JEFFREY HERMAN RAKER
COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR, UNITED STATES ARMY (RETIRED)
Command Sergeant Major Raker is a native of Germany. In 1952, at the age of 16, he was one of 40 successful High School students among 100,000 applicants who were selected for a one year student exchange program in the United States. He graduated from Ephrata High School in Ephrata, Pennsylvania in June 1953. Upon his return to Germany, he applied for an immigrant visa. He re-entered the United States in 1955 and worked as a heating and air conditioning installer until he enlisted in the Regular Army as an Infantryman in January 1958. Following basic and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he was assigned to the 14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. During this tour of duty he graduated from the 25th Division NCO Academy, rose from Private to Sergeant and was awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge.
During his next assignment at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he served as a Drill Instructor until he volunteered for the First Infantry Division’s 8th Infantry as a Squad Leader and later was assigned as Platoon Sergeant and promoted to Staff Sergeant. After winning several drill competitions, the Battle Group Commander, Colonel Bryce Denno, named him the “Drill Master of the 8th Infantry”.
In January 1963, then Staff Sergeant Raker volunteered for Jump School and Special Forces. He completed the Special Forces Qualification Course with specialization in Operations and Intelligence. His first Special Forces assignment was in Okinawa in B Company, 1st SFG(ABN). His initial six month deployment to Vietnam was as a Light Weapons Leader on A-233 at Dong Tre in the Central Highlands in 1964-65. His second six month TDY tour in RVN was as an A Detachment Intelligence Sergeant at Ap Bac in the Plain of Reeds in IV CTZ from October 1965 to March 1966. When the team was tasked to open a new a SF camp at Kinh Quan II, the team recruited, trained, equipped, and deployed two companies of Hoa Hao CIDG soldiers in the area along the La Grange Canal that connected AP Bac with Kinh Quan II. The Detachment Commander opted for a split team and left Raker as Team Sergeant with three other team members at Ap Bac in the Sub-Sector advisory role. Toward the end of this deployment, Raker was promoted to Sergeant First Class.
Three days after returning to Okinawa, SFC Raker was deployed to Taiwan as Operations Sergeant for Operation Li Ming with the National Chinese Special Forces for four months. His next assignment was with Company A, 6th SFG(ABN) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as A Detachment Intelligence Sergeant until he volunteered for reassignment to Vietnam.
Starting in January 1967, he was initially assigned to A-103 at Gia Vuc in I Corps, then at Sa Huyn to deny the NVA access to the salt flats. In May 1967 he was assigned to Detachment C-1 as Operations Sergeant and in July as I Corps Area Specialist at 5th Group Headquarters in Nha Trang. He finished up his tour as Group Operations Sergeant and returned to Okinawa and 1st SFG. He was assigned as B Detachment Intelligence Sergeant with duty at Group Headquarters. His next assignment was as Instructor at the Special Forces School’s Operations and Intelligence Course. During this assignment he completed the Instructor Training Course as Honor Graduate and was designated Outstanding Instructor of the Quarter for the Special Forces School. He was promoted to Master Sergeant and applied for the Bootstrap program and graduated in June 1971 from Campbell University with a B.S. in Social Science and Secondary School Teaching Certification. He received orders for reassignment to Germany with duties as Operations Sergeant VII Corps at Stuttgart Moehringen. He qualified for certification as Emergency Action Nuclear Release NCO and was instrumental in the successful annual nuclear surety inspection for the Corps.
In December 1972 Master Sergeant Raker was selected to attend the first class of the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. He graduated in June 1973 and was one of ten students selected to apply for a reserve commission, an honor he respectfully declined since he was told there was little chance of serving on active duty in a commissioned capacity. He reported for duty with Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th SFG(ABN) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in July 1973 and was assigned as A Detachment Operation Sergeant until August of 1975, and as Company Sergeant Major until December 1976. During this period he was tasked by the Battalion Commander to head a team of NCO’s to test the vulnerability of nuclear and chemical storage depots to penetration and terrorist interdiction. Later the mission was extended to communications facilities as well. The team was able to successfully point out weaknesses in the security of several installations and recommend methods to shore up security and improve the training of security personnel through several Mobile Training Team (MTT) missions conducted by SFODs from 5th SFG.
Having been promoted to Sergeant Major in September 1976, Raker was assigned as Detachment Sergeant Major of Detachment A, Berlin. The unit had recently undergone a shake-up resulting in the relief of the commander and the replacement of several key personnel by individuals who were not Special Forces qualified. In addition, their classified mission was in danger of compromise under the current leadership. Language qualification which had been a prerequisite for assignment was at less than 30 percent. Sergeant Major Raker was able to cancel the detachment’s training missions to the infantry units of the Berlin Brigade and return the Detachment to training for its two primary classified missions. Working with the new commander coming on board who was himself an accomplished linguist and had extensive Special Forces operational experience, the unit was able to regroup and achieve 100% language qualification and hone its unconventional warfare and special operations skills by training with GSG 9, SAS, and special police units. The Sergeant Major instituted one day a week on which all transactions had to be conducted in the language of the target country. He selected and trained the two individuals who made the reconnaissance to plan Operation Eagle Claw, and selected the detachment that was to rescue the three hostages held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He advised the Air Force on countering a threat by Libya to attack several AWACS aircraft in Germany and Saudi Arabia after making on site reconnaissance and conducting an extensive vulnerability study.
For his next assignment Raker reported to Fort Devens, MA as Command Sergeant Major of 2d Battalion, 10th SFG(ABN). A highlight of this assignment was a two week deployment on an exercise with a clandestine German organization with a stay behind mission. As a result of the exercise he was able to provide his unit with a glossary of tradecraft specific terms in German to enhance interoperability with German special operations units.
In December 1981, General Lutz offered Raker the assignment of Command Sergeant Major of the United States Army Institute for Military Assistance which soon became the Special Warfare Center and School. As the unit that was the proponent for Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs, the mission to staff the new SERE Course fell on the CSM. In addition, the creation of a career management field for Special Forces which would enable SF soldiers to serve through pay grade E-9 in Special Forces rather than be at the mercy of four different career fields once they reached promotion to Master Sergeant. As part of this initiative, replacing the Lieutenant on the A Detachment with a Warrant Officer, required development of a career field for warrants. Although the initial proposal by Colonels Beckwith and Crerar suggested an Intel Warrant, CSM Raker was concerned that such an individual would find it hard to become a full-fledged member of the team. He therefore suggested that the warrant office would be a Special Forces qualified Senior NCO, a graduate of the O&I Course and ideally qualified in an additional SF MOS and a foreign language. Eventually agreement was reached on the subject. In addition to making weekly trips to DA to brief the DCSPER and the Chief of Staff, together with the Commanding General, the Proponency Officer and the CSM of the newly activated Special Operations Command, CSM Raker convened critical task selection boards, assisted in the rewriting of job descriptions, and laid the groundwork for a Special Forces Noncommissioned Officer Development Program. Although he lobbied for a stringent selection program, the time for that would not come until TRADOC eased its control over Special Forces training.
With two years until mandatory retirement at 30 years’ service, CSM Raker asked the SWCS Commander to return to the unit where he had begun his Special Forces career: the 1st Special Forces Group. He thus ended the 30 years of service to his country as CSM of the 1st SFG. He was able to enjoy deploying with his battalions to Alaska, Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines.
His awards and decorations include:
- Special Forces Tab
- Master Parachutist Badge
- Legion of Merit
- Bronze Star
- Purple Heart
- Meritorious Service Medal with two OLC
- Army Commendation Medal with two OLC
- Air Medal with one OLC
- Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm
- Several foreign parachutist badges
After his retirement from active duty, he was hired by Guam Community College. His first assignment was as Senior JROTC Instructor. His ROTC unit won top honors at all competitions, both on island and on the US mainland. He was cited in two resolutions by the Guam Legislature and one by the College’s Board of Directors. At the end of his two year contract he was rehired as Assistant Professor with adjunct duties as Associate Dean for the night program. Upon retirement of the incumbent, he applied for the full time position of Associate Dean for Occupational Education and was hired for the post. In addition to his duties as administrator, he taught two classes on American Government and one class in Interpersonal Relations and wrote curriculum for all construction trades courses.
He retired from the College in 1998 and concentrated on serving in various veterans’ organizations: he served 15 years as President of Chapter 46 of the SFA, Historian, Vice Commander and Post Commander of American Legion Post 1, Americanism Officer of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and has appeared on local TV and Radio programs on behalf of the College and the veterans of Guam. He was the Graduation speaker at Class 28 of USASMA. He attended every National Convention for the past twenty years and has contributed to the development of Special Forces Training at two conferences convened at SWCS.