COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – As the events unfold in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, a Midland veteran says he sees parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan. The 83-year old Vietnam veteran shares his experiences of having advised foreign soldiers during war.
Otis Wilson, Jr. spent 30 years in the Army. He was an infantry soldier who distinguished himself in Vietnam as a radio operator and an advisor to the 1st Battalion, 48th Regiment, 18th Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam or ARVN.
U.S. advisors helped shape ARVN, training them in warfare to withstand attacks from the North Vietnamese forces.
Wilson, then an E-6, recalls when wounded ARVN troops were brought back to headquarters in March 1968.
“Got out in the soldiers spread out enough to cover the headquarters if we got attacked.”
They didn’t that day but on March 8, ARVN was attacked from all sides. On two occasions, Staff Sergeant Wilson crawled through fierce enemy fire to relay life saving information.
“I never even seen the soldiers who were shooting at me, I just could see the flashes from the rifles and stuff.”
The ARVN troops were outnumbered by the North Vietnamese troops. Wilson remembers when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam just as U.S. troops are pulling out of Afghanistan. He says the U.S. trained Afghan soldiers, should have fought the Taliban, whom *they outnumbered. He uses the analogy of leading a horse to water. You can’t make him drink.
“That’s the same way it is in a lot of cases teaching and trying to advise foreigners.”
Wilson says President Biden made the best decision he could at the time.
Wilson retired at Fort Rucker as a Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank. He has several awards of commendation for his actions in Vietnam. He doesn’t consider himself a hero. He says he says those who earned Purple Hearts are the heroes.