In observance of the 5th anniversary of National Vietnam War Veteran’s Day, celebrated March 29, U.S Army Human Resources Command recognizes the military service of one of our own teammates, who served 25 years in the Army, a year in Vietnam, and almost a decade at HRC.
The year was 1969 – the height of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Five hundred forty nine thousand U.S. combat troops were fighting and serving in Vietnam, and a 19-year-old man in Casper, Wyoming – a future Army Human Resources Command civilian - was attending Casper College during the day and working in a filling station at night.
But Steve Burzlaff wanted more - he was looking for a sense of adventure and had been talking to a local recruiter about joining the Army.
“The recruiter called me at the [filling station one evening] after the lottery drawing, which was televised, and asked me if I had seen it, Burzlaff said. “I hadn’t so he told me [due to my high lottery] number that I would probably not be drafted and that I could back out of my verbal commitment [to him to join the Army], if I wanted to. I told him that ‘I would not.’ Guess that made him happy as I helped make his quota.’”
And with that, Burzlaff enlisted into the regular Army Dec. 3, 1969, and shipped to boot camp at Fort Lewis, Washington, Jan. 30, 1970.
“I was born and raised in a small town and wanted to see more of the world, he said. “I did work for a seismograph company in Montana and North Dakota oil fields for a year, as I was too young to be drafted, but when I was classified as 1A, I started college for a school deferment. College was also not what I thought it would be, especially after having worked in the rough and tumble world of oil fields for a year.”
He enlisted as an E1, tracked vehicle mechanic, (63C). After graduating from the 63B and 63C Advanced Individual Training courses with honor, he was promoted to SP4 in late July 1970. Two weeks later, Burzlaff was sent to Vietnam where he served as a track vehicle mechanic, in general support for a number of different 2 Field Force units, with 8 inch howitzers and 175 mm guns, near Cambodia.
After a year overseas, Burzlaff was assigned to Fort Knox where he served as an instructor in the maintenance department of the Armor School. As an NCO, he rose to the rank of staff sergeant. He applied for a direct appointment as a warrant officer in the spring of 1977 and was appointed as a WO1 Feb 18, 1978, with an assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood.
“I was at Fort Hood from April 1978 to September 1980 at the Maintenance Technician in 1st Battalion 68th ADA, a Chaparral/Vulcan Air Defense unit,” Burzlaff said. “I left there in September 1980 for the Theater Support Battalion, a mixed ordnance support unit in Germany. I left there as a CW2 in September 1983 and was sent back to Fort Hood.”
Burzlaff ended up serving a total of 25 years in the regular Army, the Army Reserve, and the Kentucky National Guard with some breaks for civilian service. He retired from the National Guard in November 1994 as a CW3. He said he continued his service because, “[I] felt value in what I was doing … contributing to a greater cause.”
He was hired for his first Army civilian job in July 1985 at Fort Knox.
“I started my civilian career working training device projects for the Armor School,” Burzlaff said. “After three years, I applied and was accepted as an operational test officer with the Army Operational Test Command in Alexandria, Virginia, with duty at the Test and Evaluation Coordination Office (TECO) at Fort Knox.”
Burzlaff was eventually hired by HRC in January 2011 to work in G4 as a procurement analyst providing oversight for service and facility support contracts. He retired from the Army and the command in May 2020.
Michael Begley, HRC G4 Branch Chief, was Burzlaff’s supervisor from 2019 to 2020. He said Burzlaff was a subject matter expert and a team player.
“Steve had a lot of history with G1/G4, so I depended on him a lot when I first got here because he had all the situational knowledge of this section,” Begley said.
“When Steve requested his retirement, we were having difficulty finding a suitable replacement, so we asked Steve if he would extend his retirement for an additional 30 days to give us enough time to find a qualified candidate and he willingly agreed,” Begley said.
At Burzlaff’s retirement ceremony, he was recognized for his combined 50 years of Army service as a Soldier and a civilian by HRC’s commanding general at the time, Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, and awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award. He’d previously received the Commander's Award for Civilian Service.