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By Betty Vanderwielen
Pathfinder 

Butterworth's Military Career Highlighted

 

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U.S. Army Colonel Larry Butterworth

SEELEY LAKE – Seeley Lake Montana has become the home of a number of retired military personal. Among them is Larry Butterworth, retired colonel in the United States Army.

Though Butterworth came from a patriotic family – six uncles served in either the U.S. Army or U.S. Navy – growing up he had no military aspirations for himself. What he did have by his senior year in high school was a four-year scholarship to Virginia Tech and a probable engineering career in his future. A casual trip to his high school's College Night changed all that when Butterworth picked up a brochure about the United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York.

Butterworth said though he was not sure he wanted a long-term military career, he was nonetheless convinced West Point would provide him with one of the best educations available. He deemed it well worth the subsequent mandatory three-year service commitment it entailed.

Butterworth passed the physical, academic and aptitude tests, received the required endorsement from his Congressional Representative, and entered the academy in early July 1957 for Beast Barracks, which he describes as a weeding out period.

"It's a time for the academy to determine whether you really belong there or not," Butterworth said. "First off, whether you belong in the military, and then whether you can handle the pressures. So they really sock it to you from the first week of July until academics start after Labor Day."

Out of 780 entrants, almost 250 men dropped out of the program from Beast Barracks to graduation. Butterworth was not one of them.

"As it turns out, I fell in love with it [military life]," said Butterworth. "Fortunately, my bride Judi fell in love with it too."

Butterworth served for 28 1/2 years, half of them overseas. Judi said she estimated they, and eventually their daughters Kimberley and Kris and son Ren, lived in 35 different houses during that time.

Though Butterworth specialized as an Air Defense Artillery Officer, he said his career included a broad mix of command and staff assignments both in the United States and abroad. During one period he worked at the Pentagon under the army's highest uniformed officer, the Chief of Staff of the Army, who is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Butterworth's specific duties included aiding in the development of a five-year budgeting and programming plan for the army and following up on implementation of the plan. He called the work very interesting and personally rewarding.

Of his work at the Pentagon Butterworth said, "You felt like you were making a major contribution every single day."

Yet it was his command duties that he found most challenging and ultimately most rewarding. Chosen for "below zone selection" (i.e., promotion earned earlier than expected), Butterworth attained the rank of Captain and took command of an Air Defense Artillery battery (100 troops) in Korea; as a Lieutenant Colonel he commanded an Air Defense Artillery battalion (800 troops) in the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, Calif. and as a full Colonel he commanded an Air Defense Artillery brigade (3,000 troops) in units spread throughout Germany.

Butterworth also served as an Infantry Advisor to South Vietnamese units during the Vietnam War. Concerning that war Butterworth said, "I'm like most Vietnam veterans, I think, terribly disappointed in how our civilian government prosecuted that war, or failed to prosecute it, I should say. The American military never lost a battle but were never allowed to win the war because of restrictions put on them. We were never really given a chance to do what we were sent there to do."

Asked what he liked most about the military life, Butterworth immediately named the camaraderie, the close commitment. He said he felt absolutely committed to his subordinates, his colleagues and his superiors. According to Butterworth, it is hard to find another organization that unites all its members in a common purpose and commitment to country as does the military. He said he thought it would be beneficial for every young person to experience military life or engage in community service of some kind because it gives them an opportunity to give back to their country and their fellow man.

Knowing he would miss the military life, directly after his retirement Butterworth accepted a position with an American company in Saudi Arabia as their Director of Logistics, training the Saudi Arabian National Guard. He was there five-and-a-half years, four of those joined by his wife Judi, who conformed to the country's dress code for women and other restrictions such as not being able to drive. Judi also became president of the American Women of Riyadh (AWOR), an organization that brings together women whose spouses work for a number of American companies resident in Saudi Arabia. The AWOR helps newcomers adjust to life in foreign countries and provides social and other interactions for them.

Following his stint in Saudi Arabia, Butterworth accepted Program Manager positions in Angola, Macedonia and the Sudan.  In both Angola and the Sudan, his organizations provided for all facets of logistics support to the United Nations and international military units during civil wars in those countries. In Macedonia, Butterworth ran a security operation during the refugee evacuation from Bosnia into Macedonia and was chief advisor to our U.S. Ambassador.  In July, 2004, following his duties in the Sudan, he finally retired for good.

"I miss the military badly. The transition to civilian life was not easy. Those kinds of post-military jobs took a lot of the sting away. They made it a lot more palatable for me."

Betty Vanderwielen, Pathfinder

A retired Larry Butterworth relaxes at his Seeley Lake home.

Because both daughters and all the Butterworths' grandchildren were living in Montana, retiring to Montana was an easy choice. The Butterworths decided to build a home in Seeley Lake near their daughter Kris Martin who owns The Filling Station Bar, Restaurant and Casino. With the birth of Sam, the youngest grandchild, in 2008, living in Seeley Lake made even more sense.

Until recently, daughter Kimberley and her family lived in Cut Bank.  Kimberley's four children are all college graduates and two of them, Alexis and Danielle have represented the state of Montana in the Miss America Pageant – Alexis in 2012 and Danielle in 2015.  Butterworth said to his knowledge this is the first time two sisters have been selected to represent their state in this pageant.

Summing up his years in the military, Butterworth said, "It turned out to be a great career. I did 28 years. I retired as a full colonel and I got a chance to do just about everything an army officer could ever hope to do."

 

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