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1st Sgt. Gerald Williams, Jr., left, shows an M-4 carbine to retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow. When Snow joined the Army in 1947, the M-1 Garand was standard issue.

1st Sgt. Gerald Williams, Jr., left, shows an M-4 carbine to retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow. When Snow joined the Army in 1947, the M-1 Garand was standard issue. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

1st Sgt. Gerald Williams, Jr., left, shows an M-4 carbine to retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow. When Snow joined the Army in 1947, the M-1 Garand was standard issue.

1st Sgt. Gerald Williams, Jr., left, shows an M-4 carbine to retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow. When Snow joined the Army in 1947, the M-1 Garand was standard issue. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

Retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow stands during a ceremony Tuesday to rededicate Building 8111 at Smiths Barracks, Baumholder as "Snow's House."

Retired 1st Sgt. Charles Snow stands during a ceremony Tuesday to rededicate Building 8111 at Smiths Barracks, Baumholder as "Snow's House." (Terry Boyd / S&S)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Charles R. Snow marvels at the changes made at Building 8111 at Smith Barracks in Baumholder, a building known as “Snow’s House” for 26 years.

“The memories. The memories,” the spry old soldier says quietly as he is shown around by 1st Sgt. Gerald Williams Jr.

Then Snow stops in his tracks at the mention of a top-floor office.

“That’s the room where I had a guy jump out the window. He was trying to commit suicide,” says Snow, who ruled the building as first sergeant from 1970 to 1976.

Soldiers and officers eyes grow wide.

“He’s lying there … and they covered him up with an Army blanket. I told them, ‘Take that Army blanket off of him! He’s not acting like a soldier!’”

He wouldn’t even allow anyone to call an ambulance from Snow’s House. “I made ’em go down to the next building.”

Jaws slacken. Some drop as the 73-year-old Snow waits for the obvious question.

“Did he die, sir?” asks Command Sergeant Major Anne McDaniels, with the 222nd Base Support Battalion at Baumholder.

“Naw, he didn’t die,” Snow says. “He just broke a couple of legs.”

What kind of old soldier gets his name on a post building before he’s dead? Your father’s first sergeant, that’s who.

A tough guy from the “Greatest Generation,” who dropped out of high school to join the “brown shoe” army of 1947. A combat-decorated warrior who would have fit perfectly in the Army of Patton and MacArthur.

And who probably wouldn’t fit in the U.S. Army of 2002.

“I couldn’t say today what I said then,” Snow says.

Snow returned to Smith Barracks earlier this month for a rededication of “Snow’s House.”

A plaque went up in 1976 declaring the building “Snow’s House.” But in September 1999, his daughter, Teresa Ruiz, who lives in Wiesbaden, discovered the plaque had disappeared. So she recruited William Kalavsky, 222nd adjutant, to arrange for a new plaque and a rededication ceremony.

A favorite stunt, Snow said, was to drop down on his knees, “and I’d say, ‘If I’m telling a lie, I want God to strike me down this instant!’”

He kept doing it until one day, some officers got a megaphone, a huge piece of tin and flash device up in the top of Snow’s House.

“So I drop down on one knee, and I yell, ‘If I’m lying, may God strike me dead this instant.’ And they hit that big piece of tin, which sounded like thunder rumbling, and set off this big flash. And one guy yells through the megaphone, ‘You’d better be careful about that, Charlie. I might take you up on that one of these times.’”

Colorful as he was, Snow made his reputation for the right reasons — running a spit-and-shine company so squared away that it was a compulsory stop for visiting VIPs. He carried the authority of two tours in Vietnam — 1966 to 1967 and 1969 to 1970 — not to mentions two Bronze Stars for valor.

But it was a different Army, Snow says.

And there was method to what may today be perceived as his madness. He was only trying to build some sense of esprit de corps in an Army of post-Vietnam draftees, whom he describes “as wanting out the first minute they got here.”

“The first sergeant told me the day he [PCS’d] here, there was a racial riot going on,” Williams said.

Snow went to work trying to turn his company of the 293rd Engineering into real soldiers. The motto of the building went from being, “This is your house. Take care of it,” to, “This is my house. If you don’t take care of it, you’ll sleep in a tent,” Snow says.

Most of Snow’s stories from that time can’t be told in a family newspaper.

He was tough, says his wife, Jo Ann, adding that, by the standards of the day, he was never cruel. No NCO ever ate in front of troops at Snow’s House, she says. No NCO slept before the troops were bedded down.

“He was a chaplain, a doctor. A marriage counselor,” his daughter says. He’d protect spirited soldiers when they needed to be protected. He’d bust them when they deserved to be busted, Ruiz says.

“He always looked out for the underdog,” she says.

When the first female engineering officer showed up in 1976, Snow says, the brass called him in “and they told me, ‘Stretch the regulations to the breaking point, but find some way to get rid of her. We want her gone.’” So he placed nude soldiers liberally around the camp — in a bunk, in a latrine and in a shower — then led the young female officer around.

The woman was unfazed.

At one point, Snow says, the captain reached around the stunned soldier in the shower and produced a fingertip of soap scum.

“She found something in my barracks!” Snow says.

“They wanted to send her to headquarters,” says Jo Ann Snow. “But she said, ‘I am an engineering platoon leader!’ And she stayed.”

And so did Snow.

“He turned down sergeant major two times,” says Jo Ann Snow. “He wanted to be with the troops.”

As he talked briefly to troops on his return to Baumholder, Snow said he had but one regret — that he couldn’t do it all over again.

“I wish I was young enough to start all over again,” he said. “If I was, this is where’d I be.”


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