Talk for Students for the American Military on 032316
I am 76 and stand at the far end of what you face. I understand that some of you are planning a career in the military and others are not. In 15 minutes I want to tell you what I know from these 76 years that may be helpful to you as you make hundreds of decision about your life and career.
First, I recognize this is not a “faith-based” meeting. But let me say that nothing is as important as your aligning your world-view with your faith.
Second, I have four college degrees, taught at 2 major universities and spent 25 years with the Florida Department of Health, but one of the single most important episodes of my life was the U.S. Army. Even if you are not planning a career in the military, don’t miss out on at least 2 years of active duty. It will buy you credibility with a large part of American society as well as teach you discipline, team work and leadership. Don’t miss it!
When I left college in 1963 I was eager to get into graduate school but the University of Tennessee School of Social work said I needed to work a year because I was too idealistic about people. In order to be free to work I needed to deal with the draft so I joined the Naval reserve. They promised me 12 months free active duty. I went to monthly meeting and two weeks at Great Lakes Naval Training Center while I worked as an AFDC case worker in Birmingham. When my active duty date came up I began to apply to officer programs. The Army called on a Monday in August of 1964 and said if I wanted to go to Officer Candidate School I would have to leave the next Monday. My life as I knew it came to an end.
Prior to my class of OCS, new candidates had been in the Army only 8 weeks for basic training. The attrition was high so they added 8 weeks of Advanced Infantry Training. The same guys were put together in one company for AIT and then all went together to Ft Benning for OCS in January of 1965. Early on they asked for assignment preferences. I wanted to go over seas. Vietnam was not on the radar so I requested the 1st Calvary in Korea. Following OCS 30 of us went to airborne school and then to Ranger School.
250 men signed into Ranger School on July 8, 1965. 150 were told that their orders had been changed and they were to report immediately to their units. They were in Vietnam in 3 months. That left us with about 100 men in Ranger class 1-66, one of the smallest Ranger classes ever.
By the time I got to Korea, the First Cavalry swapped colors with the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Benning. They all became the 1st Calvary Airmobile and I became apart of the 2nd ID.
In Korea, we had some contact with North Koreans up in the DMZ. The introduction to my book tells of my being involved in an ambush party in the DMZ just 3 weeks after a North Korean patrol killed 6 GIs. We got the same issue of Stars and Stripes as they were getting in Vietnam. About a third of my OCS class were killed in Vietnam. 2 received the Medal of Honor. I began to feel a little guilty and tried to transfer to Vietnam twice but it did not work out. I have often wished that my 13 months in Korea had been in Vietnam and I had survived.
I joined the 20ths Special Forces, Alabama National Guard when I left active duty.
When I graduated from Ranger School in October 1965 we were told that the goal was to have a Ranger qualified soldier in every Infantry company in the Army. That changed in 1974 when the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions were established. The 3rd Battalion and the 75th Regimental Headquarters were established in 1984. The Ranger Tab is respected through out the military. To get some idea of what Range School is about go to my website, SpiritualAmbush.org and click on the tab Ranger Websites. Class 10 of 2010 was video taped. It was edited down to 9 five minutes of video. 243 men began the course and 43 completed the class.
Advice for your future: It is not who you are but what you know and can do that will make for a successful career. Find ways to set yourself apart. You have begun by going to college and getting that degree.
Seriously consider the military. I would have never left Birmingham if it had not been for the Army because I would not have occurred to me to leave Birmingham. I learned that there were good places and good people everywhere. You just have to find them. The Army helped me find them.
In the military, you set yourself apart by training and certification.
If you go on active duty, you want to be with the units that are doing important things. Right now in the Army that is Delta Force. To seriously be considered for Delta Force you need to first have a couple of years with the Ranger Regiment or Special Forces.
When you are on active duty, get all of the command experience you can get. I was a platoon leader and company commander and then the Battalion Adjutant. If the army was to be my career, I should have avoided staff positions like adjutant.
I had 11 years of active duty and national guard service when I resigned my commission as a Captain. I did that because I thought the monthly meetings and 2 weeks of training in the summer were to much for my schedule in Graduate School. That was the dumbest thing I ever did. 9 more years and that would be another retirement. Start thinking about retirement on the front end of your career.
I challenge you to seriously consider the military as a career or at least a 2 year enlistment. It will serve you well.