Brigadier General Leo E. Soucek, a True Patriot, who loved God, his family and his country. Surrounded by family in his final valiant struggle, BG Soucek died at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, April 2, 2013.
GENERAL: Married to Evelyn for nearly 58 years and father to Leanne, Leo , Jr. and Steven, Leo was first and foremost a dedicated family man. He was also a warrior, son, brother, selfless servant, and patriot. Please see links below biographical information for news articles about Leo's military service awards and about his work with Lockheed-Martin in Iran during the 1970s, the height of the U.S. military presence there.
MILITARY SERVICE SUMMARY: One of the U.S. Army's most highly decorated pilots, flying more than 3000 hours in combat, Leo flew nearly 6000 hours total. He served almost five years in combat, including most of a year in Korea and the balance in Vietnam. In addition to a host of other commendations listed below, including the Silver Star for gallantry in action, Leo was awarded the Purple Heart for sustaining shrapnel wounds to the neck while flying combat missions in Vietnam. With the mentorship of Major General Harry W.O. Kinnard--regarded as "the father" of Airmobile warfare--, COL "Phipp" Seneff, and LTC John Stockton, Leo as a Major helped build the first Air Assault Helicopter unit in the U.S. Army in 1963. He commanded the first non-infantry unit to be awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team's Regimental Engineer Company--they were reorganized as infantry at the front during an intensive, sustained combat phase of the Korean War. The 187th ABN RCT also placed an aluminum footbridge across the Ura-Kawa River adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone, following a history-making "heavy drop" on April 16, 1954. To that date, this was the longest bridge dropped in the Far East by U.S. forces.
From his farm roots, through VMI and basic military training, as well as his formative combat exposure, Leo grew into an outstanding leader of troops. One of the pioneers of Army Aviation in the 1960s at Ft. Benning, GA, Leo helped form the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, the Army's first air-assault battalion of the Army's first air assault division, the 11th Air Assault Division (Test). The latter was re-flagged as the 1st Cavalry Division, the Army's first Airmobile Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1965.
Leo was literally the first man to report to the 227th, and as the XO, he helped build the unit from the ground up. The 227th trained helicopter gunship pilots in the use of the very first low level, nap-of-the-earth techniques (flying "in the weeds") combined with formation and nighttime air-assault tactics. The unofficial unit crest, put together by a batallion mechanic at Leo's behest, was a pouncing Hawk with feet extended to snatch prey. The crest later became officially recognized by the Army. As an Army Engineer, Leo helped build the first ground-based inter-continental ballistic missile silos at Davis-Monthan AFB in the early 1960s.
He was among the first Army Corps of Engineer officers to graduate from helicopter pilot school. He trained at Camp Wolters and many years later returned as the Commanding General of (the then) Fort Wolters. When "frocked" to BG, according to MG Benjamin Harrison of Belton, Texas, who served with Leo in the Mekong Delta, and a dear friend, Leo was at 22 years of service the youngest man of the modern Army to have pinned on stars. A Master Aviator, Master Parachutist, Combat Infantryman, and Pathfinder; a soldier's soldier from his first day in uniform; a Licensed Registered Professional Engineer in Virginia until his passing.
Retired, U.S.A., 1974
Commanded the Army Section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Tehran, Iran
Commanding General, Primary Helicopter Training Center, Fort Wolters, Texas
Commander, 164th Aviation Group, "Golden Hawks" (Vietnam)
Commander, 11th Combat Aviation Group, "Pouvoir" (Vietnam)
Commander, 11th Combat Aviation Battalion, "Exempla Proponere" (Vietnam)
Commander, 10th Engineer Battalion, "Laboramus Sustinere"
Executive Officer, 227th Air Assault, Bn, "Pouvoir" (Ft. Benning, GA)
82d Airborne Division, "All The Way" Fort Bragg, NC
Commander, Regimental Engineer Company, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, "Rakkasans" (Korean War and Japan)
127th Airborne Engineer Battalion Ft Campbell, Kentucky
Commissioned from Virginia Military Institute in 1949
Awards and Decorations include:
Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit, 4 Awards
Silver Star for Gallantry in Action
Distinguished Flying Cross, 6 Awards
Bronze Star, 2 Awards
Air Medal, 85 Awards
Imperial Iranian Army Aviation Wings
Army Commendation Medal, 6 Awards
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, 2 Awards
Master Army Aviator
Combat Infantryman's Badge
Military and Post-Graduate Education:
Virginia Military Institute, Class of 49
U.S. Army Basic and Advanced Engineer Courses, Ft. Belvoir, VA
Amphibious Warfare Course, Ft. Benning GA
Master of Science in Civil Engineering, Texas A & M
Master of Arts in International Relations, George Washington University
Armed Forces Staff College
Command General and Staff College
Naval War College
Truly a member of "The Greatest Generation," Leo was born in Nebraska and grew up on a farm in Disputanta, VA. Leo's father and grandfather emigrated to VA from Czechoslovakia before WWI. The Czech homeland would be overrun by Hitler's troops, beginning with the invasion of the Sudetenland in May, 1938. Growing up glued to console radio reports of Hitler's Blitzkrieg across Europe, savage Japanese incursions into China and the Pacific islands, fireside chats by FDR, and the fiery oratory of Winston Churchill, Leo traveled alone by bus from Petersburg (at age 11) to Richmond, VA to stay overnight in the elegant Jefferson Hotel to be trained as the Prince George County, Virginia, Air Warden for his community. Leo, at this young age, was not only able to identify all American and German aircraft by sound and visual sighting, but he was personally responsible for maintaining vigilant watch from a spotting blind throughout the war to telephone any unusual activity to military authorities. By age 15, Leo graduated at the top of his high school class, bound for VMI's class 49-B.
Virginia Military Institute
Leo loved his time at VMI (except for the sinks) and thrived at this venerable institution. His class yearbook notes his widespread popularity and academic prowess, and provides this summary: "LEO EUGENE SOUCEK DISPUTANTA, VIRGINIA Civil Engineering 1949-B Cavalry Wrestling Team (4); Hop Committee (2, 1), President (1); American Society of Civil Engineers (3, 2, 1); Academic Stars (2); Private (4); Corporal (3); First Sergeant (2); First Lieutenant (1). Coming to the Institute from . . . Virginia, Leo quickly became one of our most popular Brother Rats. Although he has always been near the top of the class in academic standing, Leo has also been active in extra-curricular activities. He is one of the first to arrive at any party and usually one of the last to leave. We 're predicting great things for this lad who is looking forward to a career in the Corps of Engineers." As an important side note, Class of '49B students matriculated after three years of full-time classes without summer breaks. This was historically significant in preparing troops to help with post WWII occupation forces, as well as to fill the unexpected demands of the Korean War. One of his VMI roommates, "Tommy" Bowers, went on to become rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City. Another close VMI friend, Bobby Thomason, went on to become a famous quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Post - Military Work and Travel : After retiring from 27 years of distinguished service with the military in 1974, Leo worked for 20 years as a consultant with the (then) Martin Marietta Corporation and (later) with Lockheed-Martin. From his rural roots, Leo grew into not only an outstanding leader of troops and a pioneer in the development of Army Aviation's "air assault" tactics, but an engineering manager who was instrumental in technological advances, such as the Viking Mars Lander, the MX missile, the Mobile MX Launcher, the Titan IV and an Army Air Defense System.
During his work with Martin Marietta Corporation in Iran, Leo stayed to protect the interests of the company until it was almost impossible to leave Iran safely in December, 1978. The Shah left the country just one month later.
Leo worked at a variety of Martin Marietta or Lockheed-Martin sites: the Orlando Aerospace facility, the Denver Martin-Marietta Chatfield Plant, the Las Vegas MX office, the Rosslyn Aerospace Office and as Director of Operations in the Middle East in the 1970s. The Copperhead Laser-guided Missile System and The Atlas program were others on which Leo worked. Upon his retirement from Lockheed-Martin, CEO of the corporation, Norm Augustine, the "big boss," wrote a letter of appreciation for Leo, signing himself "Leo's boss, but since when did Leo ever have any bosses?"
One of his other bosses from Martin Marietta (Joseph Kremonas) recalled a humorous anecdote about Leo: This stalwart warrior had to consult a chiropractor because of a habit he adopted while in the military--carrying his wallet in one sock (so as not to mess up the sleek lines of his "squared away" uniform, or for storage while he wore his flight suits) and using the other sock to store his ever-present Marlboros and Zippo); this "sock storage" had thrown off the indomitable Leo's spinal health."
Leo and Evelyn moved more than 30 times during their combined military and Lockheed-Martin careers. Evelyn thought she finally got a good deal when Leo came home with orders to report to Rome--unfortunately for her Evelyn advised that Leo had the orders changed from "Rome, Italy" to "Rome, Georgia..." Nevertheless, they never had an assignment that did not turn out to be an overall postive experience for the entire family.
Leo maintained a strenuous fitness program throughout his life, running several miles each morning before the sun arose, finishing off his workouts with calisthenics. When stationed in Iran, Leo's guards had to trail behind him by car because none of the guards could keep pace with him while he "jogged." Only once did he fall in a hole (at Clark AFB in the Philippines) in the pre-dawn dark.
Leo traveled extensively and also helped his children to experience the world directly: Riding elephants and traveling across India by car to experience wonders such as the Taj Mahal and old forts of the British Empire; viewing the Reclining Golden Buddha by boat in the floating market of Bangkok, Thailand; traveling over water to Corregidor Island to witness the site of the Bataan Death March; visiting the New Delhi Zoo in India and the Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong with his sons; staying at the Caspian Sea in Iran; visiting the Grand Bazaar, the Topkapi and the St. Sophia in Istanbul; traveling by barge up the Nile River in Egypt; experiencing the wadis of Oman; cruises to the Baltic, the Caribbean, Russia, and South America; and journeys to Italy, England, France, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Kuwait, and Tripoli. Leo wished to visit mainland China and to revisit Vietnam before he died, but these hopes were not to be fulfilled.
Education and Associations:
Graduated with Honors, B.S. Civil Engineering, VMI, 1949; Later inducted into Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society;
M.S. Civil Engineering; Texas A&M, 1957; M.S., Licensed Registered Professional Engineer in Virginia.
M.A. International Affairs, George Washington University, 1968. Authored thesis "Is Thailand Next?" at George Washington University.
Professional and Charitable Organizations:
Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA), VMI Alumni, Association of Army Engineers, Association of The United States Army, The Society of American Military Engineers, 11th Airborne Division Association, Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Association of the United States Army, Virginia Society of Professional Engineers, George Washington Chapter, Military Officers' Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, America's National World War II Museum, Republican National Committee, U.S.O., Who's Who in America, The Green Book, The American Diabetes Association, Hillsdale College, Citizens Against Government Waste, The Reagan Ranch, National Rifle Association, Judicial Watch, Boys Town, and The American Cancer Society.
Washington area memberships, community support, and volunteer work: Leo and his wife Evelyn helped establish the military family transportation committee to assist in providing financial and other assistance to families needing rides to and from the Fisher House to support relatives who had been severely wounded in service to their country. Leo and Evelyn also worked in support of the "Save Brickyard Coalition," a to-date successful legal effort to maintain the character of their neighborhood from proposed zoning changes. Leo volunteered for ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) to promote advancement of education in science, medicine and engineering, believing, particularly, that science education secured the foundation for democratic society and the success of the United States.
Marriage and Family: Married to Evelyn Soucek for almost 58 years, Leo & Evelyn met in Japan on Halloween night, bobbing for apples at a party with young U.S. officers and teachers from DOD dependent schools, where Evelyn was teaching 3rd grade. Later, at the Officer's Club, when a group of young officers came over to the table to ask several of the teachers to dance, a 2nd Lt. asked Evelyn to dance. Leo invited the butter bar to "Shove off,"-- the only time in his entire military career that Evelyn heard Leo "pull rank." Leo told Evelyn after dating for seven months, "Don't ever try to talk me into getting out of the military!" They were married that June in the first of four wedding ceremonies performed: by the U.S. Consulate, an Army Methodist chaplain, a Catholic priest, and a rabbi on their 50th anniversary. The four ceremonies must have "taken," for Leo and Evelyn to have traveled such a long road together.• Among hundreds of adventures, they traveled to Bamian, Afghanistan to visit the famous historic site of statues of Buddha, carved into the face of a cliff wall where, almost 30 years later, the statues were destroyed by the Taliban. Evelyn and Leo flew from Kabul by small plane to Bamian without "real time" information that flights returned to Kabul every few days. Careening around blind, hairpin mountain roads, in an ancient Russian car with capacity for four , crammed in with six passengers, one cold potato between them, and a reporter who straddled the stick shift the entire return trip, Evelyn and Leo barely made the Kabul return flight to Tehran.
When Leo's youngest son deployed with the Army to the Middle East, Grandpa Leo helped to home-school his grandson, teaching him to fish, to build birdhouses, and to care for plants and animals. Leo's leather-working tools were passed to "Josh," who hopes to emulate Leo's artistry with tooled wallets, purses and book covers.
Leo maintained a "pilot checklist" or "mission ready" ethos with every facet of life (including loading the dishwasher) --truly he was an organizational wizard.
In addition to his many other passions and activities, Leo devoured three newspapers per day; watched (and yelled at) two hours of news/day and was the "go to" person for any kind of information, whether the latest numbers of the national debt or the hottest films or musical talents. He was not only a voracious catalogue of information, facts and statistics, but saw through to the essence of critical world-wide issues and cultural developments. •And who can tally the total number of football games he watched--a die-hard Dallas Cowboy fan to the end.
Leo is survived by a wonderful family: his wife Evelyn, and their three children: daughter, Leanne of Colorado; son, Leo of Maine; and son, Steven, of Vienna, VA; brothers Ed Soucek of Claytor Lake, VA and Frank Soucek of Harrisonburg; sister, Evelyn Lipp of Prince George, VAd; brothers-in-law Stan Fishfader of Los Angeles, CA and Bill Fishfader of Anacortes, WA. Leo deeply loved his six grandchildren: Jasmine, Lucy, Emma, Josh, Sarah and Adeline."
Please see the included links to articles about or related to Leo's military career and his work in Iran: New York Times Link re: U.S. Generals in Iran --Leo Soucek was Chief, Army Section, U.S. ARMISH-MAAG, Tehran, Iran. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F50E17F73E59137A93C2AB178ED85F478785F9
History of the 227th Air Assault Battalion in Vietnamhttp://www.b227.org/history2.html
Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society, founded 1885 508 Dougherty Engineering Hall, UTK, P.O. Box 2697, Knoxville, TN 37901-2697 Tel: 865-546-4578
(Ft. Wolters, Helicopter Training Post, Mineral Wells, TX)
http://www.vhfcn.org/227hist.html ("The Good Deal http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19730527&id=4y8gAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4ygEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2883, 1941992
Friends are welcome to make donations to ARCS/MWC, Inc. ("Endowment Fund, Leo Soucek) Mail to: Karen Stoner, 4643 MacArthur Blvd., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007 or
Fisher House Foundation, Inc.
111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420
Rockville, MD 20850
Please indicate Walter Reed NMMC on memo line of check or in note included with check which would also state in Leo's memory. One may also donate online at:
click on donate, click on donate online, double click on program areas, Scroll down to: MD-Walter Reed NMMC and click, complete rest of form.
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