The 190 men selected by the U.S. Army for the 51st Infantry Officer Candidate Company, OC 1-66, began their rigorous training on Sunday, July 18, 1965. Those candidates came to Fort Benning with widely diverse ranks and levels of experience. Some were E-3’s just months out of basic training, others were E-6’s or warrant officers with ten years of experience, tank commanders from Germany, pilots and Special Forces members from Vietnam.
They were thrown together alphabetically into six platoons, regardless of age, rank, and military experience. Those who endured were drawn together by their common desire to succeed and excel. Their broad range of experience and determination bound them into a strong company of officer candidates. They were Cady’s Tigers and earned that title breaking every Infantry OCS record in the book. They “Set the Standards” from the Tactics Tiger Award to leadership and marksmanship excellence.
After six months of intense training in Georgia’s sun, heat, cold and rain, 144 of them were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants on January 14, 1966. Most of the new officers were 2nd Lieutenants of Infantry; some went on to Special Forces, Army Intelligence Service, Armor, Quarter Master Corps, Signal Corps and Aviation.
Many of those newly commissioned officers saw service in Vietnam within two years of graduation. Eleven classmates and one OC 1-66 Tactical Officer died in service to their country in that war.
Among the graduates of OC 1-66 were officers who were highly decorated for valor and heroism in Vietnam; three were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, one of those awarded posthumously. At least ten classmates were awarded the Silver Star, one posthumously. More than six classmates received the Bronze Star for Valor in combat. At least 35 Purple Hearts were awarded to OC 1-66 members wounded in battle. Many received Combat Infantry Badges, Air Medals and other awards and badges of distinction. The graduates of OC 1-66 brought great honor upon themselves and their country during that tumultuous period.
More than one-third of the newly commissioned officers of OC 1-66 made a career of the U.S. Army. Many others had distinguished careers in business management, education, government, engineering, banking, marketing, medicine, and law. To read the stories of officer candidates commissioned from Infantry OC 1-66 is to be inspired by the strong character of these men, their lives and accomplishments.
Great thanks and gratitude is given to the officers who served and trained OC 1-66, particularly 51st Company officers and cadre: Capt. George P. Cady (Commanding Officer), Lieutenant James T. Curry (Senior Tactical Officer), Lieutenant James D. Stotts (1st Platoon Tactical Officer), Lieutenant Daniel T. Cerone ( 2nd Platoon Tactical Officer), Lieutenant Bobby C. Chapman (3rd Platoon Tactical Officer), Lieutenant Thomas E. Stephens (4th Platoon Tactical Officer), Lieutenant Ramon T. Pulliam (5th Platoon Tactical Officer), Lieutenant Ronald V. Putnam (6th Platoon Tactical Officer, and the 51st Company’s First Sergeant, Master Sergeant James E. Strickland.
Special thanks is given to the following OC 1-66 classmates and friends for their assistance and service in the creation of this web site:
* Dan Peck (OC 1-66, 5th Platoon) for gathering and organizing a vast amount of OC 1-66 member biographies and photos, and publishing that material in the fine “Class Biographies” distributed at the OCS Reunion of April, 2010. Without his very substantial work, and the Word files he provided to the Webmaster, this website would not have been possible.
* Tom Evans (OC 1-66, 2nd Platoon) for use of his ClassBook, without which this site would be absent of class portraits and photos of 51st Company Cadre. Tom’s book was “held hostage” by the Webmaster for almost a year before being returned.
* OC 1-66 classmates and former 51st Company cadre for their input, statistics, photo provision and platoon member identification, including: George Cady, Dan Cerone, Tom Evans, Jerry Fry, Cliff Gehrt, Jack Paul, Al Rossow and Rick Stetson.
* Troy Lightfield (Friend of OC 1-66) and his company “Totem Web Solutions” http://www.totemwebsolutions.com/ for excellent website guidance to the Webmaster and conversion of individual classmate portraits into suitable web page images. This website would not have been possible without Troy’s in-depth knowledge of WordPress and his unstinting and timely assistance in this site’s completion.
* Bob Gaylord (OC 1-66, 2nd Platoon) Webmaster for his work in planning, coordinating, researching, editing and publishing this website, and to his wife Kate for “Holding Down the Fort” during this process.