“Be Alert Because It’s Coming”: The Relationship Between An RTO And A Platoon Leader

James K. Hackett & Al Walker


Jim Hackett was born in 1943, and grew up in Hawaii in the 1950s because his father was a finance officer in the Army. Born in 1947, Al Walker grew up in Dallas, Georgia, and his father was a farmer who sometimes worked construction. Al Walker graduated from high school in 1966, the same year Jim Hackett graduated from West Point. While Jim was getting his first experience in the Army in 5th Infantry Division, Al was drafted, and completed training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Tigerland, Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Eventually, the two of them linked up in 3rd Platoon, D / 1-5 Cavalry as a Platoon Leader / Radio Telephone Operator team. As the RTO, Al had the responsibility of sifting through incoming messages to make sure his Platoon Leader remained situationally aware at all times. The platoon was doing well at this time, spending much of their time in the field, and they adopted the name “Hackett’s Hunters.” Hackett recalls receiving orders from his company commander, who flew over in a helicopter and dropped the day’s orders tied around a rock. After returning from Vietnam, Al Walker left the military and had a rough homecoming. Hackett stayed in and was assigned to the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, where they performed thirty burials each day. In this interview, they talk about their childhood, joining the military, and their experiences in training. They describe deploying to Vietnam, and the relationship they developed working closely together. They discuss some of the people they served with and their actions in the platoon. They address some of the key missions they executed, and returning home. Finally, they explore what service means to them.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Camaraderie Morale Teamwork West Point History Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 18 April 2018


name James K. Hackett & Al Walker
institution USMA
graduation year 1966
service Infantry
unit 5th ID; 3rd Platoon, D / 1-5 CAV
specialty Platoon Leader and RTO
service dates 1968 1975