August 31, 2012
Legislator recounts years in military
Dave Fuller spent 22 1/2 years in the Army, serving in Korea, Vietnam and Germany
TAYLOR — Cortland County Legislator Dave Fuller recounts with a smile his military background, years spent tapping phone lines and attempting to divert dangerous and top secret Army missions that were jeopardized.
Fuller represents four towns in eastern Cortland County: his native Taylor, Cincinnatus, Willet and Freetown.
Prior to being elected in 2009, he served as Taylor town supervisor for 10 years.
Fuller, 69, sat in the sunny living room of his home off Taylor Valley Road on Tuesday, recalling his 22 1/2 years of military service that brought him around the world before he landed back in his hometown for reasons he cannot quite pin down.
Fuller said it just seemed natural to return home. His wife, Monika, a German whom he met while stationed in Heidelberg from 1971 to 1976, also wanted to live in the area. They have owned the 18-acre piece of property since 1979.
Raised on a small dairy farm on Chenango-Solon Pond Road, Fuller had an unlikely background for the Army security agency field in which he enlisted in 1962. Fuller completed basic training and did a one-year tour in Korea at the onset of his career.
“The farmer boy from Taylor left when I arrived in Korea and started that experience,” Fuller said.
He served in Korea, Vietnam, and Germany, and on three domestic bases: Fort Devens, Mass.; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Wolters, Texas. Fuller lived in Germany for 12 years and his daughters from his first marriage, Moniqa Deane and Marni Lee, both spent many years of their childhood there as he raised them.
As a communications security specialist with the Army Security Agency, Fuller’s mission was to spy on other units within the military such as infantry, armor and aviation to ensure that no Army personnel released secret information that could be intercepted by an enemy.
Fuller recalls successful diversions and unsuccessful ones that were carried out in this capacity.
The agents would tap into military switchboards or drive around in specially equipped vans to intercept telephone or radio signals. If they heard sensitive information being released they would err on the side of caution and warn the officer in charge of the possible security breach. It was then up to the officer to change plans if he saw fit.
A successful diversion in Seoul, Korea, resulted in an Army colonel being forced to retire after he tipped off his Korean girlfriend of an upcoming currency exchange that could have resulted in stockpiling of money. The girlfriend and anyone she spoke to was put in solitary confinement, and Fuller and his commanding officer were put on a ship to America so that no one who knew about the exchange was in Korea at that time.
An unsuccessful diversion attempt in Vietnam resulted in six people dying as the North Vietnamese attacked a planned infantry ambush after learning the coordinates of the ambush site on the radio. Fuller had tried to warn the major in charge of the mission that the coordinates had been released but the major proceeded with the mission anyway.
Fuller’s field of Communications Security evolved into Operations Security over time.
In Heidelberg, Germany, Fuller’s job entailed reviewing documents that laid out military operation plans. One such plan he reviewed was Operation Desert Storm and Fuller recalled during that time meeting a young Colin Powell when he was still a lower ranking general. Years later, in 1991, he would see Powell on the news as a four star general now overseeing the Persian Gulf War.
Because of his contact with highly classified operation plans for various nations, Fuller said that he was barred from visiting three countries until age 60.
Fuller’s calm demeanor and easy smile belie the first sergeant ranking he retired from the military with in 1984. He says he still often thinks about situations in terms of what he would do if he was in the military.
As a legislator, Fuller advocated strongly for the county to pass a solid waste law last year that would have allowed outside trash at the landfill. The law was turned down last year but approved in a new, limited form in August, accepting from outside counties only recycling and Beneficial Use Determinants, materials approved for special uses.
Fuller said he expected to be more elated at the law’s passage but instead just saw it as another step before moving on to the next challenge.
“Everything’s a challenge,” said Fuller, who describes with enthusiasm his job driving charter buses for Swarthout Coaches in Ithaca. Fuller was also transportation supervisor for 10 years at Cincinnatus Central School District and four years at Dryden Central School District.
Whether it is traversing a bus through tight turns and fields or trying to reach consensus with fellow legislators on a controversial topic, Fuller says he enjoys each day.
“I have had a good life. And I have enjoyed nearly all of it,” Fuller, who will turn 70 in October, said with a laugh.
Fuller retired from the Army with a meritorious service medal from his work at Fort Devens and a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal from his Vietnam service.
Fellow legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said although she and Fuller do not always agree, she finds him amiable and easy to work with.
Arnold also cited Fuller’s background as Taylor town supervisor, saying it brings a town government perspective to the Legislature and an understanding of how important well-maintained county roads are.
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