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Donald Carlson, of Fort Dodge

Personnel matters were his specialty

November 4, 2013
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

Donald Carlson was among the draftees who had just arrived at Fort Carson, Colo., when a veteran soldier threw a trash can and launched into a loud, profanity-laced speech about how the newcomers were going to clean the barracks.

''He used colorful language, you might say,'' the Fort Dodge man said. ''But he was direct. You knew what he wanted.''

It was a jarring introduction to the peacetime Army for Carlson, a former assistant principal at Fort Dodge Senior High.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Donald Carlson, of Fort Dodge, displays the Army photo book he received upon completing basic training. He served as a personnel specialist at bases in the United States from 1958 to 1960.

He was living in Thompson, where he taught high school mathematics and science, when he was drafted into the Army in 1958. He was 23 years old at the time and his late wife, Janece, was pregnant with their first child. Carlson recalled that his wife was ''devastated'' by the fact that he was going into the Army.

Janece Carlson moved in with her parents in Omaha, Neb., when he reported to Fort Carson for basic training. At the fort, he received a long series of vaccinations which left his arms bleeding from all the needle pricks. Then he was immediately sent outside to do pushups and situps.

At 3 a.m. one day, the trainees were rousted from their bunks, informed that a Red Alert had been declared and were rushed into the nearby mountains, he recalled. The Red Alert was essentially a practice battle, he said. The recruits were quickly set to work digging foxholes, which they would jump down into during a real fight.

Three of Carlson's brothers had already served in the Army, so he knew what was going to happen next. He kept telling his partner not to dig so deep, because they were only going to fill in the hole later. The other man kept digging, however. Sure enough, the soldiers were soon told to fill in the holes. Carlson said he helped to scoop dirt back into the large foxhole the other soldier created.

Upon completing basic training, he was dispatched to Fort Chaffee, Ark., for advanced training as a personnel specialist. Much of the training covered office work, Carlson had taken a typing class in high school, and he had the top typing score among the soldiers in the class until the very last day of the program. He recalled that on the final test, another solider edged him out by one word to claim the top score.

His wife was able to join him in Arkansas, and they moved into an apartment in the nearby city of Fort Smith.

Carlson recalled that his life settled into a routine not much different from that of civilians.

''After I got through basic, everything was pretty much a job,'' he said.

Upon completing his advanced training, he stayed at Fort Chaffee. His daily routine consisted of typing up pay vouchers and discharge papers for soldiers.

After some Army operations were moved out of Fort Chaffee in 1959, Carlson was transferred to Fort Bliss in Texas. There, he served as a clerk for a captain in a headquarters detachment.

He and his family lived in nearby El Paso.

He was discharged from the Army at Fort Bliss in 1960.

''Even though it took two years out of my life, I'm glad I did it for the benefit, you might say, the protection of our country,'' Carlson said.

Carlson worked for 31 years as an assistant principal at Fort Dodge Senior High. Altogether, he has 43 years of education experience.

He has a bachelor's degree from Buena Vista College (today's Buena Vista University) in Storm Lake and a master's degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Today, he works as a real estate agent for Guthrie and Associates in Fort Dodge.



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