This article was posted in the New York Times on March 20, 2003.

An Army Brat Who Grew Up and Became an Officer

By Bernard Weinraub

CAMP NEW JERSEY, Kuwait, March 19 - In some ways, Col. Steven Boltz is an unusual intelligence officer. Colonel Boltz, deputy chief of staff for intelligence of the Army's V Corps, does not have a West Point or Ivy League degree: his father was an Army sergeant. At times he is blunt and talkative; at other times, according to some among his staff, he can be moody and quiet.

Then there are those times, when he is talking about his country and what it means to him, that he turns emotional.

This was one of those times. Seated outside V Corps' large headquarters tent, Colonel Boltz recalled that during the Vietnam War, when he was a teenager and his father was in combat, antiwar demonstrations did not bother him at all. "That's our right, that's what we fight for, that's what we're about," he said. "If you suppress that, why do we exist as an Army?"

Nowadays, Colonel Boltz said, he only gets angry when demonstrators burn the American flag. "I take that personally," he said. "I understand that the flag is just a symbol. But my whole life I take an oath to the flag. It represents who we are and what we are."

As he spoke, soldiers moved in and out of the tent, the brightly lit nerve center of Army's operations here. In one large room, at least 40 officers sat crammed behind rows of tables, tapping away at laptop computers and facing a series of three large screens. These screens included computer maps of Iraq that will detail the movement of American and Iraqi troops.

At an adjoining secret intelligence center, officers with laptops sat at a U-shaped table to gather and process the flow of intelligence, from satellite data to information received over the phone.

V Corps officers meet day and night for strategy sessions and, perhaps more important, intelligence updates.

"It's got to be timely, it's got to be accurate and it's got to be fused - coming from multiple sources," said Colonel Boltz, 48, who has spent his career in intelligence. "You have to try and attempt to provide the commander with what the enemy's options are - what's most likely, what's most dangerous."

Colonel Boltz, who plans to retire after the Iraqi operation, spoke quietly. "The big imponderable is when and if Saddam Hussein uses weapons of mass destruction, mainly chemical and biological. What effect will it have on the corps and its ability to move, communicate and accomplish its mission?"

"My biggest concern is what we see is not necessarily what there really is," he added. Mr. Hussein, he said, is "very good at hiding his long-range weapons.

"He has a lot of decoys. You have to know what's real and what's not. He has an ability to deceive and deny and mask his movements.

"And he knows our capabilities very well," he said. "He's studied us."

Colonel Boltz said he was convinced that the war would not be fought by the military alone. "It's not just a war of machines, of tanks and fighting vehicles," he said. "It's a war of perception. It's a war of information. It could be about his ability to manipulate and stage incidents and blame it on the United States."

The colonel, who grew up on Army bases in New Jersey, France, Germany, Texas and Georgia, said he began considering intelligence work as a teenager, when he heard his father, James R. Boltz, now a retired Army sergeant, talk with other noncommissioned officers about the level of intelligence failure in Vietnam.

His father told him to join the officer corps for the pay, but Colonel Boltz said that where he grew up, there was almost a caste difference between the families of officers and enlisted men. He didn't think much of officers. "I didn't know them and I didn't like them," he said.

But Colonel Boltz said he took his father's advice and was awarded an R.O.T.C. scholarship to a private military college, Norwich University, in Vermont. He joined the Army in 1975. After attending intelligence training at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, Colonel Boltz served in numerous jobs in Europe and Panama, as well as the United States.

Colonel Boltz acknowledged that his strong patriotism is rooted in his background: his mother is Japanese, and his wife, Margaret, is Mexican-American. They have two boys, Travis, 18, who is a freshman at West Point, and Elliott, 15. "My two sons are like Heinz 57," he said. "They're cocktails."

In no other nation, he said, would someone with his background rise.

When he retires, he said, he'll move to Alamogordo, N.M., near where his wife, Margaret, grew up. Although Colonel Boltz would probably be a prime candidate for a well-paid job in the defense industry, he said he had other ideas.

"I'd like to do something in return for what was given to me," he said. "I'd like to teach or coach." Even, he added only half jokingly, "just drive a school bus for a while."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

pubrel@norwich.edu, March 2003

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