Archive for the ‘Fort Benning’ Category

Herschel Walker Tells Ft. Benning Audience How He Overcame Mental Illness

May 14, 2010

 

Herschel Walker speaking to National Infantry Museum Parade Field audience

Herschel Walker talking with media following his talk to soldiers and middle school students at Fort Benning

Walker said he went from being a “special” student because of a speech impediment, who suffered a lot of bullying in his early years,  to becoming a martial artist and successful high school, college, and professional football player.  He made the point that everyone gets knocked down a lot in the game of life,  but getting back up and staying in the game is what is important.   Also, a big moment is when, like he did, you admit you need help in handling your mental problems and get it.  He was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.  He also emphasized repeatedly the important role that Jesus Christ played in helping him overcome his problems. Along with three writers, he has authored a book about his life, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The Army brought Walker to Fort Benning as a “Guest Trainer” for the Suicide Prevention Awareness Training session which was sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program.  The suicide rate in the Army has been steadily increasing, hitting a record with 128 suicides in 2008. 

This morning’s event was definitely worth the trip to Fort Benning and the long, hot walk from the packed National Infantry Museum parking lot to the parade field.  It’s not everyday that you can hear probably the greatest running back of all time tell about how he overcame mental illness.

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Fort Benning’s Command Sergeant Major Change of Responsibility Ceremonies Accents Army Tradition

March 30, 2010

Command Sergeant Major James C. Hardy and Major General Michael Ferriter, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning'

As I sat in the audience at Ridgway Hall,  I reflected that the Army may get the latest high-tech equipment and learn how to use it, but the Army remains the Army.  Tradition counts. It counts a lot. The Change of Responsibility Ceremony for the outgoing and incoming U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Command Sergeant Majors was timeless.  It was the same combination of flags, music, speeches, and salutes that have marked military ceremonies for a very long time.  It still resonates with me.  Having been a child during World War Two, when patriotism was the highest I have ever seen it,  I get emotional when I hear the band play “The Army Goes Rolling Long,”  which was first “Caisson Song,” then “The U.S. Field Artillery,” before it was “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”  The Ground Forces Band from Fort McPherson played it at the ceremony, and, involuntarily, I was moved.  The fact that I was an Army bandsman many years ago might also have something to do with it.   

During the Ceremony, tribute was paid to outgoing Fort Benning CSM Earl L. Rice, who goes to Fort Bragg to become CSM there, and incoming CSM James C. Hardy, both with very impressive service records including many combat medals.  Their wives were also honored with presentations of bouquets.   

A Command Sergeant Major is the top ranked enlisted man on an Army post.  He deals not only with the noncommissioned officer corps, but directly with the commanding general. The relationship between a command sergeant major and commanding general was crystalized during Maj. Gen. Ferriter’s speech.  He said more than once, when he came up with some cockeyed idea to be implemented, his CSM had said, “Let’s talk,” and after their private  conversation, he wisely dropped the idea.  He told other stories that exemplified the relationship between a commanding general and his command sergeant major.   

After Maj. Gen. Ferrita spoke, both of the Command Sergeant Majors spoke.   The thing that stood out with both of them is their concern for their soldiers and their own families.   They are Rangers. They are Airborne.  They are battle tested.  They are also loving family men.  It came across that, along with their own families,  they are very dedicated to their fellow soldiers, the Army, and their country.   

The Ground Forces Band came from Fort McPherson in the Atlanta area to play for the ceremony

 

What the National Debt and Deficit are Costing You

February 8, 2010

 Back when I was working in TV news, being cognizant of the importance that local newscasts should provide local news,  when we decided to use a national story, we would always try to “localize” it.  With that in mind, when I decided that I was beginning to feel so concerned about the national budget mess we are in right now that I wanted to do a blog post on it, I tried to figure out how to “localize” it. 

When we say the national debt is now more than $12 trillion,  that’s the big picture.  Maybe to bring it home to each of us, our share is more than $40 thousand each, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock.

 A large share of that debt is generated by defense spending.  That hits home. The Columbus area economy relies heavily on Fort Benning which pumps millions into the stores,  real estate businesses,  and just about everything else.  The annual payroll at Fort Benning is $1.1 billion.  The monthly payroll is $87 million.  Sure, we have to pay our part of the taxes that go into the Defense Department treasury, but we probably get a lot more back than we pay.  The point is that the defense budget directly impacts on us big time. 

Nationally, the proposed defense budget for Fiscal Year 2011 is $708.2 billion.  The base budget, which does not include overseas “contingency operations,” which I suppose means Afghanistan and Iraq, is $548.9 billion, which is $18 billion more than the 2010 budget.

 According to the National Priorities Project Cost of War  Counters, so far, since 2001,  the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars  have cost America a little more than a trillion dollars.  Bringing  that to the local level, folks in Georgia have paid more than $27.6 billion.  The counters don’t list Columbus, so I’ll have to go to a city of about the same size, Augusta, where the cost of the wars has been more than $512 million

Can we afford that?  That opens up a huge can of worms, but just on the fiscal basis,  let’s just ask, can we pay for itNot with our own money.  Incredibly, we lowered taxes when we went to war 8 years ago.  You spend more than you take in, you have to borrow, which leads us to our next post on the fiscal crisis we face. Stay tuned

The Tradition Started with Armistice Day

November 11, 2009
Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1477

National Infantry Museum on Veterans Day, November 11, 2009

A lot of folks showed up on this Veterans Day at the National Infantry Museum.  The fact that 280 members and guests of the Rotary Club of Columbus held their weekly meeting there today certainly contributed to the heavy volume. 

Rotary Club of Columbus meeting at the National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GAThe program for the Rotarians was to tour the museum.  Since I had already done it about four times, I decided to concentrate on a new exhibit that just popped up in the lobby.  It contained artifacts from World War One. 

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Matt Young demonstrates U.S. Army World War I gas mask

Matt Young, educational director for the museum, and Jack Reed, weapon’s curator supplied most of the artifacts from their own collection.  The light machine guns –  the British Lewis  and the French Chauchat – were furnished by the Army.

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1473

French and British World War I light machine guns

Young Fort Benning soldiers found the exhibit especially interesting since they could compare the weapons, gas masks, toilet and mess kits, and other accoutrements of war used in World War I with what they use today. 

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Matt Young shows young Fort Benning soldier trainees how World War I weapons and equipment differ from what they use

Matt, who is a very enthusiastic teacher of history using museum props – previously he was director of education for the National Civil War Naval  Museum, where he often wore Civil War uniforms – was continuing his tradition of making history live by wearing a World War 1 Uniform.  He told me that this one-day exhibit was so appropriate because it represents Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day.  Armistice Day celebrates the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

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Jack Reed wearing World War I Scottish uniform

As I surveyed the exhibit I had to reflect on the colossal carnage of that  war.  It just about wiped out a generation of Europe’s young men.  The United States did not lose a generation to it, because our country was only in it for a year.  But, it did cost more than 116,000 American lives.

(I took all of the pictures but the one of the Rotary Club meeting. Jim Cawthorne of Camera1 took that one. Thanks, Jim.)

The National Infantry Museum Experience

August 26, 2009

As you walk through the displays at the National Infantry Museum adjacent to Fort Benning,  it may seem incongruous, as you look at all of the representations of violence and mayhem, to reflect on love.  But, love is very much a soldier’s motivator.

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

A grandmother told me that she was not sure she should take her ten-year-old grandson to see the museum.  “It is about war and all of the horror that goes with it. I am not sure his parents would like it if I took him to see it.”

A lot of people have no problem at all taking their children to see it. I have seen a lot of them there.  For instance, as I was viewing a case with weapons in it, a  little boy walked up and asked me, “Do you work here?”

“No.  I’m just going through it like you are.”

“Were you in the Army?”  

“Yes I was.” 

 Then,  remembering what the grandmother told me, I asked him, “What do you think of all this?”

“Cool,” he replied.  “When I’m old enough, I am going to join.”

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Obviously, he was not traumatized by anything he saw or heard. Age could be a factor, because quite a few of the combat veterans who go through the museum say they are very moved.  One of  the World War Two veterans told Columbus TV commentator Al Fleming, who works as a volunteer at the museum,  that he couldn’t go through the World War Two section of the musuem.  “It would just make me too nervous,” he said.   He probably had seen some close friends killed in battle.

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Do I recommend a trip to the museum?  Should children see it?  Yes.  It is an impressive way to present the history of the infantry to adults and chidlren.  

If you haven’t been, let me recommend that you watch the short movie at the end.  It is very well done and captures the one thing that,  more than anything else, according to a lot of combat veterans,  motivates soldiers to perform truly courageous acts: the love they have for their fellow soldiers,  people  they have lived and trained with for a long time, their “family,”  “brothers” in battle.   Many Congressional Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest medal for valor,  were earned by soldiers who gave their lives to save their buddies.

When Is an Order Unlawful?

August 23, 2009

You are a young lieutenant. 

You are ordered to take out a machine-gun emplacement on a hill. 

You lead your men up the hill to the emplacement. 

The enemy has lined up women and children in front of the machine gun.  You decide you will not shoot the innocent civilians. 

When you get back to your superior officer, he tells you that you have flunked the test.

That’s a true story, told to me by my friend, retired Lt. Col. John Nix,  who served as an  attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  He was that young lieutenant – well, he was actually an R.O.T.C cadet pretending to be a lieutenant for that exercise.   He was informed by his instructor that it is a lawful order to shoot innocent civilians if they block your target.

Naturally, this conversation was triggered by the story about the  apology for his role in the My Lai massacre by former Army Lt. William Calley.  ” The difference,” he said, “is that you could not say herding innocent civilians into a ditch and killing them was removing shields that were in front of a target.”

Calley’s defense all along has been that he was following orders.  That was denied by his superior officer.  If Calley’s assertion had been determined right,  he would still have had the problem of following an unlawful order.   

John  Nix says whether an order is lawful or not can end up in a courtroom dispute.  He warns that if a soldier decides not to follow one, he had better be right because the consequences can be dire.  However, the consequences of following an illegal order can also be dire.

According to About.com, the Manual for Courts-Martial says, “An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful and it is disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime.

Who decides whether an order is lawful or not? It’s certainly not the soldier who decided not to follow the order.  About.com puts it this way: “Ultimately, it’s not whether or not the military member thinks the order is illegal or unlawful, it’s whether military superiors (and courts) think the order was illegal or unlawful.”

Wonder how much, if any, training about whether an order is legal or not is given to the average soldier.  I never got any. When I was in basic training I was told just how horrible my life could be if I disobeyed an order.  Nobody ever said, that I can remember,  that I didn’t have to obey an unlawful order.  Maybe it’s different now.  I took basic training fifty-five years ago. 

Basic training graduation ceremony parade, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus

Basic training class graduation ceremony parade, June, 2009, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus, GA

Why William Calley Chose to Speak at the Kiwanis Club

August 21, 2009

A number of people have asked me why former Army Lt. William Calley picked the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus to speak publicly.  It is because he and TV commentator Al Fleming, an old friend of mine, are old friends.  Al, a member of the Kiwanis Club,  invited him. 

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

As far as a respectful and polite audience is concerned, he picked the right place.  He got a standing ovation when introduced – everyone gets that when they speak at this club’s meetings – but, he also got one at the end.  Al says that just usually doesn’t happen. To be honest,  almost everyone stood both times, but I spotted at least one exception.

The questions were asked respectfully and politely, which could give the impression they were softball.  I don’t think that was the case. The questions got right to the crux of the matter, in my view, and Calley didn’t dodge any of them.   

I have been a guest a few times at this club. On a personal note, I have always enjoyed those visits. In fact, I spoke there last week, giving a Power Point presentation for  Muscogee County Friends of the Libraries,  pointing out the importance of supporting your public libraries.   I enjoyed that, too.

Go to the National Infantry Museum at Least Once by Yourself

August 5, 2009

THE NUMBERS ARE LOOKING GOOD FOR THE MUSEUM

The National Infantry Museum is surpassing number of visitors expectations.   Since the museum opened in June,  80, 322 people have visited the facility, according to Sonya Bell, Administration Services Manager,  National Infantry Foundation.  I’ve been three times. Wonder if they counted me every time. 

Huey Helicopter,  Vietnam war exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Huey Helicopter, Last Hundred Yards Vietnam War exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Even though I have been, as I said, three times, I plan to go a few more.  One day’s visit is just not enough to take it all it.  The first time you go through you get an overall impression,  but it really doesn’t sink in until you go through it again.  For one thing, the first time you don’t stop and read all of the information that is offered,  and, like a good movie – and the place is loaded with interesting combat newsreel footage –   you miss a lot detail.  One of the reasons you don’t stop and read everything is, when you are going through with other people. you tend to do it faster.  Nobody wants to hold the rest of the group back.  So, even though it’s enjoyable to do it with others,  I recommend that you also do it by yourself.

It really is a tremendous history lesson for everyone, but  you do have to take your time to let it soak him.   As I said,  I’ll be going back.

Infantry Museum Now Open

June 19, 2009
Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Thousands made the long walk from parking their cars on the roadsides to the   parade ground next to the National Infantry Museum to attend the grand opening graduation ceremony for soldiers who completed their basic training at Fort Benning, and the grand opening of the Museum afterwards.

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat,  former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee,  Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat, former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee, Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell drew a cheer from the crowd when he arrived.  He is on hand to cut the ribbon to open the museum.  He topped the long list of dignataries on hand.

Silver Wings Sky Diver,  National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

Silver Wings Sky-diver, National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

After the Army’s impressive show of an air assault demonstration,  and members of the elete “Silver Wings” parachuting in,  the Infantry Center Band led the graduating troops onto the field from World War Two Company Barracks area. Since I was in a couple of Army bands, I  always enjoy seeing them do their stuff well, and they did, which was good since this was probably the largest audience they’ll ever march and play for. 

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates on to Parade Field

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates onto Parade Field

Now,  we can actually see the museum’s main exhibits.  Maybe folks will now start patronizing the Imax Theater, the Fife and Drum restaurant, and the museum’s gift shop enough to help with the museum’s operating expenses.  The crowds for those attractions have been disappointing up until now,  but maybe that will change now.  I’ve been to the theater and restaurant and enjoyed both, and I plan to go again and again. See you at the museum.

Correction on IMAX at Patriot Park Ticket Prices

March 18, 2009

Here’s a correction to my previous post on ticket prices at IMAX at Patriot Park,  which opens for business tomorrow afternoon.

Dick,

Thank you for the wonderful review and photos that you posted.  I would like, however, to point out some discrepencies in your listed prices.  Prices are not based on time of day, as Dark Knight will be playing at 3:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Prices for films 70 minutes and under (which are primarily documentaries) are:
$8.00 General
$7.00 Senior/Student/Military
$6.00 Child
$6.00 All groups 20 or more (except school groups)
$5.50 All school groups 10 or more

Films over 70 minutes (concerts and Hollywood films):
$10.00 General
$9.00 Senior/Student/Military
$8.00 Child
$8.00 All groups 20 or more

All group tickets must be reserved at least 24 hours in advanced.

Hope this helps.  And again, thanks for the great coverage!

Joe Kleiman
Director of Attractions and IMAX Programming
National Infantry Foundation