1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

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    US military veterans: Contacting an old CO

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Catrin Lewis, Jul 24, 2019.

    This is for all you military veterans, especially of those who were on active duty.

    So it's 1982, 15 or more years after your military discharge (Vietnam). Something has come up in your life where you want/need to get in touch with your old commanding officer. You haven't communicated at all between now and then, but you know he's still in the Army and has been promoted a few times. You live in a Midwestern city and you're not sure where he's based.

    How would you get in contact with him? Would you have to know where he's currently stationed? Or did the Army have some sort of directory where you could write or call? Would a veterans' organization help?

    Are all US Army units out of specific bases? Like you could contact the people back where you did basic training and they might know?

    Or, wait a minute, maybe some of the guys in your unit organize reunions from time to time, but up to now you've never been interested in going . . . would one of those guys know where the old CO was, and how to get in touch with him?

    Lotta questions about military and post-military life, which I why I have to ask so I don't mess things up.
     
  2. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Unfortunately, back then would be a difficult timeframe for finding the specifics of any unit, let alone person.

    If you're trying to contact the person who was your CO at the time, fifteen years later if they managed to stay in without reaching the age limit or failing to gain rank, would somewhere in the General ranks. No General, ever, has been easy to get ahold of.

    You would need to know the area they were commanding, whether it be a base or something else, or they are very likely over in DC at the Pentagon. There are phone directories, but getting through to them would be difficult, as the number of calls they receive daily is astronomical, and handled mostly by junior majors or officers. May even be better off mailing to them if you can get somewhat the correct address, and have a way to get their attention.

    A guy with that many years of experiences will have had literally thousands of people under his command. Getting his attention would likely be the most difficult part. Many of his former soldiers would be trying to get recommendations and assistance for any number of things from him. It is likely for them to ignore most if not all of the requests.

    The VA will absolutely be of no assistance. It never really is anyways.

    As far as bases go, yes, all units are officially attached to home base. They will travel to other bases or forward operating bases on deployments, but they always return to their home station. Deployments or detachments range from a matter of weeks, to around two years.

    Wish I could help more, but my active duty was more recent. Contact with anyone before the internet age is difficult, especially with high ranks involved. Let me know if you have more specific structural questions. Those things haven't changed in decades.
     
  3. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

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    In a way this does help, as it narrows down the possibilities.

    I'm not 100% sure what this officer's rank during my protag's service in Viet Nam should be. Captain, according to what I read on Google, would put him fairly close to his men. Lieutenants seem to have been influential, too. Though it seems that the conventional wisdom is that lieutenants are a joke. Then there's shows like M*A*S*H, and the CO everyone interacts with is a colonel. But again, what I read online tells me the typical colonel has too many soldiers under him to have that much direct influence with a buck sergeant (the highest rank my protag achieved).

    The set up is that back in the mid-'60s, in Viet Nam, my protag and his CO differed on a certain important issue. When my protag was about to go back to the States, his CO told him that if he ever had a change of heart on the matter, to get in touch with him and they'd discuss it.

    So it's 15 years later, he has had that change of heart, and he does want to discuss it. Ergo, he wants to get in touch.

    My idea was that this officer would or might be a 1-star general working at the Pentagon. I need him to be a high enough rank to be able to organize a nice little covert military operation if the need arises. (Though of course we all know that never happens, coff! coff! . . . I'll use my authorial discretion.)

    I have him working day to day as an expert in European counter-terrorism, and every so often the Pentagon pushes him out to lecture on the subject at army bases around the country. Or might he be temporarily stationed at one base or another, to teach a course? Or would the Pentagon ever have someone like that give a public lecture (minus the classified info), at a state university, perhaps? (Thinking out loud. Gotta get him to the Midwest.)
     
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    2nd Lt commanded a platoon in Vietnam - they'd have been fairly close to their men. First lieutenants were sometimes platoon commanders, sometimes company XOs , and captains generally commanded companies (or had staff positions at batallion level). A captain would be unlikely to be close to his enlisted men other than perhaps his company sergeant major, and his immediate radio operators etc

    in terms of how to contact him the usual rubric in fiction is the regimental newsletter- its not terribly likely in reality (who reads them anyway) but its how its done in things like code of honour (Nelson DeMille)

    In terms of organising a black op a 1 star general in the pentagon can't scratch his arse without a whole staff knowing.. its unrealistic anyway, but I'd be inclined to say a major or light colonel in command of some sort of special forces team which is half off the books anyway
     

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