the STHTF.

The most life changing event I’d say I had was killing the first Iraqi regular. I still remember what his face looked like, what his uniform looked like and how he moved before I dropped him. I had an odd feeling for a few minutes that I had legally murdered another human being- enemy or not.

I will always remember LCpl Billings. A Marine from Hotel 2/3 was moving to a less cluttered position for a better field of fire and was hit twice with AK rounds. He wasn’t KIA just WIA. LCpl Billings from my Company, 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, ran from his safely covered position and, under fire, recovered the wounded and down Marine and carried him back to safety.

I found out later that since LCpl Billings had no real medical supplies, he cut the sleeve off his ute and cut it into pieces plugging the WIA wounds with pressure. The WIA Marine’s name was PFC Rodriquez and he was CASEVAC and lived. I put Billings in for a commendation.


I’d say MCBH. I was with Golf 2/3. The Islands were nice and gave my family a lot to do while I was at work or observing training. The weather was nice, the sea was so clean and it was just a “different” type place to be stationed. I usually got the gaff because I was a brown bagger!

I can’t really say I have a least favorite as they were all pretty much the same.

MCBH- Home of the “Island Warriors.” OOH Rah.


I’d say the camaraderie of the Marine Corps mostly. Building relationships with other Officers, including Capt. Soon-Ye and my best Marine buddy Capt. John Raymond. He stayed the course and retired in 2010 as 07.

During the dance in the desert with Iraqi regulars and conscripts (most of which surrendered as soon as they saw us coming) I remember the sights, sounds and smell of war. Top Tyler was one great SNCO who I admired very much and always entertained any advice he rendered. Top just had a “sense” when something wasn’t right. He was a highly decorated Vietnam vet who knew the ropes. I remember engaging the enemy who were dumb and didn’t realize that the airfield Al Jabar was ours and we were going to kick their asses out of Kuwait.

Once other Units of the 1/1 arrived and could take over the security of the airfield, we moved out to protect the oil fields. It was eerie with all the oil wells blazing and even during mid-day, the smoke made it seem like near twilight in places. Replacing gas mask filters very often. I always gave orders to my Platoon Leaders to get a hole dug, let the Marine down in the hole to change filters, do whatever needed to be done and to always cover the hole with ponchos while the Marine was down in the hole. I suspected that inhaling burning oil smoke just couldn’t be a “healthy” thing to do.


I don’t really believe medals and awards make Marines. Marines are an elite fighting force. Marines fight for the Marine to the right and left of them and work as a team at all times. Medals and awards are just self-fulfilling by any Marine doing their duty. I’m not saying they aren’t significant because they are. Marine 03 are the only military MOS whose primary purpose is to get the job done by killing, repelling or capturing the enemy. Marine 03 are the only ones whose primary function is to advance and take care of business. I’m in no way dissing any other Marine MOS. All are important. I received the CAR for Desert Storm.


I would say the CAR. But, again, medals/ribbons were never a priority for me. They were presented for doing my duty as a Marine Corps Officer.


There were many. One was MSgt. Wayne Tyler. He was a highly decorated Vietnam vet and now reminds me of the relationship between Sgt Major Basil Plumley and Lt Gen. Hal Moore in the movie, “We Were Soldiers” that we had in Desert Storm. Top and I were always together and he just had a sense whenever something wasn’t right during Desert Storm. MSgt. Tyler would say things like, “Skipper, something just ain’t right here” or “Maybe those bas…..ds are up to something.” Things like that. He passed away in 2009. We stayed in touch regularly until his death. I miss him very much. Semper Fi MSgt. Wayne Tyler.

Another was Lt Col Blose our Battalion CO during Desert Storm.

Capt. Soon-Ye- he taught me karate in the lot by his BOQ like nobody’s business.

BGen John Raymond was and still is my best Marine buddy. We spend holidays together and go on vacations with our families to this day. I always BS him by calling him,”Sir” a lot. We often go to Saints or Cubs games together and leave our “bosses” (the wives) at home. He is also one of the finest Marines I ever served with.

Capt. Leon White- he taught me a lot while I was still a gung-ho 1Lt all the ropes and how to get my job done quickly and efficiently. He was kinda old for a Capt. He became an Officer through the “Gifted Marine” program the Corps had going at the time to retain good and experienced enlisted Marines by making them Officers. Capt. White served 3 tours in Vietnam and was very good at Infantry teaching.

Another was Corpsman HM2, Carlton Pine-one brave guy who was there if we needed him.

Too many others to list actually.


Lt Col Blose-MCBH 2/3 Battalion CO during Desert Storm.

MSgt. Wayne Tyler-Camp Pendleton- One of the best Marines I ever served with.

GySgt Raul Rodriquez- Camp Pendleton-One hard core SOB. He was a hat for years at MCRD-PI and brought it with him every day.

Major Troy Bessemer- Camp Legune-Went through OCS together. A great guy and Marine.

BGen John Raymond- my best Marine buddy. We went through nearly all the exact same training together for 7 years.-OCS, TBS, Camp Legune, Camp Pendelton

Major John (?) Anderson-OCS Instructor-He gave us a break during his classes and we got at least 45 minutes a day to relax. He was an excellent classroom instructor. We all learned a lot about Leadership, spotting a Marine who may be in distress, how to counsel subordinate Marines, leading by example, etc.

Lt Col Kelly-Once our Battalion CO- MCBH. He was a very unique Officer who would often lighten stressful situations with a joke or say something to make us laugh to reduce the stress.

I would like to find HM2 Carlton “Evergreen” Pine from Vermont.


These are two of many. One occurred during Phase 2 at MCRD/PI. One of our Drill Instructors had rather large lips which was the butt of many inside, quiet jokes among us recruits. One cold December day as we were forming for chow, a recruit in the rear is sneaking chap stick on his lips. The DI mentioned noticed the infraction and runs to the rear and ear blasts the recruit saying, “So, we’re just gonna put on some f…ing lipstick, huh?” Almost immediately, another Recruit says, “DI needs to use Speed Stick on those lips!” All hell broke loose and we paid the price, but it was funny.

The other occurred during OCS. I’d like to add that, for me at least, OCS was challenging, but I had a BIG advantage over the other Candidates’ because I was already a Marine and used to all the ear blasting, how to drill, the PT, how to fire and clean my weapon, how to sound-off, how to correctly don my ute, mask, etc. Many Candidates couldn’t hack it and were sent packing.

Anyway, while in Combat Training, there was a Candidate that wasn’t very good at the “Slide for Life” rope crawl. He gets about a 1/4 of the way and stops. Hat’s are yelling at him to “continue, what’s his problem, hurry up, etc” He yells, “This Candidate can’t go anymore because I’m raw and don’t want to fall in the water, SSgt.” Boy, that set them off big time. Ends up, he falls into the cold water anyway. When he gets out, DI Moore is all over him. The Candidate says, “This Candidate is raw SSgt.” DI Moore screams “Explain yourself Candidate.” The Candidate screams “This Candidates (male genitalia) are raw from PT and sliding the rope is killing me, SSgt!”

Nearly everyone wanted to laugh I think, including the DI, but no one did.


I went to graduate school at Florida State University in Tallahassee. I got my Doctorate in Mental Health Counseling. I worked for the VA many years counseling vets from all branches. I found that most were either Marine 03 or Army 11 Bravo- combat vets with PTSD.

I’m retired now.


I just go every so often to my local VFW for a few beers and cook-offs. It’s sad, but the Korea and Vietnam era vets show up less and less as age and death takes its toll.


Becoming a Marine made me more focused, driven and able to cope with stressful situations. Being a VA Mental Health Counselor was good for my caseload patients I think. But, it was somewhat difficult for me. This is because I had to absorb, like a sponge, all my caseload patients issues. I had to develop the best course of action for each patient. They only had to work through their individual issues. I loved doing it nonetheless and I am proud I was able to help so many vets. Some I couldn’t help as they weren’t receptive or just stopped coming to see me.


I would tell the Marine Recruit that they better lose any sense of being an individual. They will always be a “team.” I’d tell them that they are attempting to become a part of a 240 year old brotherhood of tradition, honor, courage and commitment. I’d also tell them that whether they are going to MCRD/PI or MCRD/SD, they better represent all of us who came before and stood on those yellow foot prints. They should represent us all 110% and no less.

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor MUST be earned as it will only be given to a selected few.


It has helped me connect with new Marine Brothers/Sisters. I’ve been privileged to have become acquainted with many, many good Marines. I have been able to share stories with other Marine 03 and other MOS’. It’s a good site that I’d recommend to any Marine. Thanks for letting me participate and communicate, not only with Marines, but also military personnel from other branches as well in Forums and such. TWS is good. I’ve also been able to connect with other Native Americans such as myself.

Note from Admin: Sadly, as we were working with Mike to tell his story, he passed away. At least his story is here forever for his family, friends and his Brother and Sister Marines.

Semper Fi Marine.


AMCS John J. Babstock U.S. Navy (Ret) (1984-2009)

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babstockAMCS John J. Babstock

U.S. Navy (Ret)


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To me, my Naval career started when I was a kid, listening to my grandfather’s sea stories. My grandfather was a GM during WW II; and served as a member of the armed guard on freighters & tankers. joinHe told me stories of his convoy duties, like fishing with hand grenades in the Pacific or sailing the North Atlantic in the winter. Those of us that have done that; know how much fun that can be!
One of the many benefits of growing up in New England; is the rich naval history that is preserved up and down the coast. One of the places he brought me; was Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA. We would walk around the USS Massachusetts (BB-59) along with the other ships. He would tell me about the guns, how to operate them and how to do PM on them.

Using boats on the river or planes flying by, he would show me how to aim at them. He told me that shooting down a maneuvering A/C like a zero was not easy. But once they picked a ship to attack it got easier, because they stayed in a straight line for a while, especially if they got tunnel vision. I would have never guessed, that over 40 years later in the Persian Gulf, I would use what he taught me. I really enjoyed those tours, it was great having my own personnel tour guide. He took me to see the movie Midway when it came out. He bought me my 1st peacoat, it doesn’t fit me anymore, but I still have it. So it seemed only natural that I would join the world’s greatest NAVY! He died 3 yrs before I could enlist.

In 1982 my buddies & I were hanging out at the USMC recruiting office and they showed us a tape of flight deck ops during the Vietnam War. I said I wanted to do that & work on F-4’s. Gunny Cherry said, Okay”, and he walked me to the Navy office. He told the PO1 that was sitting at the desk to make it happen or he would kill him. The PO1 said, “Yes Gunny”, and that was it!


Up until I watched that flight deck video at the USMC recruiting office, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in the Navy. pathI just wanted to go to sea. But once I saw that video, I knew I wanted to work on the F-4’s on the roof.

So it was off to AMH school, there was 1 set of orders for F-4’s on the Midway. The guy ahead of me took those orders, he wanted to go to Japan. So then it was off to F/A-18 school in Lemoore, then to VFA-106 at Cecil Field.
After my 2nd enlistment and learning how fouled up the Chief’s Mess can really be, I decided to get out. I enlisted in the Reserves and stayed a brown shoe. I started out working in AIMD at NAS South Weymouth for 4 yrs. I then transferred to C-130’s for 10 yrs. The Herc community is a great community to be a part of.

In 2003 I was de-mobing in Norfolk and I was put in with a group of sailors that were from a boat unit. We started talking and they said they needed a Chief. They asked if I would come down and see what they were all about, so I did, I walked around the spaces at the New Haven, CT Reserve Center and I the talked with the CO & XO. They asked if I liked what I saw, I said yes and they asked when I could start. They didn’t care about the fact that I was a brown shoe and how they were going to work the billet problem.

Walking that transfer chit up the chain was an experience. I was asked more than once if this was a joke and “What the hell is IBU?”. I was told that I just ruined my chance for advancement by a few people. I told them, that I wanted to see how the other half lived in the black shoe Navy. When I made AMCS in ’05 while on my 2nd activation, those people who told me that I ruined my career sent me an email, saying they guessed they were wrong. I retired in ’09.


While assigned to VFA-82 on the America in ’89, we were suppose too be in Singapore for 7 days; but on our 3rd day LtCol Higgins (USMC) was killed by the terrorists who took him hostage. So we were called back to the ship and we high tailed it back combatto the coast of Iran, where we sat there for about 3 weeks loading & unloading A/C for missions that never happened.
One evening I was sitting on the alert 5 bird with the pilot. He was showing me pics of the ships he was assigned to destroy. They were our old Fletcher class destroyers. I asked if they were recent and he said yes. So we discussed the weapon systems they had and he asked why I knew so much about them, that I could have given him the intel brief. I told him about my grandfather and said that I have been on a few of them.

So we didn’t end up bombing Iran, but a few months later we ended up in participating in a rescue mission in Lebanon. We were with the Coral Sea battle group, we provided air support for the embassy rescue mission. The Coral Sea was supposed to relieve us, so we could go home, but she got her decom letter. So instead of us off loading stuff to her, she off loaded her stuff to us!

During that process a Russian destroyer was behind us. Every once in a while she would try to make a run between us. So we would close the gap and she would fall back & we would open up & she would try again. This went on a few times while the helos where doing their thing. Flight ops was suspended during this evolution, so a lot of people were on the roof of both ships. When we would close the gap a few hand gestures were passed back & forth between us sailors, along with a lot of banter! They were laughing, but not too many of us were! Whenever we did an unrep our skipper would have the song Coming to America by Neil Diamond played on the 1MC, so that was playing the whole time.

In ’05, I was the forward gunner on a 34′ Dauntless Sea Ark boat manning an M-60. We were on station at night at the port of Ash Shu’ay Bah Kuwait. A small craft with a flashing green light was entering our threat zone from under a pier. We started for the boat & manned our gun stations. We could not fire on the boat because the pier he came under was an LNG pier and a tanker was getting loaded at the time. You don’t want a stray round to hit anything on that pier!

So the Coxswain got on the inside track of him and once we cleared that pier & ship we would have a clear shot. He was holding his course until we were about 300′ from him and we turned our blue lights on. Once we did that, he turned hard to port to get the hell away from us. We turned with him, keeping us between him & the port entrance. We were broad side with about 100′ between us. The whole time I had my weapon pointed right at the 2 guys standing at the wheel. The port 50 would of taken care of the rest of the boat if need be. I was thinking the whole time “don’t point a weapon at us; I don’t want to kill you”. That was the 1st time I came close to killing someone with me pulling a trigger. I have loaded A/C with weapons and they have come back without them, but I never saw the end result. Standing behind a gun & seeing a person on the other end of the sights is a different story! You see the end result of what you just did. I can still see those men in that boat.

The Coxswain asked if we could go after the boat and the TOC denied the request. They said they passed the info to the Kuwaiti Navy & Coast Guard, they never found the boat. A few hours later we could hear a distress call from a ship, asking for help because it was being attacked by pirates. Since the ship was not an HVA, we could not go out to assist.


I always look back at my flight deck time with ’82 as fond times. I loved working the roof, being at sea and the guys I worked with. My time with 62 was great, did a lot of fun things and went a lot of places.

My time with IBU favoritewas the end of my career and I enjoyed being on the boats and most of the people I deployed with. When you spend 10 or 12 hrs a day on a patrol boat with 3 or 4 other people you can’t help but build a special bond. Just like the bond you build with people you trust your life with!
As for my least favorite part of my career! It was dealing with the bad E-7’s, E-8’s & E-9’s. In VFA-106 I had and E-7 who thought all of us line rats were no good. He didn’t believe in, if you take care of your sailors, they will take care of you. So he treated us like crap & we treated him like crap. When he screwed up, he blamed it on us, but we made sure everyone knew that he was the screw up.

In VFA-82 I had another fouled up CPO mess. They thought they were above the law. As far as us E-4 & below in the line shack were concerned, there was only 1 Chief in the unit, ADC Broom. He stood up for us & he paid the price for not touting the line. One night while working the roof, I got into an argument with and AMC and he proceeded to try to throw me down a running intake. Lucky for me the pilot saw it and he throttled back the engine, while I was holding a pad eye. The pilot never said a word! I told my guys who saw it, to stay out of it. I didn’t want them to get caught up in my fight!

I was told by the E-8 & E-9 of the Maintenance Dept to keep my mouth shut or else. I was fighting for custody of my daughter at the time & we had another deployment coming up. I was told they wouldn’t put me on it. Well when the list came out I was # 1 on it. I kept my mouth shut until then. When I was checking out of the command, I told the CO he doesn’t run the unit and I told him the entire story. He was not happy. That again, is another story!

I visited that unit a year later and a few of my old friends were still there. They told me what happened after I left. They said the CO went nuts and he and the new black shoe Master Chief cleaned house. The AMHC never saw E-8 & the E-8’s never saw E-9.

I saw my old CO a few years after that. He flew into NAS South Weymouth, I was working as a crash crew firefighter on the base. We were driving by the A/C and I saw him. I caught him coming out of the hangar. He saw me, called me over, we talked & laughed. He told me what happened after I left, I told him that I heard. He asked if I would launch him out later that day. So I prepped the bird like old times, got him strapped in like old times, we said goodbye, I told him to have a good flight and I launched him off like old times. That was the last time I touched a running hornet. I have to admit, it felt good crawling under that bird doing my checks. I missed it! I got into a habit way back when, when I saw the pilot coming out to the A/C; I would tap the A/C and tell it to take care of him (we didn’t have female pilots back then). I did it with the Hercs also and when I get into an A/C.

While assigned to IBU-22, we had to deal with a squadron CPO mess who thought they were above regulations & thought they deserved special treatment. They didn’t like being told they were wrong or that they didn’t get special treatment from me. To me an anchor didn’t mean you are special and deserve better treatment. Some people forget where they came from and expect special treatment. Most of the E-9’s in the squadron didn’t have any balls, they just kissed the O’s butts! The ones who didn’t kiss butt, got assigned to the PLATS, UAE or Bahrain, that also went for some of the O’s who didn’t play along either.

08011-N-0292S-146In my career I have had a few close calls, where I could have been killed or seriously hurt. I have also seen some of my friends & sailors get hurt. The time I was looking down my M-60 at the human being I might have to kill, was eye opening. I don’t take life for granted, it is too short. So I try to enjoy as much as I can and laugh as much as possible.

I was coming up to the end of my time with VFA-106. The Rear Admiral who got me into & kept me out of trouble on a few occasions, asked me if I would consider coming to D.C. to be his personal P/C. 106 was a RAG outfit and I really wanted to go to sea. He said he understood, he told me that if I ever needed anything, that I was to call on him anytime.

I was launching 1 of the instructor pilots, Maj. Hedges, on my last week working the line in 106. As I was strapping him in, he told me “that it was an honor to have known me and that I would have made a hell of a Marine. He knew that when he is strapped into a bird I prepped, that it was a good bird and the cleanest cockpit he flew in! He also kept me out of the brig once.

With VFA-82, I was again assigned to the line division. Back then people could enlist for 2 years and as a group. Well, we got 1 of these groups, a bunch of kids straight from the hoods of NYC and fresh out of high school. They were a good group of kids, they did not take life to serious and they called me Grandpa, I was 24.

I taught them everything I knew about the Hornet and they soaked it all in. We were at sea and one of them was working days and I worked nights as a T/S. One day, Airman Banks came to my bunk shaking me awake. He was all excited and he woke all of us night checkers up. I asked what was wrong and he said nothing, so I said “Why in the hell are you waking me up?” He said that his bird just caught fire and that he put it out all by himself. I asked; if he and the pilot were okay, he said “Yes”, I said, “Good job”, and that I was proud of him. He said, “Thank you for everything”. The guys awake asked if they could go back to sleep now and he went back to work.

Another moment was my retirement ceremony. My present Sailors and some from my past; gave me a great send off that I, my family and friends will never forget!

There are many 1 on 1 moments with sailors thru out my career like above, that make me proud of my time in the Navy. When I have been asked to make entries into my sailors charge books! When I got asked to be the guest speaker at a retirement ceremony or asked to plan or participate in a ceremony and they tell me why. All of these are proud moments. valorBut the proudest moment was with 3 of my daughters. Mackenzie was in 2nd grade and Isabella was in kindergarten. In 2007 I was shipping out for their 3rd activation in 5 yrs. I was asked to go into their school and talk with their classes, which I did. I showed up in my cammies, with my other daughter Hadley.
When I got to the classroom door, they both looked at me with the biggest smiles.They got up, ran over to me, turned to their classmates and said, “This is my Dad, he is in Navy”. They walked me to the chair that was put out for me. I fielded questions for about 30 minutes, they never left my side and they just held my hands the entire time. Country artist Keni Thomas (an Army Ranger from Blackhawk down) says it best in his song, “That One is My Dad”; he says it for all us proud parents!


My 1 & only NAM that I got while in VFA-82 in ’88. When I left 106 to go to 82, I thought, yes I will finally get to work in the airframes shop, boy was I wrong again! I was told that I would go to 1st Lt, because they didn’t want to contaminate me with old technology. I raised the B/S flag to PO1 Plate everyday and asked if I could go back to 106 and at least keep my quals up? The 1st kept on saying no, then they finally got sick of the bitching. So they sent me to VFA-87 instead, where I spent the next 4 months working with them. I did workups with them, I kept my quals up and got a few more in the process. I had a great time with them. When it was time to transition from the A-7’s to F/A 18’s, they called me back.

medalsI found out that the command was going to put me back in the line to set up the line & T/S Div. I was also tasked with training the command on how to operate and work around the 18’s. I put a lot of time & effort into it. Our CAG was in Fallon doing our bombing quals. I was the night check T/S Sup and we were launching out a mission. I was walking down the line & a bird was taxing from the arming point, on it’s way too take off. I just happened to see that a door under the port engine was open. I stopped the pilot, who was LCDR Wirt, he came from Pax, where he was a test pilot. He was a great pilot! It turns out that there were 3 doors open on his A/C. As I was sending him off, he asked why I stopped him. I signaled that a door was open & I would tell him when he got back.
So he left and I found the guys who checked him out & told them what happened. He came back and he came looking for me, I was hoping he would forget, but he didn’t. I told him that I found a door open, not 3, he thanked me and said good job, and it was genuine. He never mentioned it again. Later on back at Cecil, my LPO asked me about it and said that Mr. Wirt told him about it. He asked who checked him out, I told him I handled it and that was it.

Well later on at quarters, I was up with the guys who were getting promoted,(I was getting E-5). We got dismissed, but CDR Eason told me to stand fast, which I did. He walked up to me and looked down at me. I’m 6′ when standing tall, his call sign was lurch and for good reasons! He pinned the NAM on me as the XO was reading the award. It turns out that Mr. Wirt wrote me up for a COMM for that trip, but it got knocked down to a NAM. As AMC Hawkins pointed out to me, E-4’s don’t deserve a COMM for doing their job! To a point I agreed with him, I was doing my job when I closed those doors. But all the other admin stuff I did to set up those divisions were way above & beyond an E-4’s job. Especially when an E-5 & E-6 were assigned to those divisions. CDR Eason thanked me for all the hard work I did to get the command up & running and combat ready. After quarters Mr. Wirt came up and thanked me again!

personIn a positive way, Gunnies Cherry, Hunsinger, Birdsong, Lawrence, MSgt Dugan, MGySgt Lord, CPO Broom, Maj Hedges, CDR’s Eason, Mustin, LeClair, and Desormier. They all cared about their Marines & Sailors, They all had their own way of leading, and over all they all tried to do right by us. Even all of the bad CPO’s I have dealt with have had a positive effect. They taught me and all the others that were exposed to them, what not to be or do as a person in a leadership role.

Where to begin, in 25 yrs you make meet a lot of people. The 1st guy to mention is AMH2 Jeff Chessick. We met in F/A-18 school & we went to VFA-106 together. He was a great mentor & is a great friend. I don’t know if they still show peoplethat training movie the 1st 48 hrs to the new guys, but he made sure I didn’t get with the wrong crowd. We still talk and him & his wife Joellyn sends my girls b-day cards every yr & X-mas cards.
Next would be Adam & Jada Gray, we worked the line together in 106. They visit when they are in the area & we visit when we are down in there next of the woods. 106 was a big command with a lot of good people. There was Hughey & carrie from my 87 days, I visit them when I’m in Fla. Then there is Jay & Chubs from my 82 days. We still talk & send emails back & forth. I have been to God’s (Texas) country as they call it, but they haven’t been up here in Yankee country as they call it. There is Chris, Dave, Darrin, Dilts & so many others from my AIMD & 62 days. I still talk with & see some of them. Then there are my boat days, again so many great people. I couldn’t possibly name them all! I still talk & see a lot of them. With promotion and retirement ceremonies I get to keep up with them. Had a lot of good times in my career, with a lot of good people. I have very few regrets with my career.


While assigned to F/A-18 school in Lemoore, I was the only boot in the class. Everyone else came from the fleet, mostly from A-7’s & F-14’s. Back then the movie Blue Thunder was popular. If you remember the movie, one you are old and two you remember the JAFO hat. Well the guys gave me a JAFA hat and they made me wear it around the base. Only one person ever asked me what it stood for and it was a Commander. We were walking to class; he stopped us, called me over and asked what JAFA stood for.

So there I was, a boot E-3 wondering what the hell I was going to tell him and so were the guys. So finally, I just came out and told him exactly what funnyit meant, “just another f—–g airman sir”. He stood there for a brief moment, looked at me & the guys standing behind me, laughed and said, “Carry on.” I said “Yes Sir” saluted & walked away.
In VFA-106, a Rear Admiral was the one who got me in trouble and he was the one who got me out of trouble. We were on board ship; I was part of a detachment for a pilot class doing their carrier quals. The Admiral was just keeping his current.I had been a P/C for him about yr & a half now, he was assigned to the wing at Cecil. So our relationship was a typical P/C pilot relationship.

I had just finished launching him and I passed him over to the waiting ABH. We were on elevator 1 & as he taxied by me, he flipped me the bird. I looked around to see if he did it to someone else. I pointed at myself while looking at him and he shook his head yes. We both started laughing, so I flipped him back, turned to walk away and guess who was standing behind me, my least favorite ADC. Well he started in on me & said he was going to write me up, which was normal for him. hand-pen-paper-8003027So I did what I usually did when he did that, I threw my pen at him, said “Start f—–g writing”. The pen bounced off of him & I picked it up, I didn’t want to put FOD on the roof!

By the time I got off the roof and in the shop, Gunny Birdsong was waiting for me. He asked, if I really flipped off the Admiral & threw my pen at the E-7 (everyone called him the E-7), I told him yes! He shook his head, started to laugh, he couldn’t stand ADC either, not too many people could! Anyway, he told me that I have to stop throwing pens at him. Gunny was there to escort me to the OIC to sign my report chit, which I did.

So the Admiral is the last one down and I go to unstrap him. He starts laughing and says “Babstock you are the only guy who has ever flipped me back”. I started laughing and told him what happened. As we were walking back to the island, he told me that he would take care of it, and he did.

On one of the many Fallon trips I went on while in 106, way before they put a permanent detachment there, Major Hedges kept me from the brig. I was accused of DUI & destruction of government property. That’s a whole other story all in itself. The only thing was, I didn’t drink & he knew it, plus the fact nothing came up on all of the tests I had to go through! He didn’t like the fact that the command was going to hide a LCDR who got busted for a DUI in town on the same trip & they were going to keel haul me! So he raised the BS flag and my charges were dropped.

fallonI spent more time at NAS Fallon, or on a ship than I did at Cecil. Myself & LCPL Gray worked mids on the wash rack for 3 months straight, 7 days a week. Our first skipper didn’t believe in time off, unless you worked topside inside the nice air conditioned office spaces. We averaged 3 to 5 A/C a night, depending how dirty they were. That was us getting them off the line and us bringing them back ourselves, just the two of us. Who needs wing walkers!

One Sunday morning, we got challenged by I believe by LCPL’s Faulkner & Folsom on who could take a bird back to the line and bring another back to the wash rack the fastest. The birds sat side by side on the rack and we told them we would take the inside bird to make it even. Everyone laughed & they took the outside bird. We both hooked up and Adam got in the seat and I drove. They were able to pull right out, we had to back out.

So it is a Sunday and nobody else is working, so we thought. So we take off, of course we are behind them, I mean right behind them. Our right wing tip was right behind their left wing tip! I went to go around & they cut us off a few times. We made our time up when it came to hooking up to the other bird. Adam drove back & I rode the seat, we beat them back. When we got back to the shack, Gunny Hunsinger was there waiting for us. We walked in, sat down and didn’t say a word. He looked at all of us and asked if the birds were ready and we said yes. He said good: he turned to us and said something like “the next time you want to f–king drag race with millions of dollars of A/C, make sure the Admiral isn’t watching, you f–king idiots”. We denied everything!

The Admiral was the same Admiral who flipped me off. His office was in VA-174’s hangar which was next to ours. He did mention the race the next time I launched him! He was one of the coolest Admirals I ever knew.

womenIn the mid 80’s, the Navy’s top brass, in its infinite wisdom (because the politician’s said they had too) decided that it was time for females to be able to work on the roof with non-combat commands. So they decided to let RAG outfits send females aboard carriers. Well guess what div had the most girls, yup the line div, my div. So I’m on the 1st detachment that is sending girls to do carrier quals.

We have girls with us; I was tasked with showing 2 of them around the roof to give them the safety brief and they were going to be with me when the A/C arrived. You are thinking lucky guy right! When it came to working the roof, my attitude was this. If I could trust you to get me out of trouble if I got in it, then I didn’t care who or what you were. If I couldn’t, then I didn’t want you around me at anytime!

So myself and the 2 girls are walking around the roof. I see the Capt & an Admiral walking around the deck with their marine guards in tow. Well the 2 girls are behind me. We are coming up on the 2 officers, well they both come running up to me calling my name and they both goosed me! I turned beat red, I couldn’t say a word, I put my head down and just stood there waiting for the hammer to fall. The Capt & Admiral just laughed along with the rest of them. I was mortified! The girls could not stop laughing, they grabbed me by the arms and walked me off.

The Capt had armed guards stationed at every hatch that led to a female berthing area! They were not allowed to wander around the ship by themselves either. So those of us that brought them were considered very lucky guys for the most part. We considered them just another Sailor, but for a ship & crew that never worked with females before, they were thought of differently and it was obvious! The current sub crews are now going through what the rest of the fleet went through back in the mid & late 80’s. It will be a big transition for them!

With 82; we were getting a launch ready; a P/C asked me to look at his bird, so I did, I said the A/C was down. I was looking for the flight deck chief to tell him & the pilot came out. maxresdefaultIt was Mr. Smith a damn good pilot! I told him the plane was down, he asked why, I told him and he said don’t worry about it. I said it isn’t safe and he said he wanted to fly. I said OK, it’s your life, hoping that would stop him, it didn’t. So he starts it up, I wait for the P/C to hand it over to me, my partner & we do our checks. I salute him & do the sign of the cross & I hand him over to the waiting ABH. He looked at me shaking his head & I could see him say WTF. He shuts the bird down, the P/C puts the ladder down. He walks up to me & says & I quote “Babstock you are a F–kKING A–HOLE” & walks off too the island. I said “I told you it was unsafe” as he was walking off.

He left the Navy after that deployment to become an airline pilot. I was the P/C for his last flight with us. As I was strapping him in, he said thanks for that night on the roof. I told him I was just doing my job. He wished me luck with everything that was going on. I wished him luck with his future. When he landed, we shook hands and I never saw him again. I left for an around the horn cruise before he checked out. He was a great pilot & a good man!

Another 82 story is with a pilot named Wyle. So I get this MAF from M/C saying that F/C computer #1 would not work in the O F F position. I laugh & say this must be a joke. So I go down to M/C (I had to go to supply for parts anyway) & talk with them in there, saying ha ha nice joke. They said it isn’t a joke, he was actually serious. So I go across the way to the Hornets nest & the O’s are watching a movie.

So I go in, sit down next to Mr. Wyle & I ask him to read it. So he does, he looks at me, I ask if it is a joke. Now we are whispering because the movie is on & the CO & XO are sitting behind us. I said read it again & I get the same response. I said, read it again but out loud, by this time the CO & XO are listening to what is going on. So he reads it out loud, the F/C computer #1 won’t work in the OFF position. Then it clicks and the light goes on in his head. Just as the CO slaps the back of his head & calls him an idiot. The room busts out laughing, I told him that I was going to A 779 it & sign it off, if he didn’t mind. As I was walking out I said,”it only takes a high school education to fix a college education f–k up”! The room busted out laughing again. He was the pilot in the A/C during my intake incident.


jobWhen I got off of active duty in ’90, I got a job as a firefighter for the Navy at NAS South Weymouth. The base got its shut down notice, so it was time to get another job. When I was still on active duty in ’89, I went home on leave between cruises and took the state firefighter test. I ended up getting a job with & still am a firefighter for my home town. I am a 3rd generation fireman. I also drive a small ferry boat around Boston Harbor on my days off from the station.

I am part of the local VFW. Up until I had kids, I liked to volunteer on board the USS Salem CA-139. Someday when they have flown the coup, I will return to doing that.


As we all know; we come to rely on others to keep us safe and they rely on us to keep them safe. It is part of being in the military and we learn it very young! Being a P/C, T/S, mechanic, manning a weapon, running a boat influencecrew, a shop sup, an LPO or a CPO puts a lot of responsibility on a person.
Attention to detail is not just a catchphrase that we say. It is something we live by, because if we lose our focus, someone could or will die or get seriously hurt! Those of us that rely on equipment to work properly, learn how to take care of it for obvious reasons. As Gunny Highway say’s (another old movie) “you have to learn how to improvise, adapt and overcome any situation”.

Well, I carry that way of thinking to my fire dept job, always have! I have been ridiculed for it and a lot of laughs have been had for it. When I use to drive, guys would throw a bolt or something under my truck. Because they knew; I would see it and I would go over that truck until I found where it came from. They would just sit and watch or they would just leave. They also knew, that if I was driving; that the truck & everything on it was ready to go! We all got a good laugh.

Now that I don’t drive anymore, I tell and teach my drivers what I expect from them. I tell them that I want to go home to my family at the end of the shift and it might have to be up to them to make sure it happens.

As for how the military influences my interactions with my family? Well they would have to answer that one. Some of it is good and some of it isn’t as far as they are concerned, I’m sure! We all know the family of a service member has the toughest job, hands down!


The 1st thing I would tell someone; is to take full advantage of everything the Navy has to offer! Take & go to as many schools & classes as you can, get a degree, get as many quals as you can. Do as many rating books as you advicecan, some are worth college credit & retirement points!
Learn how to read your service record; your service record is your responsibility, no one else’s! The people who are responsible to make entries into it are human beings. Which means; they can & do make mistakes & they can be lazy just like you? If you do not know how to read it, then who will catch a mistake? Not every LPO or CPO reads their Sailors records, because no one taught them. Sit down with your admin dept, an LPO or CPO and have them teach you! It’s your career; a screwed up record can haunt you well after you get out or retire! You don’t want to try to fix it when you get out, it is damn near impossible!

Take writing courses and buy Naval writing books. Learn how to write your own evaluation. When your shop supervisor or LPO asks for input, give it to them. Again it is your career, take a hold of it and run it! When you move up in rank, you will be writing evaluations & awards for your sailors! They deserve your time & best effort.

Be fair, honest, and trustworthy, treat your fellow Sailors with respect & treat them as individuals. Take pride in your uniform & in every task assigned to you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what is right. Pay attention to detail, a life may depend on it & it might be yours!

Take the initiative; if you see a problem that needs to be fixed, try to fix it! If you can’t, then find someone who can! Don’t be the problem, be the solution. There are many ways to do things, the Navy way, the wrong way & your way. If you fail on your 1st attempt, then try again, keep trying until the problem is fixed or you accomplish the task. A good sup will give you some line to explore, but they will not let you hang yourself. If you need help, then ask, if you don’t know the answer, then find it or find someone who does! We are a team: no one can run a dept, an op, ship or A/C by themselves.

Try to have as much fun as possible, take lots of pics. Do not be like me and have to rely on your memory to remember the good times! Trust me: when you get out or retire you will tell sea stories, let them be good ones! Remember, you represent everyone who is or has ever worn a uniform. Trust me when I say, people are watching. You have joined the world’s greatest navy. Don’t let us down!


It has hooked me back up with old Sailors. Answering these questions have brought back old memories, that I haven’t thought of for a very long time.


LtCol Carl A. Reynoso USMC (Ret) (1975-2010)

View the service Reflections of US Marine:

moochLtCol Carl A. Reynoso

USMC (Ret)


Shadow box:

(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining This is a free service)

1I was a Navy brat growing up in a number of Naval Stations in the Pacific: NAS Agana, Guam; Pearl Harbor NB, Hawaii; and NAS Sangley Point, Philippines. I always thought that I would join the Navy and be like my dad who was a Senior Chief (DKCS) but as I grew older I started noticing that this other service was also on our bases. They wore different uniforms (khaki/trops/sateens) and carried themselves more professionally than Sailors – turns out they were Marines. I was also into reading history books at the time and read more and more about these Marines and determined that I just had to become one of them too. This really pissed off my Dad! Even though I was the son of a career Navy man, the Marine Corps mystique fascinated me. I always knew the Marines were different, better than Sailors. When I told my Dad that I wanted to be a Marine, he laughed, said I lacked the self-discipline it took to be a Marine. “You won’t last in the Marines. YOU? You can’t even hold on to a job, you’ll get busted!” he often told me. As a teenager I was wild, on the loose, vandalizing, and stealing, (luckily I was too crafty to be caught which came in handy later in my career as a Recon Marine). I ditched school to surf and couldn’t hold onto any jobs. My life was spiralling down in an unhealthy direction. I was a long-haired surf bum, hung out at the beach and although I was an Honor Student, I hated high school, stuff like that. I wasn’t into drugs or anything like that, but it would have only been a matter of time before something like that would have come along.

Fortunately, I liked to read and had spent a lot of time reading 20th century military history. Primarily about the Marines in Korea, Vietnam, and those who landed on Tarawa and Iwo Jima and the other Pacific Islands. I was intrigued by the Corps’ purported fighting spirit, their élan in battle. That picture of the Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi, every time I looked at it chills ran up and down my spine. They still do now. When I saw that photo I wanted to be one of them, to have in some way what they had at that very instance. In the photo you couldn’t even see their faces. They were anonymous as it could have been any Marine in any war and all that mattered was the group, not the individuals. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a hero, or even to be considered heroic. It had something to do with what the picture embodied, a group of individuals working together IWO JIMA FLAG RAISINGas a team for some higher purpose that was more important than themselves. I wanted to be part of that team to become part of a brotherhood that is real and absolute and can be earned only one way: Marine Corps Boot Camp. A daunting challenge where you must first conquer yourself by enduring and surviving recruit training. The Marine Corps is the only experience I know of where you elevate yourself by subjugating yourself, a contradiction. No matter where you come from and no matter what your socio-economic background or circumstances, everyone starts out at the bottom, we are all equally unworthy of the uniform and the title. You turn your life over to the Corps to be torn down, rebuilt, remolded into something better than what you were before. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted THAT experience. There is something quite noble about the desire to join the Corps because it just isn’t like the other military services. I didn’t sign up for a job, the GI Bill, or an education; I signed up to fight! I essentially put my life on the line when I signed that dotted line. I wanted my military service to be tempered by hardship and struggle, something that is hard earned and well respected. And from everything that I’d read and heard, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I wanted to be a US Marine. I stepped off the bus and on to those infamous Yellow Footprints and became part of Platoon 1018, Series 1017, B Co, 1st Recruit Training Bn, MCRD San Diego. After Receiving Barracks, we were picked up by Staff Sergeant Andre Williams, our Senior Drill Instructor. SSgt Garcia and Sgt Safrit were his Junior DIs. I can still see the menacing SDI glowering at us on that first day. He was a tall, well built, dark green Marine who looked like Smokey the Bear in that Campaign Cover which was quite intimidating and impressive all at the same time. I asked myself “What have I gotten myself into now?”


Infantry, Reconnaissance, Aviation. I came up through the ranks achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. I applied for the old Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP only required 30 semester hours back then) and was selected and after graduating from the 128th Officer Candidate Class (128th OCC). I was commissioned a 32ndLt and went on to The Basic School (TBS). As the Honor Graduate of my TBS company (Echo 5-85), I was asked by the Company Commander if I wanted to become a pilot. I figured why not and the rest is history. My original intention had been to go to the Grunts and then hopefully back into Recon.

What still continues to amaze me are all of the many opportunities that were afforded to me and even more so the awesome experiences that were the result of those choices. From a raw Recruit on the Yellow Footprints to a High Speed Low Drag Recon Operator who came out of submarines and jumped out of airplanes, to actually piloting aircraft and flying the President of the United States. From Private to Lieutenant Colonel. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not enlisted in the Marines. I certainly would not have had all of these wide ranging experiences and lifelong friendships.


MNF Lebanon
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines
Operation New Dawn – Iraq

All were significant to me. Anytime you get shot at it is WORLD WAR THREE! What might be considered a ‘minor’ engagement to the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the 4media is of extreme significance to the guy on the ground or in the air. Even when no rounds are exchanged, the mere possibility placed enormous psychological stress on your mental system in the anticipation alone. It really hits you when you step off the plane in a theater of operations and realize that you could very well die here. My thoughts the very first time I ever got shot at in combat were, “Why is he shooting at me, I’m a pretty nice guy, aren’t I?”

When the flight schedule for the next day’s combat sorties was published and you saw your name penned in for one the flights, the dread began. Quickly I would write what was certainly going to be my last letter home to the family, but never would I let on to them that this was the last one, never would I mention what I feared the most, that I would never see them ever again. No, I would just offer that I missed and loved them so much and couldn’t wait to get home to them. I never told them what I did, they knew, but still it was left unspoken. The pre-flight brief was a formality that usually ended with, “we’ll find out what our real mission is when we check in with DASC.” Followed by drawing our survival equipment from ALSS including our bullet bouncers or “chicken plates” then a swing through Maintenance Control to sign for the aircraft with Sgt Guido Colesanti’s usual jovial self trying to motivate the aircrews with, “Go kick some ass, Sir!” and I would respond with my usual retort, “Guido, you wouldn’t be saying that shit if you were coming with me.” Then reluctantly out onto the flight line slowly dragging all my gear to my plane on what I knew to be my last moments on earth. Dead Man Walking. The Marines working on the planes would stop what they were doing to turn and watch the aircrews and cheer us on with, “Get some, Sir!” or “Kick their asses!” I’d always give each Marine a small wave and what had to be an obviously weak smile. In my mind my thoughts were dark with what each would be saying later, “I saw Mooch the day he got shot down and killed, he smiled at me.” I always knew, just accepted that these were my final earthly moments but still I went and launched knowing full well the inevitability that waited for me downrange. I feared death, but much worse, I didn’t want to be thought of as being a coward and most of all, I could not let my fellow Marines down, especially those guys on the ground. These thoughts tore at me as we raced through the air into the fight; I wanted to live, to breathe, to go home alive, but my sense of duty drove me forward.

Before my first combat, before I saw the “Elephant” I often wondered what it would be like to kill another human being – would I be able to pull the trigger, to prosecute a target, to end the life of someone who had been designated an enemy by our politicians? During peacetime training, killing would appear to be something quite straightforward, a simple matter of sight alignment, sight 5picture, breathe, relax, aim, squeeze… or as a pilot on airspeed, on altitude, ball in, gun sight reticle aligned, Master Arm – On… FIRE! And the endless repetitious training, to the point where we could do battle drill: fire and maneuver, CQB, or diving rocket attacks in our sleep. The never-ending repetition had a purpose – little then did we young Marines understand nor care why. We trained ad nauseam so that muscle memory would takeover and our bodies could react without much thinking required, so that in combat, when or if your brain shut down you just went on autopilot. That’s not to say I did not think, I did, even in the middle of an action I thought a lot, intensely so, my mind racing along at a million miles a minute, perhaps a function of my body’s ability to physically do what it was trained to do, it left plenty of time for my thoughts to wander. Time seems to slow way way down when you’re scared and getting shot at as all my memories of combat are in slow motion.  It is like tunnel vision.  Like looking through a fuzzy brown tube and in that memory everything that was bad is now in very close proximity to you, especially tracers and exploding munitions. The unknown, dark and smoke shrouded things or places become sinister and foreboding. I was conflicted. In my head I imagined that I was a giant walking the earth stomping on bugs till they popped and squishing the life juice out of them, only it was real people we were killing and the juice was their blood. My mental picture was quite graphic. I could even hear their bones cracking as I crunched them with my boots, on the bottoms of which they left their stains. One of the thoughts that often went through my mind was that whoever it was we were trying to kill were just like us, who not too long ago was some mother’s baby, who was loved and was raised with high hopes and now he was going to die because of me. The other thought was that I would know well before that mother that her son was now dead.Don’t get me wrong as I never hesitated because the next thought immediately following those were that this kid was obviously raised all fucked up and deserved to die otherwise he wouldn’t be shooting at me, so fuck him! These fleeting reflections and so many more were there along with all my fears, my prayers, my family and an extreme desire to live. So many conflictions rushing through my brain housing group at warp speed during very intense periods of emotional strain while the muscle memory propelled my body into action.


Where it all began – Boot Camp, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Platoon 1018, Series 1017, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. Those 13 weeks changed me forever. Everything that was beat into me in Boot Camp I carried with me throughout my 34 year career.

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Sgt Steve Bosworth U.S. Marine Corps (1967-1970)


Personal Service Reflections of US Marine

Sgt Steve Bosworth

U.S. Marine Corps

(Served 1967-1970)

(Veterans – read more stories like the following when you join


I wish I could point to some patriotic or altruistic motive. The truth is I was kicked out of high school in the 10th grade. My mom had died suddenly when I was 15, and my dad simply couldn’t cope as the sole parent of me, my three brothers and older sister. I decided to leave home but I had no place to go – fortunately for me the Marine Corps gave me a home. My dad gave his permission to my recruiter for me to enlist, and I began my recruit training at MCRDSD when I was seventeen years old.


In and out with three years of active duty. A proud graduate of Platoon 3047, I completed recruit training in October 1967, then moved up the road to Camp Pendleton for ITR. Initially trained as a 0331 – later sent to an Army facility (Fort Huachuca, AZ) and was trained in the Ground Combat Surveillance program (SCAMP). I also spent time at H.M. Smith on Oahu where I earned my GED and received a promotion to L/Cpl. I enjoyed Camp Smith and had met many new friends. I was then transferred back to CONUS for staging in preparation for WesPac deployment.

By July, 1969 I was at Camp Pendleton’s Staging Battalion receiving final training for an RVN tour. Inexplicably, I was presented with TAD orders to Fort Huachuca to attend SCAMP training. To this day, considering that my only MOS was 0331, I have no idea why I was diverted to SCAMP. Upon arrival at Fort Huachuca, I realized I was one of a handful of Marines on that post. Think of Southern Arizona in August. Somehow we persevered!

We learned all about different combat surveillance sensors that would activate and signal in the presence of acoustic (noise), seismic (movement), and/or detection of the presence of ferrous metals (weapons). We learned how to deploy and monitor each device. I’m sure there was some other weird stuff from that early generation of sensor technology that I’ve since lost in the fog of time. I do remember, however, our concentrated course in calling in fire missions from a variety of sources when they the sensors were activated. We also attended advanced map-reading and topography workshops.

When I arrived in RVN, no one in 1stMarDiv had heard of SCAMP so I spent several months as a ‘grunt’ with the 5th Marines, including assignments to 3/5 S3, Lima Co, and Regimental S2. Eventually, orders caught up with me, sending me to a newly formed SCAMP unit with dotted line reporting to 1stMarDiv G2. Teams of us went all over the division AO, inserting sensor strings, and establishing, and manning remote monitoring sites, in some very interesting places.


My Vietnam memories have been a part of my thoughts every day of my life since leaving Vietnam.

I was assigned to 3/5 in 1969, transferred to a SCAMP unit in February, 1970. The operations I participated in were in and around the Que Son Mountains, Liberty Bridge, Arizona, Charlie Ridge, Antennae Valley and Nong Son.

In 1966 Robert McNamara ordered the creation of an electronic system designed to monitor via deployed sensor devices, the movement of enemy traffic and material from North to South Vietnam on what was then commonly known as the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail.’ The media labeled the program as “McNamara’s Wall.” Critics called in “McNamara’s Blunder.”

To that end, the U.S. Army developed a Ground Combat Surveillance training program at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. As interest grew in remote sensor deployment and monitoring, the Marine Corps established its own Sensor Control and Management Platoons (SCAMP) and relied on the US Army to train selected Marine Corps personnel at its Fort Huachuca facilities.

The newly formed SCAMP units fell under the respective operational leadership of both 3rdMarDiv and 1stMarDiv G2 commands. The first teams were activated in 1969 with a mission to deploy by air, or by hand, sensors in what were determined to be target-rich areas. Additionally, teams were to establish remote monitoring sites in support of the deployed sensors.

To my knowledge, in the summer of 1969, the Marine Corps launched its first functioning SCAMP unit operating in and around the DMZ, as well as some of the western infiltration routes. However, the initial SCAMP impact for the Marine Corps was brief due to the stand-down of the 3rdMarDivision in Northern I Corps, in the late fall of 1969.

Several of the original SCAMP unit personnel and equipment were moved south to the 1stMarDivision HQ in Da Nang, where a new SCAMP unit was formed.

Our job was to deploy and then monitor a variety of devices–often multiple devices in ‘strings’ in remote areas–air dropped, or hand implemented in enemy controlled terrain. I do remember that many were battery powered, so periodically the teams that implanted the devices had to return over time to change the batteries. Many of them had self-destruct (go boom) mechanisms built-in, and required disarming before changing batteries. For the most part, that generation of equipment depended on line-of-sight FM (think high ground) capabilities for monitoring.

My response now takes me off the reservation a bit. I was a teenager when I arrived in Viet Nam. So in a lot of ways, I didn’t even know the things that I didn’t know, but should have known. I tried to be like a sponge. I kept my eyes and ears open, and attempted to absorb all the information about that place that I could.

I guess for me the whole damn thing was life-changing. I couldn’t get comfortable. I can honestly say my butt was puckered tight my entire time over there–except when I had dysentery, so that shouldn’t count.

Let’s talk life-changing. I believe Viet Nam instilled a chronic paranoia into my psyche. I now have what seems like a hard-wired compulsion to check and re-check my surroundings. I never trust the status quo. As a civilian I eventually fell into a sales role and later formed a consulting business with a friend. So here’s my personal neurosis, compliments of Southeast Asia. In my mind, Because business is competitive, I tend to relate that competition with elements of combat.

As a small-unit team leader I learned to adopt a set of best practices that sustain me to this day in business. I passionately believe in redundancy, meaning I’m assuming that something, or someone will break down. I always have a contingency plan.

As a Marine in Viet Nam, life was hard with occasional moments of stark terror. What helped me was the underlying confidence that I was part of a team, if things went bad, we weren’t alone. The notion of team versus “I” was huge. Teamwork is a collaboration of brothers–there is no “I” in team. This was essential in small-unit combat operations, and has resonated for me throughout my professional career.

Whether you find yourself in a combat, or a business environment – each calls for diligent preparation for each mission, rigorous review of your operational plan, followed by someone else’s review of the same plan. I can’t begin to express the value that an extra set of eyeballs brings to the table as a devil’s advocate.

My wife calls it paranoia, I call it staying alive. These habits are life-long for me, and they came right out of a combat zone.


Camp Smith in Hawaii, it was the calm between the storms. Loved it!

It was at Camp Smith that I received my G.E.D. Getting my G.E.D gave me the confidence to reach higher, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree.

Easily, my least favorite posting was at the USA facility in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. We were billeted in July, in pre-WWII wooden barracks, without AC.


Being called a “Marine” for the very first time rather than “recruit,” or “maggot” after successfully completing recruit training at MCRDSD.

In those days, after drill and a presentation of the USMC marching band, we were all seated in the base auditorium, and Lt. Col. Terry addressed the recruits and their families. It was inspiring. My sister and my dad were there–both a little shocked that I’d finished.


I have a “V” on one of my decorations (NAM), but, I didn’t do anything valorous. I remember vividly being scared, and wanting to get back to stateside with all my bits intact.

In retrospect, I honestly believe I was way too young to be a Marine sergeant in the bush, and I’ll always be grateful that I didn’t get any of my guys killed. In Vietnam I spent about a month with a Green Beret unit. Real interesting – they were career soldiers – very capable.

In March/April of 1970 I was flown to Nong Son which at the time was a Special Forces encampment (A-105) located in western Quang Nam Province. The area had changed hands between the Marine Corps and the Army several times over the years and lives had been lost there. It was here that Pfc. Melvin Newlin, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division posthumously earned the MOH on July 4, 1967.

Within a few clicks of Nong Son the colossal Battle of Kham Duc erupted between May 10-12, 1968. At the time A-105 was located there, and only relocated to Nong Son after Kham Duc was destroyed. The camp itself had been reinforced with elements from the 1st Marine Division, the Army 1st Infantry Division and the ARVN ever since Tet 1968 when thousands of NVA/VC roamed the area.

During the two day battle, the Army suffered many killed in action plus 71 wounded at Kham Duc; the Marines at nearby Ngok Tavak lost 12 killed and 21 wounded. The combined services reported the highest number of missing in any battle in Vietnam, with 31 U.S. military personnel reported missing in action. Three were rescued within 5 days, one was captured and kept as a POW until March 1973, and 15 listed as KIA (9 recovered, 6 not recovered). Nine U.S. military aircraft had been shot down, including two C-130s. On 12 May, the North Vietnamese were in complete control of Kham Duc. The next day a massive B52 raid completely destroyed Kham Duc.

As I remember it, Nong Son was constructed on a razorback hill and hardened with concrete. There was an LZ located down the hill and a CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) Militia group encamped by it. I was part of a team of three USMC enlisted personnel sharing space with a Special Forces A Team (A-105) consisting of a CO and XO (USA Special Forces Capt. and 1st Lieutenant) and 7 or 8 Special Forces staff NCO’s. They all were career soldiers–very professional. Each staff NCO had an operational specialty, i.e., Comm, Weapons, Medic, Mortars, etc. Additionally, they were required to be proficient with at least one other team member’s specialty. I also remember a 4 deuce mortar pit.

Our USMC contingent monitored SCAMP sensor strings and devices that we’d previously introduced on sensor implant missions in an adjacent area called Antennae Valley. The string locations were bracketed and registered with regional artillery assets and our job was to call in fire missions on the heads of bad guys when movement was detected from the sensor strings in these areas. At the time, Antennae Valley was a free-fire zone.

The USA personnel maintained the Nong Son outpost and ran patrols from that site and simultaneously served as advisors to a company of CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) militia, who were resident just below the encampment. I remember going out on Med-Caps run by our Special Forces counterparts, and watching in amazement as their medic performed various surgical procedures in the surrounding ‘villes.’ One was a life-saving operation on a Vietnamese woman. This was an enlisted guy. Very impressive!

My team rotated out after a month–we were relieved by another SCAMP team. Our new mission was to hump back into Antennae Valley in as stealthy a manner as possible, find the existing strings, disarm them, and change the batteries, and then exit that nasty place as quickly and quietly as possible.


They are all meaningful to me because they were all earned, particularly the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Achievement Medal w/V, and the Expert Rifle Qualification Badge.

I was equally proud when I scored 2nd in my 0331 class–for which I was given my first stripe. I remember that for me, making PFC was a really big deal.


Arriving in San Diego in the summer of 1967, my immediate assessment of my situation was that I’d made a tragic, perhaps fatal error in judgment. The nightmare began the moment the angry, red-faced man began screaming at me about moving my worthless self and scant belongings off of the bus and onto the yellow footprints. The joy continued as we spent the entire evening and early morning hours carrying heavy green canvas sea bags containing our brand-new “wardrobes.” We were soon introduced to our Junior Drill Instructor, Sgt. Stumbo.

From my 17 yr. old perspective, Sgt. Stumbo was a bully and a sadist. He tormented me mercilessly, and I’m sure I trembled in his presence. He didn’t strike me as a particularly bright NCO, but he was gifted in one singular respect. This man had the most creative, foulest and shocking repertoire of words, terms and phrases, coupled with family-member specific inferences of alleged cohabitation with small barnyard animals. His verbiage and descriptive capabilities were unlike anything I’d ever heard. In my opinion Sgt. Stumbo’s elocution skills far exceeded those of any Drill Instructor from either of the Recruit Depots.

We all lived in terror of this Marine, yet we so marveled at his verbal creativity. He must have been a savant of some sort. Sadly, I can cite no other redeeming qualities in Sgt. Stumbo. Perhaps he had a mother who loved him, but it’s unlikely. As the weeks turned into months, we learned to cope, and to anticipate his twisted behavior, just like we’d later anticipate a likely ambush site, or trip-wire placement on a trail in Viet Nam. We were learning survival skills. I realized that if I could hack it under Stumbo, I could handle it all. I was right.

Although my relationship with Sgt. Stumbo never evolved to a higher plane, something remarkable did happen. Through some stroke of luck, I qualified as an expert (221) shooter with the M14 at the rifle range. For me, life became a little more civilized during the remainder of Recruit Training.


Sneaking home to Pomona, CA, while on R&R to Hawaii only to discover that Jody had been in my bed, and coming to the realization that I didn’t really have that special girl waiting for me. I was crushed.

One good thing did occur during my illicit R&R journey. I visited Cal Poly University and made an appointment with the Dean of the School Arts. My aim was to somehow get into school after my release from active duty and despite my 10th grade status from high school I was in fact, a card carrying GED success. In this photo I am receiving my GED Certificate from the unit commander at Camp H.M. Smith.

I told the Dean my story about my technically AWOL status – including the part about Jody. He laughed so hard he almost wet himself, and promised to allow me admittance to the university for the fall 1970 session–on a probationary status, of course.

Eventually, I made it back to Hawaii in time for my return flight to RVN. In reflection, I know now, that I’d have never gone to the school, if I’d spent all my R&R time with her (which is what I intended), so because of her philandering ways, I ultimately earned a degree.

This story is recounted in Gregg Stoner’s book, Echoes From the Halls – iUniverse Press: 2009.


Juvenile Counselor – 1970 – 1984.

Software Salesperson – 1984 – 1994.

Consultant – 1994 – present. This is me and my wife during a recent business trip to Budapest.


The late comedian George Gobel once said, “When I walked into the party, I felt like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos.” These were my exact feelings in the fall of 1970 when freshly released from active duty in the Marine Corps; I walked into a Southern California VFW Chapter for the very first time, and approached the bar to order a drink.

The ambient noise suddenly stops and I realized everyone was looking at me. These were a bunch of grizzled old salts ranging from in age from early forties through eighties looking at me as if I was encroaching on their private turf. I was immediately spot-checked for my new VFW Card and DD-214. Not one of them chose to engage in any small talk, or make nice in any way, even when I initiated it. At that time I was twenty, and looking around, there was no one there remotely close to my age group.

I remember feeling bad about it, but, in retrospect it’s understandable. In those days the generational gap was huge, and for many of those veterans–China Marines, WW II and Korea–I was trespassing. There was however, an upside to my early VFW experience, and that was that no one cared that I was under 21, only that I met the membership criteria of having served in a combat zone – and the drinks were cheap.

As it turned out, I allowed my membership to lapse after that first year. By that time I was 21, and could drink anywhere legally. In 2013 I re-enrolled as an at-large member.

I’m also a past member of 1st Mar Division Association.


The influence was strong in many ways. Using my GI Bill, I leveraged my G.E.D. to receive probationary status at a university in California. I earned a BS, and started my first post-military career as a Juvenile Counselor at Boys Republic School (BR), in Chino, California. I worked at BR for 14 years and was a Supervising Caseworker when I left.

I’d been interested in technology and decided to transition to a new career as a software salesperson at the enterprise level. I sold business (ERP) software for about 10 years, and began to burn out. In 1994, I embarked on my third (final) post-military career as a business consultant. Because of the Marine Corps, I understand the difference between tactical application and execution, and strategic planning. I have incorporated these elements where appropriate, into my sales training workshops. Many of the concepts, discipline and rigor we learned in training are highly applicable, and sought after in the business world. I’ve been fortunate enough to attract a broad market, and share these methods around the globe.

There’s a back-story to all this. In my early days at BR, I met a counselor, whom I married in 1978. We’ve been together ever since, and she’s been my rock. She transitioned from counseling to education, and has been a 6th grade teacher for many years. I sincerely believe she’d have made an excellent Drill Instructor.


Stay in as long as possible. Apply or enroll in any training, discipline, or skill available. The Marine Corps experience prepares young men and women for any career imaginable.


I’ve connected with old comrades and made new friends. Among them was my friend Bill Lavelle. We got together for the first time nearly 40 years after we were in Viet Nam together.

But here’s an example of the power of TWS: In May of 2008, I was in Bangkok for a speaking engagement. Weeks earlier, I had mentioned in the TWS “Situation Reports” column that I’d be working in the Far East, and specifically in Bangkok. Unsolicited, I received a PM from MGySgt Luis Adrianzen who at the time was on a TAD assignment and based in our embassy.

In his message he recommended a number of culturally significant places to visit. I thought it was pretty cool that he reached out. We started chatting online, and I promised to give him a heads-up when I arrived in town.

My first leg took me to Hong Kong, and after my layover, I realized I was getting sick. When I arrived in Bangkok I had a full blown case of bronchitis, and had pretty much completely lost my voice. Keep in mind, that I was engaged (already received a 50% deposit) to lead a 3-day workshop for about a hundred people.

Desperate, I knew I needed a doctor, quick. I emailed Luis from my hotel room and within minutes my phone was ringing. It was Luis. “Be out in front of your hotel in 20 minutes.” By the time I made it downstairs, he was waiting for me. It’s real easy to spot an active-duty Marine, even in a crowd.

He took me to a local Thai physician at a clinic every bit as state-of-the-art as what you’d find in our facilities at home. The doc checked me over, gave me an injection in the rear, and handed me several envelopes full of medication. “You’ll recover your voice in the morning, and be well enough to work in 36 hrs.” When I went to pay, the bill was the equivalent of $26.00 (U.S.).

I had lunch with Luis that day (I paid) then I went back to my hotel and slept for 24 hours. After that, I was good to go. The bad news: I missed visiting the tourist sites. The good news: I fulfilled my business obligations, and left happy clients behind.

I will never forget the day that MGySgt Luis Adrianzen went out of his way for a fellow Marine. What an example of brotherhood he set for me. By the way, Luis retired on July 29, 2013 and I wish him all the success in the world as his journey continues.

So, to close the circle on this story, TWS has been extremely rewarding to me on both personal, as well as professional levels. I think of my brother and sister Marines every day, and this venue helps me remember. Always!

Semper Fi.

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