Alva D. Greenup
Delta Recon 1967-1968
USAFR 1972-2002

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 1945. My father was a career Air Force Warrant Officer, and my mother was a housewife. Consequently, my life was shaped as an early baby boomer and military brat, whose teen years were the late 50s and early 60s of America. During those years, the absence of material possessions was more than made up for by being a young American and enjoying the travel and adventure associated with the military lifestyle.

In 1953, my family moved to Bad Tolz, Germany, where the 10th Special Forces Group was in the process of being organized. Those were incredible, fascinating years, even for a dependent. In my junior year of high school, my father was transferred to the Washington DC area, and I slowly became bored with school. Although I was a moderately skilled athlete, I was a mediocre student, and began to notice I had developed a crazy wild streak and suffered from excessive nervous energy. Today, that affliction would be diagnosed as ADD (attention deficit disorder) and treated with drugs. In those days it was treated with the school principal’s paddle. You had to be tough to have ADD in those days. In spite of this, I was allowed to graduate High School in 1963.

A move to Hawaii in 1964, and a stab at college, quickly proved equally boring and uneventful. Joining the 24th Special Forces Group (Army Reserve) at Fort DeRussy, HI, was intended to be a compromise between academic necessity and the quest for adventure. But by 1965, the Viet Nam situation was beginning to escalate, and the lure of adventure became overwhelming. Based on this desire for excitement, and the patriotic challenge of President Kennedy, I transferred to the active Army.

Interestingly, those traits (the wild streak and the nervous energy), which I considered assets during those early years, began to have profound effects on my life. Little did I know that, although those traits make my life abundantly more interesting, they had already, and would continue to, marginalize all academic endeavors. More importantly, they would make tremendous demands on personal relationships. The first clue came while serving with the “B” Company, 6th Special Forces Group in 1967, when a combination of this wild streak, and boredom of the post ash and trash detail, finally had an effect. I got side ways with the famous Special Forces officer, Charging Charlie Beckwith. Fortunately, a benevolent sergeant major, who knew Ms. Billie Alexander’s phone number, intervened in my behalf. A quick call and the sergeant major turned to me and said “Son, you are about to get all the adventure you can stand”. Many years later, I would learn how prophetic those words were.

In September 1967, I reported to the compound of B-52, 5th Special Forces Group (Project Delta) in the Republic of South Vietnam. I had been remotely aware of Project Delta. One of the VN returnees in the 6th Group had been a member and had told some war stories in the barracks. Even with this knowledge, the sergeant major’s incoming briefing was still an attention getter. Soon, I realized this was the real deal and every expectation was to be exceeded. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Project Delta would be the standard by which I judged all other organizations, and little else has ever measured up to this experience. Had it not been for malaria, I would have extended my tour in Vietnam. But in September 1968, malaria was sufficient justification to return to the states, get out of the Army, and go back to college. Once again, I was a marginal student, but I studied sufficiently to graduate from the University of West Florida with a business degree in 1972.

While a college student, I married a spirited Florida coed. After graduation, I was presented with an opportunity to go to Air Force pilot training. Being a military pilot was a life long ambition, and the opportunity was irresistible. I completed Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, TX in June 1972. The next day, my wife and I proceeded to Williams AFB, AZ for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Although I was an average student trainee (I didn’t appreciate the importance of instrument flying), we had a lot of fun and I graduated from UPT in May 1973. My wife, my father and my old Project Delta partner Garry Stedman attended the graduation ceremony.

After completing C-130 training at Little Rock, AR and other requisite training I finally reported to my squadron. In time, I evolved into a damn good pilot and upgraded to instructor in minimum time. In 1979, I was offered a position as an Air Reserve Technician, Instructor Pilot, with the 919th Special Operations Group, flying the AC-130A gunship. This was a coveted position and the ideal career track for me. I loved the flying, I loved the military and I loved the profession. Later, I checked out on the MC-130E, Combat Talon I. That was a tremendous aircraft of unbelievable capability, and drew the most macho missions in the Air Force. With the exception of my last two years, fate had rewarded me with operational flying status throughout my entire career as a pilot. All in all, I managed to finish with a mildly successful military career, retiring as a full colonel with 33 years of service in 2002. Throughout it all, I always regarded my Project Delta time as the highlight of my life.

Along the way, in addition to my Viet Nam service with Special Forces, I was a participant in a number of adventures in Africa, and Central and South America. Additionally, I participated in the invasion of Panama (Just Cause), the Haiti adventure, the first Iraqi war (Desert Storm), Afghanistan, and the second Iraqi war (Iraqi Freedom). There has been no shortage of adventure. Life has been extraordinarily fulfilling in that regard.

In spite of that crazy wild streak and the nervous energy, which I have never outgrown, I have had an often-tumultuous marriage and love affair with the same woman for 35 years. In spite of my worst efforts, she has made me a healthy, wealthy and contented man. She is also the mother of my daughter who has demonstrated that she has successfully exorcised the worst inherited traits of her old man, and has perfected the best-inherited traits of her mother. Both are fine women.

In this short narrative I am unable to adequately explain the events that allowed me to do the things I have done, and to endure and survive in the way that I have. I would like to think it was equal parts skill and luck, but that would be a gross overestimate of my skill. Regardless, I have been privileged to serve our great nation, and I have been rewarded in many ways. This is particularly true of the many enduring friendships that have developed over the years. Of these, the men of Project Delta remain special to me. The movie clichés of the American soldier/warrior don’t come close to capturing the character or personifying the ethos of that extraordinary group of men. I am extremely proud to have been a part of Special Forces Detachment B-52, Special Project Delta, 1st Special Forces Group, and will regard myself as a RECON man until the day I die.