View Full Version : 5th SFG HQs Memorialized as Howard Hall

07-12-2013, 11:09
Reflecting on what this memorialization would mean to her father, Mrs. Gentsch closed by adding, “I know what my father would want me to say today. He would ask that when you walk by this building do not think of him, but of what he embodied – a true Soldier, a Soldier who always put God and his country above all else.”


5th SFG Operations Complex Memorialized as Howard Hall
ClarksvilleInLine, 11 July 2013

Bob Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama, in a house on a hill accessed by a single road. At the bottom of the hill living in two houses on either side of the road were two families, each with several boys that were both older and bigger than him.

Bob Howard was a smart boy. He knew the odds were not in his favor if he challenged the boys, so every day on his way home from school he would devise a different plan to get past the boys and up the hill to his home without getting into trouble.

On one particular day, Bob received a new pair of shoes. They were not brand new, but they were new to him. He desperately wanted to hold onto them for as long as he could. Realizing the challenge he faced getting past the boys, Bob decided to make a run for it as fast as he could straight up the hill. In better shape than the other boys, Bob made it to his home with his shoes still on his feet.

Reaching the front of his house, he was met by his grandmother, a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense woman, who asked him, “What are you running from? What in the world are you doing?”

He explained to his grandmother about the boys and why he was running. His grandmother looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Boy, don’t you ever run from anything again. Next time you walk up that hill and look those boys straight in the eyes.”

The next day Bob was walking home. As he arrived at the two houses at the bottom of the hill, he took a deep breath and remembered what his grandmother told him. Holding his head high, he walked between the two houses until he came face-to-face with the crowd of boys.

To this day no one knows exactly what happened between the bottom and the top of that hill, but according to Bob when he arrived at his house he was beaten a bit and his clothes were torn, but he had a smirk on his face and his shoes on his feet.

That is a perfect illustration of the way retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard lived his life and it was a fitting story shared with those in attendance at the dedication ceremony of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) headquarters building named in his honor July 3rd by his daughter Mrs. Melissa Gentsch.

Howard served his country for more than 50 years, spending 36 years on active duty in the U.S. Army and the remainder working for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. During his career he participated in two movies, The Longest Day and The Green Berets, both featuring John Wayne. He died in 2009 from pancreatic cancer.

“It is safe to say that most Americans, especially Soldiers, know the name Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. Soldier of World War II,” stated Col. Scott Brower, commander of the 5th SFG (A), during the dedication ceremony. “I think it is just as safe to say that not as many Americans or Soldiers know the name Bob Howard and that is truly unfortunate.”

Howard is the most decorated Soldier to have served in the Vietnam War. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions for three separate acts over the span of 13 months; ultimately receiving the award at the White House from President Richard M. Nixon in 1971 for his actions corresponding to the third nomination.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Howard was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Nation’s second highest award for valor, the Silver Star, the third highest award, and numerous lesser valorous decorations including eight Purple Hearts in recognition of the 14 times he was wounded over the span of 55 months he served in combat.

In December 1968, Col. Howard (then a Sergeant 1st Class), was a Special Forces Platoon Sergeant for an American-Vietnamese platoon when his acts of gallantry merited the Medal of Honor. Howard was part of a mission to rescue a missing American Soldier in enemy controlled territory in Cambodia.

After leaving its helicopter landing zone, the platoon was attacked by an enemy element estimated to be the size of two companies. Howard, along with his platoon leader, was wounded during the initial engagement. He was weaponless and unable to walk.

Without hesitating Howard dragged the wounded officer to the platoon area and immediately rallied the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his own safety, Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid and directing fire on the encircling enemy.

For three and a half hours, what was left of Howard’s small force fought off a determined enemy attack, ultimately allowing helicopters to land and rescue the remainder of the force. That day only six of the 37 members of his platoon survived the battle. If not for Colonel Howard, there most likely would have been no survivors.

Regarding his actions that led to the awarding of the Medal of Honor, Howard years later would state, “I had a job to do, which was leadership.” He did just that. He led.

“[Howard] was not seeking glory. He was not seeking recognition. He was doing what needed to be done,” stated Brower. “He faced a determined enemy. He faced his own fears. He ran to the aid of others at the risk of his own life. He did what needed to be done.”

At the end of the day Howard was doing what his grandmother told him to do that afternoon at the top of the hill in Opelika, Alabama, “Boy, don’t you ever run from anything again. Next time you walk up that hill and look those boys straight in the eyes.”

Those are easy words to say, but not easy to act on. It says a tremendous amount about Howard’s character and courage.

Brower closed his remarks by reflecting on the importance of honoring Howard and his family on this day.

To the Soldiers in the formation Brower remarked, “We now have the opportunity to repay him for all that he has done for us. While we recognize him by placing his name and likeness on the building, we repay him by how we conduct ourselves each and every day. We honor him by striving to live up to the example that he set for us over the course of his career. While we are associated with this Group, we are associated with Colonel Howard. We will not take that responsibility lightly.”

Reflecting on what this memorialization would mean to her father, Mrs. Gentsch closed by adding, “I know what my father would want me to say today. He would ask that when you walk by this building do not think of him, but of what he embodied – a true Soldier, a Soldier who always put God and his country above all else.”

The dedication plaque, which hangs immediately outside the entrance to Howard Hall, serves as a constant reminder to all Green Berets who pass through its doors of what duty, service, and sacrifice truly mean.


07-12-2013, 12:28
Sometimes my Detachment had the task of running pre-SFAS. Candidates would often come up and ask some inane "what do we do now" question.

I would usually reply with "What would Bob Howard do".

5th SFG HQs Memorialized as Howard Hall - I'm very good with that. :lifter

07-12-2013, 13:16
"Howard Hall"
There couldn't be anything more appropriate!

07-12-2013, 14:23
That is fantastic, great.
Maj Howard was the OIC of Ph1 when I went thru the Q. He took great pleasure in smoking our shorts on ruck runs...when weighing rucks he'd always have 80 lbs to our 55. That was the only time I ever had around the man and I didn't know his 'story' yet... you didn't need to know his history though, he was tough as nails every damn day out there.
Great man.
Excellent memorial.

07-12-2013, 15:06
I had the great misfortune of being in the right place at the wrong time involving then Maj. Howard when a few of us were sitting outside his office for a "character reference" meeting on a fellow student.
The Sgt. ahead of our little group was apparently not happy with his graduation assignment to 10th Group and was stating his case. What came out was a proclamation by this individual that "I would rather be a Taco salesman on the beach than be a Green Beret",... While I was looking for a window to jump out of,.. Col. Howard responded with very little emotion that he would "grant his wish",... Which promptly began that soldiers exit from the Military.

I will always be grateful for the times that I stood in his presence, (and the occasional smoke or two). His strength and leadership were/are hard to describe,.. other then to say that when he was in a room his "Greatness" and inner strength were evident.

Thanks for the post.

07-12-2013, 15:07
MAJ/LTC(?) Howard had left PH 1 when I went through, but we had the pleasure (retrospective and sadistical) of him coming back and smoking us on the ruck-runs (9-minute mile minimum standards!).
Being a 7th Grouper, a well deserved and no better honor that I could think of for 5th SFG(A) HQ. A tip of the beret.:lifter

07-13-2013, 19:42
Thanks for the post, Richard! I am glad to here about this small tribute to the biggest of men. Thanks and RIP, Col. Howard.

07-14-2013, 13:23
Good on 5th GP. It's about time Col Howard got recognized. Damn, one of the, if not the most decorated soldier...glad some on stepped up and put his name up front..

RIP Bad Bob, PHI wouldn't have been the same without him. I don't think selection got crap on him, you went through PHI with MAJ Howard...you earned something. :lifter

I had marks from scars on my forearms doing flutter kicks in 90* plus on the asphalt for quite some time..soon as we got off the cattle cars...:eek:

07-14-2013, 14:12
"Howard Hall"
There couldn't be anything more appropriate!

Besides that, It Sings.
Well done 5th Group.

08-02-2013, 12:39
Glad to hear it, he's a man I will never forget.

08-02-2013, 19:21
Great news!!!!!

It does Sing!!!!

08-02-2013, 20:22
Yeah, a little better than the Enema Club

08-06-2013, 11:52
I was lucky enough to meet Col. Howard while I was going through language school. He and his wife came and spoke to us for a little bit, he was wearing his MOH proudly.