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New Jersey Kicks Off Oral Military History Project

By Army Sgt. Wayne Woolley
Special to American Forces Press Service

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Aug. 21, 2009 – An Army National Guard colonel who led a brigade in Iraq and a Vietnam veteran who retired from the Guard as a brigadier general recently helped New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine launch an oral history project to preserve the Garden State’s military legacy.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, right, talks with Army Col. Steven Ferrari on Aug, 17, 2009, about his experiences in Iraq commanding the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Neill

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Col. Steven Ferrari and retired Army Brig. Gen. Frank Carlini shared recollections about their time in war zones with Corzine on Aug. 17 after the governor signed a bill here creating the state Veterans' Oral History Foundation.

A board of nine representatives to be appointed by Army Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, New Jersey adjutant general, will guide the foundation’s work. The foundation will raise money and publicize efforts to capture the oral histories of New Jersey veterans and preserve them at the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey.

Corzine, a former Marine reservist, said he wanted to conduct the first few interviews himself to underscore the foundation’s importance.

"New Jersey's rich military history and centuries of contributions and sacrifices will be shared for generations," he said.

Ferrari told Corzine he was proud to have led the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the handover of Baghdad’s International Zone, a milestone of American involvement of Iraq.

“It was a historic time to be in Iraq,” Ferrari said.

The brigade began its mission in August 2008 with total responsibility for security and logistics in the strategic and symbolic heart of Iraq’s capital, an area also known as the Green Zone.

After several months of training their Iraqi counterparts, the brigade handed them responsibility for the area.

The brigade also was responsible for operating Iraq’s two main detention centers and more than 20,000 detainees.

Carlini’s military career spanned from Vietnam to the current conflicts. He retired last year as deputy commander of New Jersey’s Joint Force Headquarters. But it’s his memories of service as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 that will live on as an oral history.

Carlini’s memories of the war are a blur of 28-day stints on patrol in the jungle and leading a unit that was authorized 44 men but never had more than two dozen. He said his platoon rarely got closer than two or three kilometers to another American unit.

“I was afraid because, here I am, 22 years old with a platoon out away from everybody,” Carlini said. “I feared that I would do something stupid that would unnecessarily endanger my soldiers.”

Carlini left the Army when his tour ended. Two years later, he joined the National Guard and stayed for more than three decades. He said he has nothing but respect for the soldiers now serving in the all-volunteer military.

“These young men and ladies are more professional and smarter than anything we ever saw in the past,” he said.

(Army Sgt. Wayne Woolley serves with the New Jersey National Guard.)

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New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

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