Maj. Mann recalls his military career

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND Maj. Russ Mann of rural Gilman reflects back on his long military career in both the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era and then his many years spent in various units of the Iowa National Guard.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

GILMAN — Four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a year in Vietnam was only the beginning of a long and very interesting military career for Maj. Russ Mann of rural Gilman.

Joining the Iowa National Guard in 1974 and attending the Iowa Military Academy led to his commissioning as a Second Lieutenant and then to several offices in the guard including patrol leader, company commander and motor officer while in the 133rd Infantry and then company commander and O4 Major in the 734th Maintenance Battalion.

“I joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and went to Navy School for nine months in Jacksonville, Fla., as an aircraft guarantee,” Mann said. “There I served as an aircraft repairman, before being sent to Beaufort, S.C. to a Marine Corps Air Station.”

He added that it was while there that he was married and he told his wife that if he got orders to go to Vietnam, he wanted to go. In 1969 those orders came and for the next year he was stationed at DaNang Air Base working on aircraft.

“I also volunteered for things like guard duty at a bomb dump and also as military security for doctors who would go out to an island just off of DaNang to treat people in a leper colony,” Mann said.

After coming back to the states, Mann took time to get his Associates of Science degree from Kirkwood Community college and then took a job at General Mills. In 1974, he decided to join the Iowa National Guard on a trial basis — however in one year had earned the rank of Spec. 4 and decided to stay. He accepted an offer to be sent to the Iowa Military Academy at Camp Dodge in Des Moines and it was there that he received his commission as a second lieutenant.

“From there it got interesting — fast,” Mann laughed.

He spent 10 years in the 133rd Infantry based out of Waterloo and Oelwein where he served as patrol leader, company commander and motor officer. After leaving the infantry he joined the 734th Maintenance Battalion based out of Des Moines.

In 1974, his unit the 3654th Direct Support Maintenance Company headquartered in Knoxville was activated to provide maintenance support for units in Desert Storm. His unit from Oskaloosa was sent to the Fort Irwin, California and to the Mojave Desert. They were there for about six months.

His unit came back to inactive status in Iowa and he became Commander of the 3654th part of the 734th Battalion over 275 men as an O4 Major. About three months later his company was sent to Italy near Pisa for a month to repair equipment that was broken in Desert Storm.

“Some of the things that our troops repaired were pretty nasty,” Mann recalled.

Within a year of returning from Italy, Mann retired from the guard with a good pension. He said he loved every minute of his rewarding years, but quickly said, “Well not every minute.

“When you are company commander there are a lot of extra duties required of you, and the thorn in my side was recruiting,” he said.

“I always wanted to join the Marine Corps and after surviving my stint in Vietnam, I would have to say the most rewarding part of my military experience was receiving my commission — that is when things stayed interesting and got much more challenging,” Mann said.