8:22 | Al Muller had a nice assignment recovering satellites and their film but the switch to video ended that mission. Before he left Honolulu, a chance encounter with a lost pilot led to a stuffed alligator hanging on the wall. This began an amazing odyssey for the trophy.
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As an aeronautical engineer, Al Muller had done a lot of interesting work in the Air Force, but as a Forward Air Controller flying out of Thailand, he added the experience of war to his resume. After targeting a vast ammo dump that burned for two weeks, he got a surprise when he returned from R & R.
Forward Air Controller Al Muller had some tense moments when he was confronted by a MIG during a flight. There was also some tension when he encountered a Special Forces soldier who offered him a drink from a skull, but not for long.
Al Muller recalls how his survival training for the steamy Asian jungle was conducted at the top of a mountain in sub-freezing temperatures. At least the pine bough bed was comfortable.
He always wanted to fly. In fact, Al Muller was building model airplanes before he could read. This naturally led him to the Air Force and after basic training and a first assignment transporting troops, he entered the Air Force Institute and became an Aeronautical Engineer.
After the Air Force Institute of Technology made an engineer of him, Al Muller worked on re-entry vehicles and lifting bodies, pure design work that paved the way for the Space Shuttle program.
All Al Muller knew about the safety field was that if you were assigned Safety Officer, you would be stuck in that position the rest of your career. When he was assigned to Systems Safety at the HQ level, though, he discovered that it was one of the best assignments possible.
At the Air Force Safety Office on his last assignment, Al Muller worked for two legendary fliers, Robin Olds and Chuck Yeager, each with colorful stories surrounding them. Those two embodied an esprit de corps that Al found lacking when he visited bases in his post-service career.
Al Muller gives a surprising answer regarding the hardest thing about being Safety Officer, and recalls how an accident investigation uncovered problems in maintenance.
After his Air Force career, Al Muller worked on some very interesting research, including a burning wing that squirted the craft forward like the squeezing of a watermelon seed and a non-aerodynamic rotating wing that puffed air out through slits.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
The 10th Mountain Division deployed to Somalia, where LTG Lawson Magruder worked with his Marine counterpart to secure distribution of humanitarian aid and stop the fighting between rival factions. It was not yet the Information Age, so he and his staff would huddle around a lone satellite phone every evening.
Lawson Magruder, who commanded troops in the Somali deployment, was disturbed by what he discovered after the conflict was over. Partisan distrust following a change of administrations had sidelined the most experienced diplomat in the area. This contributed to an already bad situation.
It was a busy four days in Iraq for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team commanded by Bob Clark. Once the cease fire was declared, his mission became more humanitarian with swarms of displaced persons to take care of. Then there was that Elvis sighting.
The bomber jacket worn by a hometown character caught LC Johnson's young eye, so he always had the Air Force on his mind, not the Army. He was stationed at isolated radar sites in the Southwest, at first. Then he got his first taste of a real Air Force base in Japan, where he worked in supply and at the clubs on base.
The army had to plan for operations that were short of total war, stability and security operations. Lawson Magruder worked with a team writing new light infantry doctrine, which was the type of force that would be tasked with these missions. Ironically, he was soon at the 10th Mountain Division, which was destined for Somalia.
Ken Preston's first duty was at Fort Hood, where he got a plum assignment in the headquarters company as a tank crewman. There were only three tanks in the section, including the battalion commander's tank. The unit spent a lot of time testing and evaluating new tanks to determine which technology the Army should adopt.
The attack helicopters, Humvees and other armaments were lined up in the empty desert, poised for attack. To Bob Clark, it seemed like a mini-version of the mighty Normandy armada. Then it was a mad dash into Iraq and the Euphrates River valley.
On September 11, 2001, there were 130 senior leaders huddled in a town pavilion during a war exercise in Heidelberg. An aide handed a slip of paper to V Corps commander Gen Scott Wallace. He showed it to Command Sgt Major Ken Preston. A plane had hit he World Trade center. Then there was a second slip of paper and the General stood up and addressed the crowd. Everything had changed at that moment.
When Bob Clark arrived to assume command of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, Saddam Hussein had just moved into Kuwait and the unit was preparing to deploy. Soon, he was staring across the Saudi desert into Iraq.
Whether to stay in the service or move on is a question that is well known to service members. For LC Johnson, it was an easy choice. It was a down economy, he had limited options at the time because of his race, and, most importantly, his mother said it was a good idea.
Retired LTG Bob Clark reveals what he considers to be the number one requirement of good leadership. He also recalls the music that encouraged morale in Vietnam and later in Operation Desert Storm. A visit by Jay Leno to the field in Saudi Arabia was also much appreciated.
His sister units had deployed from Germany into Kuwait. Ken Preston's group was held in Germany to set up a program to train tank and Bradley gunners heading to the conflict. Of course it was the middle of winter. After the quick resolution to the war, the training program ended and it was his turn to deploy to provide security for the pullout.
He was back at Fort Knox, where ordinary tank gunners became master gunners. Ken Preston enjoyed passing knowledge on to young NCO's who could go back to their units as a more valuable asset. He had served in Germany and the Middle East and was coming up on a big decision. Make twenty and retire or keep going?
After commanding troops in combat as a lieutenant in Vietnam and as a colonel in Iraq, Bob Clark still had a lot of service left in him. He had more commands including the 101st Airborne Division before he finally retired. He reveals some of the insights that he learned during his career.
Ken Preston had a very rewarding position as 1st Sgt at BNCOC, the basic NCO course at Fort Knox. Scouts, tank and Bradley crewmen and mechanics all received their instruction there. He was elevated to deputy commandant, which meant that he was now the busiest person in the Army. He was right up on twenty years and he filled out the form for a retirement date, but his boss had something to say about that.