Veteran Salute: Law enforcement service goes beyond Army

Veteran Salute

SUBLETTE, Kan. (KSNW) – Army Veteran and retired police commander Charlie Armentrout says in 1960 that he knew he would be drafted, so he enlisted.

Since there wasn’t much going on in Sublette, Armentrout would ride around with the Haskell County Sheriff, listen to his radio, and visit about being in law enforcement.

Perhaps it was those ride-along opportunities that went on to shape a long career in service.

“Immediate recognition for a job well done,” Army Veteran Charlie Armentrout said.

Armentrout described what challenge coins are all about, and he would know since he has about 350 coins.

Some of them reflect his military days, like one from Fort Riley. Others prove he’s been gathering them for years.

“I’m a collector of stuff,” Armentrout said.

Challenge coins (KSN Photo)

He also has tons of lapel pins and even some bizarre finds.

“I got a couple weird handcuffs over here.”

He also held on to things like his baton, which he used many decades ago when he signed up to serve.

“So I called the finance company on my brand new 61 Ford convertible and said you better come get this because I ain’t gonna be here to pay for it.”

He went to basic training in Carson, Colorado.

“Colder than a well diggers patootie.”

He remembered one training exercise during a blizzard where they walked 10 miles before setting up tents.

He said the young recruits could find as much as two inches of ice inside their tents.

“Breakfast on your steel mess kit. The eggs and stuff would freeze to it.”

Despite the extreme cold, he learned so much while in training.

“I learned very early in the military that there is three ways to do things, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and the military way, and immediately you dump the first two.”

He said the training was intense because they were preparing the 5th Infantry Division for what they could see.

“It was called a mechanized division and was supposed to be anywhere in the world in 72 hours and ready to fight.”

Armentrout was Military Police and said they would set up traffic check points and help get people where they needed to go during times of peace.

During the way, he said they would care for prisoners of war and serve as gate guards.

Armentrout served during some pivotal points in history.

“They had Russian and American tanks rolled up to Checkpoint Charlie muzzle to muzzle.”

He said the troops were always on alert, and at times, they wouldn’t even let them leave their barracks.

“We had ammunition, food, things drawn and was ready and then finally they decided to resolve that issue,” Armentrout said.

Armentrout spent three years of his service stationed at a General Depot in Germany.

“We were primarily gate guards.”

After his time in Germany, he was sent to Korea.

“So they sent me up in the DMZ, and I was a guard for the United Nations Command,” Armentrout said. “I talked and visited with the North Koreans.”

He said big meetings were happening at the United Nations Command.

“The buildings were set on the 38th parallel, half of the building was in North Korea, half in South Korea,” Armentrout said.

He was stationed in Panmunjom.

“Nights, we could hear the tracers ricocheting and grenades going off and stuff like that.”

He said the enemy even shot up the compound at one time.

“A person had to pay attention, and it was tense, but it was interesting and exciting.”

He said there was always competition between the nations.

“Everything was one-upmanship.”

He said even the size of the countries’ flags was subject to war for the Koreans.

“We got a taller one, then they got a taller one, and it wasn’t long until the flags were so tall that they couldn’t stand up in the building,” Armentrout said.

He said the flag battle got so big and bad, had to have a meeting to determine how tall flags could be for the meetings.

“That was probably the most unique experience of my life because I saw a whole other nationality.”

Armentrout said they didn’t have very many positive interactions with the Koreans, and he feels not much has changed.

“I have very little hope we will ever come to a resolution with the North Korean people.”

He said they would be driving by, and the villagers would throw snakes in their military jeeps.

When he looks back at his time in the Army, Armentrout said that he realizes everyone should serve the country.

“When people get the opportunity to visit Germany, Korea, and I am sure many of the others, they get a better appreciation for what we have.”

Once he got out of the Army, he already had six years of law enforcement experience.

Armentrout went on to find just the right fit for his future with the Garden City Police Department.

He said he served as a patrolman, was then quickly promoted to a corporal before climbing to sergeant.

He said a couple of years later, he was again promoted to captain and was in charge of the patrol division and the cadets in police training.

Armentrout served and protected for 31 years before he retired as a commander.

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