Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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Ret. MSGT Albert Spurlock was as mean—and as decorated—as they come in the US Army

Ret. Master Sgt. Albert J. Spurlock of Cottondale was prime US Army material when he was 18 years old. And he stayed that way for more than 20 years before leaving the armed forces with his honorable discharge.  He practically ordered the military to induct him right out of high school and did order the Army to send him to Vietnam so he could be there for the TET offensive of 1968. He joined the Army in 1953 and had no idea the war in Korea was winding down when he did.  (And he saw combat there after the armistice—read below.) 

No, Spurlock didn’t know he was going to be there for the biggest enemy offensive of the Vietnam War, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. He had Gen. George S. Patton’s love for the Army and all that went with it; if it called for battle, he was there.  It wasn’t enough for him to be a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Ga., training men for combat and sending many of them off never to survive one of America’s deadliest wars.  He wanted to go the Southeast Asia too.  So he did—twice. 

Sgt. First Class Spurlock arrived in Vietnam three days after Christmas in 1967.  One month later would come the TET Offensive.  He was assigned to “Mac V” or military assistance command as a military advisor.  “On the very first day of TET,” Spurlock, now 80, explained at his Lovewood Road home just north of Cottondale, “a major and I were pinned down between two of the Vietnamese-style above- ground gravesites.  Bullets were whistling by us as we dove into a ditch and awaited the Cobra helicopter team we had called for help.”

Spurlock’s Mac V assignment had him living with the South Vietnamese people near the Mekong River, not on a military base. A lot of his work was classified and involved Cambodia.  Aircraft pilots would call him for permission to shoot at the enemy.  For example, a chopper pilot once spotted two boats going down the Mekong River “after curfew,” he explained.  “It was after curfew,” Spurlock said, “and they were clearly enemy boats so I gave the order to fire.  There were huge explosions on both boats because they were loaded with ammunition.”  Spurlock added that there were civilian casualties as well “because the Communists would use them as a shield.” The Master Sergeant would pull another tour of Vietnam in 1970-71.

Once fired by his commanders for being too rough on the drill sergeants below him, Spurlock may have been just too mean to ever get killed or wounded in battle.  His career in the Army began with combat.  He was sent over to Korea to clean up after the fighting ended in the 1950-53 war.  But Spurlock became involved in a skirmish that never should have happened.  “I was in a brand new unit,” he explained.  “We were at the port of Puson and there were large supplies of oil and gasoline that had just been unloaded.  I began to see burning material coming over in the air that could have ignited the whole place and exploded everywhere.  I warned the company commander that this was an enemy attack.  We were able to get prepared and my unit soon killed 27 attacking enemy soldiers.  I never got credit for this battle; it wasn’t supposed to happen because the war was over.  But I did get promoted to sergeant. I was only 19 but I was made sergeant. I would take a lot of name-calling from the older sergeants for that later.”

Spurlock had just joined the Army at the age of 18.  A “100 percent hillbilly,” he said admittedly, Spurlock wanted to leave the hills as soon as possible. He came out of the Appalachians from Jackson, Ky., and went to the first recruiting station he could find.  “I went to the Navy,” he explained, “and they said I had to wait six months.  I went to the Air Force and they said I had to wait six months.  I went to the Army and they said, ‘Sign here.’ The recruiter was a lady and she told me to go to Louisville and I told her I didn’t have the money for a bus ticket.  So she said she would give me the money if I signed up. After the physical, they sent all the draftees back home, but they kept five of us and took us to Fort Knox.”

First trained as a paratrooper, Spurlock had a bad landing with an injury and was eventually transferred to the 24th Infantry, 2nd battalion.  Spurlock tells two tales that help explain what made him so mean: “I didn’t want the sergeant’s stripes,” he explained. “I knew I was too young.  But the commander said, ‘You take these stripes or I’ll take the two Corporal stripes you have now.” Later, his peers formed a club for sergeants only and one time when they wanted to have a beer party, they made Scurlock pay for it with the last money he had in the safe.

Spurlock’s life as a drill sergeant began at Fort Benning after his Korean mission, but it was in 1960-61 when he was stationed in Germany that he heard then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declare over the radio that he would draft 200,000 men and he didn’t care if they could read or write.  “But I had 12 of the best drill sergeants in the Army,” Spurlock explained. “We graduated the whole 200 men every time--training them how to shoot, take tests and march.”

Spurlock was sent to Vietnam after a visit to the Pentagon in 1967.  The war was raging but he insisted.  “I told them to put me down for Vietnam,” he explained.  “They said, ‘but we don’t have your orders.’ I told them to cut me some new orders, then.  Ten days later, I got my orders.”  

Spurlock decided to leave the Army and was honorably discharged in 1975 as a Master Sergeant.  He wound up teaching ROTC (those poor students!) at a high school in Haines City, Florida.  He met his wife Mary there and they were wed in January 1984.  They will celebrate their 33rd Anniversary in January, Mary said Friday afternoon.  Family and a job brought them to Jackson County.  After a few years of high school ROTC, Spurlock had mercy on the kids and joined a more fitting place to teach his lessons on discipline—the Florida Department of Corrections.  After four years at the West Unit at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Sneads, Albert was able to qualify for state retirement, so he did and they settled down in Cottondale.  Albert is a member of the Marianna VFW Post 12064. 

On $334,508 grant: Florida’s Great Northwest CEO asks Jackson officials for input

Jackson County commissioners, Marianna city commissioners and several local business leaders were asked for their input Monday at a luncheon for the new CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest, Kim Wilmes. Florida’s Great Northwest, a non-profit business development group funded by private and public sources, is the new recipient of a $334,508 grant from the US Department of Commerce.   

“We will be starting a regional study with the $300,000,” Wilmes explained in the Lafayette Room at Jim’s Buffet and Grill.  “What you put in is what you will get out of it. The University of West Florida is our partner in this and we need community input and feedback.  Let me know the good and the not so good.  The worst thing is when something is wrong and nobody says anything.” Wilmes noted that the strong points for economic development for Jackson County and the region are the “I-10 corridor” and the area’s suitability “for manufacturing jobs and distribution centers.”  

Wilmes is known for her straight talk and her honesty.  Her specialty is marketing, said her host and introducer Bill Stanton, director of the Jackson County Economic Development Council.  “She is eminently qualified in the realm of marketing,” Stanton said.  “She truly walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk.  In 12 years at Enterprise Florida, she rose to the top.”

After growing up in Jacksonville, Wilmes received an MBA from the University of Florida in 1994.  Wishing to work with the “big companies only,” she explained, she left Florida as soon as she could and worked during the next several years for Burke, Inc. of Cincinnati and The Link Group of Atlanta.  But she missed the weather in Florida and wanted to raise her children here.  She joined the state of Florida’s “Enterprise Florida” in economic development in 2002.  She is in the process of moving from Orlando to Santa Rosa Beach with her artist/potter husband Tracy and their two children aged 9 and 11, she explained after the Monday noon meeting.

Florida’s Great Northwest serves the Panhandle all the way from Escambia in the west to Jackson, Gulf and Franklin counties in the east.  The $334,508 grant is an Economic Adjustment Assistance grant and will be used to write an economic development plan.  Wilmes stressed the importance of communities working together to her audience at Jim’s Buffet and Grill.  “We’d like to see a survey, a town hall meeting, something in which key leaders throughout the community can be engaged,” she said.  “We’re not out to make a report to sit on a shelf.”  

Wilmes was frank when Marianna City Manager Jim Dean asked her what she envisioned for the Panhandle.  “I don’t know yet,” she explained.  “I’m hesitant to tell you anything because I’m new to the territory.”  Others at the luncheon included county commissioners Eric Hill and Kenneth Stephens, city commissioners Kenneth Hamilton and Travis Ephraim, court clerk-elect Clay Rooks, Engineer David Melvin, Richard Williams of CareerSource Chipola, FPU manager Lynwood Tanner and WFEC CEO Russell Dunaway.  Wilmes spent the rest of the day in Jackson County touring business sites with Stanton. 

“Leaps and bounds” - Jackson 4-H members enter national competition for first time in 20 years

The Jackson County Commission  had the opportunity to take a break from routine business and hear some positive news from Jackson County 4-H member Bud Basford. The 12-year-old explained to commissioners how dedicated he was to 4-H and to the care and feeding of his livestock, calves mostly.  “I look after the calves every day and care for them,” he explained. “I could talk all day long about 4-H too,” he said. “Because of 4-H, I’ve had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at clubs such as the Chipola Community Club.  It’s one of the best opportunities a kid could have.”  Basford invited commissioners and the public to visit their Facebook page to “see what they’re all about.”

Basford spoke to commissioners at their July 12 meeting for a few reasons.  He was introduced by 4-H volunteer Stacey Warden who was standing in that day for Extension Agent 4-H Angel Granger.  “Jackson County 4-H is growing in leaps and bounds,” Warden said.  For the first time since 1997, she explained, Jackson 4-H will be sending participants to national competition as a club.

Jackson 4-H will be fielding a four-person team to the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference on Nov. 16-17 in Louisville, Ky.  Jackson 4-H consists of more than 200 enrolled youth, 40 adult volunteers and 12 youth volunteers, all who participate in programs outside of the public school system, unlike FFA which is school-based.  There are about 10 “clubs” such as livestock, poultry and rabbits, horse and robotics.  The robotics club is of interest to students attracted to “STEM” instruction—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Jackson 4-H Livestock Club members Anslie Yoder, Emma Caraway, Caitlin Caudill and Morgan Seale will represent Florida at the 2016 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference—the Avian Bowl.  The team will be joining fellow club member Nathalie Yoder who will be representing Florida in the Poultry Judging Competition, Granger announced on July 11. Yoder, a Calhoun County resident who is with Jackson 4-H because of limited opportunities in Calhoun, was “2nd High Individual in the state,” Granger explained, and that “guaranteed her a spot on the national poultry team.”

Also speaking to the Jackson County Commission on July 12 were Louisville-bound Emma Caraway and Caitlin Caudill. The 4-Hers aimed to give the county an update on events and programs, Granger said in her office Monday afternoon. Another purpose was to give them experience in public speaking.  “There is nothing like public speaking to teach them how to sell themselves to others,” Granger said.

Visitors to the Jackson County Ag Center on Penn Avenue will notice an addition to the foyer in front of the auditorium/conference room. Jackson 4-H trophies and ribbons dating back to 1956 “needed to be visible to the public and the new tradition of 4H accomplishments need to be seen as well,” Granger said.  “The move in June was right on time--as the next generation of Jackson County 4-H members brings home the hardware!”  Upcoming events include: 2016-17 4-H Enrollment or Re-Enrollment on September 1; 2016 Open House on Sept. 13; End of Year Awards Banquet on Sept. 20; Panhandle Youth Expo (PYE) on Oct. 13-15 and 4-H Ag Adventures on Oct. 25-26.  

Sgt. Major (US Army Ret.) Enoch Williams served 30 years in the Army 1961-1991

Enoch Williams of Jackson County’s Springfield Community served a distinguished 30-year career in the US Army.  Drafted in 1961, he decided early on to stay in the military. He managed to make it through the Berlin airlift crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and several other conflicts without ever being sent to the battlegrounds. In fact, his last assignment in 1990-91 was packing the troops off to Desert Storm, not attending it. However, through all those conflicts, Williams was there supporting the troops with research and development to keep them supplied and organized for warfare.

Williams tried to get sent to Vietnam in 1964 “but they refused,” he explained at the Jackson County TIMES last Thursday.  “I wanted to get off of alert status in which I was confined to the base in Hawaii,” he said, “but they needed my MOS (Military Occupational Status) where I was and they turned me down.”  In 1969, Enoch got his orders and was headed to Vietnam but at the very same time, President Nixon had ordered a cutback in troops and his free trip to Southeast Asia was cancelled.

Williams was good Army material and the officers knew it, making him a Staff Sergeant in 1967.  He had decided to stay in the Army six months before his two-year draft term ended.  “The retirement and other benefits offered by the federal government were pretty good,” Williams explained.  “My only other skills were bus driving and farming.”  Enoch was born on August 30, 1937 to farmers Benjamin and Sylvia Williams in the Springfield Community north of Marianna off State Road 73.  He graduated high school at Jackson County Training School in 1957, in the first class to graduate at the buildings and campus now known as Marianna Middle School. He started driving a bus for the District when he was still a senior. He married his high school sweetheart Tommie Harrington in 1965; they will celebrate their 51st Anniversary on Nov. 26. She stuck with him throughout his military career, although it meant they had to move every two or three years.

The Army work Williams is most proud of involves his research and development assignments, and his work with making sure Army Reserve equipment was available in case of combat immediacy.  In 1971-74, while assigned in Japan as a quartermaster research analyst, his team’s mission was to develop a plastic-sealed meal for soldiers to replace the canned C-Rations.  “We had those meals for the astronauts in space in those days, but they didn’t have a long shelf life.  We needed to come up with a MRE (meal ready to eat) that would last a long time and taste good.”  The Army still uses the method they developed then as well as the “honeycombed cardboard air-drop pallet that absorbs the shock when cargo is dropped from the air so it doesn’t bounce,” as the Sgt. Major describes it. 

In 1980-82, Williams was assigned to the 40th Ordnance Group in Jackson, Mississippi.  “Our primary mission,” he explained, “was to get the equipment used by Army Reserve units up to combat-ready status.” For his work as senior logistics NCO, Williams was presented a special award by Sen. John Stennis, then the Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.  It states, “MSG Enoch Williams Meritorious Service August 1980 to October 1982.” (See illustration.) The flame-shaped award is made of wood.  

Williams also is very proud of his work with the men of the US military, especially those who served under his supervision.  “I treated them the way I would like them to treat me,” he explained.  “In my 28 years as a supervisor, I only had to do two Articles 15s and only one courts martial.” Article 15s allow commanders to carry out discretional punishments without judicial proceedings.

Williams was drafted during the Cold War and as soon as he got to Fort Benning in 1961 for basic training, the Army was put on full alert because of what was happening in Berlin, Germany.  “Our basic training was cut short,” Enoch explained, and we were told to get ready to fight. So I was trained in the 127th Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, as an artilleryman.” In September 1962, he was transferred to the 25th Infantry Division and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.  Assuming duties as the Unit Armor in March 1963, that was the beginning of his supply sergeant career and in 1974, Williams began his battalion/brigade-level career in logistics.  That culminated in July 1991 when he became the Directorate of Logistics Sergeant Major in Fort Stewart, Georgia.  Enoch had been promoted to Sergeant Major on Aug. 1, 1985, he remembers without hesitation.

Williams spent 12 months in Korea as unit supply sergeant (1966-67), stationed in Muson, South Korea, “at the last base before the DMZ.” Other assignments included two three-year tours in Germany, as well as trips to Japan, Thailand and others.  His awards and decorations include Good Conduct Medal 10th Award, Army Achievement Medal, Korean Expedition Medal, Army Commendation Medal 2nd Award, Meritorious Service Medal 5th Award and the Legion of Merit.  

“I’d do it all again if I had the chance,” Williams said of his Army career.  “We live in the greatest country in the world and in all the 30 years, I never doubted that we would return home to Jackson County. (But if I had to live in another country—I’d pick Germany because of its food, its cleanliness and its people.)  I’d recommend the service to all young people. I’m glad to have two nephews in the Marine Corps.  I attribute my successful career to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and my wife Tommie. A military spouse is in just as bad a shape as the soldier.  I don’t know how she did it but she did it!” 

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