We ended our 75th anniversary year with a great reunion which included the induction of 35 graduates into the OCS Hall of Fame. This year’s class included four Medal of Honor recipients and two general officers. We were honored to have as the Hall of Fame induction ceremony speaker retired Gen. John Abrams, 1966 OCS Fort Knox. The Patterson Award dinner was a highlight, as was a very special alumni dinner where we recognized 11 Vietnamese officers who graduated from Fort Benning OCS in the late 1960s and returned to Vietnam to fight and defend their country. Retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient and OCS graduate, was the alumni dinner speaker. His selfless service and courageous actions saved 44 of our soldiers and kept their names off the Vietnam Wall. Lt. Col. Kettles’ story made all of us stand a little taller, a little prouder.
The Memorial Walk is now a reality under the steady hand of retired Col. Frank Harman, the Association’s Vice President for Administration. During the reunion, we dedicated the Memorial Walk to honor the history and heritage of OCS. You, your family, or your class may want to consider adding a paver or brick to the walk.
Prior to the reunion, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, 1944 OCS graduate, visited Fort Benning and attended an OCS graduation and toured the OCS Battalion area and Memorial Walk. In a discussion with the OCS honor graduates, Senator Dole clearly explained how his leadership skills gained through OCS applied to his combat experience in Italy and also throughout the rest of his career. His sage advice to a group of candidates was a leadership lesson for all of us. Bob Dole is a truly great American soldier and statesman. OCS and Fort Benning were honored by his visit.
The anniversary year began with a birthday ceremony last summer. On July 1, 1941, the first class entered OCS at Fort Benning. On July 1, 2016, the OCS commandant, cadre, candidates, and the Alumni Association celebrated the OCS birthday with a reading of George Marshall’s graduation address given to the first graduating OCS class on September 27, 1941. We had a cake-cutting ceremony with the oldest graduate and youngest candidate, as well as remarks by Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, Infantry School Commandant. The tradition continued this 76th year of OCS with Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata, the senior OCS officer on active duty, as guest speaker at Fort Benning. Similar ceremonies were conducted by our newly formed chapters in various parts of the country. In attendance at the Washington, D.C. chapter was retired Gen. Frederick Kroesen, 1944 OCS graduate. Every graduate should pause for a moment each July 1 and present a toast to your alma mater in recognition of what OCS has meant to you individually and in celebration of the outstanding history of leadership and service to our great Army and nation.
The Association has formed four chapters this year. The Washington, D.C. chapter was the first chapter to be formed and is growing rapidly. Other chapters include Colorado, Florida, and Columbus, Georgia. If you don’t have a chapter in your area, start one! Call or email the Association for assistance in forming a chapter in your area. Chapters are essential to the growth of our association and a great platform for telling the OCS story--not only to the Army, but also to your friends, neighbors, and your communities.
Lastly, the Association is blessed to have an active, diverse, forward-thinking Board of Directors. They are all volunteers who put in a lot of time and effort to work together to make the Association a world-class organization that you can be proud to be a member. We currently have two director vacancies on the board. If you are interested, please send me your biography and a statement explaining why you would like to serve. As Gen. Abrams has observed, this is a “blue collar” board, so please expect to contribute.
We have experienced a good year and are determined to make next year even better. To move forward, we need your input and your ideas. Most importantly, we need all our members to be advocates of the OCS program and the Alumni Association. Please do your part.
Colonel (USA Retired)
While only in command a few weeks, I consider it a privilege to provide you, our alumni, with an update on the status of the Federal Officer Candidate School and what our future may hold.
OCS continues to develop and train leaders who can fight and win in today’s complex environment. To date, we have commissioned 455 candidates with another 202 currently in training. We expect to commission approximately 650 second lieutenants by the end of this fiscal year. We expect maximum class loads of 120 candidates and are projecting an increase of 160 per class early next year. We have tentative plans to expand by adding two additional companies by summer 2018. As you can see, OCS continues to provide the means to quickly grow Army officers during periods of increasing personnel requirements and next summer’s projected growth is no different.
It is never too early to start thinking about next year’s Hall of Fame reunion. I urge you to recognize any deserving OCS alumni by submitting a nomination packet for induction into our Hall of Fame. We have a great track record of identifying worthy personnel for induction. If you wish to submit a packet, please contact me and I will ensure you have one.
I am continually impressed by the quality of our candidates and cadre and I look forward to the next two years leading our Officer Candidate School.
Standards!! No Compromise!!
Matthew B. Chitty
Lieutenant Colonel, Armor
A Common Bond Forged Through Shared Experiences 2017 OCS Reunion
The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) recently concluded its celebration of 75 years of service to the nation by conducting its annual reunion and Hall of Fame induction.
168 people attended the May 7-10, 2017 reunion in Columbus, Georgia, the home of Fort Benning the location of OCS. Attendees included two individuals commissioned in 1946 and 11 Army of the Republic of Vietnam officers who attended OCS at Fort Benning from 1968-1971. Each of these officers has a different story, to include several who endured years of confinement following the war. Without exception, they expressed gratitude to America and the sacrifices made by its service members during the Vietnam War.
The reunion began with a briefing by the then OCS battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Andres. Andres briefed the alumni, many of whom attended in the 1960s, what OCS is like today. One of the biggest changes from previous generations of OCS graduates is the background of the OCS candidates. Previously many of the graduates were prior service, in particular non-commissioned officers. Today, approximately 80 percent of candidates are “college-option” candidates, which means they enlisted specifically for OCS and their sole military experience prior to OCS is the Army’s ten-week basic combat training.
OCS also has foreign military officers training alongside their American counterparts. Recently officers from Belize and Senegal have attended.
Andres described the training regimen. The course is currently 12 weeks in length and is designed to confirm competencies in basic solider skills, train the candidates to be small-unit leaders, and teach them to be critical thinkers who are able to operate in a complex environment.
The Army expects to commission approximately 650 officers from OCS this year; however, the number is expected to increase in 2018 commiserate with the military’s growth. OCS is the only commissioning source that can quickly respond to such increases in demand for officers.
The reunion continued with the formal dedication of the Memorial Walk on the grounds of the current OCS location. Many OCS classes through the years have erected memorials or monuments to their experience or fallen comrades. However, retired Col. Frank Harman lead the effort to create a cohesive place for graduates and current candidates to remember the OCS history and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed for their nation. The centerpiece of the Memorial Walk is the canon which was donated to Class 16-66. The class restored the rusty canon. Candidates to this day ensure the canon is always maintained. The Memorial Walk includes pavers for all 49 OCS graduates who were awarded the Medal of Honor, famous alumni such as former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, retired Gen. John N. Abrams, and any other OCS graduate who is proud of his or her service to our nation.
The first day of the reunion concluded with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The Hall of Fame, currently housed at the National Infantry Museum, was established in January 1958 to honor OCS graduates who displayed outstanding service to the nation. This year 35 graduates were inducted including two Medal of Honor recipients and two general officers.
Alumni were honored to welcome retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, the most recent and last Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. Kettles was a UH-1 helicopter pilot. He made a special return visit to Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning from which he deployed to Vietnam in March 1967. He was greeted by Billy Powell, Lawson Army Airfield operations officer, Maj. Robert Dickerson, commander of the Ranger Flight Company, and all Fort Benning aviators. When asked what it took to make a decision to risk his life, Kettles simply stated “There was no decision - other men’s lives were at stake.” Dickerson oriented him to the UH-60 helicopter and pointed to some capabilities that did not exist in the UH-1 in 1967. Kettles also took the opportunity to greet more than 300 airborne students preparing to undergo their second parachute jump.
Another highlight of the reunion was the Patterson Award Dinner. Annually the most outstanding infantry officer graduate from OCS is honored as the Patterson Award winner. The Patterson Award was established in 1952 by friends of Judge Robert Patterson. Patterson served in World Wars I and II and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions during a daylight reconnaissance mission on August 14, 1918. This year’s recipient, 2nd Lt. Robert J. Janssen, has a unique background. Janssen immigrated to the U.S. after completing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in the Netherlands. He enlisted in the Army in 2015 and graduated from OCS on August 2, 2016. Janssen was unable to attend this year’s ceremony in his honor as he is currently attending the Army’s Ranger School.
Reunion participants both observed training and were able to participate in training, such as marksmanship, as well as hone their patrolling techniques at the simulation centers. Participants also interacted with current candidates to include eating lunch with the senior class in the dining facility where candidates and alumni across generations shared a common bond forged through shared experiences.
OCS alumni were treated to a tour of the Armor Museum Restoration Shop at Fort Benning’s Sand Hill. This is the Army’s historical repository for armor and cavalry vehicles and supporting systems. The alumni were in awe of the armor and cavalry restoration projects underway. Many of the vehicles were formerly on display at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. The detail offered by Len Dyer, Shop Director, was phenomenal – many commented that he has to be among the world’s top subject matter expert and historian on armor and cavalry vehicles. Many shop vehicles are destined to be included in the future Armor Museum planned for Fort Benning.
Alumni also had opportunities to experience today’s Army. This included not only repeated events with current OCS classes, but also opportunities to experience some of the Army’s newest training devices and interact with the Soldiers and equipment of the Armor School’s lethality branch. For reunion participants, this meant seeing equipment far more capable than that used during their service. Included in this was the M1A2SEP main battle tank and its new family of ammunition as well as the precision weapons used by today’s sniper.
The reunion concluded with an alumni dinner where the first Robert B. Nett Award was presented. Nett, an OCS graduate, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Battle of Ormoc Bay in the Philippines in December 1944. Nett went on to command the 5th Student Battalion, OCS and later the Infantry School Brigade. The OCS Alumni Association established the Nett Award to recognize and honor an OCS alumni, current or former cadre member, or leader in the OCS chain of command who has provided superior support and advocacy to the OCS program. The first winner of this award is the current Alumni Association president, retired Col. John Ionoff. Ionoff has presided over an association that has grown in membership, formed regional chapters, and continues to extol the OCS program to leaders both military and civilian.
The keynote speaker for the reunion dinner was Kettles. Kettles relayed his harrowing experiences that were the foundation for his award with humor and self-deprecation. “We got the 44 out. None of those names appear on the wall in Washington. There's nothing more important than that.” Kettles speech was a fitting tribute to the outstanding performance and dedication of OCS graduates throughout the decades, whether in combat or training environments, and a moving tribute as OCS concluded its celebration of 75 years of service to the nation.
Items on display in the hospitality suite.
Alumni and guests arrive at Nett Hall for a briefing by the then OCS battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Andres.
Alumni view the OCS Memorial Walk following the official dedication.
Alumni practice their marksmanship skills in one of the simulation centers on Fort Benning.
Candidates and alumni eat lunch at the dining facility.
Alumni tour the Armor Museum Restoration Shop.
Alumni and candidates pose after the candidates conducted squat tactics for the alumni.
Army of the Republic of Vietnam officers who attended OCS at Fort Benning from 1968-1971.
Alumni, candidates, and guests mingle after the 2017 OCS Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the National Infantry Museum.
During the reunion, Don Dare, broadcast journalist and 1969 OCS graduate, produced the linked news story on OCS for WATE (Knoxville, Tennessee) where he is a reporter. He was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame at Fort Benning while he was reporting on the program. http://wate.com/2017/05/29/officer-candidate-school-at-fort-benning-celebrates-75th-anniversary/
Teach Your Children Well
From time to time I am reminded of the old Crosby, Stills Nash & Young song, “Teach Your Children Well.” I consider my grandchildren to be my own children. With them I can impart a little more knowledge and perspective I sometimes lacked with my own children.
My daughter lives with her family in Toronto, Canada. Her husband called, saying that since their kids start school later in the summer than the American kids on the East Coast, would I meet them in Washington D.C. My son-in-law wanted to show them the many attractions in our nation’s capital, including the National Spy Museum, the Smithsonian, and the White House. The bonus was that the Toronto Blue Jays were playing at Camden Yards in Baltimore and we could get some great seats to see that game. “And Pop,” my son-in-law asked, “I’d like them to see the Vietnam Wall. Could you take them there?”
We walked to The Wall after visiting the Smithsonian. Late August and early September are my favorite times to visit Washington. The tourists are out of town and Congress has not yet reconvened from their August recess. You can kind of get your hands around the place. It is also a quieter time to see The Wall.
As we approached The Wall, my grandchildren were fixed on the many white names etched in granite. So many names.
“Pop, what are all those names for?” I had to take a deep breath. “Well, those are all the people who died in the Vietnam War that I fought in.” Their eyes bulged out and mouths opened. The enormity of sacrifice was quickly realized by a 6-year old, 8-year old, and 10-year old. As we walked among the panels of the sacrificed dead, a National Park volunteer was rubbing names on blank sheets of paper. “Pop, what is he doing?” The volunteer stopped, having heard the question, and explained the what and why of his work.
We walked on--my son-in-law gently prodding, “Pop, tell them about your guys. You can leave out any details you want.” We stopped at Panel 23W. Three of my men are listed there--those I lost when I took five men in on a helicopter to rescue the crew of a light observation helicopter (“Loach”) that was shot down. Three of those five men were killed and I was shot twice. That was June 3, 1969.
The kids were focused at those three names etched in stone, Harry Italiano, Mitchell Sandman, and Michael Scherf, three names of over 58,000, but these were people that Pop knew, so they were special. The story was told, as gently as I could. They continued to stare at the names of these men who once served with Pop. I said, in a choking voice, “I’ll tell you what. There are three of them and three of you. Would you like to adopt them for this moment?” Their heads solemnly nodded yes. They placed their fingers on the white-etched names, reaching out to my past in a moment of respect, knowing that something deeply personal was in those names for their Pop a person they love.
Dave Taylor’s grandchildren at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
David Taylor is a retired colonel, Special Forces. He graduated from the 91st Company in February 1968 and was assigned as a Tactical Officer with the 62nd Company upon being commissioned. He served with the Americal Division as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam.
Life of a Lieutenant: Reporting to 5-7 Cav
1LT Blake Grasso
Following a short drive from Fort Benning to Fort Stewart, I finally completed a two-year journey and arrived at the mythical field army. Upon arriving at Fort Stewart, I began in-processing and had my assignment to 5-7 Cavalry confirmed. I was extremely excited as the squadron has a proud history dating back from the western frontier through Vietnam (where it made its name at Ia Drang under the leadership of then Lt. Col. Hal Moore) up to the present-day operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I learned the proud history of the squadron very quickly as I was made the master of ceremonies for the squadron ball that occurred two weeks after my arrival. The ball was a fantastic experience. I learned cavalry traditions and drank the infamous grog out of my Stetson for the first time.
Following the ball, our squadron commander and every troop commander were switched out in a busy week of change of command ceremonies. With all new faces across the squadron, I began to get a crash course in just what being a platoon leader in today’s Army entails. I hit the ground running and have gotten to know both my troop commander and platoon sergeant quickly through our busy day-to-day schedules. Despite what I had been told both at BOLC and OCS, the sheer amount of administrative work that goes into being a platoon leader has surprised me. One of my additional duties is Troop Unit Movement Officer which means I am in charge of the logistics of moving all of Apache Troop’s vehicles and equipment from Fort Stewart to the National Training Center (NTC) in California and finally on to Korea. I also have had a crash course on just how important maintenance is, particularly to a heavy unit. If my troop commander or squadron commander wants to know the maintenance status of all six of my Bradley Fighting Vehicles, I need to be able to tell them immediately. Long hours have been spent at the motor pool as the Soldiers in my platoon patiently help me learn the inner workings of our tracks.
Between mandatory AR 350-1 training requirements, vehicle maintenance, and a plethora of additional taskings that seem to find their way to us every week (head count at the DFAC is a particularly frustrating one), it is often tough to find time to train in the essential tasks that go into being a cavalry scout. Luckily for me, my platoon sergeant and the previous platoon leader of Red Platoon had done an excellent job at integrating training wherever possible. One day we spent PT and all morning engaged in a cat and mouse game around the Marne Mile obstacle course, with each section maneuvering to complete the obstacles while avoiding detection by the other section. The training was inexpensive and easily organized while also allowing leaders from section sergeant to trooper to practice essential reconnaissance skills. I have quickly learned that these kinds of events will be the key to keeping our skills honed as we prepare to leave for Korea.
During the month of July, our entire squadron will be at gunnery, following which we will begin preparations for an NTC rotation in October. Hopefully the next time you hear from me I will be settled into my role as platoon leader and organizing Apache Troop’s movement to NTC and Korea.
Blake Grasso spent his first year following graduation from OCS in a year-long assignment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 1LT Grasso wrote about his adventures at Sandhurst for the USAOCSAA newsletter. He has graciously agreed to continue writing for the newsletter about life as a lieutenant in today’s U.S. Army. 1LT Grasso is a member of Class 007-015.
Warrior Bonfire Program
Pain Shared is Pain Divided; Joy Shared is Joy Multiplied is the Warrior Bonfire Program’s motto. Each bonfire trip is designed to spread the joy and reduce the pain.
The Warrior Bonfire Program is a small, non-profit organization serving combat-wounded veterans through recreational therapy, team building, and network growth. The purpose of the organization is to promote post-traumatic healing by providing an opportunity for wounded veterans and their families to enjoy a favorite activity while partaking in the camaraderie and therapeutic value of spending time around a bonfire.
In 2012, the vision of the Warrior Bonfire Program began to form in the mind of our founder, Dan Fordice, as he searched for ways to serve and help his fellow veterans who suffered from injuries both physical and mental. Dan found himself in a conversation with retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Gregory Williams, who sustained a traumatic brain injury when a rocket propelled grenade struck and exploded a 50-caliber ammunition box two feet from his head. Greg commented that he could spend a full day with a PhD-certified counselor and not come close to the therapeutic value of sitting around a bonfire with five or six guys who were there. Dan quickly responded, “We will provide the bonfire!”
Bonfire Trips are the Warrior Bonfire Program’s signature events. These multi-day trips are reserved primarily for Purple Heart recipients. Focused around recreational therapy, each trip concludes with a bonfire including a U.S. flag retirement ceremony providing participants with an opportunity to say their goodbyes to fallen comrades. In addition to Bonfire Trips, other programs are Campfire Trips, Couples’ Trips, Spouses’ Weekends, Hangin’ at the Bonfire, Hangin’ with Heroes, Jammin’ at the Bonfire, and the Bonfire Ambassador Program.
Since its inception in 2013, the Warrior Bonfire Program has served 307 wounded warriors and 24 spouses. Sixty-nine events have been conducted in 16 states.
Ground has been broken on the Bonfire Lodge in Clinton, Mississippi. The organization has grown and is in need of a home base--a place for our Purple Heart recipients to go so they can continue to enjoy the camaraderie and brotherhood they found during the bonfire events. The Bonfire Lodge will be that place. It will also serve as a location to host additional event weekends that can include spouses and children, with activities on the lake and access to the challenge course, paintball arena, archery, and more. This lodge will serve as another means to meet the Warrior Bonfire Program’s mission.
In May 2017, the Warrior Bonfire Program conducted its first Vietnam Era Bonfire Fishing Trip to Stuart, Florida. Richard Devebec said about this bonfire trip “To make it any better I would be in heaven…it makes me feel better about serving.” In regards to the bonfire, James Harden said “I had never done that before. It was very touching and a few tears, but good positive.”
For Richard, James, and the other wounded warriors, the Warrior Bonfire Program has succeeded by making the bonfire a place where pent up emotions can be shared as part of a veteran’s healing.
To find out more about or support the Warrior Bonfire Program, go to www.WarriorBonfireProgram.org, email email@example.com, or mail Warrior Bonfire Program, P.O. Box 396, Clinton, MS 39060.
Bonfire Fishing Trip in Stuart, Florida.
Rendering of the Bonfire Lodge in Clinton, Mississippi.
Mike Foss is the president of the Warrior Bonfire Program. He is a retired lieutenant colonel and graduate of Class 003-83.
Donut Dollies in Vietnam: Baby-Blue Dresses and OD Green
The young women who served in South Vietnam with the Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas program were known informally as Red Cross recreation workers. To the American men who served during the Vietnam War, they were simply Donut Dollies.
Ask any Donut Dollie why she was in Vietnam and she would tell you that she was there because the men were there. Ranging from large bases such as Cam Ranh Bay to forward landing zones and firebases, their job was to provide service members with a brief respite from the war through games, Kool-Aid, or just their presence.
In Donut Dollies in Vietnam: Baby-Blue Dresses & OD Green, Nancy Smoyer, who served as a Donut Dollie from 1967 to 1968, writes a poignant memoir of her Vietnam experience, both during and after the Vietnam War. Based on Nancy’s photographs and letters and tapes home, as well as emails written to veteran groups since 1993, she pulls together material from others to share the emotions and events she and other Donut Dollies experienced.
Since returning from Vietnam almost 50 years ago, Nancy Smoyer has worked to assist veterans and their families both in Washington, D.C. and Fairbanks, Alaska where she has lived since l972. She has volunteered with the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. and continues to volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial every year. After receiving her master’s degree in Community Psychology, she volunteered as a counselor at the Fairbanks Vet Center.
In 1993, Nancy returned to Vietnam as part of the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project. During that trip, she, along with three American combat veterans, worked side-by-side with former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers to renovate a clinic at Cu Chi—one of the places Nancy had been stationed during the Vietnam War.
Proceeds from the book will go to the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit organization that helps injured service members and their families.
Memories of Donut Dollies by Those Who Served
Donut Dollies were a special breed of young ladies who had a college degree and volunteered to serve with the Red Cross in Vietnam. They were generally located at the division rear, but would periodically venture forward to a brigade or battalion fire support base. They were always a welcome sight, a reminder of home and a definite morale boost for the grunts. American females were obviously a rare sight and could generate a lot of excitement. They were great at conversation, loved to play games with the troops, and, for a few brief moments, would take our minds off the war. On very rare occasions, they would even venture out to a unit in the field as a passenger on a log bird (logistical resupply helicopter). I was always uneasy during a field visit because once the shooting started all bets were off and I was certain many men would be lost trying to defend or save them. None were lost to enemy fire, but it certainly was not because they did not take risks or were not exposed to the danger.
(Editor’s note: Jim Wright’s experiences with Donut Dollies was not indicative of their operations in the rest of Vietnam. At least two Donut Dollies went forward to landing zones and firebases virtually every day throughout Vietnam.)
Photos courtesy of Jim Wright.
Jim Wright is a member of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is a retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran. He graduated from OCS in April 1966 with class 5-66.
OCS Battalion Change of Command Ceremony
On June 7, 2017, Lt. Col. Mark C. Andres relinquished command of the 3-11 Infantry Regiment to Lt. Col. Matthew B. Chitty at York Field on Fort Benning, Georgia.
The following is Andres’ change of command speech.
Mrs. Wesley, MG (R) and Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Jones and Lesperance, COL Cole, COL and Mrs. Streeter, COL (R) Sunshine, COL (R) and Mrs. Ionoff, CSM and Mrs. Young, Mom and Dad, Doug and Nancy, Steve and Tara, all the members of Team Chitty, other distinguished guests, alumni, friends, and family….
On behalf of Beth, Olivia, Claire, and the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School, I would like to thank you for taking time out of your lives and busy schedules to attend today’s ceremony. Upfront I would like to thank the MCOE band for their outstanding military music and to CSM Dudas, MSG Jablanowski, and all the cadre, officer candidates, and Direct Commission Course students on the field today for looking great and making this day special for the Chittys and us.
Now, let’s get something out of the way right up front--I know there are some side bets going on as to whether I’ll shed a tear or not. I don’t know the outcome, but at least I don’t have to thank the Neumeyers like I did two years ago.
Simply stated, there are a lot of people, both here today and across the country and world, who coached, taught, mentored, and supported Beth, our daughters Claire and Olivia, and me to make us into the people who were able to lead this institution thru the last two years. Since there could never be enough time (and I’d probably lose my bet) to thank you in depth for what you have given to us, please accept what follows as the encapsulation of our gratitude for what you have done for Team Andres, OCS, and the U.S. Army.
First, thanks to God who gave me the wisdom to know what was the right thing to do and the strength of character to do it.
Second, thank you Generals Austin and Wesley, and Colonels Beachman and Streeter for allowing me to command OCS. Your faith and confidence in my abilities and patience with my shortcomings allowed both OCS and me to grow by leaps and bounds.
Thank you to my mom and dad; Steve; Doug and Nancy for raising me to be a right and moral man and a good friend to others.
Thank you to MG Simmons for showing me REAL leadership at the executive level and allowing me to be your aide.
Thank you, Mike Sunshine, for showing me how to lead a diverse group of people in a positive way.
Thank you to my wingmen and battle buddies for their friendship to Beth and me; their mentorship to the candidates and students; and their support of the OCS program: Matt, John, Franz, and Casey, and LTCs Huhtanen, Leth, Patin, Wilson, Underwood, Brannon, Riley, Carson, Albrecht, Stokes, Howard, McLaughlin, Edwards, Drake and, most importantly, all their lovely spouses.
Thank you to all the foreign liaisons and Combined Arms Integration Division instructors who likewise have helped to develop both me and the candidates, especially the Woods, Jacksons, and Heatleys, for what you did not only for OCS and the U.S. Army, but for our girls, Beth, and me
Thank you to the cadre, family readiness group leaders, and the OCS family for pouring your hearts and souls into your work daily. There is no other battalion-level organization that has as big of an impact on the Total Army as OCS! Never forget the importance of your job and for whom you are training these candidates and students. You are vitally important to the success of OCS and YOU are the reason these last two years have been so successful.
Thank you to the OCS Alumni Association, MOAA, and USAA for your guidance, wisdom, and dogged determination to promote the rich 75-year history of OCS and connect the current candidates to their forbearers. Special thanks to the OCSAA Board of Directors, especially COL and Nancy Ionoff; COL (R) Frank Harman from MOAA; and CSM (R) Julian Kellman from USAA.
Thank you to my command sergeant major who got the enlisted cadre that we needed and ensured that they were trained and certified to accomplish our mission. Thank you for ensuring the candidates and students understood the standards and were held accountable to them. Thank you for being the final impartial voice of reason and experience when people were recommended for either punishment or reward. Thank you for showing me how to balance your duties with your family obligations and showing me how a husband loves his wife so many years down the road just as strongly as when they are first wed. I’m taking a bit of time to brag on him because he is such a professional non-commissioned officer and humble man that he would never seek praise for his actions. John, thank you for the last two years. You will always be MY command sergeant major.
Daisy, thank you for being a friend to Beth these last two years and supporting the changes that she has made to the FRG and spouses’ group. Thank you also for sharing your husband with the Army and OCS for the last two years. He could not have given his service to the Army without your strength and support at home. I tried to get him home at a reasonable hour, but I know that you will be glad when he moves to his next job and you will get to see him at a much more routine time. You are a great example of what a strong Army family looks like and Beth and I are in your debt.
Thank you to my daughters Olivia and Claire--you are why I serve. You are loving and caring, loyal friends, good students, and hard workers (when you want to be). I am continually amazed at who you have become and can’t wait to see who you grow into. I look forward to our time together in Virginia, but am warning you upfront that for every museum that you drag me to, there is a battlefield that is calling your name!
Thank you to my truest companion and soulmate, my wife, Beth. I fell in love with her 16 and a half years ago and have thanked God each and every day that you are my wife and the mother of our children. Beth is THE reason that I am here today and embodies the motto of “Standards, No Compromise” at home, in her profession of Physical Therapy, and as an Army spouse and the FRG leader of OCS. Thank you for coaching, teaching, and mentoring subordinate, peer, and senior spouses and revamping the OCS FRG and family panel so that those people who love our candidates can understand what the Army lifestyle is about. Thank you for raising our two daughters and maintaining your career as a PT. She is quite simply FANTASTIC and the better half of this marriage by far. You put up with my late nights and long absences and you know there will be more to come, but just like we have our Sunday morning walks now I promise to continue paying you back for all the support that you have given to me and my career of service these last 15 years. Tomorrow is our fifteenth anniversary and we are going to celebrate it right!! I love you Beth and look forward to many more years together!
To Matt and Kari Chitty and their girls Ruby and Charlotte: you are in for a heck of a ride! I hope that your time in command will be as personally and professionally rewarding as ours was. You are the right officer and family to take on this mission, and I am truly glad to know that a fellow GreyWolf and Warhorse Brother has the reigns. Good luck and Godspeed. We look forward to seeing you on the high ground!
Thank you again ladies and gentlemen for attending today’s ceremony. May God bless the United States of America, the U.S. Army, and Officer Candidate School.
Once Force, One Fight!! Light, Swift, Accurate!! Standards!! No Compromise!!
This is Standards Six Ancient, Signing Off the Net.
Photos courtesy of Markeith Horace, MCoE PAO photographer.
Photos courtesy of Markeith Horace, MCoE PAO photographer.
Bob Dole Visits OCS and Fort Benning
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole visited OCS and the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning from April 20 - 21, 2017. Dole, who graduated from OCS on November 18, 1944, spoke to the four distinguished graduates from Class 003-17. He told them the leadership he learned in OCS propelled him into politics and made him a better person.
Dole also received a tour of the newly constructed Memorial Walk on the grounds of the OCS Battalion. Dole’s name is inscribed in the Memorial Walk as a legendary alumnus and member of the 1965 OCS Hall of Fame induction class. This was Dole’s first visit to Fort Benning since 1944.
The National Infantry Museum created a video of Dole’s visit to Fort Benning. https://infantrymuseumphotos.smugmug.com/42117-Sen-Bob-Dole-NIM-Visit/i-MhV3bGS/A
Former Sen. Dole (KS) and Sen. Matt Mattingly (GA) pose with the distinguished graduates of Class 003-17.
Former Sen. Dole meets retired colonels John Ionoff, OCS Alumni Association President (left) and Frank Harman, OCSAA Vice President for Administration and the program manager for the Memorial Walk (middle).
Memorial Walk Officially Dedicated
Frank L. Harman III
Today is a snap shot in time as we remember 75 years of service by OCS officers in the operational Army.
That 75 years is represented by Gen. George Marshall who started OCS and established the vision and objectives that the OCS program is to achieve.
The 75 years is represented by the commanders, cadre, and staff who supervised the OCS program. Their training, mentorship and leadership of OCS candidates has made Gen. Marshall’s vision possible.
The 75 years is represented by seven era blocks that represent war campaigns, combat operations, contingency operations, deployments, exercises and major events that illuminate the essence of each era of the OCS program.
The 75 years is represented by our 49 Medal of Honor recipients and their valor and heroism.
The 75 years is represented by our killed in action. May they rest in peace.
The 75 years is represented by our distinguished graduates who served our country at the highest levels.
The 75 years is represented by all of our Hall of Fame members and the outstanding service they gave to our Army and the public as a whole.
The 75 years is represented by our career officers: generals, crusty colonels like myself, lieutenant colonels, and iron majors--commanders and staff officers at all levels who kept the Army rolling along.
The 75 years is represented by all of our graduates, especially those who did their time and returned to civilian life. Like my uncle who was commissioned in 1941, served the duration of WWII, and returned to civilian life to work a job, buy a home, raise a family, and live the American dream.
We continue to memorialize our OCS history through this Memorial Walk. You, too, can be a part of that history by purchasing a brick or paver for yourself, a friend, relative, or classmate.
Standards, No Compromise; Semper Fidelis; Follow me; and Army Strong!
The above is an excerpt from Frank Harman’s speech at the dedication ceremony.
Retired Col. Frank Harman speaking at the dedication of the OCS Memorial Walk.
Frank Harman currently serves as the Vice President for Administration of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. He is a retired colonel and the project manager for the Memorial Walk. He can be contacted at email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association would like to thank the following generous donors who made the Memorial Walk a reality.
- OCS Class 509-68 led by their former tactical officer COL (R) Dave Taylor
- COL (R) Tom Evans
- COL (R) John Ionoff
- Dr. Ric Boyer
- LTC (R) Jim Wright
- COL (R) Rick Jung
- MG (R) Douglas Caton
- COL (R) Jack Rogan
- CPT (R) Jefferson Davis
- LTC (R) Ed Burroughs
- LTC (R) Ralph Peters
- COL (R) Jimmie Jones
- LTG (R) Joe Kinzer
- MAJ (R) Rich Thompson
- COL (R) Dan Kessler
- COL (R) Bill Weber
- Mrs. Marty Smith
- Mr. Danny Leifel
- Mr. Tony Suarez
- HQ Nissan - Terry Bell, General Manager
- Fort Benning and Chattahoochee Valley Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army- COL (R) Rocky Kmiecik, President
- Lockheed Martin Corporation - LTC (R) Steve Hesler, Vice President and local Program Manager
- Fort Benning Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America
- Larry and Cindy Cannon, sculptors from Bricks by Cannon
- SFC (R) Brad Hollingsead, owner of Nature Landscaping
- Stovall & Company, Inc.
Washington, D.C. Area Chapter News
The Washington, D.C. Area Chapter celebrated OCS’S 76th birthday on July 1, 2017 at the American Legion Post 177 in Fairfax, Virginia. The day was marked with establishing the first annual tradition of the newly chartered chapter -- a traditional cake-cutting ceremony, honoring the most senior OCS graduate, and exchange of salutes between the oldest and youngest D.C. Area Chapter OCS graduates.
The chapter was privileged to honor its newest lifetime member and the most senior OCS graduate, retired Gen. Frederick Kroesen. He commanded troops in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War enabling him to be one of the very small number entitled to wear the combat infantryman badge with two stars, denoting active combat in three wars.
D.C. Area Chapter members meet on July 1, 2017.
Gen. Kroesen exchanged salutes with our chapter’s youngest OCS graduate, 2nd Lt. Michael Friel, 275th Military Police Company, D.C. Army National Guard.
Gen. Kroesen used a sword to cut the cake as a reminder that we are a band of warriors and leaders in the nation's first and best line of defense: the U.S. Army.
J. Michael Harris
Major (USA Retired)
President, Washington D.C. Area Chapter USAOCSAA
Florida Chapter News
Good news, Floridians! The Florida Chapter of the U.S. Army OCS Alumni Association has been provisionally approved and is growing. Initially Ken Braswell and I filled the two officer positions required by the Alumni Association SOP that governs the establishment of local chapters. In the meantime, other alumni have stepped forward to fill additional positions. Paul Amato has volunteered to fill the operations position, while Charles Smith and Wayne Guest have agreed to co-chair the Membership Committee. We’re off to a good start!
Our near-term agenda is the conduct of several meetings--one in the Tampa Bay area in August and one in the Orlando area in late October/early November. During these meetings, we will get a feel for how we want to staff the chapter board. Of course, that will depend largely on some willing participants, so give this some thought. These meetings will be followed by a meeting in The Villages in February. At this meeting, we will conduct a chapter election and build the next year’s agenda thereby ending our provisional status. If you have not already affiliated with our Florida Chapter, consider doing so. You can contact Ken Braswell or me at email@example.com, FloridaChapterOCSAlumni@gmail.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonel (USA Retired)
President, Florida Chapter USAOCSAA
Florida Chapter members meet in April 2017.
Colorado Chapter News
The Colorado Chapter received its provisional charter on June 6, 2017 from the Association’s Vice President for Operations, Dr. Pat Smith. Several local alumni, including retired Col. Dennis Cripps (Class 005-70), Capt. Nate Hoekje (Class 006-10), and retired Brig. Gen. Bernard Thorn (Class 020-52), attended a luncheon ceremony at the “The Club” on Peterson AFB.
If you are in Colorado and would like to be a part of the local chapter of the Alumni Association, please contact me for details on upcoming meetings and events.
Major (USA Retired)
President, Colorado Chapter USAOCSAA
CPT Nate Hoekje, Dr. Pat Smith, retired Maj. James Earls, retired Col. Dennis Cripps, and retired Brig. Gen. Bernard Thorn attend the inauguration of the Colorado Chapter of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association.
Retired Maj. James Earls and retired Capt. John Ulbinsky at the
Black Bear Coffee and Tea Lodge in Colorado Springs. James met John to discuss the chapter’s formation.
Columbus, Georgia Chapter News
The Columbus, Georgia chapter is being established. If you are in the Columbus area and wish to participate in local Association activities, contact Rich Thompson at email@example.com.
Interested in establishing an OCS Alumni Association chapter in your area?
Association chapters are established to coordinate and promote activities and camaraderie at the local level. The chapters encourage fellowship and goodwill among the OCS graduate community and promote the purposes of the Association.
The Association has an SOP that describes the process for establishing and operating a chapter. To establish a chapter, a minimum of 10 founding members are required. The requirements for operating a chapter are submission of an annual report on the activities of the chapter and reporting any change in its leadership.
If any member in interested in establishing a chapter or would like to receive a copy of the SOP, please contact Tom Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-827-1491.
It is with regret that we report the passing of Larry Norman Froelich on June 5, 2017. Froelich graduated from OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1965 and served two years there as an Army Public Information Officer. In the last ten years, he attended several OCS reunions and reestablished friendships with his fellow classmates. After his time in the Army, Froelich was a journalist, first with the Akron Beacon-Journal, later with the Detroit Free Press, and finally at the Lexington Herald Leader where he remained until he retired in 2005.
Tell your story! The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html
Allen Pencek, who graduated from OCS on April 12, 1977, is looking for his classmate and best man, Kenny Lee. If anyone knows Kenny or Kenny if you're reading this, please reply and we'll get you Allen's contact information.
Class 029-67, which graduated May 18, 1967, is looking for its company commander, LT Sutherland. LT Sutherland graduated in 1965, after which he served in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division. If you have any information on LT Sutherland to include a first name, or you are LT Sutherland, please contact Tom Savery at email@example.com.
OC Class 47/67 (74th Company) is planning a 50th anniversary reunion August 11 – 13, 2017. Contact John Shea firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Association is accepting digitized yearbooks which will be placed on the website – (Membership Area - OCS Yearbooks). This project is the beginning of an ongoing preservation of historic documents from OCS. If you are interested in having your class yearbook placed on the website, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at email@example.com or telephone him at 951-712-3240 for further information on how to participate. This will also help your fellow classmates who may not have purchased a yearbook or lost it since graduation.
All members are encouraged to log into the website (www.ocsalumni.org) and ensure the information in their profile is correct. If the information is inaccurate and cannot be updated or there is no profile listed, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at 951-712-3240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have announcements you would like to have publicized on the USAOCSAA Facebook page or in the newsletter, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.
USAOCSAA is looking for your personal experiences. We need to capture our history. If you would like to tell your story, please contact the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.
$75 For 75 Years
Thanks to all of the OCS alumni who contributed to the $75 for 75 years fundraising campaign! Your contributions will help the Association preserve the legacy and history of OCS. You can check out what OCS meant to your fellow graduates in the message section of the donation page.