Meet Your Board Members: Allen Dale Olson, Secretary, Public Affairs

by Circe Woessner

Dr. Allen Dale Olson, Secretary, Public Affairs has a long history of service—both as a Soldier and as a DoD Civilian. He comes to the Museum of the American Military Family with a wealth of Public Affairs experience. From 1967 until 1979, Ole, as he’s called, was an Executive Officer and Public Affairs Chief for the DoD school system’s European Headquarters in Karlsruhe.

“In that position, I visited nearly every Army, Air Force, and Navy installation in the European Area, which extended from sub-Saharan Africa to Bahrain to the Arctic Circle. The school system had an enrollment equal to that of the public schools in St. Louis but covered an area two-and-half times the size of the continental United States.”

Living and working overseas was not new; previously Ole had served in the Army in Germany and as a teacher in Turkey, Germany, England and France.

“My draft notice came while I was trying to become a pilot in the Air Force.  It was the spring of 1954. The Air Force recruiters sent me and about a hundred other guys to Chanute Field near Rantoul, Illinois, to test my aptitude for pilot training. Starting with my arrival, I was subject to batteries of physical, mental, and psychological tests all day long, and for the next day and the next. Every day, there would be fewer and fewer of our original recruits as they either dropped out or were told they couldn’t qualify. I made it to the end and was told I could enlist in navigator training but not in pilot training.

On the train back to Chicago I pondered the question of what to do, but I needn’t have; while I was sweating bullets at Chanute Field, my draft notice arrived, and my dad had been informed that at this point it would trump any plans to enlist. On June 5, 1954, after a tearful hug from my mother, Dad drove me to Fifth Army Headquarters in Chicago in time to catch a bus destined for Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. As the bus pulled out, I saw him, for the first time ever, with tears in his eyes. He later told me he thought I’d be killed in Korea and that he would never see me again.

But I didn’t go to Korea. After my sixteen weeks of basic infantry and artillery training and a two-week furlough, I was sent to help occupy Germany. As soon as I was off the troop ship in Bremerhaven, NCOs began recruiting me for basketball and baseball teams, but I decided to wait to see what my real assignment would be. I never found out because in Wurzburg, where I was awaiting an assignment, I was ordered to audition for the First Infantry Division Band and became a trombonist for the next two years.”

While in Wurzburg, Ole learned that the Defense Department had established a school system in overseas locations for the children of military personnel. As a former teacher and one who wanted to explore the world, he set his sights on getting into that system.

“Long story short – After my discharge and a year of teaching in Indiana and getting married, I got into the dependents schools system as a teacher of physical education and English, sent for a year each to Izmir, Turkey and Ramstein, Germany, followed by two years in London and then as a principal for a year each at Toul-Rosieres and Dreux, France. But with a new baby, my wife and I felt it time to ‘go home and settle down.’”

It didn’t last long. The lure of schools abroad and life with the military seduced the Olsons where they spent the next three decades in academia.

In 1979, Ole joined the staff of the U.S. Army Commander-in-Chief for Europe as the liaison between the Army and the DoD schools as well as with the other services on school-related issues.

“So from 1967 to my retirement in 1989, I lived and worked with active duty military personnel every day.  The draftee trombonist who once played “Ruffles and Flourishes” for flag officers spent more than 30 years preparing staff papers and organizing conferences for flag officers. Throughout those years my wife taught in DoD schools, and our daughter attended those schools and ultimately became an Army wife and a DODDS teacher. Our little family can truly say, ‘we also served’.”

Allen Dale Olson is glad to be part of the team at the Museum of the American Military Family.


2 Comments on “Meet Your Board Members: Allen Dale Olson, Secretary, Public Affairs”

  1. Excellent story about one of my favorite people! I love knowing Ole, and his stories should be in history books.

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