By now some of you may have gotten the idea that I hate officers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I was an officer.
I exited active duty with Sergeant E-5 on my sleeves. I then joined the Kansas National Guard. Promotions in the Guard are slow and hard earned. A lot of NCOs and senior NCOs depart active for personal reasons but don't want to throw away ten or more years they invested, so they join the Guard. Guard units are often top heavy. I have seen Infantry platoons with out a PFC in the ranks.
For that reason, I opted for gold and went to OCS. I got screwed on that too though as George Sr dismantled the military after Desert Storm. We had a flood of officers who had to leave active competing with us for the few slots in the Guard and reserve. Many were good, and a few were excellent. That pushed me out into the IRR, and I remained there until I was discharged, resigning my commission in 2000.
Good officers? Oh heck yes!
On the AT excursion to Ft Carson, our infantry platoon was led by a mustang. He was one of those guys who exited active for personal reasons and made the Guard a home. He too saw the light and went to OCS. Our host platoon was not led by the cluster fuck. Its PL was also an OCS grad, and the two had amazingly similar careers. Their PSG was another story. he had a hate for the Guard that knew no bounds. Weekend warriors was probably the nicest thing he called us, and I think SSG Hill would have taken KP rather than be our host.
This was in 1981. There were a lot of Vietnam vets every where in the military at that time. Hill was not one though, and his platoon contained exactly zero. More on that in a bit.
Part of our training involved a trip into the mountains. We journeyed west to Signal Butte, about twenty miles from Pikes Peak to do some rappelling and climbing. We also built a rope bridge, but most of the time was spent on land navigation.
Back then we could have beer in the field, and on the second night we and our host group were gathered by a small fire, drinking beer and enjoying the splendor. The Two LTs were exchanging pleasantries which included their bragging rights as they recited their careers. Both were Vietnam vets. airborne, EIB, CIB, and the whole boot. After they were done, our LT turned to SSG Hill and asked him about his experience. Six years in, one trip to Korea, no combat and few decorations.
He then turned to the Infantry PSG for his recitation. Korean vet, Silver Star, two Purple hearts, a chest full of decorations that he never wore because that was just how he was. next up was the Weapons PSG, He was a WW2 vet, Combat in the Pacific, Korea as well. BTW, the two NCOs were brothers.
Down the line it went, back and forth. When all was said, there were no combat vets in the active duty group, and only three of us with no combat experience on the NG side of the fire.
Tell me again how the Guard and Reserve are not real soldiers.
I highly respected those two officers. Good men, good leaders. They earned the respect of their men and could hold their own on any and every mission.
Back then I was a smoker, two packs a day, often more. I lit my first smoke before I shut off the alarm most mornings.
Part of our orientation when we got to signal butte was a walk around. SSG Hill led the procession. We were flat landers, living on the plains is far different from living in the mountains. It was supposed to be an easy pace. Hill took us on a fast pace, with weapons and packs. The Weapons PG had just gotten out of the hospital after a heart attack. He wasn't supposed to do any thing strenuous. He wasn't even supposed to be there. He made that march.
When Hill took off, a group of us stayed right with him. To make matters worse, we all smoked, and we all had em going as we strode down the road. he hated us with a passion.
Our military is full of good men like those two Lieutenants and that group of civilian soldiers who were dedicated to keeping America Great. The times have changed. Their places have been taken by a new generation of soldier. Mark my words though, they love America just as much as those men who in 1979 took a snot nosed kid and show him what patriotism is all about.
As a disclaimer, I don't remember everything about SSG Hill. he was just a typical NoCo run of the mill grunt. He loved his country, he loved the Army. I sincerely hope that week spent in the mountains with a ragtag bunch of farmers from Minnesota open his eyes to who the Guard was and is.
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