CAREER OF SERGEANT MAJOR (Ret) ARMAND O. (LEE) LE FORT
My Army career began as a draftee in 1958 while in Oklahoma City. I took my physical there after receiving word from my mother in Pawtucket, RI. I left Oklahoma, headed home and reported for active duty in December 1959 after leaving a job working for an auto dealer in MA.
After basic training at Fort Dix, NJ, I was sent to Fort Benning, GA to attend a vehicle mechanics course which lasted three months. Upon completion in early 1960, I was assigned to an aviation unit at Fort Lewis, WA. While there, I requested to take a French linguist test which I passed and became a French linguist. I remained there until my separation in March 1962, an extension of almost three months of active duty because of the Berlin crisis created by the Soviet Army when they erected the famous Berlin Wall.
I then was assigned to a US Army Reserve unit in Attleboro, MA to fulfill my commitment to the Army. I returned to a former employer in MA. During that time of employment, I had misgivings about leaving the Army and taking advantage of the opportunities it provides. So, in August 1963, I enlisted in the Army as a private with immediate assignment for a year to the 7th Infantry Division at Camp Hovey, South Korea. Most of my tour there was spent in vehicle supply functions and, as a brigade supply clerk, I was responsible for inspecting subordinate battalion supply procedures. I left there as a corporal in August 1964.
Upon my return to the U. S., I was assigned to Fort Ord, CA as a mechanic and supply clerk, positions which lasted about a year, then off to Vietnam I went. My qualification of French prompted the Army to send me to Vietnam because of the influence the French government had in Vietnam in earlier years. My use of French was limited, however, and not used for official Army business. Nonetheless, I was able to communicate with local citizens, young and old, to include local citizens employed by the U. S. Army on base.
The Secret security clearance granted while in Korea expedited the process to get me assigned to Headquarters, US Army Vietnam during the big build-up in October 1965. That assignment permitted me to be promoted twice in 12 ½ months after extending my tour in Vietnam and my commitment to the Army for another year. I had arrived as a corporal and left as a staff sergeant in January 1967. Because of the special tasks I completed during the second half of my tour, I was awarded the Bronze Star for accomplishments above and beyond during hostile actions.
Following Vietnam, I was assigned as an administrative NCO to the headquarters of Madigan General Hospital in Tacoma, WA. That assignment lasted about a year at which time I received a direct assignment to Allied Staff, Berlin, located at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. This staff comprised of American, French and British military personnel and a small contingent of civilians. My French here became valuable in many respects.
Because I could not converse with German citizens, even for official US Government business, I attended night classes for about two years to learn German. I tested with the American military and succeeded in becoming a German linguist. In the process, I obtained college credits for the language. It was during this tour that I was promoted to sergeant first class.
At the completion of this tour in June 1971, I was assigned to the US Continental Army Command at Fort Monroe, VA with duty at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, GA. There, I was the administrative sergeant for a manpower survey team which conducted personnel management surveys in the southern part of the U. S. Eventually the team was incorporated into the US Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson and saw its mission increase dramatically to include all Army base support units from Puerto Rico to Alaska.
This assignment ended after 4 ½ years to fulfill a requirement at the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) at the American Embassy in Paris, France. Here, I was the senior NCO and worked with US Army, US Air Force and US Navy personnel as well as with French civilians. Our mission also included important liaison with French military forces. Part of my job consisted of administering English proficiency tests to French soldiers who were to attend a US Army school in Huntsville, AL.
After approximately a year, some positions in the MAAG were abolished, so I had to find a new job. I told the personnel staff in Germany that I would prefer a job in a country where I could speak French. The result was an assignment to the Military Mission of the American Embassy in Zaire, Africa, in a position of administrative NCO for the Army element. Just prior to departing, I was promoted to master sergeant.
My next assignment was to the Pentagon with duties as chief, Mail and Distribution Center and Top Secret custodian for the Office of Army Intelligence, a position which lasted five years. It was during this assignment that I was promoted to sergeant major and selected to attend a six-month course at the US Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, TX. The course was geared to develop senior NCOs for advancement in their career. Because of my MOS, and as the most senior in that field, I was selected as the class secretary. Upon completion of the course, I was assigned to Fort Gordon, GA as sergeant major of the Directorate of Personnel and Community Activities.
After 18 months, I was reassigned to Washington, DC for duty with the US Army Test and Evaluation Agency, another assignment which lasted about one year During that time, I received, and accepted, a job offer from an officer assigned to the White House, subject to selection and interviews. I was selected and committed to remain at least three years for assignment to the White house Communications Agency.
After the first year of faithful service to the President of the United States and his staff, I was awarded the Presidential Service Badge. I remained for five years in a specific job of managing the recruiting program for the agency. At the monthly retirement parade at Fort Myer, VA, I was the senior enlisted soldier retiring that day. Therefore, I had the honor of trooping the line and reviewing the troops with the troop commander. I retired in May 1991 with 31 years of active service.