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The First Sergeants Paperback – February 9, 2012
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About the Author
CSM (Ret) Richard E. Morgan was born in Decatur, IN in 1943. He entered the US Army as a draftee in March 1969. CSM (Ret) Morgan served in each rank and enlisted leadership position in the Army. Morgan’s duty positions include: Tank Crewman, Missile Crewman, Tank Commander, Tank Platoon Sergeant, Drill Sergeant, Senior Drill Sergeant, First Sergeant, Operations Sergeant Major & Command Sergeant Major. He was instrumental in the development of doctrine, tactics and training for the initial work on Close Combat Heavy Forces and the M1 tank Bore Sight and Calibration Procedures, Field Manuals 17-12 Tank gunnery and 17-12-1 M1 Tank gunnery, and the development of tactics, techniques and procedures for the Armor Force. CSM (Ret) Morgan’s duty assignments include the 5thID (Mech) as a PFC & SPC and again as a 1SG and SGM; A Battery 2/52, Air Defense Artillery, Homestead, FL; 4/69 Armor, Mainz, Germany 8th ID as a Tank commander and HHC XO; Drill SGT, Senior Drill Sergeant and 1SG for Basic Training & Infantry in B & C-19-4, Fort Knox, KY; 1/33 Armor, Gelnhausen, Germany 2d AD as a PSG; Instructor and Chief Instructor of Gunnery Division, Armor School Fort Knox, KY; H Co 2/6 Cavalry as 1SG; G Troop 2/11 ACR as 1SG; 2/11 ACR, Bad Kissingen Germany as Squadron Master Gunner, Acting Operations SGM and CSM; HHC 3/70 Armor, 1SG; 4/12 Cavalry as Operations SGM & CSM; 1/11 ACR, Fulda, Germany; CSM 3/70 Armor, Fort Hood, TX. Morgan’s awards and decorations include: the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Sixth Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, NDSM, Expert, Rifle and Pistol Badges, and the Drill Sergeant Badge. He was a distinguished Honor Graduate of his Advanced NCO Course. CSM (Ret) Morgan graduated from the US Army Sergeants Major Academy Non-Resident Course in 1986. Morgan also served as the Emergency Deployment Readiness (EDRE) Officer, Operations officer and finally as the Deputy G3 of the JRTC & Fort Polk. He retired as a Department of the Army Civilian in 2006. He and his wife Linda have four grown children and reside near DeRidder, LA. Richard is a member of the Order of St. George, a Lifetime Member of the Blackhorse Association, and was inducted into the Order of the Spur in 1984. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and Adams Post 43 of the American Legion. He is the author of a work of fiction novel entitled “The First Sergeants” and intends to publish several more books beginning in the fall of 2012.
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SFC (RET) Michael Stroud
Okay, so here are the good points:
This book is definitely a trip down memory lane. Nearly every character was a real person in our squadron, usually thinly disguised and sometimes without even names changed. The Earth Pig, our know-it-all troop commander (aka Cosmic Bob), and many more; they are all in here.
CSM Ligon, our corps sergeant major - now there was somebody we all lived in dread of encountering. One time, he and a bunch of somebodies were doing one of his blistering inspections at Daley Barracks. I was one of the guys assigned to the junk on the bunk. I had my helmet sitting on my pillow and Ligon picked it up and looked inside. He glared at me like he had seen feces or something in there. He showed my helmet to me and said icily, "What is that in your helmet, trooper? Apparently he thought the inside of my helmet was dirty. Being a dumbass SP4, I replied, "Nothing, sergeant major". Boy was that the wrong answer. (There actually was nothing in there, but that was beside the point.) When he got done chewing my ass out hard, my first sergeant (who is also in the book) whispered between clenched teeth, "Report to the orderly room after this is over." 1SG White, who replaced the character named 1SG Joe James, is also in there, although The CSM puts him in G Troop but White was actually the E Troop first sergeant for awhile and then disappeared one day. The peons never did figure out what happened to him, but his real life replacement, 1SG Schulz, was one of the greatest NCOs I ever knew.
This book really brings out the crazy breakneck speed we used to run at in the cav. Although we never heard the phrase back then, noowadays they call it "high optempo". For us it was just business as usual. It is hard to believe, but true, that we spent about 8-10 months every year deployed somewhere. CSM Morgan brings thts all to life.
Okay, now for the not so good stuff. Many German characters inhabit roles in this book. Although some of them figure prominently in parts, they are all flat cardboard cutouts. (Dedicated civilian range worker, steely-eyed BGS killers, hot in the sack German girlfriend, etc) They are total stereotypes. Throughout the book, there is a sprinkling of German language, either spoken as dialogue or food items and so on. The usage is atrocious; so bad it's almost cringeworthy.
There's a pretty good sized glossary in the back. But there are many pieces of army-speak that Morgan uses in the story that didn't make it there. The acronyms, secret army-talk and jargon flow hot and heavy. There were some that even I didn't recognize and I
was in the army for over 20 years. While a Blackhorse veteran might understand this stuff, I doubt that most civilian readers would have a clue about what's going on.
An editor would've done wonders for the book, which is way too long and kind of disjointed. All that said, "The First Sergeants" is a window into a bygone world. I've never read a book quite like this one, and it's one of the books I'll probably read again and again. Hell, some of the jewels of wisdom in here make it a steal at twice the price. I wish I had this book when I was in the Blackhorse. Maybe then I could've figured out what was going on! And CSM Morgan has a crystal-clear memory for all the sayings we used. My favorite was the one about ass chewings and bubble gum! My platoon sergeant (double Blackhorse and CIB) used to say that all the time right after he got done ripping us a new one. Anyway, if you understand Army language, culture and especially if you were in 2nd Squadron, buy this book. You won't be sorry!