Born just prior to World
War II, I knew that all wars were crusades that men went to, proved
their manhood, defended the best country, and helped protect the balance of
the world. Little did I know the real world doesn't work that way, but that
was a lesson learned later in life.
After I finally finished high school, I was able to make my escape to the
US Army. Eager to get away, I arrived at the processing center, had, of all
things, potatoes for breakfast, and was issued a lot of cold weather
clothing I never could imagine wearing. A few days later they trucked us to
our basic training company. Maybe it had been a bad day for the Drill
Sergeants, as they used loud foul language and made derogatory comments
about virtually everyone’s physical condition and heritage, and some other
things that were just rude. Finally it got to be 2000 hours and they turned
out the lights and the bugle played taps. Mobile, Alabama, my home, was
such a long way off; and three years seemed like an eternity.
Sgt. Roach, my drill sergeant, carried a swagger stick, and one day, while
we were doing concurrent training across the road from the rifle range, he
kept us busy by having us practice low crawl. Every time our helmets came
off the dirt he would give it a strong tap with his swagger stick. It
sounded like one had his head in the liberty bell and Ben Franklin was
hitting it with Thor's hammer.
Eight weeks later we graduated and were men in very good condition, with
the concept of how to stay alive and carry out basic military missions.
During our second eight, they made Engineers of us, and then we went to an
advance school, Combat Construction Specialist. On December 23, 1959, they
loaded us on the USS Gen. Rose in Bayonne, NJ and shipped us off to
Germany. I went to the 3rd Infantry Division, in Bamberg Germany. Many
things helped me mature while I was there. I met and married my only wife
Anna Maria Angermuller, made Sergeant, and
learned a few things about the military and leadership. I then went to
demolition, mines, and booby trap school in Murnau.
Relations really went sour with the Russians and they built the wall.
Germans were scared, and really felt, or knew, our presence was keeping
them out of their country. We had a worthy mission!! And folks appreciated
it!! Then came the Cuban crisis. We drew the demo,
laid the firing wire, filled the sand bags with tamping material, and
unloaded the TNT to blow the bridges down. I was very scared. Our mission
was to hold three to four days while reinforcements were put together and
sent from the states. The three or four days was a
very optimistic evaluation as to how long we could hold. Well, the Russians
finally blinked and you know the rest of the story.
Finding my niche, I re-enlisted for a quick burst of six and got orders
back to the world of the round doorknobs and the big PX. I could not wait
to go home and report to my next assignment, Ft Bragg, NC. Unfortunately,
it sure didn’t take long to learn that soldiers who weren’t paratroopers
had support missions, and never got to join in any of the other soldier
games. Woe was I. The only graceful way I could get out was to apply for
When we reported to OCS, they talked about us again, but I had learned that
game during Basic. Many challenges and changes later, with a better
understanding of responsibility, utilization of time, and the cornerstone
of the candidate corps, "cooperate and graduate," we were
graduated. Knowing I never wanted to be classified as a "leg"
again, I signed up for jump school. After OCS it was a snap. Then I signed
up for Ranger school. I could now do anything. Wrong. One goes to
jump school, and one tries Ranger school, which has a fifty percent
attrition rate, but two and one half months later, I was attending
graduation. I then went to Ft. Rucker as a Platoon Leader for a while,
where I was introduced to the Pathfinders. It was then back to Ft. Benning for Pathfinder school.
After having served about a year in that unit came orders for Viet Nam. En
route I received Advisor Assistance Training at Bragg and attended Defense
Language School at Monterey. Then I found myself in-country. After seven
years as a soldier, I heard my first shots fired in anger. It scared hell
out of me, but I realized that is if one concentrated on the job, and what
you could do to get through it, you could focus and not freeze up. And the
most amazing thing in my life was realizing that the stuff they taught us
actually worked!!!!! I could handle this also.
Assigned to the Second Division Reconnaissance Company. I had found a
worthy job, glamour, excitement, prestige, heady stuff, what we had trained
for, and a worthy opponent. While returning from an operation north of Quang Naigh we were passing
through a graveyard. I was near the rear of the company when someone got
very personal with me with an automatic rifle. I was just a little too low
on the ground for him to be able to hit me, but I realized I was too far
away from the tree line to make a run for it. Now what? Training would save
me as it always had before. OK, let's get this thing under control, ignore
the crack of the rounds overhead, and review. Ranger school training? No.
Jump school training? No. Third Infantry training? No. It took what I had
learned seven years before, in basic training with Sergeant Roach. He
appeared in my minds eye, reviewed how it was
done, and walked beside me while I low-crawled out of that cemetery to safety
I finished my tour and returned to Ft. Benning
where I was a Lane Instructor in the Ranger Training Command for two years
before I returned to the First Air Cavalry Division. There I commanded the
11th Pathfinders, and then commanded Company A, 2nd
of the 7th Battalion. That was the end of my wartime experience.
I later retired a Lt. Colonel. Now they don't even invite me on the worthy
That is a long story to help you understand why I think training is
important, and how it needs to be conducted. Hopefully you will never need
the skills we train. However if you do I want to do my part to be sure you
are the best, not second best. Training is what we revert to and fall back on when we start to think. It is very, very
important and if our time is worthy enough to invest in doing it, we must
get everything we can out of the time we invest. That means forming muscle
memory that we do not even have to think about. It just happens without our
thinking about it. And if we have trained correctly, it happens the correct