Don Heidenreich: from Army historian to history professor

Professor Don Heidenreich Jr. teaches several military courses at Lindenwood University.
Photo by Tyler Keohane

TYLER KEOHANE | Reporter

With assignments that included military intelligence and psychological operations, professor Don Heidenreich Jr. draws on his 22-year Army career to teach his history courses.

Heidenreich’s classes include American Military History Since 1941; The Civil War and Reconstruction; and Intelligence, Military and National Policy.

Heidenreich served from June 1980 to September 2002, but if it hadn’t been for a records mix up, his military career might have ended after boot camp.

Heidenreich said he hurt his back early in basic training and couldn’t walk for a couple of days. He went to the doctor, had X-rays taken and was able to graduate basic training.

When he went back to the physician’s later, the record of his injury was missing. If it had remained in his records, Heidenreich said he never would have been able to get into Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

“Whoever that was who lost my medical records, I want to go back and thank them,” Heidenreich said. “My life turned out just fine.”

Heidenreich was a reserve officer, so he was able to combine his military career and civilian life. He met his wife, Lynn, when he was a senior staff officer.

As Heidenreich advanced, he was assigned to a psychological operations unit, where he spent three years. His goal was to get his commission, he said, because he wanted to impress his Air Force father.

After nine months of training in Arizona, he went abroad to Germany in 1983 for WINTEX, an exercise for a potential Soviet Union invasion of Western Europe and the U.S. response.

Upon returning to Arizona, he transferred units to the eighth battalion, 40th armor, where he became the battlefield information center officer.

He eventually became the intelligence officer and completed another training exercise in South Korea.

“It was 1988,” Heidenreich said. “I’ll always remember that because it was the Olympic year in Korea.”

He said he stayed at a base where they overlooked the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and into North Korea.

Even with all the arduous training Heidenreich went through, he said he had the most fun during it.

He liked “intel training,” which he said, “the nature of attempting to do the intel business, and do it well, requires a daft hand at understanding the intricacies of human nature.”

He was deployed in the fall of 1998 to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Though he didn’t see combat, he legally still has veteran status because he was deployed well over 180 days.

“I don’t write the orders; I just go where they send me,” he said.

During his time in Europe, he was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, for a second time, where his assignment was to sort through eight tons of military records and decide whether to keep it or to throw it. Some of the items were battle-planning papers, but most were just patrol records.

His deployment ended in the summer of 1999. Overall, he said he never had any problems with subordinates, saying they were “a good group of guys.”

Leading his charlie battery division to a higher standard was Heidenreich’s fondest and most rewarding experience, he said. His superior even commended him. Heidenreich’s unit was composed of non-commissioned officers. He wanted his unit to be at the same skill level as active duty members, so he held high standards.

“You’ve got to understand, there’s the army standard, and then there’s the Charlie Battery standard,” Heidenreich said.

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