By: Lou Rothenstein, CSM RET & Former MI Corps SGM
My first experience with a security clearance occurred in one of my early assignments. Returning from Europe in a cast, duty with the infantry was put on hold. I was assigned to Fortress Monroe VA where I handled special personnel actions over a wire link with MILPERCEN/HQ DA and the Six Continental Army’s. It had to do primarily with hardship type personnel actions and assignments for special categories of personnel like those in miscegenetic marriages. Maine and California had NIKE sites at about 200% strength before the civil rights act was passed. The job took at most, two hours a day so I was awarded the additional duty of supervising a night cleaning crew in the command suite of CONARC Commander General Bruce C. Clark. I had a clearance, the cleaning crew didn’t. I had to watch them and check work areas for anything appearing classified. I noticed that many of the plaques, certificates, and mementos in General Clark’s office were dusty and unpolished. Recalling the Army’s 12 th General Order “That all things unmoving such as rocks will be painted and all things metal, highly polished,” I told the cleaning crew supervisor that the General’s treasures must gleam in the moonlight. He was resistant at first but then recalled his two year stint in the army and agreed.
One morning at my important job of relaying messages, my boss, a CWO3 came up whispering – they want to see you up at the command group. “What did you do now, he asked?” (I had some problems with the local communities being a bit outspoken about their intolerance for some soldiers). It was late summer, hot and muggy in Tidewater Virginia and even in khaki bermuda shorts, I was sweating profusely. My skin under my cast began to itch and a feeling of doom crept over me. I could see my E5 stripes being torn off. What if they found a document or something that I overlooked? What if something was missing? I got up to meet my fate as the Chief muttered “it was nice to know you.” As I arrived, the General’s ADC saw my nervous condition and he calmed me down. In, a few minutes, he took me into see General Clark, four stars gleaming in the well-lit office. I reported with a hand salute. The general returned it standing up, and then he shook my hand. He pointed to his now glistening plaques, trophies and awards and thanked me for the job I was doing. No good deed goes unpunished and soon my job was expanded to include supervising cleaning of the other senior personnel in the headquarters area. My first evening chore was to do a cursory sweep to insure classified material was not left out. One day, some items were found. I was thanked by one of the general’s ADC as it was his desk that had the classified items in it. One day the CINC’s ADC said the general wanted to talk with me about my future army plans. He was soon going to Europe as CINC. I told him I would like to return overseas to a field unit. He said he would put in a word for me. He did and in about two weeks I had orders to report to Korea Military Advisory Group (KMAG) where I was to work full time in the commander’s office. A promotion to SSG changed that but that is another story. I eventually worked around several offices in KMAG and TDY to MAAG-V. It was recommended that I try and get into the new AIS, recently formed as my infantry days appeared over with another injury.
From Korea, I received orders for Heidelberg, Germany where General Clarke commanded. It appears that the general had something to do with that as well. I still ask myself whether it was my adherence to the 12 th General Order to polish all things brass or attention to document security that helped move my army career along the most. I was buried in the message vault, surrounded by classified material of all types.
Just before his retirement, I met the CINC in the HQ barber shop. He again asked about my plans. I advised him that my current job was fine but that it was far from the action such as Berlin. In a month I was in Berlin reporting to G2, Berlin Brigade where I became an intel type.
Background about the Author: Lou Rothenstein, CSM RET & Former MI Corps SGM
30 years AD 1956-86, 4 years Honorary SGM of MI Corps working with USAR/NG MI units activated during Desert Shield/Storm. Recruited into AIS after Infantry, injury/admin.
Started in AIS when the army converted some infantry/recon positions to AIS in 1962/63. Working with several GO along the way I got to see things a bit different than some other guys.
As primarily a 96B Analyst, I was often in jobs that were short 97’s, II’s, and learned to do some of this stuff – correspondence courses, questioning old hands, etc. I never went to an MI school. OJT. Only at the school as a 1SG at Fort Huachca. I also learned while there from old hands.
As an example, I learned accountability/fund handling from the US Navy. Taught it once a month in Vietnam to those going to Phoenix. I think a really rewarding area was trying to take care of MOS 97’s on special assignments. Many were overlooked for promotion boards and we were able to get them caught up by placing in a job for a short time for experience or convincing the board that they did good things. Another was the integration of ASA and MI.
I was fortunate to have had outstanding MI officers as bosses. Many of these early officers took over billets that were previously combat arms and convinced commanders that they could be of valuable service in their missions. I was most fortunate to end up at US Army CECOM as I was asked for my field experience on several projects.
Would have gone to to the higher HQ, AMC but could hardly walk, so I quit.
Lou Rothenstein, CSM RET
If you are a veteran, contractor, or civilian worker with involvement in US National Security-we need you! The Lint Center for National Security Studies is committed to the preservation of histories of people involved in the shaping and development of US. National Security history as we know it today. The experiences of veterans, contractors, and civil service members involved in US N.S. are needed to not only to help us better understand our own history but to carry that knowledge forward for future generations.
If you would like to add your experiences to the archive, please Submit Your Story!