1st SMA - William O. Wooldridge

1st SMA - William O. Wooldridge

Born: August 12, 1922, Shawnee, Oklahoma

Died: March 9, 2012


  • 1940 Enlisted at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in Company F, 23d Infantry, 2d Infantry Division
  • 1941-42 Detached service, British Forces- Iceland
  • 1942-45 Rifleman through Squad Leader, 1st Infantry Division, North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, Germany
  • 1945-46 Ft. Sam Houston, Texas
  • 1946-47 Student, 1st Three Grades Course, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
  • 1947-49 Platoon Sergeant, Field First Sergeant, Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Seoul, Korea
  • 1949-54 First Sergeant, Company K, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Germany
  • 1954-55 First Sergeant, Company G, 3d Infantry (the Old Guard), Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C.
  • 1955-58 First Sergeant, Sergeant Major, 3d Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley, Kansas
  • 1958-63 Sergeant Major, 2d Battle Group, 28th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division, Germany
  • 1963-65 Sergeant Major, 24th Infantry Division, Germany
  • 1965-66 Sergeant Major, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley, Kansas, Republic of Vietnam
  • 1966-68 Sergeant Major of the Army
  • 1968-69 Sergeant Major, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
  • 1969-72 Sergeant Major, Range Command, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
  • 1971-72 Sergeant Major, HQ Company, U.S. Army Garrison, Ft. MacArthur, California

Significant Accomplishments as SMA

As the first SMA, SMA Wooldridge worked to establish the position of the SMA. SMA Wooldridge had direct access to the Chief of Staff, established invaluable relationships with various staff agencies in the Pentagon, and traveled widely as the "eyes and ears" of the Chief of Staff, spending nearly half of his time as SMA visiting soldiers, including several trips to combat zones in Southeast Asia. To help pass on his experience to soldiers he wrote an article on combat, "So You're Headed for Combat: How to Get Ready and What to Expect," published in the January 1968 Army Digest (the predecessor of SOLDIERS). SMA Wooldridge also initiated the establishment of the Major Commands Command Sergeants Major Conference in 1966, which since then has resulted in innumerable proposals that have improved the training, readiness, proficiency, and morale of soldiers.

Selected Decorations and Awards 

  • Silver Star with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Legion of Merit with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Bronze Star Medal
  • Purple Heart Medal
  • Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • American Defense Service Medal
  • European – African – Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Army Occupation Medal (Germany)
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • Combat Infantry Badge with 1 Star

At the conclusion of his tour in 1968 as SMA, CSM Wooldridge went on to serve as the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV) CSM and was later accused of improprieties. He retired in 1972 and in 1973 pled guilty to two counts of bribery for accepting stock from a corporation that did business with NCO clubs in Vietnam.