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Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick

U.S. Army Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick was born on September 23, 1956 in Fukuoka, Japan. Bostick was raised in a family with a strong military background. His father was a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant; his father-in-law, a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major; and his brother, a U.S. Army Colonel. Bostick graduated with his B.S. degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1978. He received his M.S. degree in civil engineering and his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1985. Bostick’s military education includes the U.S. Army Engineer School, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.

In 1978, Bostick was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and was then assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion in Wildflecken, Germany where he served in a variety of capacities until 1982. Upon returning to the United States, Bostick studied at the U.S. Army Engineer School and Stanford University before becoming an instructor of mechanical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1985. He was also a White House Fellow in 1989 and 1990, serving as a special assistant to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In 1990, Bostick was assigned to the U.S. Army in Europe in Heidelberg, Germany, and then as an engineer operations staff officer in the First Armored Division in Baumholder and then again in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. He reported to Washington, D.C. in 1993 and served as the executive officer to the Chief of Engineers and then as battalion commander of the 1st Engineer Battalion. Bostick was deployed again from 1997 to 1999 and commanded the Engineer Brigade of the First Armored Division, which included participation in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1999, he was assigned as executive officer to the Chief of Staff of the Army, and served on the Joint Staff during the events of September 11, 2001 in the National Military Command Center. Bostick then deployed to Iraq as assistant division commander, 1st Cavalry Division, before serving as the Commanding General of the Gulf Region Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later served as the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky; and, in 2010, was named director of personnel for the Army in the Pentagon. On May 22, 2012, Bostick became the 53rd U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making him only the second African American to serve in that position.

Bostick’s military honors and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Combat Action Badge, the Parachutist badge, the Recruiter Badge, and the Ranger Tab. Bostick is also authorized to wear the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

Bostick and his wife, Renee Bostick, live in Washington, D.C. They have one son, Joshua.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.182

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/9/2013

Last Name

Bostick

Maker Category
Middle Name

Paul

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Stanford University

United States Military Academy

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Thomas

Birth City, State, Country

Fukuoka

HM ID

BOS02

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Vacation Destination

Monterey, California

Favorite Quote

Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory. - General Douglas MacArthur

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/23/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

Japan

Favorite Food

Rice

Short Description

Lieutenant general Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick (1956 - ) was appointed as the 53rd Chief of Engineers and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2012, making him only the second African American to serve in that position.

Employment

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

United States Army

United States Army Recruiting Command

Delete

Operation Joint Forge, Bosnia-Herzegovina

1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized).

National Military Command Center, J-3, the Joint Staff in the Pentagon

United States Military Academy

Favorite Color

Fire Engine Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:8085,96:8361,101:22190,336:28238,470:31262,537:39395,674:54266,936:54621,942:64086,1160:64456,1166:78725,1388:79025,1393:80900,1441:87804,1544:121050,1985:126580,2023:128794,2076:138174,2218:143518,2273:150480,2380:167222,2658:168275,2676:172002,2693:172500,2700:179984,2809:183536,2866:195323,3011:199535,3114:208542,3240:225975,3498:246110,3800:248766,3838:252940,3873$0,0:9678,126:11810,162:16985,229:18090,245:23329,293:26719,326:27284,332:27736,337:30584,346:35988,407:41232,453:42156,466:43080,477:58464,633:58724,640:64750,689:67640,712:68836,729:69204,734:76600,796:78590,805:81670,852:86829,943:90140,990:90448,995:96614,1037:97982,1060:98270,1065:99422,1084:101006,1114:123760,1335:125440,1358:126320,1371:133460,1446:133852,1451:135028,1466:140249,1530:143028,1549:143364,1554:146865,1590:147369,1604:148440,1622:149196,1632:152826,1647:153138,1652:153762,1662:155556,1697:158480,1729:159131,1734:159596,1740:160433,1753:167220,1828:169628,1864:169972,1869:181245,1977:182265,1991:186345,2055:190340,2138:198842,2203:202118,2249:202454,2254:207660,2277:210108,2319:214460,2348:218018,2379:218326,2385:223562,2474:237350,2614:246290,2716:247490,2738:249010,2761:249330,2766:252507,2799:252823,2804:257813,2855:261109,2899:261521,2904:276166,3067:282137,3149:282801,3158:284212,3182:288230,3217
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thomas Bostick's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thomas Bostick lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thomas Bostick describes his mother's family background, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thomas Bostick describes his mother's family background, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thomas Bostick talks about his mother and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thomas Bostick describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thomas Bostick talks about his brother inheriting their father's athletic ability

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thomas Bostick talks about his parents' marriage and personalities, and his five siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thomas Bostick describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thomas Bostick talks about his father's military service and his academic performance in school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thomas Bostick lists the places he lived during his father's military service and recalls his uncle from Brooklyn

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thomas Bostick discusses re-connecting with his uncle as a cadet at West Point

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thomas Bostick discusses his experiences and education in the places he lived during his father's military service

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thomas Bostick talks about playing sports and breaking his leg on a Boy Scout camping trip in junior high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thomas Bostick recalls his father's retirement from the military and his third grade teacher, Miss Vernon

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thomas Bostick talks about his brother, Anthony, and his high school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thomas Bostick describes his experience in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thomas Bostick talks about playing sports in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thomas Bostick discusses the reasons for Seaside California's violence and his high school football team

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thomas Bostick talks about his nomination to attend West Point

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thomas Bostick describes his high school's racial demographics and talks about his own racial identity

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thomas Bostick talks about deciding to attend West Point instead of the U.S. Air Force Academy, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thomas Bostick talks about deciding to attend West Point instead of the U.S. Air Force Academy, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thomas Bostick discusses studying engineering at West Point

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thomas Bostick describes his initial arrival at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thomas Bostick talks about shining his boots at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thomas Bostick talks about what his father thought of him attending West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thomas Bostick talks about his and his wife's different personalities

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thomas Bostick talks about attending ranger school at West Point

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thomas Bostick describes how a cheating scandal changed military training and education at West Point, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thomas Bostick describes how a cheating scandal changed military training and education at West Point, pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thomas Bostick reflects on how the environment at West Point may have led to the cheating scandal, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thomas Bostick reflects on how the environment at West Point may have led to the cheating scandal, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thomas Bostick talks about the first black graduate of West Point, Henry O. Flipper

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thomas Bostick reflects on his experience as an African American engineer officer

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thomas Bostick talks about his mentors at West Point

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thomas Bostick recalls the selection process for army infantry and engineers, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thomas Bostick recalls the selection process for army infantry and engineers, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thomas Bostick discusses his graduation from West Point in 1978

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Thomas Bostick talks about shifts in public support of the U.S. military

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Thomas Bostick talks about attitudinal shifts in public support of the U.S. military

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Thomas Bostick talks about deciding to attend West Point instead of the U.S. Air Force Academy, pt.2
Thomas Bostick talks about the first black graduate of West Point, Henry O. Flipper
Transcript
So I had a lot of encouragement from the army; and then my friend Steve Torez (ph.) came by the high school and I said "Steve, I'm really struggling; I think I wanna go to the Air Force Academy but what's West Point like?" He said "Don't come to West Point." And he was a (unclear), you know, so (laughter)--which means he was in his first year, so he's getting abused like all get-out (laughter). And, and I remember sitting there in the quad at Seaside High School eating lunch, and he and I are speaking; I remember it really well because a seagull flew over and went to the bathroom right on my hand, right here (DEMONSRATION) (laughter), you know, somethin' dropped from the sky on my hand, so it was one of those moments that I'll never forget, and him telling me not to come. So I had him telling me not to come, and you know you trust your peers; the generals and the colonels and the sergeant majors telling me to come--my heart really wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and the Air Force finally sent somebody; they sent a guy that had gone to Air Force ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps], and my mom [Fumiko Mary Taira Bostick] put this white lace on the dining room table. She had a cup of coffee and he had this slide show of the Air Force Academy, and he said "One of the things you need to understand, Tom, is that the Air Force Academy is really hard; I mean it's very demanding." And he said "It's an all-male school," and he said "If you want other things like to have--not as demanding, but just go to a school that you have--you could go to ROTC; you know, if you want a social life, that's kind of what I went through." And I'm sitting here saying "You're supposed to be talking me into the Air Force Academy, not talking to me about ROTC." And then he reached for the coffee and knocked it over (laughter) on my mom's white lace and, and I said "Gosh." So I sat and I stewed from February until the fifth of May; the fifth of May I think was the last date you had to decide, and I, I just decided to go to West Point. I, I, I liked the history, I, I liked the people that had gone through there and, and, and I knew--it seemed comforting, they had reached out to me, and--years later I would tell my recruiters because it turned the other way with my son [Joshua Bostick]; my son was born when I was at Stanford [University], going to grad school, and then we went to West Point to teach. And when my son was this small (DEMONSTRATION), he was, he was gonna be a cadet at West Point; he was--that's where he was going. And then between junior and senior year, he went to the cadet camp up there in--it's a week-long school, maybe two weeks, and about thirty percent of the kids that go to that end up going to West Point. He got accepted early, Valedictorian of his class, and captain of the golf team and did very well in school; great SAT scores, and he really didn't have anyone reaching out to him from West Point and I didn't know if they were expecting me to do that; I think a captain called him once, but other than that, there was no one reaching out. And then Stanford asked--said "Hey, we'll pay for your plane ticket to fly out to Stanford. We, we got a week of, you know, scheduled classes and we want you to this, we want you to live in the dorms and--" you know, so they wined and dined him and he ended up going to Stanford. And, again it reinforced to me the importance of continuing to reach out, not forcing but mentoring youngsters because they're really to decide--and reaching out to their parents. So as the Head of Recruiting Command, I realized from my own personal experiences and watching my son go through the same thing how important that constant mentoring, not over-burdening them and, and not being oppressive in, in the presence and the encouragement but at least showing that you really care.$Okay, so considering how tough [United States Academy at] West Point is period, and how would a person like Henry O. Flipper, back in the Nineteenth Century, the first black graduate of West Point, have made it? Now he's one of your heroes, an engineer as well, right?$$Well, I think for all Americans, Henry O. Flipper is a great role model of persistence, of leadership, of character, and whether you're African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, or any ethnicity or gender, he represents someone that, that graduated from West Point during a very difficult time for him and really was a, a role model for many of us. I, I can't say that I could even partially appreciate how difficult it must have been for him because a lot of what happens at West Point during my day in once success is really based on partnership and team work with your peers; you study together, you, you, you drill together, you spend time away together but, but it's a family and, and to be any place where you feel like you're alone, I, I, I can't even begin to partially imagine what that would be like, and then to get through it and be successful and then to have what happened to him in the military I think sends a strong statement of the strength of the human character of Henry O. Flipper. I did get a sense of what it might have been like, I'd say in just a partial way, by watching the first females come to West Point. I was there when our superintendent and many leaders at the Academy voiced their opinions, very strong opinions, that women should not come to West Point for a variety of reasons, and then when the decision was made that they would come, we were intent on making the women at West Point the best of all the academies. But that being said, it was very, very difficult for those first women, and some of my class mates and other males were, were thrown outta West Point for their behavior against those women who were the pioneers of Women Service Academy graduates. And when you look back at the women and what they've done, from lieutenants up to general officers and the All-American athletes, Rhodes Scholars, number one in the class at West Point, you name it--all the different things that, that women have done, it makes you regret the many years that we lost and think about what could have happened with leaders, with athletes, what scholars we could have had had that, that law been changed earlier. So, so the good news is we've, we've transitioned, we've come a long way; but in my mind, we still have a very long way to go, a very long way to go. My--I, I never thought about this until years later as I, I would look around the room myself, as an African American engineer, that there were not many African American engineers coming outta West Point. And then I looked at the four years that I was there, and this is the number one institution in the world in my mind, and in many others. But I was the only one in my class and there were none in '77' [1977], there were two in '76' [1976], and there were none in '75' [1975]. So 4,000 or so graduates plus or minus a few hundred, and the number one engineering institution produces three Corps of Engineer Officers that are African American.

Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman was born on August 27, 1948. Coleman graduated from Cheney University in 1973. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1974. Coleman’s military education includes the Basic School, the Amphibious Warfare School, the Command and Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Coleman enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April of 1968, and was discharged upon his return from Vietnam in 1970. He was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant in December of 1974. In 1982, Coleman was transferred to Marine Corps headquarters in the officer assignment branch and served as administrative assistant to the director of the personnel management division. In June of 1991, Coleman reported to the Marine Corps headquarters and served as the logistics project officer in the installations and logistics branch. In 1996, he reported to the Pentagon where he served as the deputy division chief in the Logistic Readiness Center. Coleman also served as an instructor at the Amphibious Warfare School and the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.

In 1999, Coleman deployed to the Balkan Region and served with Joint Task Force Shining Hope. Coleman was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as Commanding General of the Marine Air and Ground Task Force in 2003. He deployed again in 2004 as the Commanding General of the Combined Joint Task Force Haiti in support of Operation Secure Democracy. On September 29, 2006, Coleman was assigned as the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs and appointed to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Coleman’s military honors and decoration include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the French Legion of Honor, and the Meritorious Service Medal. The Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with five service stars, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Coleman also wears the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge. He is married and has five daughters.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen Ronald S. Coleman was interviewed by The History Makers on February 16, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.050

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/16/2013

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Middle Name

S.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Darby-Colwyn Senior High School

The Basic School

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Expeditionary Warfare School

Marine Corps Command and Staff College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

COL22

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/27/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Short Description

Lieutenant general Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman (1948 - ) advanced in rank to Lieutenant General on October 27, 2006 and became the second African American in the Marine Corps to reach the 3-star rank.

Employment

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:4686,130:5742,156:20454,324:36640,542:36920,547:41260,627:41890,638:42170,643:42590,655:42870,660:47558,698:49926,740:50666,755:51110,763:59184,901:66650,945:67040,952:67950,978:71534,1029:72686,1052:80794,1138:86715,1205:87060,1211:87888,1229:101354,1380:102950,1414:126106,1880:128050,1885:132916,1985:136986,2065:145105,2182:145755,2193:151337,2256:153131,2312:153890,2326:157115,2361:157765,2373:158090,2384:158415,2390:158675,2397:158935,2402:171400,2599:177999,2679:180310,2700$0,0:15288,171:15904,181:20392,284:28450,393:28900,400:29725,412:34575,434:35050,440:42460,572:48640,599:49115,605:64842,807:69756,906:70146,912:70536,918:73890,991:75372,1017:84698,1070:91819,1116:105848,1327:113856,1431:115676,1456:116313,1465:118770,1500:131155,1638:138002,1707:148082,1795:152522,1879:153928,1918:158060,1938:160460,1981:161060,1991:163460,2044:163835,2050:165185,2146:180597,2362:182178,2386:183294,2401:187250,2422:187835,2434:193035,2586:193295,2591:194270,2605:197845,2708:209272,2924:215605,3014:219870,3171:233412,3328:236234,3369:237728,3388:238143,3394:246762,3508:250434,3613:252533,3627:253387,3656:260669,3826:263020,3837
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ronald S. Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about how his parents met and the tension between his mother and father's families

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his parents' personalities and his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his family's success despite their hardships and his maternal grandmother's positive influence

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his relationship with his maternal grandmother and paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman describes growing up in Darby, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the importance of sports in his young life

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman comments on his primary and secondary education, and Pennsylvania basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his favorite subjects and teachers in school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his junior high school, watching television and playing little league baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about playing sports after school and his summer jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about playing sports in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his high school coaches, student council and his academic performance

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his high school's championship games and playing high school football

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the poor counseling he received in high school and his college plans

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about attending church with his family as a youth and Northeastern University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman explains why he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about joining the U.S. Navy Reserve

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his basic training in the U.S. Navy and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his tour of duty in Vietnam

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman recalls the public criticism of the Vietnam War, as well as his return to the U.S.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the return of the black soldiers to Darby, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses the black community's response to Vietnam veterans and his reluctance to remain in the service

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman uses his family as an example to explain the black community's response to Vietnam veterans

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about Vietnam and returning to school in the states

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about teaching and his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the U.S. Marine Corps' Officers Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the most difficult part of Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the racist treatment of blacks in the military

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his first assignment at Camp Lejeune and his completion of Officer Candidate School

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses attending Amphibious Warfare School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses working for the Officer Assignment Branch

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman remembers the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut and the invasion of Grenada

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about attending U.S. Marine Corps Command Staff College

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his tour of duty in Okinawa, Japan and the Gulf War

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his unit's role in the Gulf War and his assignment at Camp Lejeune

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his attendance at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his work at the Pentagon and assignment in Albania

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman describes the military's assistance to refugees in Albania

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his promotion to brigadier general and the death of his parents

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his wife's colon cancer

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his deployments to Kuwait and Haiti

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ronald S. Coleman details his assignment in Haiti, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ronald S. Coleman details his assignment in Haiti, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about becoming a three star general

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ronald S. Coleman comments on the historical significance of being a three star general

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his role as deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ronald S. Coleman discusses his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ronald S. Coleman talks about his family, reflects upon his legacy and shares his regrets

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ronald S. Coleman describes his hopes and concerns for the African-American community and how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Ronald S. Coleman explains why he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve
Ronald S. Coleman discusses his work at the Pentagon and assignment in Albania
Transcript
Were you playing ball then?$$Oh yeah, played basketball. That's the only thing I played, played basketball for them, and I was a good basketball player on that team. I was one of the stars on the team, as a starter.$$You played guard?$$Guard. Yes.$$Okay.$$That part of it was good but when basketball season was over, it just, you know it didn't work out, so I dropped out and then that's when I got my--I dropped out and I worked as a--I worked at a cemetery digging ditches and cutting grass and all that sort of stuff. I mean I'd make good money but it was--$$Now why did you--I mean I--it's just like now, if you're in school and they want you to come back and all that, I mean why did you feel so unfulfilled?$$It just--I don't--I expected to be really, really motivated, and it just wasn't--well, part of it was there were probably--I don't know how many students but not a lot--there was a handful of black students. And it wasn't a racial thing I didn't go back, I just wasn't being--I think I was wasting the--even though I wasn't paying because I had the student loans and I worked. It just didn't feel like I was getting anything out of it. And in order--I would have had to go at least three years to a junior college to get an Associate's Degree. So I said "Na"--and I didn't--but again now, my father's still an alcoholic, my mother's working hard, I had no direction, no guidance so I moved back home, I worked at a cemetery for a while, and then I worked as an exterminator. So my job was to go around spraying for bugs.$$Those sound like t0o dreary (laughter) (simultaneous)--$$Oh yeah. Oh really (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--cemetery and sprayin' for bugs, I mean that's a--$$--I mean you're standing there and you're hitting the button and the thing's going down. Like I said, I had no guidance, I had no direct--I just, I didn't know, I had no clue what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. So a group of us went up and somebody said "Hey, you know, let's join the Reserves, you know? We'll join the Navy Reserves and, you know, we won't go anywhere; if we do go, it won't be"--so uhh, probably about five of us, maybe six, drove up to the recruiting office and said "Hey, we wanna enlist in the Navy--in the Navy Reserve." Because then you know you're gonna do a year before you go anywhere. So when they said "Step forward and raise your right hand," only three of us did. And I'm up front, and then when it's all over, I turn around and (laughter) it's like five of 'em that said "Naw, I'm not steppin' forward." But I had no clue. So Laney Womack, Blair Trent, who was a cousin, stepped up with me, and the other five guys were still standing there.$Okay. So in '96 [1996], you were Deputy Division Chief of the Logistics Readiness Center, right? Is that true?$$Inaudible response--$$'96 [1996].$$'96 [1996], yes. But that was, that was--oh, in the Pentagon; I'm sorry, yeah. Yes, I'm sorry; I'm sorry. Yeah, I left--when I left school, I went to the Pentagon and did, and did two years at the Pentagon; Logistics Readiness Center. Now that's where every ship that's underway, every airplane that's underway on the Logis--non-combat, we know about--has to, has to go through--that's probably one of the, one of the more interesting tours you could have. So everything that happens in the United States Department of Defense logistics-wise, someone in there would know what was going on and, and give guidance or recommendations.$$Okay. So you made full colonel there too?$$I made full--I got promoted to full colonel there and that was the one we spoke about that my mother [Barbara Gretchen Hill Coleman] was gonna make but didn't make it so I got promoted there in '97 [1997].$$Okay. So your mom passed that year?$$Yes.$$Okay. Now in--but then you were stationed at yeah, Camp Lejeune, right?$$Right, I went, I went down in--after that, I went down to Camp Lejeune, got to Camp Lejeune in '98 [1998], and I was the the G4; so that means I was--that meant I was in charge of all logistics for the division; another, very challenging, challenging job. And while I was there, that was the, the next big deployment; that's when we went to Albania; this was Milosevic and, and the whole, the whole bit going on over there. So we were attached to a joint task for Shining Hope, which was to assist the refugees in in Albania. And that was an Air Force led unit but with Marines in it.$$Emm. So that was a, really a--$$Aww, that was, that was big. I mean we went from--they went from nothing to building a camp up in Albania because you know--remember the people are leaving Macedonia with nothing so we're putting up camps and built camps so they could live in and you'd actually watch them pulling their wagons with all their belongings, a family with all their belongings pulling them in and we, we got them health and comfort and the whole bit so that was, that was a very reassuring one and, and one you felt, you felt good about. And, the thing I--the stand-out in that, I had, I had this--a Monday afternoon, I had just done some working out and came back to the office and they said, "You need to go up to see the Chief of Staff" so I went up to see the Chief of Staff and he said, "Hey Ron, you know we have that task force over in Albania; you're gonna go join it. You're gonna go this week and I don't know how long you're gonna be there." So I, so I go home and my wife says, "How was your day?" and I said, "Well"--or I said, "How was your day?" And she said "Good." She said "How was yours?" And I said "Well, let's go get some ice cream." Well, that was key word. If you, you know, if you said ice cream then, then you're going somewhere. So she just looks at me and then--so we go out and get ice cream and she said, "Where're you going?" and I said, "Well, I'm going to Germany and then down to Albania." "How long you gonna be gone?" I said, "I don't have a, I don't have a clue." So then we go home and tell the kids and the--but the thing that's so good about it is that my youngest is now in third grade and so I tell her I'm gonna go away and you know she's crying why and the whole bit. So I tell her, so the next day--and I tell her we're going to help the poor people--they can't, they can't you know, they need help. So the next day I'm leaving and she comes up and she gives me a ten-dollar bill and she says "Give this to the poor people to help them.--$$Emm.$$--Can you imagine that? I mean that's, that's, that's big; that's big.

Lt. Gen. Willie Williams

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Willie Williams was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps in May of 1974 after graduating with his B.A. degree in business administration from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Williams also received his M.A. degree in business administration from National University in San Diego, California in 1992 and his M.A. degree in strategic resources management from from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1994. He is also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Amphibious Warfare School.

Williams began his career with the 11th Marine Artillery Regiment, serving first as a battalion supply officer and then as the regimental supply officer. In October 1977, Williams was assigned to the 3rd Force Service Support Group based in Iwakuni, Japan. After serving in Iwakuni, Williams returned to the U.S. for duty at the Marine Barracks at North Island, San Diego, California. While there, Williams served as the detachment supply officer and barracks executive officer. In June 1982, he reported to Quantico, Virginia for duty as platoon commander in the Officer Candidate School. In 1988, Williams deployed as the logistics officer with the Contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force 3-88 during its Persian Gulf Deployment. He was assigned to joint duty with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office in January 1990. Williams was appointed as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group from 1994 to 1996. In June 1997, Williams departed for duty in Okinawa, Japan with the 1st Force Service Support Group. Initially, Williams was assigned as the assistant chief of staff; but, in 1998, he was promoted to commanding officer of the Brigade Service Support Group. He returned to Okinawa, Japan in 2000 as the commanding general of the Marine Corps Base at Camp Smedley D. Butler, and then as as the commanding general of the 3rd Force Service Support Group. From 2003 to 2005, Williams served as the assistant deputy commandant of Installations and Logistics at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters. In 2011, Williams became the director of the Marine Corps staff at Marine Corps Headquarters, making him third in the chain of command for the entire Marine Corps, behind only the commandant and the assistant commandant.

Williams military honors include the Legion of Merit with a gold star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Department of Defense Service Badge. Williams received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Stillman College, and an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Albany State University.

Lt. Gen.Willie Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 11, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.042

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/11/2013

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Schools

Moundville Public High School

Stillman College

National University

Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Livingston

HM ID

WIL61

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Orange
Beach, Alabama

Favorite Quote

We should not allow others to dictate our destiny.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

9/27/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Huntsville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Lieutenant general Lt. Gen. Willie Williams (1951 - ) was the first African American to be appointed as the director of the U.S. Marine Corps staff at Marine Corps headquarters.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

Favorite Color

Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie Williams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his maternal uncle, Henry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about slavery and land ownership on his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his mother's life in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his family's livelihood from owning land

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about his father's education, and life in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about his parents' relationship as well as his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about his biological parents and his mother raising five children by herself

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about the origin of his last name, "Williams"

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about his mother moving him and his siblings to different places in Alabama, to stay close to their relatives

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his likeness to his parents, and his mother's influence on him

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his family's involvement in the First Baptist Church of Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about starting school in Epes, Alabama, and his teachers at school in Epes and Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his experience in elementary school in Epes and Theodore, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie Williams discusses baseball players who originated from Mobile County, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about growing up without a television, electricity and running water

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie Williams talks about the nurturing community of Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes the work he did while growing up in rural Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his family's life in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about his favorite pastimes while growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie Williams describes his experience in school in Moundville, Alabama, where his teachers encouraged to go college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his brother, Willis William's career, and being the first of his siblings to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie Williams discusses the influence of his school principal and teachers in his decision to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie Williams recalls the civil right activities of the 1960s in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about segregation in Moundville, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie Williams describes his experience at Stillman College

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie Williams describes his work at Olympia Mills, a textile manufacturing company, and how he met his future wife

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie Williams talks about enrolling in the U.S. Marines' Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program at Stillman College

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie Williams talks about being honored by the University of Alabama, and the U.S. Army ROTC program at Stillman College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about the people who supported him at Stillman College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about the U.S. Marine Corps, and his experience in the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his decision to join the U.S. Marines

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974, and his assignment to the Vietnamese refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, California

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his decision to stay in the U.S. Marines and the people who influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment to Iwakuni, Japan with the U.S. Marines in the late 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes the role and structure of the U.S. Marines

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his experience being stationed in Japan with the 3rd Force Service Support Group of the U.S. Marines

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes his service at Marine Barracks, North Island in San Diego, from 1978 to 1982

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his role as Platoon Commander at Officer Candidate School and being selected to the Amphibious Warfare School

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about mountain warfare training, and his assignment as assistant division supply officer at the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about his involvement in Operation Earnest Will in the Persian Gulf

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about attending the Armed Forces Staff College in the late 1980s and early 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his service with the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about experiencing racism in the U.S. Marine Corps, and the close-knit environment of the Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about the role of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) and his service with the 31st MEU in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about visiting China with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Russia with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Willie Williams describes his assignment as Commanding Officer of Brigade Service Support Group

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about the reception of his team in Kenya

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Willie Williams discusses Black Hawn Down in Mogadishu, Somalia and the United Stated Africa Command (AFRICOM)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Willie Williams discusses his assignment as the commanding general of the 3rd Force Service Support Group from 2001 to 2003

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Willie Williams recalls the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks upon the U.S. Marines' efforts in the Pacific in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Willie Williams reflects upon the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about the chain of command in the U.S. armed forces

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about his assignment as Commander of Marine Corps Logistics Command in Albany, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Willie Williams describes his position as Director of Marine Corps Staff

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Willie Williams talks about the social issues in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about the programs in the U.S. Marine Corps that help Marines achieve a balance in life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about serving as a component commander at President Barack Obama's inauguration parade

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Willie Williams talks about the legacy of the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Willie Williams talks about the work of the Montford Point Marine Association in honoring the Montford Point Marines, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about the work of the Montford Point Marine Association in honoring the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Willie Williams talks about Sergeant Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Willie Williams talks about Sergeant Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Willie Williams talks about blacks and the U.S. Marines

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Willie Williams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Willie Williams talks about his life and his wife and daughter

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Willie Williams talks about his retirement plans

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Willie Williams describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Willie Williams describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Willie Williams talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Willie Williams talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Willie Williams describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Willie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Moundville, Alabama
Willie Williams describes his decision to join the U.S. Marines
Transcript
You grew up in a lot of different places [in Alabama], but what were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Well, I think--I go back to Moundville [Alabama]. I go back to Moundville. I remember, because that's where I spent most of my childhood. Because when we arrived there, I was in the sixth grade. And I stayed there all the way through the rest--through high school, which is the longest that we'd ever lived in any one place. And I tell you, the thing there that was always just kind of a fun time for us, was sandlot baseball. I mean, that was always big there. Every little town had their baseball team. And you know, and they was--as we all say, out in the cow pastures. It was really where most of the diamonds were. I mean, there was no ballpark. And literally, I think, just about every one--except for ours in Moundville--because we had that park there where the Indian mounds and stuff was. That was kind of a little park there that we had, had diamonds there. But that was--$$Now, that wasn't segregated or anything?$$Oh, it was segregated. We had our own little, we had our own area there, and we just played there. And then we--then there was a number of little towns in and around Moundville--a little place called Havana, or Tusi (ph) Town, or little places like that. They would also have ball teams. And so, we would travel to those little towns. They would come there and, you know--. So, we used to, those were the fun times. So, I always remember that as some of the good parts of growing up, some of the fun times of growing up, you know. You got--and then also in that same area was our Sunrise Service that we would have on the mountains. Now that was, that was put on, that was not segregated. It was put on by the local church. It was a white church that put it on. But we would often go to it. So, our thing was to--you would stay up all night, especially once we got to be a teenager. So, you stay up all night. Saturday night--if you were out partying or at the juke joints as we called them--. And then we would go over to the park, you know, with blankets and everything else, that early morning while they did the Sunrise Service which was, I thought it was always very well done. I mean, just the way--with the lighting and everything, with the tomb, you know, and the rolling of the stone away. And then the cross up on one of the high mountains, you know, and all that, how they acted that out. So that was, that was always--and that was a big thing within our community. We lived there because we were, you know, across the tracks there. But we could, and we could just--you could go there and just watch. You didn't necessarily participate, but you could go there and watch it, and watch that. And that was always a fun time.$$Okay. Any other sights, sounds or smells?$$Well, the--because you know, you always got the--you smell the, the little restaurants that you had there, you know, with the fried fish and, you know, and the grease smells that you got. And the other--but probably one of the--so, that was always there. But the other thing, that from where I grew up, is--and I think you'll see a picture in there of--. It was three of us who basically grew up together, from the time I got to Moundsville, three close friends. I mean, we became really like brothers. And we, and two of us still are. One has died. But two of us, we still are. And so, we always had some sort of old car that we, that we would fix. We would, I mean we would do all the repairs ourselves, I mean, to include--. You know, if we had to take an engine out without even having the tools--or taking the transmission out. We could out in the back of where we was living and under the shade tree. I guess that's why we call it the shade tree mechanics. And we would, and we would do our own repairs and all that. And so there was always this, these old cars that was down there. But there was, but there was--so it was always this, you know, these old cars around that would, that we would be fixing on and riding in, and so forth. And so, it was always a lot of fun times with those guys doing that.$$Okay.$And so I came back [from Platoon Leaders Class program in the U.S. Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia; summer training], and I think by then, I had the bug. So, I kind of began to think that this was the way that I, that I wanted to go. But I still didn't make up my mind until later on, really, because I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to do it (unclear).$$What finally made up your mind up for you on the--$$The, I think what really sealed it for me [to join the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1974]--and it goes back to having this job and working for this company. And I had worked for this company for basically three and a half years of my four year college career. And so, I had a good work record and all that sort of stuff, and was doing well. So, and then I'm, you know--so fast forward, and it's time to come out of college. You know, I got a business degree. You know, I'm getting--will have a business degree, minor in accounting, graduating with honors, you know, and what I considered to have set myself up pretty good to go into the business, go into business, enter the business field. And so, I go and I got an appointment with the personnel office there at the company that I was, that I had been working for for this time, and asking them about, you know, maybe an internship or something within the accounting department, or some sort of thing within the business development or something, to be able to do that. And at the time, they said well, that they really didn't have anything, anything for me, and that the only thing they could offer me would be a supervisor job on the floor, just on the plant floor, you know. And so, well, when I looked around at the other supervisors, you know, I--first, I didn't see, I didn't see college graduates there, you know. And then the ones that, who were supervisors, were mostly white, you know. Okay, they may have had a high school--but they probably--most of them had a high school, I think. And some may have had a little bit of a year or so in some other kind. So, to me that didn't seem quite right, you know, that--. And so, so I'm talking now--so I'm talking now to the office selection officer, and we're talking about that. You know, we're talking about whether I'm going to make this decision or not. And his words at the time was that, "Well yeah, we understand that, but that's not the way of the Marine Corps. We're a meritocracy, so you, I mean your position, your promotions and all is based on merit and is based upon your performance, not necessarily based on the color of your skin or anything." And so at that time they said, "So, really, as to how far you go in the Marine Corps really is left up to you, and how you apply yourself, how you perform." Which, again, goes back to what my mother [Ella Mae Bolden Hill] told me, you know, that I can do, you know, whatever it is that you set your--I mean, you can do that. And so, I said "Well, okay." So, and so, you know, the wife and I, we talked about it and we decided, well let's just give it a shot.