By any measure, Colonel Bob Fullerton (aka: Tex) is a genuine American Hero. After GMS and an attempt at College, he chose to make the military his life’s work, and dedicated himself to being a Soldier in the U.S. Army to fight his country’s battles wherever they may be. In his case, it was primarily Viet Nam (two tours) and three tours in Korea, a tour in Germany (nothing hostile there except the women), Dominican Republic and elsewhere. This Hero shuns publicity. Here is a quote from Colonel Tex: “Deak, I have thought a lot about your overly kind offer to write my “life story” article, BUT – I do not feel worthy of your efforts. I have had a great and normal life. Nothing spectacular or exemplary.”
I, personally, would have expected Tex to say something like that. The Colonel is a Soldier’s Soldier. He’s is a Patriot and Warrior who has risen from being the 1st Sergeant in Company “D” at Greenbrier Military School to full bird Colonel in the United States Army. I think most would agree that is quite spectacular and exemplary.
Tex is the perfect example of a Greenbrier boy who became a man while there and made good in his chosen profession in spite of tremendous challenges and odds against it. He is the first to give credit to his early training at Greenbrier and in the Army. Time and space does not permit telling the entire story of Tex’s life; however, I think you will find what there is here of the life of this Warrior will be interesting and worth reading. HOO AH!
EARLY LIFE AND THE GREENBRIER MILITARY SCHOOL YEARS
Bob Fullerton was born on July 9, 1940 at Columbus, Ohio. His parents divorced when he was two years old and he was raised by his Mother. He had lost two young sisters to a tragic house fire shortly before he was born. Bob grew up on a farm near the little town of Dublin, Ohio (a Columbus suburb) and had a rather normal life for a farm lad. He was active in 4-H, Jr. High Band, played basketball, and caddied at the Scioto Country Club. Dublin, Ohio, is not only the home of my daughter, Mary Kathryn and husband, Kevin Zuza, it is also the home of the greatest golfer the world has ever known, Jack Nicklaus. Jack and Tex are the same age, so when Tex was a Caddie at the Scioto Country Club, Jack was hitting 13 buckets of balls a day and getting ready to win Amateur Championships while a student at The Ohio State University, which is also one of my Alma Maters (MBA, Fisher College of Business)
He came to Greenbrier Military School (GMS) the 1955/56 school year and was assigned to Company “D”. Company Commander was Cadet Captain Hosea “Johnny” Smith from Elkins, West Virginia. 1st LT Deak Roberts from Vienna, West Virginia, commanded the First Platoon and 2ndLT Lee Hadley from Marietta, Ohio, the Second Platoon. Fullerton wanted us to call him “Tex”, and we did and do to this day. Cadet Private Fullerton went into one of Hadley’s Squads and was not very visible during that first year. I remember him as a rather thin, pleasant young man with a nice smile and disposition. We were glad to have him in “D” Company, but he was totally “green” regarding anything military, and obviously one who would need intense training. Tex made the following remarks:
After graduating from Greenbrier in 1958, Tex returned to his home in Columbus (Dublin), Ohio, where he started college at The Ohio State University. In his Freshman Class were the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskoff, John “Hondo” Havlichek, and Jerry Lucas. Tex said, “ I regret to this day not applying myself. I got low grades and left Ohio State after two years, something I regret to this day.”
After that abortive attempt at College, Tex went uphill after that with lots of night courses after joining the Army. In an interview with Tex about joining the Army, he had this to say:
INTRODUCTION TO A LIFETIME CAREER
Then the day came when Tex got the call to go back to the States and go to Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Benning, GA. To hear Tex tell it, OCS was a whirlwind of yelling, stress, activity, long hours, and pressure. Out of the original 160, only 90 graduated. Tex broke no school records, but finished 13th in his class. He said he would not trade his OCS training for anything. Six months later Tex was commissioned the U.S. Army’s newest 2nd LT. He went from there to Airborne School where he earned Airborne Wings after five jumps, and was assigned to the elite 11th Pathfinder Detachment in the new 11 Airborne Assault Division based at Fort Benning. Tex loved being in an elite Airborne Unit. The Division was given 450 helicopters and was the Army’s first test unit for air mobility. Tex took a five week Pathfinder Course to get qualified. If you don’t know, a Pathfinder is the one that goes in first to prepare a battlefield landing zone. Not exactly the safest job in the world. These guys are trained to go into enemy territory by any means possible (air, land or sea) to prepare drop zones, operate airfields, and prepare helo landing zones day or night. Not an easy task, and extremely dangerous.
TIME TO GO INTO HARM’S WAY
After a short stint in the Dominican Republic, Tex became part of the 1st Cavalry Division -- Airmobile. He returned home in time to marry his first wife, then immediately deployed to Vietnam on the USS Darby (AP 127), a troopship out of mothballs. As they passed through the Panama Canal, Tex was promoted to 1stLT on the Bridge of the ship. The next 30 days was at sea headed for Vietnam. Training continued with Physical Training and rifle shooting off the fantail, map study and country studies.
They had no idea what to expect when they got in-country. Here is the description in Tex’s own words:
Tex and his unit built the An Khe Base which became home for the next year. They stayed deployed with various infantry units setting up landing zones as needed. They operated mostly in the Central Highlands and were part of the la Drang Valley operation which earned the Presidential Citation for the Division.
Tex saw a lot of combat in Vietnam, but there is not room, nor time, to tell all. Regardless, I can give you one example. Tex, and his fellow Pathfinders, stayed packed with ready rucksack ready to move on a moment’s notice. Like most missions, he was told to “grab your shit and move out”. This time they were working with the infamous 7th Cav, same one commanded by General George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn. They had not done much better than Custer in Vietnam and that gave him some “pucker factor”. It is best to hear this part in Tex’s own words and I quote:
When his year was up, Tex got ordered back to FT. Benning as an instructor at Infantry School teaching Pathfinder Techniques in the Airborne Department. He was able to pass on some good real-world experience to the students. Promoted to Captain, he was soon commander of a mechanized rifle company that got deployed to Baltimore to help with the Martin Luther King assassination riots. Tex said it was not a good assignment, but he would be returning to Vietnam soon.
Tex further said:
In 1974, Tex returned home to finish his degree at the University of Tampa. It was during this period when he was promoted to Major. He said he saved a few bucks by not having a Promotion Party. That was probably significant. I was at the Luke AFB Officer’s Club in Arizona one evening. They had a big layout of hot and cold hors ‘deouvres that were free. I went up to pay my tab and they said “no charge”. What it was was was 9 Air Force Captains had been promoted to Major and they got to pick up the tab for the entire club for the whole night….ouch! . Major Fullerton was ordered to Command and Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He also managed to finish Graduate School at the University of Missouri – Kansas City before rolling west for assignment as Commander of the Ft. Lewis, WA, Field Office. They had Counterintelligence responsibility for a large area in the West. He held this position until 1978, and was then assigned as the 2nd Infantry Division’s Assistant G-2 for Intelligence at Camp Casey, Korea.”
Tex with son, Andrew, a Private in the USMS
Tex just made Colonel
Tex was next promoted to Lt Colonel and moved to U.S. Forces Command Headquarters at Ft. McPherson, GA, and served on the Director of Intelligence staff. He divorced his first wife They had one son, Andrew, who also served in the Marines. Tex met Rosalind (Roz) Barlow who married him in 1984. They were assigned to the 2nd Armored Division, Foot Hood, TX, where Tex commanded the Military Intelligence Battalion and served as the Division’s G-2He then attended the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA. This was schooling for Senior Officers destined for important jobs and future promotion.
Following the War College, Tex got an assignment as Program Manager for the $100 million Development and Fielding of the Korean Intelligence Support System (KISS) program throughout Korea. He was also promoted to Colonel. Tex returned home to the States in ’88, for his last assignment at Ft. Meade, MD, where he commanded the Central Clearance Facility. They had security clearance responsibility for all Army personnel.
Before retiring, Tex was inducted into the Army OCS Hall of Fame in 1992. Tex retired to his home in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1993. His wife, Roz, who worked for the General Services Administration (GSA), Washington, D.C., transferred to Atlanta where they have lived ever since. Tex has remained busy in retirement performing hours of volunteer work – principally, with Special Olympics; conducting driver safety classes for Seniors; serving on the OCS Alumni Board, and actively mentoring and guest speaking at a variety of OCS functions. Today, he mostly reads, travels, and has become as lazy as an old dog (those were his words).
Colonel Tex Fullerton is without question an American Hero. This college dropout did just what he did at Greenbrier Military School. In his early days at the Brier, he fouled up and did a lot of time on “The Beat” to pay for it. But, being an intelligent fellow, which he was, he wised up rather quickly and started doing things right. And like so many of his role models before him, including yours truly, who had travelled the same path, life got measurably better. Tex learned to appreciate “The Beat”. It was an integral part of the Greenbrier learning experience. Every demerit equated to one-half hour on “The Beat”, and watching your buddies go into town while you spend hours marching around the flagpole is an indelible lesson indeed. After dropping out of Ohio State, Tex went in the Army and began applying himself. He went back to college, including graduate school, and went to many Army schools. . He also attended Harvard as a Fellow for Senior Officials of National Security. The schools played an important role in his becoming an Officer and advancing in rank. Achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel are especially difficult. Navy only promotes 15% of all eligible Lieutenant Commanders (equals Major in the other services) to Commander (LtCol), and subsequently, promotes only 15% of Commanders to Captain (Colonel), so it is very difficult to reach high rank.
Colonel Fullerton is a highly decorated Officer with many awards. I will not name them all, but they include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star with V device and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, and Pathfinder Badge.
Reading his story, you may have noticed Colonel Fullerton was moved to different locations many times during his career. He did three tours in Korea and two in Vietnam, and one in Germany. He was at several different Forts (Benning, Lewis, McPherson, Hood, and Meade), and then there were all the schools. Such is the nature of being a Military Officer. Being a career Military Officer obviously requires great sacrifice. Tex Fullerton made the sacrifice for our Nation and the Freedom we enjoy today. I know I am most grateful for his service, and I hope he enjoys his well-earned retirement with his lovely wife, Roz, and his family.
The highest honor I can pay to a person is to write a poem dedicated to them. The following poem is dedicated to Colonel Tex Fullerton.
ODE TO THE PATHFINDER
RUCKSACK IS READY WHEN THEY SHOUT “GRAB YOUR SHIT”
TIME FOR YOU TO GO WHERE YOU WILL BE A HIT
A HELO NEEDS TO LAND IN THE JUNGLE OR IN THE SAND
NOW IT’S UP TO YOU TO DO YOUR BIT
FOR YOU ARE THE PATHFINDER IT’S TRUE
AND YOU MUST MARK THE LANDING ZONE ANEW
YOU GET TO WORK DAY OR NIGHT TO BRING IN THE FLIGHT
AND THE ENEMY MIGHT BE THERE TO BID YOU ADIEU
YOU ARE VERY GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO
A TRUE PROFESSIONAL THROUGH AND THROUGH
YOU CAN BRING THEM IN AT NIGHT WITH NOTHING MORE THAN A FLASHLIGHT
AND LAND THEM SAFELY AMONG THE BAMBOO
YOUR RECORD WILL SERVE AS A REMINDER
OF ALL THE TIMES YOU AVOIDED THE GRIM REAPER
FOR ALL THE LIVES YOU HELP SAVE YOU MUST BE VERY BRAVE
FOR YOU ARE THE PATHFINDER
Original poetry by Deak Roberts, September 8, 2015