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The Experience of Family Dependents as Leadership Development

Above: The author with a Spanish officer aboard the ARM Cuauhtémoc of the Mexican Navy in 2012.

The Children of the Regiment—An Army and Joint Force Preparatory Experience in the 1940s-1960s

Article by Tom Rozman

An aspect of military life that is often overlooked from the standpoint of professional development for the long service military professional is the dependent or family service member experience.  This is particularly the case in its effect on the “leader development” of the prospective military professional that develops from this experience.  In some cases the experience has included significant exposure to joint aspects of the military service experience.  For many long service professionals, this experience often spanned a 17-18 year period of exposure to the service environment on many of its levels to include involvement in the military community on various home country and overseas bases and installations.  In some ways it comprised a form of apprenticeship for those dependents who chose to continue as uniformed service members.

Because of the extensive exposure to the military profession and the direct and indirect professional development this exposure represents, some examination of the dependent experience is, I think, of value to explore.  Because of the “indirect” as well as “direct” aspects of the experience over an extended timeframe, it not being a part of a deliberate program with objectives for prospective long service professionals, it again tends to be dismissed or at best viewed as a nice “conditioner.”

The above said, its “density” of actual service related experience is likely very relevant to the long serving professional’s preparation for service, at least to understand that service (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy) and its patterns and expectations.  To underscore the point, I share the following experience to illustrate the “density” of a personal experience over 18 years that on reflection was quite relevant to later reserve and active regular army service over 27+ years.  I could as well use the “trip book” of any other contemporary or person who followed in similar mode—I will use this one as I am familiar with its details.

In the personal experience about to be shared, aspects of reserve service, mobilization and joint relationships between the Army, Air Force and Navy, to include personal experience with stateside installations and overseas garrisons and installations, comprise the program of experiences and activity.  Experience and exposure in some cases was only a day and in others weeks or longer with some larger experiences extending over several years at a time.

The case study initiates in Hartford, Connecticut when I became part of a senior infantry 1st lieutenant of the Connecticut National Guard’s family (at the time the Air Force had not yet formed and consequently the National Guard had not yet separated into an Army and an Air Force National Guard).  This officer, my father, was a veteran of pre-WW II Civilian Conservation Corps and pre-war enlisted National Guard service of over a year, over four and a half years of active federal service (over 3 and a half years of which was in the South Pacific Theater of Operations most of that time in active infantry deployments on Guadalcanal, Luzon, Philippine Islands, New Georgia, New Guinea and Rendova).  He had risen from private to rifle company first sergeant than received a direct commission to second lieutenant on Luzon.

After leaving active service he returned to his National Guard unit as a first lieutenant assisting in his battalion’s reorganization after the war serving as a rifle and headquarters company commander and a primary battalion staff officer with ultimate promotion to captain from the period 1946-50.  The unit was based in the Connecticut State Armory near the state capital building.  My father’s office for some of this period was in a ground floor corner office of this magnificent imposing military structure built at the turn of the last century.

The State Armory in Hartford, Connecticut…Captain Robert W. Rozman’s office was in the lower right corner of the building’s front face in the photo.

Our family’s apartment was a short mile long walk from the armory and my earliest memories include walks with my father to the building spending time in his office, the company supply room, arms room and other locations in the building to include tours of the then large motor pool of the 169th Infantry Infantry Regiment’s headquarters’ and elements of the the 2nd Battalion’s  tactical vehicles adjacent to the armory.  I still remember the pungent smell of stacks of new olive drab army wool blankets and other field gear as well as the equally memorable smells of the arms room and its racks of M1 rifles and carbines, M1911 pistols, BARs and 30. caliber machineguns.

I remember going into the armory on weekends and sometimes in the evening during the week.  I remember my father’s departures in the summer to Camp Edwards, Massachusetts and Pine Camp, New York (now Ft. Drum).  (Note: At the time, two of my father’s younger brothers were serving in the battalion and one of my mother’s brothers and a brother-in-law and one cousin were also serving in the Connecticut National Guard.  Twenty-two other uncles and a cousin had served in the active forces or the Guard and one aunt and four uncles would also serve as would fourteen cousins and my brother. More than half of these relatives would follow long term active, National Guard and reserve careers. This larger sense of family service would also have its effect on shaping personal views of the service.)

Obviously, the impressions of this experience were lasting as I still recall the site, the rooms and motor yard and the smells.  Perhaps of more importance was the impression made on a very small boy of the dedication and commitment of the officer “hosting” me on these visits and excursions.  In many ways it was a “leadership/professional development” template that would be of great importance later.

Though I little comprehended the values being imparted as a small boy, my father was exposing me, even at that early age, to a sense of duty and obligation of a leader to do the work necessary to assure a properly functioning unit.  He was uniquely qualified in this regard having trained in a reserve capacity for almost a year and a half before mobilization.  He had mobilized with his unit and experienced bringing it to full strength and training to deployment standards over a year and a half.  He then deployed to a combat theater for over three years in active operations and then demobilized followed by helping to reorganize the unit post-war in the state national guard.

Through this experience, he would serve as a rifle company artificer, supply sergeant, rifle squad leader, rifle platoon sergeant, rifle company first sergeant, and platoon leader as a commissioned officer.  As well, in his post war National Guard service he would, over a three and a half year period, command Company F and Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, 169th Infantry Regiment and serve as the battalion S-1, the adjutant and personnel officer, and the battalion S-4, the supply and logistics officer.  His 10 years of service, almost half of this service in the active Army, uniquely qualified him as a competent and able professional—and even as a small boy, I could sense this competence and positive energy.

In October 1950, my father’s unit was returned to active federal service taking station at Camp Pickett (now Ft. Pickett), Virginia near Blackstone to receive levy’s of soldiers from the Army’s training centers and officer’s schools to fill troop strength to full authorization levels and train the unit to deployment standards.  I remember the World War II Era wood frame buildings painted tan with green tar paper roof covering and the ubiquitous smell of coal smoke across the installation from the coal burning furnaces that heated and provided hot water to the drafty buildings and barracks of the post.

On the occasions when my father brought me into the battalion area, I still remember walking through the barracks and for a little boy being thoroughly impressed with the platoon weapons in each barrack being arrayed in racks at the rear of the barrack.  Even now I remember asking a question about the soldier detailed daily to keep the furnace fire at temperature with coal from the coal bin next to the barracks and the barrack “fire guard” (if these barracks developed a fire, they burned to the ground very quickly).

My father was a captain and the battalion S-4 and it seemed he was always in the field, the battalion not only training at Camp Pickett but Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia near Fredericksburg about two hours or more drive from Blackstone on the pre-interstate U.S. highways of that time.  As there were no family quarters at Camp Pickett, our family and most other military families lived in a trailer in a trailer park near the rail yard.

About mid-way through the training at Camp Pickett, my father was assigned as the battalion S-2 (intelligence officer) and was ordered to the Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas to enroll in and complete the Tactical Intelligence Officer’s Course.  We hitched up the family home and drove to Ft. Riley over the mountains of West Virginia.  After the several weeks of the course we returned to Camp Pickett where my father assumed the duties of the S-2, among other duties, orchestrating the operations of the aggressor (opposing forces) forces during the increasingly intensive field training of the battalion, regiment and division.

As the program of training completed, a massive division parade was held at the Camp Picket Army Air Field attended by the Joint Chiefs, Chief of Staff of the Army, other federal dignitaries and the Governors of the states from which the division’s units came (Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont).  The parade made a significant impression on me—the logistics alone to conduct such a massive event got even a small boy’s “mental wheels turning.”

Dignitaries arriving at Camp Picket to review the 43rd Infantry Division at the completion of its mobilization and being brought to full establishment and pre-deployment training just prior to deployment to Germany in the beginning of October 1951.

The 43rd Infantry Division, the division to which my father’s battalion was assigned, left Norfolk, Virginia by troop ship in early October 1951.  Families followed in early February 1952 as quarters became available in Germany.  My mother’s brother, an also federalized Air National Guard non-commissioned officer, joined the family at Blackstone to assist in driving the trailer to Connecticut where it was sold and we took up residence in an apartment until orders arrived to travel to the military terminal in New York City to take ship to Bremerhaven, Germany.

As a dependent, another round of professional development occurred when I received my first series of required inoculations preparatory to overseas deployment—I did not do well with this phase, kicking the doctor in the face.  My first experience with the shot needles was less than smooth.  Shortly afterward we boarded the troop ship USNS General Maurice Rose in New York setting sail for a stormy winter crossing to Bremerhaven.  At this early age I experienced all of the aspects of going to sea as a military passenger on a U. S. troopship, the shipboard routine, its requirements and customs—I recall, the food was particularly good.  I also recall a good case of sea sickness in the storm a few days out—I learned that even a 550 foot long ship could assume an endless roller coaster effect in such a sea.

The ship landed after over a week at sea at Bremerhaven.  The unloading of the ship, processing and transfer to trains that would take us through the night from Bremerhaven to Munich followed.

The government contracted trains of the resurgent Deutsche Bundesbahn traveled through the night across Northern Germany eventually arriving in Bavaria, then at the train station in Munich.  My father met us and had us transported to our Army quarters—our car hadn’t arrived yet so the trip was in tactical vehicles.  Thus began a less than year long experience in Munich.  My father was always in the field.

The regiment was repositioned to the Fuerth Area around Nuernburg to the north.  We initially moved into a house on the German economy as the new military quarters were still under construction.  We moved into the new quarters several months later.  The battalion was based at Pinder Barracks, the regimental headquarters at Montieth Barracks.

During the period that followed, my father again took command of Company F, then Headquarters and Headquarters Company and again served as the battalion S-4.  He was always in the field. But on numerous occasions he brought my brother and me into the unit.  We knew many of the soldiers and had a good sense of the troop routines.

By Summer of 1954 the Korean War was concluding in terms of the expanded troop levels and the division reverted to state control—by this point this was an administrative exercise as most guardsmen had returned to their states already. (For each federalized unit, a unit had been formed in each state from soldiers who had not deployed and subsequent volunteers who enlisted for state service—for example, when the 169th Infantry Regiment entered federal service, the 169th Infantry Regiment (Connecticut National Guard) was formed to meet the state’s security and emergency mission, the same practice that had been followed during WW II.)  In the case of the 43rd Infantry Division and the 169th Infantry Regiment, the unit in place in Germany redesignated as the 9th Infantry Division and the 39th Infantry Regiment, both Regular Army units.

After fifteen and a half years of service, eight and a half of those years in the active army, my father elected to remain on active duty and was assigned as the assistant regimental S-2 of the 39th Infantry Regiment.  Several months later in October 1954, he was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Ft. Knox, Kentucky.

The family traveled from Fuerth to Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt am Main.  There we loaded a DC-4 flying to Reykjavic, Iceland, Gander Newfoundland then Idlewild Airport, New York.  We were picked up by family who drove us to Wilson, Connecticut spending several weeks at my grandfather’s house before driving to Ft. Knox.

On arrival at Ft. Knox, my father took command of his fifth company command, Service Battery, 67th Armored Artillery Battalion, Division Artillery, 3rd Armored Division.  Simultaneous with my father’s promotion to major several months later the Division Artillery redesignated as the 5th Training Regiment and my rather was assigned as the regimental S-4.  Several months later the regiment deactivated and my father was assigned as the Armor Center Assistant S-2.  Several months later he received orders to the Military Assistance Advisory Group Viet Nam.

The stay at Ft. Knox, then the U.S. Army’s Armor Center and School, was an indirect education on what tanks were and what they did.  I still remember crawling all over the tanks at the Patton Museum and having my first insight into the Army’s medical program with an actual surgery at the Army hospital—I learned that one would survive.

It was 1956 and the family moved into a house my father purchased in Manchester, Connecticut near the headquarters of the 2nd Battalion, 55th Air Defense Artillery, an active army garrison in the air defenses at the time around the large aviation industry complex in the Hartford, Connecticut Area.  The M35 2 1/2 ton trucks traveling between the various installations went by the house several times each day.  I visited the headquarters several times and noted the differences and commonalities between air defense and infantry troops.

The buildings the 2nd Battalion, 55th Air Defense Artillery occupied in 1956-58 as they appear today.

My father returned from Viet Nam in 1957 for several weeks before traveling separately to Ft. Benning to attend the Infantry Officer Advanced Course.  One of the bittersweet aspects of service life for young boys—is a parent’s departure for a lengthy time soon after return from a year long absence.

On completion of the course he was assigned to the 1st Army then at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts as an active army advisor to the Massachusetts Army National Guard.  His specific assignment was to the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division and later the new formed 126th Signal Battalion.

Initially, the family remained in Manchester making the hour long trip north to Westover Air Force Base near Chicopee, Massachusetts for commissary and other support.  Some 6 months later the family moved into Navy quarters adjacent to the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot.  The depot was in the process of closing along with several other naval installations in the Hingham-Quincy Area but service personnel continued to occupy the government quarters as they were transitioned to private ownership and operation.

Our family obtained base support locally from South Weymouth Naval Air Station in the next town over, Otis Air Force Base near Camp Edwards near Barnstable, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, Boston Navy Base and Chelsea Naval Hospital and Ft. Devens, Massachusetts.

During this time I experienced multiple tours of the installations, Army, Air Force and Navy to include the inside of a P2 Navy patrol bomber, the blimp hangers at South Weymouth, several ships at Boston Naval Base and Shipyard as well as the South Boston Naval Annex with its than extensive reserve fleet of cruisers and escort aircraft carriers.

While in Massachusetts, the Manchester house was rented for a year to the battalion commander of the 2nd Battalion, 55th Air Defense Artillery.  When he was reassigned, the house was rented to a chemist working with the aircraft industry in the Hartford Area.  When this family decided to purchase a house in the neighborhood, my father moved the family back into the house and obtained quarters at the Boston Navy Base, commuting to the house on weekends.  Again the family used Westover Air Force Base for support and occasionally Ft. Devens.

By spring 1961 my father had orders to the 1st Battle Group, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany.  A new adventure was about to begin.

My father again rented the Manchester house, packed our belongings for a 12th time and traveled to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey to board a plane to Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt where we would rendezvous with ground transportation provided by the 1st Battle Group, 30th Infantry to Schweinfurt.  My father would serve as a staff officer in the battle group for a year (he was the battle group’s executive office/adjutant). There I would among other experiences babysit for then Colonel William E. DePuy, later General, the commander of the 1-30th Infantry.  The unit was a mechanized infantry formation and there was a tank battalion at Conn Barracks as well as two atomic cannons belonging to a 7th Army unit.  For a 15 year old there was much direct and indirect learning about weapons and formations as well as deployments.

One year later, the family would relocate to Kaiserslautern, Germany where my father would assume duties as the commander of the 112th Service Center Headquarters and Pulaski Barracks.  I would finish my high school career at Kaiserslautern American High School and work as an Army non-appropriated fund hourly employee at the Rod & Gun Club in Vogelweh, a tips only bag boy at the commissary in Vogelweh and as an hourly employee at the Eselfuerth Post Exchange Regional Bakery on the ovens.

Kaiserslautern was a huge logistics area especially as U.S. Forces moved the logistics elements located in France into Germany after the differences developed with the de Gaulle Government.   But there was one armored cavalry squadron of the 3rd Cavalry located in a Kaserne near the high school and our neighbor across the hall was the squadron executive officer—another informal education regarding armored cavalry developed.

I would travel to Bremerhaven at one point to take the Navy’s ROTC Scholarship tests and again in July 1965 to board a troop ship, the USNS Simon B. Buckner, for return to the United States and enlistment as a private in the Army Reserve a month and a half later for duty at the University of Connecticut as one of the first wave of cadets in the new Army ROTC Scholarship Program. Ten months later I discharged as a Private 2nd Class from the Army of the United States and took the oath accepting appointment as a U. S. Cadet in the U. S. Army at the U. S. Military Academy.  On 3 June 1970 I commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant in the Regular Army retiring in December 1992 having served from platoon to Department of the Army in the Continental United States, South Korea, and Germany.

I had been on the Army’s rolls for 27 years and 3 months.  But I had done an 18 year and 6 month apprenticeship with the Army before enlisting—I had spent 45 years and 9 months with the Army.

Again, this experience is not unique.  Recently, as the U.S. Army and other services have become an experience of a smaller and smaller portion of the U.S. population, data has begun to emerge showing that many new entries to service careers are coming from versions of the apprenticeship described above.  Perhaps the services should take a harder look at this aspect of service life and what it may represent as a positive in prospective candidates for service and their longer term career prospects.

Even on a minimal level, as the above narrative shows, dependents/family members of serving military professionals are very much “children of the regiment.”  Their experience over 18 years as dependents uniquely prepares them for service and leadership in the armed forces.  The experience outlined above exposed the dependent not only to the Army maneuver and support establishments but also to the inter service roles of the Air Force, Army and Navy on a joint basis in an extended interface.  From that interface the dependent had a very comprehensive sense of these establishments and how they worked together.

An overall leadership takeaway from this 45 plus year experience with the Army was that the initial 18 years did play a positive role in preparing for the following 27 plus years.  Minimally, the initial years provided a sense of the Army that assisted in forming effective leadership approaches in the latter years.  The initial years as a dependent also exposed the prospective service leader to leader patterns of behavior and direct and indirect mentoring that contributed to forming effective personal approaches to leadership.

Understandably this was not a formal program of any sort.  But the immersion aspect that occurred through the circumstances of the experience had a positive overall effect.  It was also noted more than once that many other Army leaders that came from such backgrounds tended to be somewhat more seasoned and grounded in the life style and more effective as leaders as a result.