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2004 Distinguished Graduate Award

A distinguished combat veteran of two wars, a dedicated public servant, and a devoted community leader whose life has been characterized by a former Chief of Staff of the Army as an "example of service to the highest and most noble ideals of service to others and our nation," Robert M. Shoemaker is truly a distinguished member of the Long Gray Line.

After graduation from West Point in 1946, then-Lieutenant Shoemaker was commissioned in the infantry and received parachute and glider training at Ft. Benning. His early assignments were with the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in Germany; the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; and the 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. After establishing himself as a consummate professional in these early assignments, he went on to serve as an Infantry Branch assignments officer, an advisor to ARMISH-MAAG in Iran for two years, and a student at the Command and General Staff College.

General Shoemaker earned his aviator's wings in 1960 and, in subsequent assignments, proved to be influential in the Army's creation, design, and testing of tactics for the attack helicopter, Air Assault, and Air Cavalry. After flight school, he remained on the faculty at Ft. Rucker and commanded the experimental 8305th Aerial Combat and Reconnaissance Company, the forerunner of the current air cavalry troop. In 1962, he served on the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board (Howze Board), which studied and developed concepts for airmobility, and was then assigned to the Army Concept Team in Vietnam to document and assess the potential of Army Aviation. The following summer, he joined the newly formed 11th Air Assault Division at Ft. Benning, serving as the test division's G3. When that division was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division on 1 July 1965, he assumed command of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and led the battalion through the monumental challenges of its deployment and first months of combat in Vietnam. In December of the same year, he assumed command of 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, which was the only air cavalry squadron in the Army at the time.

After attending the War College and serving in the Pentagon as Chief, Plans and Programs for Army Aviation, then-Colonel Shoemaker returned for a third tour of duty in Vietnam as Chief of Staff for the 1st Cavalry Division, and in 1969 he became Assistant Division Commander of the "First Team."

Reassigned to Ft. Hood in 1970, General Shoemaker had successive assignments as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff for III Corps; Deputy Commanding General, MASSTER, the Army's newly created operational testing facility that is now the Army's only independent operational test activity; Commander, 1st Cavalry Division; and Commander, III Corps. In 1977, General Shoemaker was assigned to Forces Command as Deputy Commander. A year later, he was promoted to General and assumed command of FORSCOM. Throughout his military career, General Shoemaker made significant contributions to the development of innovative concepts that still serve as cornerstones of Army doctrine. His efforts have been formally recognized through his induction in the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.

Retiring after thirty-six years of distinguished service to our Nation, General Shoemaker returned to the Ft. Hood area where he has tirelessly devoted himself to improving the quality of life of the local residents. He served eight years as the elected Bell County Commissioner and has fostered an exceptionally close working relationship between the military and civilian leaders. When the Army announced the redeployment of 12,000 soldiers from Ft. Polk to Ft. Hood, General Shoemaker volunteered to chair "Howdy! Task Force" and led the community's effort to create adequate housing, schools, transportation, and physical infrastructure to support the influx of military families. Recognizing the need for an affordable public university to support the region's civilian and military population, General Shoemaker championed a seven-year campaign that resulted in the establishment of a Tarleton State University campus next to Ft. Hood.

Throughout his years of residence in Central Texas, General Shoemaker has served in leadership positions for various civic and professional organizations, including President and advisor to the President of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, President of the Heart of Texas Council of the Boy Scouts, and as President of the Ft. Hood Chapter of the United Way. For his countless accomplishments and selfless service, General Shoemaker has received numerous local awards. In 2000, the community named one of its newest high schools "Robert M. Shoemaker High School," the strongest testament to the admiration and affection that his neighbors in Texas feel for him. A living symbol of service to others, General Shoemaker visits the school almost daily to mentor, tutor, or cheer on the students, continuing to serve as the consummate role model of a "Leader of Character" for his community.

Robert Shoemaker is an exemplar of superb service and sterling citizenship. For a lifetime of selfless contributions to the betterment of the United States Army, West Point, our Nation, and his local community, the Association of Graduates is proud to present him with the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award.

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