I was passed over the first time considered for promotion. I was one of two armor officers selected above the zone for colonel on the 2000 U.S. Army promotion list, and, in reflecting on that time, I thought I should write about the advice I received prior to pinning on the rank and share some lessons I learned along the way.
When we change the way we design, but not the way we execute what we've designed, the resultant systems might work well for all users and contexts initially anticipated, but it is simply not realistic to expect those to be the only conditions for our systems' employment. To account for this, execution itself must also be imbued with the values of the system, so every discrete employment is another test of the design of the system.
The Battle of Monocacy, in part because of its relative obscurity, but also because of the complexity of its strategic effect, opens up interesting questions about historical contingency, the meaning of victory and defeat, the duality and ambiguity of war and strategy, and the narratives that take hold and those which fade away.
Writing provides one of the few venues available for leaders seeking to develop themselves through inward reflection, and, to that end, poetry is writing’s finest vehicle for cultivating empathy. Analytic prose is limited in that it can make self-knowledge explicit only by delineating one’s cause-and-effect reasoning. Poems, however, can go where prosaic essays cannot.
Marines too, grow old. I’m already older than my father was when he had his first child, my sister Elizabeth. At twenty-eight I have no children of my own. I haven’t finished college. I still draw dicks on the whiteboard of my apartment to make my roommate laugh. I still stay out too many late nights, still drink too much, still wake up too many mornings with stale cigarette and vodka red bull breath. At the age when my father was getting his masters’ degree and raising small children, I’m still acting like a kid with something to prove.
From the void within the empty tomb, silence resonates, and the Remembrance Day ceremonies have been held at the Cenotaph for over ninety years, changing little from the original ones in 1920. Over time, it has come to reflect the memory of all British military personnel who perished in successive conflicts, from the European battlefields of World War II to the remote villages of Helmand Province. Though the comrades of the “Glorious Dead” of the Great War are now gone, the Cenotaph still stands, in quiet and dignified repose.
My first efforts were in high school and they were predictably trite, often to the point of tears. During college years, I was too busy with other, more important affairs to write, yet the times were too intense to ignore the innate power of a good poem; this was the 1960s. I hosted a radio show in college in which, between the music, I would read relevant English and American poetry: Cummings, Whitman, Dickinson, Jeffers, Stevens, Longfellow, and the like. I even created one show around Richard Burton’s readings of Wilfred Owen’s war poetry.
Since 1947, the U.S. Air Force has relied on the personnel like those pictured here to enable the unmatched air power demonstrated every day in the U.S Central Command area of responsibility. Paraphrasing General George Patton, wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men and women. These are the men and women who make air power possible.
As the Islamic State advance was brought to a stop, coalition aircraft were free to attack the enemy from their front line positions to deep behind into the territory they held. The uncontested hold of the air provides us the ability to target and destroy the support network that keeps the self-declared caliphate fully functioning. From Mosul to Raqqa, the destruction of logistic depots, training camps, communication facilities and financial complexes, in addition to the destruction of their fighting units in direct contact with friendly forces, applies pressure on every aspect of the organization.
When I look at our presence in the Middle East, the word that comes to mind is “persistent.” It is this persistent presence that has led to the development of the sprawling bases you see in Jason Koxvold’s photographs. These photographs will give a unique look into the locations and lives of Airmen who are the foundation beneath the operations of Airmen like me as we conduct missions in support of America’s national interest.
I understand that discussion of political activity is important and the pen is mightier than the sword, but sometimes we must use the sword to protect the pen against those who would threaten the stability of our planet and its people, whether they are terrorists with a political agenda or tactful leaders with visions of conquest and domination.
Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. And we know that there is a reason he uses the callsign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose. To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new Secretary of War; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t. I worked for General James Mattis three times: when he was a Colonel, a Major General, and a Lieutenant General.
Once, in India, after years on campaign, Alexander’s men threatened to mutiny. They were worn out and wanted to go home. Alexander called an assembly. When the army had gathered, the young king stepped forth and stripped naked. “These scars on my body,” Alexander declared, “were got for you, my brothers. Every wound, as you see, is in the front. Let that man stand forth from your ranks who has bled more than I, or endured more than I for your sake. Show him to me, and I will yield to your weariness and go home.” Not a man came forward. Instead, a great cheer arose from the army. The men begged their king to forgive them for their want of spirit and pleaded with him only to lead them forward.
It’s not true that your life flashes before your eyes when faced with death. For me it was the books I’d read and the characters that had left an impression on my soul.It’s not true that your life flashes before your eyes when faced with death. For me it was the books I’d read and the characters that had left an impression on my soul.
After a few seconds, my driver and I looked at one another and burst out laughing. The MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle, one of those machines ordered by Robert Gates that saved my life and countless others) lay still, angled into a massive hole in the road. The hood had twisted up and over the top of the vehicle and radiator fluid leaked onto my gunner, who crouched beneath the turret in a vain attempt to avoid it. I felt surprisingly calm—it was a relief to finally get blown up—and my shoulders continued to roll with the laughter, the most vivid memory of my life.