Professional Development

Introducing #Scharnhorst: The Military Society and the Concept of Continuous Education

Introducing #Scharnhorst: The Military Society and the Concept of Continuous Education

When Gerhard von Scharnhorst arrived in Berlin in 1801, he had an ambitious reform agenda on his mind. He was appointed to helm the Military School for Young Infantry and Cavalry Officers in Berlin, better known as the Kriegsakademie. Scharnhorst’s aspirations went, however, much further.

What Happens in White Space Should Not Stay in White Space: Fomenting Creativity in Professional Military Education

What Happens in White Space Should Not Stay in White Space: Fomenting Creativity in Professional Military Education

Numerous individuals have commented on how to improve professional military education…Creativity tends to receive a brief nod in these discussions, but the concept is only mentioned and almost never discussed, with no ideas for fostering it.

From Screen to Paper: Redefining the Modern Military

From Screen to Paper: Redefining the Modern Military

The professionalism of Western militaries is ripe for another discussion. The practitioners who make up the profession of arms—and those that study and teach them—owe it to their citizens, their governments, and themselves to shape their forces, and educate their professionals, in preparation for the future. It is their duty to ensure they are prepared to ethically and effectively achieve the military objectives their leaders lay before them, no matter the adversary or the context of the conflict.

Fighting and Winning in the Information Age

Fighting and Winning in the Information Age

The economic, social, and technological trends of the Information Age will undoubtedly have a big impact on the way that militaries fight. Yet, two things do not change: the nature of war, and the need to win. To win, militaries must move beyond the old methods of the Industrial Age. There is a need to develop capabilities in a more cost-efficient and operationally effective way. Militaries must leverage the power of networks, remain open to new ideas and continue to improve how they develop their people.

Energizing the Silent Majority: Non-Resident Professional Military Education and Flexible Fellowships

Energizing the Silent Majority: Non-Resident Professional Military Education and Flexible Fellowships

The U.S. military is full of people with great ideas. Overwhelmingly, the debates raging around professional military education focus on maximizing the potential of those who attend resident programs, and completely overlook ways to tap into those who complete non-resident programs.

The Roots of Modern Military Education

The Roots of Modern Military Education

Jena demonstrated war’s adaptive character when Prussia’s outdated system and tactics were defeated by Napoleon’s. Scharnhorst concluded that understanding and innovation in warfare required critical thinking –– the kind of thinking that questions the status quo, identifies problems, and forms solutions. His answer was a liberal education, and he and his successors broadened the Army’s technical education with the inclusion of civilian liberal arts and sciences. Jena demonstrated that executing orders was not enough; officers had to use sound judgment and critical thinking in the preparation, planning, and execution of military operations. Scharnhorst firmly believed in the benefits of higher level education and experimented with specialized learning venues when he established the Military Society in Berlin in 1801. This society fostered a free-thinking exchange of ideas and sought to develop judgment and reasoning. Modern-day comparisons might be found in The Strategy Bridge’s “New Model Mentoring” or the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.

Who’s Missing? The Limits of Professional Reading Lists

Who’s Missing? The Limits of Professional Reading Lists

A reading list, quite obviously, is a list of readings; it is a list defined by its content. But a professional reading list is actually more than a list of professional readings. It prescribes its own use: Wrestle with me, it goads. Debate me. Engage. At the very least expect an encounter. The texts listed within serve to further circumscribe the profession and those within it, as professionals. Martha Nussbaum in Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities explains “When people see their ideas as their own responsibility, they are more likely, too, to see their deeds as their own responsibility.” Just as we seek to instill decentralized execution in tactical engagements, introducing critical thinking serves to empower junior leaders to take ownership of their ideas; the list is not a checklist, but a playlist, a library of potential.

Leadership Lessons from General George C. Marshall

Leadership Lessons from General George C. Marshall

Many people today don’t remember George Marshall, but in the middle of the 20th century he was inescapable. A five-star general who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, Marshall was once described by President Harry S. Truman as the greatest soldier in American history. Other world figures agreed, and after World War II, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called Marshall the true organizer of Allied victory.

Enhancing Strategic Education in the Middle East: Envisioning a Pan-Arab Security and Defence College

Enhancing Strategic Education in the Middle East: Envisioning a Pan-Arab Security and Defence College

National and multinational defence colleges have long provided a significant method of enhancing the strategic thinking skills and inter-cultural networks of national leaders, to better prepare them for developing and implementing national security doctrines and policies, and coordinating crisis management and informal diplomatic efforts. The creation of a pan-Arab security and defence college could provide a mutually-beneficial means for Arab nations to deliver coordinated, strategic-level education for a community of future Arab leaders and allied officers with regional influence.

#Reviewing 21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era

#Reviewing 21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era

To understand Patton, you have to look at what he wrote and what he read, and it is there that you will find the man. Besides Patton’s well-known journals...Patton also wrote essays on military technology, history, leadership, and strategy. Many of these are now reprinted in 21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era.

Professional Military Education: What is it Good For?

Professional Military Education: What is it Good For?

Professional Military Education (PME) covers a wide range of activities. In one sense it refers to a plethora of training, continuing education, and other activities designed to provide development to members of the military at various points in their career and to prepare them for the next level of responsibilities. The U.S. military requires professional education for both officers and enlisted personnel and its form, content, and objective varies across rank, service, and military role. But what is its overarching purpose? Why do we invest so much in this effort?

The Strategic Development of Tactical #Leadership

The Strategic Development of Tactical #Leadership

Continued service brings with it the obligation to prepare for increased responsibility. The program of professional military education accounts for some of this development, but leaders cannot hope for future success without mentorship and dedicated self-development. Leaders must take charge of this process, but not at the cost of their unit’s readiness. Instead, they would be wise to heed the advice of a senior officer who said, "Lead at your level, think at your boss’s level, and accept that you’ll just have to adapt to everything beyond that."

Coaching 2.0: Developing Winning Leaders for a Complex World

Coaching 2.0: Developing Winning Leaders for a Complex World

Coach, Counsel, Mentor.  Every leader uses these developmental methods...or do they?  These principal methods are the cornerstone of leadership development used by all the military services. However, we are only trained to implement two of them.  This is a problem because, in the military, we grow our own leaders.

Strategic Discontent, Political Literacy, and Professional Military Education

Strategic Discontent, Political Literacy, and Professional Military Education

Top military leaders instruct officers to attend more closely to the tangled connections between a military unit's actions, its armed adversaries, and the sociopolitical landscape on which conflicts unfold. Insofar as these causal connections elude military professionals, armed interventions will tend to induce unwelcome consequences and, thereby, strategic discontent. Educators can help. The skilled integration of political science in the classroom provides a way for educators to squarely address these leaders’ concerns. But we first have to rethink fundamentals. Namely, what does military expertise and advice entail?

Reading WarBooks & Strategy: A Summary

Reading WarBooks & Strategy: A Summary

In the end, a static list cannot capture the depth and breadth of the WarBooks, not least because we hope to see the WarBooks continue to grow and evolve just as we and the other contributors to it will. But pausing periodically to reflect on the list and consider the wisdom in it is important…if only to help one to choose the next book destined for our shelf.

One Year in Paris

Beginning in the summer of 2014, I was provided a unique opportunity to live and work in Paris for one year. From this home base, I was permitted to travel anywhere in Europe and Eurasia that I wished as long as certain provisions were met (the location had to be in my plan and I had to be allowed entry). I recently departed the City of Light. This is what I learned.

During my year in Paris, I was required to meet several objectives, to include familiarizing myself with US government policy and its formulation, learning about US military involvement in Europe and Eurasia, seeking experiences to interact with other national militaries, and increasing my understanding of the European and Eurasian regions through personal study and firsthand experience.

Ultimately, the experience was useful in helping me identify regional trends that I think will shape Europe’s future political and security landscape.


View of the Eiffel Tower from the southwest.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the southwest.

After one year, I am still by no means an expert in European and Eurasian political or security affairs. Yet, I think that I can can comfortably say I am more knowledgeable than before thanks to a combination of travel, practitioner insights, and a graduate degree earned the year prior. Ultimately, the experience was useful in helping me identify regional trends that I think will shape Europe’s future political and security landscape.

To understand Europe as a region, it must be remembered that Europe encompasses many nations that regularly exercise parochial interests. Although, many are hopeful that European nations will continue to move in a direction of greater solidarity. In the mean time, Europe’s main unifying body, the European Union (EU), is effective at creating some governing laws and policies but individual nations still retain a significant amount of autonomy and their national interests often trump the EU’s interests.

Many members fear what the precedent any departure could mean for the future stability and functionality of the union.

People and Money

Some of the issues that will continue to shape regional European political and security landscape are as follows (in no particular order). The recent tensions in Calais over migrants crossing between France and Great Britain are an example of one issue that will haunt Europe as a region for some time to come. Recent horrific tragedies have brought this trend to the forefront of current events. The path and final destination of the migrants and refugees who safely make it to the shores and borders of Europe is creating tension among EU members, especially for those on the southern tier like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. For now, individual citizens and the larger European nations, like Germany and France, continue to accept migrants and refugees but the EU is struggling to find a viable option to stem the flow and prevent tragedy. A change to the Schengen Area is not out of the realm of possibility.

The stability of the union — whether it be the EU itself or the Euro economic zone — is also contested given the possibility of one member nation’s departure(Great Britain) and one Eurozone nation’s departure (Greece). For now, a “Grec-xit” has been averted and many hope (and just as many doubt) that Greece can turn around its broken bureaucratic and budgetary practices to prevent another scare. Likewise, many EU members fear what the precedent any departure could mean for the future stability and functionality of the union.

How Safe is Europe?

Social and economic issues are not the only regional challenges Europe faces today. Many European nations are faced with questioning their own security. An old foe, Russia, has again reared its head and stomped back into Eastern Europe. After several years of playing nice, the US and NATO were largely caught off guard and had to mount a counter campaign and reverse many policy initiatives aimed at cooperation with Russia and reset. Much of their positive effort was suspended despite expending significant political capital on befriending Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union and prior to the Crimea and Ukraine crises.

Finally, the scourge of conflict in the Middle East continues to worry European nations. Whether it is the threat of terrorism in their cities or the implications of efforts to train, equip, and support various regional and national security and militia forces, no outlook appears promising at this point to deliver stability to the Middle East.

Focus on France

For France, in particular, the US has found itself more often than not aligned with and in support of “our oldest ally’s” efforts to curb terrorism and build stability, especially in Africa and the Middle East. While France’s efforts likely relieve pressure from the US having to go it alone, it is necessary to realize that France’s interests in Africa mostly extend to its former colonies and to those nations with stakes in the French defense industries. So while it is certainly good for US security interests that the French are being proactive (i.e. operational deployments along with active diplomatic efforts), one must recognize that these efforts are limited to specific regions and countries. They are not meant to shape or influence large swathes of the continent. Some (or all) of this constraint is because of the limitations currently imposed on the French military.

French troops guard tourist and culturally sensitive sites in France.

French troops guard tourist and culturally sensitive sites in France.

Due to the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the government is requiring the military to conduct more domestic operations than originally planned in their budget. This unforeseen operational tempo has largely fallen on the French army causing it to stretch its budget all-the-while placing a higher burden on military personnel, units, and equipment.

Maintaining active sanctions against Russian businesses and some notable figures have been the most high profile efforts.

What is the US Doing?

On the policy front, the US has pushed for European unity on their collective relations with Russia. Thanks in part to Germany’s willingness to stay the course, maintaining active sanctions against Russian businesses and some notable figures have been the most high profile efforts. Sanctioning Russia, however, has proven difficult for many former Soviet bloc (now EU) countries that have maintained historical ties to Russia. Public and political support for Russia still lingers in parts of these nations. Russia’s robust energy network that supplies many European nations has also proven a difficult obstacle to overcome.

To foster an overall annual increase in the EU and US economies, the current US administration has pushed to increase trade with the EU in the form of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). In the same vein, the US has urged NATO members to hold fast to (or work up to) spending two percent of their GDP on defense. Yet, many small NATO allies have tended to spend more on niche capabilities like Special Operations Forces than on modernization or mass. On the other hand, those on the “North Eastern flank,” like Poland, have recognized Russia is no longer a docile bear and have begun to modernize and prepare for worst case scenarios.

Where’s the Rub?

Is the US in a position to do anything about these trends? I would argue yes and no. On the security front, the US broke its gaze on the Pacific and realized not all was well in Europe after Russia annexed Crimea and incited (and supported) separatists to break apart Ukraine. This has lead to policy initiatives like the European Reassurance Initiative as well as an increase of US and NATO military operations in Europe. All of this to prove to our NATO allies (and to Russia and the world) that the US has not forgotten about its Article V commitments and that peace and the security of Europe still matters. In addition to these initiatives, the US should provide diplomatic and operational support to its allies and partners who have been more willing as of late to go beyond rhetoric such as aforementioned Poland and France.

Twelve A-10s and about 300 airmen are deploying to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as part of the Air Force’s first theater security package to Europe. (Photo: Senior Airman Jesse Shipps/Air Force)

Twelve A-10s and about 300 airmen are deploying to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as part of the Air Force’s first theater security package to Europe. (Photo: Senior Airman Jesse Shipps/Air Force)

On the contrary, the days of the Marshall Plan are long gone. On the social and economic front, the US does not have many uni-lateral options. The US can strongly suggest that Europe listen to its policy recommendations. It can also provide money and programs to support US and allied interests. But at the end of the day, the Europeans must buy in and commit to making their own path. If either the US or EU want to treat the causes of the trends highlighted above and not just the symptoms, the US should chose to lead through multi-lateral coalitions (or empower other European nations to do so).

These are just some of the recent trends spreading across Europe that I noticed during my year in Paris. It is by no means all inclusive and many of the issues and problems that these trends present are extremely complex with no easy solution in sight. Yet, because I was exposed to a wide range of European political and military issues, I think that I emerged more capable of understanding the region and able to contribute regional resolutions.

Jason James is a U.S. Army officer and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School with a Masters Degree in European and Eurasian Security Studies. He is a French speaker and a European and Eurasian specialist. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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A Reflection On A Room, Part II: A Night During The Ground Offensive

This is the second part of a series. The first part, “A Reflection on a Room: A 1991 Diary Entry from Desert Storm,” can be found here.

The war began early in the morning of January 17, 1991 (Riyadh time). This was the air offensive — the preparation of the battlefield. The ground offensive began 39 days later on February 24, 1991. Together they were the greatest release of offensive firepower known in human history. Nothing has exceeded the might and intensity of that time to this day. Choreography was everything. And it’s orchestration was near perfect.

“Near perfect” does not mean perfect; there were mistakes, confusion, and errors; it was, after all, war — and chaos had its role. There is only one thing that can penetrate and obliterate chaos, and that is the truth. But truth can be thwarted by institutional bias and agendas.

The Commander

The commander’s role was well beyond warfighting; he was the diplomat, planner, leader, and orchestrator-in-chief. Every commander has his wartime priorities and for this commander it was people — they came first; they were the ones who would accomplish the mission and attain victory, the ones who would occupy and secure the ground.

This war was the last of the classical wars, the greatest victory since the Battle of Omdurman, and the first of the future wars; if you will permit me it was a transitional war — leveraging historical weaponry and new untested technology and methods. There ‘game changer’ in this war was the view of the battlefield.

The potential for a real-time broad view of the battlefield existed, but the system was still in the ‘testing stage’ and the military services were not ready or willing to give it to the commander.

This story is about the war before the war and the application of the real-time eyes on the battlefield during the war.

The “Enemy” Before the Real Enemy

To call them the “enemy” is an overstatement and it is unfair; but, not surprisingly, each of the military services had their own agendas. While all were wholly supportive of the mission, each had its own institutional plans and approach to the coming war.

A major point of contention during the pre-war combat force deployment phase was JSTARS (Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System). Its real-time side-looking radar system would enable, for the first time in history, a commander to observe the unfolding battle, giving a tactical (and strategic) advantage to the warfighters — the men and women on the ground. It offered the commander the high ground, enabling combat forces unprecedented advantage and maneuverability.

Keep in mind the context, the Gulf War took place at a different point in time; there was no internet, minimal communications connectivity between the services, and each branch of the military had limited interconnectivity among its own forces. This all worked against the commander — against a cohesive combat effort; absent JSTARS the commander would not have a big picture perspective of the battlefield — the battlefield-to-be.

To call them the “enemy” is an overstatement and it is unfair; but, not surprisingly, each of the military services had their own agendas.

The JSTARS was, at the beginning of Desert Shield, still in research and development, still in its testing and infancy stage, and, according to the Air Force, “not ready for deployment.” In fact, some in the Air Force and Army leadership argued against its deployment.

I and others, including some at the JSTARS’ home base (colleagues of mine from the Armed Forces Staff College), worked behind the scenes to develop a rationale for the deployment of the JSTARS; it was shared with the J-2 who, in-turn, presented it to the commander. The commander accepted the rationale and presented it to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The Chairman and the Secretary of Defense agreed with the presentation. And much to the chagrin of some in blue and green uniforms an order was given for its deployment to Saudi Arabia.

Yes, it was “not ready for deployment” — but it was made as ready as it could be and it was deployed, with a host of contractors.

JSTARS was an innovative “command and control” system according to the Air Force operators. For those of us in the field of intelligence, it was an intelligence platform flown by operators in a manner directed by the intelligence needs of the battlefield. The ‘argument’ was real; at that time the integration of operations and intelligence was far from complete. The tension between the two was palpable.

The Myth

There exists a text, Managing “Command and Control” in the Persian Gulf War by Mark David Mandeles, Thomas Hone, and Sanford S. Terry. Within the text, on the bottom of page 58 and top of 59 is a myth. It is not a myth, I believe, that was created by the authors; but someone did create it. Its perpetuation and existence is simply wrong. The myth supports a bias, an agenda, and undermines the truth.

The foregoing myth,[1] and its conclusion, if employed today, would undermine every field commander. It is, in my opinion, on the wrong side of history.

The Truth

The ground offensive was in full force. The complexity of the war had magnified by a factor of x — “x” equaling the focus, tension, and dynamic engagement at the moment as determined by the commander and field commanders, and more importantly, magnified by the literal engagement of humanity in a deadly struggle. War is about people.

On that night, in the war room, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the commander of the Royal Saudi Ground Forces and commander of the joint Arab forces, was in close and quiet conversation with the commander. They were sharing information; but it was not sharing in a dialogue manner, it was more of a monologue by the Prince.

I was sitting at the J-2 position doing my best to keep up with the pace of activity. I was also doing my best to keep out of the line of fire in the room. This was a futile endeavor, one I should have realized.

On that night, in the war room, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the commander of the Royal Saudi Ground Forces and commander of the joint Arab forces, was in close and quiet conversation with the commander.

While the Prince and commander were ‘closeted’ at the front table, an officer from the commander’s Joint Intelligence Center (JIC) came into the room and handed me a note. Thankfully, he took the time to bring it to my attention and explain its significance.

I took the information and plotted it on my map. I wondered of its significance in light of all the information before me: enemy troops were moving. I knew it was significant. However, its presentation and the timing of such was my choice. Does a major interrupt a total of seven stars on the shoulders of two generals?

“J2!” The commander’s voice hit me. I was no longer in control of my destiny.


“I want to know what is going on here” and accompanying the query the commander pointed to the map before him and at specific area. He was finally using his infrared pointer, the size of a small brick; its red dot was revolving in a specific region just across the Saudi border.

“Sir,” as I stood up I realized the information given to me by the JIC officer was about to come into play, “I have a report before me . . . just handed to me . . .” I was buying time as I maneuvered my way around the desks in the small room to the map before the Prince and the commander. In doing so, I was re-reading the report. I had to know the information cold and present it with confidence.

Once before the leadership, I said, “We just received a report from the JIC that JSTARS has identified 30–35 movers heading from the northeast to the southwest at a speed of about ______ .”

“What are the movers?” And this is the question for which I had no precise answer, but did give a reply.

“Sir, we’re not exactly certain, but for the JSTARS to have picked up the hits, they are most certainly mechanized given the speed of their movement” and I added, “I doubt they are tanks.” The latter I could say. Given the intensity of the air campaign, I was certain that every tank had been killed multiple times in the previous days.

“And where are the movers exactly?”

“Sir, at the time of the JSTARS hits they were in coordinate area ____.” And then I did something instinctively, I handed the report to the commander.

“Thank you, Major.” These were my dismissal instructions. I needed to sit down. My heart was pounding and moving into my throat: adrenaline. In addition to the Prince and the commander, everyone in the room was my audience; all were listening.

I know I must have sighed in relief. Little did I know that the pace was going to quicken and a storm was going to be heading my way.

With the Prince still present, the commander picked up his phone and called General Horner, the commander of the Central Air Forces, and stated, “Chuck, we have Saudi forces in the area of _____, and we have hostiles moving toward their right flank at _______.” And the commander continued speaking, deliberate and calmly. It was amazing to hear the commander give a verbatim presentation of my briefing. It was then I learned: he has a mind like a steel trap.

Then came the command: “I want them hit and I want them hit now . . . Thanks Chuck.” The call was finished.

There was no doubt General Horner had responded affirmatively; fidelity was one of General Horner’s attributes.

The commander turned to the Prince, “Don’t worry about it; we’ll take care of the targets.”

The Prince, with an appropriate thanks, left the room.

Deducing from the exchange, Saudi ground forces were moving north and west — a part of the left hook entering Iraq. And Saudi scouts ahead and to the east of the main force had seen the Iraqi movements. The Saudi scouts had radioed their leadership of the pending hostile attack and this is what brought the Prince into the war room to speak with the commander. It was luck and good fortune that a perceptive intelligence officer had given me the information when he did.

A sense of relief came over me. I had survived the moment. Then . . .

A phone rang. It was the Deputy Operations officer (DJ-3), a brigadier general, who answered. At first I paid the call little attention, then I heard him say, “I didn’t give that briefing.”

Deducing from the exchange, Saudi ground forces were moving north and west — a part of the left hook entering Iraq.

Then the DJ-3 said, “J-2, what’s your phone number?” I responded and gave it to the DJ-3. The DJ-3, in turn, gave my number to the person on the other end of the line and hung up the phone.

The DJ-3 said nothing to me — or anyone else in the room.

Within seconds, my phone rang.

“J-2 Desk.”

“Who am I speaking to?”

“Sir, this is Major Treviño.”

“Major, this is Major General _____ . . . do you know who I am?”

“I have no idea sir.” It was an honest answer, but perhaps not well received.

A brief silence ensued.

“Major, I am the Director of Air Operations at CENTAF” (Central Air Forces).

“Yes sir, how can I help you?”

No silence ensued; it was a hard and intimidating voice that said, “Major, I understand you just gave a briefing to General Schwarzkopf; tell me about the briefing.”

So I repeated the briefing given to the commander.

The major general after listening to my recitation then blew a gasket, “Do you know what you’ve just done?!”

“Sir, ‘what I’ve just done?’ — well, sir, I answered the commander’s question.” Again honest, but not what the major general wanted to hear.

“No _____-damn it; do you know what you’ve just done?”

“Sir, I’m sure you’re about to let me know.” And he did!

Now the general was shouting: “Major, I have just diverted ___ aircraft to attack the target you presented in your briefing. This means that targets in the present ATO (air tasking order) are not going to be hit! And this means, as a consequence of your briefing the next ATO, which has already been published, will have to be altered to hit the targets not being hit tonight!”

The general continued, “And, major, you’ve made things worse!”

“How so, sir?” My calmness of tone belied my stress.

“Major, I had to divert aircraft against your target carrying hard bombs. Do you know what that means?” My targets?!

“Sir, hard bombs are intended to penetrate hardened targets.” A textbook response.

“You’re damn right, major. So tonight hardened targets are not going to be hit; because of you, we’re wasting bombs, and we’re wasting money, and we’re just going to drill holes in the ground. Major, for soft targets we need soft bombs.”

Now I was getting mad — and, on reflection, intentionally pushing back. “Sir, begging your pardon; but it is my belief that the bombs, money, and holes will not go to waste.”

“What the hell are you talking about major?! Do you know anything about air warfare?!”

“Sir, I know the enemy. And when bombs begin landing on or around the Iraqi advance, they will scatter. Their plans will change. They will not attack the Saudi forces as intended. The Iraqis lack the discipline to proceed when under fire. And you will have halted their attack.”

“Damn it major; you still don’t seem to understand . . .” The general was having none of my concession.

At this point, I was physically shaking; but my voice was in control; and, now, I was going to push back deliberately and firmly. I interrupted, “Sir, this is what I do understand: the O-10 [the four star general, the commander] asked the 0–4 [the major, me] a question; the O-4 answered the 0–10's question — and gave him the right answer. It seems to me that the O-8 [the general with whom I was speaking] has a problem not only with the O-4's answer, which was the truth, but also the O-10's decision. Perhaps the O-8 would like to speak with the O-10?” I was angry, likely beyond angry, about ‘bombs, money, and holes in the ground’ and an evident lack of concern for the troops in harm’s way. For the commander, war was about people.

Silence . . . followed by more silence.

The major general broke the silence.

“Major, I have a question for you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Major, where did you get that information from?”

“Sir? Why I got the information from your JSTARS team.”


Then a deliberate and manifestly controlled voice replied. “Major, I know you’re just doing your job, but do me a favor; before you contact my JSTARS team again, call me first.” So the major general agreed that JSTARS belonged to him, not the commander. I wondered if the commander would agree. But I kept the thoughts to myself.

“Sir, I would be happy to do so, time permitting.”

The major general, no doubt, received the caveat and its implication(s). And then he added, “Major, remember, one day you’re coming back to the Air Force and I am going to make certain I am sitting on your promotion board.” The threat was laid before me.

Realizing I was not alone in the room, my response was no longer subdued but mildly enthusiastic and given for all to hear, “Sir, I would be honored to have you on my promotion board.” And I hung up the phone on a major general.

The room was absolutely silent. I dared not raise my head. But it was evident everyone in the room had heard my side of the conversation. My hands were shaking as the adrenaline flowed through my body. I tried to look busy and outwardly calm. I tried to control my breathing. Time passed. Then . . .

“Major, remember, one day you’re coming back to the Air Force and I am going to make certain I am sitting on your promotion board.” The threat was laid before me.

“J-2!” It was the commander staring at me; his eyes intent and focused.

A deep, deep breath was followed by a, “Sir?”

“Is everything okay?”

“Sir, it’s swell.” I lied.

The deputy commander, his head down, began to laugh — quietly, but it was an evident laugh. Yes, he, too, knew I had lied.

The commander simply turned his chair, which had been facing me, toward the front of the room and stared at the map before him . . . and was silent.

Everyone was silent. The war continued.

Confrontation’s Aftermath


War is excruciating on body, mind, and soul. War is also, without question, a formative experience. But, the formative experience can build you up or break you down. If you do not have what it takes to bear its pressures before entering combat, war is not the time to discover one’s weaknesses. That is why the commander stated: “You know how you make good officers? The same way you make good steel. You beat the hell out of it.” It is better to have this done before war than during war. If one cannot bear up to pressure before war, they will not succeed in war.

“One needed the strength of will to return again to the fire, even if it meant the cycle was to repeat itself. The latter was important: you had to have the strength of will to return again and again, to demonstrate your willingness to grow. It was not my plan to grow; in my mind, I had no choice but to grow.

Fire, Truth, & People

In combat one has to know that the test of fire will not only come from the enemy, but from within, not self, but from those around you, from peers and leadership alike. This meant, “You had better tell the truth and be willing to live with the consequences.” Truth is what I conveyed to the commander and the major general; the former used it to save his people; the latter had an altogether different perspective — bombs, money, and holes in the ground. The latter was formed by an institutional perspective.


Fidelity is, in war, necessary in every relationship. The commander and General Horner had a unique relationship. I was present during many of their conversations and never did I see the commander raise his voice at or to General Horner. This does not mean it was not done; it simply means I never saw it and I know it did not happen that night (as is stated in the text above).


That night was a journey for me — a journey I had not intended to take nor did I seek. But, had I demonstrated an “unwillingness to undergo a journey” — I would have caved and lost all credibility. The “Will Kane Test” is real.

Setting the Record Straight

I worked in and with the JIC and in the war room. I never saw a “pronounced tendency of HQs USCENTCOM staff to influence dynamic engagements.” I did see the commander command, and if that caused a problem, then I do not believe it was the commander’s problem.

Contrary to the text, there was no imagery shown to Brigadier General Leide or General Schwarzkopf. General Leide was not in the room or the JIC during the evening in question. And I was the one who had the “words — coordinates and descriptive” — handing them to the commander. And the claim that the major general had asked General Leide “whether the targets had moved” cannot be so inasmuch as the JSTARS capability belonged to the major general, by his own admission, and the major general would or should have known the answer. The text’s portrayal or account is unfair to the major general and Jack Leide.

The claim that the issue was several hours old is belied by the entire scenario above — a scenario I lived, the briefing by the Prince, the JSTARS collection, the information received from the JIC, my presentation to the commander, the commander’s call to General Horner, and the major general’s subsequent and timely phone call with me: “Major, I had to divertaircraft against your target carrying hard bombs.”

The Historical Lesson

History is filled with agendas. History is in the eyes of the beholder. Eyewitness accounts will always differ. But that does not mean that truth must be forsaken. On the contrary, it must be continuously sought. What disturbs me most about the brief recollection within the text in question is the agenda (not the author’s agenda, but the agenda given them); the fact that there was a deliberate intent to remove the commander (and his staff) from targeting — effectively undermining the commander’s authority and responsibility.

It is the commander who is ultimately accountable for the war’s successes or failures. The lack of fidelity and truth, and the deliberate intent (as stated in the text above) to exclude the commander from decision making, and its subsequent non-focus on the commander’s priorities, people who were in the line of fire, speaks to the tragedy of any war: a systemic and institutional cultural bias, an over-reliance on a singular military service’s goals, technology, and way of war. Systems, money, and bombs do not die; people die.

War is about people. And we can only win wars by keeping our people, our men and women in uniform, alive.

The operations/intelligence apparatus in the military, irrespective of the color of its uniform, is all about “killing” the enemy; and by “killing” I mean actual and metaphorical — the latter being the negation of the enemy’s power to inflict harm either by deception, disruption, or disabling their capacity to do harm to one’s own combat forces.

But when the operations/intelligence apparatus becomes about power and denying truth to the combatant commanders, then our people will die.

War is about people. And we can only win wars by keeping our people, our men and women in uniform, alive.

Lastly, an offensive weapon may also serve defensive purposes; every offensive weapon may serve defensive purposes. And we, or so it seems self-evident to me, have an overriding moral obligation to use weapons as necessary, as the moment dictates, to safeguard the life of our men and women in harm’s way.


It is imperative that the reader understand that this story — this reflection — is about content and context. Yes, persons were involved on that fateful night. And there is no intent to disparage any of the characters.

The major general in this story is a man’s man — a pilot’s pilot. He is an extraordinary living legend of gallantry, bravery, and courage in combat. He is made of the right stuff and it is of him that we should be making movies and reading heroic stories. It is because of him and his force of character, in no small part, that the offensive air campaign was a resounding success. As stated earlier, I know General Horner’s fidelity and I know that General Horner would have only chosen the best — the major general — to be around him, to be on his staff. The major general is hewn from combat. He rightfully questioned me that night, “Do you know anything about air warfare?!” I don’t know anything about air warfare in comparison to him. I salute him and am ever thankful he was (if even only momentarily!) in my life.

The commander in this story was also forged in combat, from the same war as the major general. He is a soldier’s soldier, whether you liked his methods or not. His focus, however, was on the totality of forces — air, land, sea, and space — and on the men and women under his command. It was hisorchestration and willingness to grow that enabled our overall success.

There should be no question begged as to what brought the commander, the major general, and I together that night: the answer is the truth. This is not a reflection to distinguish between right and wrong. This is a reflection to let the reader — perhaps the active duty person in uniform — know that you, too, can find yourself at the center of a collision of two massive tectonic plates, two cultures colliding, two giants in history each with their own sense of evidence and how it ought to be applied . . . as I found myself that night.

There are forces so massive, so beyond our control, that as rational creatures caught in this collision we may be thrown off our reason’s control and we may resort to emotions or negligent passions. This we must resist. And this resistance must be rooted in solid and evident truth. We cannot resort to the “virus of wishful thinking"[2] or equivocation. Our resolve must be solid, even if the consequences are not to our liking. Only in standing selflessly on the rock of truth can we be true warriors in life. On this, I have bet my life.

The author of this diary entry is the Reverend Eben H. Treviño, Jr., LtCol, USAF (Ret.), J.D. The Reverend is a graduate of U.S. Air War College, 1996, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL; was a National Defense Fellow, 1995–96, at the Mershon Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; and a graduate of the U.S. Armed Forces Staff College, National Defense University, 1989, Norfolk, VA.

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[1] Google books online: Managing “Command and Control” in the Persian Gulf War by Mark David Mandeles, Thomas Hone, Sanford S. Terry,

[2] Turned Toward the Sun: An Autobiography by Michael Burn [Wilby, Norwich: 2003], pp. 70, and 69–78, 148.