FT. LAWTON – Chief Warrant Officer Walter A. Hart, III will retire from the U.S. Army Reserve in a formal ceremony Feb. 9, 2008, at Fort Lawton in Seattle after 39 years, four months and two days’ service.
Hart was deployed to Iraq in 2005 where he served as the installation food advisor while assigned to the 301st Army Support Group to Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, Balad, Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service in a combat zone. His area of responsibility covered four dining facilities and two satellite dining facilities, serving 40,000 meals per day and accommodating the surge of soldiers which exceeded 303,000 meals per day, setting a record.
He initiated a food service inspection program, which resulted in contractors’ improved sanitation techniques, progressive cooking, pull sheets and production schedules, including the construction of two new warehouses. Hart worked with two contractors to develop a plan to reduce delays in delivery from an unacceptable level of up to 20 days late; the plan also reduced the amount of time trucks waited to be off-loaded, eliminating demurrage charges of as much as $40,000 per day. This saved the U.S. government millions of dollars.
Hart’s enlisted service stretched from March 28, 1968 until May 16, 1991; his commissioned service as a warrant officer was 16 years, two months and 14 days. His last duty assignment was as food service technician in the Logistics Office at the 70th Regional Readiness Command, the Army Reserve Command at Fort Lawton in Seattle.
CW4 Hart began his military career at the 385th Evac Hospital in Spokane as a cook’s helper (PVT) in March of 1968. His first summer camp (AT) was at tent city, Ft Lewis, Wash. in June of that year.
The stoves and water heaters were coal fired and the burner units for the field ranges were M1937’s, recalls Hart. “Privates had the dubious honor of stoking the coal fires 24 hours a day.”
He attended basic training and food service school at Ft Ord, Calif. from July to Nov 1968. The Sergeant Major at the food service school was SGM Carl Peterson who went on to fame as the 6th Army Food Advisor, said Hart, who worked in food service supply the last two weeks of training and delivered coffee and snacks to the sergeant major’s office.
Hart had earned the rank of Sergeant First Class by August 1973, assuming the role of Mess Sergeant, renamed Dining Facility Manager and then Food Service Sergeant. After attending the 6th Army Food Service Management Course at Ft Carson, Colo. in 1981, he was selected by the 124th ARCOM Food Advisor, CW2 Peter Lawrence to become the ARCOM Food Service Supervisor. He was promoted to Master Sergeant in 1983. In 1989, CW3 Lawrence retired and Hart was selected as a Warrant Officer Candidate after an age waver. In 1990, he attended WOCC at Ft McCoy, WI, completing both phases. In 1991 at Ft Lee, he completed tech school and was pinned as a CW2.
In Aug 2004 CW4 Hart was mobilized to the 301st ASG, FT Totten, NY. The 301st deployed for Iraq in November 2004, arriving at Camp Anaconda just prior to Thanksgiving Day. Chief Hart became the Installation Food Advisor as part of the Mayor cell at Anaconda.
“It will be a big change,” said Hart. “I went in when I was 20 and have been in the Army all my adult life.”
One of the immediate changes for Hart will be not having to travel back and forth to Seattle for his Reserve duty. He says he will miss many of the people he has worked with over the years, although he likened Fort Lawton to a “merry go ’round.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of the same people over the years. Because it was a Two-Star headquarters people would often work there until they were promoted to the next level, move on and come back to work there until they were promoted to the next. It was not unusual to work with some people three or four times,” he said.
At the formal ceremony Hart will receive the Legion of Merit, which he says is somewhere between a Bronze and Silver Star. He said he has invited some 25 people he has worked with over the years that have either retired or moved on, as well as those in his unit who will be there for the reserve weekend. In addition to his wife Vicki, his son Walt IV will be at the ceremony, but his mom will not be making the trip across the mountains, according to Hart.
Other awards Hart has received while serving in the Army include: the Meritorious Service Medal (1985), Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster (1982, 1987), Army Achievement Medal (1990), a Meritorious Unit citation (2006), an Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Stars (1968, 1991, 2005), an Armed Forces Reserve Medal with three Hourglass Devices and M Device (1978, 1988, 1998), as well as the Army Service Ribbon, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Bar, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon.
Hart was born in Napa, Calif. on July 30, 1947 and has lived in Oroville since his father, who was in the Army Air Corps, left the service to return to his home town of Oroville. Hart attended elementary and high school in Oroville, was on the tennis team and was a basketball manager. He was active in Little League and Scouting, achieving the Eagle Scout award in 1964. As a Scout Explorer Post president in 1962, Hart took his post (troop) to the Seattle World’s Fair for a week. He was selected as a Vigil Honoree in the Order of the Arrow in 1965.
Hart’s 90-year-old mother, Edna Hart, who lives in Oroville, has supported him during 40 years of Army service, said Hart. His wife, Vicki, a retired Army Reserve Master Sergeant, understood that he was not always “off having fun” during annual training, Hart said. He and Vicki, who will be celebrating their 25 Anniversary in July, have three children – Walter IV, Kevin and Cynthia – whom Hart said he missed spending many weekends with because of his long years of service in the Army Reserve.
Hart owns Hart’s Automotive in Oroville and serves as an Oroville city councilman and mayor pro tem. He and his wife were honored as Citizens of the Year by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce at their awards banquet last week. They are active volunteers in the community, most notably with the American Legion and chamber of commerce. Walt Hart also serves as the chairman of the Oroville Centennial Committee.
“I am not saying it wasn’t always fun, but it was also usually a lot of hard work,” said Hart about his nearly four decades-long service with the U.S. Army and Army Reserve.
Pam Garrison, US Army Reserve, contributed to this article