7th Army cooperation assures success for '3rd lieutenants'
BERLIN — The cooperation of 7th Army combat troops to West Point "3rd lieutenants" is making the cadet summer overseas training program a huge success, the deputy commandant of the U.S. Military Academy declared here.
Some 650 cadets from the classes of '65 and '66 are serving 30-day summer tours — with an alternate month's leave — as junior officers and platoon leaders in 7th Army combat units for tactical experience.
Col Robert M. Tarbox, deputy commandant at West Point, arrived in Germany last week to check on results of the summer overseas training for upperclassmen.
Here with a group of cadets on a Berlin Brigade tour of the city's East and West sectors scheduled for the West Pointers, Tarbox said he is enthusiastic and "highly pleased" with progress of the program.
He said the so-called "3rd lieutenant" tours were first tried out in the 101st Airborne Div at Ft. Campbell, Ky., then extended to Europe in 1960.
"The training overseas has proven so profitable only because 7th Army officers and NCOs make every effort to help and advise the cadets in performing their field duties," Tarbox maintained.
Steve Harmon, of St. Louis, Mo., and cadet lieutenant in charge of the group which Tarbox accompanied to East Berlin, was assigned during July to the 25th Signal Bn at Karlsruhe, Germany.
He commanded a platoon constructing telephone communications in the Black Forest near Freiburg.
"What surprised and impressed me most," said Harmon, "was that I was given the responsibility to take 40 men into the field strictly on my own. The month was invaluable to me."
William Hecker, also a first classman and hometown friend of Harmon, pulled his month of 3rd lieutenant duty as a platoon leader with the 1st Sq, 2nd Armd Cav, at Bayreuth.
"I soon learned that patrolling the border along Communist East Germany is serious business. My men and the Volunteer Peoples Police-the VOPOs — were peering through their sights at each other night and day," Hecker said.
His biggest "bang" of the whole tour came before dawn one morning when a rabbit touched off a land mine in the cleared no-man's-land along East Germany's barbed-wire barricade, said Hecker.
"For a moment, I thought we were in for trouble," he said.
Dan Steinwald, a third cadet from Buffalo, N.Y., who served with Co B in the 3rd Armd Div's 1st Bn, 36th Inf, at Freidburg, said he wasn't prepared for the complexities of a platoon leader's duties.
"It's a particularly difficult assignment and there's plenty that a platoon leader must know-his men, his weapons and his vehicles.
"My platoon sergeant who was a combat veteran of World War II and Korea with 20 years in the Army really pulled me through. He took me by the hand when I needed help but he treated me like I was going to be the permanent platoon leader," Steinwald concluded.