As I sit here watching the state funneral of President George H.W. Bush, I’m reminded of a very brief enconter with the man when he was Vice President in the spring of 1984. I was on the staff of USCentCom as the Operational Comm Chief of the J-6 Directorate and was assigned as the project officer for the DOD/FEMA Exercise Night Train. This exercise senerio involved a nuclear laydown by the Soviet Union on the United States and the reconstitution of the government after such a catastrophy. It was the first time that DOD and FEMA had worked directly on such an exercise and evidently Vice President Bush had a keen interest in it. Normally a field-grade officer would have beenUS assigned such a project, but we were short of field-grades, and USCentCom was a minor player, so USAF BGen Sam Greene J-6 assigned me. It was day two of the exercise, the laydown had occured and we were doing our morning brief to the CINC and staff. Just as I took the dais to brief comm status, from the back of the auditorium I heard, “Atten-hut!” and down the aisle strode the CINC, LTG Robert Kingston and Vice President Bush. They took their seats and the CINC nodded to me, and I began to give the status of satellite comms available when I was interupted by the Vice President saying, “Err, excuse me sergeant! Do you mean to say we still have satellites working after the laydown and subsequent electro magnetic pulse (EMP).” It was like a kick in the chest, so I gulped and glanced at my boss, Gen Greene, who gave me a nod. Gen Greene and I had disscussed this, because neither of us agreed with the Pentagon staff that satellites would not be burned out by the EMP. But the Pentagon had decided that if we lost all the satellites we would’nt be able to conduct an exercise, so lets pretend that they were OK. I explained this to VP Bush and waited for the onslaught. He simple asked if I thought we should practice war the we would have to fight it, and I agreed. He then said, “We’ll see about this!” So we finished the briefing and returned to the crisis action center. Within and hour we received a flash message from DOD that all satellites were gone, except one which had been hardened prior to launch. I remember feeling vindicated because the VP’s feelings mirrored my own, but as a minor player MSgt I didn’t have power to correct it, but as the Vice President he did, and he did something which made the exercise a little harded, but much more realistic. I mostly remember that when he spoke to me he didn’t speak down, but as an equal who had information that he needed to make a decision and he appreciated that. From that point on I always had the greatest admiration and respect for him, and as an independent voter was honored to cast my ballot for him in the 1988 presidential campagin. I retired from the U.S, Marine Corps later that year, but in 1990 when planning for and execution of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was one of the first to volunteer for reactivation because I knew that if we were being led by President Bush it would be done right. As with the lose of my own father who had fought in WWII a few years ago, I am saddended by the loss of those of The Greatest Generation, and hope that us Baby Boomers and others can continue his work. He will be sorely missed, May he rest in peace! With greatest respect, Edd Prothro, MSgt USMC Ret 1964-1984
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