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Frank Magnanelli


I was born and raised in Bethesda, MD, with my three younger brothers. My father was a WW II combat veteran and my mother left Ohio and joined the war effort in Washington, DC. I attended Bradley Elementary School then transferred to St. Jane DeChantal school through 8th grade. I attended one year at Good Counsel High School before transferring to Walter Johnson Senior High school. I went to Montgomery Junior College (MC) but dropped out and became eligible for the draft. I decided to enlist in the US Army, partly because my grandfather and my dad served in the Army. I enlisted in February 1967 and took Basic Training at Ft. Bragg, NC. I went to the US Army Intelligence School at Ft. Holabird in Baltimore, MD, and trained as a Military Intelligence Coordinator, 97D MOS. I was assigned to the 112th MI Group at Ft. Sam Houston, TX. I, along with about 20 others in the class, received stateside assignments for the duration of our enlistments due to the Army’s over recruiting in the 97D MOS, and the fact that all of the enlisted stateside men at all the MI Groups were due to be discharged at the time we graduated. All of the other 97D soldiers in previous classes were given assignments to Vietnam in the 525th MI Group and other intelligence elements. I was honorably discharged at Ft. Sam Houston in January 1970. During my Army service I received the National Defense Service Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Expert Rifle Badge.

During my time at San Antonio, I made many friends within the group both Army and Civilian colleagues. We enjoyed excursions in San Antonio, Austin, TX and visited friends and relatives in OK. My best friend, Art Lenza, also in the 112th, hailed from Staten Island, NY, and we have kept in touch over the years. We enjoyed going out with our buddy’s and eating the best Mexican food in town. Our SGT Major kept us on our toes and out of trouble as did the senior NCO, an E-8 who served his last year there before retirement. San Antonio was his hometown. I had poor grades at MC and so I petitioned the University of Maryland for enrollment and was accepted and received an early out, just shy of my three year enlistment. I majored in Government and Politics and received my bachelor’s degree in 1977.

Following my honorable discharge, I worked for the local CO-OP grocery store as a full-time receiving clerk. My uncle, an Army-Aircops WWII veteran, who worked for the CIA, convinced me to enlist because the Army guaranteed enlisted training in their eligible MOS of their choice. He encouraged me to go intelligence which would possibly qualify me for CIA employment. I joined the Agency in 1971 and enjoyed a 30 year career in Security and Counterintelligence. During my career, I managed large government programs, and received numerous awards and commendations. Upon my CIA retirement, I was awarded the Career Intelligence Medal.

I retired from CIA at age 52 and embarked on a successful second career in the private sector. I successfully managed large contracts for USIS, SAIC, Leidos, and Raytheon on behalf of CIA and the Director of National Intelligence. I retired from working in May 2023, and live with my wife, Susan. We have two children, Kimberly and Joseph, and a granddaughter, Hayleigh. Kim and Hayleigh live in Dover, DE with Kim’s husband and two other adopted children. Kimberly works for a doctor’s practice in Dover, and Joseph is a highly regarded Recreation Specialist for the Montgomery County, MD aquatics division. Joseph is single and lives in nearby Damascus, MD.

Looking back, I wanted to be drafted and only have to serve 2 years, but through my uncle’s encouragement, I decided to enlist and go into the MOS I chose. While serving at the 112th, I put in for helicopter training, wanting to be a Warrant Officer and fly choppers. The senior NCO convinced me I was valuable serving at the 112th and refused to process my papers. He didn’t think I would qualify and said it was a sure ticket to Vietnam where the Army lost a lot helicopter pilots. A second time, I put in for assignment at the 902nd MI Group in Washington, DC. It was the premier intelligence unit in the Army and I would be close to home. The same senior NCO ripped up my application saying, “do you know how many put in for the 902nd? Do you think they will actually select you? No. And they’ll probably send you to Nam instead.” Looking back, I think I would have made Warrant Officer and successfully completed the chopper training. I had a good record at the 112th but may not have been a top candidate for acceptance at the 902nd. I was a 19 year old kid and I think the old Sergeant was trying to save me, knowing I had a really good assignment at the 112th.

Part of me feels guilty that I didn’t serve in Vietnam along with all of those brave soldiers that were there. I guess I was at the right place at the right time at the intel school. My grandmother told me I didn’t go to Nam because of all of the rosary’s she and my mother prayed on my behalf. I temper my guilt knowing I served honorably and would have gone to the war if I was assigned there. I haven’t visited the Wall yet, but it is on my “bucket list” to pay tribute to all whose names are enshrined there. I was honored to accept a lifetime membership the Vietnam Veterans Association.

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