30 Jan

Tales of A Veteran, John’s Story


A veteran soldier we listened to give a brief description of his time served in the Navy. John was enlisted as a cook, and worked in quite a few different areas of the ship. The ship he was placed on was USS Inchon, which was a marine carrier. He worked with nuclear weapons and security. The most prominent factor he wanted to make clear was it was a hard work, and requires dedication.  He started out at the bottom of the ranks in his service. John was given a lot of the grunt work to begin, but worked his way up the ranks. He cooked in the officer’s gallery most of the time. He visited many countries in his first service, such as Greece. In the next term with his squadron he visited Bermuda, Sicily, and other countries. John mentions meeting his wife in the service and explains it was a rough road. He wanted to continue his service and retire from military but it placed a strain on his marriage, so he choose to leave for her sake. He reflected on a moment that was very emotional for him, one that I could see was a very special memory from his service. He was going to Iran during the Iranian hostage crisis, and was looking for a moment’s reflection.  He went out one of the port doors and looked out over the sea, and instantly felt a calm feeling rush over him. So much so he was unaware there was someone else there. He was startled by a Seal that spoke to him and was upset he never got a chance to see that Seal again.  John wanted to remind those that served, or anyone that you have to keep moving forward. You can’t live in the past, it will only haunt you as a result. You have to push on, and move forward. The best thing about listening to John’s story was that he seemed relieved after sharing it, like it helped to have someone listen, if only for a moment’s time. That is what our mission is all about and I am glad to get a chance to witness it.

20 Jan

Female Navy Submariners?!

Photo Credit: Audrey McAvoy

Navy is allowing females to become submariners!

The news was anoounce at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The top U.S. officer for human resources in the Navy annouced this shocking news on Thursday. He says that he is sure that the service members will be able to over come any barriers that they may run into as they fully intergrate women into the submarine force.

Bill Moran, the naval personnel chief, has spoken to reporters and states that he will be seeing this firsthand onboard the USS Mississippi later in the week.  The first two women to serve on a submarine started last month. The women serve as a supply officer and submariner on the Pacific and are among the very first women to serve on a attack submarine.

When the crude traditions were brought up in regards to the underwater fleet, Moran said he might not have been a submariner himself, but knows that they are a highly professional force.

“Part of being a professional is treating people with dignity and respect,” Moran said. “If there are cultural aspects of being a submariner that don’t comport with professionalism, male and female, then I’m sure they’re going to figure out a way to get rid of those cultural barriers.”

There have been women to serve on guided missile, and even ballistic missle subamarines since 2010 when the Navy removed the ban on women serving on submarines. The main difference between these submarines is size.

The contractors and Navy are currently working on changes to the design that will better accomodate the mixed gender crewmates. Privacy on these boats are currently a rare thing as the biggest of subs sleeps around 9 to a room and a total of 4 showers, and seven toilets to serve for the crew. The same crew that is approximately 140 men, and the passages are so narrow its hard not to be in close proximity of someone else.

The women selected first are put through a training school in Connecticut before being placed with a crew. The problem they were faced with was ensuring that the women that would be placed were of various ranks so that they would not only have junior females as this has presented previous issues.

“Once enlisted women get on board submarines and their experiences are positive, that word spreads by social media and other ways and hopefully that helps inspire other women to want to continue,” Moran stated.

This is a great example of our changing society as we are finally allowing women to rank anywhere in our military.






21 Aug

1,2,3,4 Order of the Numbers

marching orders

That’s how most numbers are supposed to work and that is what is expected when a line combat company moves out for a search and seize, or any other operational directive that the combat company is assigned to carry out. The numbers of the march order should be: First, second, third, and fourth. Or so we thought. But that was not what the 3rd of the 7th Infantry Charlie company commander (usually a Captain) wanted on this particular day.


Disturbance Activity and Orders

(Military map reading) VC sightings in grids, from sun west 2.5. South 1, 5. Direction, 277 degrees for 15 clicks. The Captain’s orders were: “4th Platoon, you will be point platoon. Move out 277 degrees for 15 clicks.” Ah, being 1st Squad’s squad leader and in the 4th Platoon, guess who was leading the 3/7 combat company into this patrol? 1st Squad 4th platoon.


Positioning is Everything

The actual positioning for patrolling within this combat squad of 10 men (14 men is a full squad), looked like this:


1st Man: Point Man, 10 -15 feet in the front of the squad’s main body with a 277 degree direction.

2nd Man and the Point Man’s guard: 5-feet behind the Point Man.

3rd, Man: Squad leader.

4th, 5th, 6th Men: First fire team. A M60 machine gun operator and two riflemen one a team leader, one an ammo team guard with M60 ammo and assistant to the M60 gunner. When any contact arose, the M60 machine gunner is first into position to lay down fields of fire for any incoming threats. There’s nothing like a M60 for a squad’s protection.

6th 7th, 8th Men: Second fire team. Two riflemen and a M79 grenade launch operator.

9th Man: Medic.

10th Man: Rear rifleman keeping connection with Second Squad.


Terrain: Rice paddy fields with large jungle-type bush of terrain between rice paddy fields. You never walk on the rice paddy dike. The rice paddy dikes are easy to walk on, yet very susceptible to booby traps. First Squad’s line of patrol was right smack in the middle of the rice paddies. The middle part of the rice paddy usually holds about two feet of water. Movement that day for the company was good only snipers fire for some brief moments. The smart thing that took place within the company command was that no one would show their rank or insignias out on patrol, so as not to be the target of choice for any threating actions.


The Place to Be

You can be in a lot of places in your life that you really want to be, have fun, and enjoy. Patrolling right smack in the middle of a rice paddy in 1968 in South Vietnam was, for most people, the last place they ever wanted to be.


Or maybe not.


Sometimes in life it’s who we are with that really counts. It’s how we conduct ourselves in toughing it out in the places that we are placed. These places are what make us the heroes we all want to be. The integrity, valor, and precision of operations that took place that day and the following months with these heroic American soldiers was that moment in my life. Exactly where I wanted to be.


Coach Chris

VLP team

05 Aug

Taking Hold of Your Command

take command

In the submarine movie U-271, there is a quick change of command during wartime circumstances. The first officer becomes the Captain. His start as Captain is somewhat shaky. He delivers commands and actions that are indecisive. The Chief of the boat senses this, and confronts the captain with some startling words. He is straightforward and says, “Captain, if you are going to lead this command, then lead with precision and decisiveness. No in-between.” After that, the Captain rose to his command potential.


The First Sergeant of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 199th, at the forward headquarters north of Saigon was a Sergeant who showed the essence of taking hold of your command. As the First Sergeant asked for my MOS (“Military Operations Specialty”), I explained that I had two: 11 Charlie, 11C (this is an indirect fire specialist, that is, “mortars”), and 11 Bravo, 11B, which is a line platoon infantry specialist.

He decided to place me with the 4th Platoon–the mortar platoon. The First Sergeant said, “Sergeant, we need you in the 4th. There is no qualified NCOs with your 11C MOS. Sergeant, head up the hill to the right you’ll find 4th platoon area up there.”


Stay the course

Walking into the 4th Platoon area of operations was like walking into a bar that you have never been in before. Somewhat unsure of your surroundings, the people inside size you up to see how you walk to the bar. How you walk in those moments will determine how you earn a space at the bar. As I learned, being with the 4th Platoon 199th soldiers, courage under fire was the norm. Their skills and bravery as weapons platoon soldiers was second to none.



I was put in charge of first squad, and was also made Fire Direction Specialist, responsible for directing the elevations, charges and accuracy when the motors fired into the planned targets. The guys in my squad were very accepting of me. One soldier said, “Sergeant, we all were praying for a Sergeant for our squad–a leader that would really show up.” My response: “First squad, I am here. I am your Sergeant. And, I will lead you.


-Coach Chris

The VLP Team


13 Jul

In Country

Air Force Base

“In country” can mean many different things. In 1968 it meant one thing across the world: “NAM.” The civilian jetliner that cruised across the pacific stopping in Alaska then Japan, following the polar route landed on the east coast of South Vietnam at the U.S. Air Force Base Cam Ronh Bay, South Vietnam. There are no special treatments when you move through military channels. The good news is you always get fed and are always given a place to bunk for the night. That next day the transition NCO that handled the flow of personnel through Transitioning from Cam Ronh Bay Air Base to their assigned orders says, “Sergeant, you’re on the morning flight tomorrow at Gate 5. The flight will be taking you to Tan Son Nhut Air Base right into Saigon. Your orders say the 199th light infantry brigade. Sergeant I will tell you this much: the 199th is stationed at Long Binh, north of Saigon and it’s a tough, rugged outfit—always on the move.

Keep on Moving
Landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, we are met by MPs fully armed to the hilt with directions to get us to the 199th. A half-hour ride in a Deuce and half Army truck on Route 1 placed us into the base camp compound of the 199th. Standing in the heart of the base camp by the welcome bunkers waiting for the our next direction, out comes a NCO sergeant first class looking like he had been born and raised right there.

Here is the best part: as he comes out of his hooch to greet us, on his left shoulder is a little monkey. The sergeant’s shoulder, as far as the monkey was concerned, was the monkey’s home. In between looking at us like we had messed up his day, the sergeant fed his little pal on his left shoulder with, yes, bananas. For the week that we stayed in base camp to get our bearings, this wonderful NCO gave us all brilliant insights and tips on the local terrain and culture that I know served us very well during our duty In Country.

—Coach Chris, VLP Team

03 Jun

Fort Lewis State of Washington United States of America

Veterans Listening Post

Sitcom: Army orders: report Fort Lewis State of Washington United States Army base. Await further orders republic of South Vietnam station and destination.


Waiting is a part of the process when it comes to services in the United States Military. It’s good; it acts as a buffer zone for making sure you are in the right place for your next duty station. The interesting part of being a NCO is that wherever you go with new orders, the brass will always find something for you to be in charge of. For this NCO, as soon as I bunked up in the NCO billets, the first sergeant in charge detailed me for the management of the rec. room for the enlisted personnel who were also awaiting orders for their next assignment at Fort Lewis. For us civilians, that’s the place with a pool table, darts, games and just a place that you went without having to lie in your bunk thinking of what would be the next operational orders coming down for you.


In 1968, all the enlisted men were there awaiting orders for Republic South Vietnam. Things were in full bloom in the republic. These guys in the rec. room had no tolerance for being pushed or bossed around. They were what we call in the service, “in Boogie Land”—neither here nor there.


One of the wisest managements for me as a NCO was those two weeks in charge of the rec. room. As I waited for my orders, I would only react or say something when it was absolutely necessary. Like when there was a double down of egos and two of the enlisted men were ready to take it outside and rumble. I was very fortunate at those moments because I used a choice of good commanding words: At ease soldiers. Let’s be calm. All of us are on the same side.”


The stripes on my arms seemed to demand respect because they listened—during tough times and good times.


New Orders: Report ASAP—Republic South Vietnam, proceed through Army channels and air flights leaving Fort Lewis Washington in the morning, 0400 hours.



22 May

Non- Commissioned Office School

Non- Commissioned Office School

You know when you’re in control of your life. You go through the days, weeks, months and things are just working for you. HOWEVER, we all know there is always another hurdle to go through.

The last week in AIT Training, instead of getting orders though the regular channels, my Captain and Company Commander calls me into HQ Barracks. He says, “Soldier, you are lucky.” “Yes, Sir, Captain.” “Captain, you’ve been chosen.” ” Yes Sir, Chosen?” From where I am standing at this moment in my life, chosen can mean a lot of things. Holding my breath I say, “Yes, Sir, Captain.” “Soldier, you have been chosen to attend the Non-Commissioned Office School in Fort Benning, Georgia. We need to fill the ranks with more NCOs.” “Yes Sir.” “Soldier, here are your orders. The good news is that the school that trains the NCOs is the same outfit that trains our brave Rangers. You will have the best training to become a NCO. You can go home for a week and then report on the 15th. NCO school starts on the 16th.

Non-Commissioned Office Training

Did you think that Basic Training and AIT Training was the toughest training you would go through? Think again. The drill sergeants that trained you in the NCO training center seemed to have come out of a time zone of absolute control and expertise. They knew everything, did everything, and always looked like they could manage and take charge of whatever occurred in the next moments of their life. This was actually very good because the candidates that showed up for NCO School at Fort Benning, Georgia were no slouches either. When the drill sergeants told us to run at 4:30 AM, we ran. We ran good and hard and long. When we lapelled down the training walls, we did it with the courage that was incubating and taking hold of our confidence. When we performed night maneuvers and stayed up all night knowing the next day we would be doing more training, the saying was. “We got this, what’s next?”

One of the duties as corporals (that’s the rank we held during our training) was to be First Sergeant for the training day. This was an exacting task. When picked for this duty the night before, you would attend the established NCO meeting with the lieutenants and captain for the briefing on the protocol for the next day’s training. When the next morning came, you were in the spotlight calling out the full company unit to order and asking for the report, which would come from the platoon sergeants. It would go something like this:

“COMPANY A-ten-shun.” Pause. Everyone was in the “do not move” position.

The next command is “REPORT.”

The platoon sergeants of each of the four platoons snapped a perfect salute, then each reported and said:

“First platoon all present and accounted for.”

“Second platoon all present and accounted for.”

“Third platoon all present and accounted for.”

“Fourth platoon all present and accounted for.”

You, very smartly with your best about-face, turned, then paused and saluted the company commander and said, “Sir, NCO Training Company, all present and accounted for.”

And that was just the beginning of the day.

– Coach Chris, VLP

22 May

AIT (Advanced Infantry Training)

Veterans Services

Have you ever received a letter telling you to report or proceed to your next destination? During your last week of basic training, you usually receive orders for your next assignment. Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) is training that advances, completes and develops the person you will become and what you will stand for while you are in the service on your tour of duty. This could be Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Cost Guard—training that will fit the duty and assignment that each branch represents.

While training in your expertise, positive things begin to happen. Although the training is immensely repetitive, it also starts to make sense. Listen, you always complain. That’s the best part. Complaining, in the deeper sense, means that whatever constructive things you are doing will have long-term positive effects. So we marched more, ran more, learned more, crawled more, and complained more.

You know what? We loved it.

AIT and More

A twenty-mile forced march with 60 pounds of gear on your back, live fire and night crawling with rifle and pack—and what happens if the opposite team captures you? Actually, all the training and effort that you have put into this experience rewards you with talent and skills so you can answer all of the challenges that may come into your life moving forward.

You are able to say, “I got this.”

Coach Chris, VLP

07 Mar

Basic Training

Basic Training Story

One way or another, all of us go through some kind of basic training. A place and time in our lives that, whether we like it or not, things change into a different pathway. A place where, like it or not, there is no turning back.

In basic training, this was what we would consider a typical day.

4:45AM: The sounds of sleeping and snoring, which was amplified by the 30 some-odd guys in one barracks. “RISE AND SHINE! Rise and shine, gentlemen! Everybody up, up, up! Fall in time in 10 minutes!” (“Fall in” meaning outside dressing in uniform for the daily run.)

As you were scurrying to make the fall in time you thought, maybe this was a dream and in a few minutes you would wake up in a nice Nebraska farm to sunshine and biscuits made by your grandmother. No such luck.

“Run!” And run you did. Oh, no fancy running shoes. Combat boots all the way. Our drill sergeant would run with the company unit, so whatever we were asked (ordered) to do, our drill sergeant would do it first and look like he just came out of a tanning booth to show you how easy things are in basic training.

The run always reached close to an hour and took us uphill, downhill, through hills and over hills.

On the roads or off the roads didn’t matter. “1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4.” Drill sergeants always had a rhythm to their cadence song:

Wanna to go home on your left your right,
Wanna go home on your left your right,
Sound off 12 sound-off 34,
Bring it on down 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4.

For some reason, deep inside you knew this run was good for you. You knew as you ran you were part of something bigger than yourself. One good thing about the daily run was that you wound up at the Mess Hall (that would be “cafeteria” to us civilians). That turned out to be a really good thing for one reason: FOOD!

To be continued…


14 Jan

The Bus Ride

Military Support Pledge

Have you ever been on a long bus ride, like the Grey Hound Trail Way or a bus going downtown? When you got off the bus at your stop, you may have taken a second to reorient yourself to exactly where you were. You may have looked around and thought to yourself, “Oh yeah, this is familiar,” or you thought, “Hmm, let me figure out where I am.” Once you adjusted to your surroundings, things usually worked out–or so we thought they did.

As the new recruits on the bus at Fort Jackson, South Carolina basic training camp, we experienced some immediate re-orientations and adjustments to our surroundings. Getting off the bus was a real life-changer and a real welcome to the United States Army–and what a welcome it was.

“‘Cruits!” thundered the drill sergeant with an absolute authority that rattled your bones. The 30 of us were like tourists getting off a tour guide bus in Italy looking around and enjoying the sites. But at this bus stop, it was clear that tourism was not on the agenda. “‘Cruits!” roared the drill sergeant again. “Where do you think you are, on a joy ride?! This is my house. You are now in my house and being in my house, nobody ever walks around in my house. You never walk in my house; you always run in my house. Is that clear ‘cruits?! I don’t hear you. IS THAT CLEAR?!” There were only two words that made sense in that moment: “Yes, Sergeant.”Whether you were a good runner or not, from that moment forward, the landscape of your life had changed into something different, and that was just by getting off a bus.

You would think that this change was something to fear, but it was actually the beginning of a 12-week journey that transformed us into polished Army soldiers. So, whenever taking a bus ride and going in a new direction, always remember to reorient yourself to all of the possibilities that you believe will be good for you in the future.

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