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Monday, April 26, 2010

Cold War Soldier-

In the Spring of 1972 the war in Viet Nam was still going on. The draft was still in place, and my life was up for grabs. I had no real plans for the future, but I really wanted to survive. I was troubled by a sense of duty and a love for my country, and the dismal prospect of being sent for no apparent purpose to be used up in a war I did not understand.

I enlisted. I joined the Army, because they had the shortest enlistment term with a promise. I got a guarantee for training in Nuclear Weapons Electronics. I figured that nuclear weapons were not deployed to active war zones, and so I could complete any obligation to my country without being placed at particular risk. It was a good plan, at least in the beginning.

Unfortunately, I was then what I am now, a frustrated idealist. I found the people associated with supporting our nuclear arsenal a bit unsavory. They were uncomfortably gleeful about the prospects of the button being pushed. I was just not ready to join their strange fellowship of worshipers of the atomic fires, and eventually washed out of that school.

Wash-outs in the Army are not wasted. I eventually was sent to supply school, to learn to manage the vast numbers of parts needed to maintain the modern Army machine. I did well, and after some thought I was not particularly fearful of deployment to even Viet Nam. How much danger would a guy counting parts in a warehouse face?

 I completed my schooling and was eventually ready for deployment.

They sent me to Germany. Not only did they send me to Germany, but the sent me to Ramstein Air Base. This was an Air Force installation, but not just any installation. This was Air Force Nato Headquarters. I was in an ordinance detachment serving an Army air defense unit defending a very significant target. Great housing, very good food, wonderful accommodations and very near to the city of Kaiserslautern.

Considering that I was serving my country during war time in a pretty comfortable location, it was not too bad. At least, it seemed pretty nice until I learned our real mission.

During field exercises where we ran around doing Army stuff in the mud, the Battalion Commander brought us all together for a meeting. He wished to relate our mission. He showed us our place in the defense of Europe from a conventional assault by the Soviet Union. He had drawings and graphs, and showed how the layers of defense were to be set up.

Now, I worked in supply, a rear echelon sort of job. Unfortunately ours was a very mobile supply operation, and I learned that we weren't going to be that far from the front. The task of the Seventh Army deployed in Europe was to maintain vehicles and equipment for the soldiers coming from the United States, in the event of an all-out Soviet assault.

The Seventh Army was designed to survive only twenty four hours, the time it would take to bring masses of troops to the European continent. The anticipated losses were 80%. The arriving troops would travel light. We had their supplies and equipment in place. Our job was to defend for only one day. Longer, if possible, but we were a planned-for sacrifice to buy twenty four hours of time.

At least, that is how it was all related to me, as best I can remember it. I am proud to have served my country, but there are times I wish the whole thing made a lot more sense.

If the fall of the Soviet Union is considered a victory, then we won the Cold War. Now Russians can by Levi's (probably now made in Viet Nam) in their very own malls.

Victory is sweet.


Carol said...

No victory is worth a life, your's or anyone else's. Glad you made it home safely. So many did not.

Linda Medrano said...

My husband retired from 25 years service (8 years regular and the rest Reserves) last year. Thank you for your service. Alex is a defense contractor now and spent about 3 months last year in Ramstein. Nice area he says.

Michael Lockridge said...

I truly consider it an honor to have served my country. Ramstein was a very nice place to do so.

I appreciate your husband's service, Linda. Veterans and soldiers in uniform cause my eyes to fill with tears quite often. Pride, appreciation, and often anger at those who unwisely use that sacrifice of service are overwhelming emotions.

It is needful to defend the nation, and an honor to do so. May those who lead not squander the lives and honor placed in their hands.