Chapter Nineteen - Anniston Army Depot
I will not dwell on my personal problems with Colonel Bell at
this point. I will list a few things Colonel Bell did and let you draw
your own conclusions:
Colonel Bell stocked his government quarters with batteries,
tires, sheets, pillow cases, pecans, oil and many other items and
coerced government employees and members of the military into buying
Colonel Bell went into the produce business and used the
receiving area in a major warehouse for storing the produce to the
extent that it hampered depot supply operations. Orders were taken by
phone and delivered by the depot taxi system, making it impossible many
times for depot employees to use the taxi system.
Colonel Bell would have as many as three depot directors waiting
to see him for hours and his produce business partner, a depot employee,
could walk in immediately and discuss the produce business while depot
business was put on hold.
Colonel Bell turned a supply meeting into a search for a part
for his car, to see who could get the lowest price.
Colonel Bell would have travel orders issued for a Fort near his
home town and go home for week ends on travel orders and never visit the
Colonel Bell would negotiate for a cheap room when on travel by
telling the motel management that he was thinking of sending a large
group of depot employees there and might ask them to stay at that motel.
Colonel Bell loaned his own Father money and then foreclosed on
the property serving as collateral. He stated his father was a spend
thrift and deserved to lose the property.
Colonel Bell had money in many, many banks and had a system for
withdrawing and transferring money that would result in double interest
on the money for 10 days a month.
Colonel Bell would buy something on sale that he never intended
to keep and then return it after the sale was over and get refunded at
the regular price.
Colonel Bell would require someone to ride with him on temporary
duty because he got two cents per mile more if he had a rider. Then he
would not stop for his passenger to use a rest room as it took extra gas
to stop and start. When he arrived at the destination he would not take
them to the motel they wanted to stay at. He would usually stay with a
friend and dump them at the closest motel.
Colonel Bell, when he did stay at a motel would go to the room
of a traveling companion and make local calls to avoid having them
charged to his room.
Colonel Bell once found a "hamburger war." His traveling
companion said he was asked what size coke and had the waitress bring
all three glasses and to put water in one of them. He poured the water
back and forth to determine the best value. He then said he had a
stomach condition and ordered coke without ice to get more coke. He then
spooned ice into the coke from the water glass of his traveling
companion. He had several cokes and hamburgers and asked the waitress
how much he owed. She told him 91 cents and he handed her his glass and
told her to bring 9 cents worth of coke to round it to a dollar. As they
left, he looked at his bill and it was 98 cents and he returned to the
table and held up his coke glass and attempted to get the attention of
the waitress. She appeared to be looking elsewhere to avoid him. Colonel
Bell sighed and went to the register and gave them the dollar and
instructed them to give the change to the waitress. They went back to
Colonel Bell's car and he sat there a long, long time without starting
the engine. He finally sighed and said, "I have been told all my life
that leaving a tip made you feel better. That was the first tip I ever
gave in my life and I feel like shit. I am just out two cents."
The above are just samples. There are hundreds more and some are
about the same and some are even worse. As I said before, Colonel Bell
was a cheap skate, manipulating so and so!
Colonel Bell and I had many clashes. I refused to go along with
his nonsense. He finally decided to make a move and was afraid to fire
me so he attempted to put me in a situation in which he felt I would
quit. He called me in, with witnesses, and said we had to get ready for
Project SPEEDEX and he was assigning me as project officer full time and
was assigning my deputy as the Director for Data Systems. He wanted me
in headquarters building and was assigning the comptroller as my point
of clearance and I was not to leave the building without clearing with
the Comptroller. I was assigned an office, with a typewriter but no
desk. I was given an assignment of typing a thousand page report on the
status of Project SPEEDEX. I had to get a trash barrel and lay a board
across it for a desk.
Periodically, I was told to prepare a briefing for the depot
command staff and directors. I would prepare flip charts and start the
briefings at the appointed time. Almost immediately the commander would
start calling people out of the briefings until I was the only one in
the conference room. I would just continue to give the briefing as
though the room was filled.
Everyone was warned to stay away from me and Fred Adams was the
only one who would visit my office. All the others were afraid to be
seen with me. I had my little office with a filing cabinet, chair,
typewriter, and a garbage can with a board across it for eight long
months. I went to the Colonel's office three times every week and told
him how much I loved the job and appreciated the opportunity to study
SPEEDEX without worrying about routine assignments. I would tell him I
had been about ready to resign and the project officer assignment gave
me new hope and I had decided to remain with the depot because of it.
The Colonel would send for me now and then and tell me who was
doing what to me. He told me of people I thought were my friends and how
they were cooperating with him by telling me what I had told them. He
told me one day, "People call me when you say something about me and
they call so fast that sometimes I can still hear your voice echoing."
He told me this once and then said I had called him an SOB 172 times, an
old fart 146 times and beetle butt 97 times. I told him he had better
get after those people as obviously he was only getting about ten
percent reported. I told him that I usually used an adjective also, such
as a crooked SOB or a Cheap-assed fart.
I went to the data processing building without permission one
day and decided I may as well tell the Colonel myself. I went to his
office when I got back to headquarters and he held his fingers to his
lips and motioned for me to sit down. I was able to listen to two people
telling him I had been there. Both people were telling me privately how
they were supporting me and were on my side. They were very vicious in
their comments. I never trusted anyone after that, other than Fred
Adams. Fred was an accountant and his support meant nothing, other than
there was one person I could count on. Charlie Heard was not at the
depot at this time. Charlie had got disgusted and retired.
Finally Colonel Bell retired and a new commander came in. I will
refer to him as Colonel Mark Wheat. Colonel Wheat called me to his
office and asked me to sit down. He had several sealed envelopes on his
desk. He called his secretary in and handed them to her and told her he
wanted those envelopes opened at the shredder and shredded without
reading. She left with them and Colonel Wheat told me that Colonel Bell
had given him files on several people and most of them were on me. He
said he had them sealed without reading them and had ordered them
shredded. He said he would form his own opinion of people at the depot,
without being influenced by someone with an axe to grind. He said he
intended to talk to a few people that day and would see me again the
next day. The next day he called me in and said he had several
discussions about me and needed to know one more thing. I asked him to
just name it and he said he wanted to know what my attitude was going to
be towards people who had not supported me or had worked against me if I
went back to my job. I told him I felt all of that was brought about by
the fear tactics of Colonel Bell and as far as I was concerned it would
be over. I told him I would always have a hurt but I refused to hurt
others just because I had been hurt. He shook hands and told me to get
back to work.
Colonel Wheat was an alcoholic and had many problems in his
personal life, but he had integrity and his integrity saved me. I was
forever in his debt.
Colonel Mark Berg Depot Commander
Colonel Berg came in so new as a Colonel that he drew his
first pay as a Colonel while at Anniston. He had an exalted opinion of
himself, not proven by ability. He never made a single command decision
while at the depot. If you do not make decisions you cannot do anything
wrong. He forced the directors to do their jobs and his job too. He
spent most of his time at the drawing board explaining math to us, and
designing charts guaranteed to show only the good things about the depot
and bury the problems.
Colonel Berg liked to jog and at least as long as he was
out jogging he was not in his office screwing something up. I always
wished he would jog twenty-four hours a day.
Colonel Berg came up with the wild idea of Tanks for Anniston,
putting all our eggs in one basket. We lost wheeled vehicle and Army
Personnel Carrier and many other rebuild jobs, thanks to this Colonel.
His claim to fame was a method to give credit back to the
depot when they performed better than they bid. He was known throughout
the system as "Base Line." He managed to stay at the depot a full year
after be was promoted to Brigadier General while he feathered his nest
by setting up a Depot Systems Command at Letterkenny Army Depot.
Colonel Berg finally left, as all pests eventually do and
good riddance to a millstone around the neck of the depot. He guaranteed
certain promotions before he left, such as Civilian Executive Assistant
for his crony, Nathan Hill, and a supply supervisor job for his
Colonel Berg made me sick.
Colonel George Master Depot Commander
Colonel Master was a great big guy and full of love for all of us.
He beat his breast and screamed but he loved us and we knew it. When
morale was low in a certain unit it seemed that George was the first to
know and you would see him sitting with his arm around someone telling
them it was going to be all better.
George would pound the table at a staff meeting and scream,
"Balls - I apologize for my language but nothing else will cover this
situation." He did not do this all at once. He would tap the table and
say something in a low voice and then slap the table and talk a little
louder. He would pound a little harder each time and talk just a little
louder. He would work himself up to the pounding and yelling.
George would chew you out and then apologize and say regulations
required him to do it and then he would put his arm around you and take
you for a cup of coffee.
During one staff meeting he talked to two or three directors
about how sorry data processing was and I got so mad I went back and
wrote a letter of resignation and sent it to him. George personally came
to my office and put his arm around me and told me he loved me. I said
something like, "Go to hell you big son of a bitch." He looked at me and
said something like, "You know I do some dumb things at times. Tell me
what I did and I will straighten it out." I told him what he did and he
said, "Hell, I was talking about them data processing guys, not you,
Tom." I asked him if he had ever considered I was those data processing
guys and he said hell no.
George called the people who he had made to the statement to, and
me, to his office and told them he had made a dumb damn statement and
wanted to apologize to Tom and make sure they all knew he knew Tom was
the best in the business. He did it all over again at the next staff
meeting. When George told you something, you could bank it.
I hated to see George Master go. He was our first Texas Aggie
commander as far as I knew. I love you George, wherever you are.
This book would not be complete without mention of some people from off
the depot who influenced my life.
Howard Allen Director for MIS Atlanta Army Depot
Howard Allen was my best friend among the other depot Directors
for Management Information Systems. Howard was a great guy. He and I hit
it off from the day we met. Howard was a tall man in excellent physical
condition and even took some equipment for work-outs on trips. I was
really shocked when his deputy called me and said Howard died. Howard
cut the grass in his yard and got something cool to drink and just died.
Howard was a displaced Yankee. He was always kidding the South.
He told me when he first drove to Georgia he got lost and saw a farmer
plowing a field. He said he stopped and asked the farmer how to get to
Atlanta. The farmer scratched his head and started pointing and talking
and then stopped and said that was not right. He scratched his head and
started pointing three more times and always stopped. Finally he told
Howard he just could not get there from where they were. Howard was
ready to give up when the farmer started again and said, "Now, if you go
back the way you came from three miles and turn right and go two miles,
and then turn right on the highway, you can get there. And it is a good
gravel road all the way into Atlanta."
We made a lot of trips to meetings and I usually called Howard
and got his flight plan so I could go to Atlanta and take the same
flights. We got to have some good long discussions that way. One time I
went to Orlando, Florida for a training course and did not even know
Howard was going. We had picked the same hotel and met in the lobby.
Howard had driven and I flew but I rode back to the Atlanta Airport with
I missed you Howard, after you ratted out on me and died. Life
was never quite as pleasant after you left and I have missed you.
Al Lis (The Fox) Director for MIS Tooele Army Depot
Al became my best friend after Howard died. His friendship was
something to hold on to in a crazy mixed up world. Al and I usually
coordinated our flight plans so we could travel at least part of the way
together on our trips. At the least, we tried to arrive about the same
time so we could share a rental car. Al was also a great guy and he and
I were very close. We frequently found ourselves on the opposite side of
the fence from LSSA and AMC and sometimes several of the other
directors. We were well aware of the politics played by many of the
Al had a terrible telephone at Tooele and he also talked very
low. We found that if he squeezed the phone the volume increased. I used
to yell at him to squeeze the phone.
Al and I are both retired now. Al has Parkinson's Disease and is
slowly drawing over. He says he looks like a walking cane. He is not
able to write but I write him and he calls now and then.
Hang in there, Al, I cannot lose you.
James T. Wheeler Director for MIS Red River Army Depot
Tom Wheeler perceived himself as the leader among the depot
directors. Tom had a lot of ability and had been around a long time and
may have been the real leader, it is hard to say. Tom was a good talker
and he talked professionalism a lot. He always compared his operation
with a commercial enterprise. His supervisors were managers, not
division or branch chiefs and the depot directors were department heads.
It all added up to the same thing; we were at the mercy of higher
headquarters and the politicians.
I liked Tom Wheeler then and I like him now. He is also retired.
I see him or get a phone call from him when he is traveling and in the
area. I think what bothers me is that when I was a depot director and
the depot directors were working so closely together to save ourselves
from destruction, I had a feeling of closeness like family and I felt
the other directors had the same feelings. When we started retiring,
suddenly we were not family anymore, not even distant cousins. I was
depending on those relationships to carry me through the future and now
they are not there for me and do not really seem to care if I even
survive or not. I wrote letters that were not even answered, and
appeared to receive very cool responses eventually.
I don't know. I still think very highly of Tom Wheeler and
always will. Hang in there, Tex.
Julius Cohen (Jookie) Civilian Executive Assistant Pueblo Army Depot
Jookie was a CEA but took on the job of DMIS as an added duty
while he was looking for a new director. Jookie offered me the DMIS job
at Pueblo and I turned it down because I did not think my financial
status permitted me to make a move. It was a good decision as Pueblo
eventually closed as a depot and I would have been in trouble.
There was never a doubt in my mind that Jookie was the most
influential CEA in the depot system. He was a good thinker and long
range planner and knew his job well. I once thought he ranked above
Charlie Heard but toward the end I knew Charlie was the greatest.
The people at Pueblo eventually seemed to turn against Jookie
and Jookie retired. It was not long after he retired that the command
began to whittle away on Pueblo and it kept losing status and finally
dropped out as a depot. I firmly believe it would have remained open if
Jookie had stayed on.
I always liked you, Jookie, and I still do.
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