Fort Leonard Wood hosts demolition engineer reunion Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 August 2017
Story and photo by Marti Yoshida
Public Affairs Office

After World War II, a new state of geopolitical tension, known as the Cold War, emerged between the strongest superpowers at the time, the United States and the Soviet Union.

The battle was one of ideas and economics, where Western democracies set out to protect world stability and freedom from the constraints of communist control.
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Bruce Goll and Richard Hilton, who served with the 275th Eng. Co. ADM, look at a V-100 "Commando" armored car during their ADM reunion tour of the Fort Leonard Wood museum July 29.

Though neither side wanted to fight each other directly, the U.S. Army formed several units, starting at the U.S. Army Engineer Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in the 1950s, recruiting combat engineers for the military occupational specialty of Atomic Demolition Munitions.

ADMs were small nuclear explosive devices that provided tactical commanders with a means to create massive obstacles with fewer Soldiers and supplies, in less time than other demolitions or mechanical systems, according to Troy Morgan, Engineer Museum director with the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex.

While ADM units have inactivated and its weapons systems decommissioned, the esprit de corps is very much alive among those who served.

Fort Leonard Wood hosted an all-unit ADM reunion July 29.

“We decided to come to Fort Leonard Wood for a couple of reasons,” said Steve Harmon, who was a first lieutenant with the 275th Engineer Company ADM when the unit inactivated in 1985. “Most of these guys did their AIT or one station unit training here, so we thought this would be a good place.”

“We also knew that Troy (Morgan) was trying to document the history of 12E Atomic Demolitions Munitions, so we thought getting 12Es here for the different periods, could help the museum staff piece together a more accurate history,” Harmon said.

Harmon, who coordinated this year’s reunion, was pleased with the visit, saying it reawakened the strong bond that exists in the unit.

The reunion included a bus tour of Fort Leonard Wood.

“Listening to people on the bus, you can tell the visit brought back a lot of memories,” Harmon said.

Larry Wetta, who trained at Fort Leonard Wood before moving on to Fort Belvoir and the 275th Eng. Co. ADM in the late 1960s, said, “We are a small, close-knit group of people who were dedicated to one purpose, and one purpose only, and that was to defend the United States in case of a conflict.

“We feel that we did our service proudly and effectively,” Wetta said.

Another attendee commented that while many things have changed, the one thing that remains the same is the camaraderie.

“I’m glad to see that Fort Leonard Wood has changed a lot and improved,” said Alvaro Castillo, who served with the 275th Eng. Co. ADM. “I think the diversity of the Engineering Corps requirements and the technology and tactics of engineers has diversified excessively since we were at Fort Leonard Wood as combat engineers.”