Saturday, July 25, 2009

WEST POINT Class 1976-Now the GENERALS Leading-'Over There'

and to THINK there is TALK of CLOSING WEST POINT!!!
the 'powers' would not let this machine give you the pictures - so -use the link below the article to see them as Cadets...

* JULY 25, 2009, 4:55 A.M. ET

A Class of Generals
The cadets of 1976 graduated from West Point at a low moment for the Army and its storied training ground. But that year produced the generals running the nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their key deputies. What happened?

West Point, N.Y.

Ray Odierno was a floppy-haired teenager who was recruited into West Point’s class of 1976 to play football. An average student, he spent his free time tailgating outside the military academy’s football stadium and leading excursions to an off-campus bar.

His classmate Stanley McChrystal came from a military family. His idea of a practical joke was mounting a fake assault on one of the campus’s office buildings using decommissioned weapons and “grenades” made out of rolled-up socks. When the prank drew the attention of the military police, then-Cadet McChrystal’s career almost ended.

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Sg. Kani Ronningen/U.S. Army

Gen. Ray Odierno, left, and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph McGee walk the streets of Samarra, Iraq, on an October visit.

Thirty-three years after graduating, the two men are four-star generals running the nation’s two wars. Gen. Odierno is the top officer in Iraq. Gen. McChrystal recently took command in Afghanistan. It’s the first time in West Point’s 207-year history that graduates of the same class command two wars simultaneously.

The class of 1976—who left West Point at a low point for both the Army and its famed training ground—has produced a striking number of generals now influencing the shape of the U.S. military. All told, at least 33 active and retired generals, now all in their mid-50s, were among its 855 graduating members. Gen. McChrystal’s deputy in Kabul, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, was a classmate, as was the officer leading U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi army, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick. Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno, who spent 19 months as the top commander in Afghanistan, was also West Point ’76.

“It’s really sort of unprecedented,” says Stephen Grove, a civilian who recently retired after 30 years as West Point’s official historian. “The class of 1915 is known as ‘the class the stars fell on’ because of graduates like Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower. But you could argue that the class of 1976 is becoming just as influential.”

West Point’s class of 1976 was the first modern generation of military officers to enter the army without serving in Vietnam. They succeed retired generals like Colin Powell and other senior commanders who all had Vietnam experience and spent decades trying to keep the military out of conflicts like Iraq, which they saw as a potential repeat of Vietnam. Gens. Odierno and McChrystal believe that the military will be involved in open-ended, low-intensity conflicts for decades to come and are devoting their careers to making sure that the Army is prepared to fight and win them.
West Point Public Affairs

David William Barno: Retired top commander in Afghanistan

Gen. Odierno was the primary architect of the troop “surge” in Iraq, which helped to sharply reduce the country’s unrelenting violence. In Baghdad, he and several classmates now face the daunting task of preserving possible success in Iraq as U.S. troop levels decline significantly.

Gen. McChrystal oversaw the secretive Special Operations forces who captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and killed terror leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He was hand-picked to run operations in Afghanistan after the Obama administration publicly ousted his predecessor earlier this year. He and Gen. Rodriguez are overseeing a large troop buildup while devising a new strategy for reversing the Afghanistan’s recent decline.

The graduates of West Point’s class of 1976 have become some of the foremost military evangelists of counterinsurgency thinking, a strategy that focuses on protecting the civilian population rather than killing enemy fighters. It’s a far-reaching and controversial shift for the military, which has traditionally made fighting large-scale wars its top priority.

“My generation is not afraid of change because we have been through it before and seen that it can be a positive thing for the Army,” Gen. Odierno says in an interview. “The difference is that now we’re the ones responsible.”

From its hilly campus of Gothic stone buildings on a rocky bluff overlooking the Hudson River, West Point prides itself on a sense of timelessness, describing all of its graduates—regardless of when they attended the school—as part of the “long gray line” that stretches back to the school’s founding on the site of a former Revolutionary War fort in 1802.
West Point Public Affairs

Frank Gunther Helmick: Leading U.S. efforts to train Iraqi troops

The members of West Point’s class of ’76 began their military careers at what turned out to be an opportune moment. The military academy had doubled in size a few years earlier, so there were more slots for applicants. They enrolled in 1972, as the Vietnam War was beginning to wind down. And they joined an Army that was becoming a far more professional and diverse force, as the conscript military of the Vietnam era made way for today’s all-volunteer force.

Most of the generals say that they came to West Point because their fathers or brothers had served and they felt obligated to follow suit. Gen. Odierno’s father fought in World War II, for instance, and all of the male members of Mr. Barno’s family served in the armed forces.

Off campus, they faced hostility. Brig. Gen. Keith Walker says he was spit upon when he wore his uniform in New York City. Mr. Barno, the retired three-star general, remembers Syracuse students throwing eggs at him when he visited the school for a football game. Gen. Odierno, who stands a stocky 6’5”, says he tried to avoid wearing military clothing outside school grounds.

“You’d make some conscious decisions about when to wear the uniform,” he says.

The school was also rocked by the largest cheating scandal in school history. More than 150 cadets resigned or were expelled in 1976 for cheating on a take-home electrical engineering exam, though 98 were reinstated the following year. None of the current and former generals from the class were implicated in the affair. A widely reprinted Time magazine cover from the time showed a West Point cadet with his fingers crossed behind his back above the caption, “What Price Honor?”

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U.S. soldiers patrol a village in Afghanistan's Pesh Valley.

Gen. Odierno remembers being told to pull some younger cadets out of formation because they were suspected of being involved in the cheating scandal.

“I was just surprised by how many were involved,” Gen. Odierno says. “The next surprise was how they tried to accuse everyone else who was at the academy of cheating.”

The class was also embroiled in a raging debate over whether West Point should admit women. The first female cadets entered West Point, on a Congressional order and over the public objections of the school’s then-superintendent, just weeks after the class of 1976 graduated.

“We thought the world was going to end when women started coming to West Point,” says Gen. Walker, who now helps lead the U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi army. He says that his views changed after he graduated and began serving with smart, hard-working female soldiers. His daughter Laura later enrolled at West Point, graduating in 2003.

Gen. Odierno grew up in Rockaway, N.J., a town of roughly 6,000 a few hours from West Point’s campus. He was recruited to play football, but injured his knee and finished his athletic career as a pitcher for the West Point baseball team.

Gen. McChrystal was born into a prominent military family. His father, Herbert, was a two-star Army general who served in Germany after World War II. In Gen. McChrystal’s family of five boys and one girl, all either served in the military or married someone in the Armed Forces. One brother spent several years as the head chaplain at West Point.

They first met as first-year West Point “plebes” in the fall of 1972. At the time, Mike Krzyzewski, who later found fame at Duke, was in his second season as the head coach of the Army basketball team. Barry McCaffrey, who later became a four-star general and an early advocate of using counterinsurgency in Iraq, was a young major teaching a popular course in West Point’s Department of Social Sciences that several of the generals attended.
West Point Public Affairs

Stanley Allen McChrystal: Top fficer in Afghanistan

The black-and-white yearbook entries tell of Gen. Odierno: “Whether it was tailgating at Michie [stadium] or excursions to the Camelot, ‘OD’ was always among friends.” For Gen McChrystal: “Competitiveness, dedication and desire made ‘Mac’ the friend we know and respect...inherent in his success was the infamous Grant Hall raid.”

First-year students weren’t allowed to leave campus. Teachers gave tests almost every day. Classes were held on Saturdays, and attendance—even for members of the school’s sports teams, which typically played on Saturday afternoons—was mandatory.

On Oct. 20, 1973, tens of thousands of college football fans streamed into West Point’s Michie Stadium to see Army face off against undefeated Notre Dame. ”I was in sophomore math class at 8 a.m. before kicking off against Notre Dame at 1 p.m.” says retired Army Col. Bob McClure, a member of the West Point class of 1976 who played on the football team with Gens. Odierno and Rodriguez. “Those were the rules.”

West Point was overpowered, 62-3.

In 1972, their first year at the academy, Gen. Odierno and his classmates were sitting in the academy’s main dining hall when a pep rally timed to an impending Army-Air Force football game turned into an enormous food fight. “It was like ‘Animal House’ on steroids,” says Maj. Gen. Guy Swan, now Gen. Odierno’s chief of staff in Baghdad.

Flying potatoes and hot dogs damaged a decades-old painting of scenes from military battles from the Crusades to World War I. “I just remember throwing fruit cocktail wrapped in paper napkins at this old, beautiful painting,” says Mr. Barno, a retired three-star general who spent 19 months as the top commander in Afghanistan. “The height of my maturity.”

At its 25th reunion in 2001, the class of 1976 donated $500,000 to repair the painting.
West Point Public Affairs

Raymond Thomas Odierno: Top officer in Iraq

For a prank military raid on Grant Hall, an ornate office building in the heart of the school’s campus, Gen. McChrystal borrowed vintage weapons from the school’s museum, for research purposes, he told professors at the time. One night, Gen. McChrystal and a handful of classmates donned their fatigues, armed themselves with vintage Thompson machine guns and fake grenades, and assaulted the four-story building.

“There were some ladies visiting the campus who went white with fear when they saw these barbarians running at the building throwing grenades,” Mr. McClure says. “The guys were lucky that they didn’t get punished too badly for that one.”

Gen. Odierno and Gen. McChrystal were friendly at school and, years after graduation, attended the Army’s Command and General Staff College, a sort of finishing school for rising stars, together. At the staff college, the two men lived near each other, and their wives became friends as well.

Gen. Odierno deployed to Iraq in April 2003 as the commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. Early on, internal military reviews criticized the division for being overly aggressive and conducting indiscriminate mass arrests of Sunni males. Later, though, the division played a key role in capturing fugitive Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. When Mr. Hussein was found in an underground bunker in December 2003, Gen. Odierno famously said the Iraqi leader had “been caught like a rat.”

The professional triumph was followed by a personal tragedy. In August 2004, Gen. Odierno’s son Anthony, an Army captain, was badly injured when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through his Humvee near Baghdad. Anthony Odierno, who had followed his father to West Point, lost his left arm and retired from the military. Gen. Odierno returned to Iraq in December 2006 as the day-to-day commander of all U.S. forces there. He found the country mired in a civil war that Iraq’s nascent security forces were unable to contain. Gen. Odierno told his aides that the U.S. and its allies would be unable to improve the country’s security situation without more troops and began pressing the Pentagon for five to 10 brigades of reinforcements. He got his way when President Bush’s announced plans to “surge” 30,000 new troops to Iraq a short time later.

Gen. McChrystal made his name commanding elite Special Operations units like the Army’s Delta Force, whose existence the government won’t formally acknowledge. Most of the details of his career remain classified.

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Zuma Press

At the U.S. military outpost in Kunar, Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal, second from left, gets a briefing from officers.

As a young officer, Gen. McChrystal shuttled between the conventional army and assignments commanding Army Rangers and Special Forces personnel. He later did fellowships at Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, to which he would jog from his home in Brooklyn, some 10 miles away.

In 2003, Gen. McChrystal was put in command of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversaw elite units in Iraq like Delta Force and the Navy’s Seal Team Six. That December, his operatives found and captured Mr. Hussein.

His forces developed the ability to raid a target, mine useful intelligence from cellphones and computers at the scene, and then immediately launch follow-on missions against other militants, say military and intelligence personnel who served in Iraq under Gen. McChrystal. His “special mission units” were devoted to hunting specific militant leaders inside Iraq. For more than a year, their top target: Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the believed mastermind of dozens of suicide bombings who had personally beheaded an American contractor.

In June 2006, Gen. McChrystal’s commandos tracked Mr. Zarqawi to a safe house near the restive city of Baquba. An American F-16 dropped two 500-pound bombs on the house, obliterating the structure and mortally wounding Mr. Zarqawi.

Gen. McChrystal raced to the site of the bombed-out building from his Baghdad base to help his troops identify the terror leader’s body. Gen. McChrystal looked down at Mr. Zarqawi, dressed entirely in black and strapped to a stretcher, and nodded his head once.
West Point Public Affairs

David Mitchell Rodriguez: Deputy in command in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal is trying to determine which tactics from Iraq to import and which to disregard. He has already signaled that he plans to replicate one of Gen. Odierno’s key innovations in Iraq: building small outposts in individual neighborhoods and towns to help protect the local population. It’s unclear if he’ll follow Gen. Odierno’s lead and seek to also build local militias charged with battling al Qaeda and other terror groups, a move some Afghan officials Afghans fear will lead to the return of warlordism.

Iraq has become the scene of an ad hoc class reunion in recent months, with members of West Point’s class of 1976, including Gens. Helmick, Swan and Walker, all serving under Gen. Odierno.

“A few months ago, there were four or five guys from the class in the same room and we started trading stories about West Point,” Gen. Odierno says. “The other 10 people were pretty bored, but we were having a great time.”

Together, the classmates have navigated personal tragedies. Gen. Walker’s daughter Laura was serving in Afghanistan in the summer of 2005 when a roadside bomb exploded underneath her Humvee. Lt. Walker, 24, was killed in the Aug. 18 blast.

At the time, Guy Swan had known Keith Walker for more than 33 years. They’d graduated West Point together, attended Ranger School together, and spent several years as neighbors. When Laura Walker’s remains arrived at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base, Gen. Swan was at his friend’s side.

“Guy Swan was standing right there next to me,” Gen. Walker says. “He wouldn’t let me be there alone.”
West Point Public Affairs


JGregg said...

Great post. Amazing. I watched on Hulu a WONDERFUL PBS (I know, sounds like an oxymoron) piece on West Point. I want my kids to go to any of the academies they choose, but West Point has such an incredible history. - Jg.

christian soldier said...

I love West Point- have you ever visited the site?-it's awesome...
Thank you for stopping by...

christian soldier said...

BTW-I hope your kids do get into the academy of their choice-