Emil Posey first thought about enlisting in the military when he was in college in Maryland. When he graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland in June 1966 and was not ready for college, his mother suggested he enlist.
“She thought discipline would help me and that’s what she did,” he said.
Posey entered the military in February 1967 with the goal of becoming a paratrooper. He attended the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., And was appointed Second Lieutenant in the Infantry in January 1968 at the age of 19. On December 22, 1968, he arrived in Vietnam.
The infantry officer was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group. He became the Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Officer of the A322 Special Forces Operational Detachment at Camp Katum in Tay Ninh province, north of the town of Tay Ninh, on the Cambodian border.
Six months later, he was transferred to A321 at Camp Ben Soi as a liaison officer for the Vietnamese special forces unit that managed the camp.
“These two camps were on the Cambodian border,” Posey said. “I saw quite a bit of action.”
He received the Silver Star for his role in a battle at an enemy base camp near Katum on April 23-24, 1969. “We have been in contact (with the enemy) intermittently for two days,” a- he declared.
From February to May 1970, he was assigned to the Vietnam Military Assistance Command Study and Observation Group at the southern Quan Loi launch site. He was the deputy launching officer. He helped deploy reconnaissance teams, monitor them while in Cambodia and extract them after their missions. He provided command and control during the aerial firefight while operating a Huey helicopter.
The captain was selected to visit the MACV SOG headquarters in Saigon from May to August 1970 where he served as an administrative logistics officer. He spent a year and a half in Vietnam, from late December 1968 to August 1970, including a six-month extension for which he volunteered.
“I was commissioned at the age of 19, which in retrospect was too young. I was in Special Forces at 20, which in retrospect was too young. I was in Vietnam for most of eight months leading special forces combat troops before I was of voting age because I wasn’t 21 until August 1969, ”Posey said. “For the Vietnam soldier, it was a young man’s war.
“I was the perfect soldier because I was apolitical and fearless. I looked at it then and now as a positive experience. I considered Vietnam to be my majority. Overall I enjoyed it. It helped me to become a man.
Posey said he “felt alive in Vietnam. I was free. At 20, I was making decisions that some guys don’t until their 30s or 40s.
He still remembers watching from a helicopter as a scout team was extracted while under fire on the ground below. He remembers the adrenaline rush and feeling of responsibility and working alongside elite professionals.
Posey was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with three devices, Vietnamese Bravery Cross with Silver Star, Vietnamese service medal, combat infantry badge and Vietnamese jumping wings. He was one of five inductees this year into the Madison County Military Hall of Heroes. Others include John Lowe, Ronald Funderburk, William Laird, and Michael Boyd.
He said he most remembers “the part of feeling alive, I had a lot of responsibility at a young age”.
Born in Haleyville, Winston County, he and his older sister and brother were raised by their mother. His parents divorced when he was young, so he never knew his father. She moved the family to Maryland and that’s where he grew up.
Posey left the military in 1972 after more than five years of active service. He received a BA in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, in 1976. He remained in the Reserves until 1996, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years of service. Posey came to Huntsville in December 1986 to work for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The New Market resident retired in 2008 as a procurement officer for the Space Launch System program.
He and his 22-year-old wife, Rhoda, together have three children – two sons and a daughter – and three grandchildren. At 73, he is an avid reader, a member of the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table, and a life member of the Special Forces Association and the 175th Infantry Association. He enjoys reading about military history, political science, physical science and science fiction.
Posey shared his thoughts on commemorating this nation 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“Public service of all kinds must be recognized and in particular public service which puts people at risk,” he said. “And that certainly covers the military, but it also covers other things, of course.”
Editor’s Note: This is the 346th in a series of articles on Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.