hatbuffalo soldierssabers

ASA crest7th Infantry
          DivisionASA patch



ASA on Wikipedia here. Take this presentation of information with a grain of salt, especially the 1945-1965 part. I joined the ASA well after 1965 at the age of 17 with an IQ of 143 and no college. Scoring in the top 10% on the military aptitude tests was still a requirement for membership in the ASA in 1972, which is how I was recruited.  The Army also tried to recruit me for the United States Military  Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS)  for West Point, while I was in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, but I wanted to see the elephant not spend more time at school.. I knew a lot of incredibly talented, highly intelligent folks who served in the ASA during the period from 1965 to 1977. It was also the period when the ASA became diverse, no longer exclusively for white males. I, and everyone that I served with in the ASA, had at minimum a Top Secret Crypto security clearance. It is true, however, that a great many of these soldiers were inspired to enlist by the draft. The ASA was directly subordinate to the NSA during this period and a lot of control over operations. The ASA of my time was treated exceptionally well and were considered an "elite" unit". The Wikipedia narrative is a good example of "you get what you pay for" with a site like Wikipedia. Portions of the article were biased and based on elitist ignorance, and a good dose of sour grapes when I first looked at it, but I have not been monitoring it, so that may have changed.. The NSA site, below, more accurately relates the facts about the history of the ASA.

 Links to the National Army Security Agency Web site.

The NSA's Army Security Agency memorial page. and here..

A few comments on life in the ASA/NSA

Being associated with the ASA/NSA was generally stressful due to the sensitivity and confidential nature of the mission. For instance, I received several commendations from the NSA but I have no idea what most of them were for as that was classified! Guessing there is a folder in some file cabinet in an NSA basement with my name on it with stuff like that in it. We were not allowed to talk about what we did outside of closely controlled environments and were debriefed for 30 years when we were discharged from the service, which means we could discuss nothing about our work during that time. That is part of the reason that information about what we did is fragmentary and efforts were started in the early 2000s by ex-ASAers to attempt to document the operational history of our organization, especially in SE Asia.

 We could not be put under anesthesia without another soldier with a similar level clearance standing next to our unconscious body to make certain we did not inadvertently reveal any classified information. There were several travel restrictions, countries we were not allowed to visit even after discharge from service. We were trained to closely monitor attempts to contact us or form relationships with those outside of our small intelligence community. Twice, members of my team were abducted (both men survived and were recovered) and there was a bounty on our lives in more than one war zone. I later ran into one of those men on the factory floor of Caterpillar Building X in East Peoria, IL! On a few occasions, I was "issued" amphetamines in protracted operations.

It was obvious that we each had one or more handlers inside the NSA as our performance was closely monitored. At least, that was my experience, based on how actively my work was scrutinized and commented on.

It was not unusual for ASAers to "break" under the strain in this environment and there were a few well known indicators of such a progression that made their team members start watching folks exhibiting these "symptoms" out of the corner of their eyes as this infrequently led to a violent episode.

So, it was an environment which lent itself to a certain level of mistrust and paranoia. After I ETSed from the Army, I was recruited by the CIA but only read the application they sent up to page nine of twenty five, before I tossed it. I assume that attempt was because of my security clearance and past association with the NSA? Vetting someone for a Top Secret+  security clearance is a lengthy, expensive process. At any rate, it was not a way life that I wanted to continue to live. 

Return to Top of Page