‘Full of professionals’ - U.S. Army veteran of Vietnam War achieves rank of colonel in National Guard
Beginning on a small dairy farm in Henley, moving forward with service with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and ending with a lengthy career in the Missouri National Guard, the life and experiences of Noland Farmer are like many whose stories of military service followed a twisted and unpredictable route. Born just days following the end of World War II, Farmer went on to graduate from Eugene High School in 1963, and embarked upon his employment endeavors when hired by the state.
“I did that for about a year and found out I wasn’t going to get rich,” he chuckled. “One of the guys I worked with said that he could get me a scholarship at Lincoln University if I wanted to pursue my education.”
Enrolling at the university in 1964, Farmer not only attended classes, but participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program while working part-time for the state at the Division of Welfare.
“With the Vietnam War going on, I figured it would be a matter of time before I was drafted and thought that if I was going to be sent, I might as well go as an officer,” he explained.
In the spring of 1968, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a minor in biology and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He began his active duty commitment several months later when he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for armored officer basic course. He spent the next four months learning all aspects of the operation and maintenance of tanks. When his training was finished in 1969, he received his first duty assignment with an armored cavalry squadron at Ft. Carson, Colorado. He was appointed the supply officer with overall responsibility for managing the fuel, ammunition, rations and clothing for the squadron.
“In November (1969), my orders came down for Vietnam,” he said. “I was flown to the base a Phu Bai and, after in-processing, I was sent to the base at Huế.” He added, “They found out that I had an education and background in agriculture and assigned me to a civil affairs unit.”
Lt. Farmer helped lead a team of soldiers responsible for teaching South Vietnamese civilians various aspects of farming including methods used to grow corn, raise chickens and gardening. Additionally, he mirthfully recalled, an unofficial element of his duties was taking care of the commanding general’s banana tree. A few months into his overseas duty, he was granted a compassionate reassignment to return home for a family emergency. For the remainder of his enlistment, he served at Ft. Leonard Wood in a section that processed soldiers apprehended for AWOLs (Absent Without Leave).
“My two-year commitment ended in November 1970, and I received my discharge from the Army,” he said. “I came back home and was working as a microbiologist for the Division of Health when I received a letter from the United States Army Reserve, stating I had four years left on my reserve obligation.”
When Farmer explained the letter to his brother-in-law, which also noted he would be assigned to a reserve unit for training, it was suggested he enlist in the Missouri National Guard as an officer with the 1035th Heavy Equipment Maintenance Company since they were short a platoon officer. In April 1971, he joined the Guard and became the platoon leader for the company’s Service, Evacuation and Supply Section, which recovered ground equipment in need of repairs in addition to providing repair parts for the company during training missions.
“I was promoted to captain and became the commander for the 1035th from 1974 to 1977,” said Farmer. “I worked full-time with the state until April 1979, when I went to work full-time for the Missouri National Guard,” he added.
In addition to serving in a part-time military capacity with the Command and Control Headquarters in Kansas City for three years, the soldier’s assignments included service as the executive officer for the 735th Maintenance Battalion in Jefferson City. His full-time military duties with the National Guard included working at the Combined Support Maintenance Shop from 1979 to 1993, when it was located on Industrial Drive prior to the Missouri National Guard headquarters move to the east end of Jefferson City near Algoa.
“Following the move, I was promoted to colonel and became the Surface Maintenance Manager responsible for the ground equipment for the Missouri National Guard with the exception of aviation assets,” he explained.
Retiring in 1996, Farmer worked ten years for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources before his final retirement in 2008. The married father of two children jokingly explained, “These days, I spend time with my wife, Mary, do a little hunting and a little fishing—but as little as possible because I’m retired!”
There are many aspects of his military career that possess enduring qualities, the most important of which have been the friendships he fostered during those years.
“I met a lot of great people in the military, especially in the 1035th!” he exclaimed. “Many of these people have remained my friends throughout the years and, in fact, one guy I’ve know for 50 years is still my insurance agent.” He added, “The 1035th was a collection of professional talents. Anything you needed to seek advice on was available in that unit—bankers, plumbers, electricians, welders, carpet salesmen … basically all trades and careers fields. That’s why I loved the guard; it was full of professionals.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.