My old brigade commander, H. Norman Schwartzkopf, has passed away at the age of 78. I never met him personally, but I was one of his troops when I served in the 1st Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, in the late 70’s. He was a colonel at the time, and at the end of his tour he was promoted to brigidier general. I remember him mostly for the effect that he had on the morale of my immediate comrades in C Company 2nd Battalion 39th Infantry. His predecessor was not a bad commander, but Schwartzkopf was quite simply excellent. The entire command seemed impressed with him, and I think we felt more like a military unit than a show-boat. The reason I say that is because our previous commander seemed more interested in showing off in various ways than anything else. What Schwartzkopf wanted, and what he got, was an effective military organization that was capable of performing its assigned mission, had it been called upon to perform it.
I remember the morning we found out that Colonel Schwartzkopf was getting his first star as a brigidier general. He had our three battalion commanders gather us all into a single formation on the brigade parade ground, which was a first; and after a great deal of trouble by our battalion leaders to get us into a very precise and regular formation, the first thing he did after mounting the reviewing platform was to call us to break formation and gather around the platform! All that work undone in a moment! This got a bit of a laugh from some of the troops, actually.
Colonel Schwartzkopf, not being a blowhard, was quite brief in his remarks. I remember it slightly differently from his own report of the event in his book. He informed us that the Army had made a big mistake: they were going to promote him to brigidier general. He gave us much of the credit for this through our support of him as our commander by our striving to be our best, and then gave us the rest of the day off. His book attributes the bit about the Army making a mistake to a conversation he had with a colleague upon receiving the news of the promotion, while expressing it differently to the troops, but I was there and he repeated this “mistake” remark to us.
But the main thing was, Colonel Schwartzkopf clearly cared for the troops under his command. I served 8 years in the Army, and while I knew some good officers, Schwartzkopf was arguably the best of them. It was no surprise to me that he managed to pull off the invasion and liberation of Kuwait with such great success.
May he rest in peace.