Eisenhower as a Leader

Guys,

History does not provide a blueprint or and cannot act as a crystal ball. Its greatest gift is that it may act as a guide for future decisions.

Intro

History helps to provide a framework that equips an agile mind to make informed decisions. History provides a background as maneuver leaders reflect on personal experience in training and combat.

The study of history should be, as Clausewitz suggested, “meant to educate the mind of the future commander, or, more accurately, to guide him in his self-education, not to accompany him to the battlefield; just as a wise teacher guides and stimulates a young man’s intellectual development, but is careful not to lead him by the hand for the rest of his life.”

Studying past leaders helps leaders to understand their responsibilities. Leaders know the importance of discipline and the need to build confident, cohesive teams. These teams will be resilient to the debilitating effects of combat trauma and the corrosive effects of persistent danger.

One effective way is to study military leaders. Leaders and history are inseparable. Examining the brilliant military careers and intriguing personalities of the great captains of history reveals not only their genius and impact, but offers relevant lessons that military commanders can use later.

Through the lens of history would be as Sir Michael Howard observed, “not to make us cleverer for the next time,” but instead to help make leaders “wise forever.”

Ike in history

General Dwight David Eisenhower (Ike) is one of the most fascinating figures in American military history. He is one of five Presidents who was also a General.

He never held a command higher than a battalion, (1940) as a lieutenant colonel and two years later he was a Major General a commander of an Army Corps. By 1944, he commanded the largest army ever assembled for the invasion of France on D-Day.

Ike the Man

Ike is a character of consequence like Churchill, Stalin and Mao. He was a man who fulfilled a time in history. He knew the importance of the time he was living in and did his best to live up to it.

Born into hardscrabble poverty in rural Kansas, the son of stern pacifists, Dwight David Eisenhower graduated from high school more likely to teach history than to make it (D’Este, 2003). There was nothing in his family background, but a surplus of love. This would form the backbone of his Midwestern values and how he saw the world while in command.

West Point and World War I

Ike graduated from West Point in the Class of 1915, “the Class the Stars Fell On.” In the U.S. Army, the insignia reserved for generals is one or more stars. Of the 164 graduates that year, 59 (36%) attained the rank of general, the most of any class in the history of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Two, Ike and General Omar Bradley, reached the rank of five-star General of the Army. There were also two four-star generals, seven three-star lieutenant generals, 24 two-star major generals and 24 one-star brigadier generals. Ike graduated the middle of his class, but as history has shown, class standing at West Point has been never a prediction of military greatness.

When the US entered World War I in 1917 he repeatedly requested an overseas assignment, but was repeatedly denied due to a talent for training National Guard units.

It was here he earned his reputation as an officer who was straight, blunt, and not a buck passed. His excellent organizational skills and his ability to assess junior officers’ and a units’ strengths and make optimal placements of personnel gained him a reputation of someone who could get things done.

Before he went overseas World War I ended. World War I, was important because it allowed future leaders, like George Patton, to distinguish themselves in war and seek recognition in combat.

In World War II, rivals who had combat service in the first great war (led by British General Bernard Montgomery) sought to denigrate Eisenhower for his previous lack of combat duty, despite his stateside experience establishing a camp, completely equipped, for thousands of troops, and developing a full combat training schedule.

The Interwar Years

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Eisenhower’s career in the postwar army stalled somewhat, as military priorities diminished. Between the world wars, there was a glacial rate of promotion in the army and Ike would remain a Major for 15 years. Eisenhower served under a succession of talented generals learning how to command- Fox Conner, John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall.

Ike learned command, debate and policy from MacArthur. In 1930, Chief of Staff of Army MacArthur, Ike was his aide- de-camp. MacArthur said of Ike in a fitness report, “… this is the best officer in the army.” He served in the Philippines with MacArthur and watched him build an Army from scratch.

World War II

After Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942. He was responsible for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. General George Marshall, now Chief of Staff of the Army, knew his reputation as an excellent staff officer.

In November 1942, he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force of the North African Theater of Operations. He said, “Over the next 5 months in Africa from Dec 1942- May 1943 OPERATION TORCH violated every principle of War, would condemn the campaign at Leavenworth for the next 25 years.” He made a lot of mistakes but learned from them. The biggest lesson was the battle of Kasserine Pass.

For roles in the invasions of Sicily, Italy he was made the Allied Supreme Commander of Europe. His leadership was key in the Assault on Fortress Europe.

Assessment of Personality

A lieutenant colonel at 50 with no military future ahead of him in the stifling between-the-wars promotion system, Eisenhower became, in little more than three years and three months, a five-star general (D’Este, 2003).

Ike lived an “extraordinarily charmed life” on the basis of likability, desk-officer brilliance and the active patronage of influential men he had worked for all added to his success.

His explosive charisma, his modest, self-deprecating humor allowed some folks to be fooled by his “aw-shucks attitude” but he was a shrewd judge of character. Undoubtedly, his previous assignments and experiences were valuable preparation for handling the challenging personalities of Winston Churchill, George S. Patton, George Marshall and General Montgomery during World War II. He was a talented and complicated man.

He was a flawed leader in the opening days of World War II. He never had hands-on command of a unit in combat. His soldiers would pay heavy prices for his inexperience especially at Kasserine Pass. But he would learn from his mistakes and grow. His heart was heavy, with concerns for the enlisted men he knew would do the dying and this was always at the center of his leadership.

After WWII, he was called to service as Army Chief of Staff and the first head of NATO. He would later become President of the United States.

Bibliography

D’Este, C. (2003). Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life Paperback . New York: Holt Paperback.
.Ike

Rick Rescorla Part 2

Rick Rescorla Part 2

9/11

Rescorla’s office was on the forty-fourth floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. The firm occupied twenty-two floors in the south tower, and several floors in a building nearby. On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the basement.

Rescorla ensured that every one of his firm’s employees was safely evacuated, and was the last man out of the building. In any case, he insisted on marching “his troops” through evacuation drills every few months. The investment bankers and brokers would gripe, but Rescorla would respond with his Seven P’s: Proper prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance. He wanted to develop an automatic flight response at Morgan Stanley, to burn it into the company’s DNA.

No wonder the last chapter of the story of Rick Rescorla’s life goes like this:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Rick called his lifelong friend Dan Hill from the 44th floor of the World Trade Center, icy calm in the crisis.  “The dumb sons of bitches told me not to evacuate,” he said during the quick call to his former battle buddy from Vietnam, who had been watching the disaster unfolding on the TV.  “They said it’s just Building One. I told them I’m getting my people the hell of out of here,” (Stewart 2002).

As Vice President of Security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter& Co. he was responsible for the evacuation of his company’s employees and a jumbo jet had just plowed into the north tower. The voices of officialdom were crackling over the loudspeakers in the south tower, urging everyone to stay put: Please do not leave the building. This area is secure.

Rescorla was ignoring them. “Keep moving,” Rescorla commanded over his megaphone while Hill listened. Keep moving. “Typical Rescorla,” Hill recalls, “Incredible under fire.”

Morgan Stanley lost only six of its 2,700 employees in the south tower on Sept. 11, an isolated miracle amid the carnage. And company officials say Rescorla deserves most of the credit. He drew up the evacuation plan. He hustled his colleagues to safety. And then he apparently went back into the inferno to search for stragglers.

The rest of Rick Rescorla’s morning is shrouded in some mystery. The tower went dark. Fire raged. Windows shattered. Rescorla headed upstairs before moving down; he helped evacuate several people above the 50th floor. Stephan Newhouse, chairman of Morgan Stanley International, said at his memorial service that Rescorla was spotted as high as the 72nd floor, and then worked his way down, clearing floors as he went.

Morgan Stanley officials said he called headquarters shortly before the tower collapsed to say he was going back up to search for stragglers.

“As soon as I make sure everyone else is out,” Rescorla replied. Morgan Stanley officials say Rescorla also told employees that, “Today is a day to be proud to be American,” and that “Tomorrow, the whole world will be talking about you.” They say he also sang “God Bless America” and Cornish folk tunes in the stairwells just he had done in Vietnam.

Morgan Stanley managing director Bob Sloss was the only employee who didn’t evacuate the 66th floor after the first plane hit, pausing to call his family and several underlings, even taking a call from a Bloomberg News reporter. Then the second plane hit, and his office walls cracked, and he felt the tower wagging like a dog’s tail. He clambered down to the 10th floor, and there was Rescorla, sweating through his suit in the heat, telling people they were almost out, making no move to leave himself.

“He was selfless in that situation, and that’s your ultimate character test,” Sloss says. “He was not rattled at all. He was putting the lives of his colleagues ahead of his own.”

Susan Rescorla watched the United Airlines jet carve through her husband’s tower, and she dissolved in tears. After a while, her phone rang. It was Rick.

“I don’t want you to cry,” he said. “I have to evacuate my people now.” She kept sobbing. “If something happens to me, I want you to know that you made my life.”

The phone went dead. Susan watched the south tower implode in that unforgettable plume of smoke. She ran wailing into the street. She doesn’t know why she did that. One of her neighbors did the same thing — her husband had been at a meeting on the 100th floor. Rick did not make it out. Neither did two of his security officers who were at his side. But only three other Morgan Stanley employees died when their building was obliterated. In the end, there was no great mystery to Rescorla’s actions on Sept. 11. It would have been mysterious if he had reacted any differently. And everyone who knew Rescorla agrees that if he had survived the evacuation, he would have said he was just doing his job. That’s what Rescorla said after Vietnam and what Audie Murphy said after World War II.

Rescorla’s Legacy

“The man died as he lived,” says Galloway, the co-author of “We Were Soldiers,” who later worked a consultant for Secretary of State Colin Powell. “What makes some people react like this, God only knows. In Rick’s case, you always expected it.”

But to the friends he left behind, his death made a kind of cosmic sense on a day when the universe was out of order: The right man in the right place at the right time just he had been in Vietnam. He left in a blaze of glory. With no parade. Those who knew Colonel Rescorla best knew this would be how he had wanted to go.

Bibliography:

Galloway, Joe, and Hal G Moore. We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam. New York: Harper-Collins, 2009.

Galloway, Joseph L. “The word was the Ia Drang would be a walk. The word was wrong.” U.S. News and World Report, October 29, 1990: 64-69.

Moore, Hal G, and Joe Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. New York: Harper-Collins, 1993.

Stewart, James B. Heart of a Soldier. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

rescorla 2

Rick Rescorla Part 1

Guys,

I wrote this last year but added some more details about Colonel Rescorla. It just goes to show what man can do to affect the lives of others. Colonel Rescorla’s on 9/11 actions show us America’s darkest days has always been followed by its finest hours.

9/11

The story is as old as time itself, two cultures clashing in what now seems like an inevitable conflict. The time was 2001; a watershed year when one era was ending in America and another was beginning.

I felt it happening as the weeks following 9/11 unfolded, in the many ways all of our lives changed so suddenly, so dramatically, and looking back on it from twelve years gone we are left in no doubt.

2001 was the year America was pushed to directly intervene in the Byzantine affairs of the obscure and distant country of Afghanistan.

America is in it’s in the twelfth year of a conflict fought on distant shores, waged by the few for the sake of the many. A complex, and at times, confusing struggle against enemies that lurk among the innocent. A conflict that lacks the traditional battle lines, clash of armies, and clear cut definitions associated in the public mind with major wars – and many of the most celebrated heroes – of the past.

But, as we see time and again, the fundamental nature of war – and the role of individual selflessness, initiative, and courage – does not change and that brings us to the story of the heroic deeds of Rick Rescorla, his sacrifice saved the lives of over 2,700 people on one my America’s darkest days.

Colonel Rescorla in Vietnam

The classic Vietnam War book, “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” is an account of the battle at Ia Drang Valley, fought in the still early phases of the war in Vietnam. The book was written by Major General Hal Moore, who was then a Lieutenant Colonel and commander of the American troops in the valley, and Joe Galloway, a reporter who was at the battle.

One of the “young Soldiers” who fought with the author LTC Harold Moore at the well-known battle of Ia Drang in late 1965 was a lieutenant named Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla.

He had grown up in a village on England’s southwest coast and left at age sixteen to join the British military. The epitome of the young warrior, he was the sort that England seems to have bred in abundance for centuries: the type of young man who in times past went forth from Britain and created an empire upon which the sun never set. He’d fought against Communists in Cyprus and Rhodesia. England happened to be fresh out of wars in the 1960s, so Rescorla became an American and fought in ours.

He worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant before being commissioned as a Lieutenant of Infantry from Officer Candidate School as the “Distinguished Honor Graduate” from his class.

It is Rescorla’s picture on the cover of the book. 2nd Lieutenant Rescorla, Platoon Leader, B Co 2/7 Cav in Bayonet Attack on the morning of 16 Nov 1965.

Background on the photo: He has had no sleep for 48 hours. He is seen as grimy, unshaven and in a filthy uniform. His canteens loose, dog tags hanging out, pockets unbuttoned, helmet strap hanging. He is not wearing any insignia of rank and his sleeves up are up.

This is not a posed shot; this is a man moving forward into combat was captured by Joe Galloway as Rescorla ran from battle position to battle position checking on his men under withering enemy fire. His bayonet is fixed; trigger finger, alert and ready for action. Eyes forward. Ready for action as Rick Rescorla always seemed to be.

LTC Moore called him the best platoon leader he ever saw (Moore and Galloway 1993). His troops loved him for his spirit and fearlessness. The night after an entire company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was virtually wiped out at Landing Zone (LZ) X-Ray, Rescorla’s company was ordered to replace them on the perimeter at the foot of the Chu Pong mountain ridge, the center of the battlefield (J. L. Galloway 1990).

The People’s Army of North Vietnam (PAVN) Commander knew that he had severely weakened and damaged the defenders in the Charlie Co sector the previous morning. What he does not know is that a fresh company – B Company, 2nd Battalion 7th Cavalry Regiment, had taken over the position after that engagement.

That company, unmolested the previous afternoon, had cut fields of fire, dug new foxholes, fired in artillery concentrations, carefully emplaced its machine guns and piled up ammunition. Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish hunting songs throughout the night (Moore and Galloway 1993).

Rescorla knew war. His men did not, yet. To steady them, to break their concentration away from the fear that may grip a man when he realizes there are hundreds of men very close by who want to kill him, Rescorla sang. Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: “Fix bayonets – on Liiiiine?Reaaaa-Dy – FORWARD!” It was a voice straight from Waterloo, from the Somme, implacable, impeccable, and impossible to disobey (Stewart 2002). His men forgot their fear, concentrated on his orders and marched forward as he led them straight into the pages of history.

That night before, the young lieutenant did all the right things to prepare his Soldiers for battle, studying the terrain, relocating foxholes, laying booby traps, and repositioning weapons. The best thing he did was display confidence. For this brave act and leadership he was awarded the Silver Star, our nation’s third highest award for bravery.

“My God, it was like Little Big Horn,” recalls Pat Payne, a reconnaissance platoon leader. “We were all cowering in the bottom of our foxholes, expecting to get overrun. Rescorla gave us courage to face the coming dawn. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘When the sun comes up, we’re gonna kick some ass.’ ”

Sure enough, the battalion fought its way out of Landing Zone Albany. Rescorla left the field with a morale-boosting souvenir: a battered French Army bugle that the North Vietnamese had once claimed as a trophy of war. It became a talisman for his entire division (Galloway and Moore 2009). That bugle now sits at Fort Benning’s Infantry Museum.

Lieutenant Rescorla survived that engagement and many others. As the tour progressed his men began to call him “Hardcore,” because they had never seen anyone so absurdly unflappable in the face of death. This would not change 35 years later when Colonel Rescorla was again in the line of fire.

Colonel Rescorla best knew this would be how he had wanted to go. Bibliography:

Galloway, Joe, and Hal G Moore. We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam. New York: Harper-Collins, 2009.

Galloway, Joseph L. “The word was the Ia Drang would be a walk. The word was wrong.” U.S. News and World Report, October 29, 1990: 64-69.

Moore, Hal G, and Joe Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. New York: Harper-Collins, 1993.

Stewart, James B. Heart of a Soldier. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Rescorla

General Lincoln and the The Social Science (Sosh) Department at West Point

Guys,

I really love writing these blogs to you. I have gotten lots of positive responses but a few negative as well, again, no big deal. You can’t put something out in the world and expect everyone to love it.

The goal is to provide leaders with a few tools, references and information to make our profession stronger. This is a mission I take very seriously. As my friend Captain Larry Bauguess used to always say, “Be the leader you would want to be led by because being in the service means being in the ‘service’ of others.”

The focus this blog post is to talk about the importance of civilian education and mentoring for military leaders. The future of both the Army and our nation depends on the ingenuity and integrity of leaders that are capable of accomplishing tough missions in murky and changing environments.

The scholar who is mentored today becomes the leader who is prepared tomorrow to handle these ambiguous situations. Effective mentors play a critical part in the development of the future.

Sosh

When most people think of intellectuals in the army they have a vision of a group of guys in uniforms sitting around a room discussing strategy. There is a scholarly department at West Point where most of the generals and radical free thinkers have taught and changed the direction of the army. Many of them were the commanders of America’s last two wars. It is called the Department of Social Science or “Sosh” at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Lincoln

Created in the vision of Brigadier General George “Abe” Lincoln, who wanted to create an academic center for enhancing the quality of U.S. national decision-making. He did this by recruiting some of the best and brightest young officers in the Army and sending them to top graduate schools, bringing them back to West Point to teach and gave them opportunities to work with decision-makers in Washington D.C. as intelligent, hardworking officers, capable of being placed in the most demanding of jobs.

Lincoln, a Rhodes Scholar from the West Point Class of 1929, fought in World War II and was a primary planner for the invasion of Normandy. Recognizing his brilliance he became the senior planning aide to Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall and the youngest general in the army at 38. After WWII with America’s new position as a superpower Lincoln realized that the Army needed to breed a new type of officer to help the nation meet its new global responsibilities in the postwar era.

Lincoln thought that policy makers in the U.S. government, especially military officers, had not been educated to understand the increased dimensions of national security (Kaplan 2013). The post-war world was a complex environment with more at stake than ever with America’s increasing tensions with the Soviet Union.

He took a demotion from the rank of Major General to Colonel in 1947 to return to West Point to become the Deputy Head of the newly named Department of Social Sciences. He recruited some of the brightest minds in the army over the next twenty years to staff the new department. His vision was to create a curriculum “to improve the so-called Army mind” in just this way: a social science department, encouraging critical thinking, even occasionally dissent (Jaffe and Cloud 2009).

Lincoln set up a program allowing cadets with high scores in Sosh classes to go study at top civilian graduate schools, with West Point paying the tuition. In exchange, the cadets, after earning their doctorates, would come back and teach for at least three years (Kaplan 2013) . The chosen officer would spend a few years in an academic environment away from the regimented life of the army at Sosh they were encouraged to teach, think broadly about the world and to publish scholarly articles before heading back to combat units.

He would later articulate a philosophy in personnel policy broadly: “Pick good people, pick them young before other pickers get into the competition, help them to grow, keep in touch, and exploit excellence” (VanDriel n.d.).

The Lincoln Brigade Each year Lincoln would go to Washington D.C. to help write the U.S. Army’s annual posture statement. Since most the Army Chiefs of Staff knew of his work on General Marshall’s staff during World War II, he was able to place Sosh alumni throughout the Army and the Department of Defense. Over the coming decades Lincoln’s protégés would establish reputations among the military as being “men of gold.”

Over time, a network of Lincoln’s acolytes- and the protégés of those acolytes—emerged and expanded throughout the Army and U.S. Government. They called themselves the “Lincoln Brigade,” naming themselves after the American volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War for Spanish Republican forces against the dictator Franco. When these alumni-officers were appointed to high-level positions, would call Lincoln, and later, his successors and ask for the new latest crop of top Sosh cadets, or the most promising faculty members, to come work as assistants.

Lincoln’s goal would be to create an elite corps of officers whose talents and schooling would prepare them for major roles in the postwar Army. Leaders who understood not only the military but America’s place in the world at large, intellectuals armed with practical experience of leading Soldiers and who understood politics, economics and international relations. Members of the Lincoln Brigade were able to keep in touch easily because Lincoln had developed a philosophy that would endure – “Once a (faculty) member, always a (faculty) member.” Lincoln directed the department staff to include a roster of all past and present Sosh alumni and instructors. This was kept alive each Spring and Fall by “Sosh Reunions” where past and present faculty and students would mingle and meet each other (Jaffe and Cloud 2009).     Over the coming decades some of the army’s most illustrious leaders would have a turn at Sosh. General Peter Chiarelli after attending the University of Washington for a Master’s Degree taught at Sosh (Jaffe and Cloud 2009). He loved it so much he stayed an extra year past the required three years. He applied and was not accepted for one of the half dozen permanent teaching positions in 1988. After two years at graduate school and four years at Sosh he had been away from the army for a long time (Jaffe and Cloud 2009). When he needed a job that would get his career back on track the Sosh network lobbied for him to get a key job commanding a battalion. In 2004- 2005 he was the Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and would lead that storied unit through of some of the darkest days of the American war in Iraq.

Other distinguished alum would include General Dave Petraeus, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division in 2003 and Multi-National Forces Iraq in 2007 (Ricks 2009). Petraeus attended Princeton University’ Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he obtained a master’s degree in public administration in 1985. In typical Petraeus overachiever fashion he crammed in as much research as he could before leaving Princeton then wrote his doctoral dissertation while he taught at West Point in the social sciences department (Robinson 2008).

General Daniel Bolger who was also a commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division and currently serves as the Commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan taught at Sosh. He simultaneously pursued and a Master’s Degree and PhD, in Russian History, from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. He is also the author of books such as “Americans at War,” “The Battle for Hunger Hill,” and “ Death Ground,” each of them exploring leadership and shaping generations of American officers with ideas on leadership in an historical context.

John Nagl was a student at Sosh when one his professors, Major Dave Petraeus, noticed his agile mind. Nagl would go on to become a Rhodes Scholar attending Oxford University for both his Master of Philosophy (Mphil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He taught as a social sciences professor at West Point in 1997. While teaching at West Point, he was affiliated with the Strategic Studies Institute at the United States Army War College for which he co-authored a book on military professionalism in 1999 (Kaplan 2013).

A revised version of his dissertation was published in 2002 as “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife,” titled after an observation made by T. E. Lawrence about the challenges of advising guerilla forces in Arabia during World War I. In 2006 when Petraeus was writing his landmark counterinsurgency manual he would tap Nagl to both edit and write the foreword of the new document (Kaplan 2013).

Five years later when Petraeus retired the American Army had evolved into a different institution fulfilling Lincoln’s idea that West Point and had a role in developing intelligent leaders of the Army and the nation. At West Point, Sosh is located inside Lincoln Hall, named after its distinguished founder, a plaque quotes his words: “The engraving on monuments does not mark achievement. Only the engraving on the character and competence of our cadets and our young officers counts towards fulfillment of our mission” (VanDriel n.d.).

Bibliography

Bolger, Daniel P. Americans at War, 1975-1986: An Era of Violent Peace. New York: Random House Publishing, 1988.

—. Death Ground: Today’s American Infantry in Battle. New York: Random House , 1999.

—. The Battle for Hunger Hill. New York: Random House, 1997.

Jaffe, Greg, and David Cloud. The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army . New York : Random House Publishing, 2009.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Lundberg, Kirsten. The Accidental Statesman: General Petraeus and the City of Mosul, Iraq . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Nagl, John A. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam . Westport, CT: Praegar Publishers, 2002.

Ricks, Thomas E. The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq . New York: Penguin Group. , 2009.

Robinson, Linda. Tell Me How This Ends. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2008.

VanDriel, Martha. The Lincoln Brigade: One Story of the Faculty of USMA Department of Social Sciences. West Point, NY: USMA Publishing .

Hiking A Marathon

Guys,

Doing 26 mile race with a bag of bricks on your back doesn’t sound like the most folks’ idea of a good time, but over the last several years it has become my obsession and love. I hope you guys like this one. It felt inspired as I wrote it.

Hiking a Marathon

Road March. Rucksack (army backpack). Hiking. Those words seem like a mantra and are beautiful to me.  Walking marathons with me wearing an oversized and heavy pack people think you are a little crazy.

I will tell you that finishing a marathon in record time is like nothing else on earth. The first ten minutes you are done is a feeling of utter euphoria. When I hike a race or pushing myself against time on a hard course.

I seem to feel a nakedness of spirit, an absolute purity, a divine madness while I let loose to ramble on a course.

It feels like I am doing what I was trained to do, what I was bred to do, what I was born to do! Several times I have tested against the Portland and Eugene Marathons. I gave it everything I had.

Finding Zen

I hiked the races the best I could. I willed myself to be the best I could in the moment.  Win or lose, victory or defeat it is those moments that I feel I am being the very best person I could be straining against the knowledge of my own limitations.

No matter what I was before or would be after the moments following a great race I feel more alive than other time. It is a feeling of pure grace that comes only in the full abandonment of the divinity of flight.

It was a joy to be done, the pure orgasmic joy of the dance. The Portland Marathon was always a sort of last dance, a day of last roses.  It was the best race that I have ever done.

Why Hike A Marathon?

With all the physical events in the army there is one super macho event that stands out- the road march. As my buddy Kent, a decorated Green Beret, said, “… it tests the size of your heart.”

A 30-40 pound pack plus water and gear that is to be humped as fast as you can. The race is against the clock and at its core is a race against yourself and no one else. It’s an individual effort and not a team effort.

This is the basis of being a soldier: Strong men hauling heavy loads over rough ground. At its essence, it is both elemental and dangerous and it is exactly the reason I joined the army.

Struggling against the clock and trying to get the best time, I believe, is one of the ultimate tests of military virtues. Qualities such as courage, bravery, endurance, and sacrifice are all tested and explored in the most human of terms.

By pushing yourself physically you triumph over fear, and in the end you feel doing something heroic by being the best you can be. You become the best person you can be in that moment.

Before each race I pack and repack the rucksack countless times to save space and eliminate weight. I even went so far as cutting the handle off my toothbrush.

This might seem like a ridiculous detail, but unless you’ve carried one of these monster packs through 26.2 miles of sand, hills and heat, it makes perfect sense.

Those final minutes before a big race are always filled with nervous anticipation, and the excitement almost seems palpable. Over time, that feeling slowly diminishes, but never goes completely away even after years of racing.

It is the time when all the ‘what ifs’ fill your head. Did I train hard enough? Did I eat the right thing in the last twenty-four hours?

These things are all par for the course and are part of the excitement of choosing to participate in an arduous sport. Instead of hiding under the covers on a Saturday morning.

Bataan

At the premier sporting event for crazy folks who like to hike marathons with heavy packs is the Bataan Memorial Death March. Set in the back training ranges of White Sands Missile Range it is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of New Mexico.

The course is set on winding desert trails and literally over a mountain range and back down again. Miles 9 to 12 going straight up hill. It is considered one of the toughest marathons in America, even more so when you add 35 pounds of unforgiving weight to your back.

As the racers gather at “Bataan,” as it’s known to the racers, the participants line-up. With their rucks and uniforms they no longer look like jocks.

Having done it six times I can tell you there is an ease and knowing in the way you shift the weight of your pack. You’re trying to find the “sweet spot.”

The weight pushing down on your shoulders, the heaviness of the pack resting on your lower back- this is home. This is what all the training was for.

All the marches on cold, early mornings, hours of boredom and sweat getting ready for this one event, this is what the animal is trained for.

All the conditioning is not about looking good in a tight t-shirt, but to hump an unforgiving load over long distances at the highest possible speed.

A gut check of this type is the ultimate test of endurance and commitment. But for me the race is much deeper than that.  It holds a deeper demonstration; it is a testimony of the power of the spirit.

Praying

It is during a tough race or road march that I feel closest to God. For me, hiking is the ultimate form of prayer. It is the best way to open yourself up to the Lord.

I believe there is a part of my soul that yearns to fulfill my God-made potential and to be eternal. I always try to ask for the Lord to be with me during these times.

At the start of every race I pray to God with the same mantra, “See in me, Lord, and please, be with me.”

For a long time, I have come to believe hiking and spirituality are inseparable. So connected are the two that I believe you can, “experience the divine in the physicality of hiking” and have a conversation with God while hiking.

It is when I am absolutely spent and my energy is at an all-time low that the still, small voice of God will tug at my heart the most.

It really doesn’t seem like a voice, or a thought, or even an intuition. It is the way your whole body cries for water when you are so thirsty you would drink from a mud puddle, if that was all you could get.

When backed into a wall, physically, I feel I am the most open to God. This doesn’t mean that I have visions of Jesus when hiking up down a mountain. Or, hear voices from beyond the grave.

It’s more about appreciating the beauty of God’s creation and enjoying the gift of friendship during a hike. In the end, it’s about giving thanks to the Lord to even be able to do hike up down mountains for hours at a time.

In the end this is something that has worked for me and has been the best form of my expression of spirituality through a physical medium.

One More College Try

I have decided to go for it one more time and enter Bataan in 2015 but with a catch. This year I am going to try and get my best time. I have been focusing on four areas: Back, Legs, Shoulders and Abs.

The idea to make my body a Steam Engine designed and conditioned to run the race as quickly as I can with a 35 pound pack up and over hills.

Lots of running, lifting, and hiking to get ready for the ultimate race of the spirit and the foothills of Kentucky as my training ground. The rucking is a mode for spiritual growth more than any other thing I have ever done.

Rucking doesn’t require any external tools or devices; you have your body, a heavy pack and an open heart for the Lord and that’s all you need.

Training for Bataan and attempting to do well is much more about spiritual development than just winning a race. I will keep you guys abreast of my progress. Know you are all missed and thought of often.

 

Navy SEAL Billy “Wags” Wagasy and the Secret to Doing Anything

Guys,

I hope this blog finds you well. The business is going great. We are growing at an unprecedented rate and I am learning a lot. In this journey I have met some amazing people.

But even within a circle of amazing people there are those who are outstanding- and even within the innermost circles of excellence, there are folks who are extraordinary. One of those is my friend and mentor Billy “Wags” Wagasy. Even more extraordinary then his story is the man himself.

Wags

In late 2010 I was the Personnel Officer of the Special Operations Advisory Group (SOAG). Our job was to mentor and train the Afghan National Army (ANA) Commando Brigade, similar to the Army Ranger Regiment.

Their training and mentoring was overseen by Special Forces Groups (Green Berets) but because it was a Special Operations Command mission there were a few Navy SEALs thrown in. As a National Guard Major it was a cool way to spend a tour even if all I was doing was pushing paper. Wags was the Program Manager of the Afghan National Army (ANA) Commando Program.

When I first met Wags I couldn’t get over how big he was. He must have stood well over six feet four in his socks, he was a mountain of a man with an infectious smile and a mop of unruly brown hair.

Over the next couple of weeks I would get to know his amazing story and how he came to be a Navy SEAL. First he had played football at the University of Notre Dame under legendary Coach Lou Holtz and even had a bit part in the movie, “Rudy.”

As an outside Linebacker and Special Teams player he learned about adversity. Coach Holtz taught Wags an essential lesson in the quote, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

Wags told me that the last freedom you have is how you respond to your environment. Many times you can’t control what is happening to you but you do have a vote in how you respond it. This message would play a central part in the life of Wags a few years later.

Far from being a dumb jock he graduated with an Accounting Degree and a second Major in Philosophy in 1996 with honors. While finishing up his law degree at Pepperdine University the attacks of September 11th happened. After watching a TV Spot about Navy SEALs he decided he wanted to serve his country. Four days shy of taking the bar exam he joined the Navy.

BUD/S

Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL (BUD/S) is designed to create warriors. It is a brutal sorting out process that aim is to find young men who would rather die than quit, then it seeks to instill in them a relentless desire to fight and win as a team. Once a prospective SEAL trainee reports to BUD/S training he is immediately immersed in the warrior culture of the SEAL Teams (Couch, 2004).

The method for doing this are brutal Physical Training (PT) sessions designed to get men to quit but also to teach the survivors how to overcome impossible odds. Harsh physical demands and grueling academic standards are the norm.

All of this is done to see if the young apprentice warriors have the desire to belong to an elite group- to become some of the finest warriors our nation has to offer. They have to not only have to demonstrate the highest degree of physical fitness but also intelligence.

The ability to think ahead and to clearly visualize one’s personal goals and their commitment to each other (Owen, 2012). The biggest lesson here is that an individual through hard needs to learns to submit his ego, desires and needs to that of the team, no matter where mission takes them.

“Chunking”

One day I was stressing out over getting some end of tour awards done- funny now looking back on it- and Wags told me how he had survived BUD/S. Showing up to the Navy SEAL training facility as a former offensive lineman, who was 30 years old- 10 years older than the average candidate- was tough for a man the size of a doorframe.

In BUD/S he learned to “chunk” each evolution into manageable goals. For instance, his aim could was to survive to lunchtime rather than whole 6 month training period. Once you do that, you pat yourself on the back, refocus, and set the next goal: Make it to dinner.

It didn’t matter if he couldn’t feel his arms as he hoisted logs over his and his teammates’ heads or if the cold surf soaked him to the core. It wasn’t going to last forever. There is a saying: “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is simple: “One bite at a time.” Only his bites were separated by meals.

He came in last on almost all the runs, failed almost every physical evolution except the tested ones and then he only made it by a few seconds but in the end he had made it by breaking up each evolution to what he control in the present and not focusing on the future. It was the only way he could control his anxiety.

Relaying on what Coach Holtz had told him, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” He vowed not to quit, no matter what happen. He never did despite some very tough days.

He told me that SEALs apply the principle of chunking to mission planning, learning to evaluate a goal by asking if its “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely”—or SMART. This approach applies to any goal, whether it involves fitness, relationships, or work.

Later he refined this thought process by identifying four critical skills- goal setting, visualization, positive self-talk, and controlling stress by breathing- in which mastery is a strong indicator of success in combat and sports. Using this combination contributes to an improvement in performance. Using this method goal setting becomes second nature. You’re constantly seeking ways to improve every aspect of your performance including doing boring paperwork.

The Lessons

After completing SEAL training he deployed three times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and once to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2006 on his second tour in Iraq he was in Ramadi where he worked with famed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and was teammates with Marcus Luttrell. The Battle of Ramadi was the most sustained and vicious engagement fought by Navy SEALs since their inception in 1962.

The operational and intelligence-gathering capabilities of the SEAL Task Unit produced startling and unprecedented success on the battlefield and in this violent urban battle space (Couch, 2008 ). He applied his lesson and in combat and is now applying to another endeavor.

I have used Wags’ strategy in all aspects of my life including getting my Master’s Degree in only one year, overcoming depression and most recently to losing 20 pounds in less than one month. His message can be applied to all endeavors. He is now working with Marcus Luttrell, of “Lone Survivor” as a motivational speaker on something called the Patriot Tours.

Bibliography/Resources

Couch, D. (2004). The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident. New York City : Crown Publishing Group .

Couch, D. (2008 ). The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy SEALs and the Winning of al-Anbar. Naval Institute Press.

Owen, M. (2012). No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden . New York : Bantam Publishing .

Ahmad Shah Massoud Part 3

Guys,

His story will take us up to 9/11The intent is to offer leaders with information they may find useful.

The wisdom of Sun Tzu as expressed in the “Ping-fa” or “The Art of War” said it best. The revered old Chinese sage repeated advice was “know yourself” and “study your enemy.” These blogs are an attempt for all of you to know a little more about the heritage of the National Guard during our nation’s times of national emergency and the enemy we are fighting in Afghanistan.

From Last Time:

Soviet-Afghan War

Ahmad Shah Massoud was named “The Afghan who won the cold war” by the Wall Street Journal in 1989. He defeated the Soviet Red Army nine times in his native Panjshir Valley.

During the Afghan Civil War

After the war the mujahedeen warlords took over Afghanistan. In response to the warlords’ terror the Taliban came to power and swept through the country. Soon the terror of the warlords was replaced by the tyranny of the Taliban repressive rule, inspired by the 10th Century version of Islam practiced by Osama Bin Laden and spread by Saudi Arabia during the Soviet-Afghan War.

The Taliban seized Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Massoud and his troops retreated to the northeast of Afghanistan.

The Taliban comes to Kabul

At the gates of Kabul, the Taliban tried to negotiate with Massoud, but he refused to accept their terms and withdrew to his own northern mountains again, where he had fought and defied the Russians. So began the next civil war, between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance of Massoud, the Tajik, and Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek. It was November 1996.

Only Pakistan, who had organized it, and Saudi Arabia, who paid for it, recognized the new, strange government of Afghanistan. Far to the south, an airplane landed. It brought back a tall Saudi who had fought in the caves east of Kabul in the legendary Tora Bora (Forsyth 2007).

The rich Saudi paid immediate obeisance to Mullah Omar, paying huge tribute in money and equipment, and thus securing his lifelong loyalty. It was through this tribute that he was allowed to open terrorist camps. These same camps would train the hijackers of planes over America on the morning of 9/11 (Tanner 2002).

Almost the first act of the Taliban in Kabul was to drag the toppled ex-president Najibullah from his United Nations house arrest, torture, mutilate and execute him, hanging his corpse from a lamppost. That set the tenor of the rule to come.

The tactically brilliant Massoud had counterattacked and again caused huge losses to the less competent Taliban. Throughout Afghanistan there had been massacres carried out by the unforgiving and fanatical Taliban (Moore and Lennon 2007).

At Mazar-e-Sharif, where first the native Hazara had risen in revolt and killed six hundred Taliban. This was after the brutal beating of a Hazara shop keeper for cutting his beard, an offense in Wahabbist Islam. The avenging Taliban had gone back and butchered over two thousand civilians (Tanner 2002).

Massoud fought to unite his homeland once and for all, and over the next five years his alliance had been beaten back to two small and obscure enclaves. It was truly a battle of epic proportions of a modern- day David- Massoud against an unforgiving brute Goliath- the fanatical masses of the Taliban.

With less than 5,000 fighters at any one time and 10 tubes of artillery and five aging helicopters, Massoud had held off the Taliban’s fanatical army of more than 50,000 volunteers for five years. Odds of 10 to 1 with ten tactical victories in that time but with not enough soldiers to hold the land he won in battle after battle, he was slowly beaten back (Tanner 2002).

In the end the holdout areas were a group of Hazara resistants, bottled up in the mountains of Dara-i-Suf, and the other was Massoud himself, in the impregnable Panjshir Valley and the northeastern corner called Badakhshan. With little outside help he held off the tide of the Taliban took over the remaining parts of Afghanistan.

By 1998, Massoud remained the only main leader of the North Alliance in Afghanistan and the only leader who was able to defend vast parts of his area against the Taliban. Most major leaders including the Islamic State’s President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rashid Dostum, and others were living in exile.

The Taliban repeatedly offered Massoud a position of power to make him stop his resistance but he always declined. In contrast to the time of chaos in which all structures had collapsed in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan, Massoud was able to control his troops very well during the period starting in late 1996. Human Rights Watch notes no human rights crimes for Massoud’s troops in the areas he controlled in the period from October 1996 until his assassination in September 2001.

He bravely continued to lead his guerilla warriors into battle until he was killed in a suicide attack by Al Qaeda operatives posing as foreign journalists. He died on September 9th, 2001 – just two days before the attack on the World Trade Center (Forsyth 2007).

The man whose charisma had held together the cause of the useless Rabbani, whose cleverness as a guerrilla fighter had caused the Soviets to revere him and whose generalship had carved Taliban forces to pieces, was no more. Massoud wrote a battle plan to destroy the Taliban and waited for the United States to join him. His battle plan survived to defeat Mullah Omar and reunite the nation under Karzai.

Massoud’s Legacy

Massoud’s personal mysticism led him to fight without hatred, bitterness, or spirit of revenge, regarding armed conflict only as an imposed and necessary evil in order to defend his people’s freedom, certainly not as an end in itself to be enjoyed as bloodlust or intoxication with power.

He always provided protection for humanitarian relief in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, looked for reconciliation with defeated enemies, and invariably treated his war prisoners with humanity and dignity as the Koran dictates that true Muslims do.

Such moral integrity, I believe, in the midst of warfare ranks Massoud as one of the very few “Philosopher Kings” in history, that is, men who have been forced to wage war so as to protect their nation and people, but who detested war in itself and sought no personal political gain in doing their duty to their utmost.

Bibliography:

Broadwell, Paula. All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. New York: Penguin Books, 2012.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Kaplan, Robert D. Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

Moore, Robin, and Michael Lennon. The Wars of the Green Berets: Amazing Stories from Vietnam to the Present . New York : Skyhorse Publishing , 2007.

Naylor, Sean. Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Afghanistan’s Operation Anaconda. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

Stewart, James B. The Heart of a Soldier. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Tanner, Stephen. Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban . Philidelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2002.

West, Bing. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011.

 

Masoud

The Picture

The picture is the Lion wearing a Pokol- an Afghan beret- tilted back on his head with a too large camo jacket and khaki trousers stuffed into worn and tattered Russian combat boots. He is leaning forward, one eyebrow cocked, his face furrowed in concentration, as though he was respectfully listening to someone. His mahogany and serious face lighted with a rare smile at the simple, rare, and forbidden pleasure of being able to take a rest during his long years of war.