WPAOG Podcast

EP67 Legacy of Leadership with LTG (R) Robert F. Foley (Part 1)

Episode Summary

This episode features part one of an interview with LTG(R) Robert F. Foley, recipient of the Medal of Honor, West Point class of 1963. LTG(R) Foley talks about his remarkable journey in the army, invaluable lessons from his career, and dynamic strategies to empower soldiers during combat.

Episode Notes

This episode features part one of an interview with LTG(R) Robert F. Foley,  recipient of the Medal of Honor, West Point class of 1963. LTG(R) Foley held numerous command and staff assignments during his 37 years on active duty. In this episode, LTG(R) Foley talks about his remarkable journey in the army, invaluable lessons from his career, and dynamic strategies to empower soldiers during combat.


Key Quotes:

(16:29) “Let me talk with what I think is the most important leadership lesson learned, and that is the importance of listening. I found that in my 37 years in active duty that we leaders just don't spend enough time on the issue of listening. And so I concluded that leaders at all levels, squad leaders, battalion commanders, corporate CEOs, need to carve out time daily, if they can, just to listen. And I don't mean to a one hour PowerPoint briefing in their office. I mean, getting out of their office, going to the motor pool, the training area, the dining facility, the workspace where the officers and the NCOs and the soldiers are working. And turn off the transmitter and go into the receipt mode and just listen and ask questions and find out things.”

(33:34) “Intuitively, we know that leadership and discipline and training are all factors to ensure that you overcome fear. But I found the most compelling motivation was this intense regard which soldiers had for their fellow soldiers. These were their buddies, their friends, their comrades. They'd been with them 24 hours a day.They would do anything to prevent their buddies from being killed or wounded. And it was kind of an unwritten creed. Soldier would say, I'm never gonna let my buddy down. And so, you know, I leveraged that. I said, you know, that that's an important thing.”


Episode Timestamps:

(01:00) LTG Foley’s journey

(06:08) Reliving the most vivid memory of R-Day

(08:08) LTG Foley’s best assignments in the army

(17:22) Invaluable lessons from LTG Foley's career 

(22:58) Significance of institutional values in leadership

(30:27) Timeless lessons from history

(32:53) Strategies to empower soldiers to conquer fear during combat

(35:53) Story of the Medal of Honor recognition during tour in Vietnam



LTG Robert F. Foley

David Siry’s LinkedIn

West Point Association of Graduates

Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Narrator: Hello, and welcome to the W P A OG Podcast. This episode features part one of an interview with retired Lieutenant General Robert F. Foley, recipient of the Medal of Honor. West Point Class of 1963, retired L T G Foley held numerous command and staff assignments during his 37 years on active duty. In this episode, he talks about his remarkable journey in the army and valuable lessons from his career and dynamic strategies to empower soldiers during combat.

Now, please enjoy this interview between retired Lieutenant General Foley West Point class of 1963. And your host, retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Siri, 94, director of the West Point Center for Oral History and instructor in the Department of History.

[00:00:59] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: If you could please tell me a little bit 

[00:01:01] Dave Siry: about your background, including where you grew up, what your parents did, and how you became interested in attending West Point. 

[00:01:09] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: I was born and raised in a, um, small blue collar residential community about 20 miles west of Boston. And, um, my mother, my father and I, and my brother, who was nine years older than me, lived in the, um, the bottom floor of a, um, two family duplex.

And my brother and I had a very small room bunk beds. I. My father left school actually in the 10th grade [00:01:40] and was working at a restaurant in Boston, and those days he left school because he had to make money for the film. And the, the same situation was with my mother. She left, dropped outta school in the ninth grade to work as a seamstress.

But you know, uh, I had a very happy childhood through elementary school. We were in a beautiful location. It's almost like an area where, Not only could we enjoy the surrounding area when we had a Charles River there. So the Charles River was a place where we could boat and swim and in the wintertime play hockey.

But we also had an amusement park called Norm Viga Park. That was great 'cause they had a lot of rides and a lot of people went there and enjoyed themselves. And we were close to the ocean too, so we could go down to Cape Cod and go to other places. So during elementary school and part of my childhood, It was really a lot of fun.

I always looked at it and said, you know, it was a true normal rock knowing Rockwell experience because it was just a lot of fun, a lot of memories and holidays. It was really terrific. And then seventh and eighth grade came along and left the elementary school and the junior high school. I was in Vocationals, and it was actually a tough neighborhood.

I did not like those two years at all. And my father during that time had purchased a restaurant in Belmont, and in the ninth grade we moved to Belmont. And that was a major turning point in my life because when I went there, I started taking college prep courses. I got involved in sports. I really enjoyed the people in the town of Belmont, the school teachers, the coaches, all my classmates, everybody was very supportive.

The [00:03:20] entire Belmont High School experience was terrific. It was very wholesome. Very good. And as I said, I, I got involved in the college prep academics and uh, sports and in the spring of my senior year to talk about going to West Point in the spring of my senior year, coach Jack Riley, who was the father of the current Army hockey coach.

I was in Boston recruiting hockey players and he picked up the Boston Globe and he noticed an article in there, big Splash that this basketball player from Belmont. Scored 44 points and collected 23 rebounds in one game. And this was in the Boston Garden of the State tournament. So he cut the article out and he brought it home to his next door neighbor who was the Army head basketball coach, George Hunter.

And so Coach Hunter called my family. He talked to my mother and father and uh, invited us up to West Point. I told my mother and father, I said, you know, I'm really not interested in going to Milk Trades. I've got 15 full scholarship offers. I had plane tickets to go out and visit schools and good school, North Carolina, wake Forest, Denver, Oregon, Houston, and I'd already been to visit the Citadel, Providence Holy Cross, and I really liked Holy Cross.

So I said, you know, I'm not quite sure that's for me, but my mother and father had been watching the West Point store. It's a 30 minute TV series every Friday night at seven 30. And they've had young actors like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen and others, and they really enjoyed it. And they really wanted to see West Point and they said, you know, you, this might have been an opportunity for, well, we went up to West Point.[00:05:00]

I walked the grounds. I was so impressed with the history Fortress, west Point. I talked to the cadets, I talked to the basketball players. I got to know, uh, coach Shutter. I made the decision right then and there that I wanted to go to West Point because I thought it was a very special place and it turned out I was right.

It is a special place. So that's my story. Yes, 

[00:05:23] Dave Siry: sir. And you mentioned hockey as a kid growing up and basketball, did you play any other sports or did you, uh, focus 

[00:05:29] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: just on those track? I ran the full 40, the eight 80. I did high jumping, but that was really a supplement to build my strength to play basketball.

I had a very good basketball in high school and he said, Hey, you're gotta do all these other things in the off season. The one thing I don't want you to do, I don't want you to play any hockey. My brother was a big time hockey player, so I'd always try to go to, you know, Boston Bros. Hockey games and that kind of thing.

And he found out one day that I was skating and a rake in Belmont. Boy, I got chewed up. So since we're talking about 

[00:06:02] Dave Siry: your West Point time, what is your most vivid memory of 

[00:06:05] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: our day? Well, it gets right back to basketball again. Because one of the things that Coach Hunter told me when I got hard day, he said, get there early.

'cause the earlier you get there, the more tasks you can accomplish all through the day. And that means you're gonna be ahead of the game and the upper class cadre will look upon you as somebody who's getting things done and doing the things right. So, uh,

So I did that and sure enough, by noon I had most of the things on my tag that, you know, he hung from belt. And so when I [00:06:40] reported to the, uh, cadet in the red sash after lunch, he said, well, you got most of the things done right now. You know, of course we had the oath ceremony that night. And so he said, you need to just go back to your room, get your gear straightened out.

You know, we'd gotten all these things from Cadet Supply. And he said, you work on that and your squad leader get to and tell you what else you need to do. You have any questions? At that moment in time, I should have said, no, sir, but I didn't because I really did. You know, going to West Point, I didn't get a full indoctrination.

I knew East Barracks wasn't gonna be a training program, recreational in nature, just by its sound. But I didn't get any other ideas about it. But anyway, I, it just popped into my mind and I said, yes, sir. I said, could you tell me how to get to the gym? I wanna go shoot a few hoops. Well, The cadre around there heard me say that.

And they kept repeating it. Shoot a few hoops, shoot a few hoops, where do you think you are? And so, um, needless to say, I didn't go to the gym. I didn't go back to my room, but I got additional instruction in central area back my most visible, vivid memory. And what I learned from that was stick with what they told him.

No sir. Yes sir. No excuse, sir. That's it. Yes sir. That's. And you had a, 

[00:08:00] Dave Siry: a very long and wonderful career in the Army. If you could give us a, a synopsis of your best assignments in the Army. 

[00:08:11] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: Well, number one best assignment was, uh, coming outta cuts here. We had 4,000 young men and women with strong ideals.[00:08:20]

Great ambition. It all simply just wanted to be all they could be. And a typical day for me was to get all my meetings over with in the daytime and then in the new meal formation, I walked around and, and chatted with the cadets. I got out there too early sometimes just the plebes out there 'cause they had to be out there, you know, 10 minutes ahead of time.

And, uh, they didn't say anything. So they gave me the no yes or no excuse, sir. And of course their squad leaders would come afterwards when I'd talk to a PLA and say, why was the commandant talking to you? So I figured I'd get everybody in trouble. So, I stopped doing that, but I enjoyed wanting because you, you may remember the, the, um, cadets talked most at, no, they didn't talk much in breakfast and everybody was in dispersed around suppers.

It was a good opportunity for me to just wander through the ranks and, uh, when I was a cadet, that never happened, but I, inevitably, I would get invited to lunch. There was another 20 or 25 minutes where I. Listen to what was on their minds. Dispel rumors sometimes said, well, we really doing this. Said no.

It allowed me to at least take a snapshot in time that day of what the feeling of the citz were at that point in time. With 36 companies, I could spread it all out, all, all over every year. I didn't do that every day, but I tried to do every, it's a great way to keep on the pulse of the, and then after lunch, I go squad.

The intramurals to club activities, you know, I did as much as I possibly could to just, you know, just sit down with cadets and say, how you, you, what's going on, what do you do? And that kind of thing. And get feedback that way. I always stop by the [00:10:00] barbershop, believe it or not. Cadets tell their barbers all kinds of stuff.

So I, so, so I get my intelligence update that way. I get a lot of other things to reach out. For example, I, beginning of each year, I went to the academic departments, each academic department separately, and talked to them about the policies and programs and goals of the United States Court for that year.

'cause I wanted them to understand what it was. If they had questions, you know, what you buy. Because there was always this disconnect between the company, tactical instructors, and I didn't want that to happen. And so I said, 'cause you know, we're all in this together. And it was very, uh, a fruitful experience because I talked for about 20 minutes.

I remember I had this one major in this one department say, sir, I, I wanted you to know about a uniform deficiency. And I said, and this was the beginning of the year, so you were aware of the short sleeve clat shirt. I said, I see some cadets come over. And I had, I have 'em in, I had one in my class the other day.

He had his white undershirt showing underneath the claf shirt on his sleeves. So he said, I just wanted to let you know that so the company tax could take that up and make sure it doesn't happen. So I looked at him, I said, what did you say to him? I said, as he said, now I'll never forget it. He said, well, sir, I never said anything because we have to maintain a rapport with all of our cadets because, well, he unwitting training aide.

Exactly the point I was getting across, and that is that all of us teachers, tax [00:11:40] coaches, clergy, everybody, we're all in the development leaders of character. I said, now, let me tell you, so had you pointed to that cadet. And said, you go back to your room right now, get into the proper uniform, and you get back here as fast as you possibly can.

Lemme tell you what you would've done. You would've established all the rapport you need for every single cadet in your class. It would've been fighting to get ease all year long. So I said that. I mean, I think that's, uh, one of the best.

Some of the reach out things that I did, I, I talked to the members of the first class each semester where I always could say, here's 20 minutes of my advice and guidance, and then what do you wanna talk about? Let, let's have it. And sometimes, first time I did it, it started off a little sock. First question I got was from a young man way in the back of the room, first class.

And he said, sir, can still, so. You know, I missed it. I missed the point. But they then, as the discussions came on, they got more serious and we were able to really come to some understandings of, of kinds of things that I was looking for in terms of their leadership of the core of CLIs. And I wanna make sure that it was very clear.

Another thing I did was at the end of each session with these cows yelling some plebes, I said, do you have any questions or anything at all? Send me an email. Any suggestions or issues or concerns? And I said, I guarantee you'll always get an answer. And they did. Many times the answer was very short. Like, no.[00:13:20]

I remember one cadet email and he said, five cadets who want to go down to the Washington W in Washington, DC and climbed to the top and throw and he beat. No. So by having this.

So that was just some ideas of why being a command on cadets was the most rewarding and enjoyable experience I had by three, seven years on active duty because I could help to shape the lives of these, uh, young men and women. If you want to talk 

[00:13:53] Dave Siry: about any of your other assignments, I'd love to hear about some of the other key assignments that you had.

[00:13:58] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: I'd say the other one that was, that was really good. Took se second place of all the ones that I had. I'm not put Pentagon assignments in any of em, even though I feel. A wonderful thing to come back to the Pentagon because you kind of keep the troops straight about things that you know in the field, and you can pass that on at the highest levels.

But I thought that my assignment as a battalion commander of a mechanized infantry battalion in Germany would've come in second place in terms of, it was another very enjoyable one. It was made most enjoyable and most significant simply because I had some outstanding officers at NCOs. Every one of my commanders were.

Their wise are terrific. The primary staff were outstanding. The magnificent group of non-commissioned officers, starting with the Sergeant major. And you know, when you've got good people like that, you've got top personnel. We were able to accomplish every mission in a first class matter because they knew what they were doing.

They were seasoned, they were excited about things, they were good leaders. And uh, we got a lot of things done. [00:15:00] And the other thing was, I never realized how much and how important the spouses were. We went to the field, the spouses would be out there working on family activities and taking care of issues that come up in the families.

They would be involved in creating social events. So in addition to accomplishing our mission all the time, we were having fun, we were enjoying, it was an enjoyable two years that I commanded that battalion. And it gotta be the point where we had officers and NCOs that were coming to our battalion to see me and.

No. Can we be assigned to your battalion because we like what you're doing? The lesson I learned from that day, and I think it's a, it's an important one, is that you really have to intensely manage your key personnel in your organization. And I had an organization chart was in the corner of my office and every day I looked at it and the organization chart had the top commander, sergeant major commanders, and first sergeants.

Leaders and platoon cell. Those are the only ones I managed when I was looking at each one as to whether they were gonna link who's gonna replace them, whether or not that person was Qualified and maybe they'd be Qualified someplace else. I talked with company commanders about it. I get their input, but that made sure that as the organization evolved with no, people kept the best in line.

If I put somebody in there and they weren't cutting it, it didn't take me long to take them right back out. I don't give. I mean, I always give people an opportunity to show how well they can do in a position, but you know, you reach a point where they're no longer being good for your soldiers, so you need to pull 'em out.

That intensive [00:16:40] management, I think was great, and I used that from then on and made sure that I was getting all the right people in the right position because it's not just about one person that, you know, it's a team out there. We're all gonna work together to get the things done. So those are the two assignments right away.

Did an awful lot, not only in terms of getting the accomplished, but in leading development so that all the officers and NCOs can go on to big and better things. So, so far in, in the 

[00:17:10] Dave Siry: interview, you've talked about several key leadership positions that you had and also some of the lessons you learned or the ways you implemented good leadership.

So can you tell us a little bit more about some important leadership lessons that you learned 

[00:17:24] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: throughout your career? Let me talk with what I think is the most important leadership lesson learned, and that is the importance of listening. I found that my 37 years in active duty that we leaders just don't spend enough time on your shoot listening.

So I concluded that leaders at all levels, squad leaders, bat time commanders, corporate CEOs, need to carve out time daily if they can. Listen, I don't mean to a one hour PowerPoint briefing in their office. I mean, getting out of their office, going to the motor pool training area, the dining facility, the workspace where the officers and the NCOs and the soldiers are working and turn off the transfer and go into the the receipt mode and just listen and ask questions and find out that, I'll give you an example.

When I was the [00:18:20] commanding of the US Army military just to Washington, The old guard came under my organization and one of the first units that I wanted to go see right after I took command was the case on. 'cause that's a very important part of what happens at Arlington National Cemetery when you have deceased military personnel.

So I said, you know, they're very key and very critical. I wanna go out and see them how it works. And so I went there and visited. Boy, I was so impressed. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the stables, with the NCOs that I met soldiers that. How they were taking care of those horses. As I walked around the different stalls, you could see the horses' heads come out, could pat the horses.

I was just, I really enjoying it and I get to this water stall and the horse didn't have his head sticking out. You know, even though here the group of people coming by because they, it'd be treats for NCOs. Follow me around. Was in the stall, but he was backed up against the rear of the stall. So I looked at the N C O and I said, what's wrong with him?

He said, well, sir, he doesn't wanna go to work. And I said, well, what do you mean he doesn't wanna go to work? Why? He said, well, sir, you see on his back, he was a sort of gray colored Coe and he had, but he had these black lesions on his back. He said, those sores he gets from the harness, put around him when he pulls the case off.

I said, okay, what's being done for him? He said, well, We have some that we can put on those lesions, but he's gotta continue to pull the case on because we have to keep up with K. And I said, no wonder it hurts him. I said, no, he doesn't have to continue to [00:20:00] do that, and no he won't. Today you're gonna send this force out to Fort Bellville.

We are a 10 acre farm motor Fort Bellway where we placed horses that were sick or lame, whether we had new horses that were coming in that needed to be trained, and I. Its horse isn't gonna come back until the veterinary clear completely duty. And I said, if you have any other horses like this, they're going out there too.

So then I said, well, how many horses do you have? He said, 35. So how many do you need? Silence fell over with the stables, said four mud. And I said, oh wait. This is a pretty fundamental question. How many horses do you need? They didn't know. I said, okay. One week, I, I wanted to get the Regina Rail commander and the staff company commander and everybody else here, and I want you to tell 'em how many horses you need, and I want you to break it down by tight Shya per on Quarter horse Mustang from acquisition to retirement.

I want you lay out the complete process. I want total case on platoon analysis. So next, next week, they came back and I said, okay, how many wish you need? Said 65. That's a far cry from 35. I said 65, 30, 30 more horses. I said, all right, I'm gonna give you 90 days. Get the horses, get 'em trained, and get 'em into this rotation.

So we don't have this problem. And so, um, I can't make this up, but one of the NCOs said, sir, when are we gonna get 'em? Now, as I told you, you know, I'm an Irish kid from Boston and I didn't see many horses in my life, but I said, look, [00:21:40] Last time I checked Wyoming, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Texas, they're running all over the place.

But anyway, um, Regie Rail Command put a team together and they sent it down the southwest and they went to visit the rodeos and ranch owners. What was very interesting, really terrific. Many of the ranch owners when they found outs, We're gonna be used to carry the remains of deceased veterans to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.

They donated the horses and they transported them all the way to Washington, DC for nothing. Now, I did all that and changed all that system simply because I got out my office and I went down there and I was willing to listen, ask a few questions. So that's why it's an example of why it is important, you know, just like I was doing with the cadets in the, in the known meal formation.

You know, get out there and listen. You find out things that you probably should've known. You're never gonna find out unless you go out there and make a point. And that's I, when I said carve out time, in other words, whatever's on your schedule, you stop, carve out the time and go out there and listen. So that was the major thing that I got from leadership lessons.

Yes, sir. Now at at West 

[00:22:57] Dave Siry: Point, the motto is Duty, honor, country, and the seven Army values are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. How important is it to embrace these institutional values when leading soldiers in peace, time, 

[00:23:15] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: or in combat? Well, [00:23:20] essential. And we're very fortunate the United States Army because we have what I like to call the officer, N C O T, starting with platoon leader, platoon sergeant, company commander, first Sergeant Battalion, commander star, major, all the way up to chief of staff in the Army and star major in the army.

You've got this officer, N C O T, and they're the moral conscience of their organization and they have the moral obligation to ensure that the right values are instilled. Individual and they're soldiers individually as well as in the culture of the organization collective. I think that's a very important thing to understand because you know, when soldiers come to a danger area combat or they have to make a decision when they're in peace time, if they're instilled with those values way ahead of time, you're ahead of time because many soldiers are on point, many different, and so that's what I, why I felt about command.

I. Don't just be able to say loyalty, duty, respect, civil service, auto integrity, and ion coverage. Talk about each one. What does it mean? What, what's precisely do you want your souls to understand? I just take loyalty, for example, you know, I, I know many leaders back, many of 'em Earth very emphatic about this.

They say, well, loyalty's easy. Whatever my boss wants, I give him a hundred percent.

Desires and what they want done. When I would hear that, in fact, they heard it recently from a senior non-commissioned officer, so it's not something that was in in the old days, and I just happened to be down at for Jackson Freddy Center said, that's the way we do it. [00:25:00] That's why loyalty is so important.

I said, well, I would argue. Has the moral courage to go to his boss and say, I don't think what you're doing is right. I don't think it's the correct course of action. I think that here's the reasons why I don't think it should be done. I think that leader is also very loyal, may not be loyal to look at the, to look at his boss.

His boss might not think it. Loyal. What about those institutional values? Where do they come in? Y my view is if you are loyal to those institutional values, 95% of the time you're gonna be right. It's the right thing to do. I'll tell you what, I'll just go ahead and give you an example of what I mean.

When I was a brigade commander in Germany, I had a tank brigade, two Abrams main battle tanks, and one Bradley fighting vehicle. I was the most modern armored brigade in Europe. Nobody else had the Bradleys, few of them had the, and we were getting ready to go out and. You remember Forger, we don't do it anymore, but it was an opportunity for brigade sized units to get out on the countryside in the fall of each year when the farmers had their crops in and you could maneuver all over and you could practice what you needed for the walk lands and the Warsaw pack formations.

And so it was a very important time to do that. Anyway, I was given a warning order, I'd say.

From the division staff and they said you may have to, uh, conduct a river crossing exercise using the Bradley fighting vehicles, and so you might wanna get ready for that. Well, I was all ready for it. We had been training to do that. [00:26:40] Bradley fighting vehicles at that time had an amphibious capability.

They don't know but up Harvard and there's no way that you can put 'em in the water, but they did. Then it was something with all the rivers in Germany that the designers felt that would be a good thing. Finally, by chance, two days before the exercise was to start, I was out there in the drain and I found these engineers preparing a, uh, riverside for the Bradley's, the Cross.

And nobody coordinated with me. Nobody had said anything about it. I'm the primary guy. I'm the only one with Bradley's. So anyway, as I went and looked at the Riverside, first of all, the carton was way too.

They get in the water, they can only go a certain speed. The currents gonna, this is slopes on the, on the river, on the ingress, egress, and ingress points were, uh, way too steep. The soil on the side of the, of the river was very soft and sandy, it was just unacceptable. So I was talking to somebody, fellow brigade commanders, about all that, that night division commander, and it's all in this warehouse out in the.

And net brigade commanders, battalion commanders, division staff, whole host of people with probably about 50 officer NCOs in there. And I was sitting up in the front row with the other brigade commanders and he walked in and first thing he said was, I understand that there may be some commanders that were reluctant to swim the Bradleys across the river to start the exercise.

And by the way, it was the Don Hall River, but it was not a swimming across the whole river. It was a tributary. We used them for training exercise. [00:28:20] He said, but this is a combat capability that we need to use, so we will be swimming the Bradleys across the river to stop the exer. Well, I immediately stood up, that was probably five feet away from him, and I said, sir, I highly recommend that you could not try to swim Bradleys across the river.

That sight is unacceptable. The river is too fast. The slope of the the river of s, it's too steep. Soil will catch those treads and hook it and uh, we don't want one to turn over anyway, the way those conditions are there. They're not conditions where Bradleys can swim safely. And if we try it, I think we're gonna place our soldiers on extreme danger.

Well, when I said that, number one, he was surprised that I said it to him. I could tell by the expression on his face, I was really surprised. Secondly, he was not happy about. He had never talked to me about it. I mean, here I am, his immediate subordinate commander, he never even talked to me about the exercise at all.

Maybe he thought his division staff was the, so he turned to his chief of staff and he said, I want Colonel Foley to breach the core commander tomorrow morning, or why the Bradleys can't cross over. So he said, well, this is good. So the next morning I met, I asked the core commander to come. I went right to the river site where the engineers were preparing the crossing egress ingress points, and I put a butcher board out there with charts on it so that I could give, give them a good, uh, explanation of the exercise and went through exactly what the Bradley fighting vehicle has to do, how it gets across the river, what it uses for [00:30:00] momentum.

But I told him that this site was unacceptable 'cause it just rather fighting deal would not be able to maneuver it, it would not be able to get up the banks of the. And while I was giving him this briefing, he was watching these twin diesel engine engineer boats struggling against the current because they were going back and forth across this tri.

So anyway, when he, when I finished, he um, turned to the assembled groove and he said, okay, I think one of the things we need to understand is you always wanna need the lessons from combat and from World War. So the elections of history are very important. One of the lessons we have learned in the World War II was to trust the judgment of Commander on the ground.

He said, we will not swim the Bradleys across the river. Instead, we will conduct an administrative crossing using the bridges. We'll cross all the forces on the other side, and we'll start the exercise from the other side. Well, there was no question that was the right decision. Now, I would also say one thing when you do something like that, when you confront your boss and you, I felt that people can say, well, you know what you should have done was talk to him afterwards.

I didn't want to talk to him afterwards. I wanna make sure that everybody understood exactly how I felt about it. So anyway, my only caveat with all of that is when you do that, there may be consequences. And for me, I read about it, my officer. But you know what? I wouldn't have done anything different because my motivation was not, you know, and sure enough, he pleased my boss.

I was not, that was not the loyalty I was [00:31:40] looking at. My loyalty was to what was the right thing to do? What about my soldiers? What am I gonna tell my soldiers if I don't think it's the crossing that river, that point in time, it's the right thing to do. I'm not. So anyway, I think those are things that all officers and NCOs ought.

Institutional values. And, uh, that's why I think that all of ethics and values classes that we get are extremely important for surg and N C O education, sir. And I think 

[00:32:11] Dave Siry: one of the important things about the story you just told is the strength of your conviction in, in that, you know, it would've been an unsafe act and wouldn't have been good for, for anything at all.

The soldiers, the equipment, anything. And so I think that the strength of your conviction also is spoken to in 

[00:32:30] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: that story. Yeah. Every bit of training you do with soldiers, you know, you're risking some things happening in terms of safety. But I always was on the side of safety. Unless you're in combat, you know you have to, but you don't ever unnecessarily risk soldiers.

Yes, sir. 

[00:32:50] Dave Siry: Spoke there, commander during the war in Vietnam. What did you do to inspire your soldiers to face the enemy, overcome fear, and survive the rigors of 

[00:33:02] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: combat? Just about every day as a rifle company commander, I'd be asking myself, what does it makes these soldiers do what they have to do on the battle?

And because there was some dangerous missions, just the combat assault alone was a tough mission. Every combat assault. We went in when we, before we landed, I had both of [00:33:20] my feet out on the, on the skids. I had my hand around the center pole and was looking at the lz. 'cause I wanna make sure it was gonna be secure before we popped everybody in there.

And so, you know, there, there is dangers as you're going in, just in a combat assault. Stay behind ambush was the same. Many times he went out with the whole company. You left the platoon back at night, came in and picked him up. Kong would think we're all gone. No, but that's a risky proposition. But they're out there with all their equipment and it's a tough thing.

The other thing was the, um, what we called tunnel rats, whatever. We came across it across the spider hole and we suspected there might be ammunition or supplies or something down there. You know, we called for tunnel rats. I never had to ask for volunteer for soldiers. Stripping off their web gear and say, sir, I got this one.

They went down inside that tunnel with no steel pot, no web gear on just a 45 caliber pistol or flashlight, not knowing whether it was Ruby tr, not knowing whether it was, um, BC gonna be down in there with, with rifle. 'cause some of those, as you went down into one hole, would open up into a big CH opening.

Supplies, weapons, ammunition, supplies.

We know that leadership and discipline and training are all factors to ensure that you overcome fear. What I found the most compelling motivation was this intense regard which soldiers had for their fellow soldiers. These were their buddies, their friends, their comrades. They'd been with 'em 24 arms a day.

They would do anything to prevent their buddies [00:35:00] from being killed, and it was kind of an unwritten creed. Soldier would say, I'm never gonna let my buddy down. So I leveraged that. I said, you know, that's an important thing. So this, in this intense regard, this consideration of caring about your buddies was extremely important.

What happens is your soldier is going into combat and he's so worried about his buddies and he's not worried about himself. And so he, that's the way he overcome fear. And the same thing happened with me. I was so worried about 120, 130 soldiers that I had out there, what they're doing. I wasn't worried about me.

I just had to make sure I was taking care of them. And so that's kind of how I looked at how we opened. Sir. 

[00:35:44] Dave Siry: And sir, this is probably a good place to mention it. You are in the Medal of Honor during your tour in Vietnam for actions such as what you've just described, 

[00:35:54] LTG(R) Robert F. Foley: correct sir? It's a long story, but I'll try to get, it was five November 19, uh, 66, and I was a commander of Alpha Company, second Battalion 27th Infantry.

Uh, I had assistant company that was behind enemy lines. I was given a mission at, uh, one o'clock in the morning from battalion commander that I was assigned to, which was not my normal battalion commander. My normal battalion command had been killed that day and the company commander of the company that was behind enemy lines was killed.

So it was a tough situation and we knew they had killed and wounded it, but they were behind enemy lines. And the battalion commander they reported to, who was the, uh, major was his name, he was the battalion commander first Battalion 27. I was in Second Battalion. And, but I was attached to him for this [00:36:40] operation and he said, I'm convinced that if we don't get to Charlie behind enemy lines, they're gonna be annihilated in the surrounded by BC against.

North Vietnamese army population, but it would tie in from the one oh first, regular. And so he said you have got to cross the line of departure, pass through friendly lines and bus through the um, enemy D defense system to link up with Charlie Company and a formal corridor back through the enemy lines and through friendly lines with Charlie.

And I looked at him and I sat there thinking about it. I think, what is this suicide mission? But I said, but who else is gonna do it? These guys are gonna be out there and, uh, gonna be annihilated. Somebody's gonna do it. So I got my platoon leaders together and I briefed them on everything but. Bringing the uh, Charlie Company back through enemy lines because I felt that we were lucky enough to bus through the enemy defenses and link up with Charlie Company.

I wasn't about to come back through enemy lines. Kerry did move. I'd picked a place on the map that was northwest and I'd said, we're gonna move out there. So as it turned out, I assaulted at seven 30 the next morning, and we immediately hit with machine guns and hand grenades and snipers and trees. We were not making very.

I was very concerned. I didn't wanna lose momentum because once soldiers go down or they stop, you lose momentum. And we never did. We continued to push right up [00:38:20] until we got to the enemy, bucker and trench system, and we assaulted with all three platoons online and we fired M sixteens, M 16 machine guns through hand grenades, used light tank weapons, and it was the entire company.

It was firing at the um, enemy trip system and they withdrew. When they were withdrew. I sat back and I said, you know, we've been in this battle for three and a half hours. I suffered heavy casual le we're lowing ammunition. I can't go any further. About that time, I got a call from a major Lawford who was the battalion S three, and also the acting battalion commander because my battalion commander killed need conduct an orderly withdrawal.

Your assault on the enemy defenses had them uncovered Charlie Cooper and when they uncovered Charlie Company, three companies that were attached to 1 96 Light Infantry brigade in the first battalion, 27th Infantry, put together an ad hoc battalion they swept in from the north, linked up with Charlie Company, activate in basically the same way.

I was gonna go look to that portion northwest of the battle area. He said, so you just need to make an orderly withdrawal. And so that's what we did. You know, unfortunately we had 13 killed and 31 wounded as a result of that attack. But I would just tell you that I referred to them once in this book that I wrote, that every one of those soldiers never hesitated.

They never took one step back. Very dedicated, determined fashion. They went forward because they knew they had a job to do, and I was very proud of every single one of them. I think that [00:40:00] indomitable spirit that they had that day simply made the difference in getting the jog done. So that's, um, what happened for me to be recommended for the medal lottery.

And, you know, I, when I left Vietnam, which was several months later, I had no idea that recommendation was going cold. So this was November of 66. I didn't find out about it until April of 1968. When one of my West Point classmates, Jay Westmeyer, who was working at the Pentagon at the time, and I was teaching at Fort Belmore, he came to see me and he said, president of the United States is gonna present you the Medal of Honor in one May, 1968.

I mean, I was stunned. I had gotten a Silver Star on the sixth from General Gig G O'Connor, who was the acting division commander of the 25th Division. I thought that was it, but they, after I left, they put in this recommendation and went all the way through. But I never knew a thing about. Anyway, that was another part of exciting story.

The only thing about going to the White House is getting the Medal of water is I almost thought I'd rather be out there getting shut. Meaning the White House is and States is a very intimidating process. 

[00:41:08] Narrator: This has been a production of the W P A O G Broadcast Network. Please take a moment to rate and review the show and join us each week for a new episode.

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