A U.S. Army veteran, Sam Bertling compiled 47 years of federal service -- 24 years in active duty and 23 years of civil service. CONTRIBUTED

Bertling deployed to Korea, Germany and Desert Storm

MADISON – Sam Bertling remembers an unusual experience about promotion in the U.S. Army.

Arriving in South Korea in 1974, Bertling was assigned to an Infantry company as a team leader. His squad won in a ‘Best Squad’ competition.

“We were waiting outside battalion headquarters to receive our award when the 2nd Infantry Division Commander, Major General Emerson, arrived,” Bertling said. “MG Emerson was known as ‘Gunfighter.’ He stepped out of his vehicle and came directly to me.”

Bertling came to attention and rendered a hand salute. Emerson said he immediately had noticed Bertling as the sharpest soldier there. “MG Emerson wanted to know why I was not a Sergeant. I really didn’t know what to say, other than I probably had not been in the Army long enough,” Bertling said.

Emerson’s reply was “‘BS.’” He called over the brigade and battalion commander and asked the same question. Surprised, their reply was, “He will be.” Emerson said ‘BS’ and told his aide to go to the Post Exchange and get sergeant stripes.

The aide returned, but the Post Exchange was out of stripes. “The Gunfighter told both commanders to make sure I got my sergeant stripes. I went to the next promotion board and, shortly after, was promoted to Sergeant,” Bertling said.

Bertling was born in Monroe, Ga. and joined the U.S. Army at 17 years old. “I consider my hometown as wherever the Army sent me. I now consider Madison, Ala. as my home,” Bertling said.

Bertling entered the U.S. Army in May 1972 and completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C. His Advanced Individual Training was achieved at Fort Campbell, Ky.

He deployed to Camp Hovey in Korea. Bertling returned to Fort Gordon, Ga. and then served at Fort Dix, N.J. and Fort Stewart, Ga. He returned to Korea and, back in the states, reported to Fort Stewart.

Bertling deployed to Desert Shield/ Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia with 24th Infantry Division, Long Range Surveillance Detachment. He also served in Berlin and Hohenfels, Germany; in Hohenfels, his last active-duty job was Operations Sergeant, Combat Maneuver Training Center.

He compiled 20-plus awards, including Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (three bronze oak-leaf clusters); Army Commendation Medal (two bronze oak-leaf clusters); Army Achievement Medal (one bronze oak-leaf cluster); Korean Defense Service Medal; Kuwait Liberation Medal; Southwest Asia Service Medal (two service stars); and numerous others.

In April 2005, Bertling came to Madison from Wiesbaden, Germany. Bertling left the service as First Sergeant – Infantry. He retired in December 2018 after 47 years of Federal Service (24 years active duty and 23 years civil service). His last civil service job was Management and Program Analyst, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

His educational ventures include Georgia Military College; Defense Acquisition University, Level 3 Business, Financial Management Certification; Department of Defense Financial Management Certification, Level 3; and Army Lean Six Sigma Green Belt / Examiner for Army Community of Excellence.

His wife, KumCha ‘KC’ Bertling, is a well-known community volunteer. KC retired from civil service in September 2017, last working as Soldier and Family Program Manager for U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command. KC serves as president of North Alabama Veterans & Fraternal Organizations Coalition and board member of AUSA Redstone.

Their son, Sam Bertling Jr. of Virginia Beach, Va., is a six-year U.S. Navy veteran. He served as a Nuclear Electrician aboard Submarine USS James K. Polk. He now works as a Military Analyst for Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. in Norfolk, Va.

Sam Bertling Sr. participates with Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Co-founder/President of Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, Secretary of North Alabama Veteran Fraternal Organizations Coalition and AUSA.

For most of those organizations, he gives back by volunteering. Bertling also volunteers with Still Serving Veterans, along with Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Korean War Veterans’ events.

An Atlanta Braves fan, Sam and son Sam Jr. attended the Braves baseball fantasy camp for several years. They met many 1995 World Series players.

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