Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Richard Dobson, a retired major in the U.S. Army special forces. Born in Renton, Washington, he enlisted in 1957.
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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 is sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear EA gecom. Well, this is Chuck Olmstead and we’re a patriots landing and our interest for elders veterans. Interview today is with Richard Dobson. He’s retired major US Army Special Forces and Richard, I want to welcome you today to answers for elders. Thank you. Yeah, well, you and I just had an opportunity to introduce ourselves to each other and I just love hearing people tell their stories and we obviously like to talk about your service as a as a major in the US army, but I always like to go back and find out a little bit about your history and where you grew up and what what family was like. So we’re what part of the country did you grow up in? Okay, as more raising rent and Washington. Oh, in rented okay. So Native Washingtonian. Uh Huh. I enlisted ocober first of one thousand nine hundred and fifty seven rather than get drafted and within a year was fortunate enough to apply for a reason there of commission in the Signal Corps because that’s what I was enlisted. Wise I’d had four years or OLDTC and three years reserve time. However, I didn’t graduate because I didn’t like to go to class and that was the cause of my father passing. Wayne fifty seven and I’d enrolled and to summer courses and unfortunately didn’t have a test yet, but I withdrew. They failed me for not taken going through the proper administrative procedures and up with me as next on the draft list. Yeah, I enlisted. Well, so I guess I didn’t realize that after the Korean War that there was still a draft going on. I didn’t know it was that active of a draft. Of course I knew during Vietnam that was happening, but there was still an active draft happening during those times in fifty seven, apparently, because because you were one that got drafting. Ever, next I knew, so drafted. So what happened next with you? Well, I got the Reserve Commission, but signal, course, I had to be at least two and a half years before they’d have a opening to act debate me from reserve status, and so I went and visited the fraternity brother mine, Alpha, signified the university Washington, who is Nat Navy communication in Washington DC, and this particular Sunday he introduced me to this colonel who happened to be a full colonel, who happened to be the recruiting officer for the certain General’s Office for the Medical Service Corps, which was the non doctor part of it, and he just he told me to come see Monday, Monday morning next day, and we discuss it more. And so I did and he just finished telling me that would be at least a year because we were just starting a new officer orientation course which I would be ten days late arriving to. And the phone rang and was a call from Fort Same Houston, Texas, and a new lieutenant did pass his entry physical to act or duty. So there’s one vacancy. So I talked hard and strong with the colonel and told him that I had there’d be no problem with my background of catching up ten days late, and convinced them. So he told me before I left his office at he would have orders sent the next day transfer me from Signal Corps reserves to Medical Service Corps and probably three or four days after that orders would be issued activating me and sending me to Fort Saint Pucine for that course, and that all was accomplished. Interesting and that was on nineteen fifty eight. Fifty seven fifty eight. That was a nineteen fifty eight HMM. And so I got there, went through the six month course, graduated, was reassigned to the US IRA medical training center, which was where they trained mostly new medics and and I stayed there until October nineteen sixty one when I was reassigned to Korea and that’s where I had my first association with Uysimy Special Forces and they detachment that was there. So when I got I applied for special forces before leaving Korea and was accepted. So I went from Korea to for Bragworth, Carolina and Thento, the Special Forces Officer Training Hmm. Successfully graduated from that. That was October of nineteen sixty two and rent to the Fifth Special Forces Group, and that was one of the new special special groups at the President JFK activated and I stayed there as it filled up and as fortunate enough to be signed to a B company and they were one of four special forces teams that had been selected to go with the C Detacher, which was the company headquarters that I was actually assigned to as a the NSC officer, and we left in July sixty three for Vietnam. HMM, as special forces are special forces. That’s before special forces was a considered as a separate branch. So officers were attached to Special Forces for whatever length the time they stayed there. MMM. And I was headquartered in a train and responsible for finishing setting up the medical supply warehouse or all supportable special forces teams in Vietnam. And but I traveled around the country to the different special forces camps check and if I could help anyway, and which I did. And so I was there for six months, July sixty three to January one thousand nine hundred and sixty four. MMM, and I was there much. There was some fighting going on, but it hadn’t escalated as much as it did, like, you know, eety seven did. However, there was there’s absolutely no other US military force to back us up. HMM, any air force, if you US Air Force pilots that we’re training South Vietnams to fly. Everyone called arm could and small machine gun in a t set. Seventy eight which was actually a trainer. HMM. And but we didn’t get much support from that. M Our biggest, biggest mission was was worked with the mountain yards, the mountain people, of which the French didn’t hated and North Vietnamese hated him, called hated him, but their average and he’s actually and they had enough different tribes that they had no common language. So we taught of English, HMM, a bit of French for those of us that had that. HMM. But we trained them armed town of out of fight and so forth. There I would say, as far as I’m continuing, proud of the best fighters we had supporting us. Interesting. So, as a major in the special forces in Vietnam in the mid S, what were your specific responsibilities? We’re out. I was actually a captain, hmm, when I got to be I see, and my responsibilities were still more the medical supply end of it. MMM, even though I had training in field medicine and so forth and assisting wherever I could, and even to the point that I had enough training that if we had a special forces medic that was has minor injuries so forth, I could pitch in and gump out. MMM. And I was in a special forces camp in the Delta called Tan Fu, which major James Dick Roll, West Point Lieutenant, personal friend of mine. We went over together. He went went on an operation with a captain boombarto Rocky Versais, who is the ranger advisor to the Southeastmi’s Ranger Battalion, and Kamal, which is southern tip of South Vietnam. He extended to go on as operation. Bad information that they got from the district chief and they were overwhelmed all the way overrun nick was a prison for five years. Wrote a book called Five years to freedom, which is now mandatory reading for Special Force of types. I was in a camp when he they they got captured and I was there in the camp when he escaped for the fifth time, back five years later, MMM, and arranged the medical vack chopper help rescue them and met with them. And Yeah, you know, I was thinking as I was hearing you and you mentioned helicopters, as I’ve seen various documentaries and about the Korean War, in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam War, really wasn’t that a war that kind of transitioned as far as transportation for medical purposes, that the Huey helicopters kind of became the workhorse and and quick evacuation out of the war areas to the back lines. Did that, in your mind, to help transform medical services as opposed to people having to take care of guys on the front lines where they were able to transform poured them back. Is it was that at an accurate statement? That? Yes, yes, it is. And and actually US military reinforcement so forth there really didn’t start coming into Vietnam until late sixty four. MMM and so it was really difficult when you didn’t have back up. One not and in consolidateing the the villages for the montion yards and certain numbers of Southeata Mese so that they were able to protect themselves mm more easily and also give us some support. We identified tunnel systems in Vietnam, actually American Special Forces in this. She identified them back in sixty one. MMM and but they were there. We reported them, but nothing ever got done. MMM AND IT COOCHI and long couple bases at I forget which one twenty five had, which one there are cave had, but they had tunnels underneath those hmm and they were they they were big enough that you could drive a douce in the half through him. Well, and one that I did I’ll really go down. Even had a complete surveying village in the tunnel in it for the families of right, big calling the north, the tones and a hospital. Well, they were monsters. Yeah, one of the movies that I’ve watched several times, and maybe you’ll recognize this name, was Mel Gibson movie called we were soldiers, and I don’t know if you are familiar with that movie or not, but that was early Vietnam era story and I cannot recall the the the Air CALV unit that that was about. Do you recall that movie? It seems like I do, and but the real details have sort of slipped me. Yeah, they been a lot of years and I’m eighty three now. Haha. Yeah, remembory a little bit, but just showing the the the caves and and the the the tunnels that were built in the infrastructure in the mountain side it was. That was I used to know the lieutenant colonel’s name who who actually commanded that unit. But yeah, they they probably had the first major hostile MMM whatnot, and did fantastic job. Yeah, so we’ve got about five minutes left and I want to make sure that we have your whole story. So what happened after Vietnam? Did you retire? Did you stay in the military? Know, I’m I went back to Vietnam a couple more times and my last tour in Vietnam is October sixty eight, October sixty nine. From there I went to Japan to the one old six general hospital, which was a one thousdive hundred bed army hospital. We never had lesson one thoweve hundred and fifty patients in Yokohama and there for three years. HMM. And then when I left there, I wanted to go to Germany and I hadn’t been there. But but this currently I know in Washington, he called me up and said he’d be over to see me and find and he did say yes or no. But when he got there he said no, I couldn’t go back. What going to go to Germany? Said I had to go back to the United States because I’ve been out so for so many years that I need to become Americanized. Interesting. So I said do I have any choice? He said well, within reason. I said all right, I’d let go to Hawaii. and Go to Shamanad University, which was shopping on college upon them its university now, and bootstrap and get a degree in and I’d like my last four and a half years at Fort Louis to retire. MMM. And we got both of them. So that’s what you did. Yeah, so retired. What year? I retired the end of November of seventy seven, with over twenty three, and then I got recalled January first of ninety one for Desert Shield, Desert Storm, out of fourteen years retirement. Age Fifty Seven. But the army could recall officers and ncos out of retirement if you had something that they needed, right, without your concurrence, to age sixty. MMM. We contested it. We call five offs or eighty five n CEO’s. We all had more than two tours and they accepted. Are Not wanting me to go plane to sand right? Right. And so we all went to the US Army Personnel Center and St Louis, which was the name of the headquarters that control all of the army reserves in the United States. Day, did nine, nine months and then that was stories are too yeah, and then went back and retired, yeah, status, and then had a couple own businesses and MMM, and now you’re done. Now I’m done. And Yeah, here at Patriots landing. Yeah, how did you make how did you come to Patriots landing? Well, I knew about it back Modiba station for Louis on is still on drawing board whatnot. That roots. And it was supposed to be predominantly, if not wholly, a military retirement community. Uh Huh, but there’s so many of them that it did work that way. So, you know, if you had they got to fill their space and whatnot. Right. And then my first wife of forty six years marriage passed away from diabetes, to and lung cancer and a few other things. January, second of two thousand and three that I met my second wife, Welsh lady I played stuart at Darts, English Darts, and my dart throwing partner, which is mother, Huh, she was over visiting. I met her August, eighth of old for and, as things go, a year later at Big Cup, three trips in England and whatnot, getting me a special visas whatnot. We got married January thirteen of old five and she passed away from, you know, operable pancreatic cancer on March fifteen of two thousand and seventeen. Oh My. And so that’s when I started talking to the folks here. MMM. And I’ve got family in the area. Doubted it works at the American Lake, the a hospital on the maintenance side, and she is my intermediary. MMM. And so when a cottage opened up, and you may be aware that they’ve got twenty five cottages here for where their premium ones? MMM, one THOUSI hundred ninety six square feet and the others are old, one thousand six hundred and forty some on something. But when one of them finally came available, would be available first February of two thousand and eighteen, I decided that, well, if I did if I didn’t think out one, I wouldn’t get one right. So I started paying on at the first February and became a absentee resident and moved moved in here actually less than a month ago. Interesting. Yeah, so I’m here to stay, here to stay. Well, it’s a it’s a wonderful place and some great people. Yesterday. Yeah, well, I want to thank you. I’ve been interviewing Richard Dob Dobson. He’s retired major US army special forces and I want to thank you for joining me today on answers for elders radio and my player. Thank you. This has been a special honoring veterans. 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Suzanne Newman, host of the Answers for Elders radio show and podcast, proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne embarked on a 6-year-journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. Answers for Elders provides education, help, and support to families, caregivers, and seniors across the country who are experiencing their own unique journey within the complicated world of Eldercare. Each week, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including health & wellness, life changes, living options, money, law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.