EXCHANGE: Now a professor, a veteran changed his plan during the war


Don Uchtmann served in the Coast Guard, began his law studies and became a professor at the University of Illinois.

Lt. Uchtmann, now 72, grew up in Sparta, Illinois, not far from the Mississippi River.

But he is mostly a landlubber.

At the Coast Guard, "I learned to fly an office and respect each other's seafaring skills," he said.

Uchtmann values ​​his experience in Vietnamese times, giving him teamwork skills.

He carries the flag every day in his garden.

Uchtmann graduated from the UI with a degree in Agricultural Sciences in June 1968.

But President Lyndon Johnson had eliminated most postponements of graduate courses a few months earlier.

The future professor had already been accepted to the UI Law School and for a Masters program in Economics at the University of Leeds, England.

When he realized that there was a chance of almost zero percent to pursue graduate studies in the fall of 1968, "the Coast Guard came to mind and became my preferred choice to fulfill my military obligations. "

He applied to the school of candidate officers and was accepted.

Candidate Officer Candidates for the school were either university graduates or Coast Guard members who had been selected as strong candidates for commission. Those who passed the school received a commission as a sign.

Uchtmann was temporarily posted to Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alaska, as part of a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare School, "the only Coast Guard officer in a class composed primarily of members of the Navy. "

The skills could prove vital.

"During military exercises, for example, I would create maps based on current weather data, showing the likely drift of radiation if Cleveland was hit by a nuclear weapon." Fortunately, such an attack never happened. produced, "said Uchtmann.

He was also a shooting officer for the 9th Coast Guard's Small Arms Training Program for two summers.

Small arms training was important in his service branch for reasons dating back to the War of 1812.

Under the treaty that ends the War of 1812, the Great Lakes are "demilitarized."

"Armaments on United States and Great Britain (later Canada) warships with harbors on the Great Lakes would be limited – no heavy weapons, only weapons light, "said Uchtmann.

Uchtmann served for two years as a military assistant to the coastguard admirals, successive commanders of the 9th Coast Guard District, whose duties were "generally limited to ceremonies".

"It was a very good experience for someone who could become a Coast Guard career officer, but it did not become my way," he said.

Uchtmann was able to study law in the evenings during two of his three years of active service.

He "worked very hard, 100% for the Coast Guard during the week and almost 100% to study law nights and weekends".

He completed law school at Cleveland State University in 1974, three months earlier.

"If I had pursued my career in the Coast Guard, I would have probably been assigned to a Coast Guard legal office, but that was not my way," he said. .

That year, he returned to Urbana as a faculty member of the Department of Agricultural Economics, combining his studies in law, economics and agriculture.

"Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from my experience with the Coast Guard is that life does not always go exactly as we expected, that we have to adapt and pull the best of the unexpected circumstances we face ourselves is probably a wise strategy, that working with good people is a real blessing and that a fair share of luck is welcome, "said Uchtmann.


Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette,


Information from: The News-Gazette,

This is an AP-Illinois exchange story proposed by The (Champaign) News-Gazette.