Greetings fellow graduates of OCS,
It is now summer and a time of uncertainty. However, the Association remains active. Let me take this opportunity to lay out what has been done and what we plan for the future.
First, the OCS commandant and I put our heads together and cancelled the reunion and Hall of Fame ceremony just as the President declared a national emergency. Rick Jung and Dan Johnson immediately went to work returning money to the attendees. Many people donated the money to the USAOCSAA to support our operations. I want to thank them for their generosity. We are planning a very similar event for 2021 and we hope you will attend.
Second, we reached out to the new OCS Hall of Fame inductees and gave them three options to receive their honors. One, they can roll in with the 2021 OCS Hall of Fame inductees. Two, they can come to Fort Benning anytime this year for a personal ceremony. Third, they can have a local ceremony which they arrange. To ensure nothing slipped through the cracks, Lt. Col. Holstead and I hosted a virtual induction ceremony. Please view the ceremony at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbxusvxgF8o&t=0s. I want to thank Capt. Adam Rupert for his hard work and coordination making all this happen.
Third, we had our second-quarter board meeting on May 2. It was a virtual meeting in which we installed three new board members. Welcome, retired Col. John O’ Shea, Don Northcutt, and Lt. Col. Cory Roberts. Each come with a wealth of experience. You can view their biographies at our website.
I want to take this opportunity to update you on the major items from the board meeting and accomplishments since the last reunion.
- Memorial Walk– This year we completed an extensive expansion which included four new monument cul-de-sacs. Each has a 20-foot walkway with 120 square feet of paver bed on each side and a raised monument at the end. We added 32 new 24×24 black and gray dedication blocks; 21 new 12×12 black granite plates for this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, the distinguished and honorary members of 11th Infantry Regiment, and the Nett and Patterson Award recipients; 40 new 8×8 black granite pavers; 54 black granite bricks mostly in support of this year’s OCS classes; and a black granite bench in honor of Hyrum Smith.
Our Current Remaining Memorial Walk Capacity– 30 24×24 granite dedication blocks, 600 8×8 granite pavers, or 1200 4×8 granite bricks and seven years of space for the Hall of Fame inductees.
Our Memorial Walk Campaign Continues. I challenge each Hall of Fame member to buy a paver for themselves and at least one for a deceased Hall of Fame member. I encourage other alumni to participate and buy a paver or brick for themselves and a battle buddy. In addition, we urge you to consider purchasing group pavers; class dedication blocks; division, brigade, and regiment dedication blocks; or memorial blocks.
- OCS Heritage Center– The OCS Heritage Center in Wigle Hall is almost complete with only two exhibits left to finish. We are planning to dedicate the building on August 8.
- Nett Award– I want to congratulate Danny Leifel for being our 2020 Nett Award recipient. Danny has long been a leader in bringing Armor OCS into our organization and ensuring those graduates get the honor and recognition that they deserve. He did a superb job as the Association’s secretary and legal advisor to the board. Danny was instrumental in the success of the OCS Heritage Center and the Memorial Walk. He is first among all of our supporters. I thank him and it has been an honor to have him as teammate.
- Meritorious Public Service Medal– I want to congratulate retired Col. Tom Evans for being awarded the Meritorious Public Service Medal. This service award is the third highest honor within the public service awards of the Department of the Army that can be awarded to a private citizen. Tom is the president of the Ranger Association and served as the USAOCSAA treasurer for several years and continues to serve as a director. Tom was also instrumental in the success of the OCS Heritage Center and the Memorial Walk.
- Distinguished Members and Honorary Members of the 11th Infantry Regiment. This year we are going to recognize Jim Herndon, Phil Kearns, and Dave Taylor as distinguished members of the 11th Infantry Regiment and Ray Trahan, Scott Davis, John O’Shea, and George Bannon as honorary members of the 11thInfantry Regiment. Each of the distinguished or honorary members has or will receive the Order of Saint Maurice. Recipients of the Order of Saint Maurice have served the infantry community with distinction; have demonstrated a significant contribution in support of the infantry; and represent the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence, and dedication to duty.
- USAOCSAA Support to the 3-11 Infantry and OCS Battalion. We continue to support each OCS class with a $500 cash gift to be used to support class events. We purchase their graduation awards. We recognize the top five graduates with USAOCSAA coins and we purchase six bricks and place in the Memorial Walk for each class to honor cadre and graduates for successful completion of another OCS class. We also honor 3-11 (OCS) and higher-level leaders and staff for support to the heritage and history of OCS with coins, bricks, and pavers.
- The OCS Alumni Association 2021 Reunion. The reunion will take place from April 29 to May 4. The reunion will run concurrently with the Hall of Fame induction activities. Activities include the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner as well as dedication ceremonies at the OCS Heritage Center and the Memorial Walk. This is a great time for a family to celebrate successful careers and honorable service. We will also provide unscheduled time on Friday and Tuesday for individual class, branch, or unit reunions. We will reserve a block of rooms at the Columbus Marriot. Final planning is underway and we will share details as they are available. Registration will start in January 2021.
- Support to USAOCSAA. Our goal is to have every graduate join and actively participate in the Association’s activities. If you are not currently a life member of the Association, we highly encourage you to join and purchase your personal paver or brick. Please go to our website and convert to life membership, buy your brick or paver, and maybe a dedication block for your class or an Army unit in which you served. And, finally, consider making a tax-exempt donation to the Association to help sustain the Memorial Walk, Heritage Center, and our support to the OCS Battalion.
Please follow us on Facebook and visit our website or more information on Association activities. You can also contact me directly at President@ocsalumni.org or 706-610-7251.
Standards no compromise. Semper Fidelis. Follow Me.
Frank L. Harman III
Colonel (USA Retired)
Greetings from Fort Benning!
As you are all aware, the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused significant change to life across our country and the world. OCS is no different, although we have been able to mitigate the impact to date and, as of this report, still training almost to full capacity. That is great for the Army, as we have been the only commissioning source and the only battalion on Fort Benning that has not ceased training for any period of time. To do this, however, we have had to implement fairly strict measures across the battalion.
First, all off-post activities, to include visits to the National Infantry Museum, the Andersonville staff ride, and volunteer activities are no longer occurring. Second, officer candidates are confined to the OCS footprint. Third, we have moved all classroom instruction outdoors. Fourth, cadre who reside off post are screened daily. All of this helps ensure that OCS remains free and clear of COVID-19 and thus we are able to still produce officers of character and competence for our Army.
We do not know how long this will last, but I am very proud of the battalion cadre, staff, and candidates for being able to adapt so quickly and having the discipline to uphold our mitigation measures. In turn, COVID-19 has had a positive effect on OCS in many areas. Adapting classroom instruction away from the comforts of the classroom (i.e. PowerPoint) has forced our instructors to find more creative ways to teach the topics and allows us to focus on the basics. We have maintained the senior class (branching) social, with the only change being the venue is now on Taylor Field. Finally, we have seen a much lower recycle rate for land navigation, the Army Combat Fitness Test, the history curriculum, and the four-mile run assessment during these COVID-19 months.
Finally, as you know, we were unable to celebrate the OCS Hall of Fame Week and reunion this year. However, we are still planning a robust OCS birthday celebration in July. Normally, this entails a cake-cutting ceremony and a series of speeches and recognitions. This year, however, we have expanded the celebration into an all-day event, which will include multiple sports competitions, opening the new Heritage Center and a tour for all officer candidates present, and a barbecue on Taylor Field for all of the OCS family. We are also rededicating the battalion headquarters to Kroesen Hall that day, named after retired Gen. Fritz Kroesen, the first OCS graduate to be promoted to general officer who passed away on April 30 at the age of
Hope all are well. Thanks for all you do and for your continued support to OCS. May God bless and please remain safe during these uncertain times.
Standards! No Compromise!
David T. Holstead
Lieutenant Colonel, Armor
Office Phone: 706-545-3507
Running from your Fears
Our nation is slowly opening up after the initial fear of the unknown with the COVID-19 virus. I have friends who have locked themselves in their homes and come out only to check the mailbox. hey completely rely on home delivery of food and other items. Teresa and I have taken all prudent precautions; we wear a high-quality mask when we leave home and wear gloves when pumping gas (a rare occurrence these days) or getting a shopping cart at the commissary and other food stores. We use hand sanitizer the moment we reenter our car and wash our hands when we return home. We refuse to allow our fears to control our lives.
Peggy Hunter and her daughter, Jennifer, were enjoying a night of camping in a national park in California. For several hours, they had sat outside their brand-new Sears tent looking at the stars and listening to the wonderful and strange sounds of the forest. Their hot dog supper had settled, so they eagerly squirmed into their sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep. The next few hours would forever scar their lives!
It was in the early hours of that dark morning when they heard muffled voices coming from the bush and then the firm voice of a man shouting, “Don’t shoot her in the head!” Peggy hurriedly grabbed her daughter and ran into the woods terrified. All night, as they ran in horror, they were certain they could hear the sounds of their pursuers behind them. For the next two weeks, they fled for their lives, eating berries, and covering themselves with dirt and branches for warmth at night.
Every time they heard the pursuing men, they fled faster and farther. After a two-week nightmare, they came into a clearing. Peggy, glassy-eyed and tattered, with her 12-year-old daughter, now almost completely naked, stumbled out into the highway and hailed a passing car. It ended a two-week search for the two missing persons who were presumed dead.
The irony of this story is it had started with two men illegally coon hunting in a national forest and the statement of a hunter, in reference to raccoon trapped in a tree, “Don’t shoot her in the head!”
The search party that pursued Peggy and Jennifer for two weeks was driven on the conviction that a motorcycle gang, camping in the same park on the same night, had kidnapped them. Everyone was embarrassed. Everyone was exhausted. And everyone was thankful! But everyone who reads this article, including myself, should take a new look at fear in his or her own life.
What is it that causes us to flee for our lives when the danger isn’t real? What is it that causes us to assume that the voices we hear are pursuing us and not looking for us? Fear is very real!
As we wind down the year 2020 and begin to look back and wonder where did the year go, I am reminded of the Latin god, Janus. Janus had two faces—each looking in the opposite direction. Thus, the Romans named the first month of the Roman year after him as a way of reminding themselves that the beginning of each year was the time for looking backwards and forwards. As we look back into 2020, it could well resurrect fears, of which 96%, so say some psychologists, were unfounded and never became reality. And as we look forward, we tend to begin our new fears. Fears about our health, our finances, our family, our careers—most, however, are without substance but can paralyze us and render us ineffective. Don’t become the victim of your own fears.
As a Christian, the words of the Apostle Paul ring true to my ears, “The Lord does not give us the spirit of fear …” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). The writer of Christian Hymns, Phillips Brooks, said it another way, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight!”
I encourage you to take charge of your life by allowing the Almighty to take the burden of your fears away.
Chaplain (Colonel, USA Retired) Sam Boone served in the Army for over 38 years as an enlisted Soldier, infantry officer, AH-1G cobra pilot, and chaplain. His final assignment was commandant of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, S.C. He is a graduate of OCS Class 2-74.
Failure Is Not The Problem, It’s The Beginning Of Your Success
George A. Milton
What would you do if you had a revolutionary resource to help you become a successful leader, reach your goals, make your life better and propel you to become all you are meant to be? Sounds impossible? Well, it’s not! In the “impossible” is the “possible.” And if you want the possibility of becoming successful, U. S. Army retired colonel and OCS graduate, George Milton’s book, Failure Is Not The Problem, It’s The Beginning Of Your Success is a must read. Most leadership books discuss how to achieve success only, but in life we all fail sometimes. If you want to succeed you must walk through the doorway of this life changing resource: failure. In his book, he addresses the challenge of adversity and how failure can motivate you, focus you, and change your life for the better. His inspiring story of growth from a difficult youth to a distinguished career as an Army combat officer, he shares that it was only possible because he changed his attitude. Not only does he reveal personal triumphs and defeats, he demonstrates in 12 easy to follow steps, how you can transform your mindset from negative to positive regarding failure and in the process become successful.
George A. Milton is a retired colonel who graduated in June 1989 from OCS Class 4-89. Upon retirement, he founded a motivational speaking, teaching, leadership consulting company in Chesapeake, Va. https://www.georgeamilton.com
OCS Grad Learns More of His Uncle’s Service in World War II
Jim Pasqualini, an OCS graduate from Slippery Rock, Pa., came to Richmond in July 2019 to arrange a memorial ceremony at Richmond National Cemetery on the 75th anniversary of the deaths of his uncle, Frank Pasqualini, and two other men, Thomas R. Fair and Willis E. Nixon, World War II Soldiers who were killed on July 11, 1944, when their tank took a direct hit from German forces in Normandy.
The remains of the three men were buried together in the same grave, first in France and then later in Richmond, a location that was home to none of them but chosen, Pasqualini presumes, because it was a geographical midpoint for the families of the men: Fair and Pasqualini were from Pennsylvania while Nixon was from North Carolina.
Pasqualini, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, traveled to Normandy in November 2019 and visited Saint-Georges-d’Elle, the small village at the base of Hill 192 where his uncle was killed as U.S. forces attempted to take the hill from the Germans. Residents of the town, where homes fly French and U.S. flags, offered a warm welcome.
One couple, in particular, Hyacinthe and Thérèse Brisset, befriended Pasqualini and his girlfriend, Karen Benson. The Brissets live in a house near a ravine where they knew a battle was fought, but they were not aware the ravine in their backyard was named “Purple Heart Draw” by American Soldiers because so many of them were killed or wounded there.
The Brissets drove Pasqualini and Benson to the top of Hill 192, introduced them to other townspeople, and invited them into their home. They also began conducting their own research, finding historical documents about the battle in the archives of the town hall.
Most amazing, by using a battle map Pasqualini brought along overlaid with modern maps, it was determined the Brissets’ house sits in a location where two American tanks were destroyed. It was impossible to determine if his uncle’s tank was one of those, but at the very least Pasqualini was certain he was close to where his uncle was killed.
“I’ll never know the exact spot where his tank was destroyed, but because we walked the whole area I’m sure we were within 100 yards of where he was killed,” Pasqualini said in a phone interview after his return home. “I saw what he saw on his last day of life.”
By email, the Brissets sent a detailed recounting of Pasqualini’s visit, saying they are “very proud and very happy to have contributed to it in our modest way.”
“As for us,” the Brissets wrote, “we look at our environment every day from a different perspective. Until now, we only saw grass, trees, cows. Now a battlefield is there, before our eyes, underlying. We regularly realize how the topography of our environment must have been a handicap to any advance of the allied forces that came to fight for our freedom.”
Jim Pasqualini graduated in 1984 from OCS as the Distinguished Military Graduate of Class 02-84. In addition to his military service, he had a 27-year career with the CIA.
Jim Pasqualini (top left) visits Saint-Georges-d’Elle, the small village at the base of the hill in Normandy where his uncle, Army Cpl. Frank Pasqualini, was killed during World War II. Also present are Hyacinthe and Thérèse Brisset (top right and bottom left) and their grandchild, Sarah, as well as another couple, the Letouzeys (top middle and lower right), who remembered when the Americans wrested control of the village from the Germans in 1944. (Karen Benson)
A portrait of Cpl. Frank Pasqualini stands over the combined grave of Pasqualini, Willis E. Nixon, and Thomas R. Fair at the Richmond National Cemetery in Richmond, Va. on July 11, 2019. The three were killed in the same tank in World War II and buried together. This tribute was organized by retired Lt. Col. Jim Pasqualini to coincide with the 75th anniversary of their deaths in France. (Bob Brown)
This article was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Founding of Virginia’s Officer Candidate School
The process to create the Virginia Officer Candidate School was initiated by a life-long Soldier of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Sheppard Crump, who issued General Order Number 23 on December 6, 1957 establishing the Virginia OCS program. The school was patterned after the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. and was among many state OCS programs created during the 1950s.
Crump started his long Virginia National Guard career as an enlisted Soldier with the Richmond Light Infantry Blues in 1903. He was among the Virginia soldiers who were deployed to Texas in 1917 during the Mexican border crisis. He eventually served as the Commonwealth’s Adjutant General from 1956 until his death in 1960. Crump served in the Virginia National Guard for nearly 57 years and was a founding member of the American Legion. His colonial farm and residence were donated by his family to Henrico County in 1975 and the site was developed into the Meadow Farm Museum/ Crump Memorial Park. The museum and park are a recognized Virginia landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Crump officially opened the Virginia National Guard Officer Candidate School on April 19, 1958 at the Howitzers’ Armory in Richmond, where Virginia OCS Class I conducted its first formation and drill. Although 120 applicants attempted to apply for a spot at the newly established Virginia Officer Candidate School, only 46 Soldiers managed to enroll. The candidates themselves paid their own expenses, while the Army provided equipment and other training material. The estimated cost of the school’s inaugural year was around $15,000, paid by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Following 13 months of rigorous training at the Howitzers’ Armory and Virginia Beach’s State Military Reservation, 23 candidates successfully completed the program and graduated as second lieutenants. The Howitzers’ Armory housed the graduation and commissioning ceremonies for these 23 graduates on May 23, 1959. Then Virginia Governor James Lindsay Almond, who was a veteran of World War I, delivered the graduation speech, while Maj. Gen. Crump performed the commissioning ceremony.
The Howitzers’ Armory, birthplace of Virginia OCS, was constructed in 1895 and eventually expanded to absorb the neighboring Cavalry Armory. The resulting military facility was put to use during several major conflicts, including the Spanish-American War and World War I and II. The building was occupied by the Virginia Army National Guard for decades, but it was eventually demolished during the 1970s to make room for a new downtown campus for J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Virginia OCS Class 58 returned to the Howitzers Armory’s original site on April 19, 2016 to commemorate the school’s birthday. A plaque commemorating the birth of Virginia OCS was installed inside the college building. Moreover, the original Victorian brick walls of both the Howitzers and Cavalry armories are still visible as garden walls surrounding the college building. Today, Virginia OCS has its own main building at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. Virginia OCS Class 60 led a project to dedicate the school’s main building in honor of Capt. Harry Q. Rose, a graduate of Virginia OCS Class 06 who died in 1968 while serving as a pilot in Vietnam. The school’s main building was officially named after Capt. Rose on September 22, 2018.
1st Lt. Mohammed Harba is a graduate of Class 58 of the Virginia Officer Candidate School in 2016.
In this image, taken not long before both armories were demolished in the early 1970s, the turret of the Cavalry Armory can be seen in the distance behind the Howitzers’ Armory.
Pictured is the plaque installed by the Virginia OCS Class 58 commemorating the birthplace of the Virginia Army National Guard Officer Candidate School.
OCS Graduate Retired Gen. Frederick Kroesen
With the April 30, 2020 passing of retired Gen. Frederick “Fritz” Kroesen, the Army lost a leader who served it for over 78 years. Commissioned through Infantry OCS Class 340 (graduated August 8, 1944), Gen. Kroesen remained on active duty through 1983. His commands included Company E, 259th Infantry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment; 196th Infantry Brigade; Americal Division; 1st Regional Advisory Command (Vietnam); 82d Airborne Division; VII Corps; U.S. Army Forces Command; U.S. Army Europe and NATO’s Central Army Group. His final assignment was as the Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army. In retirement, Gen. Kroesen was a contributing editor of AUSA’s ARMY magazine. His last column was published in 2019. His thoughtful columns addressed contemporary issues and helped inform service policy. An obituary written by his son-in-law eloquently describes him as “a rare combination of warrior and writer.”
A look at his dates of service shows he served through four wars: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. He was one of a small number of Soldiers combat wounded in each. Purple Heart medals alone fail to show his many accomplishments and the impact he had on the Soldiers around him.
His first service with the Army was as an ROTC cadet at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Like most cadets of his generation, he failed to commission through ROTC as World War II’s demands meant those programs closed for the war’s duration in 1943. He entered active duty that same year and reported to Fort Benning for OCS in April 1944. Class 340 formed with 209 officer candidates on April 6, 1944. At graduation, he was one of the 114 officer candidates who successfully completed the course.
Gen. Kroesen’s first assignment was with Company E, 254th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division then stationed at Camp Van Dorn, Miss. This assignment, however, did not reflect his desires. He wanted to go to Airborne School, but was too tall. Only after the war’s end did he find out he could have received a waiver to attend the course. Arriving in France in December 1944, the regiment’s initial service was under the 3rd Infantry Division. Its initial battles included Jebsheim and Colmar. Historian Keith Vonn notes in When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountain Campaign, October 1944-January 1945 that the fights of the Vosges Mountain were battles against two roughly equal forces. The winter weather, restricted terrain, and supply limitations largely negated American armor, artillery, and air power thus forcing the divisions to fight with minimal support. At Jebsheim, Company E played a decisive role by successfully penetrating the German line to eliminate resistance on the town’s southern end. A German counterattack and high casualties meant committing the regiment’s G Company to assist a depleted Company E. At one point, a German party entered the company’s position to demand its surrender. Noting the company faced a battalion, Company E’s response was to hold its positions to allow the remainder of the regiment to deploy. In its first battle, against a far more experienced enemy, Company E demonstrated it was more than a match for any German unit. Fighting through the Siegfried Line, Company E battled through Worms, Mannheim, and Heidelberg before reaching Landsberg, Germany where it was in reserve at war’s end. By V-E Day, Kroesen had moved from platoon leader to commander of a company that had fought in three campaigns and received two Presidential Unit Citations and the French Croix d’Guerre.
For Gen. Kroesen, V-E did not mean an immediate return to the United States. Instead it meant a series of reassignments as part of the Army of Occupation. These assignments included the 36th Infantry Division, the 100th Infantry Division (a second company command), and the 7748th Field Information Agency, Technical in Stuttgart. The 7748th’s primary mission was assessing German industrial advances made during the war with a view towards improving American production. This was Kroesen’s first intelligence assignment and it influenced his future in two ways. First, it introduced him to intelligence operations. Second, it gave him a chance to become intimately familiar with southern Germany. This familiarity would prove beneficial in subsequent assignments.
Returning to the United States in 1947 gave Gen. Kroesen the opportunity to attend Airborne School. His first assignment to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg followed. After two years at Fort Bragg, he joined the 187th Airborne Infantry in Japan. Placed in command of the regiment’s 2nd Battalion, he distinguished himself with the regiment’s return to Korea. In A Soldier Reports, retired Gen. William Westmoreland describes Kroesen’s performance when the regiment received orders to withdraw in the face of a major Chinese attack. Under what Westmoreland called “miserable conditions,” Kroesen’s battalion executed an orderly withdrawal that maintained the integrity of the regiment’s overall positions. In later years, when asked about his time with the 187th, he did not focus on the fighting, but on the enjoyment of jumping from a Curtiss C-46 Commando. An airplane largely discredited as a plane for paratroopers due to its basic design, Kroesen enjoyed jumping from it as it had a much larger door than the C-47s that defined the wartime height restrictions on paratroopers.
After attending the Command and General Staff College in 1956, Gen. Kroesen again found himself serving in an intelligence assignment. Posted to the headquarters of the Army Security Agency (ASA) at Arlington Hall Station, Va., he researched tactical operations. This meant identifying how best to provide signals intelligence information to maneuver units. The research efforts helped pave the way for a sizable ASA presence in Vietnam that ultimately included both ground and aircraft mounted systems. Completing his ASA assignment, he attended the Armed Forces Staff College in preparation for another overseas assignment—this time to the Military Assistance Group, Thailand. In Thailand, he served as a logistics advisor during a time when much of the American effort in Thailand focused on helping the Royal Thai Army modernize.
In 1961-62, Gen. Kroesen attended the Army War College and then spent three years on the faculty. A tour on the Army Staff followed before assuming command in 1968of the 196th Infantry Brigade (The Chargers), then serving in the Chu Lai area in Vietnam. He relinquished command in June 1969 and served a second tour on the Army Staff before returning to Vietnam in 1971. After briefly serving as the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam operations officer, he assumed command of the Americal Division. As the division’s last commander, he returned to the United States with the division’s colors before going back to Vietnam for the third time as the commander of the 1st Regional Advisory Command.
Completing his final tour in Vietnam, Gen. Westmoreland, then Army Chief of Staff, asked Gen. Kroesen what division he wanted to command. Stating the 82d Airborne, Westmoreland said “that was what I was thinking.” Kroesen took great pride in the 82d. In January 2020, when staying in a physical rehabilitation facility, the largest decoration in his room was a replica of the 82d’s divisional colors previously flown in Afghanistan. This is hardly surprising as the rear window of his car sported master parachutist wings.
Leaving Fort Bragg in 1974, his next assignment was Frankfurt, Germany and duty as the deputy commander of V Corps. His time as the deputy commander was brief as he moved south to Stuttgart’s Kelley Barracks and command of VII Corps. Tasked with defending the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg in the event of a Warsaw Pact attack, this assignment meant a return to the places he had served as a captain in the Army of Occupation. Taken together, these two assignments gave Kroesen first-hand knowledge of the area of operations of NATO’s Central Army Group.
Leaving Germany, he received his fourth star—the first OCS graduate to achieve that rank—and assumed command of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. The provider of the Army’s combat forces, Gen. Kroesen now had responsibility for the go-to-war readiness of Regular Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve forces within the United States. During a period of difficult recruiting and tight budgets, Kroesen helped guide the Army through the early years of the All-Volunteer Army. This same period saw a major change in how the Army would fight a major war with the publication of the 1976 edition of FM 100-5, Operations. Establishing the doctrine of Active Defense and reestablishing the defense of Western Europe as the Army’s primary mission, FM 100-5 ushered in not only a new approach to fighting, but also ignited a debate that continued through the introduction of AirLand Battle doctrine in 1982. For Kroesen, the debate was not an academic exercise but a series of discussions exerting a major influence on his subsequent duty positions—Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), and NATO’s Central Army Group. It was in this last position that Kroesen found himself once again under attack, this time from the German terrorist group, the Red Army Faction. On September 15, 1981 members of the group fired a rocket propelled grenade at Kroesen’s car while he was en route to a dental appointment. The attack caused significant damage to the vehicle, but Kroesen suffered only minor scratches.
As the USAREUR commanding general, Kroesen testified before the Subcommittee on Preparedness of the Senate Committee on Armed Services in February 1981. He demonstrated his commitment to his Soldiers with that testimony. Stating “the inadequacies of troop housing, the shortage of family housing, the makeshift, unsatisfactory, unhealthy working conditions for large segments of the command, the exorbitant backlog of maintenance and repair projects all contribute to a cancerous drain on the morale and commitment of the force as a whole,” he sought—and obtained–the resources necessary to improve the training and quality of life of his command.
Gen. Kroesen’s 1983 retirement marked the end of his first period of service—active duty—and the beginning of his second—a retired officer still passionately committed to the Army and its Soldiers. This commitment found expression in his columns in ARMY magazine and his book, General Thoughts: 70 Years with the Army. The current Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Joe Martin, effectively summed up Kroesen’s columns with a single word, “cogent.” Just months before his passing, Gen. Kroesen expressed regret and frustration at not being able to continue to write his columns—the ideas and commitment remained, but the opportunities to write no longer presented themselves.
A source of pride for Gen. Kroesen was his OCS experience. Learning that the OCS Alumni Association had established a chapter in the Washington, D.C. area, he contacted the then-chapter president and current OCSAA board member retired Maj. Mike Harris to get details on the meetings. He introduced himself stating, “My name is Fritz and I graduated from OCS at Fort Benning,” He related some of his OCS memories. It was not until Mike asked for his contact information that Mike learned he was a retired four-star general!
At the first meeting chapter meeting Gen. Kroesen attended, Mike Harris explained the dues rates for annual and lifetime membership to the audience. Gen Kroesen responded, “I’m 95 so at my age the annual membership is probably more cost effective.” Mike teased him about being tight with a penny. After conferring with the Board of Directors, it was determined the Association would grant Gen. Kroesen lifetime membership at no cost to him. At the next chapter meeting he attended, he privately passed his check for lifetime membership to Mike.
Earlier this year, I was writing a research paper on OCS during World War II for a history conference at Temple University. I took advantage of the opportunity to ask Gen. Kroesen what he considered OCS’s greatest strength. He replied it was that it represented a cross-section of American society, a fact he called OCS’s “greatest strength.”
With his amazing accomplishments, it may be easy to form the impression that Gen. Kroesen was a one-dimensional personality with no interest beyond the Army, but that was far from the case. Family was very important to him. Gen. Kroesen’s survivors include his high school sweetheart and wife, Rowene, their three children, ten grandchildren, twenty-three great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. In the words of his son-in-law Kiefer Tackaberry he “never tired of besting the younger generation at play – squash, tennis, softball, ping-pong, golf, poker, and bridge. He coached Little League Baseball and guided historical tours of battlefields. He supported over a hundred charities.”
Gen. Kroesen’s awards and decorations include the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), Silver Star (with one oak leaf cluster), Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters), Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star (with valor and two oak leaf clusters), Air Medal (with 29 oak leaf clusters), Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters), Master Parachute Badge, Officer of Legion of Honor (France: Croix d’Officeir de la Legion d’Honneur) and Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany, the Distinguished Service Award for the Military Order of the World Wars, Korean Presidential Citation, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (three times), the Silvanus Thayer Award at West Point, the Honorary Sergeant Major of the Army Award, the Abrams’ Award from AUSA, the Audie Murphy Award from the American Veterans Center, the Doughboy Award from the Infantry Center, and the Gold Good Citizenship Medal from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Warrior-writer-family man-citizen, Gen. Kroesen was all of these. He had the opportunity to make the Army a better organization and did it. The Army is better for it. We are better for it. To honor this American hero, the OCS commandant, Lt. Col. David Holstead, announced his staff is working with the garrison command at Fort Benning to name the battalion headquarters in Gen. Kroesen’s honor. His family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name may be made to the Army Museum, National Museum of the U.S. Army Fund, P.O. Box 96281, Washington D.C. 20090.
Paul Cook is a retired colonel and doctoral student in military history at Temple University.