Category Archives: ROTC Alumni

COL William H. Talley, Vietnam War POW


Colonel William H. Talley was born 26 November 1932 and raised in Sayre, Oklahoma. He is a 1955 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He earned his commission into the U.S. Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps on 28 May 1955. Talley was awarded his pilot wings upon completion of Undergraduate Pilot Training at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, in September 1956. After completing Advanced Fighter Training and Reconnaissance School, he was assigned to the 29th, 20th, and 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (TRS) at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

In May 1959, Talley deployed with the 17th TRS to Laon, France. He returned to the states in June 1962 and was assigned as an instructor pilot with the 3575th Pilot Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. In October 1966, he was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas as a flight test maintenance officer. Talley completed F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training and Wild Weasel Training before being deployed to Southeast Asia in January 1969. Talley flew 151 combat missions as an F-105 pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand.

Returning to the states in November 1969, Talley was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, as an F-105 instructor pilot and later as an F-105G pilot with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron. While deployed on temporary duty with the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, in Southeast Asia, he flew 31 combat missions. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for actions while flying his F-105G Wild Weasel on 21 April 1972 in support of F-4 air strikes against a strategic target. Suppressing hostile enemy surface-to-air missile sites and radar controlled antiaircraft artillery batteries, he enabled the F-4’s to destroy their targets and egress safely. Then on 11 May 1972, while on another Wild Weasel mission in support of Operation Linebacker, Talley and his Electronics Warfare Officer were shot down by a MIG near Hanoi. They evaded North Vietnamese Army search parties for about eighteen hours, but were subsequently captured and taken as Prisoners of War to the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. Talley spent 322 days in harsh captivity and was released during Operation Homecoming on 28 March 1973.

Upon return to the states, Talley earned his MBA at the University of Oklahoma and then attended Air War College graduating in June 1976. He was then assigned as Deputy Commander, 35th Combat Support Group, George Air Force Base, California. In May 1978 he returned to Oklahoma assigned to Tinker Air Force Base as the Chief of Weapons Systems and Major Equipment Division under the Directorate of Contracting and Manufacturing, Oklahoma Air Logistics Center. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals with Valor, Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and the Purple Heart Medal. Talley retired on 1 December 1981.


OSU Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade Reunion

Friends from over the nation gathered September 15 through 18 in Stillwater for their second reunion of OSU Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade members of the organizations during the period 1972-1976.

The Army Blades was formed at OSU through Scabbard and Blade as an ROTC support group and drill team. Oklahoma’s current governor, Mary Fallin, was a member. The group is active today on the campus, but no longer as a drill team.

Nancy Houston Beckstrom, fifth from right, guides her Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade friends through an OSU ROTC exhibit in Stillwater’s Sheerar Museum. The occasion helped mark their second reunion, recalling their days together at OSU in the mid 1970s. From left to right are Mike and Mary Eichinger, Teri Chapin, Cindy Jordan Ballard, Phil Boykin, Donna Boyd, Nancy, Sheila and Dale Mitchell, Dudley Freeman, and Dusty Rhodes.

Lieutenant General George Price Hays

Lt. Gen. George P. Hays

George Price Hays was born on September 27, 1892, in China, where his parents worked as Presbyterian missionaries. When he was nine years old, his family returned to the United States, and his father became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in EI Reno. After graduating from EI Reno High School and attending Oklahoma A&M College, he volunteered for military service shortly after our nation entered World War I.

He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1917, and by July 14, 1918, was a first lieutenant serving in France with the 10th Field Artillery, 3rd Division. On that day, during the Second Battle of the Marne near Greves Farm, his unit came under a heavy German artillery barrage and the communication lines were destroyed.

Despite the intense fire, Hays rode on horseback between his unit, the command post, and two French batteries for the rest of that day and the next. Although he was severely wounded and had seven horses shot out from under him, his efforts contributed to the halt of the German advance. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor the next year, in 1919.

Tenth Mountain Division General George P. Hays points to a map of Europe as General Robinson E. Duff looks on at Campo Tizzoro, Italy.

He commanded the 99th Field Artillery (Pack) from 1940 to 1941; among his subordinates was Captain William Orlando Darby, who went on to found the U.S. Army Rangers. After the United States’ entry into World War II, Hays participated in the Battle of Monte Cassino in early 1944. He commanded the 2nd Infantry Division’s artillery on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy in June of that year.

In late November 1944, after returning to the U.S., Hays took over the 10th Mountain Division when its previous commander fell ill. After training, the division arrived in Italy in January and fought throughout the spring offensive. On April 24, 1945, William Darby was assigned to the division as Hays’ assistant commander; he was killed in action six days later. After the end of the war in Europe, Hays became High Commissioner for the US Occupation Zone in Germany from 1949, and was placed in charge of the occupation forces in Austria from 1952. He retired from the military in 1953, having reached the rank of lieutenant general.

Hays died August 7, 1978. He has been inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame, and in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2006.


June 1945. General Hays congratulates first GI to cross highway 9, Tenth Mountain Division Pfc. Basil L. Lesmeister, from Company A of the 86th Regiment.

Medal of Honor Citation

  • Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, United States Army, 10th Field Artillery, 3d Division.
  • Place and date: Near Greves Farm, France, 14-July 15, 1918.
  • Entered service at: Okarche, Oklahoma.
  • Born: September 27, 1892, China.
  • General Orders No.34. War Department, 1919.

At the very outset of the unprecedented artillery bombardment by the enemy, his line of communication was destroyed beyond repair. Despite the hazard attached to the mission of runner, he immediately set out to establish contact with the neighboring post of command and further establish liaison with 2 French batteries, visiting their position so frequently that he was mainly responsible for the accurate fire therefrom. While thus engaged, 7 horses were shot under him and he was severely wounded. His activity under most severe fire was an important factor in checking the advance of the enemy.




James Robert “Bob” Kalsu

An item from Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund:

Today we honor James Robert “Bob” Kalsu of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who fell on this day in 1970.

BobBob was an All-American offensive lineman at the The University of Oklahoma — and an eighth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. He was voted the team’s top rookie following the 1968 season. Bob began fulfilling his ROTC obligation with the United States Army and in November 1969, he received his orders to go to Vietnam. He was killed in a mortar attack, leaving behind a wife and daughter. His son was born two days after he was killed in action.

Never forget this hero.

Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic

untitledMore than 80 graduates from Oklahoma State University have served as generals and admirals in the military service since World War I, but retired Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic (’71) could be the first to publish the leadership insights he learned along the way in a book titled Profiles in Patriotic Leadership.

Considering the ethical failures in the banking industry, Wall Street and corporate misdeeds, Slavonic contends that leadership principles are not being taught the way they are in the armed forces, and his 34 years there have provided a wealth of practical information.

“The need for leadership has never been more important than it is today,” said Slavonic. “I have been fortunate to serve under many good leaders in the military who have a special perspective on how to lead effectively. That’s what I’ve tried to capture in this book.”

Slavonic’s book includes insights from a list of highly honored and decorated military leaders and war heroes who, as he puts it, “…know what it takes to lead and succeed and possess a philosophy of leadership that is critical to success in life. This book was a labor of love that was five years in the making, but it was a passion I had,” said Slavonic. “I wanted to at least get on paper some of my thoughts and the thoughts of those I felt were great leaders.”

Most of OSU’s highest ranking officers are from the Army and Air Force because of its widely-recognized ROTC programs on campus for those military branches, but Slavonic enlisted in the Navy after graduation. He insists he never had any plans to become a high-ranking officer, and admits he chose the Navy so he wouldn’t have to go into the Army, adding “I am not a ‘camper’.” But that doesn’t mean he’s not up for a good workout, “I have climbed three 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, which offered quite a view of the world.”

profilesThe admiral’s early view of leadership started to take shape when he was assigned to work 12-hour days in the mess hall of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, which was stationed off the coast of Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf.

“Finding myself on the ship’s mess decks with a college degree was not something I thought I was going to have to do, but my immediate superior back then knew it would help me someday, and it did. It was an eye-opening experience that shaped me as an individual and helped me move forward.”

Slavonic, who rose from seaman recruit to rear admiral, ultimately served as the Navy’s deputy to the chief of information in Washington D.C. and director of public affairs (Navy Reserve). He was also the highest-ranking public affairs officer to serve in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. Slavonic served on General Norman Schwarzkopf’s communications team when he was deployed to Iraq in the 1990s for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Slavonic is dedicated to spending time speaking to organizations on the importance of leadership and sharing his military experiences. He currently works for a Washington D.C. defense contractor managing several Navy contracts.

Profiles in Patriotic Leadership is available at, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City. If you would like to contact Slavonic, go to

Captain Charles Scheffel

charles_scheffel_zps40343d69When Charles Scheffel was a youngster in Enid during the Great Depression, he was destined to become a soldier, but he didn’t know it yet.

Scheffel’s father arrived in America from Germany after stowing away on a German boat. He then joined the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War.

Scheffel was born in 1919. His father died in 1930.The times were tough, and Scheffel worked at an aunt’s farm to help out his family.

An athlete, Scheffel was good in tennis, football, baseball and basketball, which was his best sport and would help get him into college. Legendary basketball Coach Henry Iba offered him a full athletic scholarship.

In Crack and Thump, a book written by Scheffel with Barry Basden, Scheffel discussed his entry into the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), his career in World War II, and gave readers a view of combat.

crackandthumpScheffel had no intention of taking anything more than the mandatory ROTC courses, he said. ROTC turned out to help him not only to get his degree at OSU but to be an infantry leader in combat. He took basic ROTC three times a week. America had the draft and a student could be drafted from college unless he was in ROTC.

Scheffel studied to go into banking, but World War II changed everything and he became a combat infantry leader and a decorated infantry officer fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Europe ,with his final stop in Lammersdorf, Germany, where he was severely wounded.

He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the French Croix de Guerre. He was medically retired from the Army as a Captain in 1946.

Scheffel would go into the insurance business in Oklahoma City. He lived in Britton on the north side of Oklahoma City. Elected to the Britton City Council, he was instrumental in bringing to a vote the annexation of Britton to Oklahoma City.

Scheffel died June 24, 2011, in San Antonio, Texas, where he had been living at the time.

Click image and view a video of Scheffel recalling his time as an infantry officer. [Be patient with the commercial.]

ROTC Alumnus Creates Portraits of Fallen Soldiers

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

Colonel (Ret.) Ken Younkin works on another portrait.

After a 30 year stint in the military, a Norman man continues to serve his country.

Retired Army reservist Ken Younkin laid down his weapon years ago and picked up a scroll saw.

Younkin is now a member of the Portrait Freedom Project. The nationwide group of more 400 woodcutters carves portraits of fallen soldiers.

“If I couldn’t do something for the soldiers themselves, maybe I could do something for the families,” Younkin said. “You think about the family and the person you’re cutting and wonder what it would have been like to have met them while they were still alive.”

Younkin said he’ll never forget the first portrait he made of Cpl. Chad Powell. He still has the letter Powell’s family sent him.

“They said the little boy saw that and said, ‘That’s my Daddy,'” Younkin said. “Five-year-old son, that one, I broke down pretty good on that one.”

Younkin said he has made it his personal mission to try to do as many Oklahoma portraits as possible.

“I always felt I needed to do something to give back,” Younkin said.

Col. Younkin was commissioned in the field artillery from the Oklahoma State University Army ROTC in 1970.

CLICK HERE to watch the News 9 video online.



Robert J. Kelsey

captain-robert-j-kelseyCaptain Robert J. Kelsey was born in 1945 at Lawton, Oklahoma. In June 1967 he received a commission in the U. S. Navy through the Navy ROTC Regular Program at the University of Oklahoma; he was selected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and Physics.

After flight training in the A-F4 aircraft in June 1969, he reported to VA-23 (Fixed Wing Attack) deployed on the USS Oriskany, CVA-34 in Southeast Asia participating in air operations over North and South Vietnam. When VA-23 was decommissioned in 1970 he transitioned to the A-7E aircraft and reported to VA-146 on the USS Constellation CVA-64 assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Five (VX-5) at Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California.

During his tour with VA-105 the Squadron deployed twice to the Mediterranean Sea and for service there was awarded the Commander Naval Air Atlantic Battle “E” and the Rear Admiral C. Wade McClusky Award as the best Attack Squadron in the U. S. Navy. In October 1984 he assumed command from Commander, Light Attack Wing One (LATWING ONE) and was the top pilot in LATWING ONE. His medals awarded include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Meritorious Service Medals, 20 Air Medals with “Vs” and seven Navy Commendation Medals with “Vs”. He retired 4 June 1992 and died 24 June 1992.

Captain Kelsey was induction into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2013. That same year, a University of Oklahoma Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipman received the first Capt. Robert J. Kelsey Leadership Award during a ceremony at the university’s ROTC center, April 16. The award, presented to Midshipman 2nd Class Alan Tompkins, included a $1,000 scholarship.

“It means a lot. I know there are plenty of other midshipmen who are more than qualified for the award, so to be chosen as the first recipient is very humbling and rewarding,” said Tompkins. “I am honored to be recognized by the Kelsey family and very thankful for the opportunity they have provided. I hope to continue to be a good example in the battalion and the community.”

22929378_BG2The scholarship endowment was established by the family and will be administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

“We are extremely pleased about this opportunity to honor Bob’s memory while helping current and future Navy ROTC students,” said Kelsey’s father, Charles Kelsey. “He was very dedicated to God, his family, his country, and the U.S. Navy. He was a tremendous role model for his children, his seven younger siblings and, I’m sure, hundreds of fellow military members.”

“Capt. Kelsey left a great legacy at this university, both as a midshipmen and during his very distinctive service,” said Capt. Rod Clark, commanding officer of the OU NROTC unit at the time. “It is a wonderful thing that his family has created a scholarship to continue that legacy”

The purpose of the University of Oklahoma NROTC Program is to educate and train qualified young men and women for service as commissioned officers in the Navy’s unrestricted line, the Navy Nurse Corps and the Marine Corps. As the largest single source of Navy and Marine Corps officers, the NROTC Scholarship Program plays an important role in preparing mature young men and women for leadership and management positions in an increasingly technical Navy and Marine Corps.

Jerry D. Holmes

Holmes_SketchMajor General Jerry D. Holmes, U.S. Air Force, was born 14 July 1935 in Jenks, Oklahoma and raised in Wewoka, Oklahoma. He graduated Wewoka High School in 1953. In 1958 he graduated The University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geological Engineering and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force through the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In 1964 he graduated The University of Oklahoma with a Master of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering. He completed Squadron Officer School in 1965, graduated the U.S. National War College in 1976, and in 1985, graduated The Harvard University Program for Senior Executives in  National and International Security.

In September 1966 he was transferred to Royal Air Force Station, Upper Heyford, England. There, he served as an RF-101 pilot and standardization and evaluation flight examiner with the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. From October 1969 to October 1970 he flew 135 combat missions over all of Vietnam in RF-101 and RF-4 aircraft from Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam.

1433971266473Maj. Gen. Holmes’ military awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, U.S. Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Outstanding Unit Award with “V” for Valor in combat.

Maj. Gen. Holmes was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2014.