Lieutenant General(R) Paul Funk knew he was going to join the Army early on when he enrolled in ROTC, he just didn’t know what a career he would be making of it. He originally left the military after his original commitment was up but when he looked back, he realized that he really liked it and wanted to go back in. So he did.
By the time he was sent to Vietnam in 1969, he was a Captain and had already commanded two companies. He was sent to Apache Troop right away and joined them as their Executive Officer. In due time, he was put in charge of A Troop (Apache Troop). He was especially proud of that assignment as command of Apache Troop was usually slotted for a Major but he was respected enough to fill the role as a Captain.
Command of Apache Troop was not a small job for General Funk. He had to oversea various elements that included helicopter gunships, scout helicopters, lift helicopters, their flight crews, the Blues aero rifles as well as the maintenance of all of the helicopters. He also had to make sure that all of those elements were ready to work together when contact was made with the enemy.
The reason working together was so paramount was because of the massive amount of firepower Alpha Troop brought to bear. In any one engagement there would be scout helicopters circling the scene, gunships, their own cobra helicopters, artillery support from multiple fire bases, rocket artillery support, and, if it was a big fight, air strikes from the Air Force. This all had to be run in coordination with the Blues on the ground who were relaying where, and more importantly, where not to strike in close quarter situations. Command of Apache Troop was not for the faint of heart.
After Vietnam, General Funk was faced with a choice when the Army decided to split the Cavalry into separate Aviation and Armored groups. It was assumed that he as going to stay aviation since he had so much experience in the Air Cav, but that’s not what he wanted. General Funk asked to assigned to Armor instead. His ultimate goal was not to be a pilot. He wanted to command. Some friends tried to advise against it, telling him he would not get command in a group he was not familiar with. Well, it seems to have worked out pretty well for him, and he most definitely got to command. His assignments include:
- Commanding General of U.S. Army Armored Center in Fort Knox, KY
- Commanding Lieutenant General of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Fort Irwin, CA
- Assistant Commander, 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) Ft. Lewis, WA
- Commander of the 194th Separate Armored Brigade; and 5th Battalion, 33rd Armor, Fort Knox, KY
- Commanding General, III Corp and Fort Hood, TX
- Commander, 3rd Armored Division, U.S. Army, Europe
He is the only Division Commander to lead the 3rd Armored Division in combat since World War II. In Operation Desert Storm, General Funk was responsible for helping form the battle plans to take down the Iraqi Republican Guard. It was not an easy task, but they sure made it look that way. Some have gone so far to call it The Last Great Tank Battle of the 20th Century.
General Funk likes to say that you can’t get to his rank without people wanting to give you medals, but the ones he truly cherishes are the ones he earned in combat with his brothers in Apache Troop. He is now retired and lives on a ranch in Texas.