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July 2016

— This Month —

Up And Out

What's The Difference Between An E-2 And A Second Lieutenant?


Signal Corps: The Nerves Of The Army

Huh? What Did He Say??

- - - - -


Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's 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 We are here to serve you. 


From the editor's desk

More summer entertainment this month, this time we have a video for you that tells of the Signal Corps back in the 1950s. Back then the Signal Corps was a strange animal, when compared to what it became during the Vietnam War, and especially today.

Take the time to watch it, and float back in time to see what Army life could have been like for you in the 50s... if only you were not still in short pants, running around playing tag with the other kids on the block.

Before you check that out though, we have a bit of good news for you about the Army. Well... not exactly for you, but for your grandkids. Read our update below about changes now underway in how the Army will be handling promotions. Then get busy finding a good ROTC program for that grandchild who keeps asking you questions about what it was like to be in the Army, Grandpa.

Enjoy your summer...

Managing Editor


Up And Out

U.S. Army: Bleeging Talent

What's The Difference Between An E-2 And A Second Lieutenant...

...the E-2's been promoted.

Remember what is was like after Vietnam ended? That time when you had to decide if there was a career for you in the Army—an Army without a war to fight? Remember when, as a young First Lieutenant or Captain, you tried to figure out what it takes to get promoted? Remember the first time you heard the phrase “Up or Out”?

Up or out, a 100 year old entrenched promotion policy that served the military for what seems… well, like an eternity. Strange as the policy might have been, for the most part it served the military well. That is, back in the old days when all an Officer from the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on down needed to know was leadership and logistics management, up or out proved to be a simple and good means of deciding who to keep in the Army and who to encourage to leave. With up or out being the deciding factor, it was inevitable that only the best would stay in the Army.

Now though, those days are over. Not the policy of up or out being over, mind you, but the need for Officers from the rank of Light Colonel on down only needing to know leadership and logistics, or those above the rank being just fine if they also knew combat tactics, combined force management and a bit about military history. Instead, in today’s Army there’s something new every Officer must know—technology.

With up or out, if you knew those few things we listed above, kept your nose clean and your temper in check, and had a mentor of sorts with a rank at least two levels above you, then you stood a chance of making the Army a career. But that’s not the case anymore. Today you need to know what technology can do for you, and how to use it at every level of the game.

And so up or out as the determining factor in deciding who gets to have a career in the Army and who doesn’t, is being enhanced with another policy designed to make sure those that keep the Army’s technology and specialty areas working—the guys who are central to the combat boys being able to do their job—stay in the Army.

The problem isn’t that up or out as a base level policy is or was wrong, it’s that the concept of using promotion as a gauge as to who the best soldiers were that the Army should keep doesn’t work when it comes to the Officers (and EMs) in the specialty and technology service areas. Why? Because those guys hardly ever get promoted. Let’s face it, how many Electronic Warfare Full Colonels do you need? Those kinds of Officers… let us call them specialty and technology discipline area technologists… tend to get promoted very, very slowly once they make the rank of Major.

Part of this is because these guys know less than the average combat Officer about traditional field based areas of  leadership, logistics, combat tactics, combined force management and military history, and part of it is because there simply isn’t a need for 2,500 Colonels and Brigadier Generals in the, say, Systems Automation functional area.

Yet try to run a war without them.

So what’s happening is that the Army has been bringing people into these areas—areas like Electronic Warfare, the Cyber Branch, Information Operations, Strategic Intelligence, Psychology Operations, Space Operations, Foreign Area Officers, ORSA (Operations Research/Systems Analysis), Systems Automation, Simulation Operations, Strategic Plans and Policy development, and a bunch of other arcane areas deep inside the Signal Corps—and training them… only to lose them in 6 to 10 years when they realize that there's no path of promotion for them.

As you can imagine, it costs money to train people in these disciplines—disciplines that are in huge demand in the civilian world, and where pay levels can be 4 to 6 times higher than that of the Army. The result: no path for promotion means no career… which means that any technologist with a head on his shoulders already has his resume out in the civilian sector. For these technologists, the best of the best are leaving the Army.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT



Army Specialties


Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 1 July 2016. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 1 July We found a bunch of pictures sent to us long ago about Candidate Erling Jensen. Candidate Jensen graduated in OCS Class 42-05, on June 3, 1942. That means that unlike many OCS gradates who graduated towards the end of WWII, and spent their time in Europe after the war had already ended, doing clean up work, Erling was in the thick of it. One of the photos in his collection shows a military record of his assignments. Erling served in the Tunisian campaign, as well as in the Normandy landing, the Northern France Campaign, and each of the battles of the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. As a Signal Officer he carried more than his share of the load. While all we have of his story is what is in the pictures we found, Candidate Erling Jensen epitomizes what this website's attempt to archive the stories of all who graduated Signal OCS is all about... capturing the heart and soul of those who fought for America. Click here to see his mini-bio page. October 2015 reunion pictures

Update 30 May Happy Memorial Day. As you enjoy your barbecue and beers this Memorial Day keep in mind that on this very day—today, May 30, 2016—over 1,800 WWII Vets will die. Think of it: 1,800 today, and then another 1,800 tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that... and so on. That's the rate at which these best of the best are disappearing. Please, take a moment during your day today to find a quiet spot and take a knee. Say a prayer for them... a prayer of thanks that when America needed these men of the greatest generation, they were there for us.

Update 1 May Vietnam Vets are pushing the VA to link Bladder Cancer to Agent Orange. If you suffer from Bladder Cancer, keep yourself informed on their progress. October 2015 reunion pictures



Continued from left column... 

Fortunately, Defense Secretary Ash Carter recognized this problem and has announced that the Pentagon's entrenched 100-year-old up or out promotion system is going to be changed. It’s being changed to find a way to keep high value, high-tech experts and specialists on the job.

Carter’s proposals are largely aimed at making it easier for the military services to attract and retain good quality people and keep them in jobs where they excel, even though their rank may not progress as their career does. The “fix” to the up or out program will allow the service Branches to bypass the up or out rules in any case where the service feels that the kind of people doing the job are needed… both on a group level, as well as on an individual level. Recognizing that the present promotions system does not give credit for experience and training that occurred along slightly different timelines, even if it benefited the military, or training in non-traditional military areas, Carter stepped forward and admitted that "Sometimes this system has led us to lose good people."

The new advancement policies haven’t been fully fleshed out yet, and when they are they will require congressional approval, but while some complaints about changing the old system are already coming to the fore, for the most part there is general support for giving the military greater flexibility in doing what has to be done to keep good people… as long as the historical system isn’t eliminated.

We doff our hat to Defense Secretary Carter. He has recognized and is moving to fix a fundamental problem the Army has always had, one that is hurting the military more today than ever. The old up or out system, while serving a good purpose since the earliest days, has tied its leader’s hands, making it harder for the Services to compete with the real world for talent.

Today, as the Defense Secretary works to beef up innovation and technology within the military, this problem must be fixed. Changes like the one Carter recently outlined, which will require that the law be changed before it goes into effect, will allow a Major or Captain to remain at their rank for years—or even for their entire career—if they are highly skilled in a critical field such as cyberwarfare or some other important and needed technical area.

Carter gets it. This kind of thinking is what the Army needs, and we applaud it. If it had been around when the Vietnam War ended, many of us who could see the writing on the wall—and knew we faced a dead end career if we stayed in the Army—would have stuck around and tried to make a go of it.

So if you’ve got grandkids that you want to point towards the Army… especially the Signal Corps… but have been reluctant because of the military RIFs that come along after every war, and the up and out policy that kills careers dead in their tracks, put your mind at ease. Sit down, talk to them, point them in the direction of a STEM based education, and then point them towards the Army. Today there’s both a home in the Army for the best and brightest, and a career.


Military Morsels

Signal Corps: The Nerves Of The Army

•   •   •   •

Huh? What Did He Say???

I must have been asleep that day in Army Signal OCS. That day when they told us that officially, the U.S. Army Signal Corps' motto was "Nerves Of The Army.”

I always thought it was Pro Patria Vigilans… meaning Watchful for the Country. I guess I was wrong... somehow that Nerves Of The Army thing escaped me.

Now that I think back on it, I distinctly remember the motto of the 1st Armored Division, where I spent time training before I went to Vietnam. How could I forget it, emblazoned as it was on my arm: Old Ironsides.

And then too there was the 1st Signal Brigade, where I first landed in Vietnam. Their motto was "First to Communicate," something I remember learning over the… oh… two or three days I spent there before they sent me on to the 459th Signal Battalion, in Nha Trang.

Considering that I spent less than an hour in the 459th’s HQ before they sent me on to my next post, I think I’m doing well after all these years to remember that their motto was "A Terra Ad Astra"… From Earth To The Stars.

But the 459th wasn't my last stop. Somehow the Battalion Commander had this notion that after only a half dozen days in country, the best place for me was not sitting behind some cushy desk in his HQ, in Nha Trang, but somewhere further down the line. And so with nary a wave goodbye, he sent me down to the 518th Signal Company.

Also in Nha Trang, but being only a Company, Army regulations didn’t allow the 518th Signal Company to have an official motto of their own… but they took one on anyway. As it were, only Army regiments and separate battalions were authorized back then (and still today) to have coats of arms. And for those of you who have forgotten, a coat of arms includes a shield, a crest and a motto.

Yup, I'll never forget the guys of the 518th. They didn't give a damn. They gave themselves a motto anyway… “Can Do.”

I loved that motto, and took pride in the idea of being part of an expanded Microwave, VHF and Tropospheric Scatter communication company of over 1,500 men, spread all throughout Vietnam, having a Can Do attitude.

It’s a good thing I did, because when I got to the 518th the first thing their C.O. did after teaching me their motto was post me out to the Central Highlands, up on top of a 7,800 foot high mountain called Lang Bian (aka Lang Bien), where I spent the next 7 months running a signal platoon outpost up above the clouds.

This was my first real combat posting, and I expected a lot of surprises. What I did not expect though was that when I called my platoon together for the first time my men would proudly tell me that even they, a lowly platoon out in the boonies, had a motto: “Commo Guys Standing Tall, First To Fight, Last To Fall.”

I laughed under my breath when I heard it. It seemed like a bit much—after all, we were just a bunch of Signaleers, running a microwave site up on a hill. But then two weeks later when I was ordered by our site’s C.O. (an Infantry Captain) to pick 6 men and run a three day Search and Clear mission around our perimeter, I got the message. The motto they picked said it all.

Now, after so many years, it’s funny that with all of that moving around the Signal Corps I never encountered the motto Nerves Of The Army.

Yet there it is… front and center, in the movie just below. Check it out.

 Time: 00:27:53 

Back in the 1950s the Army Pictorial Service produced a series of television programs called The Big Picture. The last episode was produced in 1971.

The one we have for you this month is about… naturally… the Signal Corps. It talks of the Signal Corps’ mission, to provide support for the command and control of combined arms forces, and shows you what being in the Signal Corps was like back in those days … before the Vietnam War kicked in. It also talks of the Signal Corps' motto, the Nerves Of The Army.

Enjoy it. And if somewhere along the way you can figure out a) where the Signal Corps motto that they talk of, Nerves Of The Army, came from—or better still, what happened to it… drop us a note.

Nerves Of The Army, Watchful for the Country, First to Communicate, From Earth To The Stars, all with a Can Do attitude, just a bunch of Commo Guys Standing Tall, First To Fight, Last To Fall… now THAT'S what I’m talking about! 

Go Army!

Back our boys in Vietnam!




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