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Home Up Mel Miller Doug Strain Sgt "Ski"

I have been summarily dressed down by one of our peacetime Tomahawks.
(Just kidding Tommy B..)

Tommy  "Sergeant Ski" B.
has provided another piece of precious history for our days between Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom..

The following is his narrative of his tour of duty with the Tomahawks..

Sir,
(Editors note: that would be me. LOL!!)

I was noticing on your website that you listed the 4/23rd Infantry as being assigned to Ft. Wainwright, AK, starting in 1974.

I enlisted in July of 1974; after Basic, AIT, and Jump School, I was assigned to Charlie Company (Airborne), 4th Bn, 23rd Infantry, 172nd Light Arctic Infantry Brigade, and was stationed at Ft. Richardson from 1975 through mid 1977.  It could have been that we were "detached" from Wainwright, but there was always a friendly animosity between those of us at "Rich" and the troops at Wainwright.   So, I was a bit confused when the website said that the unit I was in was stationed at Fairbanks, when I know "fer sure" that I was at Anchorage.

ed note: [per the book "Military Lineage" chapter 12]
With a smaller Army the nation could no longer maintain two brigades in Alaska, and Westmoreland decided to eliminate one. In September 1969 both brigades had been reorganized from mechanized to light infantry as modernization and cost-saving measures. U.S. Army, Alaska, chose to inactivate the 171st Infantry Brigade and reorganize the 172d. Under the new alignment a light infantry battalion and the reconnaissance troop were stationed at Fort Wainwright, while two light infantry battalions and the remainder of the brigade base were at Fort Richardson. The reduction of forces in Alaska was completed by November 1972.
This would explain the unit being stationed in two places at the same time. ed.

Otherwise, I was pleased to see the history of the unit on your website. 

If memory serves, at the time only 1 Airborne company was assigned to each battalion, and the rest of the battalion were "legs".  Made us "Charlie Airborne" types  kinda unique... and we loved it!  We even had a parachute stenciled on one side of our white "steel pots", and a tomahawk on the other side!

I was there when the first maroon berets were issued... we didn't even have a flash for our berets, and we started out with just our unit crest on it, until later when we were issued the blue-and-white flash to put behind the crest.  Man, we wuz sharp!!   Then, add the orange-and-blue-and-white Arctic Expert badge, and... and... well, anyone who had both the Beret and the Arctic Expert patch was Somebody!!  (I've looked, and I cannot find an image of the Arctic Expert patch anywhere on the Internet.  Too bad... it was a colorful patch, and there weren't that many of them handed out.  In order to earn one, you had to graduate from both Summer and Winter phases of Arctic Training. Mine is proudly displayed with my other military patches.)

I was stationed there when a much younger Major Norman Schwarzkopf was there, too... I believe that he was the Training Officer for the Ft. Rich units.  I have an old post newspaper clipping of him attaching the 'Expert Infantry' streamer to our 4/23 guidon - which I was proudly holding, but who was not included in the picture (Darn! That woulda been good for a couple of stories!)

(Per Wikipedia's website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Schwarzkopf
 During the 70's, Colonel Schwarzkopf's star continued to rise. He attended the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, served on the Army General Staff at The Pentagon, was deputy commander of U.S. Forces Alaska under Willard Latham, and served as a brigade commander at Fort Lewis, Washington.
In 1984, Major Gen. Schwarzkopf was promoted to Lieutenant General, served as assistant to Gen. Carl Vuono (who was Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations) for two years and was appointed Commanding General, I Corps, at Ft. Lewis, Washington, in 1986. ed)


Over the years, I've seen precious few websites that mention the 172nd, and I was glad to find yours.  I hadn't know that the Brigade had been deactivated, and I'm glad to see you back "on the map".   I left the Army in 1978, but always hold those years to be some of the best of my life.

Anyway, thanks for putting up your website!
Tommy "Sergeant Ski" B.