Barney Forsythe grew up in a military family. His father retired as a Lieutenant General and his maternal grandfather also had a long and distinguished career. Barney’s mother grew up an Army Brat, the oldest of four daughters, and met her husband when he was stationed at the Presidio with the 30th Infantry Regiment. During WWII, he served in the Aleutians, on Kwajalein, and in the European Theater. By the end of the war, he was a Corps G3. In the 1950s, while assigned to the Pentagon, he was involved in the “Revolt of the Colonels” and began looking at the future of the Army, which became his focus for much of the rest of his career. Growing up around the world, Barney “discovered” himself as a runner in Hawaii, and also enjoyed participating in JROTC. He was appointed to West Point in 1966 and felt pride in the fact that his parents trusted him enough to travel from Hawaii to West Point on his own. In Cadet Basic Training, he saw both good and bad examples of leadership, and was inspired by his Squad Leader’s example (Joe Mangino, USMA ‘68). He ran track and cross country at West Point. He was also involved with his Class Committee and the Ring and Crest Committee, and served as the Vice President of the Class of 1970. His Class is proud of steps they took to reform the 4th Class System (which eventually became CLDS, the Cadet Leader Development System), including introducing reductions to “bracing.” For two years while he was at West Point, his father was deployed to Vietnam (1967-1969), working with CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support) before Commanding the 1st Cavalry Division, and they communicated through weekly letters. Upon graduation in 1970, he branched Infantry, and his first assignment was with the Berlin Brigade. One particular duty involved conducting the changing of the guard at Spandau Prison, where he also demonstrated his mettle to Rudolf Hess. While conducting training in Berlin, he learned important lessons on performance-oriented training, always asking “what else could happen?” Returning from Germany, he earned a Master’s Degree, and taught in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership from 1977 to 1980. This was a period of great change at the Academy, when the Class of 1977 honor scandal rocked the Academy in the spring of 1976 and women were first admitted in the summer. His next assignment was in Korea, where he served as the Battalion Executive Officer for the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, at the “end of the logistics pipeline.” Returning from Korea, he earned his PhD in 1984 and rejoined the Department of BS&L, remaining at West Point until his retirement as a Brigadier General in 2005 after serving in a variety of departmental and academy-level positions. After retiring from the military, he was a senior administrator at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, retiring as college president in 2008.
In this interview, he discusses his father’s career, his West Point experiences, and his Army service. He reflects on the changes he observed at the Military Academy across his nearly three decades there. He describes the impact of September 11, 2001, and the resulting efforts to develop a military academy in Afghanistan. He highlights the legacies of various leaders at West Point, including Superintendents and Deans under whom he served. He recalls numerous friends and colleagues, and explains what West Point means to him. At the very end of the interview, he provides a “behind the scenes” glimpse into the development of the Jefferson Hall Library and Learning Center.