6 January 1978
The last 19 months have been one unique experience to say the least. From a protected environment in Virginia to the hellish realities of Panama, the 1097th has endured an ordeal that can really be understood only by those who partook in the affair. The unit as it arrived in the Canal Zone simply wasn’t accepted by the infantry and in fact incurred its vicious wrath especially after the departure of MG Richardson in June 1977. A conveniently embarrassing IG Inspection provided the avenue of initial leadership dismantlement which began with the removal of CPT Cartwright and then followed by like actions against 1LT Morra and 1LT Hagewood. With the final elimination of 1LT Hardy and 1LT Crenshaw the process was completed. In addition, many of the enlisted veterans of the unit have also departed the unit for various reasons. The old 1097th which so naively left Virginia and endured such a savage thrashing is just about dead. The high spirited, unorthodox, rowdy and unique unit, which landed in Panama, has evolved into a mediocre infantry boat company. The thing that most intrigues me is the absolute contempt and low esteem which the infantry leadership exhibited towards the unit. In the field (actually on the water) we were absolutely dazzling with no peer in the entire world…we were incredible (when you can do it, it ain’t bragging). Yet all that the infantry observed was somewhat long hair, occasional sloppy appearance, and a unique and positive rapoire between the officers and enlisted, and enlisted, and a moral and pride so staggering and cheerful, that something just terrible just has to be wrong. Also, could it be conceivable that all five officers were so obviously incompetent duds! Of course they weren’t perfect by any means, but that bad! Maybe they should not have fought back so openly; maybe they should have blindly and cheerfully accepted the above dictated directives without daring to express dismay. Each of them reacted at least once with such unforgivable backlash that more permanent damage has been inflicted. At least three of these five careers are destroyed, maybe in the final tally all five. Speaking for myself, I feel the price was worth paying because of the closeness and spirit of the troops themselves…they made it so great and worthwhile. I shall never forget the old 1097th nor forgive or accept the realities of the new. Maybe, just maybe, sometime in the future the spirit and fight of the old unit will be reborn. There is always hope…
"We fight, get beat, rise and fight again."
John T. Crenshaw Jr
1097th Trans Co (MB)