By Fort Sill Tribune staffJuly 5, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (July 5, 2018) -- On the lower level of Snow Hall there is a repository that contains the history of Fort Sill.
Behind its nondescript door are thousands of shelved bound professional journals, monographs, and books; as well as boxed decision papers, white papers and memorandums that hold the story of the post, the field artillery branch, the Field Artillery School, and military history.
The person responsible for collecting and maintaining these hard-copy and digital files is Dr. Boyd Dastrup.
For 34 years Dastrup has been the field artillery branch, and FA School historian. His duties include researching, writing, publishing, and teaching military history. The historian office falls under the commandant's special staff.
Growing up in Ogden, Utah, in the 1960s, Boyd Dastrup like many boys liked to play baseball. In high school he found history classes interesting, and did well in them.
After graduating from Ogden High School in 1967, Dastrup was offered two academic scholarships to attend Weber State University in Ogden.
It was there when he had to take required core history classes that he decided to major in history.
"I found it interesting, intellectually challenging, too," he said of his major. Although Dastrup is Mormon, and the religion puts an emphasis on genealogy, that wasn't a factor in his decision, he said.
At Weber as a freshman walk-on, Dastrup made the varsity baseball team as a pitcher. Back then freshmen could play varsity baseball and track and field, but not basketball or football, he elaborated.
"We came within one game of going to the College World Series when I was a freshman," Dastrup said. "We lost the last game in the regional playoffs 5-3, to Brigham Young University. They went, we stayed Caution-home."
Although he can't remember his earned run average, Dastrup said he won enough games to letter as a freshman.
Dastrup recalled one influential history professor at Weber, Dr. Richard Roberts, who taught U.S. Constitutional history and other courses.
"I took several classes from him, and after graduating, over the years I would visit him when I was in Ogden visiting family," Dastrup said.
After graduating from Weber in 1971, he began looking for high school history teacher positions. The Vietnam War was going on, and the military draft was still in effect. Dastrup was classified as 1A with a low lottery draft number, meaning he was likely to be drafted and soon.
One frequent interview question was: What is your draft status?
One school administrator was set to hire him until he learned of Dastrup's draft status.
So Dastrup decided to go into the military.
He tried to get into the Air Force, but recalled failing a flight physical because of his allergies.
He then enlisted in the Army, and attended basic combat training (BCT) at Fort Lewis, Wash. And though his father was an Army medic during World War II, he said that wasn't a factor in joining.
After BCT, he attended advanced individual training (AIT) at the then-new Army Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
It had just relocated from Fort Holabird, Md. He said he was in one of the first classes to graduate at the school.
Nearing the end of MI training, Dastrup filled out a duty station request form, or "dream sheet."
"On my dream sheet it asked if I knew any foreign languages. I put 'one year of eighth-grade German,' and the next thing I knew I was off to Monterey," he chuckled.
At Monterey, Calif., at the Defense Language Institute Dastrup would spend the next 32 weeks learning German.
His first duty station was at Fürth, West Germany, where his job was to chase spies, as he put it. Well, it was during the Cold War.
"The job was classified, I never wore rank, I was exempt from haircuts," he said. "I read, wrote, and spoke German every day."
He said he only wore an Army uniform twice there: when he reported to the unit, and when he PCS'd.
In 1974, Dastrup completed his three-year enlistment. He decided to return to college, and entered a master's program at Utah State University in Logan.
He used his G.I. Bill benefits which could be used for 36 months to pay for school expenses, he said.
Again majoring in history, Dastrup had a choice of a thesis, or non-thesis route. One of his professors, Dr. Charles Peterson, advised him if he was planning to get his doctorate to do a master's thesis.
Dastrup wrote on the electrification of Utah, 1880 to the beginning of the 20th century.
"It was about how electricity changed everything because before you went to bed with the chickens and got up at sunrise," he said.
Upon graduation, Dastrup knew he wanted to pursue a doctorate in military history. He still had plenty of time left on his G.I. Bill because at Weber he only went to school nine months out of the year; working summers.
At the time, the three best U.S. schools for such a program were Duke University, The Ohio State University, and Kansas State University (KSU), he said.
Meanwhile for income he worked for about seven months in Ogden, delivering Wonder Bread to grocery stores.
"I had my own route; it was very lucrative. I made good money," he said.
Dastrup applied to KSU and the University of Kansas, but not Duke because he didn't want to live on the East Coast.
He began classes at KSU in August 1976. To supplement his income, Dastrup worked as a teaching assistant.
He finished his doctoral program in 3.5 years, he said. "I was motivated because I didn't want to use any of my money (to pay for school). So I worked really hard to get everything done."
For his dissertation, Dastrup wrote about the U.S. military occupation of Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-49.
"I wanted to know what was happening to the people, the locals, plus how the U.S. military was implementing direction and guidance from higher authorities," he said. "I didn't write about the (Nuremberg) trials because that was peripheral to what I was doing."
As Dastrup was getting ready to defend his dissertation, a friend sent him a listing of jobs in the Air Force's history program. Dastrup applied for several and was offered a position at Sheppard Air Force Base, where he would begin his civil service career in March 1981.
As the historian at Sheppard's Technical Training Center, Dastrup would research, write and publish about the center. "I wrote the annual history: what happened, courses being taught, stuff like that," he said.
After working almost three years at Sheppard, Dastrup said he learned the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) was expanding its history program because of an increased emphasis on research, writing, publishing, and teaching to help better develop professional Soldiers.
In March 1984, Dastrup became the historian at the FA School. It was a GS-12 position that would turn into a 13 after one year on the job, he said.
"There was still a lot of World War II wood (barracks) around here then. That disappeared in the 1990s," he said. "The officer basic course was longer back then."
AIT was here, as well as the Fort Sill Noncommissioned Officer Academy, though in a little different format than it is today.
He said BCT has been going on at Fort Sill since 1959. In 1984, they had One Station Unit Training, where Soldiers in a BCT battery would go on to AIT here in the same battery with the same Soldiers. "That lasted a few years."
A big part of Dastrup's job is teaching military history in the Warrant Office Basic Course (WOBC), Warrant Officer Advanced Course (WOAC), Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC), and Captains Career Course, or CCC.
The WOBC and BOLC six-hour military history class covers battle analyses, the role and use of military history in the professional development of leaders, FA branch history, and an FA Museum tour, Dastrup said.
The 10-hour WOAC and CCC classes additionally include the history of combined arms warfare, and a student-led staff ride to the Battle of Washita.
Dastrup said the study of military history provides two functions: To help develop critical thinking skills and adaptive leaders, and to develop perspective. "You can't be an adaptive leader if you can't think."
"I tell students that if you don't understand the past, you don't understand the present because the present came out of the past," Dastrup said. "Today's problems came out of the past, someplace."
What's the most rewarding part of being a historian?
"I enjoy the discussion with students. I tell them you arrive at your own conclusions," said Dastrup, referring to analogies made between military events in his classroom discussions.
For example, was the North Korean invasion of South Korea tantamount to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931-32? "If it was, explain; if it wasn't, explain," he said. "I want the students to think."
Another rewarding part of his position is the writing and publishing, he said. "So basically, I enjoy the whole thing (job)."
He's had numerous articles and books published, and he has appeared on "The History Channel" and "A&E" television, over the years.
Dastrup reflected back on his military service, and subsequent civil service career with the Army.
"I think the Army route paid a lot of dividends and was probably the best for me," he said. "It's been interesting, challenging, and fulfilling over the years."