not the bullet with my name on it that worries me. It's the one that says
"To whom it may concern."
in: Guardian (London, 16 Oct. 1991).
1985 there were two ways for American military forces to enter Berlin.
One was by air, the other was by train. Charlie Batteryís movement
would be by rail on one of the infamous German troop transport trains known
as the ìFreedom Train.î We had just spent the last few weeks preparing
our unit for deployment to East Germany in order to replace the lone field
artillery battery in Berlin. Our mission was to temporarily assume
the duties of Charlie Battery, Ninety Fourth Field Artillery for a short
tour of duty while it deployed back to West Germany for its annual tactical
exercises in Grafenwoer.
immense sense of pride came over me as our convoy of mighty howitzers,
ammunition carriers and other vehicles rumbled to the railhead in Nuremberg
where we would lager and load the vehicles on the freedom train to Berlin.
Our contingent consisted of twenty five tracked vehicles and trucks, all
freshly painted in various shades of olive drab and green camouflage.
To me it was a beautiful site as I looked back from the lead vehicle and
saw these mammoth machines plummeting, clanking and jolting down the streets
of Nuremberg. At every intersection along the way there were military
police roadblocks in place to allow us free passage and prevent civilian
vehicles from inadvertently crossing our path. As I had unfortunately
seen before, an automobile didnít stand a chance in a showdown with a twenty
ton tracked vehicle.
as I had also seen many times in the past, crowds of German spectators
which consisted mostly of young kids lined the streets to watch with excitement
as we passed by. As usual, the kids would wave and cheer and sing
out for us to throw them candy or other delicacies of our combat rations.
And as usual, we obliged them by tossing what we had and watching them
scramble for the prize. German kids also had a great sense of humor
which was evident by their roars of laughter as they flipped us the finger
while sporting a grin from ear to ear. No harm was meant as they
were just kids and we always got a big kick out of it anyway.
we pulled up to the train station it started to sink in and became apparent
what a big deal this really was. All of our battalionís senior officers
and leadership were on hand to send us off and make sure things ran smoothly.
Of course LTC Robison was there watching from his full size Chevy Blazer
camouflaged in woodland green and outfitted with lambs wool seat covers
and knobby tires with raised white letters. Yes, it must be a big deal
because typically, they would only wave goodbye as a unit left our home
at Pinder Barracks in Zirndorf.
the several hours of concentrated work involved with loading the vehicles
on the train and making last minute checks, we were off on our overnight
journey into and through the occupied territory of Czechoslovakia and East
Germany. The trip would take place during the night to avoid drawing
East German crowds and spectators and the night trip was required by operational
security rules anyway. As soon as we were loaded up on the train,
we did what soldiers typically do in a situation like this, we all quickly
found our way to the various sleeping compartments on the train, rolled
out our sleeping bags, and started snoring.
hours later towards the middle of the night, most of us were awakened as
the train lurched to a squealing halt while it pulled into the border patrol
station separating East from West. This was it, we would soon be
headed into occupied territory. Today it almost seems trivial, but
during the time we were actually crossing freedomís frontier. There
was no doubt in anyoneís mind that our ultimate purpose in life was to
prevent the Warsaw Pact forces from penetrating too deep into Western Europe
via critical strips of terrain, the most significant called the Fulda Gap
? during the first few weeks of the Third World War. Just as millions
of soldiers did since the start of the Cold War, we lived every day of
our lives with this very real possibility at hand.
idea was really rather simple, we would trade space for time. Dropping
back into predetermined defensive positions slowing the massive enemy advance,
while sky battles raged, bridges blown, and hilltop after hilltop would
be defended in depth. All with a common purpose in mind, slow down the
enemy advance until reinforcements arrived to take the counteroffensive,
or the decision to deploy theater level nuclear weapons was made.
this night there was quite a bit of anxiety in the air as we presented
our papers to the East German Border Agents who wore full combat uniforms
and carried the typical AK-47 style assault weapons. There really
wasnít much to do but watch on out the windows of the train as Captain
Graf and a few others handed over our papers.
we soon passed without incident other than the request that we unlock the
hatches on the howitzers so they could be inspected. It was forewarned
that this may happen but were ordered to prevent this at all costs.
It was a common ploy used to gather current intelligence on our internal
computer and guidance systems, but the act was against treaty agreements
and knew they wouldnít press the matter. The net result was after
we stood our ground on the issue they let us pass, even though 2LT Kiser
and a few others appeared ready to engage in a full blown firefight if
following morning we arrived in the historic city of Berlin, completely
without fanfare or acknowledgement, other than the small reception committee
which had flown in advance to coordinate living quarters and other logistics
Berlin Brigade represented the last bastion of American ground forces in
East Germany since the end of World War II. Our mission was to provide
defensive fire support to the Infantry forces of the Berlin Brigade.
What a joke! If anything, in the event of hostilities we would serve as
sacrificial lambs for the Soviet and East German forces that surrounded
us. We were however, a nuclear capable unit and if we unleashed these
weapons the entire city would vaporize in nanoseconds, including us.
the time this mission occurred, I was serving as a firing battery platoon
leader. Artillery doctrine had recently changed from having a six gun battery
with an executive officer commanding the Firing Battery portion of the
Battery, to a two platoon battery made up of four guns each with a separate
fire direction center. So my role had gone from being the second
in command, to being the senior platoon leader in the unit. This
change provided the overall unit much more combat capacity and the mobility
required to keep up with the armor or infantry units we supported. And
even though the battery commander had command and control responsibility
over us all, the platoon leaders owned the big guns. As a twenty
four year old kid in a situation like this, I learned to mature rather
other platoon was commanded by LT George Reasor who had previously been
my FDO or Fire Direction Officer. LT Mike Kiser was now Georgeís
FDO, and LT Pat Delany was my FDO. We really made up quite an array
of officers. Our commander CPT Bob Graf was competent and mature
enough in my opinion, although I was more influenced by my previous commander,
CPT Mike Bumbulsky.
Reasor was a short quiet fellow from Roanoke Virginia. I liked George a
lot, he was easy to get along with and fairly intelligent. The one
thing George seemed to lack was a true warrior spirit. He never quit
seemed to have the level of aggression and assertiveness needed to lead
a combat unit into battle. Iím sure heíd get the job done just fine,
but heíd probably be doing it against his true inner self.
Delany was an odd sort. He seemed to be a little too high strung
for this line of work. He appeared to be constantly nervous with
a lot of built up anxiety - yet naïve to the point of not really knowing
any better. Pat was nice enough but seemed to be instilled with a false
sense of West Point confidence which separated him from his men.
Kiser rounded out our crew of lieutenants, and was by far the most colorful
of the bunch. Mike was an anomaly amongst our battalionís officers.
Like all combat arms, Field Artillerymen were a proud group. Tradition,
history, and pomp and circumstance came with the territory and most were
proud to be part of it. But Mike came grudgingly to this arena.
of the first things he did was to march into LTC Robisonís office and request
a branch transfer to the infantry. Most folks thought this was an
incredibly arrogant and even stupid thing to do. I may have agreed
to a certain extent, but I also knew that it took guts to know what you
want and who you really are, then to make a stand behind your decision
and have the courage of your convictions to stand alone, unmovable.
unitís total arsenal consisted of eight 155 millimeter, self propelled
and nuclear capable howitzers. We were able to launch these projectiles
about twenty miles when using rocket assisted munitions (though we never
actually had any at the time). Our common load of the day consisted
of standard high explosive rounds, smoke, white phosphorus, FASCAM or Field
Artillery (Family of) Scatterable Mines, Copperhead laser guided
projectiles, and nuclear projectiles.
Robinson (left) Lt. Mike Kiser (right)
at 6/14 FA
Fire Support Headquarters,
guess this was one of the reasons that Mike and I were to become friends
and remain so until this day. I would learn over time that others
saw the same in me. Time and time again I would be lauded on my own
courage and conviction to do what I believed correct. For the remainder
of my career, my efficiency reports would consistently state things such
as ìWilling to take a stand for his beliefs regardless of the costs,î or
ìhas the moral courage to state his opinions honestly, and the loyalty
to support the command once a decision is made.î Iíve found that
until this very day, this trait is not necessarily a norm amongst individuals.
Iíve found that even though someone may emphatically believe in a cause
or issue, they will not always render their support publicly. Iím
often shocked and astonished to see people fail to take a stance in what
they truly believe.
more note about Mike Kiser and I during these early years. We often
times disagreed vehemently on various issues and would each argue our points
with heated passion. Many people around us would get the impression that
we were diametrically opposed to the point that we were actually opponents.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. There was a deep
level of mutual respect and understanding between us. In fact, Mike
was to become Best Man at my wedding in 1985.
effects of these shells upon detonation could be varied by changing the
type of fuse used. The most common fuse types are point detonation
which explode on impact, timed fuse which are calculated to explode either
moments before reaching the target to burst in the air, or delay the explosion
moments after impact so the round can penetrate the target; and finally
a variable time fuse that impacts so many feet above the ground relative
elevation to create an airburst effect.
arriving in Berlin we hustled about in an orchestrated medley of unhitching
vehicle tie down chains and braces while quickly working towards the goal
of getting on the road to our temporary home as soon as possible.
This time was very tense because we were in new territory and a hostile
one at that. It was just a few months earlier that an American Officer
was executed by Eastern Intelligence agents for straying too close to the
Soviet controlled territory.
another note, the night life was something to behold in Berlin. Over
the course of a few weeks, I noticed that our First Sergeant, who was simply
called ìTop,î the nickname for the an Army unitís lead non commissioned
officer, would take off on his own quite often at night and on the
weekends. Eventually, I asked him about his outings and he said he
was just reconnoitering the sites. Well, I finally asked him if several
of us lieutenants could tag along for fun. When he replied that we
could, we all took off together and ended up downtown in the heart of the
city. Well let me tell you, Top was not what you would consider
a Playboy, but he proceeded to take us on an excursion to just about every
sleazey dive, meat market, strip joint, and nightclub in the city!
spent the next few days working with our counterparts of the unit we were
replacing and just generally getting settled in. The highlight of
the first few days was the series of operational and intelligence briefings
which described our strategies and tactics based on the general defense
plan for Berlin. It became very obvious at this time that we didnít
stand a snowballís chance of surviving any type of full scale hostilities.
I resigned myself to taking full advantage of the time available for training
my unit and enjoying the unique sites and experiences this historic city
had to offer.
unit consisted of five officers and about sixty soldiers. Within
short order we all became intimately familiar with our surroundings, including
the local cultural and hot spots for evening entertainment, as well as
the military facilities and training areas available for our use.
the most impressive training area was a built up mock city known as ìDoughboy
Cityî for training in urban combat. We really took advantage of this
facility and practiced setting up our howitzers in the streets and alleys
of the village. Interestingly enough, the Berlin Wall was located
just a few hundred meters from the site and we were constantly under the
watchful eye of the East German tower guards.
14th Field Artillery
One of C battery's
155mm M109A2 Howitzers
in the Berlin
Urban Training Site known as
the end of the evening he said he was going to take us to a special theater.
We ended up on the main strip in downtown Berlin where we entered an adult
movie theater. After we paid, we were given a little tray and told
to pick out several of the beers or drinks we wanted and then we were all
handed a pair of 3D glasses. I couldnít believe it, we were actually
going to see a 3D adult film.
all settled down and began to watch this movie in German without subtitles.
Needless to say, it wasnít hard to follow the plot. Every so often
one of the films actors would quickly turn towards the camera and it would
appear as if a pair of giant breasts were being plunged out in your face.
I ended up laughing my ass off. It wasnít hard to follow the dialog
either. If my memory serves me correctly I recall some real intense lines
like ìOh mine Gott, Iích commen.î Not very hard to follow to say the least.
anyway, work and training continued as planned and we made the most of
it. We really concentrated on tactics and daily maintenance, which
improved our operational readiness significantly. It was truly a pleasure
to be away from the daily routine of garrison life in the west, without
the ever vigilant eyes of the battalion command and staff officers.
the end of our deployment to Berlin an arrangement was made for some of
our wives to visit us from Nuremberg. Lieutenant Colonel Robison,
our Battalion Commander escorted some of the wives and ended up spending
a few days with us while conducting a brief inspection of our operations.
following Saturday, LTC Robison finished his business and was headed back.
Our wives were to leave on the following Monday. When the Colonel
left, it was decided that our commander, Captain Graf would accompany him
back to Nuremberg for a few days on official business and to visit his
pregnant wife. That left me in charge of the unit during his absence.
night was planned as a big outing with the officers and our wives.
The men of the unit who were mostly single had also planned a big party
that night. Our group of officers went out on the town and ate dinner
at one of the finest French restaurants in the city. I remember eating
heartily and drinking several bottles of wine. Afterwards, we settled
down in the officerís guest house for the night.
had all drank more than our share of wine and I passed out soon after going
to bed. My sleep didnít last long and shortly after 2:00 AM I was
abruptly awakened by a loud pounding on the door. I struggled to
make sense of what was happening and I yelled out to the door asking who
was there and what they wanted.
heard the familiar voices of Top and Lieutenant Delany. As I opened
the door I sensed their extreme nervousness and listened as they both started
rambling. Top said ìSir, there has been a bomb that was set off at
a nightclub.î It shocked me to hear this but I still didnít understand
what that had to do with us and said something to the effect that it was
too bad, see ya tomorrow.
went on to explain that we had some of our soldiers in there when it happened
and they were injured. I quickly turned and pulled on some clothes,
kissed my wife and was out the door with them. I tried to get more
information out of them but they were unaware of the details. I needed
to know who was injured and where they were, and their condition.
They could not answer my questions so I told Top to take us to the barracks
so we could get accountability of the unit.
arriving at the barracks I immediately ordered a formation and started
putting the details together. We found out that most of our unit
had decided to meet after hours at the Labelle Disco, the most popular
nightclub frequented by American soldiers. We also learned that most
of our unit was there at the time and were either inside or standing in
line outside the club waiting for admittance.
getting a quick headcount of the soldiers in the barracks, I discovered
that about fifty soldiers were presently unaccounted for. This sent
uncontrolled thoughts of desperation through my mind. I needed to
find a way to start locating our folks and trying to get a damage assessment.
But the first thing I had to do was contact my unit in the West.
I knew my commander would not have arrived back in Nuremberg yet so I decided
to contact the nighttime staff duty officer.
I got through on the telephone, I explained to the officer on duty that
I needed to get in contact with Major Dennehy, our battalion executive
officer, and second in command. The duty officer began to tell me
that it was against policy to give out home telephone numbers over the
phone. I started screaming in disbelief at what he was telling me.
I told him it was an emergency and if he didnít give me the number I was
personally going to kick the crap out of him the moment I got back.
those days I was six foot three and weighed about 225 pounds, the officer
on duty was short and skinny. I guess that did the trick. Within
minutes I was on the phone with the Major and explained to him what I knew
and that I was about to conduct a search of the site and the local military
hospital for our men. During the conversation I began to realize
the difficulty that lay ahead and I could hear the slight tremble in my
voice from the conversation. I quickly composed myself and decided
to separate my emotions from my actions for the time being.
was really nothing more I could do, but I hated that fact and decided Iíd
do something about the situation. Top, 2LT Delany and myself climbed in
the staff car and I instructed that we head for the U.S. military hospital.
Upon arrival we walked into the emergency room and I could not believe
my eyes. There were men and women lying on the floors of the hallway
of the emergency room entrance. Most were bleeding from all parts
of their bodies, moaning, crying, and writhing in agony.
grabbed one of the doctors and told him who I was and asked if they had
any accountability and if there had been any fatalities. He responded
by telling us that there appeared to be over 200 casualties involved, that
it was a probable terrorist attack directed against Americans, and there
was one fatality in the hospital. He then surprised me by asking
if we would attempt to identify the dead soldier.
agreed to look at the dead soldier and Top and Pat were led into a small
room where we were shown a young black soldier, while I searched the hallways
for any of our troops. Meanwhile this young warrior lay there with
most of his leg blown off and cuts and abrasions over his mangled body.
Just moments before, he was probably partying up a storm, releasing the
built up stress that comes with the territory. Now, he was gone forever,
never knowing what hit him, and never having a chance to defend himself
against a cowardly foe.
expressed our regrets but could not identify him as one of the soldiers
in our command. As we were leaving, the doctor mentioned that with
the large number of casualties, many would be taken to local German hospitals
and he named a few and gave us directions. As we were leaving, I
saw one of my young privates sitting in the emergency room.
God, it was Private Adams, my former jeep driver. This kid was the
best driver I ever had. He was always dutifully taking care of our
vehicle and would do anything to get the job done. He was just a
young kid from Georgia who had been in the Army about eighteen months.
Very soft spoken yet eager to perform well.
I walked up to him he failed to notice me. He sat there staring into
space, obviously in shock. As I got close to him, I noticed dried
blood streams from both ears. He was to be one of many who suffered
from blown ear drums from the loud blast.
I tried to ask Adams if he was all right I held back the tears from running
down my face. I was embarrassed because I wanted to be able to encourage
him to be strong. He just sat there and didnít respond. I grabbed
him and laid him on the ground and elevated his feet to treat for shock
and then got a nurse to attend to him before I left.
remembered a time when on extended training exercises in the middle of
a harsh German Winter that I had developed a severe flu and bronchitis
while in the field. Adams grabbed me late one night and demanded
that I get some sleep. He cautioned me that if I did not get some
rest, I would end up in serious trouble.
was freezing cold that night and he laid out his sleeping bag and placed
mine inside it, to double the insulation. He warmed up some broth
and made me drink it along with some antibiotics and stood guard over me
the rest of the night. The next day I was able to resume my duties
and have been grateful to this very day. The intense fellowship and
nurturing provided by such a comrade in arms in indescribable. To
this day, I must fight hard to control my emotions when I reminisce on
seeing the carnage of that night.
of the skin on his face and chest was burned away to point where the dark
pigment of his skin was now mostly pink in color. The doctor asked
if he was one of mine and I honestly could not tell.
as I watched him at that moment I was starting to get pissed off again
but had to maintain composure. I left the hospital and decided to
swing by the Disco next and see what we could find out. Surprisingly
enough, the area had not been blocked off yet and we were able to drive
close by the building. As we approached, it seemed as if the half
of the entire brick building had just been purposely demolished.
The buildingís face was completely open and in shambles.
were able to ask an MP about the situation. He stated that most of the
wounded were taken away by now and we failed to recognize anyone after
a quick look around. We headed off to the closest German hospital
and speaking with our broken German we were able to locate a few of our
soldiers. One of which was in surgery but in stable condition.
continued this search going to several more hospitals, finding more of
our men in various states of trauma. We were all numb from the events
taking place and were reaching the last hospital by the time the sun was
we met a German doctor who said that he only had one patient who was yet
to be identified and asked me if I would see the young man and attempt
to identify him.
agreed and was led downstairs to the intensive care unit and asked to don
a protective medical gown, shoe covers, mask and bonnet. After doing
so, the doctor and I entered the ICU and headed back to what I found out
to be the burn unit. This was really the first time I had been in
an ICU and I was a little shocked to see what appeared to be bed after
bed of mostly elderly and frail patients who seemed to be ready at any
moment to take their last breaths.
we reached a door with a small glass window. I peered inside and
saw a young black man laying mostly naked on a bed.
told the doctor I would have to see him closer. With that, we entered
the room and I noticed the man was conscious. As I got closer, I
still could not recognize him so I said hello and told him who I was. He
replied and said he was doing all right. I thought to myself what
a good attitude he had for his condition and asked his name.
could barely speak and unfortunately was missing much of his fleshy tissue
on his face and lips. I never really understood what he said, but
knew he was a soldier. I realized he was not from my unit and I didnít
want to cause him distress by asking stupid questions so I wished him luck
and assured him he was in good hands.
trying to keep my composure I quickly left while almost running out of
the ICU and outside of the building, ripping off my surgical garb and dropping
it as I went. Outside I met up with Top and 2LT Delany where I poured
myself into the car.
was about 7:00 AM when we arrived back at the barracks and finally got
a firm headcount on our troops. There were still two or three soldiers
missing but we concluded based on reports from other soldiers that they
were most likely shacked up with girlfriends for the night. We eventually
confirmed that report.
last official act of the night/day was to again contact my unit in Nuremberg
and gave a status report. The worst of our soldiers had been attended
to and were going to be all right. Only one young man suffered injuries
severe enough to require extended treatment which eventually led to his
later visited this young man in the hospital and was extremely happy to
find him doing well. He had taken quite a bit of shrapnel from the
bomb blast and flying debris and had to undergo several series of operations
for those wounds and burns.
came to find that an Army General had visited several of the soldiers in
the hospital and allowed them unlimited free phone calls back to the U.S.
to talk to their families. When I learned that my soldier had missed the
opportunity to place a call home, I inquired on his behalf. The answer
I was given was that he would have to call at his own expense because the
General had not given him the special access code.
had been able to make a short call home, but he was from an extremely poor
family in Arkansas and was not able to afford much more. I was again
pissed off when I found that no matter what, the Army would not cover the
charges. I gave him my credit card number and told him the unit would cover
all costs, but they never did. I was happy to pay the bill. I loved the
Army but this was the type of typical Army bullshit that goes on.
also learned that all of the American forces in Germany were put on alert
immediately after the bomb blast, and security remained at a high state
for weeks to come. Unfortunately it was a little too late.
We also later discovered that the bombing wounded over 220 people, mostly
American soldiers and three eventually died from the blast. One was the
young American Sergeant we found in the first hospital, the other was his
German girlfriend who died a few days later. In time, another soldier
became a fatality.
it was announced that the intelligence community had warnings of a pending
attack but failed to give the appropriate warnings. This failure
to act on such intelligence was something that I would witness repeatedly
throughout the remainder of my career in the Army. It often was a
result of miscommunications, miscalculations, or inter-service parochialism.
Iíve heard this theme time and time again, yet this was the first, and
not the last time that I would experience it firsthand.
before noon on the next day after the bombing I finally returned to the
room in the officerís guest house where my wife was waiting. I fell in
utter exhaustion unto the bed. I briefly began to relay the story
to Mary when I began to cry rather intensely and a little uncontrollably.
I was feeling a mixture of emotions so pure and intense that I felt completely
vulnerable. I was feeling rage and anger at what had happened that
was outraged that such an event could ever occur. I was totally pissed
and took personal objection to the fact that not only did someone attack
American forces in the manner they did, but that they attacked my soldiers.
I actually felt as if it was a personal attack on me and I was absolutely
furious. The passing time was surrealistic but Iím sure I cried,
literally like a baby, for what seemed like forever until I simply passed
out. I was thankful that Mary was with me. I was thankful that I
could express myself naturally instead of keeping it held up inside.
remainder of our time in Berlin was uneventful and somber and we were greatly
looking forward to returning home. Finally, the day came to reverse
our activities of arrival and load the train back to the West.
woke before the alarm clock went off for first call on the morning we were
to depart. I immediately felt a very strange sensation, an almost
eerie feeling that things were not going to be normal that day. As
I was getting my boots on I turned on the radio which was tuned to the
Armed Forces Network or AFN.
events that occurred during my time in Berlin would prove to change my
life forever and still remain with me to this day. The profound impact
of being so close to this terrible attack changed my very moiréís
and basic truths down to the deepest level of my soul.
States retaliated for the Labelle bombing with
an air attack
against Libya on April 15, 1986. (AP)
was exactly 5:00 AM and the news was starting. The reporter excitedly
announced that at President Reaganís direction, U.S. Air Force F-111 bombers
had conducted a daring bombing raid on Libya for itís role in sponsoring
the Terrorist attack on U.S. forces stationed in Berlin a few weeks earlier.
My emotions soared as I yelled at the other lieutenants to wake up.
We listened intently and the news spread like wildfire. During the raid,
an American F-111 with two airmen was lost in the attack, and later three
hostages were killed in Lebanon in reprisal for the U.S. action.
held a quick meeting and decided we would get the hell out of Berlin as
fast as possible. I donít think Iíd ever seen soldiers move so fast
and work with such spirit as we did that morning. Not only were we
leaving, but we were partly avenged by our Commander in Chief! Ronald
Reagan was truly a man whom the military held in reverence and George Bush
would later uphold this stature to an even larger degree.
I understood how much responsibility I truly had as a commissioned officer
in the Army. Most civilians could not understand my remorse over
the incident. I recall a cousin of mine chastising me for having
the opinion that I was partly responsible for the injuries suffered by
my men. He scolded me and asked ìWhat could you have done about it?
Thereís nothing you could have done to stop it.î
wasnít until 1997 that all of the terrorists responsible for the bombing
were captured by international agents. Several of those responsible
were actually Libyan Intelligence officers conducting direct action against
Americans on behalf of their government. Along the way however, the Libyans
would respond yet once again by downing Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie
the lessons I learned from the event, first and foremost I realized that
I could actually formulate hatred based on someone elseís willingness to
act upon their own beliefs. Up until this time in my life, I could
honestly say that I never developed hate for any group of people based
on their background or beliefs. I was raised in an environment with
a very diverse mixture of culture, race, and beliefs. This background prevented
me from ever judging a group of people based upon what they believed, good
or bad. But now, I was ingrained with outright contempt for the act
or sponsorship of terrorism as a political methodology.
Pan Am Flight
103 Lockerbie, Scotland Dec. 23, 1988.
and seventy died in the terrorist incident. (AP)
explained to him that I indeed could have prevented ìmyî soldiers from
getting attacked. I could have placed a curfew on the men.
I could have ensured they were briefed not to congregate in large numbers
in public. I could have held more briefings on the threat situation.
I could have locked them in their damn rooms. I did in fact have
the power to do these things. Was it my fault? Absolutely not! But
there were things that I could have done and in time I would learn that
a good leader must learn how to predict the future. Itís called analyzing
the situation and mitigating the risk.
70ís and 80ís were infamous for terrorist attacks overseas from groups
like the Germanyís Red Army Faction or the Italian Red Brigade. Only
a few years earlier the American hostages were held in Iran and the Marine
barracks was bombed in Beirut. Yeah, there were some things
I could have done.
important learning is I realized that as a conventional army combat arms
officer, I would only face my enemy during open hostilities -- and in Germany
at the time that meant World War III.
events in Berlin would lead me down a path that would allow me to move
forward with my life and career, while being able to make an impact.
some long forgotten reason I recall as a young boy that I wanted to be
a soldier and would like to be one of those guys that went behind the lines
and helped the local people wreak havoc on the enemy. I think it
was all based on a movie I saw where this soldier was helping local guerrilla
forces fight the Japanese in WWII. He did his job well, helped the
natives, and got the girl in the end. I guess I am a true child of
the sixties and Hollywood has had its impact on me.
few months after Berlin I was promoted to Captain and would soon move get
ready to move back to the States to attend the Field Artillery Officer
Advance Course at Fort Sill Oklahoma. I was excited about the move
because I actually liked Fort Sill and was a pretty damn good Artilleryman
this school was nicknamed the ìCareer Courseî because it was not until
graduation that you were officially considered on your way to being a career
officer. Once I graduated, I would be considered ìlockedî on a course
as a career Field Artilleryman.
the same time, I had heard that a few select officers who were well rounded
in their primary specialty were sent to other branch courses for a career
broadening experience. It came to be that I was contacted by the
Department of the Army and asked if I was interested in attending another
branch school. Sure, I was interested; it was a great career move.
They gave me the choice of the Armor or Infantry school. I smiled
as I told them I choose Infantry.
just so happened that a few days earlier I met a fellow Captain who was
formerly in the Special Forces, more commonly known as the Green Berets.
We struck up a conversation and he had me captivated. I was in awe
at his description of the type of work and missions he had conducted.
What got me most was that he seemed to be conducting missions that were
of strategic importance to national security, even during peacetime.
I immediately thought of Berlin and my helplessness. I knew I was interested
in something more.
doing some soul searching and research on what it took to become a Green
Beret officer, I broke the news to Mary. She was shocked (bless her
heart) but supportive. We spent the next few weeks analyzing the
proís and conís based on our limited information. She supported me
and it was decided, we would go for it.
contacted the Special Forces recruiter and told him I was interested.
He started the ball rolling, but first I would have to pass some physical
examinations and fitness tests. I would also have to get formal recommendations
from senior officers.
was only one other soldier in the entire command that was interested in
Special Forces, but he wanted to be part of Delta Force, the counterterrorist
unit. He and I became friends and I watched him over the months while
he tried and failed, and tried again and failed again to pass the strenuous
fitness tests. I eventually left and he stayed. Years later
I ran into him at Fort Bragg North Carolina. That sucker had finally
made it and I sure was happy for him.
the examinations and tests was a piece of cake for me. The hard part
was convincing my superiors that I was serious. They all tried to
talk me out of it saying it was the kiss of death for my career and I would
end up dead or divorced, or both. They were dead wrong.
everything was set in place. I received orders to report to Fort
Benning Georgia for the Infantry Officer Advanced Course, then on to Airborne
school to become a ìvolunteerî paratrooper, and finally to Fort Bragg for
the Special Forces Officer Qualification Course or ìQ-Courseî-- on to the
Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) course, and finally six months
of the language training at the Defense Language Institute. Total
time ? about twenty months of training.
think my friends and family were giving me pretty slim odds at doing this
and thought I was crazy. After all, the attrition rate for making
it through the Q-Course alone could be as high as 70-80%, and unlike most
service schools, there were no minimum quotas. If nobody graduated
from a given class, so be it -- the criteria was beyond reproach.
I crazy? Maybe so but I was going for it!
(click on image to enlarge)
Additional Note Oct. 18, 2004: I was communicating today with 6/14 Brother Mike "Crusoe" Robinson and while "email talking" he informed me of his wonderful CD "In Honor of Army Special Forces"
You can read all about it, hear some sound clips and even read some of the recordings as text at the Amazon site by clicking on the CD cover image below.