Mike Clark's Military Service

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There has been a tradition of military service in my family which goes back a few generations:

  • My father, Don Clark, was a US Marine and a reserve US Airman
  • His father, Canby Clark, was a US Navy sailor
  • His father, John Clark, was a soldier during the Spanish-American War.
  • My great-great-grandfather, Christian Stoltzmann, served in the 8th Illinois Infantry (on the Union side) during the Civil War.

As for my generation, my brother Mark served in the US Air Force for ten years until medically retired, and I spent eight years in the US Army.

I enlisted in the US Army in December 1975, initially for four years as an Indirect Fire Crewman (Infantry mortars), but later transferred to the Field Artillery as a Fire Support Specialist (forward observer). Upon re-enlisting, I changed to an occupational specialty better suited to a post-military career, that of Microwave Equipment Repairer. This featured a year-long school, not learning how to repair microwave ovens, but rather microwave communications equipment. Upon completion of the school (during which I met and married my wife Waltraut), I was assigned to Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT), to serve in Germany on that organization's new microwave communications backbone, known as CIP-67 (Communications Improvement Program 67). I can't be certain, but I supposed that "67" referred to the year that they began planning the project -- but it wasn't finished until just after I arrived, in 1980, and not activated until 1982.

I served a three-year tour in Germany, and considered remaining in the Army as a career, but because my family had grown considerably (due to my new stepchildren, and our three new children) Waltraut and I decided that it would be best for me to return to the US as a civilian, where we could settle down and raise our family in one place. Accordingly, I was honorably discharged in December 1983, and we moved to Washington state.

Some of the details of my military service are found below.

Decorations

RibbonBar.png
QualBadges.png
  • Good Conduct Medal (2 Awards)
  • NCO Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral "1"
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Overseas Service Ribbon

Military Occupational Specialties

  • 11C - Indirect Fire Crewman - Infantry mortars - C Co. 2nd Bn 39th INF, Ft. Lewis, WA
  • 13F - Fire Support Specialist - Field Artillery forward observer - B Bty 1st Bn 11th FA, Ft. Lewis, WA
  • 26L - Tactical Microwave Equipment Repairer - Microwave radios - AFCENT (Allied Forces Central Europe)

Qualifications:

  • Rifle Expert
  • Hand Grenade Expert
  • LGM - German Language Linguist

Assignments

  • Fort Lewis, Washington
    • 9th Infantry Division 50px
      • C Co., 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment 39inf.png
      • B Bty., 1st Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment 11FA.png
  • US Army Element, Allied Forces Central Europe (USAE AFCENT) AFCENTInsignia.png
    • Central Region Signal Group

Training and Schools

  • Basic Combat Training: Fort Knox, Kentucky
  • Advanced Infantry Training: Fort Polk, Louisiana
  • Primary Non-commissioned Officers Course / Combat Arms: Fort Lewis, Washington
  • US Army Signal School: Fort Gordon, Georgia

Character of and Rank at Discharge

I received an honorable discharge in 1983 at the rank of Sergeant (E-5). 50px

Various Anecdotes

With the Navy and the Marines

During my service with the 2nd Bn 29th Infantry, my battalion was transported to Camp Pendleton, California, a US Marine Corps base, for amphibious training. We boarded the USS Paul Revere (APA-248) for the voyage south from the Puget Sound Naval Base at Keyport, Washington. As this was my first time aboard a US Navy ship under way, I greatly enjoyed the trip! Except for the sea-sickness. While I did not end up "feeding the fishes" (via vomiting), I spent much of the voyage feeling quite queasy. My company, C Company, was billeted in the forward part of the ship in the bow, apparently at or below the water-line. Naturally, being at the bow meant that we were constantly going up and down as the ship ploughed through the water. And it was cold!

My favorite part of the journey was near the beginning, when I decided to see if I could visit the ship's bridge. It was night-time, and we were heading out of the Puget Sound via the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I climbed the stairs that led up to the starboard lookout's station and chatted with the sailor on duty there for a time. When I asked him if he thought I might be allowed to go into the bridge, he said that technically I would need permission, but since it was dark inside there, if I was very quiet and stayed out of the way, I might get away with it. So I entered the bridge and stood in the corner for some time, just watching and listening the quiet activity of those who were supposed to be there. There was a radar console near an unoccupied station chair, and once I went forward to view it, making sure I kept my hands to myself, then returning to the corner. At some time after I had looked at the radar console, the ship's captain came into the bridge (the officer in charge acknowledging this by calling out "Captain on deck!" to which he immediately responded "As you were!"). The captain sat down on the station chair next to the radar console, and from time to time he fiddled with the controls of the radar display to show different views. After probably an hour standing there watching all this, I left and went back down to our berthing area.

The training at Camp Pendleton included using the various weapons ranges at the camp, learning what kind of missions the US Marines were supposed to perform, and so on. The culmination of all this was an actual amphibious landing made by the battalion! Unfortunately, I did not participate in this, having been assigned to drive a jeep for the rear-echelon elements. The reason for this was because I was my platoon leader's driver at the time, and the landing did not include my weapons platoon's vehicles. So I missed out on that! The amphibious landing was conducted out of the US Navy's USS Ogden (LPD-5). One interesting event occurring during the landing was the loss of one my platoon's mortar tubes, which went into the sea while being transferred to a landing craft for the exercise. Apparently the sailors attaching it to the rope for lowering failed to securely tie it to the tube, and it went into the water. A subsequent search by naval divers failed to recover it.

When the training at Camp Pendleton was concluded, the USS Ogden carried us back to Washington state. This ship was quite amazing to me, and I really liked the "cruise" from Southern California to Washington. Among other things, the food was much superior to that on board the Paul Revere, and the Ogden was much more stable while underway. I did not suffer any queasiness during the trip back. This was some time during 1978, I believe. Much later, on 21 February 2007, the Ogden came to the end of its service life and was decommissioned. In 2014 it performed its last service by being used for target practice during RIMPAC. It was sunk in a SINKEX, an interesting term meaning "sinking exercise", by the Republic of (South) Korea Navy submarine Lee Sun Sin (SS-68) and the Royal Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310). The Lee Sun Sin put a Harpoon missile into her, followed by the Nansen with a Naval Strike Missile. This was recorded and is available for viewing on YouTube, showing the Ogden taking its final port-call, in Davy Jones' Locker.