After dropping out of Beloit College to enlist in the Navy, serve three years, then go to college on the G.I. Bill, a video intervened and changed young Douglas Hurd’s life. While waiting in an Army officer’s office for the Navy officer to return from his lunch break, Hurd watched a field artillery video at the request of the Army officer. The video so amazed the 19-year old, he changed his mind on the spot and decided to enlist in the Army instead. Just 18 months into his service, Hurd knew he had found his calling. He wanted to make a career out of the military. He spent two years in Alaska before transferring to Oklahoma, where his stellar performance impelled his commander to recommend he go to West Point and his platoon sergeant recommend he go to drill sergeant camp. Hurd accepted the appointment to drill sergeant camp just two days before he received his acceptance into West Point. Never a man to go back on his word, Hurd set out for drill sergeant camp.
Upon graduation from drill sergeant camp, Hurd went back to Alaska for four years before he reenlisted and consequently got to choose to go anywhere for his next position. He chose Fort Carson, Colorado. He then went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to serve as a drill sergeant from 1982-1985, and followed that with a brief time as the army advisor to the Wisconsin National Guard. Hurd’s most memorable moment came when he served three years in Germany, beginning 1 January 1989. He vividly recalls a November 1989 day when a siren started sounding. Usually, this signaled war. His commanding officer gathered all officers and NCOs and announced that this was no drill. He sprung into action and, along with his fellow soldiers, readied himself for the inevitable combat about to ensue. Suddenly, his commander ordered them to retreat. The commander then mounted his Humvee and told everyone to stand down, go back home, and turn on CNN. Something monumental was about to happen. Hurd, now back at his home, kept his eyes glued to the television and watched as the Soviet Union’s Stonehenge, the Berlin Wall, tumbled. After a weekend of celebration he’d never seen before or since, Hurd went to the former site of the concrete barrier, picked up a chunk of the wall’s cement, and gave it to his father, who had remarked to his son that the wall would only fall through a blood bathed war. As the drill sergeant handed over the concrete, he told his father, “Didn’t fire a shot.”
He remained in Germany until the end of the first Operation Desert Storm, whereupon he was transferred to Fort Snelling in Minnesota, where he served as Operations and Training NCO. On the eve of what was supposed to be SFC Hurd’s retirement, he accepted a teaching job at Humboldt High School’s newly minted JROTC program in 1995. He stayed there for 16.5 years and continued to teach at Vessey Leadership Academy for two years before coming to STA.
Hurd maintains that his years spent at the Academy have been by far his happiest post-retirement. He taught sophomore military class and started both the Ranger Team and Clay Target Team. His sophomores never failed to make him laugh. He admired and enjoyed both his bosses, LTC Mike DePuglio and COL Neil Hetherington, and felt valued and respected by his colleagues outside the Garberg Wing. A lifelong sports fanatic, the SFC enjoyed few things more than going to Academy football or hockey games. Few, if any faculty showed more spirit at games than he.
Though he will miss the Academy--and the Academy will surely miss him--Hurd has a few things planned once the COVID dust settles. A historian of World War II battles, Hurd plans on going to Europe in the summer of 2021 and setting foot on Omaha Beach on June 6 at precisely 6:30 AM--the exact date and time the first soldiers set foot on the beach in the famous D-Day attacks of June 6, 1944. He also plans on taking his wife to see Prague, one of the few major European cities whose architecture neither world war significantly altered. Finally, he wants to return to Alaska, a place he has not seen since 1980 and which his wife has yet to visit.
Saint Thomas Academy is special because it attracts men like SFC Hurd. He’s living proof that instructors do not merely teach by a textbook. His example and his story demonstrate to young men what it means to dedicate a life to service. For that, and the many lives he doubtless impacted, the Academy remains in perpetual debt to him.