Col. James "Jim" Riley has been enjoying the pace of retirement after a busy military career that took him and his family around the world for more than 20 years.
Riley, a member of the Texas A&M Class of 1961, joined the Marine Corps Reserves while participating in the university's Corps of Cadets.
As he got closer to graduation, Riley said, he knew he wanted to work in law enforcement, so he elected to take his commission with the Army and the military police, the only student in his class to do so.
"My time with the Marine Corps and with A&M really prepared me well for military service. There was not a lot of new things that I experienced that others who had not had that background experienced, so it really prepared me for a military career," Riley said. "My fiancee and I decided to get married and our assignment was in Europe ... so we went together."
Two years later, and now with two young girls in the family, Riley was sent to Fort Hood, where he got his orders to deploy to Vietnam in 1967.
Once he got to Vietnam, he was assigned to command the 212th Military Police company comprised of soldiers and their canine companions, referred to as war dogs by Riley. At the time, Riley says the military used German shepherds for the role.
Military K9 units have been utilized in warfare in the United States in both world wars and the role that they played in the Vietnam War was critical, Riley said, being deployed in locations throughout Vietnam, mostly guarding airfields, ammunition depots and special forces headquarters.
"There is a very special bond between the soldier and his dog because they work by themselves. They were the first line of defense. You say in Vietnam there were no battle lines, but in fact, that is not the case. They were out patrolling the perimeters of the jungles and they were on their own. Very brave, dedicated soldiers."
Like his men, Riley had a companion: Rex, a retired German shepherd that was the mascot of the company. Riley was eventually moved to the brigade headquarters, where he managed the Vietnam War dog program country-wide.
Following the Vietnam War, Riley spent four years in school, first for an advanced military police training program and then to Texas Tech for a Masters of Business Administration before heading to U.S. Army Command and General Staff College to build on the engineering degree he received from Texas A&M. Riley said the military wanted him to learn how to use computers.
In 1975, the Riley family moved to Belgium, where Jim commanded an international police force comprised of 14 countries providing security for U.S. and European leaders, classified briefings, and classified areas within the North American Treaty Organization headquarters in Mons.
Riley and his family returned the U.S. in 1978, this time to Fort Riley in Kansas to head the 716th Military Police Battalion for the next two years. They deployed multiple times to Europe, Riley said, to aid in disputes. In the time after, he attended a doctoral program at the Naval War College until he was asked to take command of the 89th Military Police Brigade back in Fort Hood from 1981 until 1984, after which he retired from military service.
In retirement, Riley settled into a position as assistant director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and, over his 10-year career there, served as deputy and executive director of the state prison in Huntsville, before he continued doing work related to health care in prison systems nationwide.
In 2015, Riley retired, moving with his wife, Barbara, to Watercrest in Bryan.
"We're part of the Aggie family. ... We are in our 57th year, we dated at A&M, she went to Ring Dance, she's been to the games, we have Class of '61 monthly luncheons, the ladies get together. It's remarkable. It's an added reward for being here."