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June 6, 2012     The Adams County Record
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) Page 6 Walter Okamoto Continued from front page expert marksman, trained in SCUBA and HALO parachute jumps, he also became one of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), the forerunners of the SEALS. For over 30 years he could not tell anyone about his time in Vietnam, until the information was declassified in 1996. Hanging in his living room is a 6-foot painting of his team's last Vietnam reconnaissance rescue by a Huey helicopter while under fire. Walt is pulling the body of his executive officer. Angie began painting the picture when he could finally describe the nightmare of his missions: Within a week after that article appeared in the Record, Walt announced his candidacy for Adams County Sheriff. Similar versions of Walt's military career soon appeared on web sites as part of his campaign for the sheriff's office. Storm clouds A few weeks before the primary election, I started getting emails and phone calls from former Special Forces members and other military people saying that Walt had not been truthful about his military record. Since this was a very serious accusation, I didn't say anything to anyone at first. I wanted to get proof before inadvertently spreading a false rumor, much less printing anything. Not having any experience in researching military records, I didn't know where to start to look into it. Just before the primary election, the pressure to "expose" Walt's claims intensified, and more information came my way. After Walt was eliminated as a candidate via the primary, I struggled with whether to pUrsue the issue. What was the point? I like Wait, and whatever his past, he has been an asset to our community in numerous ways. On the other hand, I have a core belief that the truth should be followed, no matter where it leads. Plus, the deep feelings of betrayal expressed by former Special Forces members is understandable. Stolen Valor The initial claims of falsification came from Bruce W. Koch, a retired Army Major and veteran of MACV-SOG in Viet Nam. He wrote, "When I learned of Okamoto's claims and saw his web page, I passed the information to all SOG veterans that I know. They were unanimous in the opinion that Okamoto's claims were bogus, and all are in favor of prosecuting him to the. fullest extent of the law" Koch said Okamoto's claims violated the Stolen Valor Act. The Stolen Valor Act was passed in 2005, challenged in court, and finally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the act, it is illegal for unauthorized persons to wear, buy, sell, barter, trade, or manufacture -"any decoration or me dal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the In correspondence with Walt, .he was asked, =Why is there no record of your officer training? That seems like it never would have been classified:' He answered, "I was in the Army ROTC unit at the University of Utah, and, EVERYONE goes through Basic Training in ROTC and OCS after graduation from ROTC." Walt's response in general: At no time did I claim to be a SEAL, as that organization did not exist until late 1964 early 1965, and MACV- SOG did not exist until early 1964. Its equivalent, prior to lanuary, 1964, was referred ...00oLs _Oatg.00,t MONUMENT CO CALDWELL 454-9532 BOISE 343-0471 THOXL4SON FUNERAL HOME & C REMAIORY Fm-nily Owned and Operated - Burial  - Cremation 8ervioes - Pre.planning Optiom - btonument3 221 E. Court 8t W,--r, ID 83672 (2O8) 414-I234 w.pThoman.eom Wednesday, June 6, 2012 United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces." It makes it a federal misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal. On his wdb site, Walt featured a photo of a shadowbox containing military medals/awards reflecting a service record as described in the Community Spotlight article. Walt's Facebook page (now removed) featured a photo of a framed display containing a picture of a young Okamoto in civilian Walt supplied little or no documentation to back up his dairns. Among several military officials Jeff contacted, was Brewster Schenck, CCE, Shared Services Director in San Diego. Schenck could find no record of Walt "in the National Register [as] being a naval officer." Schenck said this was "Verified by the Admin Officer of the Naval corrections facility in San Diego with his direct line to D.C." The UDT-SEAL Association maintains records of anyone who has completed UDT or SEAL 6 "Even though it would settle the matter quickly, Walt supplied little or no documentation to back up his claims." 99 clothes, along with all the medals, and text reading, in part, "'Walt's military ribbons for his service in the Na W 1963-64" An honest effort to exonerate Here is where Jeff Howard came into the picture as the perfect person to investigate the matter. Jeff, a friend and supporter of Okamoto, had received a call from Larry Bailey who is part of a team at www.stolenvalor. org -- a web site that tracks fraudulent claims of military service. (More on Bailey below.) left supported Walt in the election campaign, and his goal was to clear Walt's name. Even though it would settle the matter quickly, training. Executive Director, Jim Madison, said, "There is no Walt S. Okamoto in our database." Larry Bailey, of stolenvalor. org mentioned above, sent a statement about Okamoto's claims. He is a retired Navy SEAL who complet- ed his 27-year career as a SEAL officer in 1990. His assignments included duty in the United States and in Panama, Bolivia, Scotland, Colombia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. His most significant military assign- ment was as Commanding Officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center, where all Navy SEALs undergo basic and advanced training. There are two or three databases that document Walt Okamoto's Response to as MAAG-V, or Military Assistance and Advisory Group - Viet Nam. The U.S. military had been involved in Southeast Asia since the ouster of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954...my oldest brother was the Presidential Courier between Bangkok and D.C. during his active duty years, 1956-1958, carrying dispatches about U.S. activity in SE Asia. Note that, in the historical records, the mantra, "The U.S. military does not have any combat troops on the ground in Laos or Cambodia, and the military personnel who are in Viet Nam are there in an advisory capacity, only; repeatedly stated by Pres. Kennedy, Pres. Johnson, and Pres. Nixon. The "known" or "admitted" numbers were 11,000 U.S. military personnel in Viet Nam, in 1963. I commend SV for what they stand for, but, they do not have the definitive records, simply because President Kennedy had ordered that no records be kept of clandestine activities or the training for such, from 1962 (until his death in November, 1963), and, President Johnson continued that policy until Viet Nam became a dedared conflict in August, 1964. Kennedy did not want a repeat of the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs incursion in Cuba in 1961. F--ffff--q [ Cattle Sale [ I Butcher Cattle Sale "00III: I -" 1901  Cie, Gldll, Idaho i][ [ 08-459-7475 Toll Free 1-800-788-44'29 The Adams County Record UDT and SEAL military service, the most respected of which is the SEAL database. It is not classified, but is not "available for general distribution or public dissemination." According to cyberseals.org, "This is the same database that SEALs use for authentication among themselves when they are not known to each other, and it is recognized by the UDT-SEAL Association, the UDT-SEAL Museum, and the US NAVY as the most complete and comprehensive listing of Naval Special Warfare members available." Being a former SEAL, Barley has access to this database. Bailey said: "Upon checking the master database of the names of all the young men who have completed UDT/ SEAL training since 1947, not one of the names was 'Okamoto.' I further checked with a friend who had been assigned to MACV-SOG, and he told me that the organization's first mission was in October 1965 and was carried out by Vietnamese personnel." "I also saw a copy of Mr. Okamoto's service summary, which indicated that he was a Hospital Corpsman in the US Naval Reserve and that he was on active duty for training for a bit over five months. He served another 5 1/2 years in the reserves. He left the reserves under honorable conditions as a low-ranking enlisted man." "There is absolutely no question that Mr. Okamoto significantly falsified several parts of his bios about which I had either knowledge or to which I had access." Baile,'s reference to Walt's "service summary" is a NA FORM 13164 (Rev. 02-02) obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Archives and Records Administration. Conclusion left Howard says the military is notorious for keeping records on every service member--tracking awards, assignments and promotions. "Walt's military records of his Commission,' training at UDT, Officer Basic Course, Airborne School and other Military Schools and promotion are not classified documents," he added. left's conclusion: "My experience as an IG can lead me to only one conclusion. Based upon the preponderance of the evidence and his lack of any hard copy evidence to support his claims, Walt served honorably for 183 days and was trained as a Hospital Corpsman in San Diego, CA. He never served in the capacity he claims." Editor's note: I also received statements similar to Larry Bailey's, from Stephan Kirk (former MACVSOG, Vietnam) and Robert Noe (former MACVSOG -- Personnel Records NCO, Special Forces Intelligence NCO, with expertise in security/ classifications). Both assert that Walt's claims have no merit. I lmow where I was and what I did, and at no time did I ever use my military service time as qualifying me for any special recognition, honors, or benefits (e.g., veteran's preference points, etc.), over my long career of public service. As for the VA, upon my Honorable Discharge in March of 1965, the Commandant negotiated with me that he would authorize the records to show that I had 183 days of active duty so that I could receive GI Bill benefits, which I did not use. Why 183 days?? Because the records had to show more than 181 days (six months) of active duty to be considered a "veteran" (actually, the total time shown on my DD-214 is one year, 9 months, six days, including Reserve time). In return for this small issue, I was to swear an oath of confidentiality until, or if, any of our activities ever became declassified. In my last "debriefing I was told that my records would never show any of what we did, ff any question ever came up about it. That is why I never mentioned it to anyone, even my own family, for almost 40 years, until the year 2000, when my wife,'at one of her art shows, inadvertently was contacted by an older gentleman who happened to have been one of my instructors back then, and who asked her ff I had ever mentioned to her anything about "our time" in the military. I did not utilize the services of the VA until several years after that, since I do not have any "service- connected disabilities," when I was told I was entitled, based upon my DD-214, for such. Therefore, I am not "stealing" any benefits to which anyone with the minimal service shown on my records is entitled. I cannot speak definitively for the surviving members of my team, but, I am confident that none of them have abused any privileges to which they might have been CONCLUDED ON, page 13