Mrs. Billye Alexander

Mrs. Billye Alexander

Mrs. Billye Alexander was the Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer (SF NCO) assignment officer in the Pentagon. She made sure better-qualified volunteers came into SOG. When men wanted to go to or to return to the sounds of battle or change an undesirable stateside assignment, she cut a lot of red tape to get them on their way.

Born Billye Drake in Nashville, she moved to Washington DC in 1939 and went to work for the War Department—later known as the Department of the Army. In the 1960s, Billye became the go to person in the personnel division after the formation of Special Forces, and was responsible for writing transfer orders for SF NCOs. She received a number of commendations for her work with the Special Forces. Billye Alexander died at age 58 of cancer. (Obituary form Washington Post, January 24, 1981, B6, supplied by CCS Recon Vet Ben Lyons.)

Mrs. “A,” as she was known, didn’t just sit behind a desk in Washington, she went to Ft. Bragg and even ran the Special Forces Obstacle Course.

Billye Alexander

Billye Alexander (front, far right) and Friends in the Pentagon

Billye Alexander (center) with Friends at Camp Mckall, North Carolina

Billye Alexander
CSM Billy Waugh & Billy Alexander

Master Sergeant Billy Waugh and Mrs. Billye Alexander (as a blonde)

After being badly wounded in the Battle of Bong San in April ’65 and evacuated to Walter Reed Hospital, Waugh was still not healed. His doctors raised the prospect of amputation of his right foot and ankle. He was sent on a 90-day convalescent leave in late July and told to go home to Texas. Instead Waugh went to Saigon and met some old SF buddies who were with SOG. He decided that was where he wanted to be, and with new determination he returned to Texas after two weeks with the cast on his right leg practically destroyed. He went back to Fort Bragg and got a new cast and reported back to Walter Reed. In the meantime, he had met Billie Alexander in the Pentagon, “a great lady who served as assignment officer” for SF NCOs. “Mrs. ‘A’ needed 120 senior NCOs for a new arm of SOG. I begged her to put me on orders, to which she replied, “God-dammit, Billy, you’re limping around now. Your foot and leg aren’t healed. There’s no way!” Waugh wouldn’t give up. He said, “I cried, cajoled and goaded, then I begged some more.” Then he proposed a deal that if she would reassign him to Fort Bragg and he pulled duty there for one month, she would send orders reassigning him to SOG.” Mrs. ‘A’ finally relented, on the condition he not end up in the Bragg hospital. Then his Walter Reed doctor had bad news and another threat of amputation. But Billy got the cast removed and healing had begun. So in December ’65, he was returned to Fort Bragg and soon had orders for SOG. He “headed for Vietnam one happy soldier. (Billy Waugh, Hunting The Jackal, pgs 28-

Don MacIver “Negotiates” with Mrs. “A”

            “In the Spring of 1967, I volunteered for the Army for three years, I volunteered for Airborne, and I volunteered for Special Forces. I had gone through the entire Special Forces Qualification Course including the 42-week SF Medical Specialist Course (often as an honor graduate in certain cycles), but I had just completed a 12-week Limited Fluency Vietnamese Language Course at Ft. Bragg, NC. Then I was assigned to 7th Group at Bragg, as a truck driver! I had just attended the inauguration of President Richard Nixon and decided it was time to do what I had always planned to do since the day I received “Greetings!” from President Lyndon B. Johnson: Go to war! There was a war going on, I had just spent two years in training to become a soldier in a most elite unit, and I was going to be a part of that war. The only people I ever knew who went directly to the Pentagon to get their choice of assignment was SF, and I count myself among those distinguished few! I had heard of the Pentagon’s Mrs. Alexander (Mrs. ‘A’ as she was affectionately called) who handled all SF enlisted men’s orders, and decided to pay her a visit.

            When I sat opposite Mrs. ‘A’, I told her, “I want to go to Vietnam!” It was 01/21/69, the day after the inaugural. I explained, “I just finished a year and a half of training. I’m a qualified Special Forces medic. They assigned me to the 7th Group at Ft. Bragg and assigned me to the motor pool driving a deuce-and-a half (a 2½ ton truck). I’m a medic, not a truck driver! You’ve got to help me get out of there!”

            “I’m sorry,” she said. “There are no slots open for SF medics in Nam until July.” “Is there anything available with the 46th Company in Thailand?” (These were guys who might go TDY (temporary duty) to Vietnam.) “Sorry!” she replied. “How about 1st Group on Okinawa?” (The 1st was also a TDY possibility). “August!” “Then how about the 8th in Panama? There are always Che Guevera-types to go after.” “Nothing in Panama, not ‘til June.” “Gosh, what about Germany, the 10th Group?” (I didn’t really care so much about the Soviets and Communists in Eastern Europe. They aren’t shooting at us, but what the heck. It would get me out of Ft. Bragg.) “No, sorry again.” “Well, then put me down for Vietnam for July.” She did, I thanked her, and two weeks later I received my alert orders for Vietnam.”

            “I was going to war! I arrived in Vietnam on July 19th and two days later Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped onto the Moon while Michael Collins orbited overhead. These two “arrivals” that week have always seemed ironic to me in that the astronauts had made history by completing one of the greatest feats in mankind’s history, and although I wasn’t making history, I was about to enter into a war that would become part of history. And that history would be with me forever. I had entered the Army on 06/12/67 and now two years and two weeks later 07/21/69, fully trained, I had arrived where I wanted to be. “A small step for man…” // email from Don MacIver

Bob “Baron” Bechtoldt Remembers Mrs. “A”

“After completing phase two training I had heard there was a lady in the Pentagon, a Mrs. Alexander, who was in charge of EM orders. She was better known to everyone as Mrs. ‘A’. I called her (on more than one occasion) from a payphone in Fort Bragg, NC, with a pocket full of quarters. She was trying to help me get orders for schools or SF assignments. She was a really sweet lady who—even though she had loads of work on her desk–always took my phone calls and took time to explain to me how things worked and what was available. In the summer of 1968 I was in the 2nd half of Special Forces Engineer training–heavy equipment, bridging and map orientation. My classmates consisted of about 50 young men who had just received their flashes and been assigned to the 3rd, 6th, or 7th Group. We had gone through engineer training together since phase one to phase two, about eight months. At that time there were no levees (demand) for engineers in Vietnam, so more than likely we would be stuck stateside.

So my classmates concocted a plan to talk with Mrs. ‘A’ at the Pentagon. She said get her a list of names of the guys that wanted to get on orders for Vietnam and she could get us on a list for a school at Fort Holabird and then Vietnam. After engineer training, the guys that were on the list were sent to Fort Holabird (96B) Intel Analyst course. We all thought we were going to be stuck behind a desk plotting maps in Vietnam but little did we know we were going to be sent to SOG. A few of my classmates were assigned to ‘A’ teams, the rest were assigned to CCC and CCS. The guys that went to CCS from the Engineering course were Fred Winters, Dave Paul, Harlan “Sandy” Sandell, Phil Strout (KIA) Larry Wood, Marty Lincoln, and Malone. After I was back from Vietnam and out of the Army, I called Mrs. ‘A’ one last time to let her know all was well. She said she was watching for the names of the SF personal she knew. She told me she was glad I make it back.”// email from Bob Bechtoldt

Chief SOG Blackburn Phones Mrs. “A” for Help

SOG Historian John Plaster, wrote in his book, SOG, A Photo History that“When SOG’s original recon men began rotating out, Chief SOG Blackburn phoned Mrs. Billye Alexander at the Department of the Army personnel office to obtain top-quality Green Beret Replacements. She enthusiastically supported Special Forces. Thanks to Mrs. Alexander’s patriotic and unacknowledged support, throughout the war more than a few of the “cream” of the Green Berets reached SOG’s ranks, ensuring a qualitative edge for these most dangerous operations.” (John Plaster, SOG, A Photo History, pg 34.)

Mrs. “A” Helps Jim Bolen With Orders For Nam

As a SF reservist, Bolen wanted to apply for active duty in Vietnam in 1967 but was turned down. He relates in his book, NO GUTS, NO GLORY how Mrs. ‘A’ gave him his wish. “Most people do not know this, but there is one woman at the Pentagon who was in charge of and controlled all movement overseas of Special Forces troops: Mrs. Alexander or Ms. “A” as she was called. I got on a plane for Washington in my full-dress uniform (I had travel orders from my reserve unit), with my father and my personnel files, and headed to the Pentagon. Being in the Special Forces, it was easy to get in and see her. I introduced myself and laid my personnel file on her desk and ask her if I was Special Forces-qualified. She looked it over and said, “You are more qualified than most Special Forces on active duty, why do you ask?” I explained my problem about getting to Vietnam. She laughed, gave my file to her assistant, and told me to wait a little while. A short time later, I had orders to go to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for shots and then headed to Vietnam.” (Jim Bolen, No Guts No Glory, pg 37.)

Ronald R. DeCarlo’s Remembrance of Mrs. Alexander

“Yes, I remember Ms. Alexander. Late 1968 I was in Co. E, 7th SFGA at Ft. Bragg. I went to see Ms. Alexander to get an in-country assignment to C&C at CCS. I think you could make an appointment with her. My team Sergeant Major set it up for me. We also set up Ranger school for just before I would go to Vietnam. Unfortunately Ranger school was rescinded and 10 weeks of Vietnamese language school was substituted, I stayed at Ft. Bragg for language school. My in-country date was within one week of what Ms. Alexander said it would be. She was a very nice lady, seemed like somebody’s mother. She asked if I was sure about what I wanted to do. I said yes, I had thought about it for some time and she said ok, and told me when I would be going.” // email from Ron DeCarlo

Brendan L. “Ben” Lyons Remembers Mrs. ‘A’

“Mrs. A! I hit 6th GP from Training Group in Oct 1968 as an 11b3S but plenty of them in VN so no 11b’s were going anywhere. I got her phone # from an NCO – All the ‘Old Hands’ knew it! So the day after signing into the 6th, I submitted the appropriate request for transfer/DA Form (1498? back then) and waited around a month or so. Nothing happened so I put that number to work and I think I had to use a pay phone. Twice I got her NCO assistant -forgot name- but after the third time, over a space of a few weeks, he said that if I called again he would see to it that I got an Article 15, or some-such threat. Well, as a brand new E-4, that slowed me down for a month or so, but around January/Feb. 1969, I got orders for the 12 week Vietnamese language course at Bragg and then to Vietnam with a 30 day leave in May and reporting date in Vietnam of June, ‘69. No doubt in my mind that if I played the game and waited for the system to work for me, I’d have waited a mighty long time! Although I never did talk with her, that NCO Admin guy sure did so: “Thank You Mrs. A”! Over the years I’ve talked with guys that hit the 6th with me as 11b’s and most went nowhere, except their ETS after their three year enlistment so that just confirmed what I already knew – She did push the right buttons! What a good friend she was to us but from what I gather, she also had many a sad moments when one of ‘hers’ was KIA or MIA, so she did pay a high price for going all-out to help SF guys get to VN.”// email from Ben Lyons

Don MacIver “Negotiates” with Mrs. “A”

            “In the Spring of 1967, I volunteered for the Army for three years, I volunteered for Airborne, and I volunteered for Special Forces. I had gone through the entire Special Forces Qualification Course including the 42-week SF Medical Specialist Course (often as an honor graduate in certain cycles), but I had just completed a 12-week Limited Fluency Vietnamese Language Course at Ft. Bragg, NC. Then I was assigned to 7th Group at Bragg, as a truck driver! I had just attended the inauguration of President Richard Nixon and decided it was time to do what I had always planned to do since the day I received “Greetings!” from President Lyndon B. Johnson: Go to war! There was a war going on, I had just spent two years in training to become a soldier in a most elite unit, and I was going to be a part of that war. The only people I ever knew who went directly to the Pentagon to get their choice of assignment was SF, and I count myself among those distinguished few! I had heard of the Pentagon’s Mrs. Alexander (Mrs. ‘A’ as she was affectionately called) who handled all SF enlisted men’s orders, and decided to pay her a visit.

            When I sat opposite Mrs. ‘A’, I told her, “I want to go to Vietnam!” It was 01/21/69, the day after the inaugural. I explained, “I just finished a year and a half of training. I’m a qualified Special Forces medic. They assigned me to the 7th Group at Ft. Bragg and assigned me to the motor pool driving a deuce-and-a half (a 2½ ton truck). I’m a medic, not a truck driver! You’ve got to help me get out of there!”

            “I’m sorry,” she said. “There are no slots open for SF medics in Nam until July.” “Is there anything available with the 46th Company in Thailand?” (These were guys who might go TDY (temporary duty) to Vietnam.) “Sorry!” she replied. “How about 1st Group on Okinawa?” (The 1st was also a TDY possibility). “August!” “Then how about the 8th in Panama? There are always Che Guevera-types to go after.” “Nothing in Panama, not ‘til June.” “Gosh, what about Germany, the 10th Group?” (I didn’t really care so much about the Soviets and Communists in Eastern Europe. They aren’t shooting at us, but what the heck. It would get me out of Ft. Bragg.) “No, sorry again.” “Well, then put me down for Vietnam for July.” She did, I thanked her, and two weeks later I received my alert orders for Vietnam.”

            “I was going to war! I arrived in Vietnam on July 19th and two days later Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped onto the Moon while Michael Collins orbited overhead. These two “arrivals” that week have always seemed ironic to me in that the astronauts had made history by completing one of the greatest feats in mankind’s history, and although I wasn’t making history, I was about to enter into a war that would become part of history. And that history would be with me forever. I had entered the Army on 06/12/67 and now two years and two weeks later 07/21/69, fully trained, I had arrived where I wanted to be. “A small step for man…” // email from Don MacIver

Fred Morse Gets Help on Assignment from Mrs. “A”

“Billie Alexander-I was sent to Brooke Army Hospital after I was wounded. After my first series of operations, I was told I would be sent to another Army camp while waiting for other operations. The Master Sergeant (MSG) told me he would send me to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma because it was close to home. I did not want to go to Ft. Sill to a regular unit. I wanted to stay with Special Forces. The MSG told me I would report to Ft. Sill. I called Billie and told her my story. She asked where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to Ft. Devens to stay with Special Forces because I had already been to Ft. Bragg. She told me to go back to the Master Sergeant and give him her number. I gave the number to the MSG and he was angry and told me I would go to Ft. Sill. I refused to leave his office until he called Billie. He got her on the phone and his attitude changed. I went to Ft. Devens, thanks to Billie.” // email from Fred Morse

Jack NeSmith Meets Mrs. “A” in the Pentagon

Jack brought a class roster from Camp Holabird for Mrs. ‘A’. She looked at it and told him something to the effect, “Tell so & so to quit calling me…” // email from Jack Nesmith

“Doc” Quackenbush Gets Help From Mrs. ‘A’

“I called Mrs. ‘A’, with respect to getting my orders to RVN (Republic of Vietnam – South Vietnam), at the end of January in 1969. After speaking with her briefly, and her asking if I had filled out my request for transfer, which I told her that I had. She asked if I could hold to speak to the Colonel. I told that I would gladly talk to anyone that could help me get orders to RVN. After holding for a few seconds a Colonel Quackenbush (No relation) came on the phone, and he asked me for my number in case I ran out of quarters. When I ran out, he called me back, and we continued our conversation. He wanted to know why I had turned down the appointment to West Point and OCS (Officer Candidate School). My answer to this was the same I had given everyone else—that I wanted to see how I could handle combat before I even think about leading any one into combat. He then told me that I had given him the best answer he had ever gotten, to that question. He then told me that I would have my orders in approx. a month. I got my orders the last week in February 1969.” // email from Doc Quackenbush

Larry Wood & Smoke Bomb Hill Gang Get Help from Mrs. “A”

Sergeant Wood said, “I was one of Mrs. Alexander boys that came out of Ft. Holabird in ‘69 to SOG recon. So I know and trained with most of the core RT (recon team) guys at CSS and CCC from our initial stint at Smoke Bomb Hill on to SOG ‘69-‘70. The core of the RT teams that served in that era all came out of the SF Smoke Bomb Hill Training Group graduation class of 01/18/68. I was a 1-1 at CSS until my run in with Sergeant Major (SGM) Matamoros who was recon head NCO at the time. The 5th Group Command Sergeant Major whose name I can’t recall saw how miserable I was driving the Colonel; he took pity on me and approved my transfer request to CCC where I ran recon as a 1-1 and later 1-0 for team New Hampshire for the rest on my tour. Overall, I ran around 20 missions while in country with two bronze stars, air medal awards plus the normal RN stuff we were awarded.” // email from Larry Wood