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Oklahoma Honor: The Flag of Forward Operating Base Kalsu
by Army Capt. James Robertson - January 4, 2012

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FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (12/31/2011) - Bob Kalsu was considered an American hero even before he lost his life in the Vietnam War. Now, almost 40 years later, the 180th Cavalry had the privilege of contributing to the U.S. Army's attempts to honor him.

Sgt. Maj. Robert Leimer, brigade operations sergeant major, and Lt. Col. David Northridge, deputy commander, both of 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, present a folded American flag and certificate to Maj. Andrew Ballenger, executive officer of 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry, Oklahoma Army National Guard on December 7, 2011. The flag was the last flag to be flown over Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. FOB Kalsu was named after Oklahoma native Bob Kalsu, a first lieutenant who was killed in action in Vietnam July 21, 1970. Kalsu was best known for being an All-American football player for the University of Oklahoma, as well as being 1968's "Rookie of the Year" for the Buffalo Bills. The 180th Cavalry will present the flag and certificate to Kalsu's daughter.  Photo by Army Capt. James Robertson
Sgt. Maj. Robert Leimer, brigade operations sergeant major, and Lt. Col. David Northridge, deputy commander, both of 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, present a folded American flag and certificate to Maj. Andrew Ballenger, executive officer of 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry, Oklahoma Army National Guard on December 7, 2011. The flag was the last flag to be flown over Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. FOB Kalsu was named after Oklahoma native Bob Kalsu, a first lieutenant who was killed in action in Vietnam July 21, 1970. Kalsu was best known for being an All-American football player for the University of Oklahoma, as well as being 1968's "Rookie of the Year" for the Buffalo Bills. The 180th Cavalry will present the flag and certificate to Kalsu's daughter.  Photo by Army Capt. James Robertson
 Kalsu is best known for his being an All-American Tackle for the University of Oklahoma football team, as well as being an eighth-round draft pick of the pro football's Buffalo Bills in 1968. After his first year as a professional football player, he was named as the American Football League's “Rookie of the Year.” On top of his new professional football career, he had a young family, including a young daughter and a new baby on the way. He had everything going for him.

But that same year, Uncle Sam came calling. While going to school at OU, Kalsu had been a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Army organization that trains college students to become officers. After completing the program, he was not selected for active duty and was allowed to sign with the Buffalo Bills. Following the 1968 season, he entered the Army to fulfill his service obligation and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After training as an artillery officer at Fort Sill, Okla., he was assigned to the famous 101st Airborne Division and soon found himself deployed to the A Shau Valley, one of the most deadly areas in Vietnam. On July 21, 1970, his unit came under enemy mortar fire, and as a result, Bob Kalsu was killed in action. His family was presented with a posthumous Purple Heart
medal.

The U.S. Army again honored Kalsu in 2005. A unit from the New York Army National Guard, stationed in Buffalo, N.Y., established a forward operating base, or FOB, in southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They named the base “FOB Kalsu.” Since then, the base has been a hub for operations in the region, even more so in the closing days of the Iraq War.

The final unit to occupy the base was the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who were charged with closing the base down. After lowering the American flag for the last time, the brigade's deputy commander, Lt. Col. David Northridge, presented it to Maj. Andrew Ballenger, the executive officer of the 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, a unit of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, so that they would have the honor of presenting the flag to Kalsu's daughter.

Ballenger, himself a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, said, “This is a way I can help show gratitude to the Kalsu family, who themselves sacrificed and who are heroes in their own right. This is only a very small token of appreciation to someone whom every American citizen owes a great debt.”

By Army Capt. James Robertson
1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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