It seems like Bob LoPinto always loved science and math. As a young boy, he was fascinated by chemistry and took to math effortlessly and enthusiastically.
Later, Bob entered prestigious Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan. It was during this time that he set up a fully-functioning chemistry lab in the family basement. Since it was situated between the oil burner and the fuel tank, it made for a few interesting—and smelly—moments, Bob says, laughing. But, all-in-all, his parents encouraged his love of chemistry and discovery. He continued to excel in math and science and challenged himself with advanced coursework. Still passionate about chemistry, he went on to the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he majored in Chemical Engineering.
Prior to Bob’s first semester at Brooklyn Poly, he would make a decision that would deeply affect his future. It seemed that all incoming engineering students were required to take a phys-ed course. Although the logic of that requirement was lost on Bob, he had heard that enrolling in the ROTC would a) fulfill his gym obligation, and b) allow him to enter the Army as a lieutenant rather than a private, should he be drafted, which was a distinct possibility in the fall of 1963.
Bob did choose to join the ROTC, and, at about the same time, joined the Pershing Rifles, a military fraternal organization which complemented his ROTC experience and allowed him to form friendships and compete in military drills on a national level. At the end of his sophomore year, Bob was offered a full U.S. Army scholarship for his remaining two years at Poly. The scholarship did come with strings attached, however. Bob would be obligated, for four years after graduating, to serve in the Army if requested to do so (in addition to his two-year commitment for reserve duty). Bob enjoyed being in the military, and he couldn’t deny that the funding would be a huge help to his parents. So he signed a contract and accepted the scholarship. At the same time, his classes were going very well, and his drill team was extremely successful, even on a national level.
In the summer before his senior year, Bob entered the six-week ROTC training camp in Massachusetts. Upon completion of the camp, he was appointed cadet commander of his ROTC unit, and was also named captain of his Pershing Rifles Drill Team. Bob, now being in his senior year, had to select which direction to take upon graduation. Even though he had majored in Chemical Engineering, he decided on the Army Corps of Engineers, which has more of a civil engineering angle. He also requested to go to both Airborne and Ranger schools, and, upon completion, to be deployed to Vietnam.
After graduation, Bob headed to Fort Benning, GA to join an engineer battalion, with the goal of being sent to Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division after one year. Although his airborne training was denied because he was going to an infantry division, he started Ranger school, finishing up in January of 1968—but not before an encounter with a rattlesnake—which later became dinner—and nearly losing some of his toes to frostbite! Interestingly, while in Fort Benning, Bob’s battalion was responsible for building the film set for the motion picture, The Green Berets, where Bob got to meet John Wayne and Aldo Ray. (Who said Army life isn’t glamorous?!)
In 1968, Bob was finally deployed to Vietnam. Arriving in Cu Chi one evening, he was instructed to meet the Engineer Battalion Commander the next morning for his assignment. To his surprise, the newly minted lieutenant was told he was “being traded” to a supply and transport battalion due to personnel issues. Bob rolled with the punches, and, after six months, became the division supply officer for the last six months of his deployment in Vietnam. At the same time, he was a platoon leader for the large base Camp’s reactionary force. Bob’s platoon was called into action one night after the camp was infiltrated and munitions and seven helicopters were destroyed.
A few months later, Bob was state-side again and entered engineer school at Fort Belvoir, VA. After nine months, he entered the Engineer Officers’ Advanced Course where he took map-making and nuclear biological warfare training. Now company commander, the Army Corps requested that Bob go to graduate school. Although he had been trained in Chemical Engineering, the Army wanted him to get his Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering. Bob, who now had a wife and infant daughter, moved his young family to Fort Totten in Queens, NY and began taking classes at Manhattan College.
After graduation, he was assigned to the New York District Corps of Engineers and opened up an area office on Long Island, in the south-shore Village of Freeport. After three years, in a major geographical shift, Bob was sent to Germany as company commander, where he would spend his next three years. After being promoted to major, he was assigned to a top-secret project involving unattended ground sensors in Europe. After the study was completed, he headed to England to run a special forces training camp. (His predecessor, a colonel, had almost run the camp into the ground, accruing a deficit of over $100,000. When Bob left this post, total damages came to $42—which were paid for by the offender!)
Once his assignment in England was over, Bob returned to Germany for one last time to wrap up his service there. (His wife Rosanne, now expecting their third child, had gone back to the states a few weeks earlier.)
Back in New York, Bob started teaching map-making, mountaineering and rappelling at his alma mater, Brooklyn Poly, to ROTC students. At this time, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was assigned as inspector general at the Picatinny Arsenal of the Armaments, Munitions and Chemical Command in New Jersey. After nine months, Bob was selected to be the Command Inspector General. This involved making inspections throughout the Northeast, South and Midwest, so Bob was on the road quite a bit—inspecting both chemical and munitions facilities.
After that assignment was complete, Bob was promoted to Professor of Military Science, heading the ROTC at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY where he ended up finishing his distinguished military career.
Reflecting, Bob looks at his life as a series of opportunities. His love of Math and Science got him into Brooklyn Poly. Poly got him into the ROTC program. ROTC got Bob interested in the Pershing Rifles Drill Team. The drill team sparked his enthusiasm for the military—all culminating with outstanding careers in both the Army and civilian life that have spanned many years.
Before Bob officially became a civilian, he became active in the Queens Chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers and formed a friendship with another member, who happened to have a naval background. This alliance led to an opportunity with Shapiro Engineering, a firm that concentrated on both environmental engineering and structural crane operations. When the principal retired, the baton was passed to Bob, who became the president and had successfully headed the company for ten years when Shapiro Engineering was acquired by Walden Associates last December. Walden is extremely proud to have someone of Bob’s skill-set and impressive background of military service on staff. Although he cherishes his military years, Bob loves spending time—mostly in one place—with his family, including three children and six grandchildren. This includes sky-diving, rappelling, race-car driving, flying (including acrobatics), gliding, hot-air ballooning and swimming with the sharks! Yes, even after his eventful military career, Bob still likes an adventure or two!
What Makes an Army Ranger?
Army Rangers are a highly regarded special force, having demonstrated superior physical achievement, military skills and leadership ability. The first of week of training is physical, consisting of calisthenics and swimming, running obstacle courses and completing strenuous marches, all while wearing full gear, of course. Then classes in leadership, patrolling, map-reading, hand-to-hand combat and weaponry are added to the physical training. Short patrols of one or two days also added at this point. Upon passing this first phase, one moves on to mountaineering, rock climbing and rappelling—along with going out on longer patrols in more challenging terrain. During these patrols, the role of leader is rotated so this skill can be developed and assessed as well. Meals are limited to twice daily, as a way of ensuring candidates are able to perform under duress. If successful after this stage, one moves on to water-based training, i.e., small boat training and operation. This final phase ends with a grueling seven-day patrol. That’s what makes an Army Ranger, so it’s easy to see why they are among the most distinguished members of our armed forces. Rangers Lead The Way!