Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series focused on David Vosburg, a veteran with local connections.
When his four year contract came up, Vosburg re-enlisted for another four years, this time with the clause that he would be sent back to Germany. Flying into Frankfurt, a sergeant from his unit came to pick him up since Vosburg was the only soldier arriving at the base that day. While they drove to Darmstadt, the sergeant, who was part of the electric light and maintenance unit, learned Vosburg had the ability to fix switchboards. Interested, the sergeant picked Vosburg’s brain on his knowledge of the subject.
“When we came into Darmstadt, to the unit, instead of going straight to the headquarters to sign and check in, he took me to the bowling alley. Instead of going into the bowling alley, he went to this picnic table area at the end of it. At the table was a sergeant major and four first sergeants all having lunch. He told the sergeant major, ‘this is Spec. Vosburg. He’s just been picked up. He’s supposed to go to Alpha company, but, sergeant major, you know that we need another soldier in the electronic maintenance shop and Spec. Vosburg has a history of repairing switches.’ The major looked at me, looked at a first sergeant and said, ‘sorry, you lose.’”
Now Vosburg was a part of the headquarters company in the electronic maintenance shop. Instead of running nodes and switchboards, his job was to repair them. While at Darmstadt and as Vosburg’s knowledge and ability in repairing the equipment increased,Vosburg became a senior specialist and the subject matter expert for his warrant officer.
“If any communications, whether it was satellite, troposphere or anything of this nature was attached to a node center or any type of switch we oversee, I had to have a general knowledge of it. Anything in my job, I was supposed to be the expert, so that when they turned around and looked at me and I said yes or no, that kind of solidified the warrant officer’s decision.”
This time in Germany, Vosburg connected with a German program titled American-German Friendship Organization. The program aimed to give American soldiers a chance to leave the barracks, and, in turn, the Germans who connected with the soldiers improved their English.
“I still remember a German guy who said he was trying to learn American English. He had been taught by a British teacher, so he thought he knew some slang. He made a comment, ‘hey you want to go outside and get a fag?’’ — which is British slang for a cigarette.
Through the program, Vosburg earned some friendships with some Germans who then took him to places they liked around the country.
“So I would come out of the field, and [soldiers] would say ‘anybody have plans for the weekend?’ ‘Yup.’ ‘What are your plans?’ I have no clue sir.’ ‘What?’ ‘My German friends have already made plans, they texted me, I’m supposed to be at the gate at such-and-such a time.’ I didn’t know where I was going.”
Sometimes his friends took him to soccer stadiums, other times they’d take him to restaurants. One time, Vosburg ran in the Frankenstein Castle Run. The 13 kilometer marathon ran up and down the hill which the castle that inspired Mary Shelley’s novel sits on.
Approaching the end of his tenth year in the army, Vosburg is faced with a dilemma. According to the military’s rules, if someone has not been promoted to a sergeant by the end of the 10 years, they’ll be discharged for a lack of “forward progress.”
“The problem that they didn’t understand is, as a specialist in a node center, most of the time, I had all the power of [staff sergeant] and none of his problems. Ok, he got paid 50 to 100 more dollars a month, but I didn’t have to deal only with his problems, but I made all the decisions that they were going to make. So I had no real reason to get promoted.”
Still, Vosburg had to approach the promotion board. To start, first sergeants asked questions generally about the military. Vosburg answered without issue.
“I’m not nervous or scared. That’s some of the things they’re looking for, seeing if they can get you flustered, panicked, whatever.”
The sergeant major, who normally does not ask questions, Vosburg said, then voiced questions “at rapid fire.” They were all MOS specific questions. Again, Vosburg answered them all.
“When he got done, he told all the first sergeants, ‘see? There’s nothing technical we can teach him. It is only the tactical,’” he said. “He was making the point that there was no reason not to send me to school for promotion. He had already decided it.”
So the board sent him to learn from a primary leadership development course. He was officially promoted to sergeant March 8, 2002.
Vosburg’s birthday is Sept. 12. Since joining the military, he had been in the field during his birthday. 2001 was the first year Vosburg was able to do so. His German friends had prepared a party for him. When the planes hit the twin towers, the military went on full alert, dashing their plans.
“It became very difficult for me to enjoy my birthday when I’m constantly being reminded that 3,000 people died the day before. For years and years, I basically avoided my birthday. I didn’t want anything to remind me of it.”
How 9/11 happened also weighs on Vosburg. The military couldn’t defend from the attack because the terrorists snuck into the country. There never was an opportunity for them to defend.
“They didn’t come through the military. They came in, went around us and killed 3,000 people. We didn’t get to fight. It would have been a whole lot different, my opinion would have been a whole lot different, if they came at us. Even if we lost, and I don’t think we would’ve.”
Invasion of Iraq
Vosburg stayed in Kitzingen until 2003, when President George W. Bush decided to launch the invasion of Iraq. Going with his division, the 3rd, he manned the communications as the army moved toward Baghdad.
“We would go so far, and then we would be told by EMP’s that we’re too far forward. The infantry hadn’t totally secured this area, so we’d have to go back. We’d drive backwards for a day or so, spend the night, then turn around and go back and pass where we were.”
His unit stationed 30 kilometers south of Baghdad for almost six months until the city was secured. Staying in Camp Victory, Vosburg stayed another six months until his year tour ended, returning to Germany for a year. He returned to Baghdad shortly after for another year.
“The second time we got ready to go… [the brigade sergeant major] made a mandate that basically charged every NCO to make sure every one of our soldiers came back. I was lucky. I was able to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, we had a soldier that was killed by an improvised explosive device, and we had a soldier who committed suicide.”
By the end of his second time in Iraq, Vosburg had reached the end of his contract again. He had been in active duty for 14 years. Around this time, however, the military decided to upgrade it’s communication systems from MSE to joint nodal network, aka JNN. Attempting to apply for a position in the new system, the military rejected the application because they were “critically short” for positions in MSE since everyone else was transferring to the new system.
For a couple reasons, Vosburg decided to retire from active duty and join the Army Reserves. First, the positions he could apply for were a step down in position. Second, Vosburg had tried to be in control of where he had been and where he worked as much as he could thus far, and moving into the Reserves helped him maintain that control.
“I was told I could get severance pay if I joined the National Guard or the Army Reserves. I talked with the recruiter for the National Guard/Reserves, and found an MOS I did want. It was 25 Bravo, which is basically computer repair, running the computer systems in the unit instead of phones.”
Vosburg also found a position in a regional readiness command in Wichita, Kansas, meaning he could move back home to Salina. Though his position and workplace changed over the years, he stayed in Kansas in the Army Reserves until 2019 when he retired from the military.
“I ended my career in the reserve unit in Kansas City almost 27 years to the day. In fact, that had been my plan but the paperwork got done faster then I had planned, so I was done one week short.”
After the army, he attended DeVry university virtually and earned degrees in technical management computer network administration.
Selflessness is a major part of serving in the army to Vosburg. Part of that service to Vosburg is doing his job right and trusting those around to do their job right. Vosburg said, during when he was in the Reserves, he received questions about his opinion on decisions that those in political office and active duty have made and whether they should be kicked out of office.
“When you’re active duty, one of the things you’re kind of told is that we defend the constitution, it doesn’t apply to us. We’re outside of it. All your court rights and stuff of this nature comes from the constitution. As a soldier, all of ours are protected by the uniform code of military justice which is in some ways as good or other ways even better, but we don’t get to choose,” Vosburg said. “As you read down the oath, the first thing is the constitution, then it’s the orders of the president of the United States and all that stuff. Those are all after. The constitution is our first concern.”
Those in high positions when Vosburg served were serving and protecting the constitution just like he was. Those above him had different skill sets and backgrounds, yet were chosen for their jobs just like Vosburg was chosen for his. Did they make the right decision? Should they have shot down the planes before they crashed into the World Trade Centers?
“I can’t say they’re right or wrong,” Vosburg said. “I’ve never had that job. My job has been to make sure the communications lines go through.”
So, with his story, thoughts and emotions in mind, here is how David Vosburg deals with how he “killed them all.”
“Technically, my job was responsible for all of them, the good and the bad. Every medevac [helicopter] that took off and saved soldiers was carried by our communications. Every order to kill somebody came through our communications. So I don’t dwell on that because I can’t control that. My job was to make these communications work. Those that I protected and served far outweighed what I don’t know about.”