"Monday Musings” are designed to get quick, insightful thoughts based around three questions from those interested in strategy, from the most experienced and lauded, to our newest thinkers/writers.
1. Who had the greatest impact on you intellectually (whether through writing, mentorship, etc.)?
The father of my best friends who was also my high school wrestling coach happened to be a Navy Captain, and he has been a mentor who has shepherded my growth over the years. A logistics officer, he had also served as a legislative and policy liaison along with other interesting assignments that exposed us to thoughts on strategy, military leadership, and some grim realities of war. Since high school, he has moderated our group emails; listened to our thoughts on war, peace, and military leadership; and sent us books and articles to read. It’s bittersweet for him that we all ended up in the military, especially since this makes Army-Navy games awkward...his two sons and I all became Army officers.
2. What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?
Prior to becoming a military officer, I was fortunate to read many of the classics, though I may not have understood them. In my senior year of college, I read Makers of Modern Strategy, The Art of War, On War, and The Book of Five Rings. For fiction, I always come back to Starship Troopers. It shows the confluence of tactical and operational leadership and the impossibility of explaining strategy to the people at the tip of the spear. It’s a book civilians, junior soldiers, and leaders can all learn lessons from, and it’s light enough to sneak in some heavy politics and moral philosophy with plenty of science-fiction violence. Also, for more Heinlein strategy thoughts, see The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Puppet Masters, particularly if you enjoy advanced but simply presented thoughts on projectiles and psychological operations.
3. What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as the kind of leader who built good teams. I want to enable others to build careers that further our national security environment and support their personal development goals. I want to build resilient organizations (hate it as a buzzword, but it fits) that can survive the trials of combat. I want to to teach soldiers the lessons of the past and how they can help us win in the future. I hope I can help junior leaders learn from my many painful lessons and teach them to reduce complex ideas to simple, actionable plans.
Mike Denny is an ARNG aviation officer and company commander. Formerly, he served as a Field Artillery officer on active duty with time at all of the Army garden spots ending at Fort Polk following his second Afghan tour. As a civilian, he is an executive management professional and occasional contributor to Task and Purpose, The Bridge, and Red Team Journal. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Government.
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