Remembering Phil Esposito


I hope with these e-mails there is some lessons being learned. Hopefully young leaders, both officers and enlisted, will gain some wisdom from an old war horse.

Company Command

I took command of a company of a Division Headquarters, Headquarters Company (HHC) after the fragging deaths of two officers in Tikrit, Iraq on June 7, 2005.  Captain Phil Esposito, the Commander, and First Lieutenant Louis Allen, of the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division were mortally wounded when a Claymore mine was placed in the window they were sitting next to as they played the board game Risk.

The window had a board over it so they did see or hear the assailant. Three grenades were thrown into the room immediately after the explosion of the Claymore. Lou had arrived in Iraq only four days before the attack. Military investigators determined that the mine was deliberately placed and detonated with the intention of killing the officers.

I took command of Phil’s company on June 10, 2005. A few days later I charged Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez with the double homicide of Phil and Lou. In 2006, two years before his trial, Martinez volunteered in a plea bargain to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without parole. The convening authority rejected the deal. Two years later on December 4, 2008 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Martinez was acquitted and walked from the courtroom a free man.

I have strong opinions on this issue. All I can say is when I charged Martinez with the murders there was no doubt in my mind, then or now that he was guilty of this heinous crime. I never knew Lou but I was good friends with Phil and wanted to share a little about him.


I always wanted to command an Infantry Company in combat. I thought it was the pinnacle of an Infantry Captain’s destiny. I went to Iraq in 2005 with the 42nd Infantry Division, a storied and proud unit of the New York National Guard. The unit had fought with distinction in both world wars and was among the first responders of 9/11.  But when I reported in to the unit in the summer of 2004, it was light years from where I wanted to be.

If I had controlled my own fate, I would have been at that moment, in the first year of the occupation of Iraq, blazing across the desert atop an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, raining hate and discontent on Islamic insurgents near some unpronounceable Iraqi village.

I would be wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge that I would have earned leading my company to glory while defending America from evil and smiling from ear to ear like a kid who just scored a date with the prom queen.

Instead, I was assigned to a National Guard Division Staff. One of many Captains assigned the boring job of studying maps and giving recommendations to the G3, the Operations Officer, making coffee and useless PowerPoint Slides. I knew it was an assignment I was bored to death with.

When I first arrived to the unit I met my new Company Commander, a short, strong-looking man with dark eyes and jet-black hair named Phil Esposito. Phil and I would become good friends.

Phil was an insanely fit captain of Italian descent who graduated from West Point in 1997. Despite being a physical phenomenon Phil was a quiet and genial man.  He sometimes seemed too gentle for the Army, but as a leader, he always showed a quality of courage beyond the strongest of leaders. In his own quiet, determined way, he may just have been one of the toughest men I ever knew.

It was always wonderful to me how Phil could control a group of Soldiers by virtue of his shyness and interior calmness. He was the opposite of the ideal combat leader. He lacked forcefulness, manipulation, and all those drives and instincts that marked other ambitious company commanders I had met.

Phil was the opposite of all that, he would look you straight in the eye while crushing the bones of your hand in a heartfelt handshake. Once he felt comfortable would launch straight into, say, the latest about the training of the company and how proud he was of his Soldiers.

Phil had such eagerness and vigor for what he was doing that when I was around him I caught myself feeling bad that there wasn’t an undertaking of equal importance in my own life as commanding a company. It wasn’t about the war, that he was so fired up about so much as the whole idea of taking his company in Iraq – a truly awesome endeavor when you thought about it.

America was In Iraq trying to put a country back together after overthrowing a long standing dictator. In the summer of 2004 at Fort Drum, the home of the 10th Mountain Division- the most deployed unit in the army, the war was seen as long overdue.

Phil was the kind of guy you’d want to have at the helm of leading Soldiers in this endeavor: immune to heartbreak, way more knowledgeable than most of the senior leaders in the unit about the whys and hows of Iraq and what America was doing there.  It came through in the example he set. He seemed capable of working eighteen hours a day for twelve months straight driven by his desire to get all his Soldiers home safely.

Phil was a quiet guy, but came alive was when he talked about his family.  He was passionate and caring, especially about his wife and young daughter.

Phil was raised just outside of New York City, where he developed into a talented athlete. Beyond his physical strength, Phil was blessed with a powerful sense of right and wrong. This sense came from his devoted parents who taught Phil to love his neighbor -and defend those who could not defend themselves. Phil seemed to take these lessons to heart.

While visiting his parents shortly after I returned from Iraq, they told me a story. One day in school, Phil got into a scuffle sticking up for a student with a disability. It’s the only time his parents ever got a phone call from the principal – and they couldn’t have been prouder. Phil’s passion for helping others led him to become a caring brother, a loving father, and eventually, an officer of the United States Army.

Phil’s decision to join the military wasn’t an easy one for his family. As a veteran of Vietnam, Phil’s father understood the sacrifices that accompany a life of service. He also understood that. After graduating from high school with honors, Phil accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy.

Less than half of those who begin this intense training path graduate to become Army Officers. Yet there was little doubt about the determined young man from New York.  And in 1997, Phil earned the Gold Bars of a Second Lieutenant— and later, became an Armor Officer.

Phil easily earned the respect of the men and women in his command due to his commitment to excellence. I always remember a quiet, wisecracking friend who introduced himself to me. On June 7th, 2005, he would give his life for these ideals.

His passing away and the tragic circumstances surrounding his murder are not important, what is important was the courageous life he lived that made him one of the best leaders I have ever known.

He was an iron-souled warrior of colossal moral courage who always set the personal and physical example in everything he did. The Soldiers in the company would talk openly of their admiration for him. After his death, he had become a symbol to all of us.

When he entered a tent in Kuwait six months later to tell the company we were going to drive, rather than fly, to Tikrit, Iraq, where our new base was going to be the room fell silent.  He led that convoy of three serials and more than sixty vehicles 500 miles through Iraq without a single incident.

For his courage, I am indebted to Phil for being my friend. After his death, I commanded his company. I did the best I could, but it was far from the standard that he had set.

I did all I could do to find and punish the person, who murdered Phil and took his and Lou’s life, it is a debt that will not diminish with time – and can never be repaid.

Our nation is blessed to have volunteers like Phil, who risk their lives for our freedom. We’re blessed to have families like Phil’s and Lou’s who raise the sons of such courage and character who sacrifice everything for their beliefs. And we’re blessed with the mercy of a loving God who comforts all those who grieve for the loss of these heroes.

Straightness, honesty, naturalness, loyalty, courage—all these qualities could be used to describe Phil, but none is quite right, for the quality that made him a good man and great friend embraces all these.  Many of the heroes I write about possessing courage, charm and professional skill. Phil, by contrast, is celebrated as a hero because his intelligence, nobility and most of his all his generosity matched his courage. He was braver than any of us. He was the best of us. He is missed fiercely.


Allen, Barbara. Front Toward Enemy: A Slain Soldier’s Widow Details Her Husband’s Murder and How Military Courts Allowed the Killer to Escape Justice] . New York: Morgan James Publishing , 2010.

Gavin, Robert. “Army said no to guilty plea .” Times Union (Albany), December 16 , 2008 .

Woolverton, Paul, and Corey G. Johnson. “Jury acquits Martinez of murder charges .” Fayetteville Observer, December 5, 2008.

Phil 42ID


Leadership Lessons of LTC Hal Moore Part 2


These essays are an excuse to practice my writing and to share some lessons with folks in the military.  I am working on improving both grammar and writing prose. I hope you guys like these.  It has been a pleasure to write them.

The Leadership Lessons of Hal Moore

A military unit tends to have a character of its own; an identity comprised of its history and traditions but also the personality of its commander. At the battalion level (600 men) the collective personality of the unit takes on the traits of the person who leads it, this was definitely the case of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

Moore grew into his command in a climate that encouraged initiative and innovation, under the tutelage of two mentors, General Kinnard, the 1st Cavalry Division Commander and Colonel Brown, his Brigade Commander. This would play a big part in the confidence his command had in the decisions he made on the ground at LZ X-Ray (Moore and Galloway 1993).

LTC Moore infused the unit with a particular spirit of independence. Later, many of the officers and sergeants that worked for him said he was always looking for initiative and would thrust them into positions of constant responsibility and decision-making.  This realistic training would later payoff.

Helicopter Resupply

On the first day of the Ia Drang fight, one of Bravo Company’s platoons lost every officer and noncommissioned officer save one.

Faced with overwhelming pressure from the North Vietnamese Army, Sergeant Ernie Savage, the fourth man to inherit Lieutenant Henry Herrick’s Lost Platoon, called indirect fire upon his own position. His actions saved the rest of the platoon, which had suffered nine dead and 13 wounded in the first 90 minutes of combat (Galloway and Moore 2009).  Later in an interview Captain Tony Nadel, the Commander of A Company, 1/7 Cavalry would recall, “I made more than my share of mistakes, but under LTC Moore’s patient mentorship, but those mistakes become lessons in how to lead Soldiers,” (Moore and Galloway 1993).

Moore believed that battalions won or lost battles at the platoon level. He knew if his battalion was thrust into combat, he would fight his battalion two levels down. He preached that each unit from platoon down (30 men) to the fire team (4 men) was independent and responsible for himself or itself, first then responsible up the chain of command, link by link.

The difference between an under-trained unit that survives a fierce battle and one that becomes legendary in defeat is leadership. He told his men:

–        “Only first-place trophies will be displayed, accepted or presented in this battalion. Second place in our line of work is the defeat of the unit on the battlefield, and death of the individual in combat.”

–        “Decision-making will be decentralized: Push the power down. It pays off in wartime.”

–        “Loyalty flows down as well.”

–        “I check up on everything. I am available day or night to talk to any officer of this battalion.” (Moore and Galloway 1993)

Moore knew that exemplary leaders should always enable and empower their subordinates. By enabling his subordinates it allowed them to take the initiative in times of uncertainty, but it also fostered collaboration within an organization.

This is a key element to successful leadership, regardless of the endeavor. Collaboration builds confidence and establishes trust.

Moore’s relationship with his Command Sergeant Major, CSM Plumley, illustrates a democratic style, since he treated his sergeant major as his partner in command and sought his advice on all decisions in the battalion.  This would be put to the test in the crucible of combat.


In June of 1965 Moore began training his battalion for combat in Vietnam, he faced some real challenges. In August, the Army pulled all six of his newly acquired second lieutenants out. In August, any soldiers who had 60 days or less to serve didn’t to deploy. So when Moore and his unit sailed to Vietnam, they had already lost 100 of their most experienced men.

The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley

On November 14, 1965, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry did not have any solid intelligence about the enemy. The operation that would later result in the two-day battle was planned as a reconnaissance in-force. Using 16 Huey Helicopters Moore and his men set down at Landing Zone X-Ray. Moore had no idea, but his battalion had just dropped right in on top of two full regiments of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN).

The PAVN commander was General Chu Huy Man, a veteran of two wars against the Japanese in the 1940’s and the French in the 1950’s was anxious to engage the Americans and see if they could be defeated. His unit had 2,000 men strong were dug- in on their home turf.

Moore applied his command philosophy conscientiously throughout the mission. He flew into Ia Drang on the first helicopter. After an hour and with only a company on the ground, the 7th Calvary began to take fire from the enemy.

A captured North Vietnamese soldier then delivered the chilling news: “There are three battalions [of Vietcong] on the mountain who very much want to kill Americans, but have not been able to find any.” (Moore and Galloway 1993). A few minutes later, those North Vietnamese made contact with the 7th Cavalry – and began the first battle of the Vietnam War to pit Americans directly against the North Vietnamese Soldiers.

In the first few minutes of the battle things started to go wrong. The hills surrounding the landing zone were a concert of screams and explosions. Hiding behind a termite hill, Moore thought of another man who had led the 7th Cavalry, less than eighty before: George Armstrong Custer.

Moore on Radiopl

He promised himself that he wouldn’t let this battle repeat the sorry history of Little Bighorn. The motivation and lethality of the North Vietnamese surprised Moore.  He made adjustments once he gained that realization. Moore possessed an innate ability at the outset to see the larger picture.

He later accredited this trait to the mentorship he had received from both his brigade and division commander while training at Fort Benning, GA (Moore and Galloway 1993).

He adapted to the situation and visualized a way ahead and later was able to communicate his intent to his company commanders so they too would understand the larger picture.

Moore continued to use air support and artillery while the enemy kept trying to overpower him with sheer numbers. Yet, Moore knew his lifeline was the Huey’s that were able to bring fresh men and supplies in while taking the wounded back to base.

He kept the lines open and his men were successful in the end from fending off the North Vietnamese Army using both indirect and direct fire, just as they had rehearsed it back at Fort Benning less than a year earlier. Moore’s battalion inflicted over 600 dead on the enemy at a cost of 79 Americans killed and 121 wounded. True to his word, he brought out every one of his troopers out of that valley (Kingseed 2002).

Analysis of the battle

Hal Moore has since talked about why he was successful. He says, “There are many examples of great military leadership, but the emphasis that is most important is that leading is a privilege, especially in leading the very best and brightest of a generation that serves our nation.

Real definitive direction is given by leaders who are willing to sacrifice in the service of those they lead.” In times running up to the battle, Moore claims “through greater detailed preparations the 7th Calvary, rose above others, they understood the people, the tactics, and history of the area of Vietnam” (J. L. Galloway 1990).

Moore also understood the enemy, he was fighting. He had read the history of the French who had fought in Vietnam in the 1950’s.  He trusted his instincts, was always alert for what needed to be done. He commented later, “… that a leader must be visible on the battlefield, to let his men know he is there with them.” (Stewart 2002).

Although 1/7 Cav was a well-led and well-prepared battalion that acquitted itself very well in the fight at LZ X-Ray Moore always has an expression of regret and guilt over his battalion’s losses, in an action where his leadership and battle command were universally acclaimed. He took the loss of all his men personally and deeply.

The success of Moore’s battalion in repelling the attack of a well-disciplined enemy force five times their own size was the result of Moore’s battlefield leadership and the indomitable spirit of his men.  He inspired his men to continue to fight hard against overwhelming odds.

Harold Moore and the 7th Calvary won the battle of Ia Drang Valley because of sound leadership enforced through hard and realistic training.

Helicopter on LZ X-Ray


Cash, John. Lessons from Vietnam – Ia Drang and Other Battles: Warfare in the 20th Century. London, England: Parchment Publishing, 2012.

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.

Kingseed, Cole C. Beyond the Ia Drang Valley. Professional Military Reading ,West Point, New York: Combat Leadership, November 2002. McCoy, Bryan. The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Press, 2007.

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.

Smith, Jack P. “Death in the Ia Drang Valley, November 13-18, 1965 .” The Saturday Evening Post, January 28, 1967: 12-19.

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


Leadership Lesson of LTC Hal Moore Part 1


I wanted to write about one of the most extraordinary leaders I have ever read about. If you have seen the movie, “We Were Soldiers” with Mel Gibson playing Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Hal Moore you have an idea of why he was such a dynamic personality.  I hope you like it.

Gibson as Moore
Gibson as Moore


A captured North Vietnamese soldier then delivered the chilling news: “There are three battalions [of Vietcong] on the mountain who very much want to kill Americans, but have not been able to find any.” (Moore and Galloway, 1993).

On Nov. 14, 1965, the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, commanded by LTC Hal Moore, helicoptered into Vietnam’s remote Ia Drang Valley and found itself surrounded by a larger force of North Vietnamese regulars.

In this case it was Moore’s battalion against a seasoned and disciplined regiment of North Vietnamese Regulars. Through the use of sound leadership, indirect fire and helicopter gunships he would lead his men out of that hell.

How he trained his men, prepared them for combat and came up with a leadership training model from the “bottom up” was the key to his success.  This was important when he first hit Landing Zone (LZ) X-Ray and began to take casualties.

Helicopter on LZ X-Ray
Helicopter on LZ X-Ray

In the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam” by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway shows how Moore got his battalion ready for war and how his personal leadership style shaped his battalion. Most fields of human endeavor never approach anything near the life and death circumstances of a combat infantryman.

In Moore’s preparation of his battalion are useful tools that can be used for shaping what he called “junior moral leaders.” This allowed his battalion to fight and win against an enemy who outnumbered his force by almost five times.


LTC Moore’s was born in 1922 and raised in the backwoods of Bardstown, Kentucky.  He graduated from West Point in 1945 right as World War II was ending.

Moore selected Infantry as his branch and joined the 187th Airborne Regiment in Sendai, Japan. The summer of 1948 found 1st Lieutenant Moore at Fort Bragg, NC, where he jump-tested experimental parachutes. It would be this experience testing parachutes that he would later accredit his ability to think clearly under duress.

In June 1952, Captain Moore deployed to Korea. Over the course of the next 14 months, he would command a rifle company and heavy mortar company in the 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and seeing action in some of Korea’s fiercest battles of attrition on Pork Chop Hill, T-Bone, Alligator Jaws and Charlie Outpost.  When Korea ended in July 1953, he taught infantry tactics to aspiring officers.

After two years at West Point, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School and later worked in the Pentagon in the Air Mobility Division, part of the Chief of Research and Development, in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. It would be here that LTC Moore would meet his future boss for the first time, Colonel Harry W. O. Kinnard.

Kinnard would be LTC Moore’s Division Commander in Vietnam five years later and would shape Moore’s command style.  In June 1964, LTC Moore received a by-name request from the newly promoted Brigadier General Harry W. O. Kinnard, commanding general, 11th Air Assault Division (Test), to serve as a battalion commander.

Taking Command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry

“I will do my best. I expect the same from each of you.” With these simple words, LTC Hal Moore assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment one of the battalions of the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning on 29 June 1965 (Moore and Galloway, 1993).

Moore was a part of the airmobile concept from its start, having served with the old 11th Air Assault when it tested and developed the concept and its doctrine at Fort Benning, GA. Vietnam would become the proving ground for the concept of using helicopters to ferry men and equipment on and off the battlefield, the Battle of the Ia Drang was its first real test.

Moore knew the best way to improve Soldiers’ intuition was by strengthening their experience base and the best way to do this was by self-development. The premise of his training plan was providing his subordinate leaders that knowledge through tough and realistic training.

Providing feedback on their performance, the practice of soldiering fundamentals like shooting and communicating, and review of their last objectives after a mission: this was the cornerstones of the experiential training at Fort Benning.

The impetus of his leadership style and demand for hard training sprang from his experiences in Korea, where he had seen troops suffer as commanders learned the hard way.

Moore achieved this by spending most of the 14 months before his battalion sailed to Vietnam in the field training. Moore insisted that decentralization and junior leader empowerment be introduced “at every level in this training” (Moore and Galloway 1993).

Moore employed this concept by declaring a platoon leader dead and having his sergeant take over the platoon. Moore continued down the chain of command by having PFC’s take over command of the squad.  Key to leadership development was having his battalion prepare for the removal of key leaders being evacuated and the lowest ranking man taking charge of the element. He said, “A Squad Leader must be ready to command a platoon or the company.” (Galloway and Moore, 2009).

He defined the most important leadership quality of all is stated over and over again in the military: setting the example. Sometimes the example was physical like being the first in on a unit run and other times the example was making sure that the lower enlisted Soldiers at first.

Moore with tough chin
Hal Moore


Cash, John. Lessons from Vietnam – Ia Drang and Other Battles: Warfare in the 20th Century. London, England: Parchment Publishing, 2012.

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

Kingseed, Cole C. Beyond the Ia Drang Valley. Professional Military Reading ,West Point, New York: Combat Leadership, November 2002.

McCoy, Bryan. The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Press, 2007.

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.

Smith, Jack P. “Death in the Ia Drang Valley, November 13-18, 1965 .” The Saturday Evening Post, January 28, 1967: 12-19.

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

Leadership of Generals Chesty Puller and David Petraeus


Let’s compare and contrast the leadership styles of Generals Chesty Puller and David Petraeus. Both men who defined leadership in their times, General Puller for World War II and Korea and General Petraeus for America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Both men were products of their times and left huge legacies from their service.

Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller

No individual service in the fabled history of the Marine Corps and embodies the service’s ethos as General Chesty Puller. Puller went far beyond; he personally crafted the way the Marine Corps has defined itself since World War II through his own personal example, first as a battalion commander at Guadalcanal and later as a Regimental Commander at Battle of Peleliu.

The Marine tradition of were the officers eating last in field messes, in descending order of rank, is something Puller started. It got his officers into the habit of leading from the front. Puller was certainly not the only senior Marine of World War II and Korea to put his command post on the front lines, but his stubborn habit of always doing so was unusual even among Marine leaders (Davis, 1991).

Puller’s real value to the Marine Corps lies not only in his impressive combat record, but in the legacy of what he saw as the greatest virtue of military leadership: “leadership by example.” He had uncompromising approach to tough, realistic training. He had a dedication of taking care of his Marines without coddling them and treating them like men made him a beloved figure among the Corps.

His 14 decorations, to include five Navy Crosses, plus a long list of campaign medals, unit citation ribbons and other awards are part of Puller’s enduring lore, but maybe the stories of his leadership, courage, honor, and fighting ability are his most important legacy.

Chesty as a Combat Advisor

Advisory Teams were nothing new in the history of the United States. The Marines was the force of choice for these tough, obscure missions.

The Marine Corps has a long tradition in these kinds of conflicts; its Small Wars Manual, published back in 1940, had noted that they “represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps,” which, from 1800 to 1934, had landed 187 times in 37 countries “to suppress lawlessness or insurrection,” mainly in Latin America but also as far away as the shores of Tripoli, as the “Marines’ Hymn” put it (Kaplan 2013).

“Chesty” fought as an advisor battling guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua, here he would earn two of his five Navy Crosses.

General David Petraeus

Petraeus, with his affair aside, is one of the most transformational leaders of this last decade (Ricks, 2012). Petraeus revolutionized the way America fights its wars, starting with the surge in Iraq and continuing into his last command in Afghanistan.

Petraeus faced a relentless challenge and using his unceasing drive, groundbreaking methods in got the army to be serious about counterinsurgency (COIN) for the first time since the Vietnam. He helped haul America out of one of its darkest moments in the war in Iraq.

I briefed General Petraeus in the fall of 2010 on the future of the Afghan National Army Special Forces Program. He was a slight man who still looked boyish even in his mid-50s, he looks more like a bookworm professor than the world class warrior he was in the press.

Cheerful by nature, he was eager to both listen and talk to a lowly Major. I felt like he was addressing me as a peer with my presentation in the general’s own words, “… been PowerPointed to within an inch of his life.”

Petraeus learned at the foot of several masters, including Gen. John “Jack” Galvin, who retired as the supreme allied commander, Europe in 1992.

Petraeus, as a captain, served Galvin as his aide-de-camp in the 24th Infantry Division. Galvin, is considered one of the most intellectual officers of his generation, often discussed decision-making and the problems of command with his young protégé.

Galvin, who encouraged Petraeus to attend graduate school at Princeton, where he earned both a Master’s and Ph.D. Petraeus believed that a great leader must weave a myth about himself—both to enhance the loyalty of his cadres and to build popular support for his mission (Kaplan, 2013).

Petraeus learned the lesson well from Galvin and applied it with skill and vigor.

In Iraq

It’s worth noting that some of our nation’s greatest achievements during the Iraq war were the result of his leadership. Early in the occupation, as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, he brought order to the city of Mosul by applying principles of COIN theory—creating a new political system, vetting candidates, providing economic services, opening the border to Syria—entirely on his own initiative and with little or no guidance (Ricks T. E., 2006).

Later, when he became commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, he launched raids on Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia, the Mahdi army, without telling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki what he was doing.

Finally, during the Sunni Awakening that emerged in Iraq’s western provinces, he had his subordinate commanders recruit thousands of ex-militants into the Sons of Iraq, without telling anyone in Washington that he was paying them with U.S. Army funds (Ricks T. E., 2009).

This allowed him to put an “Iraqi Face” on the changes happening in and around the country. Petraeus was a genuinely talented general: intellectually agile, strategically minded, and tactically bold. But the myth-making enshrined him, in the eyes of many, as an icon.


Davis, B. (1991). Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller . New York: Bantam

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

Ricks, T. (2012). The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Books.

Ricks, T. E. (2006). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq . new York : The Penguin Press .

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

Chesty & Petraeus


Veteran’s Day Tribute


Happy Veteran’s Day. I did my best to capture the spirit and essence of Veteran’s Day, such a solemn holiday deserved a stirring tribute.

I promised many of the families of my friends of some extraordinary men I knew who died in the last few years I would write about them. Writing about them and how their lives were connected to mine.

General George S. Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

That is definitely the case with Larry Bauguess, Phil Esposito and Bruno DeSolenni. Sadly, there are other names. There have been times that I think the only reason I lived was only to tell their story and how amazing and courageous they were.

Odysseus is declaring his wishes if his story of his incredible journey were ever told again, “If they ever tell my story, let them say that I walked with giants.” Here is a story about remembering brave deeds by valiant Americans, both living and dead.

Magnificent Americans that our the Next Greatest Generation

I have been a part of some extraordinary teams of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in my 22 years in the army. On some of those teams I went to Iraq, on others I mentored the Afghan National Army and on another I was a part of a larger project like the Physical Evaluation Board at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington.

I was a part of another unexpected and amazing group this past week at the Purdue University. I took part in the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.

It was in the company of these remarkable groups of servicemen I had some of the most memorable experiences of my life. The links we forged from our time there will bind us together forever.

In all of you, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war. I am proud all of you are my friends. I am so grateful to have been part of all the extraordinary teams I served with throughout my time in the army.


For almost two centuries the nobility, the devotion and the selflessness of those who defended America and protected liberty by going to war has never been a matter of debate. A lot time we use the word “hero” is to describe the young people who volunteer to go to war.

My father, a decorated veteran of Korea and Vietnam, said, “Real heroes die in war. What more can you give than your life?” Maybe he was right, I don’t know. I finally came to understand why he was so uncomfortable being called a hero.

Heroes are something we create, something we need. It’s a way for us to understand what’s almost incomprehensible and tragic, about how people could sacrifice so much for freedom, but for my dad and his friends, the risks they took, the wounds they suffered, they did that really for one reason: their buddies- all of you on this email list!

Unconditional Love

Men’s performance in combat is never inspired by patriotism or duty, but a feeling of loyalty to the men they are facing hardship with. The brutality of war mixed with the hierarchy and tight constraints of military life allows them to feel love and tenderness towards each other.

Noted war correspondent Tim Hetherington once said, “War is the only opportunity men have in society to love each other unconditionally.” Risking your life to save the life of another is the definitive and sometimes a final act of that love.

It’s the ultimate expression of what they mean to each other. It is a promise made among brothers that allow men to serve and die together with no fear, and most of all with no regrets, facing those times with courage and professionalism.

Over time there is nothing you wouldn’t do for the members of your team who you deploy with. It becomes a family. The bonding has to do with the intensity of the experience.

It is the warrior calling: Life and Death along with Love and Violence. Brave men may have fought for their country, but they died for their friends.

Intensity and Duration

Ernest Hemingway once said, “… what gives an experience meaning is not the duration but the intensity.”

Those bonds create meaning in a world full of chaos and death. They imply one guiding premise- you will not be alone in this loneliest of human experiences. I am here with you, I will not leave you, I will stay with you no matter what happens- even death.

Friendships borne of such intense experiences are more intimate than any other. In such times, every moment brims with value because it may be your last. The intensity and duration of the experience fuses together bonds that last a lifetime.

The Sacrifice of Volunteering

By volunteering for a deployment soldiers do so with the knowledge that by embarking on this course of action they risk losing their life as a possibility; there is a chance you may die.

Duty to one’s country demands certain things, certain responsibilities. But this is something more. This is not simply answering the call of duty. I always thought such commitment was truly “above and beyond.”

I have known several young men who have given this country the supreme sacrifice. They are our country’s best, the nation’s sons, who answered the call of service to defend this country in a time of war.

They answered what Theodore Roosevelt described as “the trumpet call,” which he said, “Is the most inspiring of all sounds, because it summons men to spurn all ease and self-indulgence and bids them forth to the field where they must dare and do and die at need.”

Some of my friends were men who answered that trumpet call, the ones who also possessed that extra measure of courage and determination to be at the very tip of the spear in America’s wars.

In ancient times when a Spartan warrior died in a victorious campaign, his headstones would simply read: “Here lies a hero, he died for his country.”

What They Leave Behind

In many cases, that meant in leaving these valiant men left loving families and prosperous jobs to join the armed forces.

Every human impulse would tell someone to turn away, especially after several harrowing tours. Every soldier is trained to seek cover.

Instead of staying home, these young volunteers with their whole lives ahead of him, did something extraordinary. They volunteered to go with a group of other volunteers to a faraway land, to an alien culture because they knew they were needed and their skills would allow men to live.

Mourning Their Passing

The Roman Military historian Tacitus said; “In valor, there is hope.” By remembering the passing of these heroes, they become a symbol of that hope, that is why we bestow this honor on those uncommon individuals who’ve already proven their ability to bear such burdens for the sake of our country, we call them heroes. Their valor and ultimate sacrifice, offers enduring hope for the future of our country.

Pericles’ speech to the families of the Athenian war dead, in which he said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Today and in the years to come, we may find peace and some comfort in knowing that our fallen comrades gave their lives doing what they loved — protecting their friends and defending their country.


For each fallen servicemen a family gave a son, daughter, sister, brother and aunt or uncle to America and America is forever in their debt. We are reminded that behind every American who wears our nation’s uniform stands a family who serves with them.

And behind every American who lays down their life for our country is a family who mourns them, and honors them, for the rest of their lives.

Their Legacy

I’ll close with my favorite line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” Those who we loved and lost are now known to history as one of those valiant. Their names, and stories, belongs to the ages.

May God bless you courageous men and women for your sacrifices. And may God grant peace of heart and soul to your loving his families and to the men and women we have served with these brave Americans. They are missed.

We must remember the valiant dead, who ventured far, fought bravely and gave their lives to preserve freedom and liberty. Their sacrifice lies in mute testimony in the manner in which they lived, worked and fought to achieve the victories so that America may live.




The NCO as a Leader


The Role of an NCO

Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) are the backbone of the Army. They serve as the key trainers for soldiers, both Officers and Enlisted alike.

Officers and NCOs are always paired up throughout operational structures. The NCO acts as the primary advisor to the officer using their experiences to mentor and train the Officer through their operational experience.  NCOs provide continuity in units due to their institutional knowledge.

Commissioned by the Army and not the Executive Branch of the United States Government and that is why they are called “Non-Commissioned Officers.”

This pairing of NCOs and Officers allows the NCO the ability to take over in any situation in the absence of their appointed officer. The American Army is the only Army in the world that places so much trust in the experience of the NCO.

The embodiment of the professional NCO is Sergeant Major (SGM) Jerry.

Jerry Wounded Afghan
Jerry treats a wounded Afghan soldier

SGM Jerry

Jerry will tell you that he never did anything special; that he was just doing his job. I saw him risk his life to save the lives of others and for one simple reason, in his words, “… because you were my friend.”

Jerry is a soft-spoken, giant of a man. Standing over 6 feet and 5 inches tall he is a large presence. A man of few words he lets his deeds speak for him.

He is the sort of NCO who commanding officers cherish, because men like Jerry win battles. Legendary commander, General William DePuy said, “The average of man, like nine out of ten, does not have an instinct for the battlefield, do not relish it and will not act independently except under direct orders” (Hastings 2006). Jerry in action is that one man in ten, maybe one in a thousand.

He never flinched when it came time to fulfill the hardest duty of an NCO in combat. He was willing to engage the enemy and wade into danger when instinct called for normal men to flee.

Time and again in Afghanistan I saw him show a gift for judging a combat situation. Assessing whether a position could be held, advising our Afghan soldiers while under enemy fire and exercising excellent tactical judgment. He would always move to the sound of the guns and help a friend in need.

I experienced this first-hand on two occasions; he saved my life risking his own. At the end of the day, each battle that is fought is won by the better gun in the fight- and how well the gunfighter can react and how much fire there is in his belly.

It’s all about courage and the willingness to die for your buddies. In this ugly act no warrior is a better example of NCO leadership than Jerry. His entire career has been about him helping others.

I have never seen him claim experience, he didn’t have but I have seen him downplay his own role in heroic events. He would never sacrifice what he knows is right for what is convenient or expedient, but stand by his values at the cost of his career but never his humanity.

His life has been the life of a leader- one of values, courage and commitment. This is the ultimate mission of an NCO.

Jerry’s motto is, “The prime measure of your own performance is the performance of your soldiers.”

May 20, 2004, Rusafa Neighborhood- Baghdad, Iraq

Jerry deployed to Iraq with Alpha Company, 2-162 Infantry Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004. The battalion was attached to the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard, which operated by 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division (Association 2013).

2–162nd Infantry was tasked with supplying a military assistance training team to the fledging Iraqi Army. Stationed at FOB Volunteer in the Rusafa neighborhood of Baghdad, which lies to the south of Sadr City.

Jerry, then a Sergeant First Class, was on a training team occupying an Iraqi bunker that was used as a headquarters by Companies A and B, of the 301st Iraqi National Guard Battalion (later to renamed the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Division) (Kerry 2008).

Jerry was talking with his Iraqi counterpart when enemy small arms fire broke out at the main gate. Jerry ran to the front gate into the area where the firing was taking place. Without regard for his own safety, he exposed himself to direct enemy small arms fire to support the Iraqi National Guard Soldiers assigned to guard the gate and under fire.

Jerry was able to disarm and secure the perpetrator by himself and diffuse the dangerous situation. He employed the Iraqi Soldiers he was advising in Overwatch Positions to enhance security.

His actions provided an example to the Iraqi National Guard Soldiers of how to aggressively close with the enemy. These procedures proved saved lives later in the deployment during multiple enemy engagements on combat patrols Jerry led.

Afghanistan, 2008

Assigned to a 17 man Oregon Army National Guard Embedded Training Team (ETT), Jerry, now a Master Sergreant, deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008. The team was responsible for mentoring an Afghan National Army (ANA) battalion.

September 20, 2008, Kandahar, Afghanistan

There is an old saying that states, “War makes bad men worse and good men better,” and Jerry came alive during combat.

Fighting and destruction of human life are terrible, but it seems in these terrible times some men seem to show the highest qualities of manhood.  There are many names for it- courage, sacrifice of self for the sake of something held higher. In days of old this trait was used to describe knights- chivalry.

It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. For Jerry, that testing point came seven years ago, in an Afghan valley desert where he risked his life to save the lives of his friends after an incredible explosion destroyed a vehicle in his convoy.

When asked why jumped from the safety of his own truck to rush forward to see if he could render aid. He simply said, “I only did what anyone else would have done.” The truth is Jerry did something no one else did that day.

He subjected himself to the possibility of a secondary explosive device to provide critical medical attention for three severely wounded American Officers and two Afghan interpreters. He saved the life of two and worked for 45 minutes to try and revive a third casualty after he expired of his wounds.

That day, he set the highest example of personal bravery by his valor and calmness under stress. He helped organize a security perimeter and evacuated casualties once the MEDEVAC helicopter arrived. At the end, he personally led the recovery of the remains of the fallen and the evacuation of the wreckage of the vehicle.

His actions that day were directly responsible for saving the lives of two men, I was one of them.

Minutes after the explosion and I came awake from being unconscious I heard Jerry calling my name. I knew that he would come for me and pull me out of that vehicle, no matter what it took. The courage he displayed that day reflects every virtue that defines his life.

It was written a long ago that, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet, notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Jerry saw the danger before him and went to meet it because he knew he was needed.

That a man would willingly risk mortal combat rush to the aid of a wounded comrade or to recover the remains of a fallen comrade or is difficult for many people to understand. Jerry, in the face of a horrific event was unwilling to abandon his friends. He would never leave anyone behind. This means little to the loved ones of the warrior who perished in the face of battle to help save a friend, but it means everything to the men fighting alongside each other.

Jerry’s story is the tale of an NCO who loves others more than he loves himself.

The NCO as a Leader

A good NCO is both a teacher and a leader. As Marine Corps vet Karl Marlantes writes in “What It Is Like to Go to War,” “Warriors must touch their souls because their jobs involve killing people. Warriors deal with eternity.”  To understand how the military is forging the modern warriors all you have to do is look at a good NCO, like Jerry, to learn how soldiers need to learn to be both violent and sensitive.

Death is an occupational reality for Soldiers who do the brunt of the fighting. Teammate, buddy, and friend: by whatever term used for this band of brothers, it simply means that “I love you”; I will, if necessary, die in an effort to save you and preserve your earthly remains for the sake of others who love you- your nonmilitary family (Couch 2009). It is not a cliché, it is the definition of the warrior ethic of the NCO.

In Jerry’s character and conduct, a leader can find guidance and a model for their own behavior.  His stoic, unflappable command is the aim of every leader on the battlefield.

His moral courage, patience, and quiet loyalty to his chain of command along with his common decency and respect for others are the critical starting point for effective leadership in an army of a democratic society.

These qualities are the character traits most prized and respected in the Armed Forces of the 21st Century.

Jerry Dom
Jerry and Dom


Association, 1st Cavalry Division. 1st Cavalry Division History, Order of Battle. August 20 , 2013. (accessed August 25, 2013).

Beattie, Doug. Task Force Helmand: A Soldier’s Story of Life, Death and Combat on the Afghan Front Line. London : Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Bruning, John. The Devil’s Sandbox: With the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry at War in Iraq. St Paul, MN : MBI Publishing Company, 2006.

Couch, Dick. The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228. New York: Random House, 2009.

Hastings, Max. Warriors: Portraits from the Battle Field . New York : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group., 2006.

Kerry, Mark. Tigers of the Tigris. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2008.

Marlantes, Karl. What It Is Like to Go to War. New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011.

McAllister, Patricia. OEF Embedded Training Team: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures : the First 100 Days. Leavenworth, KS : Center for Army Lessons Learned, 2008.

Newark, Tim. The Fighting Irish: The Story of the Extraordinary Irish Soldier. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2010.



Major Paul as a Leader


I wrote descriptions for all the members of the team but the one I just finished was about my buddy Paul. He is a brave and noble man that I proud to call my friend.

The Role of an Officer

The best description of combat leadership I’ve read comes not from a military manual or a history book, but from my favorite novel about the ancient Spartans. “In Gates of Fire,” the author, Steven Pressfield, describes a Spartan Officer in battle,

“I watched Dienekes, re-forming the ranks of his platoon, listing their losses and summoning aid for the wounded. …The Spartans have a term for that state of mind which at all costs be shunned in battle. They call it “katalepsis,” possession, meaning that derangement of the senses that comes when terror or anger usurps dominion of the mind.

This I realized now watching Dienekes rally and tend to his men, was the role of the officer: to prevent those under his command, at all stages of battle- before, during, and after- from becoming “possessed.” To fire their valor when it flagged and rein their fury when it threatened to take them out of hand.  That was Dienekes’ job. That was why he wore the traverse-crested helmet of an officer,” (Pressfield 1998).

This is how I saw Captain, now Major, Paul in the summer of 2008 in Afghanistan. Paul is a modern day Dienekes bringing organization to chaos and calm to calamity.

Paul Sandstorm


Paul is almost unassuming in appearance. With his corn yellow hair and blue eyes that sparkle when he laughs, he radiates a powerful and contagious inner calm. I always thought he should have been a Viking: Paul would have fit right in with a pointed helmet with horns on his head, furs hanging off his shoulders, and one of those big double-edged swords in his hands, but he would need a Hunter S. Thompson book in his pocket to finish the picture.

He stands comfortably over 6 feet tall and with a laidback surfer attitude that belays his fighting spirit. He always reminded me of a cross between Marshall from “How I Met Your Mother” and the Civil War General Joshua Chamberlain.

His compassion for other people and the nobility in which he carries himself are hallmarks of his leadership style. He truly is a warrior of the heart and his inherent kindness makes him one of the most compassionate Officers I have served with.

When I first met him in January of 2008 he was holding a well-thumbed copy of Jack Kerouac’s  “On the Road.” It is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation that was inspired by jazz, poetry, and drug experiences (Kerouac 2007).

Strange reading for a young Infantry Captain, but as I came to know and later love Paul this showed the duality of his nature. He always seemed to be two people in the same body.

He was a warrior who hated violence, a thinker who was immensely physical, and a quiet and considerate soul who could describe how he felt in few words that were powerful. Paul always demonstrated the knightly traits of honor, courtesy and benevolence even to his enemies.

He displayed an abiding faith in those he met and in some long talks he shared insights to the men he led. In time, he would also become the finest combat commander I would serve with.  Another description of Chamberlain suited Paul like no other, “He had the soul of a lion but the heart of a woman.”


1-186 Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard

Paul first joined the Army in 1996 and joined the 3rd Infantry Division as a Forward Observer. He took part in the December 1998 bombing of Iraq (code-named Operation Desert Fox). A major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets from December 16, 1998, to December 19, 1998, by the United States and Britain. The skills learned there would save his life in Afghanistan.

But it was in the Oregon Army National Guard, and the 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry Regiment where he learned how to lead men in battle.

The motto of the battalion is “Guardians of the Western Gate” because they stand ready to strike at an enemy who stands ready to enter through the West. This goes back to the unit’s history as being made up of men from all over Oregon.

The 186th, as part of the 41st Infantry Division, was one of the first American combat units to be sent overseas after Pearl Harbor (McCartney 2010). Heading into fierce combat the 186th Regimental Combat Team fought across New Guinea and the Philippines as part of the remorseless Allied advance across the Southwest Pacific that forced the Japanese to divert precious material like planes and ships and men who might otherwise have reinforced their crumbling Central Pacific front.

Headquartered in Southern Oregon Paul would serve in the unit as it again was called to serve in the Global War on Terrorism.

Paul and Bruno

Sinai Mission, 2002

Paul served as Platoon Leader for Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment. He deployed to the Sinai region of Egypt in July 2002, as part of the U.S. portion of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission. This marked only the second time a reserve-component unit has been called upon to perform the Sinai mission.

Paul led the way in the Sinai Mission being one of only five Soldiers to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge. Two others were Captain Bruno G. DeSolenni and Command Sergeant Major Mike Campbell. Both of these men would join him when he deployed to Afghanistan. One would be badly wounded and the other would die.

Afghanistan, 2008

In 2008, Paul, then a Captain, deployed as a combat advisor to Afghanistan, mentoring a 700 man Afghan National Army counter-drug battalion. He lived with his Afghan counterparts in austere conditions, on a remote firebase, faraway from any U.S. or coalition support.

In Afghanistan, Embedded Training Teams (ETTs), are tasked with the mission of advising the Afghan National Army (ANA). The ETTs advise the ANA on leadership, staff work, and help them in execute operations.  In addition, to training and advising the ANA the ETTs offer the ANA access to American combat assistance such as medical evacuation, close air support, indirect fires, and a quick reaction force of American Soldiers, if needed (McAllister 2008).

The team had been assigned to the volatile Helmand Province with their ANA battalion. Helmand produces two-thirds of the country’s opium, the raw ingredient of heroin.

Bruno, Paul, Dom

The Royal Irish Regiment

The team was assigned to work with the British Army’s famed Royal Irish Regiment.  The Royal Irish Regiment is the last remaining Irish infantry regiment of the line in the British Army (Newark 2010). The Royal Irish are listed as 1 IRISH.

The Royal Irish deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, as part of 16th Air Assault Brigade. The British had been in Helmand since 2006 but 2008 was their most their most active year yet (Beattie 2010). They provided Operational mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) to assist in training the ANA and Afghan National Police (ANP).

The OMLT was augmented by Soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS) and the Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS). 4 SCOTS were an Armored Infantry Battalion based in Fallingbostel, Germany and are part of 7th Armored Brigade, famously known as the Desert Rats.  For the OMLT mission they operated as Light Infantry.

In 2008 Paul’s team were the only Americans operating in Helmand besides a battalion of Marines providing security for Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bastion. The team, partnered with elements of the Royal Irish, had fully manned four Combat Outposts in the Green Zone of the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand.

Paul as a Commander

The Royal Irish had a huge impact on the team. Almost immediately Paul and the rest of the team started going British. He was learning from the experts, men who managed to stay alive not only in Afghanistan for one or two tours but several tours in Iraq and Northern Ireland.

Paul and Mark

He dressed liked them, talked like them, thought like them and acted like them. He started to refer to the Brits at FOB Attal by their first names. They informally called him, “boss” indifference to his rank as an American Captain.

Where Paul really shined was with the Afghans. Paul had sort of adopted the 1st Company of the Afghan National Army Counter Narcotics Kandak (CNIK) and vice versa. Paul was technically assigned to the Company as a “Combat Advisor” but he spent his days and nights with the men of 1st Company providing whatever creature comforts he could for “his” Afghan Soldiers.

With Paul’s open-minded attitude the distinctions between Americans and Afghans he was advising seem to disappear. He never treated the Afghans like second-class citizens the way some of the advisors did.

The Afghans are a tough race and the Afghans followed advisors who lived as they did, sharing both the hardship and danger of combat. Paul did that and more. Paul was one of the only Officers on his Embedded Training Team who matter-of-factly issued orders directly to Afghan Soldiers, and more importantly, his orders were obeyed.

If Afghan troops didn’t like their American Advisor, they weren’t insubordinate; they just were simply and suddenly unable to comprehend what the American wanted them to do, unless it was translated for them by their own Officers.

Yet, the Afghans of 1st Company never seemed to have any trouble understanding Paul in his really awful, hundred-word Dari vocabulary. This loyalty was soon put to the test within weeks of arriving at Patrol Base Attal.

Paul as a Leader

Paul as a Combat Advisor in performed in an exceptional manner. He possessed a breadth and depth of doctrinal knowledge that he was constantly sought out by more senior Officers, both Afghan and American, for advice throughout his tour.

His real gift was his natural ability to express complicated and technical information clearly while showing his Soldiers how to do it by leading by example. His patience, compassion and courage served him well as a leader.

On conclusion of his tour in Afghanistan he was awarded a Bronze Star for Service, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and an Army Commendation for Valor for braving enemy fire to save the life of a wounded Afghan Soldier under withering fire from an anti-aircraft machine gun.

Paul is an outstanding combat commander. He just returned from his second tour in Afghanistan this summer. This time as the Executive Officer of the 1-186 IN.

Bruno, Mark, Paul


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and Combat on the Afghan Front Line. London : Simon & Schuster, 2010.

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