The Special Forces community in an act that many considered long-overdue, honored the memory of one its most decorated soldiers, Colonel Robert Howard by dedicating the central classroom to him at Camp Mackall.
The Rowe Training Facility is where all Special Forces soldiers receive their classroom instruction when at Camp Mackall. And Howard spent nearly his entire life in helping to train, lead and inspire Special Forces Green Berets.
His son, Robert Howard Jr. was on hand for and helped dedicate the building to his father’s memory.
The event, organized by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was attended by Howard’s family and more than 100 current and former Special Forces soldiers.
Many had stories about Howard, who was wounded 14 times during nearly five years of combat in Vietnam, earned a battlefield commission and was thrice recommended for the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, in the space of a little more than one year.
He was awarded the medal once and also received two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal for Valor with three oak leaf clusters and eight Purple Hearts, among many other awards and decorations.
Howard spent 36 years in uniform, officials said. He worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs following his retirement from the Army in 1992 until 2006. He died Dec. 23, 2009, at age 70, following a battle with cancer.
“Contemporaries describe him running alongside an enemy truck one night, tossing a claymore mine into the back among the startled enemy and detonating it,” said Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
“They describe a time he saw two (Viet Cong) on a motorbike throwing a grenade at a group of soldiers,” Thomas said. “He grabbed an M-16 from a startled security guard, calmly dropped to a knee to shoot one of the (Viet Cong) and then chased the other one half a mile to shoot him, too.”
Howard’s fitness and toughness was legendary, Thomas added while relating how — as a company commander in a Ranger Battalion — Howard was known to casually pick pieces of shrapnel out of his arm as he ran without slowing down.
“There have been too many books and movies of late about special operations, but the Col. Bob Howard story almost defies a movie script and his character would be right out of central casting,” the four-star general said.
There are so many stories about Howard and his toughness but he wasn’t all about himself and although a proud man was a very humble one. He touched so many soldiers’ lives and the most amazing thing about him were, all of the stories are true.
Why there isn’t a movie made about him yet is a good question. It truly needs to get done. But in the meantime, all would-be Special Forces soldiers will walk into the classroom that bears his name.
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Photo courtesy US Army