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December 2016

— This Month —

The Signal Corps & The Motorized Infantry

Strategy

And...

The 4th Signal Company & Motorized Infantry

Tactics

- - - - -

MISSION STATEMENT

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Its purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you. 


 

From the editor's desk

Ho Ho Ho... it's Christmas time again.

Some years, like this year, it seems to take an extra effort to get into the holiday spirit. We think that this year it is proving harder than most to develop our jingle-step because of the appalling, unprofessional, contemptible way in which our nation's Presidential race was just run. Based on the way the two candidates for President conducted themselves, they achieved little more than to embarrass us before the entire world. Thanks to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we are now the laughing stock of the world.

Fortunately, with Christmas upon us, we have a chance now to show the world that despite the boorishness and lack of civility that Trump-Clinton displayed over the past year, the rest of us that live in this country do have values, morals, ethics and integrity.

Which brings us to our point: one way to get into the holiday spirit is to pause to reflect on Christmas stories of the past. Like nothing else, all of those wonderful, joyous stories of Christmases past bring to our mind and soul a certain peacefulness and love both of and for humanity. Like nothing else, Christmas brings out the good in all of us.

Take for example a story we ran across about a certain Marine General. In most cases we do not talk on this website of the other branches of service, never mind people within them. It's not that we do not like the Marines, Navy or Air Force per se, it's just that compared to us Army guys the men and women in these branches just don't hold a candle to us (cough, cough...).

In this case though, the story we have for you is different. It shows that not only within the military do the best of men exist, but that their character is above the norm.

The story we have for you here has to do with Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Yes, that one… the one Donald Trump is considering for the position of Secretary of Defense. Regardless of whether he receives the appointment or not, the Christmas story of how General Mattis handles the holidays is a good one. It speaks to how all of us, former U.S. Army Officers all, think when it comes to the matter of our obligation to humanity.

The story was originally told by General Charles C. Krulak, the former Commandant of the Marine Corps. As the story goes, at Christmas time General Krulak and his wife used to bake “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies,” which they would then package in small bundles and, on Christmas day, drive around and deliver to the troops. Starting at 4 a.m., General Krulak would make the trip to every Marine guard post in the Washington-Annapolis-Baltimore area, and deliver a small package of Christmas cookies to whatever Marines were pulling guard duty that day.

He said that one year while making his rounds he stopped at the Command Center to give a package to the Lance Corporal on duty. While talking to the soldier General Krulak asked “Who’s the Officer of the Day?”

The Lance Corporal answered, “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.”

Krulak responded, “No, no, no. I know who General Mattis is. I mean, who’s the Officer of the Day today, Christmas day?”

With a bit of an anxious tone in his voice, the Lance Corporal responded again “Sir, it is Brigadier General Mattis.”

Glancing past the Lance Corporal at the sleeping room in the back of the Command Center, Krulak pointed to the cot in it and said with great clarity… “No, Lance Corporal. Who slept in that bed last night?”

Confused again about what was about to befall him, the Lance Corporal responded with equal clarity, “Sir, it was Brigadier General Mattis.”

Fortunately for both of them, before the conversation could go any farther General Mattis entered the building. Bounding in one step he came through the door in complete duty uniform, accompanied by his sword of command, hanging by his side.

Surprised, General Krulak asked, “Jim, what are you doing here on Christmas day? Why do you have duty?”

Without missing a beat, General Mattis told him that he had heard that the young Officer who was scheduled for OD duty on Christmas day had a family, and that he, General Mattis, thought it was better for the young Officer to spend Christmas Day with his family than cooped up in the Command Center. So with that he swapped duty with the man.

While what General Mattis did is probably no more than what many of us Army Signal Corps Officers have done for our own men, the point is that he did it… as we may have too. That’s what makes U.S. military men great. That’s what makes Army men great. That’s what makes America great. And that’s what makes Christmas worthwhile as a season… because when great men remember the blessings God gave to us, they spread those blessings to their fellow man.

Happy Holidays all...

Managing Editor  


 

The Signal Corps & The Motorized Infantry

Motorized Infantry - WWII

Strategy

Most of our readers know that the U.S. Air Force was founded and brought into existence by the Signal Corps. Organized under the name United States Army Air Service, the concept of having an air borne means of combat came into existence on 2 July 1926, as an element of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Notwithstanding its name being the U. S. Army Air Service, the unit quickly became known to all as the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC); and as we all know, when it finally got its act together and figured out what role it wanted to play in the U.S. military, the Signal Corps bid it adieu and sent it off on its own, this time with the name the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)... fully formed as a new branch of the U.S. military.

As for why the Signal Corps was selected to bring the Air Corps into existence in the first place, part of the reason had to do with the advanced levels of technology that were required to keep planes flying under combat conditions back then. In everything from radio communications to the use of the then early stages of RADAR, technical experts like those found in the Signal Corps were needed in order to keep combat aircraft in the air.

For the Signal Corps then, credit can be given to the fact that without America's Signaleers our military would never have had an Air Force… or at least not until much later, far beyond when it was most needed… back at the beginning of WWII.

Yet interesting as this story is, it is not the only example of the Signal Corps being called upon to stand up a new type of combat unit. At the same time as it was wrestling with how to make the Air Force a cohesive fighting unit, the War Department asked the Signal Corps to do something similar on behalf of the infantry… by finding some way to give the infantry the mobility it needed to fight modern wars.

In this instance though the concept centered around creating a new motorized form of combat, something that would add speed to the infantry’s maneuverability.

On the surface, the logic was sound. Just as in the case of the Air Force, where the idea of combat aircraft taking control of the skies above the soldiers on the ground made sense, so too did the idea of moving infantry soldiers around on the ground more rapidly and with greater precision than had hitherto been possible, so as to improve their combat effectiveness. The question was, how to do this?

Needless to say, the answer was to do the same as in the case of the Army Air Corps: put a motor between the legs of the combatants and let them have at it.

And so it came to be that the Signal Corps was told to build, train and equip a motorized infantry division… America's first ever. That unit became known as the U.S. Army's 4th Motorized Infantry Division, and it was the Signal Corps, at Fort Gordon, Georgia, that brought it up to speed by sharpening through training its newly ordained motorized combat skills... out back on the sandy patches of pine forest at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

4th Motorized Infantry DivisionBetter known as the “Ivy Division,” the 4th Motorized Infantry Division was the first division-sized unit to be put under the temporary wing of the Signal Corps for the purpose of receiving technical innovation and advanced motorized training. Fort Gordon, called Camp Gordon back then—all fresh and clean in 1941 from a just completed round of expansion and construction—proved the perfect home for the 4th.

Reorganized from its old foot soldier infantry division status into a temporary motorized division (in August, 1941), the unit was assigned (along with the 2nd Armored Division) as part of the newly formed I Armored Corps, under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton.

Prior to landing at Fort Gordon the unit had kicked around in the South, training first in Louisiana (August 1941), then in Carolina (October 1941), before finally ending up at Fort Benning. As its training progressed and it became clear that the concept of motorized maneuver was proving hard to perfect, the Army directed the Signal Corps to step in and develop a communication backed method of field maneuver for motorized units, something that would allow the unit to appear on the field of combat as a cohesive whole, able to take battle to the enemy, rather than spend its time recovering from enemy efforts against it.

In this manner the division found itself transferred to Camp Gordon, Georgia, in December 1941—the very same month that America entered World War II.

At Camp Gordon the Signal Corps transformed the unit from being one based purely on motorized maneuver principles to one that incorporated elements of mechanized maneuver too.

For the uninformed, at that time, and still today as with NATO, motorized infantry was considered as being infantry that was transported to the field of combat by trucks or other un-protected motor vehicles. In this way motorized infantry was distinguished from both light infantry, which marched into battle or was dropped there via airborne maneuver, and mechanized infantry, which typically took its place in battle via armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles.

Fort Gordon Training CenterWith the Signal Corps’ technology, backing, training and help, the 4th Motorized Infantry Division improved on its basic level of motorization by augmenting its means of transport with tactical radio nets able to turn this most basic form of maneuver from one based on mobility into one where the mobile aspect of troop deployment and transportation took on overtones of mechanized war fighting. Thus the 4th went from being a motorized unit to a hybrid motorized–mechanized unit; one that that was able to use its transport to maximize its tactical battlefield capabilities.

Back in 1941 then, the Signal Corps was already looking for ways to overcome the inherent flaws that resulted when infantry units were turned into motorized infantry units. Motorizing an infantry unit, while advantageous in many ways, was, as far as the Signal Corps was concerned, only the first step towards the goal of providing strategic mobility for a fighting force. It represented only the first stage towards the mechanization of an army.

The problem was that while trucks were readily adaptable to military uses for transporting soldiers, towing guns and carrying equipment and supplies into battle, their lack of armor and off road limitations created as many problems as they solved. Further, motorization per se provide no direct tactical advantage in small unit combat, because the vehicles available at the time were vulnerable to artillery and small arms fire. It wasn’t until the Signal Corps came along, using the 4th Motorized Infantry Division as its proof of concept, to show the rest of the Army how—with improved, mobile field communications—these units, especially in larger battles, could gain the home field advantage in tactical mobility that their underlying motorization offered.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT

 


 

Merry Christmas 


 

Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 8 December 2016. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 8 December Just received an updated mini-bio from Candidate Robert L. Fisher, OCS Class 10-67. We've posted it on a private bio page for him, along with a picture he sent along. Be sure to read it! Either click on his OCS Class Page, and then on his highlighted name on the page to get to it, or click here to jump directly to his bio page.

Update 1 December – In early November we received a copy of the Class Picture for Army Signal OCS Class 66-17A. H. Don Hamilton of that class, working with Major (R) Green, managed to find one and send it along to us.

We've finally got it posted on the Class Page, so click here to see it. And... if you have a few pictures from your own class, or your time in the service, send them along to us and we'll add them to your Class Page.

 

Continued from left column... 

Thus it was that the Signal Corps made its case that a communication integrated motorized infantry division could move to critical sectors of a battlefield faster, in ways that allowed them to mount better responses to enemy movements, towards the end goal of fully outmaneuvering and containing the enemy.

With its Signal Corps training behind it, in April 1943 the 4th Motorized Infantry Division was transferred to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where it once again was reconfigured and redesignated… this time as simply the 4th Infantry Division... after which in January it set sail for England for pre-invasion training.

4th Signal CompanyIn June 1944 the 4th Infantry Division joined with the other Allied armies in crossing the Channel, as part of the D-day invasion of Nazi occupied France. On that day, as one of four designated “companies” of the 8th Infantry Regiment, they splashed ashore along a 2-mile stretch of Utah Beach, on the Cherbourg peninsula. There they cleared obstacles, brought ashore their motorized transportation, fired up their radio nets, and rushed the enemy positions behind the beach.

For us today, far removed from that day, what the 4th Division did was unique. In real time, under real combat conditions, it proved that it was possible to integrate soldiers, communication technologies and mechanized equipment on a large scale. Seventy-three years ago, this Signal Corps induced prototype of a “motorized” division showed how it was possible to bring together 20,000 men into a cohesive fighting force centered around the use of over 1,700 high-tech vehicles and equipment, to create a new form of an infantry division… something the infantry had not done until that point.[1]

As for how the Signal Corps assured that the ground pounders in the 4th Division stuck to their training and kept to the combat communication protocols developed for them, this they did by embedding into the division the 4th Signal Company. A unit fully at the forefront of military technology at the time, the 4th Signal Company made sure that the walkie-talkies, mobile radios, telegraph, and motor and foot messengers spread throughout the division all played their part in imparting to the infantry boys the true scope of the field of battle. Together, under the command of Maj. Gen. Raymond O. Barton, the 4th Infantry Division, with its keystone unit the 4th Signal Company acting as the glue that held it together, not only took to the field of battle but controlled it.

In short order the men broke through German lines along the shore, fighting their way inland to meet up with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at St. Mere Eglise.

For those of you reading our story closely and thinking the name Barton that we just mentioned above may ring a bell, it should... for Barton Field, a plot of land at Fort Gordon we have all marched across endless times, was named after Maj. General Raymond O. Barton, the 4th Infantry Division commander that took the Signal Corps trained 4th Motorized Infantry Division to war.  

Here then we will end our story of how the Signal Corps perfected the model of how a motorized infantry division should work.[2]

As for the 4th Infantry Division, its WWII story continued. Under Maj. General Barton’s leadership the unit went on to fight through France, assault the Siegfried line in Germany, act as a central player in the Battle of the Bulge and the Hurtgen Forest, and more. In all, the 4th Infantry Division, along with the 4th Signal Company, took part in five campaigns: Normandy (with arrowhead), Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The unit also earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation along with three commendations from Belgium.

 



Military Morsels
 

The 4th Signal Company & Motorized Infantry

•   •   •   •

Tactics

In the column at left we looked at how the Signal Corps brought import and substance to the concept of motorizing an infantry unit. Specifically, we looked at how the motorization of an infantry unit added little in the way of value to the infantry’s capabilities, other than to create out of the unit a more tempting, centralized moving target for the enemy to shoot at. Our point was that whether at the company, battalion or division level, unless motorization was accompanied by some form of mobile communication—which in turn had to be layered upon a matching protocol of maneuver—there was little benefit to be had.

The Signal Corps, by bringing communication technology to the equation in a way that enabled the marriage of mobility with a more effective form of command and control over maneuver, turned the concept of motorizing an infantry unit into a winning formula. Specifically, the strategic underpinning the Signal Corps brought to the bargain—as in the case of the 4th Motorized Infantry Division—made the whole concept workable. But what of the tactical elements that were needed to bring the idea to life? How was that to be provided?

General Hugh Foster, U.S. Army Signal CorpsNot surprisingly, the tactical elements that underwrote the operational aspects of how a motorized infantry unit would maneuver in combat was brought to life by the inclusion, in each infantry unit, of a Signals company. Thus it was with the 4th Motorized Infantry Division (a.k.a. 4th Infantry Division) that when the Signal Corps finished overseeing its training at Fort Gordon and sent the unit on to war in Europe, it sent along with it a Signal Company, in the form of the 4th Signal Company.

The 4th Signal Company’s task then was to underwrite the strategic concept of a mobile communication platform for a division level infantry unit, via an actual messaging service able to provide the real time intelligence required for the unit to coordinate its mobile activities. That is, the 4th Signal Company used its tactical capability to communicate while in motion to actually create the strategic value that it was intended would come from the integration of effective forms of mobile communication, within a motorized infantry unit, with mobile focused maneuver and combat protocols.

We might say then that where the Signal Corps developed the strategic elements that made the motorized infantry units of WWII an effective fighting force, it was companies like the 4th Signal Company that gave tactical substance and sting to the combat that took place.

If one looks at the combat history of the 4th Signal Company, one can see this to be true, as during the 4th Motorized Infantry Division’s drive across Europe, the 4th Signal Company provided all of the communications support the 4th Motorized Infantry Division required. In the process it took part in some of the heaviest fighting of the European Theater of Operations, including, as said in our column at left, the Battles of the Hurtgen Forest and the Bulge.

In all, the 4th Signal Company took part in five campaigns, earning plaudits for their work coming ashore in Normandy (with arrowhead, which indicates participation by a unit in an amphibious assault landing), Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The company also earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation along with three commendations from Belgium.

Above the unit awards the 4th Signal Company earned however was still its charge to provide tangible, tactical support for the 4th Infantry Division… support of a type that would enable the Division to fight more effectively, given the strategic forms of mobile communication the Signal Corps had designed for it. In this regard, one of the missing components of the Signal Corps’ overarching strategy for how a motorized infantry unit should communicate was the one relating to how best to encrypt communication so that the enemy could not read the signals being intercepted.

It was here where the 4th Signal Company really earned its stripes, for while many have heard the stories of the famous Code Talkers of WWII, it was with the 4th Signal Company that this concept first gained both ground and credibility. Taking a page from the Army’s war fighting efforts of WWI (yes, World War I)—where the Army employed several Choctaw Indians to handle communications along the Western Front, wherein the Indian’s used their native language to confound the Germans who intercepted their messages—in WWII it was the 4th Signal Company that pressured the Signal Corps into making this unorthodox means of communication a standard form of encryption available to Motorized Infantry units.

Thus it was that back at Fort Gordon, in early 1941, that the Signal Corps decided to resurrect the WWI Indian code talking concept and ready it for deployment among Motorized Infantry Companies in WWII. In the case of the 4th Signal Company, they just happened to be the ones that first brought it to battle… in support of the 4th Infantry Division’s efforts in Europe.

For the 4th Signal Company’s code talking squad, the Army selected seventeen Comanche Indians, transferred them to the Signal Corps, and prepared them to be used as code talking communicators on the field of battle. One by one, as they completed their training, these 17 were assigned to the 4th Signal Company, under the command of Second Lieutenant Hugh F Foster.

During their training at Fort Gordon the Comanches compiled a vocabulary of over 100 military terms. At times they had to be creative as words for certain types of ordnance did not exist in their native language.

For example, since there was no Comanche word for tank, the Comanche code-talkers used their word for turtle. Similarly, while the Comanches had a word for airplane they had none for bomber, and so named bombers “pregnant airplanes.” Machine guns became “sewing machines,” because of their similar sounds... and Adolph Hitler became the “crazy white man,” which in Comanche is posah-tai-vo.

Each of the three infantry regiments (the 8th, 12th and 22d) that made up the 4th Infantry Division had two Comanche code-talkers assigned to it. The remainder were assigned to division headquarters. 

Not surprisingly, the value of these code-talkers became evident within a few minutes of their hitting Utah Beach. As they followed the infantry up the beach, fighting each step of the way to get over the sand dunes and beach barriers and move on towards designated inland gathering places, the 4th Infantry Division and their 4th Signal Company code-talkers encountered intense, crippling German fire.

4th Signal Company Comanche Code-talkersPinned down while still on the beach, the very first radio message sent was by the 4th Signal Company, in Comanche, stating simply and without equivocation “Five miles to the right of the designated area and five miles inland, the fighting is fierce and we need help.”

Seaborne artillery barrages soon cleared the target spot, allowing the 4th Division to move forward.

The 4th Signal Company’s code-talkers served with distinction, both upon landing and throughout the remainder of the war. Yet it was not their unique form of encryption that should be most noted, it was the Signal Corps’ determination to add tactical substance to strategic thinking, in ways that made the efficacy of motorized infantry a reality.

Because of the speed of maneuver motorization and mechanization gave the infantry,  the real time reactionary command and control commanders gained from mobile communication—such that they could "dominate an area of situation"­—and the equally real time encrypted form of communication that the Comanches brought to the table, the Germans found themselves constantly left footed.

After World War II the 4th Signal Company briefly served with the occupation forces in Germany before returning to the United States (July 1945). There it was assigned to Camp Butner, North Carolina.

There the company sat around waiting for another war to mount, until 1946, when it was inactivated on 23 February. Then, two years later it was reactivated one more time and sent to Fort Ord. There it sat for nine more years, until on 1 April 1957 it was again reorganized. This time its name was changed to the 124th Signal Battalion, and the unit sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. There—wonder of wonders—it found itself assigned once again to the 4th Infantry Division, where its story originally started.

On 25 September 1966 the unit found itself deployed to Vietnam. There its mission included establishment and operation of the 4th Infantry Division’s communication system of signal centers, wire, radio trunk and local lines, as well as all of the normal radio/wire integration stations that melded these forms of communication into one real time network.

During its time in Vietnam, the 124th Signal Battalion took part in eleven campaigns and participated in some of the heaviest fighting of the war, including the battle for Dak To and the Tet Offensive. In Vietnam, as it had done in Europe in WWII, the unit earned its stripes.

The First Platoon, Company B, 124th Signal Battalion, earned a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism against enemy forces at Dak To for the period 29 October – 30 November 1967. Company B also earned a Valorous Unit Award while attached to 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, for actions in Quang Ngai Province.

The entire battalion earned two awards of the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, along with a Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class.

On 7 December 1970, the 124th Signal Battalion departed Vietnam and returned to Fort Lewis.

Its post-Vietnam years were just as remarkable, with the unit serving in Kuwait, as well as in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eventually though, with the downsizing that colored the years of the 2000’s, the unit found itself once again on the chopping block. By 2004, with all of the reorganization that was taking place, it was inevitable that the 124th would meet its maker once again. On 16 December 2004 the 124th was deactivated, and remains inactive to this day.

Still, one cannot help but marvel at how the combination of the Signal Corps as an agency, and a lowly little unit in the form of the 4th Signal Company out of Fort Gordon, Georgia, were able to combine their efforts to developed and bring to the fore an effective means for a motorized infantry division to engage in combat.

Their combined strategic thinking in terms of what was needed to enable mobile combat, and the tactical methods, approaches, policies, devices, and technology that was necessary to enable the strategy to work, made it possible for the U.S. Army to get a jump on mobile combat such that, by the time Vietnam and the helicopter came along, the U.S. Infantry was ready to launch an entirely new form of combat mobility—airmobile operations.


 

Footnotes:

[1] Rauch, from a paper entitled "Fort Gordon-trained Soldiers Hit the Beaches at Normandy 60 Years Ago." Click here to return to your place in the text: Return to your place in the text.

[2] After going through a period where the concept of vehicularly motorized infantry went out of favor—in favor of helicopter motorized troops e.g. in the Vietnam War—today the concept is once again in vogue. In great measure this is because of the changing nature of what exactly it is that the military does. Today, because of the increasing use of our military in humanitarian deployments, as well as for the purpose of acting as quasi-police units, there is an increasing need to motorize infantry units. This, plus the trend for motorized infantry to be up-armored to serve in situations such as those relating to the kind of insurgency, terrorism and search and clear missions we saw in post-invasion Iraq, has once again created a need for a motorized infantry. Click here to return to your place in the text: Return to your place in the text.


 

 

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