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A Most Unusual Muster

Stephanie Cannon '06 April 3, 2014 10:05 AM

By Roberto Molar Candanosa ’13

Roland E. Bussell ’50 never misses a chance during Class Reunions to ask fellow Aggies whether they ever attended a Muster in North Korea. So far, he’s only found one other person who could answer yes to his question.

The Muster he attended in 1952 in North Korea has a special place among Bussell’s military anecdotes. He thinks it is perhaps “the most unusual and undocumented Muster ever held.”

“I am sure a lot of Aggies were in North Korea during Muster time but to attend a Muster, a formal Muster, that’s something else,” Bussell explained.

The North Korea Muster was organized by Brig. Gen. Hayden L. Boatner, a keen supporter of the Aggie Spirit who was commandant at Texas A&M during Bussell’s junior and senior years in 1949 and 1950. The Muster was held in the headquarters of the Second Infantry Division. Boatner himself was the guest speaker, and Maj. Gen. Robert N. Young and Chief Warrant Officer Robert B. Mills were guests of honor.

The program included everything a formal Muster should include—invocation by a chaplain, 1st Lt. Robert J. Wood; the Roll Call by Capt. Lamar Haines ’44, and “The Aggie War Hymn” and “The Spirit of Aggieland,” played by the 2nd Infantry Division Band. The Texas Aggie Muster Day Tradition and the Dismissal of Muster were given, respectively, by Maj. Warner M. Brundrett ’40 and 2nd Lt. Lloyd H. Manjeot ’51. In 2009, Bussell donated a copy of the Muster program and two photos from the event to Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library & Archives.

After leaving Korea in 1953, Bussell never again heard about any of the 40 or so Aggies who attended that Muster. But that changed at the 2013 Sul Ross Reunion, when he reunited with his good friend Jess McIver ’50, a battalion intelligence officer with whom Bussell had attended Muster. Now the two continue to nurture their friendship and share memories from Korea whenever they get the chance.

Bussell has gratifying memories of his student life at Texas A&M. “It was a life-changing event that opened my eyes to things I hadn’t even thought of in school, in business, in the work world, and the associations I’ve made with people” said Bussel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

Like many Old Army Aggies, Bussell recalls that being a student at A&M was not always easy. “The only reason I didn’t quit college and come back home was that I knew my dad (Ralph W. Bussell ’21) would put me back in the car and take me back up there. So I wound up saving him gasoline money.”

After an unforgettable time at Texas A&M, Bussell was first sent to Fort Hood and then, on Christmas Day of 1952, to Korea. He remembers his departure flight, where he enjoyed some Good Bull in company of four other Aggies. Starting as a second lieutenant and then promoted to first lieutenant, Bussell served as battalion motor officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Chipo-Ri, North Korea, from 1952 to 1953.

Despite the location, he recalls his stay in North Korea as filled with good fortune. It was fortune, he insisted, combined with clever problem-solving skills that led to him receiving the Bronze Star Medal for his actions during the Battle of Triangle Hill. “It’s just strange how the good lord blessed me so many times throughout my life with unbelievable luck,” he said.

After leaving the Army, Bussell worked 33 years as a mechanic engineer and manager for the Dow Chemical Co., which gave him the opportunity to travel the world and Muster from Magnolia, Ark., and San Francisco to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Bussell is a generous supporter of Texas A&M. After his first wife passed away from cancer in 1996, Bussell donated funds to open the Wanda Calvert Bussell Memorial Scholarship, in her honor. He has been a donor to The Association of Former Students for the past 37 years. He now lives in Richards, Texas, with his wife, Pauline B. Bussell. Roland and Pauline are part of the Huntsville A&M Club, where they attend Muster now.

He has a message to share with young Aggies about the significance of Texas A&M: “It will change your perspective of life and your job in the future, your future jobs and associations—it’s an anchor. Really, everywhere I went to, there were Aggies. There were Aggies all through my career, in North Korea, in Fort Hood—so many Aggies of all kinds. Oh, boy, they were great help.”

He believes deeply in the power of Muster to rekindle the Aggie Spirit.

“It’s good to revive the Spirit every now and then,” he said. “Every Aggie ought to go to a Muster to rekindle the Aggie Spirit and renew the spirit that lies deep down inside.”

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