American embassy is ready for a quieter life in Thailand
DURING a distinguished 40-year career with the US military, Colonel Larry J. Redmon, Army Attaché at the American embassy in Bangkok, has been deployed to some of the world’s most dangerous and hostile places, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Southern Philippines and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he was involved in combat duty. He also served in Liberia, East Timor and Japan, along with postings to India and Germany
Right now, though, Colonel Redmon is half way through a four-year posting in Thailand – his third in the Kingdom - before returning to civilian life where he will be making some important personal decisions about his future.
Married to a Thai lady who has her career as a TV journalist, Colonel Redmon is considering retiring here in Thailand, a country he clearly knows well and which in turn has acknowledged his contribution by awarding him ‘The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant from the Kingdom of Thailand.”
In his capacity as Army Attaché, Colonel Redmon has a long list of responsibilities. First and foremost, it is his duty to represent his service branch in Thailand as well as his ultimate boss, the Chief of Staff of the US Army.
He is also responsible for maintaining cordial military relations between the US and Thailand, arranging meetings at the Pentagon for senior Thai military officers, overseeing ceremonial functions, answering questions about his nation’s armed forces, escorting VIP visitors and briefing high ranking US Army personnel on local conditions.
Another one of his tasks is to represent top American military schools such as the US Military Academy at West Point and describe to potential students from countries like Thailand what is expected of them.
The historical links between the US military and its Thai counterparts are not lost on Colonel Redmon. “We are closer in this sense to Thailand than to any other nation in Southeast Asia,” he said.
“During World War II, we provided covert assistance to Thailand, and then in the post-war years, the US helped to rebuild the Thai army in its fight against the communist insurgency. We also had Thais fighting alongside us in Korea and Vietnam, and helping in humanitarian roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
His military service with the US Army goes back to 1978 when he joined the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, moving later to the 1st Special Forces Group in 1986 serving as an NCO. Upon commissioning as an officer, he served in the artillery for a short period before returning to Special Forces. In 1993, he was assigned to the Special Warfare Centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the second time, and a year later he graduated the Officer Special Forces Qualification Course.
Colonel Redmon has been assigned to Thailand on several different occasions, the first being in the mid-1980s when he was posted here to help contain Khmer Rouge insurgents and Vietnamese incursions.
“They were still coming over the border, chased out of Cambodia by the Vietnamese,” recalled this career soldier.
His second stint came in 1988 when he returned with a group of 72 U.S. advisors to attend military exercises in Lopburi, Phitsanulok and Pak Chong.
Later, he joined the Defense Language Institute for Thai language studies and in 1998 attended the Royal Thai Army Command and Staff College. On graduation, he was assigned as US Military Special Forces Advisor in the joint U.S. Military Advisory Group - Thailand. This led to his deployment with the Royal Thai Army contingent in East Timor.
In the early 90s, Colonel Redmon was sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the 10th Special Forces Group where he commanded two Special Forces Operational Detachments in Operation Joint Endeavor.
“We were responsible for separating the warring factions. It was a bizarre and terrible time, with many of the warring factions committing genocide, rape and murder. Our task there included tracking down war criminals.”
After Europe, he conducted a mission in Africa where his unit helped to evacuate American citizens from the civil war enveloping Liberia.
In 2000, Colonel Redmon was again assigned to the 1st Special Force Group (Airborne) for staff and command of operational Special Forces units. While in command, he deployed his unit to the Philippines, as part of the war on terrorism Operation ‘Enduring Freedom-Philippines’ against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. In June 2002, he again assumed duties as the Operations Officer of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand and US Special Forces Advisor with the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
In 2006, Colonel Redmon reported to the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he served as the Deputy Director for Counter-terrorism policy. He was later appointed the Country Director, and then Regional Director, for Southeast Asia, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Affairs.
During 2008-11, he was posted to Iraq and Afghanistan, arriving in the region at a critical stage in the conflict. “It was a very dangerous period, because of the sectarian divide, with Christians being targeted. Yes, it was bad in Iraq, but even worse in Afghanistan, where I lost of seven of my guys in an encounter in Farah province lasting just 22 minutes.
“I now know how the US Cavalry must have felt in the Old West – if captured alive, we’d be skinned alive.
“The brutality in Afghanistan made sense in a strange way; the people there were living in the 12th century. But in Iraq, a country of educated people, schools and electricity, the brutality didn’t make sense.”
For the three years before coming to Thailand before his current post in 2015, Colonel Redmon was the U.S. Army Attache’ to India.
Over the years here, he has met and become friends with some of Thai soldiers who were actively involved in US army operations across the globe. Veterans of these conflicts are remembered to this day in various military ceremonies conducted in Thailand by Colonel Redmon and his team. “We want to make sure their contributions are still important to us,” he said.
The experience of one particular Thai soldier during the Vietnam War resonates with him. “This man was an army sergeant and radio operator called Chaichorn Harnavee, who spent almost ten years in the Hanoi ‘Hilton’.
“Today, he’s 82 years old, and his incredible story deserves to be told. Chaichorn was on a covert mission when his plane landed in Laos, where it was ambushed by communist soldiers. He and the pilot managed to escape and hide out in the jungle for several days. Eventually, they were captured and sent to North Vietnam.
“He was jailed in Hanoi along with other prisoners of war, including Senator John McCain, former vice presidential candidate Ross Perot and Admiral James Stockdale.
“During his time in prison, he helped many POWs to escape. On his release a decade later Chaichorn was dumped on the Thai border, but because of his time away from this country found it difficult to convince fellow Thais that he was one of them. While in prison, he had been declared dead, and on his return to Thailand, he discovered that his wife had remarried.
Colonel Redmon’s CV is impressive. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Master of Arts in Military Studies for Revolutions and Insurgencies (SEA and Burma), and a Masters in Strategic Studies.
His awards and decorations include; ‘Defense Superior Service Medal’, the ‘Bronze Star Medal with Oak leaf,’ and other US and foreign decorations, including ‘The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.’
Looking back at the past 40 years, Colonel Redmon said: “It has been a great privilege to wear the uniform and serve my nation in so many places. I have met so many great, impressive and influential people down to the most humble, poorest person. All have made a tremendous impact on my life for the better.
“On the day I was commissioned an officer, an old soldier told me – and I have never forgotten his words – ‘Today you are entrusted with America’s most precious gifts, her sons and daughters, in this awesome responsibility you can never fail.’
“My only regret – that I didn’t do better is that some of those young people with whose lives I was entrusted with didn’t come back.”
Colonel Redmon and his wife Nuntalux have two children, a son Khunsig, fifteen years old, and a daughter Yiwhaa, twelve years old. His favourite activities and hobbies are spending time with his family, hunting, enjoying nature and studying history.