Joining the Army during the Vietnam War would have been a guaranteed ticket to a foreign combat zone for most individuals. But for Jefferson City area veteran Warren Krech, his military journey would land him thousands of miles from combat operations and provide him with the opportunity to develop and refine his talents as a broadcaster.
Born in South Dakota, Krech's family moved to Minneapolis, Minn., where he would graduate from Burnsville High School in 1968. Shortly after his graduation, Krech spent two years attending the University of Minnesota where he began working on a theater degree.
"At that time, I was just drifting through college; I was kind of sick of it," stated Krech.
While in college, Krech received notice that his number was two in the draft lottery (a method used by the Selective Service System to determine the order of induction into the armed forces). With such a low lottery number, he believed it just a matter of time before he would be drafted in support of the war in Vietnam.
In light of what he perceived to be inevitable military service and his waning interest in college, Krech made the decision to enlist in the military in 1971. He was sent to Fort Leonard Wood to complete 10 weeks of basic combat training.
During his initial training, it was discovered that the young soldier had majored in theater during college and possessed some acting experience. The Army then assigned him as an entertainment specialist.
"Following my basic training, I stayed at Fort Wood for another two or three months where I helped run the live theater," Krech stated. "We had USO shows coming through, like Dean Martin's Golddigger Dancers, and I would help stage-manage events and run talent contests."
Working at the local theater also provided Krech the opportunity to use his talents to assist the Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) which, according to the CID website, "is responsible for conducting criminal investigations in which the Army is, or may be, a party of interest."
"The CID was working on a drug bust, and I got to help them complete their makeup in order to make them look like hippies for the bust," laughed Krech.
But the young soldier's theater assignment at the Missouri post would be shortlived as he would soon receive orders to serve at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea).
The station in Asmara served as a listening post to track the satellite communications of Russians, Chinese and other nations, with linguists making up a large part of Army personnel serving at the site.
"We never wore a uniform while I was stationed there due to the secretive nature of the activities on the base," shared Krech. "I had to get a Top Secret security clearance to work there even though I never really knew any secrets."
Although prepared to serve in Vietnam, Krech was thankful for the "quirk of fate" that led him to his assignment thousands of miles away from the war zone.
Upon his arrival at Asmara, the soldier was informed that the only slot they had open for an entertainment specialist was in special services running the base swimming pool. As he was a water safety instructor and had Red Cross training, this would not be a difficult task for Krech.
As a result of his theater training and the close associations developed through living in military barracks, the young soldier would soon foster friendships with some of the disc jockeys working at the base radio station.
Since managing the pool did not take up a significant amount of Krech's time, he was able to begin assisting some of his friends in the daily operations associated with running radio and television shows.
Radio isn't where his broadcasting experience would end while in the service. Krech soon volunteered to host a Saturday morning television show entertaining children of the soldiers who were serving on the base.
"The guy originally doing the children's show went by the name of "Captain Marshmallow,' but he was discharged and returned to the states," recalled Krech. "I volunteered to take his slot and became known as "Crater Eddie.'"
Crater Eddie's sidekick, Jungle Al (Al Stevens), was a fellow Missourian from Kansas City. "Al and I would perform puppet shows for the kids and then show cartoons," shared Krech. The show served as an outlet by which Krech was able to refine his skills in both acting and script writing.
Krech continued to serve in Asmara for 19 months and was discharged from the Army in 1973. Remaining in Africa, he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, with hopes of finding work and remaining in the area.
"I couldn't get a job or a green card and eventually ran out of money and had to return to the states," Krech said. "To remain in the country, you had to be able to do something that a Kenyan couldn't do; I didn't have that skill set.
"I loved Africa - especially Kenya - and would probably be there to this day if I had found a job."
After returning home, Krech completed his studies at the University of Minnesota, earning a theater degree with a minor in African studies. Following graduation, he went into radio using the various skills that he had learned during his service in the Army.
Krech worked for broadcast outlets in several states before moving to Missouri in 1984 to become the program director with KJMO. He now hosts the Morning News Watch on KWOS 950 AM from 5-9 a.m. on weekdays.
Although his military journey did not take him in the same direction as so many of his military counterparts during the Vietnam War, Krech displayed a sense of volunteerism and patriotism that continues to resonate through his participation in many community activities and events.
Continuing the tradition of service and spirit of volunteerism prompted by his father, Krech's son is now a member of the U.S. Army and is stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., with the 1st Infantry Division. He is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan soon.
Jeremy Amick served in the military for 11 years, is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, and public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.