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NIA presents 2009 Doughboy Awards.

GEN (Retired) John W. Foss and CSM (Retired) Jimmie W. Spencer are the 2009 recipients of the Doughboy Award in recognition of their contributions to the Infantry.

The National Infantry Association honored the two during a dinner on 22 September in conjunction with the Infantry Warfighting Conference at Fort Benning and Columbus, Ga. It's the highest award the chief of Infantry can present to an infantryman.

Past recipients include former Secretary of State and GEN (Retired) Colin Powell, Sen. Daniel Inouye, Ross Perot, Bob Hope, and former Sens. Robert Dole and John Tower.

"To be nominated is a great honor and to be selected is just overwhelming," Spencer said. "You go on a list of names with people that are real American heroes. I'm just honored to be mentioned in the same breath with them."

Spencer enlisted in the Army in December 1961. During 32 years on active duty, he had various assignments with Infantry, Special Forces and Ranger units. He completed two combat tours in Vietnam--first as a squad leader and platoon sergeant with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) (Airborne) from 1965 to 1966 and then as a military adviser to South Vietnamese forces from 1969 to 1970.

"That was the most satisfying feeling to come back after that first tour, as a combat Infantryman, knowing I was up to the task ... because it came very early in my career," he said.

Spencer held numerous command sergeant major positions, including stints with the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea; U.S. Total Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Va.; and U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He now lives in Alexandria and retired from the military in 1993 to become director of the Association of the United States Army's Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs. In 2004, he was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame.


"I always wanted to be one of those Soldiers who would volunteer in times of need and emergency. I always thought of myself (as) willing to step up and do my part," Spencer said.

Foss, meanwhile, has a rich heritage of Army service. His father, Peter, was a combat Infantryman in World War I. An older brother, Pete Jr., graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1951, and Foss followed suit five years later. The two siblings later served as battalion commanders at the same time in Vietnam.

Foss, 76, began his career as an enlisted Soldier in the 136th Infantry of the Minnesota National Guard in April 1950 and joined the regular Army the following year as an Infantryman. After gaining his commission, he went on to hold numerous command and staff positions in the U.S. and overseas.

He wound up completing two combat tours in Vietnam. His stint as commander of the 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry, turned out to be the most memorable in his career, he said.

"Commanding a battalion against the North Vietnamese was a challenge and among the greatest rewards I could have," he said.

Foss was the Infantry School's 37th commandant and served as commanding general at Fort Benning from March 1984 to January 1986, arriving just as the Army launched its Light Infantry concept.

Foss also commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he deployed units on emergency operational missions to Honduras, Panama and the Persian Gulf.

Foss spent four tours in Europe and four in the Far East. He also was commanding general of the Seventh Army Training Command in Germany, deputy chief of staff for Army operations and plans, and commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command.

Foss retired from the Army in 1991 and was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame four years later. He lives in Williamsburg, Va.

"It humbles me very much," Foss said of his selection as the Doughboy Award's officer recipient. "All these great Infantrymen I served with through the years--I think about them, and those not with us anymore ... the great NCOs and officers.

"It means I've been recognized by the people I consider the best Soldiers in the Army, the Infantry. It's a very humbling thing."

(Vince Little writes for Fort Benning's post newspaper, The Bayonet.)
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Title Annotation:Infantry News
Author:Little, Vince
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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