The Early Fehrenbach Era
25 July – 25 August 1977
The new company commander, CPT Raymond G. Fehrenbach, wore on his collar the crossed rifles of the infantry. Needless to say that alone caused some concern within the unit which was perhaps unfair, but nevertheless he was now the man in charge. Immediately he unmistakably emphasized areas which had not previously enjoyed being top priority. Classroom training, in particular, became in the beginning, a daily routine. Equipment, room, clothing and personal inspections also had very heavy emphasis. The new captain went at his work with vigor and determination which wasn't necessarily appriciated by those who served under him. His priorities (actually battalions? brigades?) were in almost absolute clash with the previous regime and the suddenness of such change may have contributed to the unpleasantness of the period.
As could be expected, a general period of posterior thrashing and head rolling was initiated. On 15 August 1LT Morra returned from CONUS leave only to discover that he was no longer a member of the unit. Surprised and bewildered, he suddenly found himself as XO of D Company, HQ Command. 1LT Hardy moved up from vessel maintenance to assume the XO’s duties. CW2 Bob Sullivan arrived from Fort Eustis to take over unit maintenance. 1LT Hagewood became Operations OIC, a newly created position, to insure continuation of outstanding vessel support which the command had grown accustomed. 1LT Hagewood however, was most disturbed about the whole sequence of events and of the current situation and retaliated with a threatening negative backlash which resulted in his suddenly being relieved on 24 August. He was immediately reassigned to HQ Command as XO of their Quarry Heights Detachment. No replacement was manufactured and his duties were split between the other officers. The First Sergeant, SFC McAllister, was abruptly terminated and was replaced by an infantryman, 1SG Thompson. SFC McAllister returned to vessel maintenance.
Commitment wise, things did slow down quite a bit from the previous months. The big change was not so much a reduction in vessel commitments as it was a reduction in scheduled hours per scheduled commitment, especially with JOTC. JOTC had changed its format several times in an attempt to achieve its goals. The last major change was the elimination of the Cowshit Valley segment of our involvement with their last week of instruction. It was replaced with an operation on Mosquito Island and a weeklong requirement of only one vessel. This is in addition to 4 LCMs required for two other days and two LCMs required for one other day. Support of other organizations including 3/5. 3/7 and 4/10 continued but wasn’t particularly heavy.
During this time operator level maintenance and required and on site NCO supervision was reduced. With the extremely heavy emphasis being placed on classroom participation and on billets beautification, troop activity at both Dock 45 and Mindi Landing was often sparse to say the least. With all of those classes being conducted, the instructors utilized were often key NCOs who sacrificed their time including preparation time, to fulfill their assignments.
A new era was likewise bestowing itself upon unit maintenance. Brigade decided to remove DS/GS maintenance control from unit supervision and put it under DIO, completely severing its ties with the unit. This aroused vigorous protests within the unit primarily because of the suddenly stupendous turn around time in getting certain parts or components repaired, replaced, or rebuilt. For example, a raw water pump; under the old system rebuild kits utilized by the vessel engineers themselves insured down time for only a few hours at most. Under the new system several weeks down time was imposed upon an irate vessel crew because of this peculiarity.
The motor pool also underwent change and revolution. It was removed from actual unit control and consolidated with the 4/10 motor pool. The net result of this was almost zero organic transportation was available. The 2 ½ ton trucks were in a condition of almost permanent deadline. If it wasn’t for almost exclusive POV usage, the land transportation would have been reduced to feet. For some strange reason, the command responded to our needs. Our battered 2 ½ ton trucks and D-7 dozers were replaced with newer and better conditioned replacements. The newer trucks, however, required many repairs which resulted in still no immediate improvement in transportation.
The Command also inexplicably responded to our needs in another area. Air-conditioners for the unit dayroom, orderly room, and training classroom were somehow produced. For the nine previous months, the unit had tried desperately to secure them without success.
Other personnel changes within the unit continued. SSG Norman Hard took over as the Second Platoon Sergeant. SP5 Bill Whitmore moved from maintenance to Second Platoon as a section sergeant, SSG Tim Lynes moved from the First Platoon to supply as the assistant supply sergeant. SSG Parker moved from operations to First Platoon as the assistant platoon sergeant. Operations was almost completely revamped. 2LT Crenshaw and SSG Bill Loucks took over as OIC and NCOIC. SSG Tony Jaggers went to First Platoon. SP5 Conway, SP5 Straw, and SP4 Keithey were also added to operations as it assumed 24 hour day operations. Also there were several unit veterans who were lost. SGT Calvin Patterson, SSG Willie Kirpatrick, and SP4 Clayton DEROS'd back to the states. Perhaps the biggest loss of all was due to the retirement, after 23 years, of SSG Elvin "Pappy" Berg.
As previously mentioned, billets beautification enjoyed a severe emphasis as painting, remodeling and redesigning of the whole area occurred. SP4 Simmons, the unit carpenter, found himself besieged with various and sundry construction projects including the First Sergeants Office, the reading room, and the dinning facility, to name only a few.
This whole era was a shocking turn around from the old ways. Vessel commitments, which had so dominated the actions and guidelines of unit activity, were suddenly shoved in the closet, so to speak. It was expected that superb vessel support would be automatically rendered without timely effort. The result of this redirection of thought was very disappointing to most of the unit and showed as the driving motivation and pride that the troops themselves produced soon evaporated in varying degrees. Cut and dry infantry doctrine with its highly inflexible, highly orthodox ways of doing things, and its severe disciplinary actions, spread a seemingly stifling shroud over what had been a somewhat loose, unorthodox, independent, and mission orientated unit. The thought and command leadership appeared to be based on negative leadership. The Chapter 5s, the Chapter 13s, and Article 15s became the chief motivational forces. The old 1097th was slowly being strangled into capitulation.
28 August 1977