Green Book Wisdom

Select excerpts from two KD jobs worth of notes

NOTE: This post was originally published here on January 13, 2016.

One of many, many “Lists o’ Shit to Do” that I wrote while deployed to Afghanistan.

Most Army leaders are familiar with the ubiquitous green notebook (NSN 7530–00–222–3521, for anyone interested). They can be spotted everywhere soldiers are found, clutched in the hands of joe-fuzzy-rank all the way up to general officers.

Then-MG Allyn carrying his handy-dandy notebook back in 2011. (Photo by SGT Sean Casey via

In two back-to-back Key Development (KD) jobs, I burned through 4+ green notebooks. Looking back through them, I found some snippets of wisdom and hilarity that I’ve decided to share. Please ignore the terrible handwriting, and enjoy!

Down Range

“Notepad in his underwear drawer”

I mentored a handful of Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) Zone Headquarters leaders in 2012. I don’t remember the exact context of this note, but I know that whoever I was talking to that day couldn’t answer a question I had. Here’s why.

“It’s another spilled can of fuck.”

This is a quote from a leader while deployed in Afghanistan (attribution covered up to protect the innocent). Don’t ya just hate when you spill a soda? That’s what advise and assist missions feel like all the time.


“Efforting” is a verb I learned in Afghanistan. The red squiggle lines I’m getting while I type this tell me it’s still not a widely accepted term, but it should be, damnit! (Apparently “damnit” isn’t accepted either.) It was so important to me at the time that it got its own page.

One of the cool tasks I was assigned down range was to figure out how to get an AUP general to the US for an official visit. I got to liaise with higher Army and Joint multi-star headquarters, the Department of State and the US Embassy in Kabul (that included a visit there), and several Afghan ministries, including the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Throughout the process, I also learned about Leahy vetting.

This chart (and its scratched-out predecessor) was my attempt to figure out how to explain the whole process (and why it was taking so long) to my bosses.

“1) Monkey must be present and displayed at all meetings or at least the daily CAR and the weekly ESU.”

To alleviate the tedium while deployed, we introduced a silly, controversial, and sometimes aggravating “bonehead of the week” award. His name was Hank, and he was a stuffed monkey. If you won, you got to carry him around. This was one of several, ever-expanding rules associated with Hank. I was tasked with writing and maintaining the rules for the monkey. Not my most glamorous assignment.

“Finance – Difficult to work with and sometimes hard to find”

This was my opening sentence for a personality summary on one of the senior AUP officers I “mentored.” (I use that word loosely because almost every one of the guys I worked with were twice my age or better).

It goes on, but this first sentence paints the picture well enough. He dodged me like I was jury duty. It was like pulling teeth trying to figure out how the pay system worked, and I never could solve any major pay issues to my satisfaction.

When your American “mentor” tries to ask you questions.

Deployment Quote Dump

Green books are also great for collecting quotes. Here’s a dump of some from my 2012 deployment:

Gems from one of our interpreters: “Oh, you’re looking to do something with your body?” and “Wife is knife. Knife is cuts life.”
One of the staff captains grew frustrated with a partnered Afghan he “mentored”: “That’s what you do, random fucking arts and crafts projects? You fuckin’ pricks”
“We don’t hand jobs out in the parking lot.” Funnier at the time, probably, but I always giggle remembering that a field grade said “hand jobs.”
Rank left in for humor— mainly since it’s true. “Fuckin’ CPTs, can’t keep ’em [in] line.”

Garrison and Command

After redeploying, I continued on staff for another year plus before assuming command (my branch counts my primary staff time as KD). What follows is from that time period.

“Needs to happen TODAY”

Circled, underlined, and starred — this has to be important! Nope, we were back in garrison now. This was online training. Time to relearn prioritization.

“Mix between COL Sanders & the guy from Jurassic Park” and “Alec Baldwin”

One of my favorite things to do to pass the time in briefings is try and figure out what celebrity doppelgangers are in the room. These almost definitely were accompanied by pointing as I told a buddy sitting next to me to look for concurrence.

Oh and I think the guy from Jurassic Park I was referring to was this guy:

One boss’s “isms”

Here are a handful of “isms” from one of my bosses:

He had a good handle on his food metaphors: “The other jobs are like gravy on the potatoes.” and “Get down into that peppercorn & figure out the flavor”
He had a way with words: “I need to feel the funk.” and “smokin’ a little of that ‘oowee’”
He made up terms when the situation called for it: “We gonna put new metricses in.” and “Tertitiary” (which I spelled out phonetically for my edification)

Command Time

“*Need to pick a ‘skit leader’”

Command is fraught with challenges, least of which is choosing a qualified leader to develop, rehearse, and execute a quality skit for the Dining In. Now there’s an NCOER bullet.

“*Need to dial back on alcohol — ORG DAY”

The Org Day just wasn’t as great as it could’ve been. Then again, that’s what you get when alcohol-related incidents in the brigade become piss in everyone’s cheerios.

“*Do routine stuff well”

This is one of the few legit nuggets I’m including here (not because I didn’t record good stuff in my green books, honest!).

Another variation: “Do routine stuff routinely.” It’s simple. It’s real.

“This is called staffing”

There’s nothing worse than the staff “making the sausage” in front of the boss. Work it out behind the scenes and bring the finished product to the commander. I’m sure this was accompanied by a look of snarky disgust as I showed it to another commander at a battalion meeting.

No idea what this refers to, but it was good enough to copy down, and I like the sound of it: “Big dumb hammer of anger”

This list of one-liners came from an Officer Professional Development session given by then-BG Stammer at Fort Campbell. (Major General Stammer currently serves as commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa.) I won’t transcribe these out, but you should have a read. He’s one of the best general officers I’ve had the honor of hearing speak publically.

I had a good time looking through my old green books. It reminded me of some things I forgot about, some of the funniest and most fun times of my life, and all of the tasks I shirked from one “list o’ shit to do” to the next.

Feel free to share any great excerpts from your own green books!

Views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.


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