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Classmate Wheless, Robert "Lee", Maj. (R) Class 13-66

-  "Batman"  -


Candidate WhelessI was born at 3:15am on 11 November, 1942, in Raleigh, North Carolina. We moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where my Dad worked for the Defense Department, painting and lettering military aircraft during the 2nd World War. After the war we moved to Virginia, where my Dad opened an Auto Body and Paint Shop and worked at it for the next 40 years. I grew up around that shop, and learned the business from the bottom up.

I met Peggy Dallas Hagood at Manchester High School, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and we married on 28 October, 1959, I was 16 years old.

In May, 1960, I enlisted in the US Army, took basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and attended Radio Relay and Carrier (then MOS 293, later it was re-designated as MOS 31M) school at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I was assigned to Company "B" of the 50th Signal Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carollina. I went to Paratrooper School on Fort Bragg in one of the last classes held there before they began sending applicants to Fort Benning, Georgia. Our mission in the 50th Signal was to supply communications support from the 82nd Airborne Division back to Corps headquarters while deployed in a tactical position. I served as a Radio Relay & Carrier Team Chief and attained the rank of Sergeant E-5 prior to my discharge in May of 1963.  

After a short break in service, I reenlisted and was sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, to attend Morse Intercept Operator School (MOS 058, later re-designated as 05H), and was subsequently assigned to TUSLOG Detachment 27, in Turkey, with the Army Security Agency.      

Towards the end of 1965 I was accepted for attendance at the US Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant, with Class 13, in July of 1966. I went on to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to attend the Signal Equipment Repair & Maintenance Officer School (MOS 4415), and upon completion was assigned to the 160th Signal Group at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Assigned as the commander of the 54 man Headquarters Detachment, and as Asstistant S-4 Officer, I had the responsibility of taking the unit to the Republic of South Vietnam, in June of 1967. After about 4 months at Long Binh, I was reassigned to the 69th Signal Battalion at Ton Son Nhut Airbase. I worked for the Bn. S-3 as the Battalion Control Officer, BATCON, and was often referred to as the Batalion "Batman." 

After Vietnam I was assigned as the Company Commander of the US Army Communications Unit, Army Security Agency, Europe, in Frankfurt, Germany. This 250 man unit, including 1 commissioned officer and 5 Chief Warrant Officers, was responsible for the maintenance and operation of a vital Primary CRITICOMM Relay Station. This facility served as the primary critical communications relay facility for continental Europe. After this command I was assigned as the Chief of Control/Analysis Branch, US Army HQS, Army Security Agency, Europe. I left Germany to attend the Signal Officer Advance Course at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

In 1971 I was assigned as the Chief Communications Branch Director, Communications & Electronics, HQS Fort Eustis, Virginia. I coordinated all installations and repairs of base communications, including the telephone dial exchange, the post cable system, data processing communications center, and the MARS radio station. In 1973 I was selected  the Army's Reduction in Force program and in September, once again left the Army.

In 1974 I reenlisted in the Army Signal Corps and attended the Fixed Station Technical Controller Course at Fort Monmouth, NJ (MOS 32D). At completion of this school I was assigned to the 267th Signal Company, in Pirmasens, Germany. Here I served as a Shift supervisor and a senior technical controller. Our work included locating faults or degradation in communication networks, implementing procedures for testing transmissions, coordinating with circuit users to accomplish activations and deactivations, handling special circuit conditioning and testing to ensure circuit quality, and implementing rerouting procedures due to outages or degradations in quality.

In 1977 I left Germany to attend the US Army's Nuclear Power Operators School (MOS 52E, 1 year long) at the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. This course included academic subjects for solving a variety of mathematical problems applicable to electrical engineering, applied physics, and mechanical and electrical engineering concepts, as well as print reading, electrical distribution components, and circuits. As an SFC, Senior Prime Power Production Specialist, I was part of a detachment deployed to Lake Placid, New York, in support of the 1980 Winter Olympics. We setup large power generators (diesel and gas turbine) as emergency back up power for the games. As a reserve commissioned officer, on active duty in enlisted status, I was promoted to Major O-4 in 1979.

I retired with 20 year's of Army service in 1981.

My awards and decorations include: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal w/3rd award, Parachute Wings, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/palm, Overseas Service Ribbon 3rd award, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (served in Counter Offensive Phase II, Phase III, TET Counter Offensive, and Counter Offensive Phase IV), Presidential Unit Citation, Driver's Wheel Badge.

Since I left the Army I have been self employed as a Goldsmith/Jeweler and Gemologist. I performed wholesale jewelry repairs including precious stone setting and identification, custom made items including handmade and lost wax cast pieces, ring sizing, prong and chain repair, bead stringing, sterling silver repair, and jewelry appraisals.

In 1986 I completed a Bachelors degree in Geology, with a minor in Military Science, at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 1989 I joined a Smithsonian Institute research team in Costa Rica, for study of the volcano Arenal for 14 days.

In 2000 I volunteered as a Spotsylvania County firefighter, graduated from Firefighter I School, and served at Chancellor Company 7.

In 2003 I completed a Masters of Arts Degree in Physical Science and Liberal Studies at the University of Mary Washington (formerly Mary Washington College) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Also in 2003 I applied for and received a U.S. Merchant Mariners Document (MMD), and a Federal Communications Commission License for Radiotelephone Operator, in preparation for applying for a position in the communications department on sea going vessels with the Military Sealift Command, in support of the US Navy. In November of 2004 I was offered a position as described, but had to decline due to a family illness.

In June 2005 I retired from full time work, and now work only two days a week.

Maj (R) Wheless, a few years agoMaj (R) Lee Wheless, todayMaj (R) Wheless, last year

This page originally posted 8 January, 2009. Pictures updated 24 February, 2009.

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