Bob Chelberg and his younger sister grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan. His parents were both college educators. His father was a chemistry professor and his mother taught music appreciation. As a boy, he enjoyed sports and “mechanical things.” His uncle, William Gribble, graduated from West Point in 1941, and introduced Bob to the idea of attending the Academy. One of his first memories of Beast Barracks was walking up the hill from the train station and being told to drop his bag. Having already completed a year of Air Force ROTC at Michigan Tech, he felt that he understood the rigors of Cadet Basic Training. He enjoyed military classes, but found Spanish to be a challenge. Corps Squad basketball and tennis took up a lot of his time, but it was worth it when his parents were able to watch a game in Detroit where Bob scored 12 points. He branched Artillery, and his first assignment was with an Air Defense Nike Hercules unit at Selfridge Air Force Base. He then requested a field artillery unit and was assigned to an 8-inch battery in Germany. In 1966, he deployed to Vietnam as the S3 of the 2nd Battalion of the 94th Artillery near Khe Sanh, where he remembers providing fire support for the Marines, shooting over 106,000 rounds of 175mm ammunition that year. He returned to Vietnam in 1970, this time as the S3 for the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery in the 1st Cavalry Division during a period when American forces were drawing down. After taking time to earn an MBA, he was assigned to Ft. Hood, Texas, where he served as the S3 for the 2nd Armored Division and commanded 1st Battalion, 14th Artillery from 1974 to 1976. His next command was the 528th Artillery Group in Turkey from 1981 to 1983. He then served as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Commanding General of Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, from 1984 to 1986. Seven years in Europe followed, where he served in Italy, on the staff of the Supreme Allied commander, Europe (SACEUR), and at SHAPE Headquarters (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). He was in Europe when the Berlin Wall came down, which changed everything in Europe, including the status of forces on the continent. From 1990 to 1991, he was a special advisor to the Secretary General of NATO. After retiring as a Lieutenant General in 1993, he remained in Europe as the Deputy Director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his experiences at West Point, and his service in the Army. He shares highlights of his career, including service in Air Defense and Field Artillery units. He discusses his deployments to Vietnam, and his extensive service in Europe. At the end of the interview, he reflects on what his service and West Point mean to him.