CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
Cold War / Post-9/11
David E. Corbin
Cold War / Post-9/11 Oral History Interview
US Army, New Jersey Army National Guard
Date: February 6, 2019
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Michael Mazzola
David E. Corbin was born in October 1950 in Toms River, New Jersey. Although he came from a military family, his family members discouraged him from joining the military, since some of his relatives were killed in Korea and Vietnam. Following the closure of the Vietnam War, however, Corbin enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard artillery. During his initial training period, he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. In addition to detailing his basic training, Corbin spoke during his interview of the desert, arctic, and jungle training he received at Forts Hood and Bliss.
Corbin described his military experience in detail, stressing how much time and effort went into preparation and safety concerns while firing artillery. He said “artillery [guns are] basically like a giant rifle with 1-ton bullets shot at targets 10 miles away, often by inexperienced, disinterested men in the middle of the night far from medical care or support.” It was Corbin’s job to ensure that the men stood to the highest standards of safety. However, he described one instance while training in Fort Leonard Wood, when a soldier disobeyed safety procedure and unfortunately got run over by a truck.
Corbin described the long-term effects that even he suffered; the most common of which is hearing loss. Even in practice drills, the artillery used a wartime gunpowder charge, in blank rounds. He also served as a Motor Transport Supervisor. In this job, Corbin was “responsible for supervising and/or operating wheeled vehicles to transport personnel and cargo.” He described transport as “the backbone of the Army’s support and sustainment structure, providing advanced mobility on and off the battlefield.” Corbin not only managed personnel, but also took part in his men’s work, loading and unloading heavy artillery shells, and he suffered a torn rotator cuff in the process. He also trained men in convoy defense techniques. Corbin eventually rose to the rank of First Sergeant of Battery C, 3rd Battalion of the 112th Field Artillery.
On September 11, 2001, Corbin had been off-duty yet rushed to battalion headquarters after the terrorist attacks. His battalion was deployed to the Jersey City Armory to perform security patrols in public transport centers, including the George Washington Bridge and PATH terminals. He vividly recalled the uncertainty as to whether the Guardsmen should carry live ammunition. Eventually it was decided to carry live ammunition, because the most important thing in the service is to take care of your brothers in arms. Corbin also recalled the fear in civilian eyes as they stared at Corbin and his fellow soldiers walking the streets with M16 rifles. His words capture the post-9/11 fears that the common man faced, as well as his experience as a soldier.
Luckily, Corbin never had to use his rifle nor detain any suspects in his time at Jersey City. As units were dispatched to take part in Operation Enduring Freedom, Corbin’s was sent to Mannheim, Germany, to replace a battalion deployed to Iraq. In Germany, and later Vincenza, Italy, Corbin’s battalion acted as Military Police, to “protect the lives and property on Army installations by enforcing military laws and regulations.” They also cooperated with local law enforcement, the Polizei in Germany and Carabinieri in Italy. He described the professional relationship between his unit and local law enforcement. After his deployment in Europe ended, Corbin’s unit came back to New Jersey, where he retired in 2008.
Corbin had a part-time job at New Jersey Natural Gas, a company in which he feels he is “family”. He worked full-time for a couple years, but went back to part-time, as his brother was suffering from kidney failure and subsequently passed away. Corbin then joined the American Legion and served as an instructor in a training course held at his battalion’s headquarters; the program was called the Instructor Training Course. He has since retired from his civilian occupations and is living a peaceful life in Toms River, New Jersey.