Lt. Alexander likes to say that he didn’t join the Army, the Army joined him. Faced with a choice of paths to go in life, he chose the Army. His “acceptance” into military life was arranged within the week. Once he was in the Army, he began to thrive. Away from home with only training to concentrate on, RB was consistently ranked at the top of his class.
When it came time for his placement exam, he was asked to leave the room when he got to the officer level placement tests since he did not have the requisite education. At that very same moment, his drill instructor was walking by and demanded he be allowed to test. Seeing as his instructor was a very big, very hard man, he was allowed to stay. He passed with flying colors and was placed into Officer Candidate School (OCS).
Once again, Lt. Alexander thrived in OCS, graduating top of his class. Such a ranking allowed a soldier to go career, but that’s not what RB wanted. He instead opted for the reward usually offered the second ranking graduate, his pick of schools and duty locations. RB knew that if he could make it one year and one day into his two year commitment, the Army could not send him to Vietnam for a one year tour. So he picked Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) because it was the longest school and a placement at Fort Lewis, Washington. Since Fort Lewis had just sent a large group of officers to Vietnam, it was unlikely they would be calling from there again soon.
Seeing as this is a film about Vietnam veterans, you’re probably wondering where his plan went wrong. It all unraveled at an officer’s roll call with the general. RB was supposed to set his business card on a platter, shake the general’s hand, have one drink and leave. He instead opted to have a few drinks, undo his tie, place his arm around the general and proceed to explain how the two of them were going to make Fort Lewis even better. Not only was he on a plane within days, the general first sent him to Fort Sherman for jungle warfare training in Panama. He was making sure RB was going to end up Vietnam. Which is exactly what happened.
Once in Vietnam, RB says he landed in cotton. His primary role as an EOD tech was to patrol the base perimeter for explosive devices and detonate them as needed. Things began to change when Apache Troop came calling. They needed an EOD tech to come out into the jungle with them. They had found cement lined bunkers and an expert was needed to destroy them. RB is the first person to tell you he was terrified for his first foray into the jungle, but they made it in and out safely. He blew those bunkers sky high and the men loved it.
That was the first of many adventures for him with Apache Troop. He helped them destroy vehicles used to transport rockets for the NVA. He blew up bunkers and enemy caches for them. They were quite comfortable together. So when the troop suddenly found themselves in need of an emergency fill-in Lieutenant, RB got the call. He says it was a total drug deal on the part of command. As an EOD tech, he was not the right designation to lead an infantry platoon. But in war, you make do with what you have until you can fix the problem. RB took command and was able to steer them through until a replacement Lieutenant was assigned.
One of the things he is most proud of is his recruitment plan to bring more troops over from the Rangers. Since they shared the same flight line, Lt. Alexander made sure to have a BBQ going whenever the Rangers came back from a tough mission. He would send some steak and beer to their hooch and remind them that Apache Troop had all the toys, all the firepower and they got to sleep in their hooch every night. It was quite successful until the Rangers asked him to stop.
Upon leaving the Army, RB settled into a career into a successful career in real estate but still dabbles from time to time with the military. One of the most notable times is when he went to Iraq in 2004. He used his training as an armorer to teach the troops how to keep their weapons clean and operational in a desert environment. It was his experience coming home to that welcome compared to his return from Vietnam that is one of the exact focuses of this documentary. In service to his country, Lt. Alexander was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantry Badge.
RB is now happily retired and living in California. He lives every new day to the fullest as a thank you for the gift he was given of surviving the war.