1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

Regulars 76 - 78

1st Battalion 22nd Infantry 1976 - 1978

by Don Krewson

 

Don Krewson

Photo taken when Don was with the 172nd INF BDE in Alaska, before being assigned to 1/22 Infantry.
Note the olive drab beret. The 172nd was the only unit in the US Army authorized to wear the olive beret.

 

 

Following Vietnam The overall morale of the Army was non-existent. That’s why you will find little documentation during that period.
Very few troops took pictures, kept journals, or any other long-standing traditions. The over-all view of Conus troops was
“do my time and get out.” The quality of the troops was piss-poor to be generous, myself included. The Volar (Volunteer Army)
experiment was one of the biggest disasters the US Army has ever tried. This can be easily verified by looking at Ft. Hood
& Tri Corp. Judges routinely gave the choice “enlist or prison.”

Mowery was commander of 2/12th Inf when it was designated 1/22Inf. The designation had nothing to do with Reforger though.
It had already been decided to strip troops from 1/22 Inf to bring 1/11 Inf to around 75% strength for the next Reforger deployment.
The selection of who would be stripped was made at PSD and the units were not consulted. This turned out to be a very poor decision
as we were pretty much left with people waiting for Ch. 10 discharge. 2/12 Inf was named “Warhawks” by LtC Mowery
because he thought it was a good name for an Inf unit. When we were designated 1/22 Inf, he decided to ignore the history
of the 22nd Infantry and keep his proud Warhawks name.

LtC Curcio took over command in November 77. It was an unexpected change of command and there was speculation
on if Mowery had been relieved. Things like that were kept extremely quiet in those days. I drove HQ-6 for Mowery for about six months,
then claimed the right of every grunt; send me to a line unit. The Monday before LtC Curcio took command, CSM Pesta sent for me
through the grapevine. He wanted me to put HQ-6 back together. It was stripped for parts in the motor pool and didn’t have an engine
or transmission. Post-Vietnam funding for the army was non-existent also. At first I refused because I wanted nothing more to do
with Mowery. I just wanted to ETS. Pesta quickly pointed out that it wasn’t a request and that the jeep was needed for a
change of command. I was delighted to know we were finally getting rid of Mowery and told him I would have it ready
for Thursday morning. I acquired an engine and trannie from 1/10 Cav, stripped the jeep to bare metal, and spent a long three days
putting it back together. It didn’t even have radio or antenna mounts left.

When LtC Curcio arrived with his wife, son, and daughter Thursday morning, I had everything squared away for a proper
change of command. I had my own ideas on how it should go and CSM Pesta let me run with it. I had the jeep ready and a
TMP station wagon to transport his family to the parade field. I took an immediate liking to LtC Curcio. He spoke with a quiet voice
backed with confidence. I never doubted that he had earned his CIB. Also, military courtesy worked both ways with him.
He always returned a salute with a proper salute and never failed to say thank you to someone. That goes a long way in my book.

About 20 minutes before we were going to head for the parade field a heavy snow storm came in over Cheyenne Mountain
so we moved the C of C to the field house (gym). Mowery took his Datsun (along with his .45) and told me HQ-6 wouldn’t be needed
after all as he headed out the door. LtC Curcio stopped and told me the jeep looked good. “You put a lot of work into it as I understand.
If you don’t mind, I’d like a ride over in your jeep.” I will always remember those words and the tone he said them in. Joe Davis,
the XO’s driver took his family over in the TMP and I gave LtC Curcio his 45 and drove him over in HQ-6. He had me park it
on the grass just to the left of the doors and told me I should show it off. I stayed with the jeep because every time I got around
Mowery, he pissed me off. I had already lost all my stripes three times. I never saw Mowery again after he went into the field house.
After the C of C, LtC Curcio came out, handed me Mowery’s 45 (yes, I checked the serial number), and got in the jeep.
“Let’s go home, Krewson”. I had the distinct impression he was glad to have his command. When we got back to battalion,
I was making a fresh pot of coffee when CSM Pesta entered the Cdr’s office with 3 cardboard boxes. In the space of five minutes
he took down Mowery’s wall of fame and removed all traces of him. To the best of my knowledge, his name was never mentioned again
in the battalion. There was no property book or any of the other formalities usually conducted in a C of C.

When the coffee was done I took a cup in to LtC Curcio (I did my homework and knew how he liked his coffee).
CSM Pesta went in with me, probably to make sure I didn’t let my mouth overload my ass. LtC Curcio asked me “Are you my driver?”
CSM Pesta butted in real quick and told him I was going to ETS in a month, but he would have a driver for him by Monday.
By this time (about 2 hours) I had decided I definitely liked LtC Curcio so I told him “I’ll drive for you, sir.” I re-upped the next morning
and had the best year of my military career driving for him and learning from the command group he put together.

At that time we didn’t have an S-3. Ours had booked an hour before the FBI and CID showed up to arrest him. Wound up
he wasn’t a Cpt, he was a Sp5 who had assumed the identity of a KIA when he left Vietnam. Like I said, it was a strange army then.
LtC Curcio had done his homework also because on day one, he had Cpt. Jack O’Conner, B-Co cdr take over as S-3.
We had a Maj. Lummis as S-3 (Air). He was one kick-ass pilot in an OH-58. He even let me get some stick time in once in a while
because I had my private pilot license.

I believe it was April 78 when we were tasked to field test MILES. By then LtC Curcio had a solid reputation in the division.
He was a maverick and took his lessons where ever he found them. We often used tactics borrowed from the Australians, Israelis,
and even a few from the Soviets. I know he received at least one verbal and one written reprimand for this. The written one,
he had overturned and thrown out when Ft. Benning backed him. MG Forrest reprimanded him because “you NEVER split your force.”
We were just starting to adopt the Task Force and Team concepts. He was so well respected within the brigade that when he wanted
armor with us, he just had CSM Pesta or me call 1/77 Arm for whatever he wanted. The crewman volunteered to work with him.
Not the Company Commander, the actual grunt tread heads. It didn’t hurt that we always fed them well and any parts they needed
somehow appeared. But he was fun to work with and you learned a lot in doing so. During his first week there, he talked with
CSM Pesta and they decided I should train to go to S-3 when I made E-5. He took that kind of interest in any troop under his command
that showed a desire to learn, even down to the motor whores.

When we moved down-range for MILES testing a Maj Dano was in charge of the project. I knew him from Alaska;
he took my first set of stripes. Maj Dano had this idea that he was allowing LtC Curcio to observe his project. LtC Curcio took him
over under one of the few trees above Camp Red Devil and had a quiet talk with him for about 3 minutes. When they came back,
it was clear who the troops belonged to and who ran the battalion. I knew Dano very well and he was choking on it.
Every officer who wanted to make it to the Pentagon did a tour in the 172nd Inf (Alaska). Prior to MILES the army never mixed
armor and infantry. When you had armor attached to you, they were usually kept on one flank. You never mixed them in
as part of your mech force. You operated as a “pure mech” or “pure armor” force. Ft. Benning’s terminology. I don’t know
where the idea came from to spilt up the armor company from 1/77 Arm, just that LtC Curcio was given a written reprimand for it
and beat it. As I understand it, this is way standard for today’s mech operations. LtC Curcio had a lot of strange ideas that we tried out.
Most of them worked. I believed that a Battalion Commander’s driver was an aide/bodyguard/gofer/driver. Whatever vehicle
he was in, I drove or flew in the gun-well. As a result, I became intimately involved with how he ran the battalion.
What follows is an accounting of a few of his methods. One of the first things he had me do was take off all the antennas
on his jeep and track. We operated with a VRC-12 and a single antenna. We would put a PRC-77 on the back of both seats
with the short antenna tucked into the straps. “An antenna farms shouts KILL ME.” Were his words. When in the track,
the PRC-77 stayed out of sight as did LtC Curcio and the S-3. I always attached to the flank of a platoon,
stayed on the platoon push, and operated under the Plt Ldrs orders. We would only detach from that platoon under cover
where we couldn’t be ID’ed as a command element. We always operated out of the 113 as the TAC. Very seldom
were we physically located with the TOC. When we needed to get back to the TOC, we usually hitched a ride with an ammo truck
or the 578 from maint. He firmly believed that it should be impossible to locate the command element from their movement.

LtC Curcio made extensive use of the scout platoon. Not only as recon, but as bait or a diversion. Many times we sucked 1/10 Cav
into position by using the scouts as bait, even after they learned this was a favorite tactic of his.
The planning between S-3 and Reg 6 was almost invisible. As close as I was to operations, I seldom knew if a plan had come
from Cpt O’Conner or LtC Curcio. The company commanders were the same way. Everyone knew how LtC Curcio operated
and what was expected. Op orders were always extremely thorough and well delivered. Usually I would hand write the orders
with 6 carbon copies. That takes a lot of pressure to be readable on the last copy. The reasoning behind this was that the
company commanders could spend more time listening and thinking instead of trying to write everything down.
Would have been nice to have a PC back then.

Another of his favorites was I would get a 5 ton or gamma goat to go down-range to check training. “If they see a jeep,
everyone’s going to look busy. If they see an ammo truck, everyone’s going to hide so they don’t have to unload it.”
After a couple of months, I had to get very creative to sneak up on a unit down-range. We even used a fire truck once.
After about four months, I wasn’t able to sneak up on them anymore and we had to observe from a distance under cover.
Made for very good driver training for me.

M561 "Gamma-goat" six-wheeled drive vehicle photographed in 1976

Photo from the Oregon Military Department

 

After the first month, I don’t believe LtC Curcio ever gave out another field grade Article 15. He always sent the matter
to the company commander to handle as he saw fit. He did however maintain a notebook for special details. The special details
were handled by CSM Pesta and were usually instructive in nature. Example: We were getting ready to move down-range
and he saw a track driver fire up the track and high-ball it out of the motor pool stone-cold. He had CSM Pesta loan him to Maint
for a month to change out engines on any track in the battalion. Don’t think that driver will ever forget that lesson.
He didn’t believe polishing the floors at battalion every night would do much good.

He was always the next to the last man to eat in the battalion, CSM Pesta was always the last and I was always the man in front of him.
Several times I delivered Hot A to the units in HQ-6 or HQ-22(his track). He felt he should keep in touch with the grunts.
What a novel idea. I always had 20 or 30 cases of C-rations in the track, 2 55 gal drums of diesel, and 5-6 cartons of smokes.
During the winter, I would carry 50 pair of socks to pass out. Don’t know where they came from, but CSP Pesta and LtC Curcio
placed a very high value on keeping the grunts as dry & happy as we could. Several times, he arranged to have field showers set up
at company locations. If you were a grunt, you know what that was worth. The TOC wasn’t such a cushy assignment
under LtC Curcio. They never had a luxury unless every line troop had it first. The TOC didn’t shut down at 21:00 every night.
We set up a perimeter and manned it the same as a line company. If a line company needed man-power, the headquarters element
provided it. Kind of like the jar-heads, everyone was an 11B first and foremost.

During our ARTEP 78, I ran the beat feet & shoot at Crooked Canyon 3 times in HQ-22. Once as the cdr’s track, once as A-22,
and once as CS-13. Just stenciled the bumper numbers because we were so short on man-power. I just appointed myself
an acting jack and joined the company for a couple days. If a company couldn’t field 75% of their tracks, the company spent
the next year in the sticks. All three times my squad consisted of clerks and mechanics. Nobody asked us to do it; we just did it
because we knew A & CSC didn’t have the man-power they needed to pass. I ran the idea by CSM Pesta and he said good idea, go ahead.
This is the kind of leader LtC Curcio was and the loyalty he inspired. Don’t get me wrong, he was no push over. If you screwed up,
your ass was his. Twice I was called on the carpet before him. Both times, I walked out knowing I had screwed up, how I had screwed up,
and that it had better not happen again. Every soldier in 1/22 Inf belonged to LtC Anthony J. Curcio and he was the only one we answered to.
He deferred to the company commanders and stood between his troops and anyone else. I saw him stand up to a 3 star
who was bitching out a troop from C-Co once. Walked up to him, quietly said something to him, they walked off a few meters
and talked, then the stars got in his jeep and unassed our AO. Nothing was ever said about it.

As you are driving from Barstow, just before you enter garrison at Ft. Irwin, there is a huge bolder to the right of the road
about 25 meters off to the side. After we had opened up Irwin and run all the critters out of the old wooden barracks
someone took a track out there on a week-end and used it as a scaffold to paint a huge 22nd Inf crest and “Regulars, by God”
on that bolder. I imagine it has been painted over many times now by other units. But in the space of six months, LtC Curcio,
Cpt. Jack O’Conner (Rangers lead the way), and CSM Pesta took a battalion of screw-ups and gave us that kind of pride.
Some of this may be able to be documented through the Ft. Carson newspaper (The Mountaineer, I think).
After we started MILES there was always someone from PIO or the paper taking pictures. I know opening Ft. Irwin was in it.
It is a shame that such a fine commander isn’t documented in the history of the Regulars. Thankfully we never went to war
under LtC Curcio, but if I had to go I can’t think of anyone I would rather have gone under. It would please me greatly
if you would list CSM Salvatore Pesta as LtC Curcio’s CSM. They made a great team. I believe CSM Pesta retired at Ft. Sill
around 1985. I don’t know what happened to Cpt. O’Conner. Best guess would be that he disappeared into Delta Forces,
he was that kind of Ranger.

I hope this helps fill in some of the missing history. They were rough years for a changing army and shouldn’t be forgotten.
They wanted the old grunts gone with our bad habits. A lot of resentment and anger then, but needed for the long run.

Regular 6 Delta
SP4 Don Krewson

By Don Krewson 2011

 

 

The boulder at Ft Irwin. 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry was the first unit to paint its insignia
on this rock as a symbol of its training mission there.

Photo from TRADOC Historical Monograph Series, 1992

 

 

 

 

 


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