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My Military Career

It all started when I went away to College.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s – when they were protesting the Vietnam War – and I lived just outside Washington, DC.

In 1978, I was 20 years old and moved from the DC area to Mobile, Alabama to attend the University of South Alabama.  During the Orientation presentations, before registering for classes, the Military Science Professor (ROTC Director), an Army Captain, made a compelling presentation.  By taking Military Science 101, you would have fun, get a “guaranteed” grade of A by just attending, and fulfil the Physical Education degree requirement.  On top of that, you could enlist in the Army National Guard and get paid.  That was an offer I found irresistible.

I enrolled in ROTC, and my military career began.


The Military Science classes were easy for me – map and compass and a few other topics.  These were mostly topics and activities that I had experienced during my years with Boy Scouts.  At the end of my first year, I enlisted in the Army National Guard.  Shortly after the school year ended, I got on a plane, headed to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to do 13 weeks of Basic Training and Specialty Training (OSUT).  My assigned specialty was 12C Combat Engineer/Bridge Specialist.  This included demolition training and temporary bridge construction.  I was the Honor Graduate from my Company.

During the final week of training, Hurricane Frederick hit Mobile and my unit, 31st Engineer Company, was activated.  I arrived in Mobile to find that the city had been hard hit by the hurricane and tornadoes.  Power was out everywhere.  Roads were flooded.  Trees and power lines were down in many areas.  I was issued a chain saw, and sent out with a crew to clear roads so utility crews could repair the power lines.  That work lasted about two weeks.

After the activation for emergency service ended, I transferred to Auburn University and continued ROTC.  I joined the Army Drill Team, the Cadet Ranger Company and the Military Honor Society.  After completing year 3 of ROTC, I attended ROTC Summer Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas and then Airborne School (paratrooper training) at Fort Benning, Georgia.  After completing the paratrooper training, I joined a Special Forces Company in Montgomery, Alabama.  (Although I completed dozens of military correspondence courses, I never got a chance to attend advanced paratrooper training or the Special Forces Qualification Course).

During my time in Paratrooper Training and in Airborne units, I jumped from C130, C123, C141, C7A, UH1 and CH47 – between 12 and 20 jumps in all.  (My log book disappeared decades ago, so I don’t have an accurate record of all the jumps).

Soon, I moved to Austin, Texas and joined a Ranger Company, serving in the Rigger Detachment (parachute packing).  Before long, I moved to Virginia and landed in an Infantry Company (which was later re-organized into the 29th Infantry).

29th Infantry patch

In all, I served 8 years – my original term of 6 years, plus one two year re-enlistment.  I was never deployed overseas, never in combat and never on active duty, except for short term training and the emergency service after Hurricane Frederick.  Because of this limited service, I never consider myself in the same category as those who have served in combat zones, who have been on active duty for extended periods or even those who have been reservists for more than a decade.  They have given far more service to our country than I.

But, beginning in the first week of Basic Training, I learned a new respect for our Country, our Flag, and the people who serve and defend our Nation.  It was a valuable experience that changed my perspective on our nation and our military.

Two of the more interesting things I did while in the Army:

AVLB - Armored Vehicle Launch Bridge

Operated an AVLB

M163 Vulcan on Armored Personnel Carrier

Fired a Vulcan