3:44 | After suffering severe wounds in Korea, Ralph Puckett spent two years at the Ranger Department in various training assignments. Then he went to a command assignment in Puerto Rico, a "go to war" company. He was given the job of setting up a short orientation school, experience that would help him on his next assignment.
Keywords : Ralph Puckett Korea Ranger instructor Puerto Rico mortar S4 rifle company school orientation Columbia South America
After twenty two years of service, Ralph Puckett retired and had a successful private life, but it was inevitable that he would reconnect with his beloved Rangers. His talent at building confidence is put to very good use at the Ranger school.
What do men need in a leader? Ralph Puckett draws on his long experience to answer that and then relate it to today's challenges for the military. He notes that some mistakes are repeated and that perhaps, "What we learned is that we don't learn anything from our wars."
He wanted to be a military aviator, but West Point had no aviation program. Impressed by the infantry leaders he encountered, Ralph Puckett decided there would be no truer test of himself than to become a combat infantry officer.
He was at jump school when he heard about the North Koreans invading the South. Determined to get in the war, young 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Puckett was at a stopover in Japan when he was told to report for possible selection for a special Ranger unit. He found out that the officers were already selected but he made a pitch to get on the team as a rifleman if nothing else. Come back tomorrow, he was told.
We were unprepared for war when we had to fight one in Korea. Ralph Puckett should know because his job was to take a small unit of new Rangers into the country for dangerous missions. They arrived at Pusan where the American forces had just barely avoided being pushed into the sea.
Piano wire? Those Rangers want everything, groused the supply officer. When the volunteer company got into Korea, though, they only had the most basic cold weather gear. The first mission for company commander Ralph Puckett and his men was to rout North Korean stragglers and units left behind when they retreated Northward.
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
Both feet were severely injured so Ralph Puckett had some serious hospital time coming up. Evacuated from Korea to Japan, then back to Fort Benning, he could, at least, see his family. Then came a knock on the door and two pretty girls walked in. If only they knew what he had just told his father.
He already had a pretty significant career, but Ralph Puckett went to Vietnam as a battalion commander and didn't waste any time getting into the field. His first matter of business was to assure his unit commanders that he had their backs.
Battalion commander Ralph Puckett recounts the story of a night long attack by Viet Cong and NVA Regulars on a position held by one of his companies. He was grateful they had a Forward Observer to coordinate artillery support and helicopters for resupply, things he lacked in Korea. For his leadership during this attack, Puckett was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross.
It was better to put men in the field and leave them there. That was the philosophy of Battalion commander Ralph Puckett in Vietnam, where some commanders inserted and then quickly withdrew their troops. When the operation was over, the reward was beer and steak and ice cream. Being prepared was very important to him and he illustrates that principle with a story about some soldiers who were not.
It was nearly time to go home and Ralph Puckett was trying to rally his successor's spirits while showing him around the battalion's operations. Rely on your experienced men, that was his key point. His homecoming was bittersweet because his father was very ill but he was joyous to be reunited with his wife and children.
Ralph Puckett had two homecomings, from Korea and Vietnam. The first was all joyous, the second bittersweet. Despite the anti-war feelings so prevalent at the time, he experienced gratitude and respect in public.
It was an interesting assignment. Help the Columbian Army establish a Ranger training school and get it going. Ralph Puckett built up the program from nothing and he knew it was going to be very good, but he did have one problem, what to call the Columbian Rangers?
Ralph Puckett's favorite tour was the three years he spent in Germany with a Special Forces Group. He had his family there and the Ranger learned a lot from the assignment. It was early on for Vietnam, but he heard stories and began reading up on it. Back in the States in a Pentagon job, he asked to be put on the list to go.
He was happy as a platoon sergeant in a Ranger rifle company, so when he was considered for Command Sergeant Major, Michael Hall was ambivalent. Would he be removed from close relationships with the men? But in a series of assignments at that job, he found great professional satisfaction.
Following the tragic deaths of ten Afghan children, it fell on General David Barno to tell President Karzai about the incident. He describes the effect this had on the rules of engagement going forward and he discusses a document he drew up to give guidelines to the troops that would keep them in the good graces of their hosts.
The Army Rangers were formed not only as an elite strike force but also as a crucible to spread field experience and knowledge throughout the military. In his long career, Michael Hall found many instances of this in many different organizations. The experiment had succeeded.
When a vehicle loaded with explosives blew up at the gate, dental officer Mike Barno hurried to his emergency assignment, triage at the aid station. A truck with wounded men from the Afghan Army pulled up and he jumped into the back, ready to help.
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.
Air Force wives are tough. Bob Wolfe was over the ocean looking for Soviet ships when his wife checked herself into the hospital to deliver their first child. She joined him briefly at his next post in Columbia, but she stayed at home while he was in Ethiopia on a mapping mission. While there, he had an odd encounter with some local tribesmen.
During his time at the Strategic Air Command, Rollie Sterrett had to give private briefings to a Navy Admiral who wasn't allowed in the general briefings due to arcane inter-service politics. The first question from the admiral forced Rollie to make a delicate choice, but he chose well.
What do the Big Four training standards enable the Ranger force to do? There are two primary missions, according to Retired Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall. The first is forced entry into a denied country to establish an airhead for follow-on forces and the second is the special operations combined forces raid.
Air Force ROTC was Bob Wolfe's introduction to the military. After navigator training he was flying photo missions for the Army map service when the Cuban missile crisis brought the Cold War to the forefront of national attention. He was sent to Bermuda, where he flew missions looking for Soviet ships bound for Cuba.
After his Vietnam tour, Air Force photo interpreter Rollie Sterrett was transferred to the Strategic Air Command and assigned to the photo reconnaissance wing. He soon caught the eye of the new SAC commander and became the daily briefing officer for SAC with an emphasis on B-52 operations in Vietnam.
What are the basic sustainable standards when training an elite force? As GEN Stanley McChrystal's Command Sergeant Major, Michael Hall helped him develop the Big Four; four standards that all Rangers must master. They are marksmanship, physical training, medical training, and small unit battle drills.
Before heading off to Iraq, Choy took the time he still had in the US and got married. Soon after, he was instructed to first go to Fort Bliss for more training. Having already had skills in construction, that got him placed in an Iraqi Battalion. Once he was in Iraq, he unfortunately saw a few injuries and deaths of different men. The real tragic part of those stories is the majority of them were accidents.
Following the September 11th attacks, the path to war was unclear. Dick Myers describes the weeks following from his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
After a long year of training, building, riding, and surviving in Iraq, Choy had finally completed his tour. He came home around the age of retirement, and so he did retire shortly after returning. He gives some reflections about the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and how they compared and contrasted. Specifically, the treatment of soldiers who came home after the war was over.
With over 30 years of service in the military, Dick Myers was about to be nominated as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but September 11th, 2001 would prove to be a much more eventful day than he anticipated. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
War movies had convinced young Michael Hall that he wanted to be a Marine, but when he visited the recruiting offices, he found something that might be even better, the Army Rangers. After a short stay in the regular infantry, he secured the assignment to the Rangers, where his life was changed the very first day.
Henry Choy tells about the living conditions he had while constructing buildings in Iraq, as well as a few humorous stories he witnessed while over there. One of the biggest issues they faced was that it was hard to tell which Iraqis were allied with the US and which were not, sometimes to the point where they couldn't trust their own interpreters. At one point he and his brigade were acting as escorts for convoys trying to get from Kuwait to Iraq.
Leading men in war is a difficult task for many, and leading many men through wars in two countries is not something you can prepare for. Dick Myers reflects on the weight of making decisions at the level at which he served. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
Retired Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall recalls the strong physicality of the Ranger battalions in his day and relates that to the bond of respect and responsibility that connects all Rangers. His intent was to serve his four year enlistment and go to college, but he kept coming back for one more tour, one more tour.