First Sergeant Francke with SFC Wentzell
When I first re-enlisted in the Army in 2007, culture shock can't even begin to describe what I felt joining an Army maintenance company after almost 25 years as a civilian. I remembered many of the basics, but I was painfully out of practice.
Among the many people who guided me back into the world of camouflage and military discipline was First Sergeant Rich Francke. At my first drill, formation was at 0745 hours behind the Aviation Armory. I fell in with the rest of the company. One of the Staff Sergeant squad leaders ran up to the formation, took his place at the head of his file and then he was on the ground knocking out pushups after Francke said, "25."
With Top Francke, you were already late if the second hand on his old school analog watch was sweeping up toward formation time. I did those pushups the next month. All through the training for deployment in 2009, Top Francke made sure we knew the standards and he held me and everyone else to them. He was also funny. When I re-enlisted the National Guard was still using "Deuce and a Half" trucks for hauling soldiers and cargo. When we climbed in the back of one to go to range, Top said, "These vehicles are older than Gussman, if you can believe that."
I had assumed--hoped--he would be our First Sergeant in Iraq, but five years before he was on a deployment that stretched from a year to beyond a year and a half, so he decided to retire rather than deploy again. But he was with us up to the day we left and made sure we were as ready as we could be before we boarded the planes that would take us to Camp Adder, Iraq.