Roberts, Jim

Jim Roberts grew up an air force brat in the 1950s and 60s, when his father was a Master Sergeant in the USAF.  The family was always on the move, as Jim’s father served on many bases in the U.S., and was stationed in Panama as well.  Jim grew up in the Cold War era, the son of a veteran, inculcated into the patriotism of the era and aware of the dangers of the new weapons technology and clashing ideologies.  Jim attended West Virginia University and taught for a year, qualifying for five deferments, but he was determined to do his part and chose to enlist in the army.  He attended OCS and DLI in his preparation period pre-Vietnam, where he was destined to join a MAT team, living in a village in country and working to develop relationships with local villagers and allies.  Jim was assigned to MAT Team 111 in Dong Xoai, in 1971.  He did what he could to win hearts and minds during his time there, but in the time of Vietnamization that was often in short supply, as were ammunition for the local forces and will on the part of local commanders.  Jim’s job was to facilitate and to maintain the lines of communication, helping villagers in their day-to-day needs and tracking and disrupting the efforts of the Viet Cong.  DEROS came after about 8 months, when the MAT team was disbanded, and Jim was able to return home by late 1971.  He made his way back east and reconnected with his wife, then finishing medical school.  The two ended up in Pittsburgh, where Jim taught many grade levels in the emerging field of computer studies/languages, ending up for two+ decades at Carnegie Mellon University.  After retiring, Jim authored a book on his experiences in Vietnam, one that chronicles and celebrates the lives of ordinary soldiers in their day-to-day service.  Jim Roberts was interviewed over zoom by Scott Masters in February 2021.