Tactical Operations Center
Chad Buehring was one of the good guys. He could be serious one minute and yucking it up the next. He was Citadel class of 1985, I was 1984. We first bumped into each other at the gym and then were in the Citadel's pre-Ranger program. If you can imagine 12 guys in gray PT sweats jogging through downtown Charleston at 5 a.m. carrying rubber M-16s (training stuff), you get an idea of our personalities and how tight we became.
Chad was good natured and fun to be with. We used to hang out at the Pit (there's a subject for its own web page) and, well, mix in some cold beer and downtown Charleston and you get the idea.
Chad and I ran into each other again at Fort Bragg in 1992; he had gone through the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 3d Group. We got to jump together frequently; when you are chasing the requisite number of jumps for senior and master wings, you look out for each other and if you have extra chutes on a jump, you call your buddies. Thanks to Chad, I got to jump from a C-47, the same kind of plane my grandfather piloted during World War Two.
We went to Charleston together during our time at Bragg; went to Citadel football games, hung out at the Pitt, and went to Big John's. You get the picture.
When I heard about his death, it hit me in the stomach. He was doing what he believed in, living the Special Forces motto: De Oppresso Liber. He embodied what it meant to be a quiet professional.
As a former intelligence officer, I can tell you that in my opinion, probably even Saddam did not know what he had. 9/11 opened our eyes after all these years after the Marine barracks boming in Beirut to the dangers of Muslim extremism. I know that Chad was committed to the Army and to his nation.
I went to the funeral at Arlington and visit his grave periodically. His funeral service was a combination Citadel and Special Forces reunion. I think the important thing to remember about serving your country is that you do it because you believe in something bigger than yourself. I would go back in the Army in a second. Chad Buerhing died a hero; doing what he believed in, an enduring example of what being a Citadel graduate and Special Forces officer means.
There are few people you run into in your life that make you say, "This is someone I want to be like." Most of us have our faults, our transgressions, our tempers and our own weaknesses. Steve Badger was not most of us.
I first met Steve when I was assigned to the 82d Airborne Division in 1991. I had transferred over from a Military Intelligence Battalion where I did not really feel wanted. I have to admit having been initially intimidated. This after all was the vaunted 82d. Most Military Intelligence officers stationed elsewhere at Fort Bragg thought that going to the 82d was a career killer because the environment was so demanding.
At first I thought they might have been right; then I met Steve. Steve was quiet and unassuming. He also had presence. In the midst of the macho, loud mouthed "I'm better than you" atmosphere and the constant career jockeying between the officers, Steve was like a Rock. He was steady, focused and did not really seem bothered by too much of anything. Again, I thought, this is someone I should be like.
Steve and I crossed paths several times professionally from 1991 until 1993. He always had a kind word and was always open to talking without bragging about himself; it seemed to me that he was genuinely interested in other people and not just himself.
Steve was the type of officer that all soldiers admired. He was what the Navy calls a mustang: He had been an enlisted soldier prior to earning his commission. This additional experience gave him a lot more maturity than most of his peers. When I heard he had been selected to become the company commander of Bravo Company, 313th MI Battalion, I said, Yup, it figures. Then, I got my own chance to command a company, C Co. 313th, and we were brother commanders.
Unlike one of our other commanders, Steve maintained a level of quiet professionalism that earned him the respect of his soldiers, his NCOs and his commander. Steve seemed to have the golden touch. If I ran into a problem I did not know how to get my hands around, I often called him and he always had the answer.
Steve was also a great jumpmaster; his attention to detail and quiet presence were very soothing under often stressful jump operations.
They say that the kind of car someone drives is indicative of their nature; with Steve that was certainly true: We drove around in his big, blue Chevy Suburban. It was like him: A little older, a little wiser, comforting and sturdy. We used to tease him about it, but he always smiled and laughed.
In 1994, he and I went to Fort Leavenworth together for CAS3. We tried to roommate together, but were not able to. I regret that we could not. We had also applied to attend the Post Graduate Intelligence Program at the Joint Military Intelligence College at DIA in Washington DC.
The last time I saw him, we went to lunch together in downtown Leavenworth. We knew we had the chance to go to school together, and I looked forward to being able to attend classes with him. When I got back to Bragg, I shipped out to DC. In the process, I heard that the 2d Brigade S2 (one of the kind of MI officers I talked about earlier) had quit, saying the job was too much for him.
The brigade commander asked Steve to take over the job for a year and postpone graduate school. Anyone else, me included, would probably have said no. After all, Steve had been in the 82d for several years and the long days and exercises can be stressful on anyone. But Steve, devoted and dedicated, agreed.
About three months later while I was at grad school, I was watching CNN and I heard what had happened. I lay in bed that night, unable to speak, numb with disbelief. You think that this cant be happening. To tell you how small Fort Bragg is, two of the Special Forces soldiers who tackled Steve's murderer were friends of mine. When I heard what Steve had done, along with the rest of the brigade staff, I said, That sounds like him.
In our training, we are taught that in a close ambush you charge into the enemy, hoping to catch them off guard and overwhelm them. What Steve did was sacrifice himself to save others. Towle Stadium is a natural bowl; the disgruntled man (I cant call him a soldier) could have killed many more soldiers had Steve and the others not rushed him on that hill.
At Diane's request, I came down and was one of pallbearers. Shortly before the ceremony, I went down to Towle Stadium to remember him and to cry.
When I think him, I remember him as a doting father, a loving husband, a deeply religious man; a professional soldier with few peers. He sacrificed himself for others. Steve is more than a hero, he is a role model for a cynical, self-absorbed world.
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