History and Origins of the UNC NROTC Alumni Association
Captain Harold A. "Andy" Bunch, Jr., USN (Ret.)
Commanding officer, UNC NROTC Unit and Professor of Naval Science (1985-1989),
Past President / Chairman, Secretary and Director, UNC NROTC Alumni Association
We've all heard there is only one difference between a fairy tale and a sea story. Well, this is no kidding. It's my recollection of how the Alumni Association began. It is mostly true. If you don't believe it ask Don Ledford.
After some twenty plus years of attending formal changes of command ceremonies afloat and ashore, I found myself in the UNC armory wardroom on the fourth of July 1985, with Captain Al Koster going over the issues of the UNC/NCSU units. That was the COC; nothing more. We discussed all the paperwork piles he had arranged on that long table. I remember asking Al who his main contact at the university was. He said, "I don't talk to any of them." Much later I asked him who his main Navy contact at the Chief of Naval Education and Training headquarters was. His answer was the same. He told me he regretted not having started an Alumni Association. Monday morning I put all those piles in a box behind a chair in the CO's office, moved his desk to the inboard wall so I could see out the corner windows, and started dealing with what YNCM Ledford put into my in-basket. The paperwork and the Alumni Association faded into the woodwork.
Later that year we had a staff meeting at which exploration of an Alumni Association was one of several agenda items. It was early in the week of the 1986 ACC basketball tournament. The XO, Bill Bailey, a decorated Vietnam aviator and POW, had placed a large, old, cathode ray screen TV in the wardroom so we could track the beginning of the first game. It couldn't pick up the signal, so he rested it on the open window sill. It had tin foil wrapped around the rabbit ears poking outside. Although the sound was off, we were all distracted from our meeting duties waiting for the game when the thing pitched backwards out the window. The wire went taut and jerked out of the wall with a spark as it crashed down those two floors onto the ground. After that the staff focus was on finding another TV. The Alumni Association took another hit and faded again as my alma mater GA Tech and Mark Price eventually lost to Duke in the championship game by one point.
Time passed. We sailed the hell out of RAINBEAU (NSY 8) to Maine and back repeatedly, pushed our USMC option Midshipmen to their physical and mental limits, and sent our drill team to the Mardi Gras parade to compete for their many awards.
Late in the academic year of 1989 we had a command inspection shortly before my tour ended. Bill Bailey and I were waiting in the CO's office for the inspecting officer to brief us. Bill told me the CNET Captain had just come to the door, outside in the carpeted wardroom. I had heard nothing. I asked Bill how he knew. He said, "I spent three years watching shadows move under my door. He is there." After the knock, the briefing and the farewells we had a list of recommendations for the command including starting an Alumni Association, way down on the list.
George Walls relieved me in May of 1989 of the second-best Navy tour I ever had (no Navy duty could beat being the commanding officer of a diesel electric submarine deployed to the Western Pacific in those cold war/Vietnam days). In our informal COC, the same as Al and I had, he asked me what I regretted most about my time as CO. Without hesitation I said, "Not forming an Alumni Association."
Two days into my retirement I received a call from Col. Walls asking a favor. He wanted me to take RAINBEAU (NSY 8) and a Midshipmen crew north for the summer. I could not have been more pleased. Don Ledford cut TAD orders and I was as much as back on active duty doing what I loved. George said there was one other thing. He wanted me to organize an Alumni Association. I was out of excuses. And that's the truth. That's how it evolved.
By then I had learned, as have our country's leaders over the centuries, that the ultimate way out of trouble is always to call in the Marines. I called Col. Walt Fitts class of 1959 and asked him to help me do what George wanted. I believe he contacted Col. Dick Cashwell class of 1959, the UNC admissions director, and we were off. They compiled the initial list of UNC alumni that had been in the NROTC Unit since the beginning in 1926 and we drafted a letter for Col. Walls' signature. I don't remember who composed it, but I know it would have never left the CO's office without Don Ledford's hand in finalizing it.
What has happened since can be checked out on the website. I was likely as much an impediment by my procrastination as a founder. Your Association was built by a lot of hard work on the part of many devoted volunteers. They made it what it is today. I am sincerely proud to have been a part of it.