By Mitch MeadorMay 16, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., May 16, 2019 -- When Wes Jetter of Greenville, Ohio, decided to attend a Field Artillery Officer Candidate School (FAOCS) reunion for the first time this year, he didn't realize the biographer of his former comrade-in-arms would be among the scheduled speakers.
When he saw Dr. Andrew Marble would give a public reading from his forthcoming book, "The Boy on the Bridge," he knew that was one event he couldn't miss. Afterward, Jetter got a chance to meet the author and relate his own story about Gen. John Shalikashvili.
As a young first lieutenant, Jetter served in 2nd Battalion, 18th Artillery at Fort Lewis, Wash., when then Maj. John Shalikashvili was its executive officer.
"I had come in from Greece, where I'd been assigned out of OCS. I had managed to graduate No. 1 in my class, so I got to select what I was doing. And I was in special weapons, which is a nice term for tactical nukes. And the battalion had just failed a trial inspection for that particular purpose.
"So they saw what my background was. (Lt.) Col. Stoddard and Maj. Shali, who was the XO, grabbed me and said, 'Here. We don't know anything about this. We're Vietnam people. We're artillery people. We're not special weapons.'
"So I was thrown into the breech. And then the Department of Energy came in and inspected our battalion, and we passed without any gigs at all. So I always say I saved Maj. Shali's career. I was pretty much golden from that point on."
The battalion commander wanted to become a full colonel, and he wanted to retire out of Japan. He was able to do both. Jetter stayed in touch with him, and Stoddard wrote a strong letter of recommendation for Jetter when he graduated from his MBA program at Fletcher. Jetter said he still has that letter.
"He's the person I stayed in touch with, not Maj. Shali. Maj. Shali was an enigma. He was not the same as everyone else. He wasn't just one of the commandants. You could tell right then he was on a trajectory. But I'm not a military person, so I circled back when I saw his picture."
It wasn't until he saw Shali's picture on the front page of USA Today that he learned the former major was a four-star general serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jetter was reminded that he had served in Greece with another major who eventually became chairman of the joint chiefs of the Greek military.
"So here I was a lieutenant for a couple of years, and I was privileged to serve with two officers who rose to the very top of their individual country's military," Jetter said.
Jetter said he was in graduate school when he got his draft notice. He told officials at the Selective Service System he had already applied for admission to FAOCS, and they agreed to hold off on drafting him until he found out whether he'd been accepted. He was, with the aforementioned results. He said that back then, both Greece and Vietnam were considered hardship assignments, and Army policy was that a Soldier could not go directly from one hardship assignment to another, so that's how he was able to finish his two-year hitch at Fort Lewis.
Jetter told Marble he's very anxious to read his book, "The Boy on the Bridge," when it comes out, and he wants the author to autograph it for him.