Harnessing your discontent in the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Harnessing your discontent in the military

When I arrived at my first C-17A unit, I was chomping at the bit. Finally, after years of education and training, I was ready to join the fight. The September 11th attacks had occurred during my senior year at USAFA, and I had felt like I was missing out by not serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

C-17 life could indeed be fantastic. The jet was amazing. I loved my coworkers, who were intelligent, mission-focused, dependable, and a lot of fun. My first C-17 trip was exhilarating: drinking German beer one day, and the next slipping on body armor, a helmet, and night vision goggles before descending into Iraq.


Yet I was also in for a rude awakening. The operations tempo came as a brutal onslaught. My office duties seemed designed purely to satisfy “the system’s” insatiable appetite for new PowerPoint products. Decisions from our C2 organization often seemed nonsensical. I saw colossal amounts of waste due to bureaucratic inefficiencies. As Iraq began its slow spiral into insurgency and then civil war, my naive idealism eroded. I felt confused, disoriented, and unhappy.

Discontent is a normal part of a military career. I have seen many, many servicemembers undergo a similar process of disenchantment. Some never recover; they descend into cynicism and bitterness, then escape at their first opportunity. Others, however, undergo a transformation. They still feel restless dissatisfaction with the status quo, but they find a kind of inner peace, reframe their journey as a positive quest, and channel their frustrations into a career-long effort to improve the institution.

I eventually realized that discontent is a two-edged blade. It is one of your most important assets, but you have to wield it well.

The Virtue of Discontentment

One definition of discontentment is a “restless aspiration for improvement.” That is what we are after.

The most important thing you can bring to military service is an ethic of integrity, professionalism, and excellence. You need to do what the institution asks of you, and you need to do it well. Everything builds on that foundation.

The second most important thing you can bring to military service is your discontent. Why? Because discontent is the motivator for the positive change you will introduce throughout your career.

When we are doing what the institution asks of us, we all largely look the same; most modern military forces are based on mass production of needed skill sets. However, our sources of discontentment are deeply personal, the product of our individual temperaments, interests, and unique life experiences. It is our discontentment–and our thirst for change–that brings our individuality and creativity into our military service. That ambitious individuality, multiplied across the entire military, is the galvanizing force that works against institutional decay, perpetually renews our Armed Forces, and prepares us for uncertain futures.

Discontent with the trench warfare of World War I is what led to revolutions in mechanized and maneuver warfare. Discontent with legacy thinking is what led to further revolutions in airpower, space power, and cyber power. Discontent with toxic leaders drives innumerable NCOs and officers to lead better, and to advocate for innovations in education, training, and evaluations that raise the bar for everyone. Discontent with family strain has fueled advocacy for spouse education benefits, easier cross-state licensing, and more stability and predictability over the course of military careers. Most value-adding innovations began with some individual soul who feels the strain of a problem and imagines ways to do better.

Productively harnessing your discontent is not automatic, however. You must master your discontent, or else it will master you. That means learning to manage your own emotions and steer your discontent into positive avenues of change.

Sources of Discontent

Our “restless aspiration for improvement” can originate in any number of ways. Here are a few that come to mind:


Disappointment
: We have such high hopes and excitement for our military careers, but often find the reality different. Any time we encounter a disappointment, we have an opportunity to make military service more invigorating, rewarding, and satisfying.

Underperformance: Military forces train and equip for one purpose: to perform at their absolute best in war. We should absolutely be discontent with underperformance, because it is a kick in the ass to do better.

Inefficiencies: Nothing is more infuriating to ambitious high-performers than bogging down in wasteful inefficiencies. Unfortunately, these are endemic in government organizations that are highly bureaucratic, overregulated, and lack market incentives.

Misalignments: Modern military forces are incredibly complex, with thousands of synchronized parts. Building such an organization takes decades, and change takes time. That means the organization always lags behind the world. It frequently falls out of alignment, creating dangerous gaps–whether we are talking about evolving technologies, new organizational management constructs, or the shifting nature of family and social life for our troops. Our discontent is a summons to bring our organization into line with the modern world.

Abuses: Unfortunately, particular leaders or organizations can do great emotional or even physical violence to their members. Sometimes these abuses are deliberate, perpetrated by toxic leaders, bullies, or sexual predators. Other times they are structural, such as unconscious racism or sexism. Our discontent calls us to speak for victims, remedy injustices, and stop malevolence.

Stages of Discontent

Discontent progresses through stages, like a mountain ascent. You have to climb through each stage to arrive at the next. A continued ascent is never guaranteed; many people reach a particular stage but do not advance further.

Helplessness: When you first encounter frustrations, you feel like the system is unimaginably powerful and therefore unchangeable. You look for individuals to blame, often commanders or staffs who “don’t get it.” You complain about how stupid and broken everything is, but could not even begin to articulate a fix.

Understanding: You begin to understand *why* these frustrations exist. You realize there is often no one to blame, because so many problems are structural–originating in miscommunications, broken processes, perverse incentives, or other bureaucratic realities. You begin to appreciate how much work has gone into the existing system, and the problems that it does solve. You might not have solutions yet, but you sense the *kinds* of changes that need to occur.

Solutioneering: As you master your career field and gain a deeper understanding of how your organization works, you see possibilities for specific, actionable improvements. At this stage you may not know how to actually implement these changes; your confidence and skills are still developing.

Communication: Now you step into the arena. You write a white paper, blog post, or journal article. You brief a commander or pitch at an innovation competition. If you do it well, you show an expert understanding of the problem and articulate specific, compelling solutions. A conversation begins, allies (and enemies) appear, and your idea gets challenged and evolves. A coalition begins to take shape.

Execution: After all those years, everything comes together. You have a deep understanding of a specific problem, and an actionable proposal that has benefited from vigorous discussion. You have an audience, and a coalition that wants your proposal to succeed. Now you learn the fine art of walking an idea through the bureaucracy, winning the support of the right leaders, garnering resources, and navigating and possibly changing regulations.

If you reach the summit, you will look down and see that your discontent–your restless aspiration for improvement–has culminated in a real change. You will also realize that you are not alone; an entire expedition team stands with you.

Once you reach that summit, the journey continues. After that first victory, you will chase other sources of discontent, finding other opportunities to improve things. As a leader, you will want to help others make their own ascents. You might even rearchitect your organization to make such ascents a routine part of organizational life.

Managing Your Ascent

Harnessing your discontent is not an easy journey. There will always be plenty to love about military service, but the frank reality is that negative energy is often what drives progress–the dissatisfaction again, the thirst for something to be different.

Learning to manage that negative energy is one of your most important battles, because there are so many ways it can hurt you.

First, develop inner disciplines to manage your own psychology. This is a major theme in my other writings mainly because it as a major theme in my life. Staying committed to a large organization can be exhausting, and you will have days when negative thoughts and emotions flood in. The challenges only compound as you make your ascent, because each stage introduces new pressures and difficulties. Negative emotions will overrun you if you let them, undermining your effectiveness, your leadership, and your personal happiness. Many wise leaders have gone before you, and have developed an arsenal of techniques to manage their inner journeys. Learn from them. You want to lead from a place of inner centeredness that brings peace, confidence, and satisfaction.

Second, always strive to keep climbing through the stages. Moving through each stage takes time, practice, and experience. Keep forging ahead. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in helplessness. Bitching and moaning can be cathartic sometimes, but if that is the sum of your legacy, your military service was too small.

Third, know when and how to take your rests. A restless aspiration for improvement can deplete you, especially when you are fighting hard, sustained battles. You need to replenish by focusing on whatever or whoever gives you energy, joy, and meaning. That can come through family, friends, work, spirituality, nature, books, hobbies, service, or almost anything else.

Fourth, take your journey in community. The greatest joy in military service is the series of relationships you form along the way. At every stage, you will find mentors further ahead in the journey. Learn from them. You will also build a network of like-minded peers. Finally, mentor others. When you see subordinates or peers feeling helpless, coax them along the journey; help them develop the understanding and skills they will need going forward.

Conclusion

Mastering your discontent, and steering all that energy into productive change, is an essential part of your journey through military service. It is also essential for life. You can apply the same framework and skills to the private sector, your relationships, and other aspects of your life.

Discontent is a guiding compass that points to your unique insights and offerings. Discontent is your gift to the world, but only if you let it be.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part one

Politics in the United States can be an incredibly divisive topic of conversation, if recent news is any indication. Still, no matter how you feel (or felt) about any Commander-In-Chief, there’s one thing we can agree on for all of them: each loved this country and cared about doing a good job. No one wants to be remembered as the the “worst president of all time” — and no matter whether you hate or love the current president or the last, I can guarantee you that neither will hold that title.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

But even the now-reviled James Buchanan didn’t set out to become the worst President ever. Even the Pierce Administration thought it was doing what was right for the United States. And, in Warren G. Harding’s defense, things were going really well in America during the 1920s. Let’s take a moment to forget party divisions and just remember the good times.


(And if you’re wondering, President Trump isn’t on here because his term isn’t over yet — his most ‘Murica moment might be yet to come)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

George Washington accepting Lord Cornwallis’ sword at Yorktown in 1781.

George Washington

What was George Washington’s most “‘Murica” moment? Making everything about this country happen. The original Commander-In-Chief trapped the British Army under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown with the help of the French Fleet. With nowhere else to go, Cornwallis surrendered, breaking the will of the British to keep fighting in North America.

The United States was born two years later and George Washington set the standard for how every democratically-elected President should act in office. It was his will that set these precedents and allowed the American experiment to continue. We would not have our democratic traditions were it not for how Washington conducted himself during and after his time in office.

He even warned us about political parties. Just saying.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

“The Directory is a stupid name for a ruling body. France is dumb.” — John Adams, probably.

John Adams

In many ways, the way John Adams conduct in office was as important as George Washington’s. Adams’ continuation of precedents set by Washington meant that successive Presidents would do the same. But that wasn’t Adams’ most patriotic moment.

That came when Revolutionary France demanded a bribe from the United States in order to accept diplomatic envoys. Rather than quietly pay up, Adams read the letter to Congress — who promptly printed it. Adams also commissioned ships for the U.S. Navy and raised a provisional army as reports of armed actions from France mounted. Instead of going to war, the French relented when American ships started clearing sea lanes and accepted American diplomats.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

This is a face that says, “I’m sick of your sh*t.”

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s finest American hour came when he launched the nascent United States’ first war on terror. For decades, countries paid the North African Barbary States for the right to not get attacked by pirates in the Mediterranean. Corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers would raid foreign shipping and enslave entire crews, often even if the ransom was paid.

When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, the Barbary States got no more money from the United States. What they got instead was Stephen Decatur stealing their ships and burning their harbors as United States Marines under Lt. Presley O’Bannon captured their cities from the rear. When they Barbary Pirates tried the same stuff again a few years later, Decatur returned and this time, Algiers paid the U.S. to stop.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

James Madison

James Madison is one of our more overlooked Founding Fathers, and it’s probably because the war his administration oversaw ended in a stalemate — and the burning of Washington, D.C. But what was Madison supposed to do? Sit there and let Britain steal American sailors and tell the United States with whom who it could and couldn’t conduct trade just because they were the world’s dominant power? If your answer is ‘hell no,’ then you know why Madison took America to war, despite having very little to fight with.

It was the first time the United States declared a war against anyone and declared to the world that we were here to stay.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

“Back. The Hell. Up.” – James Monroe (paraphrasing)

James Monroe

For almost the entire lifespan of the United States, our policy in the Western Hemisphere was that any European meddling in the affairs of states in North and South America would be seen as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States” and be dealt with accordingly — this became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Recolonization of the Western Hemisphere was not gonna fly.

Basically, he told the world that the West was an American Hemisphere and if you f*ck with free and independent Latin America, you’re f*cking with the United States. And they all listened.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

That is what a game face looks like.

John Quincy Adams

Adams wasn’t just the progeny in the first Father-Son Presidential legacy, he was also the first “America First” President, opting to maintain good relations with Europe but focus any military and economic might right here in the Western Hemisphere. Under John Quincy’s administration, infrastructure projects created a marvelous system of roads and canals across state lines.

Unfortunately, while this was good for the young country’s development in the long term, the short term effect caused Adams to lose after his first administration, being accused of “public plunder” and federal overreach by his detractors.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

“The Era of Good Feelings is over. Daddy’s home.”

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson came into office like a wrecking ball — literally. His inauguration party nearly destroyed the White House. But as Jackson pledged his respect for the right of the states’ self-governance, he also had a deep respect for the law of the land. So, when uppity U.S. states thought they could nullify federal laws they just didn’t like, President Jackson had to remind them that the the Constitution of the United States was in charge.

Even lowering the so-called “Tariff of Abomination” didn’t placate the South. So, Jackson sent the U.S. Navy into Charleston Harbor and threatened to hang anyone who even said the word “nullification.” He considered states defying federal law to be in full rebellion. And secession — another word Jackson hated — was not something he would tolerate either. You might say Andrew Jackson’s fury at Southern intransigence held the Union together for another decade.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

He was also the first President born in the United States.

Martin Van Buren

This one… this one was a tough one. There’s no doubt President Van Buren did what he thought was right, even if it meant disagreeing with his political patron and idol, Andrew Jackson. But Martin Van Buren’s greatest accomplishment seems to be keeping the United States out of wars at a time when it couldn’t really pay the debt a war would cause — and it cost Van Buren the office of President.

It’s not as if there weren’t reasons to go to war. The newly-freed Republic of Texas was clamoring to be annexed by the United States, but it would lead to a war with Mexico. Canadian freedom fighters begged for help from the Van Buren Administration in liberating our northern neighbor from British rule. The British were even close to invading Maine. But after the Panic of 1837, the finances of the U.S. were weak and a war, though good for his approval rating, was not something they could afford.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

He came from a time when a popped collar meant something.

William Henry Harrison

Harrison, the General and hero of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, was propelled to the Presidency by popular demand. Everything about Harrison was America. Sadly, he famously died in office after 30 days and a long bout with pneumonia. As the oldest President ever elected at that time (only Reagan and Trump were older at their elections), it’s a surprise no one saw that coming.

On a cold, wet day in March, he delivered the longest inaugural address in history and he got there riding a horse without a coat and hat. The guy was practically begging for pneumonia. But the most American thing about Harrison was his dedication to bipartisanship — every time someone tried to force him to do something unethical, he reminded them that William Henry Harrison was the President of the United States and he’ll do what he damn well wants.

A full, four-year Harrison Administration would have been quite the sight.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

If ever there was a face that said, “I didn’t ask for this, leave me alone,” it was John Tyler’s.

John Tyler

Tyler took over for Harrison after his death, assuming office amidst a number of terrible crises for the still-young United States. Tyler’s most American moments just might be weathering all of these crises in line with the Constitution, as he believed the Founders would have intended.

Known as “His Accidency” for being the first unelected President of the United States after Harrison died, Tyler moved into the White House and assumed the duties of President. At the time, Presidential succession was not outlined in the Constitution as it is today. He was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress, the first President against whom the House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings, and the first President to be expelled from his own party. He took all of it in stride and when the time to step down came, he did.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

The first Presidential Mullet says, “Manifest Destiny, b*tches.”

James K. Polk

After three very lackluster Presidencies, there’s no doubt the people were excited to have a President like Polk. James Polk promised he’d only serve one term and he kept that promise — but not before achieving every single goal he said was a priority for his administration.

James Polk’s most American moment came when he pretty much created or settled the borders of the mainland United States as we know it today. With the exception of a strip of New Mexico and Arizona purchased from Mexico in 1853, Polk annexed Texas for the United States, negotiated with Britain for what is now Oregon and Washington, and sent the Army and Navy to a war with Mexico, securing the Rio Grande as the southern border and acquiring what is today California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Colorado — exactly what he said he was going to do in his inauguration address.

The list continues in part two.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 great uses for your “forgotten to return” woobie

By far, the most coveted and “forgotten to return” item that’s ever been issued to members of the military is the woobie. Maybe you’ve forgotten that your most cherished bit of military memorabilia is actually a poncho liner … since so few people ever actually used it for its intended purpose. The woobie designers intended for you to use the little holes on the sides to tie it together, but let’s be serious – no one has ever done that. It’s probably a really excellent poncho liner, but chances are you’re never going to use it for its manufactured purpose. Instead, let’s take a look at some great ways to use your woobie besides using it as a blanket.


History of the woobie

But first, do you even know why it’s called a woobie? The real origin story is likely lost to history, but most people tend to think it’s because of the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it.” “Would be” eventually evolved into woobie, and a military star was born.

The truth is that the woobie history stretches back even further to the 1850s when ponchos were first in use by the American military. Forces assigned to patrol the Western Plains were issued ponchos to keep them warm. These ponchos were made from “gutta-percha muslin,” which was muslin fabric coated with rubber. The rubber coating made the poncho waterproof but also made it hard to fold.

During the Civil War, these rubber coated ponchos were standard issue. Ponchos were used as both waterproof groundsheets and to keep dry.

By 1900, ponchos were made from rubberized canvas, which was great for weatherproofing, but really freaking heavy.

During WWI and WWII, service members used ponchos because they could protect both the pack and the wearer as well as serving as a makeshift shelter in the field.

The 1950s saw ponchos made from synthetic fabrics, and this is when the earliest predecessor of what we know as the woobie began to emerge. During the Vietnam War, the standard-issue Army wool blanket was unsuited for the terrain and climate, since it got really heavy when wet. The woobie made its first field appearance sometime between 1962 and 1964.

Okay, enough history. Here are three fun things you can do with your woobie.

1. Repurpose as a robe

Find a seamstress and make your woobie into the coziest robe ever. Trust us when we say you’ll never want to take it off. If you’re not the robe-wearing type, what about making it into the warmest hoodie ever? Or you could go all out and have it repurposed into a light jacket, thereby getting pretty darn close to the woobie’s intended original use.

2. Camp

Use it as a tent divider if you’re still keen on camping. That is if being in the field wasn’t enough camping to last a lifetime. Woobies make perfect tent dividers to section out space inside a large tent or to create rooms if you’re camping with your family.

3. Pets

Let your cat or dog appropriate it and use it as their new favorite bed. It smells like you, it’s soft, warm, and it makes for the perfect traveling pet bed because it’s so compact. It’s especially useful for the inside of kennels if you have to move since the woobie is waterproof and dustproof.

A few years back, the Marine Corps unveiled the Woobie 2.0, and four years on, we’re still smiling about its enhanced benefits. This upgrade includes the things service members have been asking for – better insulation, a way to keep various tie-down points in place, and the addition of parachute cord loops. The latest version also includes a heavy-duty reversible zipper to make the woobie into the ultimate cozy cocoon. Woobie 2.0 doesn’t have as much stitching as the older version because the insulation is so much better. But to prevent rips, some stitches run down the length of the woobie.

We’re obsessed with the new zipper function and like all the old times always said, these new kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. From its humble beginnings in the earliest days of the American military to the jungles of Vietnam, the woobie truly is the greatest military invention ever fielded.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.

“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”

Morgan Lerette, author of Welcome to Blackwater

We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.

WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare? 

I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission. 

They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously. 

There was no check and balance in place. 

No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time. 

Lerette aims a firearm over a humvee

WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?

It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle. 

The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable. 

As a contractor it’s really just you.

Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go. 

WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?

It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for. 

This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war. 

Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’

Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to. 

WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?

Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security. 

Gate guard, tower guard.

Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available. 

Lerette with kids in Iraq
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WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?

Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that. 

So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.

They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.

It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic. 

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community? 

There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published. 

Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater. 

A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented. 

So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help. 

‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon. 

About Onward Press

Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit.  www.usvaa.org

Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.

We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.

All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio.  We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions.  Please see Submission Guidelines.

Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II battleship Wisconsin celebrates 76th birthday

In 1939, Congress authorized the construction of the USS Wisconsin. The build began at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1941. The United States was still doing everything she could to avoid being involved in the war in Europe, but preparing nonetheless. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor eleven months later would change everything.

The world was now at war for the second time and the USS Wisconsin would join the fight.
Harnessing your discontent in the military

In 1943 on the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Wisconsin launched. She was commissioned on April 16, 1944. She left Norfolk, VA, and began her work. A few months later, the USS Wisconsin earned her first star in battle by supporting carriers during Leyte Operation: Luzon Attacks. She would go on to prove her seaworthiness by surviving a typhoon that took out three ships.

In January of 1945 while heavily armed, she escorted fast carriers who completed air strikes against Formosa, Luzon. By supporting these strikes, she earned her second battle star. Shortly after that she was assigned to the 5th Fleet. She went on to assist in the strike against Tokyo, which was a cover for the eventual invasion of Iwo Jima.
Harnessing your discontent in the military

Under the cover of terrible weather, the USS Wisconsin supported landing operations for Iwo Jima, earning her third battle star. She would earn her fourth in an operation against Okinawa. Following that, she showed her might by keeping the enemy at bay with her powerful weapons and taking down three enemy planes. The USS Wisconsin earned a fifth star after operations against Japan. After putting in over 100,000 miles at sea since joining the fleet, she dropped her anchor in Tokyo Bay. She was vital to the support of the Pacific naval operations for World War II and earned her rest. She was inactivated in 1948 and decommissioned. It wouldn’t last long.

The USS Wisconsin rejoined the fleet in 1951 to assist in the Korean War operations. Following that war, she was placed out of commission yet again in 1958, and sat idle for 28 years until she was needed once more. She would go on to support operations in the Gulf War in 1991. Throughout her six months there, she played an absolute vital role in restoring Kuwait. She was decommissioned for the third and final time — she definitely earned her retirement.

The USS Wisconsin now sits in Norfolk, VA open to the public as a museum.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coffee or Die’s very unbiased 2019 holiday gift guide

We don’t mean to alarm you, but Christmas is right around the corner. We know many of you are out there defending our freedoms on the streets of U.S. cities or in foreign countries, which makes it easy to lose track of the holidays. At Coffee or Die, we understand that time is a valuable commodity, so we took the liberty of highlighting some must-have items (coffee!) from badass companies (Black Rifle Coffee Company!) that should satisfy everyone on your list (everyone!).

Save the sweat for when your New Year’s resolution kicks in — here’s our easy-to-follow holiday gift guide.


Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

BRCC Holiday Bundle

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like an image of America’s rifle decked out in twinkle lights and a hot cup of America’s coffee in a freedom-loving mug. There are other holiday coffee packages, but we can pretty much guarantee that if your loved one opens up anything besides the BRCC Holiday Bundle, they’ll be disappointed. Don’t be that guy. BRCC, or die.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Beyond Clothing Facebook page.)

Prima Loche Reversible Jacket from Beyond Clothing

For the outdoor enthusiast, staying warm in an outlayer that can withstand extreme activity is a must. Beyond Clothing has all the options for the adventure-seekers on your holiday shopping list. The Prima Loche Jacket is made of 70-denier quilted micro ripstop with durable water repellent (DWR) finish to withstand the elements. It’s also fully reversible, compressible for easy packing, and features a sweat-wicking Poloratec Alpha Insulation.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of @wrm.fzt on Instagram.)

Wrm.fzy “Cowboy Advice” Tee

Our friends over at WRMFZY make some of the most unique lifestyle apparel around, with something for the whole family including kids tees and bodysuits. All of their shirts are made from 50 percent polyester, 25 percent ring-spun combed cotton, and 25 percent rayon for maximum comfort. One of our favorites is the “Cowboy Advice” Tee.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Mat Best, center, on deployment. Photo courtesy of Mat Best.)

Books by Army Rangers

Contrary to popular belief, U.S. Army Rangers are capable of stringing words together to form coherent — and even intelligible — sentences. Need proof?

This year, Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder and vice president Mat Best added “best-selling author” to his impressive resume with the release of “Thank You For My Service.” The memoir topped several best-seller lists, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal. Best’s timely memoir provides fresh insight into the minds of the men and women on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. But don’t worry, this is still Mat Best we’re talking about — you’ll also be laughing your ass off.

Luke Ryan, BRCC’s social media manager, has also authored a book — or three. The former Army Ranger currently has three books available: “The Gun and the Scythe: Poetry by an Army Ranger,” “The Eighth: A Short Story,” and “The First Marauder,” which is the first installment of a three-part series. “The First Marauder” is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. after a deadly virus wreaks havoc on the planet. The story follows Tyler Ballard, a 15-year-old boy who seeks revenge for the death of his older brother. “The Gun and the Scythe” is a poetry book written for veterans, and it explores various facets of war in a way simple narratives cannot.

Coffee or Die executive editor Marty Skovlund Jr. has also been known to put pen to paper occasionally, and his seminal work makes a worthy addition to anyone’s library. “Violence of Action” is much more than the true, first-person accounts of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Global War on Terror. Between these pages are the heartfelt, first-hand accounts from, and about, the men who lived, fought, and died for their country, their Regiment, and each other.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Jack Carr’s “The Terminal List” was released in 2018; “True Believer” in July 2019.)

… and a book by a Navy SEAL

Former U.S. Navy SEAL sniper and author Jack Carr has written books so badass that even Chuck Norris can’t put them down. Jack Carr uses his 20-plus years of experience operating as a Navy SEAL to write some of the most thrilling fiction books we’ve ever read. Protagonist James Reece is on a quest for vengeance after he discovers that the ambush that claimed the lives of his SEAL team and the murder of his wife and daughters was all part of a conspiracy. The first two installments, “The Terminal List” and “True Believer,” will have you on the edge of your seat. If you can’t get enough of James Reece, Carr’s third book, “Savage Son,” is coming in April 2020.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Evers Forgeworks.)

The Maverick EDC from Evers Forgeworks

For the true blade lover in your life, check out Evers Forgeworks. Veteran John Evers has a passion for all things with a blade, which is apparent in his work. His hand-forged blades are as functional as they are beautiful. We are particularly impressed with the Maverick EDC, which is the perfect blade to add to your battle or duty belt, and the Maverick Hunter — fast, lightweight, and ready to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Activision.)

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” Reboot

The anticipated reboot of the popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” video game was released in October and features new characters, new storylines that are eerily similar to real-world events, and new play modes. Developers Infinity Ward brought in Tier 1 operators to consult on the game, upping the realism and exciting for players. This is a no-brainer for the FPS gamer on your holiday shopping list.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International Facebook page.)

A Kifaru International Woobie

The USGI poncho liner (woobie) is quite possibly the most popular piece of government-issued equipment on the planet. And it’s basically a baby blanket for some of our nation’s most hardened warriors. Kifaru International took this fan favorite and enhanced it to meet their demanding standards. With their proprietary RhinoSkin coating with DWR for water resistance, this woobie‘s durability is unmatched. Their Apex insulation is a continuous filament that requires no quilting, unlike the USGI version. This lack of quilting or stitching anywhere but the edges eliminates cold spots. We never leave home without ours.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Combat Flip Flops Facebook page.)

The Shemagh from Combat Flip Flops

Combat Flip Flops has a righteous reputation for their durable products and mindful philanthropy. While their signature product makes a great gift, this time of year isn’t exactly flip flop season in many parts of the country. The shemagh (square scarf), however, is a versatile item that can be used in many different environments. It’s perfect for that person on your list who is always looking for new and unique accessories — or is always cold.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of High West Distillery Facebook page.)

A bottle of High West Whiskey

For the whiskey connoisseur, our friends at High West Distillery have something for everyone. From American Prairie Bourbon to Double Rye to Rendezvous Rye to Campfire — which is a blend of scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys — there are plenty of options, and they’re all good. You may even inspire the recipient to visit the distillery in Park City, Utah, for a tour. While they’re there, they can also stop at the saloon or the Nelson Cottage, which offers coursed dinners and whiskey pairings.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Courtesy of STI International’s Facebook page.)

STI Staccato C pistol

STI pistols are made in America with their own unique pistol platform called the 2011. Every STI handgun is backed by a lifetime warranty and unmatched performance. We recommend the Staccato C for the everyday carrier in your life — it contains all the speed, power, and accuracy that STI is known for in a compact, easy, and comfortable-to-carry firearm.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Bison Union.)

Bison Union 16-oz. Buffalo Mug

Bison Union is a veteran-owned company that started out making awesome T-shirts but have added other products to their lineup over the years — like this no-nonsense 16-ounce Buffalo Mug. Each mug is handmade in Sheridan, Wyoming, by a friend of the company, who also happens to be the mother of a U.S. Army veteran. From their website, “At Bison Union Company we firmly believe coffee is one of the best ingredients for hard work each day… so stop talking and earn your coffee!”

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Sitka Gear.)

Kelvin Active Jacket from Sitka Gear

Sitka’s motto — “Turning Clothing into Gear” — holds true in every piece that we have worn. Sitka makes the most highly functional technical hunting clothing we have ever used. One of our favorite pieces is the Kelvin Active Jacket, which can be used as a quiet outlayer to ease the chill on mild mornings or as an insulating layer in frigid temps. It’s lightweight and easily compressible, so it won’t take up much space in your pack. If you’re shopping for an outdoorsman, you can not go wrong with anything from Sitka.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

The Mission Flannel contributes to helping our furry friends find forever homes.

(Photo courtesy of Dixxon Flannel Facebook page.)

Dixxon Flannel’s Mission K-9 Charity Flannel

Check out the BRCC office on any given day of the week and there’s a good chance you’ll catch someone in Dixxon Flannel. Their flannels feature their signature D-TECH material, which makes them breathable yet durable and minimizes wrinkling. Dixxon Flannel offers apparel for men, women, and children — flannel for the whole family! Plus the Mission K-9 Charity Flannel supports an incredibly worthy cause.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Traeger.)

Traeger Signature BBQ Sauce

Specialty food items are a great go-to gift during the holidays. Need to fill a stocking? Need a host gift? Need to get something small for that ” or less” office gift exchange? There are plenty of options, but we like the idea of gifting something that requires a little more thought than a bottle of wine or meat-and-cheese box. In addition to their cooking implements, Traeger has a whole line of delicious sauces. We like to start with the Signature BBQ Sauce since it has the most broad appeal. If the recipient is a backyard pitmaster you know and love, there are also sweet and spicy options, depending on their taste … or you could just, you know, pony up the money to buy them a badass grill.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

BRCC Coffee Club subscription

The gift that keeps on giving, BRCC’s Coffee Club delivers high-quality coffee delivered to your door each month at a discounted rate and with free shipping. The Club keeps it simple — just choose whether you’re purchasing for home or office, pick a texture (ground, whole bean, or rounds), select your blend (or let us choose it for you!), the number of bags, and the frequency of delivery. Done! Coffee equals love, so if you really love someone, you should make sure they never run out of America’s Coffee again.

Nonprofit gifting

Want to buy awesome gifts for a loved one but also support a great cause? Check out these BRCC-favorite nonprofit store items:

Or maybe you just want to make a donation in someone’s name because they already have way more than they need and, let’s be honest, it’s just easier that way? We’re here for that, too.

Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Top Gun’ school requests huge expansion for realistic training

“Top Gun” is due for an upgrade. And no, it’s not the upcoming sequel to the classic 1986 film due out in 2019.

The ranges at Naval Air Station Fallon (NASF) in rural western Nevada – the epicenter of naval aviation combat training – have not seen a significant modernization in more than 20 years. Since then, the exponential evolution of aircraft and long-range weapons technologies have made Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) too small for pilots to realistically train for combat.

Realizing this, in 2016 the Navy published a proposal which would expand FRTC to meet the evolved training requirements. Under the plan, an additional 945 square miles of public land and 102 square miles of non-federal land would be withdrawn for military use.


“This is an absolutely enormous modernization, a once in a generation expansion which is critically important for naval aviation,” said Alex Stone, a Pacific Fleet environmental planner who conducted an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the project.

But FRTC’s modernization program is under the gun: the permits for its current ranges – in use for 77 years – will expire in 2021, and the plan needs to be implemented before then. Doing so, however, would potentially impact a broad range of actors: ranchers, miners, hunters, 17 different tribes, off-road recreation enthusiasts, as well as a host of federal, state, and local agencies.

“We’re withdrawing an additional 750,000 acres, so even though it’s a rural area, that withdrawn land is going to take from the public a lot of areas for which there are currently other uses,” Stone explained. “What makes this such a challenging, complex project is the number of stakeholders involved, because this withdrawal affects so many different groups and each of these groups has a unique set of concerns and issues.”

Harnessing your discontent in the military

U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Stroup, left, and Sophia Haberman, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, examine ways to attract new talent through strategic communication with USC™s Dr. Tom Hollihan during NPS™ Strategic Communication Workshop.

Stone’s team has leaned into this challenge. They’ve brought in a range of experts, including anthropologists, biologists, and geologists, and held a series of open meetings with the Bureau of Land Management to keep the public informed and engaged in the process.

Yet they want and need to do more. And do it better.

“The success or failure of this project is really going to be tied to how well we can communicate with these different stakeholders,” Stone said. And that’s what brought the Top Gun team to the Naval Postgraduate School.

In early August 2018, Stone and 22 colleagues travelled to the university to refine their team’s strategic communication capability. Along with dozens of key members from multiple commands throughout the Navy, they took part in the school’s intense, three-day Strategic Communications Workshop (SCW), Aug. 7-9, 2018.

Developed by NPS’ Center for Executive Education (CEE), the SCW provides a deep dive into the design, planning and implementation of large-scale communications initiatives. Participants teamed up with both NPS faculty and professors from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (USC-ASCJ) to apply the latest research and lessons learned from across the Department of Defense (DOD) and industry.

“These workshops make you stop and say, ‘OK, where are we?,'” said Gail Fann Thomas, SCW program manager and an associate professor in NPS’ Graduate School of Business and Public Policy (GSBPP).

“Once you conduct a strategic analysis, you can improve your communication tactics: who are your key stakeholders and how do they impact the achievement of your goals? What messages are your actions conveying, both inside and outside your organization?


“How can your organization’s communication provide better linkages between your day-to-day activities and your commander’s priorities?” she continued. “Might new media such as crowdsourcing and social media better create your desired effects? How are you maximizing your strategic effect with communication processes and metrics?”

To help commands across the services tackle these questions, Thomas has led more than 300 SCWs since becoming program manager in 2005, both at NPS and around the globe, bringing the workshop to commands on invitation.

At each SCW, attendees acquire new skills and tools to work through the military’s most vexing communications issues, from conducting in-depth stakeholder analyses to assessing communications risks, and developing metrics to track the effectiveness of initiatives.

“They’re not here to learn out of a textbook and go home,” Thomas said. “They all bring a real, concrete issue that they’re trying to work through, either because they’re looking ahead and saying, ‘Wow, we don’t know how we’re going to get there,’ or ‘We’ve got to do something different, and we don’t think we know enough to be able to do it.'”

All too often, strategic communications is incorrectly equated with ‘messaging.’ The SCW emphasizes the strategic analysis necessary prior to developing messages in order to ensure unity of efforts, actions and words.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Lazir Ablaza, a fighter pilot with the 157th Fighter Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., prepares to launch an F-16 Fighting Falcon for a training mission from Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., Nov. 13, 2014

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

“Often a leader will say ‘Where’s my story? Give me an article; give me a message,’ but you have to stop and ask whether that’s the right thing, the right media, the right topic, and addressing the right people,” Thomas noted. “There’s a whole lot of work that has to be done before you figure out what your message might be.”

A key component of this is communications is within the organization itself.

In an era defined by the ubiquity of social media – when a Facebook post by a junior enlisted service member has the potential to end up on the front page of the Washington Post – it is absolutely critical that all personnel are on the ‘same sheet of music.’


“If their internal communication isn’t aligned very well, that means their external communication isn’t very good either, because you probably have different people telling different stories,” Thomas said. “So, the SCW helps them do the diagnostics and better align their internal communication.”

This was an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for Navy Lt. Matt Stroup.

A public affairs officer (PAO) with the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in San Diego, his team paired up with USC-ASCJ doctoral studies director Tom Hollihan to find new ways to attract talented warfare tactics instructors to the command.

“We came here fully expecting to be externally focused on how best to communicate with the audience from a mass communications perspective, but what we’ve learned working with Tom is to identify the internal processes to our organization,” Stroup said.

Often, leaders think a PAO can dictate perceptions or actions through a single product, Stroup said.

“But it’s very much a team game,” he added. “It’s not something that you can do with just one person and hope they’re going to fix it.”

Hollihan was fully confident that Stroup’s team will be able to take their insights gleaned at the SCW home with them.

“They didn’t really know each other well, but this has been kind of an introduction to their own attitudes, values and styles,” he said. “What impressed me is how much respect they seemed to have for each other’s ideas and how productive the conversation was.”

Stroup described the SCW as “an incredibly valuable experience.”

“There aren’t too many other times in my career where I’m going to be able to sit for six to eight hours with a leading professor from one of the most highly-rated communications doctoral program in the U.S. and get some guidance on how to do this,” he said. “That’s gold as far as I’m concerned.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Navy Cmdr. James Johnston, who attended the SCW as part of the team from Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), the command responsible for all naval aviation, including the Top Gun school.

“It’s been humbling,” he said. “I’d like to think that all of us got to the positions we’re at by being masters of our craft, but none of us has a lot of experience in communications other than communicating to subordinates.

“This program is a good example of how a command can accelerate their learning curve. In order to get this amount of concentrated teaching, you’d probably have to attend a whole semester class,” Johnston continued. “This will enable us to go back to our command and help our entire staff learn a lot quicker how to get through this process.”

That’s a win, according to Thomas. Enabling an organic strategic communications capability is the ultimate goal of the SCW, allowing commands to get ahead of crises before they develop.

“Nothing happens without communication, but for the most part, people don’t think about communication at all until a crisis happens and then they go, ‘Why didn’t we think about that?,'” she said. “Instead of being in crisis mode all the time, we want people to be able to look at the communication that’s needed and to anticipate and be proactive about it. Then, have a strategy around our communication for whatever it is.”

The SCW certainly accomplished this for the team negotiating the challenges of the Fallon range modernization effort, Stone said.

“We can get the process and all the facts right, but without the communication, we’re not going to be successful,” he said. “This workshop really gave us a path forward for how to approach communicating with all the stakeholders involved.

“So many people have been appreciative that they had the opportunity to attend something like this,” Stone added. “Everyone came away refocused on the project and full of enthusiasm moving forward.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Team from 10th Special Forces Group wins Best Warrior Competition

Earlier in August, a team from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) won the 2020 Best Warrior Competition that was organized by the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC).

The 10th SFG team was comprised of a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C), who competed in the NCO category, and a Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer (25N) who competed in the junior enlisted category. Both soldiers came from the 2nd Battalion of the Group and had previously won a unit-level competition that qualified them from the big event.


Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the competition was conducted virtually. Teams from across the command competed in a series of events.

The competition was broken up into a series of several events that assessed soldiers holistically. Competing teams had to take the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), shoot the M4 qualification test, write an essay, take a military knowledge exam, complete a 12-mile ruck march, and answer questions for an oral military board. Attention to detail throughout the competition was paramount, and teams were even graded on the correctness of their uniforms.

The Engineer Sergeant explained that some of the tasks were unfamiliar even for a Special Forces operator.

“I have very little background in Army doctrine and the reasons they do certain things,” he said in a press release. “It got me out of my comfort zone and now I have a greater base of knowledge than I did prior to this.”

The junior member of the 10th SFG team added that “it was definitely weird for us because you can’t see who you’re competing against. It’s a different feeling for sure and in a competition that really drives me.”

Both soldiers remained anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their job.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) snipers training at Fort Carson (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Krone).

1st SFC is responsible for the Army’s Special Forces Groups (there are five active duty, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th, and two National Guard, 19th and 20th), the 75th Ranger Battalion, the 4th and 8th Psychological Operations Groups, and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade.

The command sergeant major of 2/10th SFG said that “hands down I’m proud, they represent the battalion very well. This battalion has a blue-collar work ethic, so if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it to the best of their ability.”

Green Berets primarily specialize on Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defence, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. True to their soldier-diplomat nature, they embed with a partner force, which, depending on the situation, might be a guerrilla group or a government army, and work with and through that local force to increase their effectiveness and achieve their mission.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

Special Forces soldiers deploy in 12-man Special Operations Detachment Alphas (ODAs). Each ODA is comprised of an officer, warrant officer, operations sergeant, intelligence sergeant, and two weapons, engineer, communications, and medical sergeants. The idea behind the duplicate military occupational specialties is to enable the ODA to split into two, or even more, smaller teams.

The 10th SFG troops had to prepare for the competition while still excelling at their jobs. “Right from the beginning you could tell that they were putting in the effort to study and brush up on warrior tasks,” added their sergeant major. “Ultimately they displayed impressive levels of physical and mental toughness.”

Special Forces teams are often the first in a hot spot because of their unique combinations of combat effectiveness and cultural expertise. They led the campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan; they invaded northern Iraq and held numerical superior enemy forces during the 2003 Iraqi invasion; and they were the first in Iraq to stop the Islamic State onslaught.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 8th

The Super Bowl came and went. If you’re a Patriots fan, good going. Now your boy has enough Super Bowl rings to snap half of all life out of existence. Tom Brady was somehow the “underdog” that game… because reasons? The Rams didn’t do anything spectacular after being given a free touchdown via a no-call against the Saints and they got flag after flag for seemingly pointless reasons, and they they still couldn’t… You know what? Whatever. I’m a Detroit Lions fan. We’re used to terrible calls and disappointment.

The real military highlight on Sunday was the Google Ad that inspired everyone to search for civilian jobs for their given MOS for the hell of it. Sometimes, the algorithm was hilariously off. Other times, to be honest, we all kinda knew what the results would be: Aircraft repair guys got told to repair aircraft, commo guys got system admin jobs, water dogs got water treatment jobs, and so on.

On that note, here’re some memes to help soothe over the pain of knowing you could be getting paid six figures for doing a less-stressful version of what you’re doing now.


Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Military Memes)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Harnessing your discontent in the military
Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via PNN)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

​(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

​(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Harnessing your discontent in the military

(Meme via Five Bravo)

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 common leaderships myths debunked by former top general

Since retiring from the US military as a four-star general eight years ago, Stanley McChrystal has reflected on one of his favorite subjects — leadership — and he’s had some significant revelations.

McChrystal had a 34-year military career, taking out al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, and spent a year leading America and its allies in the War in Afghanistan. Since retiring, he’s overseen the leadership consulting firm the McChrystal Group, translating what he’s learned to a business audience.

For an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” we explored the three most common myths about leadership, which he identifies in his new book “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”


The Formulaic Myth: If someone follows a checklist of behaviors, they’ll be a great leader

McChrystal said that it’s tempting to believe that if you make a checklist of traits and behaviors collected from leadership books and mentors, and check off every box, you will be a great leader. “But the reality is, when you look at history, there’s a number of people who followed that perfectly and failed, some over and over,” he said.

He’s not disputing the fact that there are certain truths about what’s effective, and that a sterling résumé can prove helpful. But life is messy and taking the best advice or following a well-worn path to success is not sufficient for being an effective leader.

McChrystal pointed to the example of opposing generals in the American Civil War, the Confederacy’s Robert E. Lee and the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant. Up until the war, Lee was seen as the exemplary soldier, with a sterling track record and a way of carrying himself that even his enemies admired; in comparison, Grant’s accomplishments were less exceptional and he was rougher around the edges. But it was Grant, of course, who emerged victorious. It’s why, McChrystal said, that situational context and leaders’ relationship to their followers are more important than a “correct” way to lead.

Harnessing your discontent in the military

Ulysses S. Grant did not rise to the head of the Union forces in the Civil War by accident, of course, but by many traditional measures of leadership and background, he did not match up to his opponent, Robert E. Lee. It was Grant, however, who was the victor.

The Attribution Myth: The successes and failures of a team are all the results of its leader

McChrystal retired from the US Army in 2010, after handing in his resignation to President Barack Obama in the wake of a Rolling Stone article that showed McChrystal’s team criticizing the administration. McChrystal soon set to work on his memoirs as a way to analyze his own successes and failures. He recruited a team to help him with research and fact checking.

“I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened,” he said. “And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me.”

After doing their research on key decisions in McChrystal’s career, “we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.” The “Great Man Theory” of history, which places single people front and center, fell apart for him.

He said that, “leaders matter, just not like we think they do.” The best leaders are able to make the most of their team members’ potential through skilled management and an ability to inspire, but ignoring the complex web of interactions among leaders and every person they interact with, as well as the circumstances out of their control, is something McChrystal considers a toxic approach. Followers should respect great leaders without putting them on a pedestal, he said, and leaders should not place themselves on that pedestal, either.

The Results Myth: Delivering results is all that’s required for positions of power and accolades

Related to the first myth, the third one concerns the common presumption that people in positions of power got there because they delivered results.

“In reality, we don’t actually follow that very well,” McChrystal said. “We promote people, we move them into new jobs, et cetera, who have been failures over and over again. And we have other people who are very successful, but because they don’t quite fill some other need we have, we reject them.”

That’s why it’s a mistake to think that good speaking skills or a magnetic personality are trivial, because they’re as important to leadership as anything else — for better or worse. “You can have one person who’s producing or likely to produce a great outcome, but somebody else who can make us feel good or make us feel scared or make us something that inspires us to action, we often will go that way, much more than we will direct results,” McChrystal said.

Listen to the full episode and subscribe to “This Is Success” on Apple Podcasts or Art19.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo so much harder than Mexicans?

It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexican Independence day. The May 5th celebration is actually the marking of a win by a small faction of the Mexican Army over the French during the French-Mexican war.


Harnessing your discontent in the military

A Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington, D.C.

In reality, Americans actually do have a cause to celebrate and commemorate the Texan-born Mexican general, his ragtag battalion of enlisted volunteer troops and their unlikely defeat over the French Army at the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Despite being outnumbered 3-1, the Mexicans obliterated the French, forcing a retreat after the French sustained over 500 casualties, compared to the Mexican’s mere 100 deaths in the battle.

What many people might not know was that the French were planning a lot more than just a one-off takeover of the small Mexican city of Puebla. Along with this mounted offensive, Napoleon and his Army were planning to exchange their superior and advanced artillery with the American Confederate Army in exchange for southern cotton; a commodity that was growing quite sparse across the pond in Europe.

Had the French won the battle of Puebla and made that deal with the Confederates, our Civil War most-certainly would have turned out quite differently. At the time France was known to have some of the most technologically advanced and deadly firepower in the world. And if they had supplied their weapons to the Confederates, the Union Army’s fight would have become exponentially more difficult, causing more deaths and perhaps even resulting in a Union defeat; an outcome that would have changed the course of US history.

So be sure to have a celebratory margarita this Cinco de Mayo and when someone asks you why we Americans tend to celebrate this holiday in more numbers and with more gusto than our neighbors to the south, just smile and pour one out for the warriors that won the Battle of Puebla and saved us from a significantly bloodier and potentially-disastrous end to the American Civil War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

It’s not often you see those three-letter titles A1C and Ph.D. used to refer to the same person. As a matter of fact, only one-hundredth of one percent of the Air Force’s enlisted force from E-1 through E-9 possess a doctor of philosophy degree, one of 33 enlisted airmen in the Air Force with a doctorate degree.

Yet one woman with a doctorate in chemistry found herself signing on the proverbial dotted line, completing basic training, and is now assigned to the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center.


Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll enlisted in the Air Force in December 2017, though her unique career journey began much earlier, soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in my senior year of high school in 2001, and after 9/11 happened, I told my parents I wanted to enlist,” Schroll said. “During the discussion, my mother said something that struck me even using the word ‘please’ and asking me to do something for the first time in my life instead of telling me to. She said, ‘please don’t enlist. I’ve been saving your whole life for you to go to college.’ I knew how much it meant to her and I respect my parents deeply, so I went to college.”

Harnessing your discontent in the military

Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll, a radiochemistry technician at the Air Force Radiochemistry Laboratory, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., pours solution from a test tube as she prepares reagent kits for AFTAC’s precious metals program.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)

Schroll attended Morehead State University in Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2006. She bypassed the traditional path after her undergraduate studies and went straight into the doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.

“It’s not uncommon for people looking into science degrees to forego a master’s program and go straight into a doctoral studies,” Schroll explained. “Most universities that offer a Ph.D. will let you obtain a master’s degree if you find yourself struggling with the Ph.D. work load.”

She joked, “someone once told me that the difference between a Ph.D. and a master’s degree is the Ph.D. project has to work in the end, while a master’s student can write up all the ways the project didn’t work!”

Upon completion of her doctorate in analytical chemistry with an emphasis in spectroelectrochemical detection of f-block elements, she went straight into the work force doing environmental sample preparation, product management and worked as a contract research assistant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also taught general chemistry at the University of Cincinnati for two years. It was an enjoyable career, Schroll said, but military service was still on her mind.

“I had everything going for me: a great education, good job, supportive family, everything, yet I was still thinking about enlisting,” she said. “But I had some significant hurdles to overcome. I was overweight and knew that was going to be a factor as to whether I’d qualify or not. I had pets. I had a house and in 2014, I lost my mother to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. It was devastating to my family and me. I took it quite hard and was lost without her influence.”

Harnessing your discontent in the military

Air Force Basic Training graduation photo of Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll.

From that tragedy, however, came the realization that she still wanted to serve her country and thought it would be a lasting tribute to her beloved mother.

“I knew deep down from the beginning she didn’t want me to join the service, but through all the grief I was experiencing, I had to find a path that would bring me greater reward,” she explained.

So after several months of careful thought, consideration and a solid work-out program, Schroll paid a visit to her local recruiter to change her title from ‘Doctor’ to ‘Airman.’

“Before I left for basic, I had several lengthy conversations with my sister who served in the Army for almost 10 years and I spoke to several other female friends who had also gone through the experience,” she said. “They all told me about the mind games I should expect from the military training instructors and some of the difficulties that arise when you put 40 women together in small quarters for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, I found basic training quite entertaining!”

During basic, trainees are selected to fill certain jobs and responsibilities given to each flight: dorm chief, element leader, chow runner, and entry controller, just to name a few. Schroll volunteered to be the flight’s academic monitor. When the MTI asked what made her qualified for the job, she nonchalantly mentioned she had taught classes before. The MTI did some digging and learned that Schroll had a Ph.D.

“It all came out from there,” she said. “I tried to downplay it as much as I could, and I offered to help any of my flight mates with their study techniques, because we were all in this together. We had one trainee who had such bad test anxiety and we were all worried she was going to run out of the classroom before she finished the end-of-course exam. When our MTI started reading off our test scores, we collectively held our breath when hers was read and we cheered like mad when it was a passing score. A few of us even cried. By far my proudest moment as the academic monitor was the fact we all passed our exams the first time through.”

Harnessing your discontent in the military

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Stein, 17th Training Group superintendent, presents the 312th Training Squadron Student of the Month award to Airman 1st Class Cynthia Schroll, 312th TRS trainee, at Brandenburg Hall on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman)

She graduated basic training in February 2018 and was sent to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to undergo special instruments training. While there, she became friends with a large contingent of Air Force firefighters.

“Our tech school was housed with the airmen who undergo firefighting training, and it was so much fun,” Schroll recalled. “I was selected to be a red rope, the person who oversees dorm activities, and they kept me so grounded. I had so much respect for them that on my last day I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to their daily formation so I could shake every single hand and say thanks. I love and respect them all so much.”

During her tenure at Goodfellow, she received a special visitor who requested to meet with her. She was surprised to learn it was a command chief master sergeant who made the trip to speak directly with her.

“I was pretty floored when I found out Chief Master Sgt. Michael Joseph came to the schoolhouse to discuss career options with me,” she said. “He introduced himself as the command chief for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, and said his commander was very interested in having me on his team at Patrick AFB. I can’t put my finger on it, but during my conversation with Chief Joseph, I realized this was my chance to live out my desire to serve, especially in the capacity of a scientist. I thought to myself, ‘These folks who have so much experience would know how best to use my skills,’ so I put my trust in them.”

Joseph was highly impressed when he met with Schroll.

“I heard about A1C Schroll as she was coming through the pipeline since AFTAC has a majority of the 9S100 airmen in the Air Force,” said Joseph. “Every airman has a story, and I wanted to hear hers. Her background was impressive — she had written two books and has a patent to her name, but it was her desire to serve that impressed me the most. With her chemistry background and our operational need for highly-skilled chemists, it seemed like a natural fit for her to come to AFTAC.”

Recruiting personnel who possess highly-technical scientific degrees and experience has been a challenge for the nuclear treaty monitoring center, but AFTAC’s senior enlisted advisor believes they’re seeking out ways to overcome that challenge.

Schroll is assigned to AFTAC’s radiochemistry laboratory working as a radiochemistry technician. She is responsible for preparing reagent kits in the lab’s tech room as well as co-managing the precious metals program.

“I love the responsibility that comes from knowing our chemists are counting on me to prep their reagents properly and in a timely manner,” said Schroll. “If anything goes wrong with the chemistry, the first place that is looked at is the reagent, so I want them to have confidence when they see my initials on the label that they were prepared correctly.”

When asked if she was looking at becoming a commissioned officer someday, Schroll said it’s not out of the question, but it’s not her immediate focus.

“Right now, I’m still brand new to the Air Force, so I am learning as much about it as possible. I’m an airman first class, and with that comes the responsibility of being the best A1C I can be. My focus is on doing the job I am fortunate to have, and doing it as best I can. When I look to the future, I only see broad opportunities. But I’ve never been one to look too far ahead because all too often we make this grand dream or goal, only to forget to focus on the little steps to get there. I’m focusing on the little steps right now.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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