Hui-Jen (Jen) Shiau, Captain
Hui-Jen Shiau’s military service is one of fascinating contrasts. He operated mid-range ground launched cruise missiles [GLCMs] in Comiso, Italy, as a deterrent against the Former Soviet Union, yet he was the last one on alert before the missiles were dismantled. He relished the independence required in operating the recently developed GLCMs yet complied with the by-the-book approach needed for the established regulations of ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] in North Dakota. A man with a strong sense of camaraderie, he also had the ability to do focused, solo work, such as mastering his knowledge on databases for his subsequent assignment in Information Technology [IT] in the Pentagon. In this two part interview, Shiau describes his experiences, in particular, operating GLCM, and shares his reflections on the meaning of the military in the US, today in his two part interview.
Shiau was born and raised in Taiwan until the age of three when his father, a marine engineer in the US, was able to bring over his entire family. They eventually, settled in New Jersey to ensure that the children could have access to educational opportunities. As a result, Shiau excelled and appreciated the opportunity that the United States provided for him and his family. His desire to give back to the United States, coupled with a need to change directions after first year in college, resulted in Shiau joining the US Army and serving in the Texas National Guard. Yet his exasperated first sergeant, advised him to train as an officer. Thus Shiau then attended Texas A&M University and joined the Air Force ROTC.
After college and after training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and elsewhere, Shiau became a second lieutenant and was assigned to GLCM at Comiso Air Station in Sicily, Italy. GLCM crews were based in Europe during the Cold War and had the ability to reach targets in the former Soviet Union. Shiau and his GLCM crew would spend weeks at remote launch sites in the field armed with the GLCM weapon system. Because of this weapon system, Shiau and his fellow soldiers were instrumental in helping alleviate Cold War tensions by complying with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty, the first treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons instead of reducing the number of weapons.
Shiau worked with GLCM until the passing of INF Treaty and was even on duty for the last GLCM alert. After the end of GLCM, Shiau worked with ICBMs in North Dakota and then served in the Pentagon with an IT position until 1997. Shiau encourages others to serve and to humanize citizen soldiers, not demonize them or place them on a pedestal. Shiau wants us to remember that they are people doing a job devotedly, sometimes under very difficult conditions, with potential consequences more brutal than in the civilian world. Youngsters should be encouraged to, minimally do national service. The military should not be separate from society but a product of it.