Ralph's "Going in the Army" Party

 February 1967


 Ralph's first stop was "infantry basic training" at Fort Polk, LA. Home of the United States Training Center. Depending on who you asked, Fort Polk was also called "Fort Puke"! Throughout basic training Ralph was an E-1 "recruit" as Bob Witt explains "lower than whale manure".

Ralph was in Company B, Third Battalion, Fifth Training Brigade.

Training commenced on 20 February 1967 and was completed on 14 April 1967.

An assignments board on base at this time read "WE WISH YOU GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY TRAINING". One of Ralph's first friends in the Army was Tim (Albert H.) Wilson. They would go on to be WOC and Flight School Classmates! They would also be in Vietnam stationed at Camp Evans at the same time but with different units.


 Ralph's next phase of training was at Fort Wolters, TX. It was here where he went through Warrant Officer Candidate School. WOC School began on 1 May 1967 and for 5 months Ralph learned pre flight, basic flight and advanced flight skills. At this point in his Army career he was an E5 (SGT) with more pay to offset extra expenses, i.e. uniforms, etc. He was in Class 67-23, B-2, 5th WOC Company and became friends with a fellow MA guy named Bob Vinson from Belmont.


  Bob Vinson and Ralph upon completion of WOC School!



   Bob's Continuing Friendship!

 Boston Globe Staff Photo Credit - Tom Herde

Bob's photo was on the front page of The Boston Globe that ran May 27, 2002 (Memorial Day). Bob is actually from Rockport, MA and not only would visit Ralph's grave every Memorial Day but would then stop at Ralph's childhood home and say hello to his Mom and Dad and family! Bob was stationed at Fort Carson, CO when Ralph was killed in action. He was granted leave and returned home for Ralph's funeral. He would soon be sent to Vietnam in January of 1969 assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Evans. Bob with the 101st would be camped in the same area at Camp Evans as Ralph had been with C/227.


Other WOC 67-23B classmates that Ralph would cross paths with in Vietnam were Carl Gastineau (A227AHB), Tim Wilson (11th GS), Glenn Hess (C227AHB), Terry Pestel (C227AHB) and Gerald Webster. Glenn and Terry would actually be tent mates and fly the same mission with Ralph on July 21st, 1968.


 A birthday letter home to Marie during Ralph's WOC training!


 Another Letter to Marie during Training!


 Post Cards Sent Home!


Post Cards, Rank and Insignia Sent Home to Ralph's Cousins!

 Post Card, Rank and Insignia Courtesy of Len Blaney


 Post Card Courtesy of Dan and Maura Blaney


 Post Card Sent to Gerard "G" Golden

Post Card Courtesy of Gerard Golden 



 Bob Wilber's Note and Photographs

October 2015

 I was put in touch with Bob through Clifton Williams another one of Ralph's WOC Classmate who I have been in touch with. Remembering that Bob and Ralph were great friends and roommates at Ft. Wolter's, Clifton looked up Bob's name in the VHPA Directory and called him out of the blue in 2014. (When Clifton emailed me with Bob's phone number he told me Bob was quite shocked to have heard from him because for 45 years he thought Clifton had been killed in Vietnam!) I had a wonderful telephone conversation with Bob who told me some great stories of his times together with Ralph. He also told me that Ralph on his way to Vietnam had a lay over in San Francisco, so Ralph stayed with his wife Linda, who was living with his dad in San Francisco, while Bob was away for additional training. He told me Linda was able to show Ralph San Francisco for a couple of days and that they enjoyed home cooked dinners at night with his dad. Bob told me he would would mail me a couple of photos he had of Ralph. They were included with a a nice note that I have posted below.


Upon completion of WOC School the final step in training was at Fort Rucker, AL for Flight School. Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Aviator Course Class 67-501. Training here lasted four months. One month of basic instruments, two months of advanced instruments, one month of Huey transition and one month of tactics. It culminated with graduation ceremonies on 13 February 1968. At graduation his Mom pinned on his Army Aviator wings and Ralph was promoted to W-1 (Warrant Officer One). It was at Flight School that Ralph met and became good friends with Bob Witt. They would fly together on the same MAC flight to Vietnam along with fellow 67-501 graduate Mark Young. They would all be assigned to 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion. Bob and Mark assigned to A Company and Ralph assigned to C Company. Bob Vinson and Ralph continued their friendship in Flight School along with Gerald Webster and Tim Wilson. It was in Flight School that Ralph met Buzz Whitmire. He would later meet fellow 67-501 Classmate Larry Callahan and John Esslinger when they were together assigned to C227AHB.


  Flight School Class 67-501


 U.S. Army Certificates


 Ralph's Insignia, Shoulder Patch, Name 

Tag, US Army Tag, Warrant Officer One Rank and his "Wings"


  Flight School Graduation Pictures


Email conversation from Tim Wilson to Bob Witt (November 2011)

"Ralph Willard and I went through basic training at Ft. Puke (Polk) together in the Fifth Training Brigade and he was my best friend during those days. The Army did everything pretty much alphabetically and there was only one person between us by alphabet so our bunks were next to each other throughout training there. We both were from the New England area......Ralph from Massachusetts and me from Connecticut. We went to Wolters together and he ended up in class 67-23B2 and I was in Class 67-23B3. At Rucker, we both ended up in 67-501. After Rucker, we both were assigned to the 1st Air Cav. Ralph to the 227th and me to 11th GS. (Both at Camp Evans). He was the first friend who was "lost" in RVN and I was very upset at the time."

Email conversation with Tim Wilson (May 2012)

"Your brother and I were very close back then as we had the "New England" attitude. We enjoyed many hours together both "on duty" and "off duty" We had always talked about visiting each others families, but never did as our military schedules never really allowed. Your brother's loss was a great shock to me at the time. I still think of him often along with others that were "lost" back then that I knew quite well."


 Class 67-501 Graduation

 Photo courtesy of Tim Wilson/11th GS, 1st Cavalry Airmobile Division


Orders to Vietnam
Orders Courtesy of Bob Witt