Major Percy Wolf leading the troops during a change of command ceremony. (Photos courtesy of Percy Wolf)
In April 1970,
the day after Percy Wolf was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army for the first time, he went through a job interview with
Western Electric in Colorado Springs.
The first interviewer from the human relations department noted the company often worked
with the federal government.
Wolf said, yes, he had a security clearance.
The interviewer asked what kind.
NATO crypto-clearance, Wolf said.
The interviewer’s skepticism showed. He laughed.
Wolf handed the man the phone and
told him to call a certain number. He said it would ring on the desk of then-famous General Bernard Rogers, the commanding
officer at Fort Carson and the rare military man who had won the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in action while
a general, in this instance in Vietnam.
Wolf said Rogers would vouch for him because, among other reasons, the “silver
fox” general had pinned medals to Wolf’s chest.
Wolf, who had been Rogers’ driver and was entrusted with driving
high-profile visitors such as President Richard Nixon, Generals William Westmoreland and Richard Stilwell, secretary of defense
Melvin Laird, and foreign dignitaries, was hired.
He didn’t lack for confidence, but in later years, that’s part of what
made him inspiring, admired and worth following.
Now a Greeley resident at age 72, Wolf ended up serving three stints in the Army.
His career postings
took Wolf to several stops in the U.S., and also to Germany, Iraq and Kuwait.
Wolf has no problem saying his favorite command
was of the 15th Transportation Company, in Stuttgart from June 1980 to December 1981. He was a lieutenant and was granted
the rare role of serving as a commander with that rank.
“That was really an amazing group,” Wolf told me of the 15th
Transportation Company. “Of all the companies I’ve been in and of all the soldiers I commanded, those guys were
the toughest. They were the best. They’d follow you into hell, they’d march right in behind you. They weren’t
a bunch of snowflakes.
“They were 18 or 19. It was like a blank chalkboard. You started writing and they just remembered
Percy Wolf in Hawaii late in his career.
Wolf is backing that sentiment up. He is staging
a reunion in Greeley of those who served under him in the 15th Transportation Company, beginning Friday and running through
September 24. At least that’s the official schedule, but some who served under Wolf are scheduled to begin arriving
Monday and others are going to be in Greeley as late as September 28.
You get the impression these folks never were much for spit-and-polish
Army formality. For what it’s worth, “Stripes,” the irreverent Army comedy starring Bill Murray, Harold
Ramis and John Candy, came out in 1981 — while Wolf was commanding in Stuttgart — and contributed this Murray
line to movie lore: “Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot? I’m sure.”
“They were truck drivers,”
Wolf said of his charges. “They kept the trucks running. They had grease under their fingernails.”
They were not
in a war zone, but they knew that could change at any second if something happened and they were summoned elsewhere.
take them out for field training in Europe, and the temperature would be 20 degrees and there’d be a foot of snow and
we had to sleep in pup tents,” Wolf said. “We never had an injury and they’d listen to what I’d tell
them. Several of them went on to be deployed in Kuwait in 1991. They came back unscathed and several of them had written to
me that the training and everything had paid off. . . These guys for the most part have not seen each other for all these
Wolf and his wife, Jeanne, moved into their new six-bedroom house just off County Road 27 in June 2012, and the major
factor in choosing northern Colorado was to be between their sets of grandchildren in Lincoln, Neb., and in Fruita.
it here,” Wolf said.
Some of the visitors will stay in the Wolf home, while others will be in motor homes or stay in hotels.
Wolf said he
expects about 45 to attend, including three of his officers. There were 198 in the company. But again, judging from Wolf’s
laugh, an RSVP might be excessively formal and he wouldn’t be shocked to see someone he hasn’t heard from show
up in the driveway. He and Jeanne will provide breakfast each day. Several activities are on the docket (including Bossa Nova
Green Chile Night at Tigges Farm), or are on a suggestion list for free-time tourist trips.
Wolf’s 18-month command of
the 15th Transportation Company was fitted in a long Army career, especially if you patch together his three stints. He was
raised in Sioux City, Neb., and enlisted in the Army six months after his 1964 high school graduation.
“Later I learned that Vietnam
was starting to rear its ugly head then, ” he said. “But I didn’t have to go there. They sent me to Europe.
On a boat. A ship. Woopee.”
Soon, he was brought back to Fort Carson, just south of Colorado Springs, and he became the driver for
division commanders and the other VIPs from 1968-70. “That was 24/7,” he said. It was a turbulent time, with protesters
— many from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs — attempting to protest and disrupt base operations,
and Wolf was part of planning travel and routes.
After his 1970 discharge and a stint with Western Electric, he returned to Nebraska
and college, and he graduated with an industrial tech degree from Kearney State. He went back in the Army as an officer in
1977 and attended Ranger School. After his stint with the 15th Transportation Company, he was brought back to Fort Leavenworth
(Kan.), Fort Ord (Calif.) and back to Fort Carson.
At various times, he was a training officer and logistician, at one point attending
the command and general staff college, and he also was an ROTC officer at what now is Colorado State University-Pueblo. He
became a major in October 1989. In 1993, he retired for good (or so he thought) and moved back to Dakota City, Neb., where
he started a contracting business and also taught.
Then, in February 2007, he was called back in the active Army.
He was 61 years old.
The theory was
that those officers called in at an older age would replace stateside officers sent overseas. For a year, he was at the Abderdeen
Proving Ground in Maryland, working with the Joint Personal Effects Bureau, dealing with the belongings of those killed in
action and wounded.
“I honchoed a crew there of about 120,” he said. “I worked there with soldiers from
graves registration place out of Fort Lee, Va. They would go to Iraq or Afghanistan to pick up bodies and get them all ready
to bring back to the United States, to Dover Air Force Base. I would take my new lieutenants and new sergeants up to Dover,
to the mortuary, when they would come in and let them understand how important their job was with the Joint Personal Effects
Depot. Now they’re seeing what we had been talking about, taking care of these soldiers that had fallen — females,
males, Department of Defense people, Marines … didn’t matter.
“That became a very realistic job to take on, and not
everybody could stand it. We had two counselors, civilians, that went amongst us to see how everyone was holding up.”
It runs in the family:
Major Percy Wolf, right, with his grandson, Zack, after Zack’s graduation from Military Police School at Fort Leonard
Wood in Missouri. Wolf flew in from Hawaii for the ceremony.
After he was sent to Hawaii for a time, Wolf was ready for
“I volunteered for Iraq and Kuwait,” Wolf said. “I had the experience, the training and
the knowledge, and I just wanted to be able to use it in this war we were up against.”
In January 2008, he was sent
to Kuwait as a planner for U.S. Army Central Command. After three months in Kuwait, he went to Camp Liberty in Baghdad and
was there until February 2009.
“There were three majors and one lieutenant colonel in this small group,” Wolf said.
“We were to plan certain logistics and try to solve problems for those up north. We worked very closely with the 18th
After leaving Iraq, he was set back to Hawaii, where for two and a half years, he was he executive
officer for a “Warrior Transition” battalion, working with wounded service members returning from the battle zone.
2011, he retired. Again. At age 65. Like a civilian.
“I said, ‘That’s enough,'” he said. “I was
a couple of months away from being 66.”
He and Jeanne rented a home in Fort Collins for six months before moving
into their Greeley home.
In the next week, he gets to be a Greeley host.