While a senior in high school I went to the United States Army recruiting office in the city of Costa Mesa. I was a student pilot at the local flight club at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, and I had the dream of becoming an Army aviator. Immediately after graduating high school I applied for the WOFT (Warrant Officer Flight Program) at 18 years of age. After undergoing a written flight exam, a three officer panel oral board, and a flight physical I was qualified for the program, and my paperwork was submitted through the proper Army channels to Fort Rucker, Alabama by U.S. Army recruiter Staff Sergeant Smeltzer (Santa Ana District Recruiting Command). According to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) I was to wait for my class date, and once it came through I was to go in with the pay grade of a sergeant (E-5), and attend flight school.
After a few weeks "in the holding pattern" I was told by my recruiter that the next WOFT class date could be approximately six months away, and that he had an idea. The idea was to get Boot Camp "out of the way, and probably AIT (Advance Individual Training) as well in order to get a secondary MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)" while waiting for the WOFT class date to be announced. Apparently SSG Smeltzer did not know that this would cause a foul up in the system. Not fully understanding the system, nor my recruiter apparently, I took Staff Sergeant Smeltzer's advice and I was shipped off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to attend Basic Combat Training (BCT) with Company D, 8th Battalion, 2nd Brigade.
In the sixth week of BCT someone from the WOFT program at Fort Rucker, Alabama contacted my training Brigade in order to send my WOFT packet back to me, because they had assumed that I no longer was interested in becoming an Army aviator because my recruiter had enlisted me as a Radio Operator. I immediately notified Staff Sergeant Smeltzer back home. He tried to fix the problem on his end.
Without the WOFT situation fixed I graduated from BCT, and then was shipped off to Fort Gordon, Georgia to attend the Signal Corps' Radio Operator school with the MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) 05B10. It was here that I learned how to operate field radios and how to set up communication systems in a combat environment. While engaged in my studies at this military school I also tried on my end to let the people in charge of the WOFT program know about the mistake that had happened, but the problem still remained after I graduated from my course with the Signal Corps. I was then assigned to the HHC 43rd Engineer Battalion, Combat, Heavy at Fort Benning, Georgia. This was to be my duty station.
My responsibilities as a Radiotelephone Operator (RTO) included:
1. Maintaining communications with higher headquarters, and within the combat unit.
Just when I had come to believe that the Army had forgot about my petition to get back into the WOFT program the Army admitted to me their mistake, thanks to a little pressure I brought upon them by writing to my congressman back home, the honorable Robert E. Badham. My battalion commander gave me the choice of reapplying for the WOFT program, with no guarantees be addmitted into the program within the remaining years of his service, or receive an Honorable Discharge. I sensed the politics involved in the matter, for I had definitely stepped on some toes getting my congressman involved, so I took the second option.
Of course, I was crushed. I wanted to stay in the Army, and wanted to become a helicopter pilot. It is what I had been dreaming about throughout that last half of high school. I was a student pilot who had already soloed. Yet, I was not going to stay in the Army just for the sake of staying in. Even back then I was a goal oriented person, and at 18 years old being in a combat unit as a radio operator was not in my plans. I enjoyed it, and I was grateful for the training, but that was not why I joined the Army. I was also a fighter, a martial artist, and when my recruiter's word was not kept I "fought" the United States Army. I didn't care how big or how powerful they were, but at the time I was angry. I didn't blame the whole Army, but I blamed a few individuals in the Army. Even though I "won," I still "lost," because I did not become a helicopter pilot. Of course, the Army lost also, because they would have had a dedicated aviator for several years. Yet, God had other plans for me, and untimately the new path led me in a direction I never dreamed of: advertising > custody officer > police officer > S.W.A.T. officer > defensive tactics and combatives instructor > deputy sheriff > a sergeant > team leader of a bodyguard unit > national and international self-defense and tactis instructor > federal counterterrorist agent > owner of my own self-defense training company > knife designer > private security and executive protection > here.
My time in the Armed Forces was only five years after the Vietnam War, but it was quite an interesting time for United States military. While I was serving the Iranians had American hostages held in Tehran, and it was out with President Jimmy Carter and in with President Ronald Reagan. This was the Cold War. This was also a very turbulent time in Central America.
One morning I, along with the entire company, was pulled out of bed while it was still dark and cold outside, and told to get into full combat gear. "Boys, we're all going to El Salvador!" the company commander barked out. Not two hours later my platoon had to load jeeps and equipment onto train cars, and the C130s were all reving up their engines on the tarmacs of the nearby airfield. We all thought we were going to war, but after three days of preparing we given the order to "stand down." President Reagan had got what he wanted without military intervention. Yet, despite the lack of conflict at the time, the military was a defining moment in the way that I would approach the martial arts later on in life. It was the planting of the seeds of reality-based concepts.
Although I did not get exactly what I wanted from the Army, and that was to be an Army Aviator, I did get some valuable training and experiences out of it nonetheless. Yet, little did I know back then that I would one day be training not only U.S. Army units, but the Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard as well, plus foreign units as well. I would also find myself once again enlisting in the military as a middle aged man, and teaching combatives and combat tactics to soldiers.