Mark Rosenthal, GKB alumni, class of ’78 has shared his thoughts with me in the past, and a couple weeks ago (22 August to be exact) he contacted me again with some thoughts about history, tradition, and being Airborne.  As  a basic training XO I taught the history and tradition class to new soldiers. I can certainly relate to what he had to say. I value Army history and  tradition and think it is what makes being a soldier so special.  I have also worked  in the civilian world for a company (US Steel) with a proud history that made working in the mill special. Being part of something bigger than yourself has value.

40 years ago *this month* I was experiencing my first exposure to the “real Army” attending Jump School between my Sophomore and Junior years at Clarkson.

I returned to school with “the haircut” and shiny new jump wings.

Right now I am cruising at Flight Level 380 over Montana on my way home from a consulting gig.

Under the seat in front of me is my computer bag. Proudly displayed on it is the “AA” “Airborne” patch that I wore on my sleeve in 1980-82.

During my time on active duty, I wore a lot of patches on my left sleeve.
The Artillery School
2nd Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division
XVIII Airborne Corps
3rd Armored Division

but it’s the 82nd patch that I display today. But had I not attended jump school at a Clarkson cadet, I likely would have taken a different path.

It’s not about “jumping out of airplanes.” (Key point: There are *no* “perfectly good airplanes” in the Air Force). Rather, it was / is about being a part of something bigger – a tradition that extends back to 1940, and to 1944. When I was in the division, our CG, MG Malloy pointed out that nobody says “Boy, I wish we were as good as the 4th Mech.”

In some previous email, I sent a photo of my wings under a Clarkson unit crest on a black background. Those pins are on my Clarkson Ranger beret. Those wings are the ones I got at graduation, and are engraved “Aug 27, 1976” on the back – the day I got them. I carried that beret in my cargo pocket on my first jump with the 82nd as well, because, well, I wanted to connect my Clarkson Ranger experience with that one.

So… “Congratulations” to any cadets who have pinned on new jump wings over the summer. My message is this – those three weeks can change your life in subtle ways you don’t realize. Those wings aren’t a merit badge. They are a tradition.

PS – Our pilot for the flight out of BWI was also waiting for the plane this afternoon. I noticed his tie tack was a small jump wings pin. I approached him and said I liked his tie tack, and pointed to the patch on my bag. He had attended jump school as an Air Force cadet in 1979. He went on to be a transport pilot, and now flies Airbus A320’s for Delta. He never went on jump status, yet all of these years later, THAT is what he wears as a tie tack. Pretty cool.

“All The Way!”

This Summer 9 Cadets completed Air Assault training and one Cadet attended Airborne school and earned jump wings.  Clarkson Army ROTC continues the tradition of Cadets taking on the challenges offered over the summer.


5 Tips to Survive BOLC



It’s the time of year when we commission our new Lieutenants and they take the next step in their Army journey.  2LT Andrew Nelden was one of our graduates last year.  When he returned over the new year for as stint as a home town recruiter before reporting to his first duty station I asked him to give me some lessons learned from his Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC).  Here are his thoughts.
Cadet NeldenI recently graduated Ordnance BOLC in Fort Lee, Virginia and wanted to pass along a few tips to MSIVs and other new LTs headed there.  BOLC is an excellent learning experience and prepares you to head to your first duty station.  You have the chance to meet other LTs from around the country and have the opportunity to learn from them as well.  A Captain will be assigned as your TAC officer and assist you in learning your branch so you have the most current information the school house has to offer.  To maximize your experience there, here are a few tips to get you through there.

1) Take detailed notes on the topics you cover in the order you cover them.  Every BOLC is broken down into phases where you will learn different pieces of your branch.  By taking detailed notes throughout the course you will set yourself up for success and give you references to look back on.

2) Network. Network. Network.  The other LTs you will have the opportunity to work with will supply you with knowledge at the course and throughout your career.  Make good friends and contacts there because you will see them again!

GKB class of 20143) Ensure your uniforms are correct and to standard.  As an Officer you set the standard for the uniform and it helps show your TAC that you are a professional and ready to lead your platoon.

4) Ask questions!  This is the best time to ask questions from the experts in your field.  If you have any question, you need to ask it.  You go to your unit after this!

5) Have thick skin.  When you get to BOLC, you need to be able to take constructive criticism well and learn from your mistakes.  The delivery may be a bit harsh, so be ready.

LT NeldenAs always, reach out to alumni and classmates from your schools that have gone through BOLC.  They will be able to answer some of you questions and be able to supply you with products and other course materials you may need.

GKB 2012 Clarkson graduates

Here are the Cadets that will take their oath tomorrow and commission into the Army. The following day they will graduate from Clarkson University. A good group of Army Leaders.

Lieutenant Chris Coveleski

Lieutenant Coveleski is commissioned into the Transportation Corps. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Suppy Chain Management with a minor in Law Studies. He will attend the Transportation Officer Basic Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He will serve in the New York National Guard with the 42nd Infantry Division Intelligence and Sustainment Company.

Lieutenant Russell Austin

Lieutenant Austin is commissioned into the Infantry. He will graduate with distinction and receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He will serve at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Washington this summer prior to attending the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. His first duty assignment will be at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division.

Lieutenant Austin is also a distinguished military graduate signifying his high standing in the class and national order of merit list.

Lieutenant Matthew Edgette

Lieutenant Edgette is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He will graduate with distinction and receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He will attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His first duty assignment will be at Heidleberg Germany with the 18th Engineer Brigade.

Lieutenant Michael Fensterer

Lieutenant Fensterer is commissioned into the Armor Branch. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Supply Chain Management. He will attend the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. LT Fensterer also leaves Clarkson with a perfect 4-0 record as the goalie for the the Army team in our annual ice hockey game against Air Force.

Lieutenant Timothy Nevin

Lieutenant Nevin is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degrees in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with a minor in Project Management. He will serve at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Washington this summer prior to attending the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He will serve in the Reserves with the 382nd Engineer Company, Sappers out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lieutenant Chris O’Connor

Lieutenant O’Connor is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He will attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His first duty assignment will be at Fort Carson, Colorado with the 4th Engineer Battalion.

Lieutenant David Pecka

Lieutenant Pecka is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He will attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He will serve in the Reserves with the 479th Engineer Battalion out of Fort Drum, New York.

Lieutenant Joshua Risewick

Lieutenant Risewick is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. He will attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His first duty assignment will be at Fort Hood, Texas with the 36th Engineer Brigade.

Lieutenant Jonathon Waterman

Lieutenant Waterman is commissioned into Military Intelligence branch. He will receive a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree. He will attend the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He will serve in the Reserves with the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion in Mattydale, New York.

Lieutenant Jennifer Zanghi

Lieutenant Zanghi is commissioned into the Medical Service Corps. She will graduate with great distinction and receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. She will attend the Medical Services Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas prior to attending flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama in order to train as a medevac pilot.

Lieutenant Zanghi is also recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate signifying her high standing in the class and national order of merit list.

Congratulations to all the Golden Knights…stay tuned for our Commissionees from SUNY Potsdam and St Lawrence who will commission next week.

The Oath

I was recently contacted by Mark Rosenthal ‘78. Along with being a product of Clarkson and the Golden Knight Battalion he also writes a blog, and he shared with me something he wrote regarding the Oath of Office. Springtime is when we usually commission our graduates. Part of that commissioning ceremony involves the Cadets taking their oath of office. Mark had some thoughts about the oath and he shared them with me, and I in turn share them with you.

Spring 2011 commissioning class taking their Oath of Office

The Oath of Office

When I was on active duty, we spent a lot of time studying the armed forces and political systems of the Soviet Union. Actually it was impossible to study those two topics separately.
While we liked to imagine that the USSR was totalitarian rule by a single individual, it was actually far more complicated. If the Chairman of the Communist Party lost the faith of the Politburo, it was possible for them to replace him. This actually happened in 1964 when Nikita Khrushchev was perceived as liberalizing too quickly. There was a bloodless coup, he was replaced, and we soon entered the Brezhnev era that epitomized the final stages of the Cold War.

There were also factions within the party structure.

There was the Communist Party itself. There was the KGB – the security apparatus – and there was the military.

The checks and balances were based on mutual suspicion. The Party and the Military were wary of the KGB’s power; and the KGB was on the lookout for disloyalty to the Party – as they perceived it.

Within the military structure, there were KGB political officers at every level of command. They were there to ensure the loyalty of the commanders, ensure the political soundness of orders and directives, and could countermand orders they disagreed with.

We see this pattern of “political control” consistently applied whenever a state has reason to distrust the power of its armed forces.

The USA, of course, has no such structure. We have never had a need for it. I had always taken it for granted that such political controls were the domain of states that did not share our values and freedoms.

When I was serving, the 82nd Airborne had a battalion of light tanks (M551A1 Sheridans). Part of my time at Ft Bragg was as XO of Charlie Company in that battalion.

In 1981 Charlie Company had a great opportunity. We engaged in an exchange with the Blues and Royals in the British Army. You may recall more recently that Prince Harry served in that regiment in Iraq. They trace their history back to the year 1640 or so and are, in their own words, “the second stuffiest regiment in the British Army.”

During my initial visit to set up logistics, etc. I was meeting their officers. One of them introduced himself as the “Education Officer.” He was not part of the Regiment, but rather, was in the “Education Corps” and stationed on the post with the regiment.

From the title, I naturally assumed his role was to give the soldiers opportunities to further their education while they served.

Boy was I wrong. In his words “our job is to ensure that the soldiers maintain the correct view.” Further, he filed reports on individual officers regarding what he regarded as their politics. In other words, he was a political officer of sorts, there to watch over the regiment and make sure they were loyal to the “values of a liberal democracy” and he specifically cited one by name who “bears watching.” Wow.

The officers’ oath was to the sovereign – the Queen, and just as we in the USA take our oath seriously (or should), so did they. The “Education Corps” was there to ensure that Her Majesty’s Government, as represented by the elected Ministers of Parliament, maintained control of the military in the event that officers somehow disagreed with governmental policies.
I found that quite interesting.

When in Germany, I served in 1st Battalion 32nd Armor, in the 3st Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division. We had a partnership battalion in the German Bundeswehr, the 41st Panzer Battalion.

While working with them, I found they had a civilian assigned to the unit. His nominal job was to help them maintain their budgets, etc. Though he worked with the military command, he was not part of it. His reporting was through a civilian chain up through the Ministry of Defense. This parallel chain ran all the way through their command structure. Their job was control – to make sure that money was being spent on the right things, and not being spent on the wrong things. His approval was needed for the battalion to do pretty much anything that didn’t involve staying in the barracks. He controlled fuel, ammunition, food, repair parts, logistics.

As I became more conscious of these structures in other countries, I came to realize that our military has a pretty much unique relationship with our civilian government – one of trust. They trust us. They don’t feel the need to have a parallel structure to watch what we say, what we do.

When you are commissioned, you will take an oath. Typically you only take this oath once.

On the other hand, during your time in service, you will hear the oath taken by Enlisted personnel many times, as they take it each time they reenlist.

It is easy to forget the differences between the two. The key difference is what is not in the oath of commissioning.

Here is the Enlisted oath:
“I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
And this is the one you will take:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”
As a commissioned officer, your oath carries a lot more responsibility. You are not taking an oath to obey orders, or even follow regulations. Your oath is to support and defend the nation’s rule of law. Is this a license of disobey lawful orders or ignore regulations? Of course not. That is not even implied here. The effectiveness of our Armed Forces requires that discipline to carry out the intent of this oath. But that discipline not imposed upon you. It is Intended to come from within you.

In the United States, we rely on our Commissioned Officers to be the ones who ensure the military remains loyal to the nation’s rule of law rather than an individual who might – at some point in the future – try to usurp that power. We don’t need a parallel command structure, because we trust our officers to do the right thing and we give them the flexibility to do so. We don’t constrain them from doing the right thing with their oath.

You have a very unique position. Almost without exception, no other nation places as much trust in the personal integrity of its armed forces. Take your oath seriously.

Mark Rosenthal ‘78

Clarkson Rangers circa 1976

Thanks Mark. I could relate to your thoughts because we served at the same time in some of the same places. I too remember when the USSR was the “enemy”. I also remind the Cadets often about the importance of Army Values, the Warrior Ethos/Soldiers Creed, and the Oaths we take. Good luck to this years Commissioning class and all the Cadets who will take this oath in the future.

Airborne Congratulations

I recently received this email from one of our alumni congratulating our cadet Airborne school graduates from this summer.  One of the unique things about the Army is our links to our  past, and the traditions that remind us about those who have gone before us. Whether it is the history of your ROTC Battalion, or the storied history of your current unit, being part of something bigger than yourself is what makes the Army a special place.

Cadet's Olszewski, Macci, and Strait hanging out at Airborne school

Scott –

As the new school year begins, please pass along my congratulations to Cadets Austin, Strait, Olszewski, and Macci from the 3rd Clarkson cadet to attend jump school. (August 1976).

Mark Rosenthal
class of 78

(Ask LTC Hassett about LZ Ziplock)

Guess I’ll ask LTC Hassett about LZ Ziplock next time I see him.

Green to Gold

Green to Gold is a program that allows active duty soldiers to leave the Army, go back to school to earn a degree and participate in ROTC, and return to the Army with a commission as a Second Lieutenant.

I recently received an email from one of our recently graduated, and currently deployed alum.  LT Jeremy Paro is currently serving in the Transportation Corp in Afghanistan.  He wrote requesting some information about Green to Gold for his soldiers.  Here is what he asked.

I am writing as some of my Soldiers have expressed interest to me in potentially becoming Officers.  Is there any material or literature that I can give them or print out for them that outlines the process to apply for the Green to Gold program or just joining ROTC via a normal 2-4 year scholarship?

So, in an effort to make things simple I’m going to turn my response into a blog post (is this being lazy, or smart???)

Here is my response

The best way for your soldiers to start the process is to visit

Once they check that out I would suggest they go on facebook and visit

Captain Smith at Fort Drum is one of our cadre who does nothing but Green to Gold (he actually does some other things, but mostly G2G).  He can help any applicant, anywhere in the world, who wants to attend school anywhere.  And the last location for good information is here

Hope that helps…make sure all your soldiers know about the GKB, and see if any of them play hockey.

I hadn’t been on the facebook page in a while, but when I swung over there to get the link I was reminded just what a great job Captain Hunt, and now Captain Smith have done spearheading a new approach to Green to Gold.  They have essentially taken the initiative to be the primary point of contact between Cadet Command and the field force for anyone considering Green to Gold.  They have simplified a process that was a little bit of a mystery, and found some unique ways to leverage things like the non-scholarship option.  Last semester we added 5 Green to Gold cadets to the GKB.  One received an Active Duty Option scholarship, and the other four joined us through the non-scholarship option.  We added one more non-scholarship cadet this spring.

If you are a Soldier wishing to pursue the Green to Gold option check out the links, contact the Fort Drum Green to Gold officer, and start looking at colleges.

And leave me a comment to let me know you are starting the journey!!!

Good Luck!




Deployed during the Holidays

Been trying to get this post written for a while, and a tweet caught my eye today and motivated me to write.

#USArmy Photo of the Day: “Holiday Tour.” Tell us about some of the concerts or shows you’ve seen while deployed.

As I was thinking about our deployed alum, the holiday season, and my own experience being deployed during the holidays I wanted to share what it is like. I was also looking for the picture I took of my Thanksgiving plate in the mess hall in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Couldn’t find the pic, but I can still tell the story.

Let me start off with a very recent email from one of our recent grads and recipients of a holiday package.

LT Kathryn Cavan Rogan writes


First of all, thank you so much for the package! I loved everything. I now take my Potsdam pink travel mug to the DFAC in the mornings and get my coffee.  And of course I loved the healthy snacks! You all know me so well.

It really means so much that you all take the time to send deployed Soldiers care packages. People in my unit were shocked that my college sent me anything. But it’s hard to understand how special of an ROTC program Clarkson University really is. You treat all of the cadets as if they are family. I have nothing but great memories of my time in Potsdam with Clarkson Army ROTC. I am so proud to have come from this program. I think about you guys all the time. And I can’t believe how fast time goes by. I am being looked at for Captain in January. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was sitting upstairs and having MSG Empey and MAJ Praynor yell at me for who know what reason.

I have attached some photos. You will be happy to know that LT Frisone and I saw each other yesterday in Kuwait. So we took some pictures for you all. I only had a Potsdam flag.
Katie and Mike in Kuwait

See you all soon! Have a great end of the semester and a wonderful holiday break. I will be home in January for my R&R. I will do my best to come and visit. If not, I should be home before Graduation!


As I think back to my own career two distinct events regarding the Holidays come to mind.

The Holiday Season in 2003 I was in Afghanistan, and I already mentioned the heaping Thanksgiving meal plate (turkey, ham, yams, crab legs, stuffing, and gravy). There was also the USO show right before Christmas that featured Al Franken, Karri Turner from JAG, Daryle Worley, a couple of Redskin cheerleaders, and Sergeant Major of the Army Tilley’s daughter who sang. On Christmas day we even had a Christmas parade on the base featuring Gators and HMMVWs decorated to look like Santa’s sleigh, and a local who brought camel.

Not the best photo, but a pick of the Redskin cheerleaders in Bagram AFG

The second event was a little more reverent. Easter sunrise service in the desert of Iraq just after Desert Storm. What struck me most about that day was that it doesn’t take a big fancy church, our Sunday best, and chocolate candy to remember the reason for the season.

So I hope this Holiday season, and more importantly every day you pause to think about those that are serving in harms way. If you’ve got a good story about the Holidays on the frontiers of freedom, or you got a holiday shipment from the GKB leave us a comment.