Memory of the Day: A Day in the Life of a Pentagon Staff Officer

LTG Weinstein with my MSM
Another story to share with you in a Memory of the Day. This photo shows from left to right, Lieutenant General Sydney T. Weinstein (Tom to his friends, General to me), that’s me in the Class A uniform, and I am flanked by my beautiful wife Nancy and my brother Wayne. Side note, this was the first time since chopping cotton in West Carroll Parish that Wayne and I had ever worked in the same place at the same time. We did both spend some time taking tickets at the Fisk Theater, but not at the same time.
This story is really about General Weinstein, who I came to admire and look up to as much if not more than any other General I ever met. General Weinstein was the first Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence DCSINT) on the Army Staff. Before it had been the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI), which was a two star position (Major General).
General Weinstein was really very down to earth, he had a large office overlooking the heliport at the Pentagon. By the way, the plane that crashed through the Pentagon on 9/11 went right through what had been his office 12 years before and proceeded through what would have been my office 12 years before. Anyway, General Weinstein’s office had his own latrine (restroom for you civilians out there), but he preferred to walk up the hall to the public latrines across from my office. I met him there often and he always had kind things to say. He had a great affinity for the folks in my office. Perhaps it was because, other than the two guys that were the head guys in our division we were all non MI (Military Intelligence) guys. We had reps from all of the other branches including Armor, Aviation, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery (me and Michael Spiegel) and others. The General would walk over to our office unannounced and come in to just shoot the breeze. Actually, shooting the breeze meant getting updates on our latest intelligence assessments, but it was in a very relaxed and conversational setting.
We did do formal briefings with him frequently and on occasion had to go in on a Saturday morning to brief him on a topic that was particularly urgent. We would arrive in his office early on Saturday morning dressed, as ordered, in casual clothes. The General was always in jeans and a sport shirt. He would invite us to sit at his conference table and offer us a can of chocolate soda, which he kept in a refrigerator in his office. We always declined. Nothing more distracting to sending your message than stopping to take a sip of chocolate soda. The General, however, always had a can in his hand and a dip in his cheek or gums. He used empty chocolate soda cans to discard the excess as we briefed. Another reason I was reluctant to take an offered can of soda.
He called me Kenny. No one called me Kenny anymore. That was a remnant of my childhood and I went to Ken about the same time I got married. I never corrected him on that though. I was always pleased that he thought it was ok for him to address me as such.
I have a lot of Weinstein stories to share and may share some another time, but for now just this one more. I had gotten a reputation within the Army Intelligence and Operations communities as the Go-To expert in all matters of Soviet Air and Missile Threats, so anytime one of our MI generals or colonels had to go to meetings related to new Army Air Defense systems, I would go to their office and brief them on the latest developments in the Soviet Air Threat and what our Operations and RDA (Research, Development, and Acquisition) people were doing to counter that threat. On this particular day, General Weinstein was going to the meeting itself because it was a decision meeting that required the principal staff to attend. I went to his office at the appointed time, about an hour before his meeting was to start, and gave him his briefing. He had a few questions and I answered them for him. When it was clear that we were done and it was now about 15 minutes till his meeting I excused myself to go back to work. He asked, “Where are you going?” I told him back to work, and he told me to come with him. OK, should be interesting. I figured he may have more questions on his way to the meeting and wanted me to accompany him as he walked across the Pentagon to attend. We walked briskly. He could move pretty well for a guy that couldn’t have been more that 5 feet 2 inches tall. We got to the meeting room and he went in. I hung back in the hallway. These meetings were normally by invitation only, and I had no invitation. General Weinstein came back out and motioned me to follow him. We went into the very large room that was full of generals and colonels. Now, I was a Lieutenant Colonel at the time so not too much junior to some in there, but still a bit uncomfortable. General Weinstein showed me a chair right behind his where I was to sit. I sat. Shortly a lieutenant colonel who was clearly responsible for attendance control made his rounds and as he came around the room, several people sitting got up and went out. He got to me and said I would have to wait in the outer waiting room. I got up to leave and General Weinstein turned around and told the lieutenant colonel “That’s alright, he can have my seat. He knows more about this stuff than I do anyway.” The lieutenant colonel apologized and I sat back down. Boy, what an ego booster that was. The rest of the meeting went about as expected. A couple of times General Weinstein would turn and ask me a question, which I answered. Most of the time he looked like he was dozing off or doodling, but certainly not paying attention. Then he would ask a particularly penetrating question or make a really profound remark that was always right on target. I had many memorable days in the Pentagon, but this may have been my most memorable one.

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