Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Kent Troy, U.S. Army West Point graduate, former protocol officer at JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) in Washington. He was born in Roswell, New Mexico.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans. His sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear EA gecom. Well, this is Chuck Holmstead with answers for elders and each week we do a veterans interview here for answers for elders, and with me today is Kent. Troy Kent was with the US Army, West Point graduate, former protocol officer at JBLM and a Kent. Welcome to answers for elders. Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it. Well, you and I just had an opportunity to get to chat a little bit. We were chatting sports and you were talking about various you’re a saints fan and talked a little bit about that. But spoke a little bit about that. But we always like to have stories start at the beginning, so let’s go back. where. Where were you born? Where were you raised? I was born in Roswell in New Mexico. My kids tell me that says a lot about me. But my dad was teaching ROTC at New Mexico military instute and Roswell in New Mexico and he’s he was a captain at the time and so that’s how where he was, and so that’s where I was born, my brother and I. Yeah, so what was life like growing up in Roswell? I didn’t grow up there. So I was an Army Brad. So we moved all over the place, but I spent my childhood days. I was in thirteen schools and twelve grades. Moved all over the place and finally gradual went to Vienna, Austria, when my dad was a military to say, that’s where I met my wife, Ingrid, and then I went to New Mexico, military and stude again, if we came full circle, and graduated high school there as a preparation to try to get into the military academy. Yeah, so what’s you called yourself? A Military Bratton. That’s a common name given the kids. So what was that like, growing up in that many different locations? It was the locations were fascinating because I got to learn a lot about different places. My education, I think, really started from the geography of knowing a lot more than what you just read about in books or going to schools. But the most important and fascinating thing was the the people that I met and I’ve still run into them. So, you know, every once in a while I go to a place and I run into a common thing. And now with social media, I’ll see if somebody that my goodness gracious, we went to elementary school and Holly Eva Hawaii together or something like back in the S. and so it was it’s more about the people and so I didn’t get to have very good, strong friends. I know people here have, you know, I have the same friends that when I was in elementary school that I went to high school when not me. It was very strange, but I had the opportunity to meet a lot more people, but not good, strong friends that I would be able to rely on. Since the military I’ve been able to brew that, but at the time I didn’t have that strong friends friendship that a lot of people have an eighend and that is yeah, that is something for kids, isn’t that? That there have those. You know, I have long term friends from, you know, fifty years ago that you know, I can relate back to and we pick up that friendship, you know, even though we haven’t seen each other in ten years. But that’s just the nature of the kinds of travels that your family had to do because of being in the army. Right. Yeah, so after high school, what happens to you that? So, like say, I was in high school in Vienna, Austria, the American International School. I met my this wonderful lady there. But I went to my senior in high school. I was a rat and New Mexico military institute, not what everybody’s imagine of a senior in high school is. I went there to try to get an appointment to West Point, but actually did not help me at all, actually hurt me and I ended up going back to junior college and Mexican military ins for two more years. HM, as a result of that, then I kept applying to the military academy. I never lost sight of that and actually my dad would take me to the army football games. He’s a West Point graduate also, from the class of forty six, but he would take me the army football games and I would I would love the army and I want to go to west point play football. I didn’t want to go get a commission, I want to go play football really and in junior college I’ve recognized that I was not built to be a college football player, but I never lost sight of wanting to go to the military academy. So I kept doing that and after two years the junior college, I was finally accepted the Military Academy, and so I stopped everything I do and I actually had an ARTC scholarship. I threw that away and picked up and went to the Military Academy for four years. And what are the requirements for to be to get into the Military Academy? What has to happen? There is an age limit that you have to have, that you can’t be over a certain age. They look at the well rounded individual. So they look at not only your athletics or your academics or things like that. They look for people might be Eagle Scouts, student body involvement for that, if you’re in different clubs, debate clubs, that sort of thing, to do that. But they also look at to make sure that you’re an athlete, athlete, but also a scholar. So they want to make sure that they have and they call now the pentathlete. So it’s all let’s let’s not have one thing that they’re good at, let’s make sure they’re well rounded in a number of events to did that. And what year was that that you went to the academy. So I entered in one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven. So Vietnam War was over. It was I was in high school when I remember I was sitting in Vienna, Austria, when the news came across at the Vietnam War was over for that then. So yeah, it was a day that I remember. See, yeah, yeah, what’s that like? Of course you had been to army football games and so you you would. You knew the geography of the area. But what’s that like walking in the first day after that many years of having this goal? I was of now making it the West Point at well, having been to New Mexico military and study, I also had the military school background. So I knew what to expect and I knew not to volunteer for anything, which is what the best advice that I would have for anybody. Don’t volunteer for anything. And as a walk in, I meanly started working with my classmates and some of them had not had military experience, some of them had, but we started helping each other out and so they were again. It’s one of those things. Of I was weakened sirm areas and other areas of other people were working other areas. So we would forge a team and I would help people. This is how you shine shoes, because I’ve been doing it for three years. This is how you might be able to run, because I’m not a good strong runner. So we worked as a team to be able to do that and we immediately started forging I bond right then and even though beast barracks, which is the initial part of that, is a short time, about eight weeks, and then we break up and go to our companies for the academics, I still in contact with those individuals that I started the Military Academy with. His beast barracks interesting. So this is the fact. You know, because I wasn’t in the military. This might seem to be a simple question, but are there different areas of study in at the academy as far as kind of like determining a degree in a college? So do you have different areas of expertise that you migrate into through the Academy? At the time that I was there, we all got an engineering degree. All of our diploma said engineers. That was it. So it was plain and simple. However, we had areas of concentration. So I wanted to be an armor officer. So I focused on weapons systems, mechanical engineering. What a great title for somebody wants to be armor and then I didn’t do so well, and thermodynamics, and so I had to back up, reevaluate myself and because I had lived in Europe and I had studied German and I spoke German, I concentrated in German and which was a lot easier for me to get through. So instead of worrying about what I’m going to do once I graduate, I need to worry about graduating to do that. Nowadays, though, they actually do have different degree so you can made your in minor just like any other college in the United States for that, and it’s not necessarily an engineering degree that you would get. Interesting, interesting. So four years didn’t didn’t play sports and didn’t didn’t make it down the football team. What was really fascinating, as I did not try out for the varsity football team, but I did find out that they have what they called on s football, which is now called Sprint football, and at the time you had to weigh its lightweight football. Uh Huh. You had to suck weight like a wrestler and you had to weigh a hundred and fifty eight pounds or less the Wednesday before the game, which was on Friday, and there were only about five teams in the nation at the time for that, and we ended up being national champions for that. Oh Wow, so that was a so you got your you got so sports face. When I was out on the field the one time and they actually called my name on mikey stadium, they say can’t troy on the tackle, is like, I quit, I’m done, I’ve I’ve done it, I’ve achieved my goal. I understand. I understand. So at about the third year, though, they also hit me I’m going to leave here and I’m going to be commissioned as a second lieutenant. Now I’ve signed up for a career. But right. But, like say, I started off looking at football and in sports. I played other sports. I played Lacrosse, which was a fascinating sport that I enjoy doing. I Ski, so I learned to ski and I was a ski instructor there. Yeah, so I did a number of other sports there and everybody did that either. Intermurals that there was there for wrestling, boxing, soccer, things like that. But you told me that while you were there. Coach K coach, and I’ll mess up his name so you can say it better than my church Cruis Jef Ski. Yeah, with the Duke Basketball Coach was the coach there at at West Point. So you got to see him. Coach there at West Point. Yes, he was a player beforehand at army, came back, was assistant coach at West Point and then was the coach at West Point while we were there. And as a pleab you have to know all the coaches and the captains of the football teams. So you’d ask the the young pleaves. Okay, who’s the coach of the basketball team? That was the favorite question because they would always screw it up as like yeah, yeah, I understand. We got to know. Okay, coach Chris Jefski, got to know how to say his name. There you go. They’re there. You Go. So what happens next to you? You graduate from West Point. I gractually sign West Point one nine hundred eighty one. Four days later I got married to my high school sweetheart. So right there at the military academy and to Cadet Chapel, which was the fascinating experience for me to be able to do that then, and I bet your father, who was a graduate as well, that had to have been a proud moment for him. I think it was very much he came there. A number of his classmates were also there. In if you are a graduate and your father is that, then they call you a class God child. So I was a god child for the class of forty six. I see so number of the other graduates that were there from forty six and there were four of us my class that were there. We were all there and being recognized by the class of forty six is official God children for that interesting. Yeah, so get married. What’s next? I’m off to a couple of schools and went to the ITV tow trainer course, I went to the armor officer basic course and then I headed off to my first assignment, which was at burbling in and the First Infantry Division forward in Germany, and I wanted to be a calvaryman. That was where my heart was, but I was not high enough on the academics to get a cavalry assignment. But when I got there the Battalion Commander had a cavalry troupe and said Hey, you want to be on the calf troupe. Yes, I mean yes, sir, yeah, absolutely like that. So I everything just seemed to have I was lucky in that regard. Thing just fit right into place. So I walked in and was a platoon leader in sea troop, first of the fourth calve in pancer concern in Germany. So again my ignorance of military jargon. So what does a CALV cavalry, cow and Cavalry Group do? A PLATOON DO? What are they? They have armament, they have tanks. What are they? What do they have there? They at the time that we were there, we had we were broken up in our platoon. Had To direct DRAGON TRACKS TO ITV tow trainer tr vehicles for tanks and to more to track and then a command of Yu. So I had ten vehicles that were with me all total for that. Our mission was to patrol. It’s just reconnaissance and economy force that we give the impression to the anime that that’s a much larger force than what it was, and so that’s what we had different vehicles to do that. So if they saw tanks and they saw ITV’s or dragon tracks at the time, they would think, oh, this is different, this is infantry. Or an armor unit and that sort of thing. But it was meant to be as a screening force. Go find the enemy and then once we find the anime, we’d report that back. We get out of the way and let the big units, the armor battalions, of the Infantry Battalions, fight the enemy and fight the fight. We did not want to be decisively engaged. That was not our role. Right while I was there, oh, we had a very wonderful opportunity was we actually got to augment one of the units and in patrol the west German check Slovakian border, which was wonderful experience to be able to do that. So we’re kind of at the height of the Cold War and I got the opportunity to literally be on on the border for that wow, which I come back to. But later on I stayed there for five years, my first assignment, and so this would have been like eighty one through eighty six, or I got there in eighty two eighty seven. Yeah, first five years and that that was the Cold War was kind of wrapping up, although we didn’t know it at the time. Now we didn’t and it was it was still in force. And so my last year, that I was there. I was actually a company commander in the Second Armored Calvary Regiment and we patrolled the whole regiments, the Eleventh Cave in the north and the second cave and the south. We patrolled the border and so every three months we would find ourselves patrolling a section of the border, and we about a hundred and fifteen kilometers that we would patrol. We would work with the German police, the German immigration the German Bundes Green shoots as they called them. We would work with them and patrol with them, where we would then observed the Czecho Slovakian which was directly across from us. But we did have a little corner which was actually called the Tri Zonal Point, where the small point of East Germany smart port of most of the Czech Slovakia and then West Germany for that. So we got to we were in our old one three, one, one, one hundred and forty one jeeps patrolling around the border and if we saw check Slovaki in patrol, we would report that or if we saw a helicopter from the other side, we report that. We’re tensions higher. Pretty it was a pretty routine. We were I would say they were routine, but we kept our vigilance about us, where we would never engage in conversation with the check Slavokins or the East Germans, but it was common knowledge that if you left some American coins on one of the international boarder stones and come back a couple of days later, you’d find some other coins there. They would really take the coins and switch those out for whatever they had, and it was meant as kind of that sort of things. I I’d once say casual, because we wouldn’t confront them and if we did see them we would just keep our distance right. But it wasn’t North Korea, and now I think it wasn’t the DMZ and Korea. Yeah, you could. You could just imagine. You know, you were always prepared and knowing that if you saw certain things that the might be heightened intelligence that would be reported back and that would be the core commander or of suddenly the conter chief of usurer would be making ultimate decisions about what might be implied as a result of our reports. Sure, so what happens next? After eighty nine I went to went back into my advanced course for the career course for armor. I then went on to teach ROTC at Tulane University in New Orleans. I’d never lived in a town where I had a professional football team. So, sadly to say, not sad lest say, I’m pretty happy, but hey, yeah, I became a saints Fan and my son was born there. It was the first year that the saints had a winning season, so it has to be a saints Fan. There you go. And so for four years I had the opportunity to teach young men and women about the military. Someone went on to want to be continue on and become an army officer. For that, some mom just said took two years and took that is okay, I’m a little bit smarter than what I is as far as what the army is and citizenship. But then other ones went on to become contracted and go on to become army officers, HM, which I had the opportunity to run into three of them later on in life, which was very gratifying to see that some of those people how well they had done as a result of take some bar part of credit for that and saying hey, they got to be where they are as result of some of the things that I was a part of them. Yeah, yeah, so to lane and then then what’s Nack? To Lane. Then I went back to Germany. I have to go love Germany. I Love Germany. I’d go back to Europe anytime. So we went back there and I had there was a job that was available for me as a force developer, velop force developer at Fifth Signal Command in the town called worms, spelled like worms but it’s pronounced vorm. Very careful about that because of my other son was born when we were living there and we didn’t want worms on his birth certificates, so we made the trip all the way to Heidelberg really that he was going to have Heidelberg on his passport and everything like that as a birth certificate, as opposed to worms like that. But while I was there, I got promoted to major and I had the opportunity to become a battalion operations officer for a tank battalion that was in Mannheim and that tank battalion was and being a force developer, I had some of the inside information of what was going to happen to some of the units and bases that were closing there. But I took advantage of this one because I knew that unit was coming to Fort Louis Washington, so I said that would be a good unit if I could get to so I came to that unit. I was there for about six months and then we packed up the entire unit, put them on three airplanes and ship them all off, along with all the tanks, here to a Fort Louis Washing Louis. And this is how I first came to Fort Louis Washington. Interest you never been to this part of the country before? Never. I’ve been in Hawaii, but that was as far as as I’d been, but I’d never been up here in the Pacific northwest. So the dates are escaping me now. So when the wall, the Berlin Wall, came down, what year was that was that? That was after Bush. It was in the s. So is like ninety one or something. So you are already gone from Germany at that time. So you didn’t get to experience that part of I imagine for those military people that were there, I was, would have been a an amazing experience. Oh and I have a number of friends that were there then. They said they was first of all, there was a lot of doubts. What’s our job now is what are we going to do? You can just imagine is, you know, having hundred thousand or a number of folks that are five hundred thousand military that are there and all sudden, and by the way, we had done nothing as far as improving the infrastructure. So our concerns, the housing and everything like that was they were kind of falling apart. So now he said, you know, we haven’t done anything for forty years, let’s go and fix them up. So I spend a whole lot of money and then also in the wall comes down and we turn around, leaving it all yeah, I’m giving it back to the German government. Of course, goold way. Another five years. It would have been fine. Exactly exactly. So you come to the northwest. By then you’re married and have two kids, kids. Yeah, and so now you get to experience the northwest. We did, and I ended up working with like say, came here as a battalion operations officer, was here for a short time and then there was a tasking to send an operations major to Kuwait. So I’m Hussein was pushing the thirty two parallel again, pushing it the envelope for it. There was a continuing that went out of Third Army and we I was an individual augmentee, so I do didn’t go as part of the unit. I went as an individual to help build this team and by the time I got there it had already calmed down so that I’m had backed off the border, but it was still concern. But we we took the opportunity, since we had mobilized the number of forces over there, to turn that into a training environment. So as a operations officer, I was working some of the training as well as redeveloped heloping some of the war plans that were going to have be in place if there was another war between Kauwait. But I was stationed in Kuwait. I was there for a six month tour, but I was back in twenty nine days. So came back right before so so was that after Saddam had invaded quait and then and then, of course, lost the war and and and he was all pushed back back. Remember it. At the first one, the first golf war, we just we neutralize them. We said okay, go back. They they turned tail, they ran. There was a highway of death, death all right back to Iraq. And when they all got back in Iraq. We said okay, but we did not top all the country, so to spake. We did not say we’re going to over on the country. Just said okay, go back to be in Iraqi, citizens and Iraqi army and do your thing. And then we got into the reparations for Kuwait. So going in there. So then he said, well, maybe not so fast. You kind of line things up on the border. It looked intimidating. So the army sent more forces back over there. You were part of that and I was part of that. Yeah, headquarters got the opportunity to see some of those. As an armor officer, I kind of was left out. I did not go to war during the Gulf War. I was teaching our OTC in New Orleans. So, to paraphrase Frat Patton in his movie, is his I shoveled, yeah, Louisiana. Yeah, so I was not part of the Desert Storm. But this was an opportunity to win. A call came for me to do that. I looked at the opportunities and I was to go over there and be a part of something. Yeah, and I got to see the devastation that was over there, which was quite an impact for me. I got to go along the highway of death and I got to see the majority of the first Iraqi army. Wow. But I really got to see the devastation in Kuwait City as to what had happened and just a lot of the terrible things that happened. They were true and I want to talk about individuals, but I just looked at monuments, just buildings that were just destroyed the spectake of being destroyed structure and of course at that time he had lit so many oil fields on fire and that was a major environmental devastation and those were all put out by the time I got there. So but I could I could see where they were, all the things that we’re going on for that, but it was just kind of sad to see that something like that could really have happened for no real reason except for just it was a beautiful planetarium. They just go in there was all just burned out and everything stripped out of there and was taken back to Iraq the time, but it was just they just literally stripped everything they could out of the city and took that home. Yeah, so it was good to be a part of a force that, you know, being in Germany we were deterrent to real war in Europe, but going over there is another one. I kind of felt like I was doing the same sort of thing and being a deterrent to another Gulf war, another Desert Storm. Yeah, yeah, only then all that we did did happen. Had had to go back again, which you yeah, it is so it is sad. So were you a part of that second golf for? No, I wasn’t. So I came back and then I worked as an ACRC assignment with the here with the Eighty First Brigade. The Eighty One brigade is a national guard here in the state of Washington, and I got to work with them as a small package of our active duty, working with the reserve component, so as kind of a coach, mentor trainer to do some of the things to help the National Guard to do that, which I thought was just a fascinating program got to work with the brigade, commander of the Brigade, headquarters, the staff and help them provide programs for them to go do whatever they need to do in preparation for anything. And ultimately some of those people that I got to meet actually took the eighty first brigade to Iraq after the Second Gulf War. So what’s during the new dawn operation over there? They were actually over there in the brigade commander at the time was a major that I was working with at times. Interesting. Again, not part of it, but I felt that it was. I might have a small piece to play when somebody said, Hey, would cant have done that. Yeah, exactly. Well, so I see on part of my notes here that you were the protocol officer for JBLM. I don’t know what a protocol officer is. So what happened was I left here. I was going to be retiring at twenty years so I went back to TRADEOC headquarters in Virginia. They had a job there and it became a protocol officer. I did that for two years working for General John abams, the trade doc commander, in charge of all of his ceremonies, senior visits that would come to him, and then I came back here to retire. I had such a wonderful experience here in the Pacific northwest that I actually fought tooth and nail to come right back here to yea sipping northwest to retire. I told him I had been a protocol officer. When I reported in, they said at First Corps, here, here’s the guy that might have been the protocol officer, so you might want to look at them. So they hired me and that position. I did that for two years and uniform. I retired doing that and I took off on Thursday, took off Friday and it came work Monday in a coat and tie, in the same job, in the same office as a protocol officer. All those ceremonies that you see doing that, that’s what the protocol officers responsible for. Huh. So the script that goes with that, the dress, right dress, making sure that the units are where they’re supposed to be, lining them up, the flags in the right order for that, as well as invitations that go out to people, the R svps, the seating charts for that, and then the script that goes along with it. So when you hear the narrator talking about what this was, that’s probably the protocol officer that wrote that script to do that. For civilians. That’s an event planner, exactly your you’re the Guy Coordinator. I did that, Uh Huh, but not only for that. I would do VIPs visits when they would come. So when you say presidential visits, Somebody’s are ushering people to the seats. That’s the protocol, officer, and interesting level. So I would put together programs for the AR chief of staff, for the foreign visitor, chiefs of Staff, secretary of the army that would come to visit. Actually had the opportunity while I was here, to put together a visit for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff that came here. I did have the opportunity as a civilian to deploy to Iraq with first core as a civilian. I never deployed combat operation outside of Kawai in uniform, but as a civilian I had the opportunity to do then my wife said it must be pretty pretty busy in the troy household when Kent volunteers to go to a combat so exactly. Yeah. So I went for went to Baghdad for a one year as a civilian and handled the VIPs that we’re coming in for them and I set up a lot of their programs as well as the IP ceremonies that sort of thing. Today, the third day that we were in theater and that we had taken the reins as being the multinational core of Iraq. President Obama made a visit. So Wow, talk about okay, you start fast. Yeah, kept going from there. It just wonderful do that. President of Vice President Biden came three times while we were there. So it just never slowed down. And working and setting up the programs with the Iraqi ministers and the other government of Iraq, as well as other senior leaders that would come over to help influence the decisions in the policies that would be made for them that year or for the upcoming programs for that then as well. Yeah, so it’s wonderful to be part of that and setting up the programs. It kind of had to understand a little bit of why. So I got a little bit of the insights and why are we doing this? Why is this? So knowing the why, I got the insights to be able to help put together the program for but it also helped me professionally to understand some of the things that our country was doing, in our uniform forces were doing. Yeah, they’re and you obviously you have to work with so many different agencies. I’m sure even like if President Obama’s coming over, the secret service has some sort of say on some things, and the military obviously does, and the country itself, and so you’ve got a lot of plates spinning in the air. That we did. And so not only just setting up, but we also had to do a force protection. So it’s individual security, mentioned social they security detachments that come along with them, not only with the president, but other senior leaders would have theirs. They would come in an advance and we would work with them to set up the program do rehearsals, walk the grounds and mitigate any dangerous situations that might be there. Yeah, but my job, I looked at it, was providing the environment for people to sit down together and be able to do their job and sort out what neat they need to sort out. But I just didn’t want the you know, okay, drink water as opposed to soft ranks or right like that, but also the cultural things to go along with those as well. So knowing the cultures of Iraq as be able to explain those to visitors that were coming to we’ve got about two minutes left. So it is we’re kind of wrapping up your story. How would you kind of summarize your story as your experience at West Point and then all of the various opportunities that you had. So I spent forty years, twenty years in the uniform, twenty years as a civil servant, all dedicating my life towards the milk the army. Now I’m taking it for twenty years to volunteer, and so that’s the sort of thing that I’m doing. I’m working with the Association United States Army, still connected with army, still connected with militar in the joint base. So, after all those things, I had the opportunity to be able to serve my country. Now I want to be able to help those people that are serving and take that window of opportunities. I let me give back to those people. So many people did so many wonderful things for me while I was doing while I was doing my job. For that I’m not interested in working for pay any more. I just want to volunteer and help those people. They’re doing those things well, can’t try. I want to thank you for joining us today on answers for elders and we appreciate your service and thanks for joining us today. Thank you. That’s been my pleasure to be able to do you and I like could thanks thank you for this. Has Been A special honoring veterans, Presentation of answers for elders, brought to you by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is cur agecom
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Originally published October 06, 2018