Matthew Titus enlisted in the United States Army’s Delayed Entry program in November of 1984 while still a high school senior. After graduation he was sent to basic training in Oklahoma which provided a bit of culture shock for the Charlotte native who had previously never traveled further than Maine. “Basic training was physically and mentally hard,” Titus said. “They have people from every state and all walks of life. They break everybody down to the lowest level of the lowest person and build you back up as a team. You can’t be an individual in the Army.”
After basic training, Titus spent a year as a Forward Observer in South Korea. His job was to stand between the artillery and the targets and radio back to the troops when they needed to adjust their sights. He finished his Army career in 1988 after two years in Fort Hood but in the fall of 1989 he moved to Hinesburg and joined the Vermont Army National Guard. “I wanted to continue my military service,” he said. “I liked the Army and everything it stood for.”
For eight years, Titus was a self-described “weekend warrior,” spending one weekend a month and two weeks a year with the Guard, but in 1997 he became a full-time Guardsman, switching his specialty from artillery to logistics. In 2004, when his children were 4, 7, and 9 years of age, he was deployed to Iraq.
In Iraq, Titus was in charge of over $10 million in equipment. He issued weapons, ordered food, put vehicles on maintenance schedules and kept track of receipts, earning promotions to sergeant, staff sergeant and sergeant first class. Titus and his colleagues provided convoy security over a 125-mile stretch of land. Tragedy struck in the form of the first Vermont combat deaths since Vietnam: Alan Bean, Jr., Jamie Gray, William Normandy, and Kevin Sheehan. In addition, 16 soldiers were sent home wounded and did not return to the front.
“That was a trying time,” said Titus. “We never knew what would happen when we went out the gate or even when we went to bed because they used to throw rockets and mortars at the camp. It made for a pretty tight-knit group. You never forget the guys you served with.” Titus’ unit was “boots on the ground” 15 days short of a year. All in all, he was away from his family for 14 months including training in Fort Dix.
These days Titus teaches soldiers at Camp Johnson. “What we’re teaching can save their lives,” he said. “It’s not like algebra which you can retake if you fail.” Titus is about to celebrate his 30-year anniversary with the Army and has advice for anyone considering enlisting. “Make sure it’s the right decision for you,” he said. “Don’t join because you think it’s something cool. Make the most out of it and try to use the Army to better yourself with something you can use on the outside.” Titus jokes that he made the switch from artillery to logistics because there isn’t much to blow up in Hinesburg, but he’s serious about the Army. “Look ahead at what you want to do,” he counsels future recruits. “Don’t just look for a paycheck. Look down the road a bit.”