The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Larry Nelson
For The Sun-Telegraph 

Veteran's History Project - Leslie E. Larsen

 

Leslie E. Larsen

Master Sergeant

U.S. Army

1972-2002

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Potter, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

In the fall of 2012, an American Legion District 4 meeting was held in Sidney. There were lots of topics that had to be covered in this meeting. Toward the end an item on the agenda was about recognizing people who accomplished things.

There was a traveling trophy awarded. It was the "Work horse" trophy and was presented to Master Sergeant (Ret.) Les Larsen. He was cited for so many things ... and is still working!

In 1972, the Nebraska National Guard was looking for people to fill the slots available in the unit. It was the 1057th Transportation Company Detachment situated in southeast Sidney. Larsen had already taken the military physical in Denver and all he needed to was enlist here and go to work as a member of the unit. He was working for the Farmer's Co-op in Sidney.

Sidney's Nebraska National Guard outfit was attached to the larger unit in Scottsbluff,. It was an Artillery Unit – one was usually able to tell what unit one was in if he kept asking "huh?" due to their cannons firing off with huge concussion-blasts.

The job the Sidney unit had for Larsen was that of being a meteorological specialist. Their work involved learning the Army's information system about weather. Once the weather was studied, conclusions could be made. The conclusions became a report needed by the Artillery people when aiming cannon, usually a Howitzer.

Larsen was sent to Fort Polk, La., for Basic Combat Training (BCT). When he left Western Nebraska, it was around 10 degrees. After landing in Louisiana, he found out the weather wasn't so bad, just wet.

In the '70s, a new recruit was called a "trainee" (among other things). All trainees needed haircuts, an issue of clothing, a battery of health-related shots, a box-load of paperwork and a place to live. The new trainees were assigned to a barracks that had housed W.W. I soldiers-in-training, back in the day.

There were 50 men in each of two-story, look-alike buildings that were in a row in the training area. With 25 men on each level, they had lots to process before actual training started.

Keeping great care of the appearance of their building was a big deal. Outside, the grounds of the building was neatly kept. Nearest the building were larger rocks that had been painted white. The unit numbers and some rah-rah were usually painted on them. "B-4-2 ALL THE WAY" for example. Going outward from the rocks was sand. The lines in the sand were put there by rakes guided by trainees. Then grass completed the look to the street. It was a good idea not to mess with the sand – or the rocks.

Inside the barracks were rows of bunk beds, two high. The bunks were aligned and situated toward the outside walls, near each man's wall locker. At the foot of each bunk was a pair foot lockers as well. That left a bay area. This was an expanse of wooden flooring that was another symbol of the unit's pride. Every evening, Johnson's paste wax was applied to the floor. The trainees had to shine it by hand, on their knees, using wool blankets. The only persons allowed passage on the center aisle were the drill sargeant and/or officers who came through the area. Trainees walked in the narrow aisle by the outer area of the room.

Larsen was from Nebraska and from farm/ranch country. He knew how to handle weapons and was in pretty good shape so BCT wasn't terribly difficult for him. Ten days after BCT started, the men were informed that the peace accord ending the war in Viet Nam had been signed. He recalled that there was some serious relief and celebration at that announcement. Speeches made, parades conducted, etc.

Les graduated BCT. Immediately after the ceremony, the new privates were to gather their gear, packed in duffle bags. There were three buses waiting for them and a bus trip to Fort Sill, Okla., was next.

In less than 24 hours, the buses arrived at the new installation. After getting squared away with a place to live, where the dining facility was and where classes were held, things eased up some. Their barracks were painted cinder-blocks, a couple of floors high and a much better place to live while being trained. Men were selected for weekend charge-of-quarters assignments, and normal life pretty much returned.

Les took this work seriously. He studied hard and soon knew his stuff. At graduation, he was promoted to E-3 because of his hard work and dedication. The Army helped with travel back to Sidney, because this much of training was completed. He checked into the Sidney unit on a Thursday morning and was welcomed back. Oh, by the way, you will be here at 0600 the next morning. The unit was leaving for Fort Carson, Colo., for annual training. At the unit formation before departing, the company commander promoted Les to Specialist 4 for his work at Advance Individual Training.

Once, having returned to the Sidney area, Les reported in to his job at Farmers Co-op. For the next 27 years, Les would be attending and training and working in the Sidney Guard unit. He made his next promotions in a timely manner. When he became a master sergeant, he was the top enlisted man in the unit.

Over the years, the unit changed classifications and names and numbers. Many soldiers left and many enlisted to take their places. The unit was called to active duty for several 29-day periods of time. The unit made their annual training assignments with travel to Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming and within Nebraska.

Soldiering in units such as these always seems to fall when something else is going on. Les missed lots and lots of family birthdays, weddings, funeral events and other events while in service to America. As it goes, the top enlisted man takes care of the soldiers. An easy month would include many phone calls and volunteer trips to the unit building to work things out for men. Les became very adept at working things through the Army wickets.

After serving more than 30 years of conscientious work, Les retired. In that he was so accomplished at getting things done, he still kept his irons in the fire with the American Legion.

The first paragraph of this story helps explain that! Les is in charge of the Honor Guard, which conducts military actions at local funerals. He is quite the spokesman for the American Legion. He is a representative for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. He is the "go to guy!"

Master Sgt. Les Larsen, great job! Thank you for your service.

 

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