In Between: The One About the Value of Free Time

Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between.  This is the fourth post in a category I call “In Between.”


As part of my master’s curriculum, I recently participated in a multiple-day project that serves as a sort of “rite of passage” for students in the program—an over-the-weekend policy analysis exercise designed to “simulate a real-life work environment in which rapid-response and “land-on-your-feet” skills are at a premium.”

While the project was certainly a valuable education in rapidly developing a meaningful policy analysis product, I came away from it with, what was to me, a profound realization that a civilian school just coopted my entire weekend—with the explicit intent to use the weekend, not weekdays—for a project that could have easily been programmed into a weekday setting with just a little pre-semester intradepartmental coordination.

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The Gordian Knot & its Leadership Lessons

In 334 BCE, just two years after being crowned king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great took his mighty army into modern-day Turkey and began his grand campaign. On a foray into inland Anatolia the next year, Alexander marched to Gordium, the capital of Phrygia, formerly a kingdom, but contemporarily a province of Persia.

It was there, legend has it, that a peasant named Gordias won the prophecy lottery, becoming king simply by being the next guy to drive an ox-cart into town.

Gordias (father of the famous King Midas) became ruler, and his ox-cart was later hitched to a post with a knot that was presumably the world’s first successful vehicle anti-theft device. (You can read more about that here.)

Well, successful for a while. Because, as more legend has it, whoever could untie the knot located at this so-called gateway to Asia would rule that land—this legend was probably developed by Alexander’s publicists ex post facto.

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#BourbonOfTheMonth – February 2016

Welcome to the inaugural #BourbonOfTheMonth blog, all hashtaggy for the interwebs. The idea here is to live up to half of this blog’s name by introducing a delicious new bourbon every month. I’ll share my thoughts on the selection while I divulge my utter lack of fine taste and reveal my shameless absence of any kind of sophisticated bourbon knowledge.

I generally won’t include my impressions on the flavor or “nose” or whatever—just assume it tastes like delicious burning. But I will try to bring a little background to the booze in a way that a normal review may not.

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Guest Post: Operationalizing Your Philosophy

Today’s guest post is written by Josh Larson, an Active Duty Army Officer with experience at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. He is a Brazilian Jiujitsu practitioner, combatives aficionado, and avid fisherman with a knowledge background based in leadership and criminal justice. He is currently a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College.

This post originally appeared at Military Jiujitsu on January 29, 2016.


In a previous assignment I had the privilege to work for a General Officer in the Pentagon. Granted everyday was a learning experience, but one day in particular has stuck with me and makes me constantly question how am I operationalizing my leader philosophy.

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The Value of Social Media at the Company Level

Brigadier Mick Ryan of the Australian Army is a vocal champion of the use of social media by military organizations. You can read his reasons why in a recent piece published at The Bridge here, and you can take a look at his brigade-level lessons learned here.

The social media success for Brigadier Ryan and his organization at the brigade level is not a fluke, and that same success is replicable at the company level.

What follows are examples of how company-grade leaders can employ sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others to improve communications and potentially enhance morale, using actual Facebook posts from my organization throughout my time in command.

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In Between: The One on Why I Write

Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between.  This is the third post in a category I call “In Between.”


Lately I’ve put a lot of thought into whether or not writing these posts and publishing them on this blog are worthwhile. Who the hell am I to be so arrogant as to think I have enough experience or worthy ideas to write authoritatively about anything? Why am I even bothering?

But I have plenty of reasons to write, I’ve concluded. I share these now in part because I want to have them written down so I can refer back to them in the future, but also because there might be someone reading this who is hesitant to write and who might find some of these reasons motivating.

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Staff Huddle 2028

“BATTALION XO!”

The gathered staff stands to attention from their seats as the Battalion Executive Officer enters the conference room.

“Take your seats,” she says, making her way to the head of the table.  Arrayed around the room and now sitting back in their swivel chairs are the various leaders of the battalion’s staff sections and special staff.  That includes me, the Battalion S1. I’m the personnel officer for the battalion, sometimes called the Adjutant, which is a title that refers primarily to my traditional ceremonial duties.

“Alright put your AR glasses on, and let’s get this started,” the XO clips.  The staff complies, each member donning their pair of translucent augmented reality holo-glasses.  I do the same.  Within my field of vision, a PowerPoint slide titled “Staff Huddle” fades in.

darpa-gps-goggles
(via engadget.com)

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Surviving When You’re Stuck on Staff

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for the “tips for new lieutenants” blog posts that folks are always writing. My LT days are behind me, but there’s a certain fun I associate with reading the articles and nodding along emphatically, maybe forwarding it to a shiny young new lieutenant who I think could benefit from the reflection. Angry Staff Officer recently wrote an excellent list full of appropriate snark that you can read here.

There are literally an infinite number of “new platoon leader” posts on the interwebs, including this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. To name a few.

I like them, but not everyone does. Take this lovely comment from the Army subreddit for instance:

“I die a little inside every time some company grade officer is so full of himself that he thinks he’s doing the world a service by rewriting the same 10 steps to success as a platoon leader. Listen to your platoon sergeant? My God, how did we never think of this before? Give this man an MSM and make him a CGSC instructor immediately.”

The thing is, I was never a platoon leader. For all the platoon leader preparation I received in ROTC, at LDAC (it’s not even called that anymore), and through BOLC II, I commissioned as an Adjutant General Corps officer. Primary job as a lieutenant? Staff. Key Developmental (KD) job as a captain? Staff. I had leaders gracious enough to give me the privilege of command, plus I did some cool stuff in Afghanistan, but my Army existence has largely kept me in headquarters units.

Here’s where that comes in handy.

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In Between: The One About More Fiction in Military Professional Reading

NOTE: Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between.  This is the second post in a category I call “In Between.”


I’ve been reading a lot of post-apocalyptic style fiction lately. Okay, by “reading” I mean listening to audiobooks–see my post “Lessons from a First Semester in ACS” for why they might just be saving my soul from a slow death by commute. Continue reading In Between: The One About More Fiction in Military Professional Reading

Army vs. Berkeley: A Study of Classroom Differences

I’ve spent half a career in Army classrooms ranging from the formality of TRADOC to the casualness of company EO/SHARP training.  When you do something long enough, doing it any other way is a strange experience, and you can’t help but notice every little difference.  That’s how it’s been for me in grad school at the University of California, Berkeley.

I’d like to share some of those differences with you.

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