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Copyright John T. Reed—The most recent articles are at the bottom of the list of links.
Here is an important email exchange I had with an active duty U.S. Army person:
A coworker and I are having fun with the Army pages as we are both Army. What is messed up is your observations so long ago [40 years] are very similar to today. Nothing has changed.
Name withheld by request
My brief military biography is at the bottom of this page and also at www.johntreed.com/authorMIL.html. To get automatic updates with new material highlighted, I recommend Mozilla Update Scanner if you use Firefox as your browser. Start at the Mozilla.org site to get it safely.
I am a West Point graduate Class of 1968. I also graduated from Army Ranger and paratrooper schools. Ranger School recommended that I be brought back as an instructor (to my astonishment and dreadI hated the ordeal of Ranger School). I had a top secret security clearance.
I was a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division. I was in several units in Vietnam. I volunteered for the 82nd and Vietnam as well as a number of things I did not get like a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit in Vietnam (one of my West Point classmates with an identical resume arrived in Vietnam the day before me and got the LRRP slot I was sent to Vietnam to fill in D Company of the 75th Ranger Regiment), Special Forces (Green BeretsI volunteered for SF five times. While I was in Vietnam I was on orders to be transferred to the Fifth Special Forces Group, but the orders were changed for unknown reasons.) I also volunteered for Army Pathfinder School. Pathfinders are the guys who parachute in before the main body of paratroopers and set up beacons to guide the planes dropping the main body of troops later.
During cadet basic training, I qualified Expert, the highest rating, on the M-14 rifle. My military job specialty was radio officer. I was a communications platoon leader in a parachute infantry battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division and a mixed-heavy artillery battalion in Vietnam.
In October, 2009, I was surprised to learn that former VA head and U.S. Senator Max Cleland had more or less the same job that I did. He was a communications officer in an infantry battalion in the 1st Air Cav in Vietnam—same job I had in the 82nd Airborne and almost the same job I had in a mixed-heavy artillery battalion in Vietnam. He got a silver star in the Battle of Khe Sanh but received his famous injury—losing his right arm and both legs—at the hands of a stupid U.S. enlisted man who got the bright idea to loosen the pins on his grenades. (So he could throw them quicker?) One fell on the ground when they were getting out of a helicopter at a cold LZ (no enemy fighting go on) where he was to set up a radio relay station. The pin came out and the handle popped off starting the 4-second fuse burning. Cleland assumed it still had its pin in and bent over to pick it up. When his right hand was five inches from the grenade, it blew up.
My resume was relatively standard for my West Point class. That is, most of them would have Ranger, parachute training, top secret, Vietnam, expert rifleman’s badge, and so forth.
So was my not getting into Pathfinders or Special Forces. They only need a relative few pathfinders in the Army. And the Pentagon told me they did not want to let West Point graduates into Special Forces because the top brass did not like Special Forces. (They like it better now.)
Like most Vietnam vets, my time there was mostly boring and I had no significant involvement with the enemy. To state it in terms that Vietnam vets would use, I was never in a firefight. Like most vets, I was stationed at bases that were the targets of enemy rocket attacks.
My most exciting moment was driving through a North Vietnamese ambush near the Cambodian border. Why was I not killed? They held their fire. Why did they do that? Apparently to wait for a more lucrative target. I was a first lieutenant riding in a lone jeep with my platoon sergeant who was a sergeant first class. I presume the enemy flank lookout examined our rank insignia with binoculars and radioed to the commander of the ambush that it was just a 1st Lt. and a Sgt. How do I know the ambush was there if they did not shoot? They did trigger the ambush against an American convoy that was behind me about five minutes. I did not know the convoy was behind me. If I had, I probably would have stopped to wait and join them. When we arrived at Loc Ninh about 15 minutes later, the fire base personnel there were astonished that we had survived the ambush. “What ambush?” we asked. How do I know the ambush was in place when we drove by? Because we were trained in ambushes at Ranger School and it takes longer than five minutes to set them up.
All of the above has caused me to have more than normal interest in the military. As I see things about the military on TV and in the other media, I have ideas that I think are worth tossing into the Worldwide Web. So I added these pages to my Web site as a place to publish them.
I was no war hero. I did get most of the best junior officer training the Army offers. And I was “there” with regard to an airborne division and Vietnamtwo much-discussed military situations.
A visitor to these pages said in an email to me, “Like you, I would like to consult on the military.” I have no desire or qualifications to consult on the military. What do I know about the military that would qualify me to consult on it? I graduated from the above schools and spent four years as an Army officer including a tour in Vietnam. So did millions of other guys. All I am is a concerned citizen with a little bit more experience than the average person. My salient characteristic in military matters is my willingness to say what I think, ask questions, and make comments that almost all the other people with my military knowledge or more knowledge are, for some reason, afraid to make.
I suspect many in the military will be outraged at some of my comments about the military. Right back at you. I’m outraged at the way I was treated by the military and by the way the military fails to accomplish its missions and by the way the military gets people killed unnecessarily and by the way they waste taxpayers money and... (read my articles above).
After the first year of this collection of articles about the military, one word emerged repeatedly in feedback from current or former military personnel: “refreshing,” sometimes stated as “a breath of fresh air.” I guess I am not surprised. I do not recall anyone ever using that word to describe anything we heard or read about the military when I was on active duty. In my writing on the military and other topics, I often seem to have a monopoly on just calling a spade a spade. It is a mystery to me why that is so hard for others to do or why they are so afraid to do it.
The 8/13/09 Dilbert comic strip captured it. A salesman tells an obvious lie. Dilbert accuses him of lying to get the sale. The salesman says, “You’re not supposed to say that out loud.” Saying things out loud that you’re not supposed to say out loud is what I do for a living. It was also captured by Hans Christian Anderson in the little boy who pointed out the emperor’s nudity in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
I also suspect that most, even those who are angry at some of what I said, will be glad someone said many of the things I say because they need to be said and no one else is saying them. During my time at West Point and in the Army officer corps, and to a lesser extent since I got out of the Army, I have been in many bull sessions with fellow cadets, grads, and officers. In those bull sessions, we talked about what was wrong with the Army and how the Army could be improved. People who have been in the Army or other services will recognize much of what I say from the bull sessions they participated in.
My articles on the military go beyond the bull sessions in several ways. For one, I am now in my sixties. I have a much better understanding of how the world works than I and my peers did when we were young cadets and officers. For another, I have been a non-fiction, how-to book and article writer since 1976. In the course of researching those books and articles and working in various jobs, I have become an expert on useful knowledge and how to impart it to others. Finally, those bull sessions were and continue to be informal, just based on impressions. In my Web articles about the military, I research the various facts to make sure they are correct and run corrections when I find I made a mistake.
Here is a typical email I received in 2009:
John, please do not attribute these comments to me on your site. However, from one person to another, and as a Combat Veteran with two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, I agree with much of what you say. I tell people over here who want "action" that they do not know anything about which they speak.
I can also tell you awards mean next to nothing. I spent a 15 months as a REDACTED Platoon Leader in one of the worst areas in Baghdad last deployment. I had to fight like a demon to get my Senior REDACTED awarded a Bronze Star. Now, I am in Corps HQ, and I see everyone (including staff workers and drivers) receiving them. It makes me pretty angry.
Thanks for your articles, I appreciate them. I graduated USMA in RECENT and will be transitioning out of the Army after I return from my current deployment.
In another sense, my Web articles tell less than the bull sessions I was in when I was a cadet and officer. That’s because when you say it in print, you have to be able to prove it. So there are many things I know that I would like to add to the web site. But they do not reach the being-able-to-prove-it-in-court level. I sometimes get emails saying it’s far worse than you say in the military. I know.
If you find an error or omission in my facts or logic, please tell me what it is. I will check and take appropriate action if you are correct.
John T. Reed
Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military