In a time of controversy at home and war on foreign soils, Marana resident Tom Hayden didn’t have to receive a draft notice to go into the military. Right out of high school, Hayden joined the U.S. Army and began a 28-year career that involved two tours in Vietnam, military intelligence, managing security for a four-star general and serving as a teacher to many soldiers.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to college,” he said. “This was what I wanted to do.”
Once enlisted, Hayden began what would become an illustrious career that took him through many countries, much of the U.S. and trained him to eventually continue serving the greater good in Southern Arizona. Hayden currently serves as the training director for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
Hayden wasn’t a soldier that would be immediately sent into war. After basic, besides marrying wife Peggy, he was also on a career path to take him into one of the toughest programs in the Army.
The Officer Training Unit (OTU) was developed in 1965 to train officer cadets to provide platoon commanders for units serving overseas in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia. It was a rigorous six-month program that could break any man, as Hayden noted, many soldiers did struggle and there were some tough days.
“After my first day, I remember staring up at the bunk and I asked myself, ‘What did I get myself into,’” he said. “That first day my quarters were on the third floor, but it seemed like it took me hours to get up there because every time I turned around I was being told to drop and give some sergeant pushups.”
Behind every good man
In the OTU program, Hayden wasn’t sent home each day. Instead, he only saw Peggy during daily visits, where she also was a major part in getting him through the strenuous officer’s training. Peggy not only shined Hayden’s boots every single day, but she also did some of his homework for him.
Hayden explained that part of the requirements in the program was that every soldier had to copy every word of the regulations’ manual by hand. Peggy did the work.
With a smile, Peggy not only recalled the lengthy task of writing the regulations, but also said the trick for a good boot shining was to use candle wax.
Peggy waxed the boots every single day of the six-month stretch, and when asked why, she said, “It was so I would have the chance to see him.”
Hayden didn’t hesitate to give his wife credit not only for the six months of boot shining, but also mentioning that her support and patience over the years helped him improve his career in the military. From infantry to military intelligence at the Ft. Huachuca Army Base in Sierra Vista, the two somehow made it work.
After OTU training, Hayden was shipped out for his first tour overseas. Comparing the war in the 1960s through the 1970s to today’s military, Hayden said establishing commaradery was quite different.
Oftentimes is the case today, troops are sent over as a group. The trust is already established. However, for Hayden, as a platoon leader, part of the job was going overseas to relieve someone who was already serving for a year. Being the new guy meant he not only served as a leader, but had to work quickly to establish trust.
Altogether, Hayden served two tours in Vietnam.
After the war
Because so many of the soldiers serving in Vietnam were drafted, once the war was over, the military didn’t necessarily have a place for all of them. Meaning duties were changed or dropped.
For Hayden, he had already gone through a variety of training, had high test scores and had some options to continue his career. That’s where intelligence came into view. That’s when he reluctantly switched from infantry to military intelligence.
“There was a lot to learn from Vietnam,” he said. “We had a lot of work to do to change how we viewed wartime. In Vietnam, we didn’t always know where the enemy was. That meant sending soldiers into the fields to find the enemy. By developing better intelligence, it would allow the military to know where the enemy was before sending troops in.”
Besides intelligence in warfare, Hayden also worked a stint in New Mexico that centered around intelligence on issues surrounding the Soviet Union.
Hayden also worked with two four-star generals in his career, including Colin Powell and Frederick Woerner.
During his time providing security for Gen. Woerner, Hayden was privy to issues surrounding Panama’s controversial ruler Manuel Noriega.
End of service
Eventually, the Desert Storm conflict rolled around in the 1990s and Hayden was not called to serve. It was at that time that he realized his service to the U.S. military was coming to a close.
“As a gun man, you don’t want war, but you march to the sound of the gun,” he said. “When you can’t go to battle anymore, you have to call it quits.”
While reluctant to speak abou them, Hayden earned a vareity of medals in his career, including two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and a Soldier’s Medal, which was earned for heroics outside of combat.
Hayden saved a fellow soldier from drowning during a tour in Vietnam.
Once out of the military, at 48, Hayden applied to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. He was accepted,, went through the academy and became a deputy.
Eventually, Hayden’s experience in military intelligence carried him into the HIDTA.
Hayden has served the HIDTA since 1999.