The Case Against Horatio

Why the Adjutant General Corps should ditch Horatio Gates

“Surrender of General Burgoyne after Sarat0ga” by Francois Godfrey d’apres Louis-Francois-Sebastian Fauvel (via Wikimedia Commons)

I am a US Army Adjutant General Corps officer. The branch is the second oldest in the Army (behind the Infantry), founded on June 16, 1775 when Congress appointed Horatio Gates as the Continental Army’s first Adjutant General. (The Chaplain Corps sometimes claims that it’s the second oldest, but they’re wrong. They weren’t established until July 29 of that year.)

The AG Corps is supremely proud of Gates and his American Revolution fame. I’m proud of my branch, its steeped history, and the integral work we do. I am not, however, proud of the corps’ so-called founder. (As an aside, he’s sometimes called “Granny” Gates in historical accounts. The nickname has been refuted here and other places, but in at least one case, years later, Timothy Pickering called Gates “an old woman.”)

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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!

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The Statistics of Veteran Suicide: Is “22 a Day” the best way to look at the problem?

(U.S. Army photo illustration by Pfc. Paige Pendleton, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. PAO, via

Note: I want to credit Cassandra Bayer, Marta Galan, and Brett Webster. They were my amazing teammates for the capstone presentation in our Quantitative Methods class last fall. I came up with the topic of veteran suicides, and they did the real work of framing the topic in a statistical- and policy-oriented manner that I could never have done on my own. I mostly try to steer away from pilfering their excellent work here, but at least some of the ideas below are theirs.

This post was originally published here on January 11, 2016.

Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. This statistic is derived from a Veterans Affairs report published in 2012. It has been perpetuated by the news media, politicians, and social media, and it is the namesake and focus of numerous organizations. “22 a Day” has even spawned a handful of “awareness” fitness routines, including CrossFit WODs and yoga challenges.

Although she wasn’t the first journalist to challenge the efficacy and accuracy of the statistic, WaPo’s Michelle Ye He Lee fact-checked the figure early last year. Hers was followed by several similar articles, many of which drew the same conclusions I did upon first reading the 2012 VA report for context. Interestingly, the 2012 report is chock full of warnings and caveats about the incompleteness and potential problems with the figures it presents.

Here are my chief concerns with “22 a Day.”

Continue reading The Statistics of Veteran Suicide: Is “22 a Day” the best way to look at the problem?

Weird stories and shady characters: Giving your own personal history a shot

NOTE: This was originally published here on January 8, 2016.

“Your honor, the witches were just proving a point after she told them ‘#YOLO.'” (via Wikimedia Commons)

Note: I’m taking some time working on a more “scholarly” article, so here’s something a little fluffier just for fun in the mean time.

It always troubles me when someone bemoans history as a boring school subject in which they were forced to memorize useless dates and names. I have a BA in history, and I’m certain I could not recite even basic so-called “important” historical dates. For me, the value of history is in its lessons and stories.

The future leader of America’s son and daughters attend a history lecture.

Putting aside the problem with unqualified or disinterested coaches dominating social science classes (granted, there are some phenomenal coach-teachers), too many teachers teach history wrong. Dates are important and useful, but they’ll never be as interesting as knowing the honest and unfiltered stories of our nation and world. (I highly recommend James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me for an introduction to the world of textbook-less history.)

Even with a disdain for the classroom version of history, anyone can find an interesting story in the branches of their own family tree.

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Lessons from a First Semester in ACS

Note: This post was originally published here on January 3, 2016.

If only the Army would give me five years…
I’m a fan of online research. Searching for a good book? Take a look at what other people are reading. Want to eat out? Find the highest rated restaurant in the area. Looking at taking a certain class? Research the professor. About to start grad school via the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program? Look up other folks’ experiences in that program.

You may notice that last one isn’t linked to anything. That’s because, before moving out to start grad school, I couldn’t find a whole lot in the way of firsthand accounts from officers in the ACS pipeline. This is my contribution to what I feel is a sorely lacking selection of literature on the subject.

After two rounds of applications (first to teach at West Point and then to get into a reputable graduate program), I started my first semester of grad school as part of the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program in August. Here are some things I have learned at the conclusion of the semester and a quarter of the way through my Masters program.

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It’s Time to Welcome Women to the Selective Service



This piece was first published on PMJWire, the online blog for PolicyMatters Journal, the journal of the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. It was subsequently published here on December 16, 2015.

On December 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that all military positions, including combat occupations, are now open to women. This move follows a trend in recent years of military policy changes geared toward social equity, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the easing of administrative action against transgender troops. It didn’t take long for demands for women to be required to register for the Selective Service to follow.

I agree. Women already serve in direct combat and graduate from Ranger School. Despite the legal and political obstacles, it is now time to require women to register for the Selective Service.

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