At their pay grade, most staff sergeants in the U.S Army do not get much opportunity to even see a $100,000 bill, much less to become familiar with whose face appears on one.
But that was the question facing Staff Sgt. Jeffrey K. Schmidbauer when he appeared recently on the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" TV show: What U.S. president's face is on the $100,000 bill?
There was $125,000 riding on the right answer.
Schmidbauer, a resident of Arlington County, is a video production instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. The school is where the services train members to be military journalists.
Through a local radio station, Schmidbauer won a chance to appear on "Millionaire" and flew with his wife, Barbara, to New York for a tryout last month.
When Meredith Vieira, the show's host, asked the contestants whether they were ready to play, Schmidbauer replied with a rousing Army "hooah."
"I was thinking of trying to separate myself from the previous contestants because they were all pretty bland," Schmidbauer said, according to a DINFOS news release. "I thought, 'What can I do? I've got my uniform on. I don't want to act like a fool.' "
Once selected for the show, Schmidbauer dispatched most of his questions with ease, the studio audience bellowing out "hooahs" in approval.
Then came a question that stumped him, about the movie "The Karate Kid." What bird is the kid's signature move named after? The show allows contestants to make one "lifeline" telephone call to a friend for advice on a question, and Schmidbauer's call went to John D. Banusiewicz, the public affairs department academic director at DINFOS, who had taken a day of leave to be available if Schmidbauer called.
Banusiewicz said he felt panicked when the call came. "Whatever I had planned, and however cool I wanted to be about it, I just kind of lost it all there," he said. "I got very, very nervous."
But Banusiewicz nonetheless had the right answer for Schmidbauer: a crane.
Schmidbauer kept rolling and came to the $125,000 question about the $100,000 bill.
For Schmidbauer, the question was a piece of cake. For several years, he had been using a bookmark that is a facsimile of a $100,000 bill.
The answer, he knew, was Woodrow Wilson. With $125,000 in the bag, Schmidbauer chose to bow out of the game at that point.
"I never would have thought in a thousand years that I would ever make it to that point, but I did," Schmidbauer said.
The shows with Schmidbauer aired Oct. 30 and 31.
Schmidbauer has big plans for his winnings: pay off some debts, take a vacation to Paris and maybe buy a new mobile home.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the resulting war on terrorism were not far from anyone's mind at this year's Pentagon town hall meeting.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who presided over the meeting, fielded questions from rank-and-file workers at the meeting, held in the Pentagon auditorium and broadcast over the building's cable channel.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the audience that the attack on the Pentagon, which claimed the lives of 125 people in the building and 59 passengers and crew members on the hijacked airliner, remains at the forefront of the Pentagon's collective conscience.
"All of us lost friends in that, and I think all of us have been part of a national determined response to do the right thing," Myers said.
"Over the last 14 months, a lot has been demanded of you, and people know that," he added. "There have been a lot of extra hours. . . . Weekends and holiday duty are sort of commonplace. And I know it's not been an easy time, necessarily, for you and your families."
In recognition of the sacrifices made by military families, November has been designated the first annual Military Family Month by President Bush, officials said.
Rumsfeld was asked about measures that have been taken to protect Pentagon employees from future attacks.
His reply referred to "a great many things that have been done" and noted the relocation of the Pentagon Metro station farther from the building, the addition of more police and military security around the building and the ban on trucks driving on Route 110, which passes through an underpass that leads into the building.
The latter, he said, "was considered to be a dangerous situation."
Rumsfeld noted that the security level at the Pentagon "varies" at different times. "The purpose of that is because there's a stress level on the force if you maintain everything at the highest alert level," he said.
"If, on the other hand, you make the changes from time to time, it's difficult for people who might wish us ill to know precisely when a certain capability is or isn't present," Rumsfeld added.
Special Escort for Long-Lost Flier
Air Force 1st Lt. Jefferson Scott "Scotty" Dotson was on a mission in his F-100F Super Sabreall over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos in August 1969 when his aircraft disappeared.
Dotson and Capt. Lee Gourley flew out from Tuy Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam on Aug. 9, 1969, on a reconnaissance mission over the supply route. The plane never showed up for a scheduled refueling.
Dotson, a Virginia native and a 1966 graduate of Virginia Military Institute, was listed as missing in action until 1976, when he was declared killed in action. Gourley also was declared dead.
Forty-eight of Dotson's "Brother Rats" -- VMI graduates from the Class of 1966 -- gathered from across the nation last month at Arlington National Cemetery to welcome their classmate home.
Dotson, who was promoted to captain while he was on MIA status, was laid to rest with full military honors Oct. 25 at Arlington. Dotson's family members and VMI classmates followed the horse-drawn caisson to the grave site.
A U.S. military team had found remains in Laos last year, and subsequent DNA testing at a laboratory in Hawaii identified them as belonging to Dotson and Gourley.
When Dotson disappeared, he left behind a 3-month-old daughter, Christa. She enlisted in the Air Force herself after graduating from high school.
"I did decide to join the Air Force because of my father," said Christa Renee Dotson Plikat, who has since left the service but is married to an Air Force sergeant and living on a base in England.
Last month, when Dotson's long-lost remains were returned to Virginia, his daughter was there to accompany her father's remains from Hawaii for the trip home.
Military Matters appears in the Extra twice each month. Steve Vogel can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.