Ninety-year-old Retired Maj. Gen. Oscar C. Decker, Jr. said he was "stunned" to find out he would be inducted into the Army Materiel Command's Hall of Fame. Stunned, in part, because he has been retired from the Army for more than 30 years.
But Decker is no stranger to being recognized for his lasting contributions, both to the Army and other grateful communities. He was previously inducted to the Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. A fire station in Marysville, Ohio -- where he is a local icon -- is also named in his honor.
He and his wife, Ella Mae, recently celebrated their 70th anniversary.
"She went the whole way. She was very supportive of me and what I did," Decker said, recalling his 30--plus years of service and his subsequent work with veterans and civic projects. "When you get a lot of great folks behind you and a wife that supports you, what more can you ask for?"
Decker enlisted in the Army in 1943. As a private, he was assigned to the 20th Armored Division involved in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany.
"That was a lousy place to look at, and horrible things were done there" Decker recalled. As his unit pushed through Germany, they lost a combat commander, company commander and several troops. "It was the worst of the worst."
Decker was discharged as a sergeant and returned to his native state to pursue a degree at the University of Nebraska. He credited much of his success to his enlisted time saying, "When you are at the bottom of the heap, you learn to dig yourself out."
He commissioned in 1951 and served in the Pentagon and Vietnam where he was involved in the TET offensive. He held several positions at the Tank and Automotive Command, now known as TACOM, before serving as its commanding general.
Tanks were something near and dear to Decker's heart.
"From since I was a youngster on up, tanks were the thing," Decker said. "I'd spend most of my time on them if I could."
That passion served him well at TACOM where he worked closely with divisions and commanders and enjoyed the support of the research and development community as well as those in the field. He struggled to stay there, he said, even if the Army would have rather had him on the move.
"My love for what I did every day was terrific at TACOM," he said, ticking off the vehicles, from the Abrams tank to the Humvee that were developed or improved under his watch.
At TACOM, Decker instituted several novel actions that are still used today. Those actions included issuing a draft Request for Proposal to interested companies before the final release, and inviting users at the troop level to participate in setting requirements and testing prototypes. During his time at TACOM, where Decker rounded out his more than 30-year Army Career, TACOM developed or improved many of the vehicles still in use by Soldiers today. Those include the M1 Abrams Tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Humvee and the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, known as the HEMTT.