“We Were Different”: Service As An Army Pathfinder

Bill Sadlowski


Bill Sadlowski was born in 1956 and grew up in Hadley, Massachusetts. His father was an economist and his mother was a nurse. In high school, he became a “car nut,” and worked on a farm. He later took a job as a pizza cook, and eventually took over the kitchen in an Italian restaurant. In 1976, he enlisted, but did not want to be a cook, so he choose Infantry and airborne school. Recalling his experience in airborne school, he notes “If I felt secure, I wasn’t afraid.” Arriving in Alaska as a brand new Soldier, he was selected for the Soldier of the Month board. After he successfully completed the company level board, he kept working and studying, and eventually became the Soldier of the Year for Alaska in 1977. In 1979, he completed Air Assault School, and was assigned to the Pathfinder Platoon in Headquarters and Headquarters Company in the 101st Airborne Division. He worked with the 101st Aviation Battalion, which was all UH-1 Hueys until 1980, when the Huey was replaced with the UH-60 Blackhawk. He completed Jumpmaster and Pathfinder School, where he was the Distinguished Honor Graduate. He then was helped stand up a Pathfinder Company in the 101st Airborne Division. While assigned to the 101st, he jumped with the 82nd Airborne Division, and earned his Canadian jump wings, as well. During this period, Desert 1, the failed rescue attempt of the Iranian Hostages, occurred. His next assignment was in Korea, where he worked at the 8th U.S. Army NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) Academy. By 1984, he was an E-7 working as an instructor at the Aviation Officer Basic Course. Two years as a Platoon Sergeant in the 509th followed before he was reassigned to the Army Safety Center, where he was the Infantry Branch Safety NCO. In 1991, he attended the Drill Sergeant School at Ft. Knox and served as a Drill Sergeant at Ft. Benning. By 1993, he was stationed in Hawaii at the 25th Infantry Division, serving as Platoon Sergeant in A Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry. After being the Schools NCO for the 25th Division, he reported to Ft. Sill, where he served as the First Sergeant for C Battery, 1-78 Field Artillery, in charge of Basic Training Instructors. After retiring in 1999 following 23 years of service, he earned his Master’s Degree and began working for SBC communications. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, working as a chef, joining the Army, and his years of service. He describes the process of becoming the Soldier of the Year in Alaska, and working as a Pathfinder. He discusses many of the different jobs he held in the Army, declaring that “everything had meaning,” and noting that it was rewarding being able to help young Soldiers. He concludes by reflecting on the importance of being a member of the Pathfinder Association, and on what his service means to him.


conflicts Cold War
topics Pathfinder Leadership Morale Teamwork Camaraderie
interviewer David Siry
date 22 July 2019


name Bill Sadlowski
service Infantry
unit C Company 4-9 “Manchu” 172nd Brigade; C Company 1st Battalion 509th Infantry; Pathfinder Platoon 101st Airborne Division; 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment
specialty Pathfinder; Safety Center; Drill Sergeant; Soldier of the Year – Alaska 1977
service dates 1976 1999