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Vietnam 50 Years Later Pt. 2: Facing the Enemy in Combat

Fifty years ago the U.S. signed a peace treaty that was supposed to end the Vietnam War. Robin Bartlett takes us back those 50 years to a "boots on the ground" account of his extraordinary combat experiences in 1972 as a 22-year-old 1st Lieutenant with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam.

As a combat infantry platoon leader, he deployed a 32-man platoon on search and destroy missions and helicopter assaults into hot landing zones at the height of the Vietnam War.

Today on the Lean to the Left podcast we’ll hear about the horror, fear, anguish, and sometimes illogical humor of that war. Robin talks about the long-term impact, both positive and negative, on his home life and business career...with insights about leadership, courage, PTSD, and life lessons learned.

Promoted to 1st Lieutenant after only one year, Bartlett at 22 assumed the leadership of the 1st Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Over the next seven months, he led a platoon on more than 60 helicopter combat assaults and search and destroy missions.

Bartlett grew up in a military family. His grandfather, father and brother all attended West Point, and in college, as the Vietnam War escalated and eighteen-year-olds were drafted daily, Bartlett joined his college’s ROTC program.

As a Distinguished Military Graduate, he volunteered for Infantry, Airborne, and Ranger training, and assignment to the 82d Airborne Division. He got everything he asked for…and more.

Bartlett holds a BA degree in Comparative Literature from Claremont McKenna College in California and a master’s degree in Media from Pace University in NYC. He has written numerous business publications and a professional book published by Dun & Bradstreet and is the author of a new book, “Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History.”

He is the President of the NY/NJ Chapter of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, and a proud member of the 82d Airborne Division Association. He and his wife live in Norwood, New Jersey, and have three sons, none of whom have pursued military careers.

Here are questions we asked Bartlett:

Q. We’re now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the treaty ending the Vietnam War. Tell us about your experience as a young lieutenant who was given life-and-death responsibility over young men, some barely old enough to buy a beer.

Q. Give us your perspective of the war from a “boots on the ground” point of view.

Q. How did you manage having misgivings about the mission while being required to follow orders and meet your responsibilities as a platoon leader?

Q. What did you learn about leadership, decision making, courage and fear?

Q. How did your experience in Vietnam as a 22-year-old platoon leader affect your post-war professional life? What have you been doing since then?

Q. Describe what it was like to participate in a helicopter combat assault.

Q. When did you come face-to-face with the enemy?

Q. You just completed a new video, “Firefights and Courage,” in which you describe an assault and its aftermath. Fill us in on that.

Q. Why are the words “Welcome Home” such an important greeting for Vietnam vets?

Q. Tell us about your book, “Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History.” What did you learn from writing it?

Q. Where can people find it?

Listen to the episode:

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