Poquoson, VA – January 30, 2019 – LTC (Retired) Joe Barto, TMG Founder and President has published the 25th Anniversary edition of his book “Task Force 2-4 CAV; First In – Last Out. The History of the 2nd Squadron, 4th Cavalry during Operation Desert Storm” with Foreword by Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Head Basketball Coach, Duke University. Joe played on Coach K’s very first team at West Point.
By: Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Men’s Basketball Duke University
Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Edition of TF 2-4 CAV First In – Last Out. During Operation Desert Storm when Joe was leading his TF 2-4 CAV Team to win in early 1991; I was leading my Duke team to our first National Championship. Both were the most significant events of our lives.
Our first books published shortly after the events were more about “What” happened during those brief periods of time. What is unique about this 25th Anniversary edition is adding the perspective of time about the impact of what we did, but who we did it with and how it framed the rest of our lives. Over the years the detail of what we did seems to fade while the power of who we did it with and how it shaped the rest of our lives continues to deepen and grow.
I first met Joe in the Spring of 1973 while was a High School Senior and I was Coaching at the USMA Prep School. While our few years together was brief it also shaped both of our futures. We learned a lot together. I know if I had not had those 5 years at West Point; I would never have been so successful at Duke and I know if Joe had not had his time at West Point and as an Army basketball player he would never have been so successful in his career as an Army Officer, business leader, husband and father. We are at the end of the day West Point graduates who were privileged to lead in so many ways. I learned at West Point that failure is not a destination, don’t try to do it by yourself, and being responsible for the performance of a group of people on a noble mission is the greatest gift of our lives. It has been my honor and privilege to lead and I am truly blessed to have had a lifetime of leading high performing teams.
As you read the story of TF 2-4 CAV, I know you will sense the same passion, love of his soldiers, and a total focus on accomplishing the mission while bringing his soldiers home with their heads held high. Joe completely understands it is not only accomplishing the mission but serving with honor and being proud of how they did their work.
This is what sets a 25th Anniversary edition apart. It is about how we lead, the impact on the rest of our lives, and who we did it with. To the troopers of TF 2-4 CAV; Congratulations and Job Well Done. When your country called on you; you did your duty and this book tells your story. Now the 25th Anniversary edition provided you the chance to complete the story with how it affected the rest of your lives and this is why America is so great.
In 1993 when we first published the book, I had four objectives. The book had to be free, short, and tell both the military facts of our units operations and how it felt to be a recent graduate of the Command and General Staff College, who went to war served as a Major on a Division staff and as a Cavalry Squadron Executive Officer led soldiers in combat.
In the Fall of 2015, CSM (Retired) Jean Soucy asked if I was going to attend the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) Association’s Operation Desert Shield/Storm 25th Anniversary Reunion at Fort Stewart. I had no idea there was a 24ID(M) Association or that they had been holding reunions over the years. For the 25th Anniversary, our Operation Desert Shield and Storm Commanding General, General Barry R. McCaffrey, led the official party and delivered the keynote at the spot we dedicated the Memorial to our fallen comrades on the first Anniversary in 1992.
Jean and I had stayed in touch over the years since, and I was excited to accept his invitation to join him in representing the Task Force at the reunion. I have a tremendous loyalty and allegiance to our CSM who was such an enormous support to me and the Task Force (TF). Jean had arranged a dinner the evening before the reunion for the TF 2-4 CAV veterans in attendance to kick off our weekend together. While I was very excited to see old friends and comrades; there were also a list of names I did not recognize and I wondered how this would go.
On the appointed day, Jean and I met at the bar prior to dinner to conduct a “Rock Drill” in true Cavalry fashion. I had not actually seen him since 1992 when I had departed Fort Stewart. The emotion from first sight was overwhelming and quite unexpected.
As the unit gathered you could feel the emotions growing. The A Troop contingent was led by the Troop Commander, Dave Gallup and 1SG Chuck Hill. We went around the table and introduced ourselves; Barto, Squadron Executive Officer; Soucy, Command Sergeant Major, Edwards, Commander Task Force Air Cav, Dan Payne Squadron Chaplain and then it was Rob Davis and his wife Donna, Driver A35, Jerry Moore Driver A12, and Tim Montgomery Driver A33. Most attendees, many with their wives, had been 19-20-year-old Privates and Specialists on their first and last tours in the Army. They had travelled from all over the county to remember their historic service together in late 1990 and early 1991 during Operations Desert Shield and Storm as members of Task Force 2-4 CAV.
I was stunned by the depth of the emotion we all felt around that table. In the acknowledgments of the 1993 version I wrote; “War is an intensely emotional event. There is a special bond between the leaders and the led when based upon trust, confidence, and love. It is a special love that is difficult to describe yet easy to identify—you can see it in their eyes when they meet and hear it in their voices when they talk about what they have done.”
Sitting next to Rob Davis at dinner, I was telling him my story of working in Division G-3 Operations and how I became the Squadron XO, how we had put the plan together, and all the SXO war stories. I then asked him what he thought; he looked at me and said, “Sir, I was just the driver of A35… my view of the war was whatever my Bradley Commander, SSG McNeary told me to do… my war was about staying dry, keeping my Bradley running, and taking care of my crew mates. No idea what you are talking about” with a huge smile. I flashed back to my Dad, Joseph C. Barto, Jr., a World War II veteran of the 704 Tank Destroyer Battalion, 4th Armored Division from Utah Beach to Victory in Europe Day doing a History Channel WWII interview in the 1990’s. When asked what he thought of General Patton’s plan for the famous Thunder Run to break the siege at Bastogne in December 1944. “No idea what you are talking about; all I remember I was driving a Tank Destroyer north for 28 hours and it was coldest I have ever been in my life.” American soldiers all share a common bond depending on where they were, what their roles were, and who they were with.
As dinner and drinks continued through the evening, I noticed that many had the book “TF 2-4 CAV First In—Last Out” and as they would talk about some event they would refer to the book then “do you remember that day…”. I was so pleased, because this is why I wrote the book… to record the events of our time together just for this specific reason … a common chronology of the events of our war. There were several versions of the book present. After dinner, one of the troopers came up to me to thank me for writing the book and how special it was to them and their family. I assured him it was no big deal and I was very happy it served its objectives when he said “Sir, you don’t get it do you? You told OUR story. None of these other units have a book that tells their story.”
Over the weekend and weeks following, I had more requests on how to get a copy of the book which had been out of print for many years. Thus, the idea to publish this 25th Anniversary Edition for those troopers who as General Patton once said, “could put their grandchildren on their knees for the rest of their lives and tell their war story” of the events surrounding Task Force 2-4 CAV during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.
That conversation with Rob Davis began the 25th Anniversary edition process. It is all about where you were and your perspective which is why we decided to re-publish. Our goal is for every trooper and their families for generations to come to be able to pull this book of the shelf and tell their story. Often, that story has little to do with what happened during the 100-hour war, it is about leaving home and their families at home, listening to “God Bless the USA” 1,000 times in the hangar at Hunter Army Airfield waiting for an airplane, getting off an airplane in Dammam, Saudi Arabia in 120 degrees in August and riding in their Bradley Fighting Vehicle on the back of a Heavy Equipment Trailer driver by a non-English speaking local national and being dropped off in the middle of the desert and wondering “what do we do now.” It is a talent show over Thanksgiving; it is when a buddy helps you and you he for no reason. It is your first call home after being gone for three months. It goes on and on and on.
40 Days. My first day at TF 2-4 CAV was February 2, 1991, we attacked into Iraq on February 22 and on March 14, 1991 we crossed the border back into Saudi Arabia. Sometimes you only get one chance to get it right.
In the acknowledgements of the original book I wrote, “My life will always be divided into two distinct periods separated by the defense of Saudi Arabia and the liberation of Kuwait.” Now 25 years later I think about the “what if’s” of my life’s journey that put me in that place in time and what it meant to my life afterwards. Cavalrymen are trained to thrive in the chaos of the battlefield. What many see as chaos, Cavalrymen see as opportunities. We are trained on how to find the opportunities, maintain our freedom of maneuver to exploit the situation and accomplish the mission. Every opportunity that closes; Cavalrymen know that another opens somewhere; keep moving forward. When the opportunities in life close, we need have the faith another is opening, be smart enough to see it, and then have the courage to walk through it.
What if… I had not gone on that 1973 basketball recruiting visit to West Point followed by a stop at the USMA Prep School in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where I met a young Army Captain and Basketball Coach named Mike Krzyzewski and had not answered the phone a week later. Coach told me that if I chose to come the Prep School, play basketball for him and go to West Point, it would be the “best decision of my life.” When for the next five years, I often thought it was the worst decision of my life.
What if…Coach K had not put me, a rarely played reserve, in the biggest game of the 1975-76 season against Florida State at the University of Vermont Holiday Tournament, where I embarrassed myself, my team, and my family with the worst display of basketball ever. Soon afterwards Coach and I deciding leaving the team would be best for me and the team. I would have never made the Dean’s list for the next two semesters and improved my class rank high enough to choose to be an Armor officer (108 out of 120 available spaces). I went to West Point to play basketball but fell in love with being an Army officer and leader. I was born to be a soldier and to lead. I may have never had the chance lead soldiers in combat and tell their story.
What if… I never attended the induction of Coach K into the Army Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 at West Point and thank him for putting me in that game in 1975 because I was not ready to play on that day but that lesson learned ensured that on February 1st, 1990, when then MG McCaffrey put me in the biggest game of my life, I was ready. When I asked Coach Krzyzewski why he put me in that game, he immediately remembered the event and while I believed he had some vindictive intent for me personally he said, “the only reason I put you in the that game is because I thought you could help us Win. The problem was you didn’t believe you could.” Coach says the secret of life, “…is aligning yourself with people who believe in you more than you believe in yourself.” When I walked into the TF 2-4 CAV TOC for the first time on February 2, 1991, I knew my first mission was to believe in them because they did not believe in themselves that day. To do that, I had to believe in myself before they would believe in me creating that sacred bond between the leader and the led.
What if…I had not been at the intersection of Vessey and West St in New York City at 8:46 AM on September 11th, 2001, when I saw the fireball of the first plane hitting the north tower through the sunroof of the car I was sitting in and had not made the decision that it was time to do something bold in my life. I decided that I could either work for companies who made decisions for me, my team and my family or if I was going to take a bet on myself.
My mission is life since July 2002 is to help others know what it feels like to be on a high-performance team who seek perfection every day, just like we did in TF 2-4 CAV. The officers and troopers of TF 2-4 CAV knew they had one chance to get this perfect; one hour, one day, one mission at a time. Certainly, every action was not perfect but we accomplished our mission and returned home with their head held high. PERFECT. Mission First – People Always!
What if…I had not walked into the Mademoiselle Dress shop in Annandale, Virginia in April 1977 and met Tricia O’Donnell—she and I have always believed in each other more than we could ever believe in ourselves. An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go together.” We have had an amazing journey together, with a long way to go. She is the leader of our family and leads by example with such great courage and commitment.
When I work with teams today and usually near the end of our time together, I hand them a small piece of paper and ask them to write down the name of the person in their lives that believed in them more than they believed in themselves. Who was that person or persons who changed their lives? I encourage them to remember what it felt like to be around them and how they affected their lives. Then I ask them to turn that slip of paper over and write down the name of the person who would write their name down on the front.
For 40 days plus 25 years, I am privileged to have leaders and led from TF 2-4 CAV on both sides of the slip of paper I always carry in my wallet.
Prepared and Loyal!
Joseph C. Barto, III
Founder and President
Training Modernization Group, Inc.
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)
USMA Class of 1978