Band of Brothers: CSU’s ROTC Class of ’63

1963 ROTC class reunion, from left to right: Clint Wood, Gary Autrey, Darell Zimbelman, Bob Halverson, Bill Williams, Tom Filline, and Jim Zimmerman.

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

ROTC was mandatory for men at CSU until 1962. When the requirement was eliminated, many dropped out. Those that remained and completed ROTC instruction in the spring of 1963 became close: “For us, ROTC was like a fraternity; we became brothers.” Most were commissioned that June; a few were commissioned following completion of their degrees.

These veterans have held annual reunions for almost 25 years. The impetus for the reunions was one of their daughters, Cpt. Erin (Williams) Brand (B.S., ’96), U.S. Army. While she was a CSU student, the first female ROTC battalion commander, her father came to campus for a visit and began to wonder about his old ROTC pals. She encouraged him to get them together for a reunion.

Bill Williams
Bill Williams, Silver Spruce yearbook, 1963

Maj. Bill Williams (B.S., ’63), retired U.S. Army, served a tour in Korea near the DMZ following his commissioning. He then volunteered to become a member of Special Forces, going to Fort Bragg for training. He served as an instructor at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, later becoming commander of an officer candidate company. He also did two tours in Vietnam. During the second tour, he volunteered for the 101st Airborne Division. In 1970, during the Battle of Ripcord, they were assigned to take a hill; he lost 1/3 of his company that day. They pulled out but eventually returned to retake the hill.  Later, while serving as battalion operations officer, Williams was wounded. He suffered severe brain trauma and contusion to the brain stem as well as holes in his left lung and jugular. He was medevacked to Japan and then to Letterman Army Hospital in California. When he was finally ambulatory, he left the hospital, married his sweetheart, and was assigned to Fort Carson for “Adventure Duty Training,” which involved troops walking along the Continental Divide from New Mexico to Wyoming. He is a life member of the Alumni Association.

Bob Halverson

Maj. Gen. Bob Halverson (B.S., ’63) retired U.S. Army, went on active duty in March, 1964. Over the years, he was stationed in the United States, Germany, Vietnam, and Belgium. He left active duty 15 years later as a major. After working with the Texas State Emergency Management Office, he joined the Texas National Guard and later was promoted to General, commanding the 49th Armored Division. He instituted training and active-duty military doctrine in anticipation of the division’s deployment to a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, which he commanded. His plans to retire in 2001 were delayed by the events of 9/11; the Texas National Guard was deployed to airports in Texas and critical sites in nearby states. Although he officially retired in 2002, he continued to help train soldiers headed for Afghanistan. He also serves on the Board of Directors for corporations who do work for the Department of Defense, volunteers for the USO at Fort Hood, and serves on the Military Affairs Committee of his local Chamber of Commerce. Halverson was inducted into the Texas Military Forces’ Hall of Honor in 2014 and the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. He is an Alumni Association member.

James Zimmerman, 1963

Lt. Col. James Zimmerman (B.S., ’63), retired U.S. Army, began military service stationed in Europe with the 14th Cavalry, protecting the east/west Germany border. His next posting was at Fort Polk, followed by Vietnam in 1967-68. While in country, he fought in the Battle of Huê, one of the longest and bloodiest of the war. He later did a second tour in Vietnam. His next stop was St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, where he completed an M.A. in political science, followed by four years teaching in the university’s ROTC program. Later he served as training officer for Fort Knox, then on the training board for all Army units. After retiring from the Army, he spent 22 years as varsity basketball coach at Somerset High School in San Antonio; seven of those years he also served as assistant football coach.

Class photo of Zimbelman
Darell Zimbelman

Dr. Darell Zimbelman (B.S., ’64; M.S., ’66) began active duty upon completion of a graduate degree in civil engineering. After attending the Engineering Officer Basic Course at Fort Belvoir, he became the assistant post engineer at Fort Monroe, followed by a one-year tour in Vietnam. His first assignment in country was putting together pre-fab barracks near Saigon that the 90th Replacement Battalion used for processing soldiers in and out of country. His next assignment was with the 41st Port Construction Company. Initially, he supervised construction of a 1000-foot long bridge across the Saigon River. During the last few months in Vietnam he served as the company operations officer. After returning from Vietnam, he spent his last three months of active duty at Fort Lewis. He then worked for the Army Corp of Engineers in Oregon followed by eight years at the Salt River Project in Arizona, during which time he completed a Ph.D., doing a dissertation on automatic canal control. He returned to Loveland in 1982 and worked for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District as the associate general manager and chief engineer. He received the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering Personal Service Award in 1997 and served as president of the Dean’s Council in 1997-98. He is a life member of the CSU Alumni Association and currently serves on the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Advisory Board.

Clint Wood
Clint Wood, Silver Spruce, 1963

Clint Wood (B.S., ’63; M.S., ’65) applied for a delay in active duty following commissioning and earned a graduate degree. He then went to field artillery basic training at Fort Sill, following which he “climbed on a train and 24 hours later climbed off in Oakland, walked 100 feet to a 5-deck troop ship, which then sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge to Okinawa. The next stop was Vietnam.” His first assignment was helping Marines on combat missions near the DMZ. He later was the survey officer in the Fire Direction Center with the 1st Battalion, 40th Artillery, on duty from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week. Following his discharge, he spent two years in the reserves.  His first job in civilian life was working for Farmers Insurance with his father-in-law. He stayed in the insurance business for the rest of his career.

yearbook group photo
Tom Filline, center; Bill Williams top center

Tom Filline (B.S., ’64) spent four years in the Army. After one year in Germany, he was transferred into special weapons. When his time in the Army was over, he earned an M.S. in industrial engineering, but then took a position with an insurance company, where he met several men who wanted to start their own insurance company in Fort Worth. He decided to join them. After a number of years, he sold his interest in the company and bought a section of land near Jacksboro, Texas, where he created Dos Equis Ranch and raises Black Angus cattle. The ranch is in the Cross Timbers area, which is located at the boundary between heavily forested country and the Great Plains. Filline says, “this part of Texas was made for me!” He also is a motorcycle rider. While at CSU he was known as the guy on a motorcycle with a slide rule in his back pocket.

Gary Autry yearbook photo
Gary Autry, Silver Spruce yearbook, 1963

Gary Autrey (B.A., ’63) spent two years following his commissioning on active duty in Korea, an experience “he wouldn’t have traded for anything.” He “got to learn about the people and some of their language.” He then spent four years in the reserves, after which he joined the family business as co-owner of Autrey Investment Corporation. He served as president for 17 years and sold the business in 1990.  They also started Autrey Brothers, a business that manufactured, rented, and sold materials for commencements, including graduates’ robes and rings for high school and Air Force Academy graduates. Like the other members of the 1963 ROTC Class, Autrey, a life member of the CSU Alumni Association, really enjoys the reunions. “We each did something different in the military and in life after. As the years go by, the stories get embellished!” The good company and adult beverages likely encourage those embellishments.

Among the stories these men tell are highly laudatory ones about two members of the Military Science faculty, Maj. Patterson and Maj. Nier, who “played a critical role” in their careers. The CSU Alumni Association honors the service of the 1963 ROTC class and of all CSU veterans.