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Class Notes

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2004 Distinguished Graduate Award

    GEN Glenn K. Otis '53 

General Otis began his career as an enlisted soldier on occupation duty in Korea following World War II, was selected from the ranks to attend West Point, taught at the Military Academy, fought valiantly as a cavalry squadron commander in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968, directed the XM-1 Tank Task Force that produced the technologically superior Abrams main battle tank, and positively affected the lives and training of thousands of soldiers as Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division, Commanding General of Training and Doctrine Command, and as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army Europe during key periods of the Cold War. He then continued his service to his country as a core member of the Defense Science Board, the highest-level board advising the Secretary of Defense, and a number of similar, national-level advisory boards.

After the normal company grade junior officer assignments, he pursued a master's degree at Rensselaer and taught in the Department of Mathematics, followed by a tour of duty with the 1st Cavalry Division on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea.

In Vietnam, he commanded the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, of the 25th Infantry Division during the Tet Offensive of 1968. On 30 January he rapidly deployed his outnumbered squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Field and defeated a superior attacking force by dint of personal leadership and inspiration. For that battle, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. For their gallantry in action, the entire squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. For other actions, he received the Silver Star, another Purple Heart, the Legion of Merit, and eight Air Medals.

As a staff member in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, he forcefully presented strong analytical arguments to Dr. Henry Kissinger for the extension of the Draft for two additional years to smooth the transition to an all-volunteer Army. This was the course of action eventually selected by the President and presented to Congress.

After promotion to brigadier general (the first member of his class to reach that rank), he was assigned as director of the XM-1 Tank Task Force, responsible for providing a replacement for our aging M60 main battle tank. He fought hard to provide a revolutionary rather than evolutionary replacement capable of "winning the first battle of the war." It is due to his perseverance that engines were switched, provisions were made to upgrade the main gun from 90 mm to 120 mm, the turret was stabilized to permit firing on the move, advanced night vision technology was integrated, and suspension, armor and mobility were upgraded. Despite its unique and atypical development track, the Abrams tank proved to be overwhelmingly superior to the best enemy tanks during Desert Storm.

As commander of the 1st Armored Division ("Old Ironsides") in Germany, he was reinforced with a Canadian brigade for a Reforger exercise against the 1st Infantry Division. The obvious route for the armored attack was up a broad valley; attacking up the other side would require a difficult river crossing. General Otis covered the broad valley with one brigade and all the support vehicles he could muster as a diversionary measure while the attacking brigades moved under cover of darkness and in total blackout and radio silence to the river. After successfully making the difficult crossing undetected, they were able to attack deep into the opposing force's flank and rear, terminating the exercise shortly after dawn.

General Otis commanded the Training and Doctrine Command during a time of critical change in the concept of how best to coordinate air and ground forces in the Air-Land Battle and integrate new equipment, known as the "Big Five," into our combat units. He met that challenge and then applied it on the ground as Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe, effectively modernizing his myriad of units, gaining the respect of our Allies, and establishing tentative contacts with military leaders of nations of the Warsaw Pact.

Upon retirement, he has continued to provide counsel to senior government leaders by membership on a number of critical advisory boards, including the Defense Science Board, the Ballistic Missile Defense Advisory Board, the Central Intelligence Agency Advisory Board, the Army Science Board, and the National Academy of Sciences Board on Army Science and Technology (Chairman for three years).

For a lifetime of selfless service to West Point, the Army, our Nation, and many of our Allies, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to "a soldier's soldier" who always led by example, Glenn Kay Otis, Class of 1953.

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