Revered as one of the toughest schools in the Army, Fort Hood’s Air Assault School was officially renamed in honor of one of the toughest Soldiers to wear the uniform – Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley.
“The attributes required to meet the air assault standards define a part of who CSM Plumley was,” Command Sgt. Maj. James Light, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division’s senior enlisted advisor, said.
The CSM Basil L. Plumley Air Assault School was unveiled Tuesday in front of Fort Hood officials, the air assault school’s “black hat” instructors, along with Plumley’s daughter, Debbie Funkhouser, and her husband, Darrell.
A highly-decorated Soldier, Plumley served in three wars over the course of his 33-year Army career. While serving in the 1st Airmobile Division, now called 1st Cavalry Division, the airborne combat infantryman helped create what is now known as air assault.
“He was basically testing the concept,” Light said. “Can you put Soldiers in helicopters and assault into combat?”
Plumley served as the senior enlisted advisor of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, fighting in the Battle of la Drang with the Garryowen troops during Vietnam. It was the first major battle between the U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese Army, a battle that would make Plumley famous for his actions. After his severely outnumbered unit was ambushed by two regiments full of enemy troops, Plumley led his troops to hold down Landing Zone X-Ray for helicopters to fly in and extract wounded troops.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley is one of the most iconic senior NCOs in Army history,” Capt. Stephen Moreno, commander of the CSM Basil L. Plumley Air Assault School, said. “He’s so closely tied to the 1st Cavalry Division, III Corps and Fort Hood, that by naming the school after him, it really brings a sense of ownership. It really ties the Air Assault School to Fort Hood in a really big way”
While Plumley was feared and revered by all who served with him, he became known to a whole new generation of people with the 2002 release of “We Were Soldiers,” a war epic detailing the Battle of la Drang. The film was based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” written by retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and war correspondent Joseph Galloway.
Funkhouser revealed that her dad never spoke about the wars he fought in and rarely cussed, so she was shocked when the movie was released, and filled with profanity. Unlike the Soldiers who feared him, Funkhouser remembers fun times with her dad, even when he embarrassed her with her friends around.
“My dad put an old hat on his head, grabbed my mother’s guitar, had a pipe in his mouth and ran downstairs singing,” Funkhouser said, laughing. “I was mortified.”
Before the unveiling ceremony, the wives of the 1st Bn., 7th Cav. Div., command team presented Funkhouser with a Tartan scarf, a gift traditionally reserved for wives of senior leaders in the Garryowen family.
As the arch with her dad’s name was unveiled, Funkhouser gasped in awe at the sight, clearly touched by the display.
“I’m so proud and my dad would have been very proud too,” Funkhouser said. “He was a great Soldier – a great person. I think a lot of people thought he was real mean, but he was fair … always fair.”
Moreno said he hopes every instructor who enters CSM Basil L. Plumley Air Assault School will look up to him and strive to emulate his example.
“He taught and trained Soldiers in their toughest moments,” Moreno said, “so we want to use that image to help our instructors be better instructors.”