Fort Hood: Air Assault School renamed in honor of Vietnam War hero

Fort Hood’s Air Assault School was renamed Tuesday in honor of Command Sgt. Maj. Basil l. Plumley. (Fort Hood photos)

FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) Fort Hood’s Air Assault School was renamed Tuesday in honor of Command Sgt. Maj. Basil l. Plumley, whose actions in the first major battle between U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese Army in 1965 were recounted first in the 1992 book “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young” and in 2002 on the big screen in the movie “We Were Soldiers Once,” in which actor Sam Elliot portrayed Plumley.

The Air Assault School teaches soldiers how to evacuate and rappel from helicopters behind enemy lines.

"Plumley's legacy will provide an inspiring example to other soldiers, and through the memorializing of the facility in honor of him, we have the opportunity to validate the values that he personified,” said 1st Lt. Chadrick Dewitt, Phantom Warrior Academy executive officer.

“This dedication will honor his contributions and commitment to the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood tenant units and the United States Army.”

Plumley, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, was commended for his leadership during the four-day Battle of Ia Drang in 1965 which more than 230 Americans were killed and more than 250 were wounded.

"Sergeant Major Plumley was a character," says Joe Pena, who operated under Plumley's command during the Vietnam War.

"He didn't cuss, but he would come into the barracks and you better be doing something or he would give you kitchen duty right quickly," he says.

"Because of him a lot of men and a lot of men after us survived," adds Pena.

"And just like in the movie, Sgt. Major Plumley said, 'I'm not going to be your wife, your girlfriend, your mama, your daddy.’"

The no-nonsense leader also served in World War II and the Korean War and was celebrated for his exceptional will and courage.

"When my dad was in hospice one day, he got 160 pieces of mail from all over the world. He got mail every day he was in there," says his daughter, Debra Funkhouser.

She accepted a dedication plaque in his honor Tuesday.

"He was a great father, a great husband to my mother, and a great grandfather to my kids," she says.