Tag Archives: Professional Development

B&B Summer Reading List 2016

It has been an eventful summer at Bourbon & Battles Headquarters (by which I mean my house). I finished my first year of grad school, completed an 11-week summer internship in San Francisco, suffered through a nasty case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and found out my wife was pregnant with our fourth (and final) child, this time a son. He will be woefully outnumbered—though I suspect well taken care of—by three older sisters.

It dawned on me pretty early in the summer that my super-long commute to the city afforded me a new and rare opportunity for long periods of uninterrupted reading time. That in mind, I set out to take full advantage before the crushing weight of required textbook reading returned in the fall. I generally took care to choose highly rated or recommended books to get the most bang for my time, so my summer was jam-packed with an extraordinary reading selection. Continue reading B&B Summer Reading List 2016

Guest Post: The 8 Lessons of Leadership I Learned from Brewing Coffee

Bourbon & Battles welcomes Alex Licea, today’s guest author. This post was originally published here on June 14, 2016. Check out Alex’s bio below the story.


Like most of my colleagues, I enjoy a cup of coffee each morning. While my experience with the brewed drink won’t inspire me to write a book about coffee any time soon, it has left a profound impact on me, and in some ways shaped me as a military communications professional and leader.

Before I get to those lessons, let me set up the scene.

The date was October 1, 2013. The government had shutdown for the first time in nearly 20 years. Continue reading Guest Post: The 8 Lessons of Leadership I Learned from Brewing Coffee

Adjutant Advice #2: Ask What the Acronyms Mean

This is the second in a series of posts aimed at answering some of the most frequent questions or issues new officers would have when I was a battalion S1/adjutant.


Today’s “Adjutant Advice” is less advice from an adjutant and more advice as an adjutant. AG soldiers rarely find themselves assigned to an AG or HR (human resources) unit, so very often we are permanent party visitors to a different branch within the Army, each with its own individual identity, doctrine, and set of acronyms.

This scenario is also true of many branches besides AG, including intelligence, logistics, signal, medical, and ministry soldiers, among others. And the further you advance in your career, the greater chance you stand of being assigned to a unit as the sole member of your own branch. To be an effective member of the team, you have to put the effort into learning your operating environment. Continue reading Adjutant Advice #2: Ask What the Acronyms Mean

Adjutant Advice #1: Write Your Boss an Introductory Letter

This is the first in a new series of posts aimed at answering some of the most frequent questions or issues new officers would have when I was a battalion S1/adjutant. They don’t represent any official guidance, just pointers and advice. I welcome any input about each topic from those wiser and more experienced in the comments and/or on social media. I also welcome your own questions if you’re a new lieutenant or cadet curious about personnel, military courtesy, or protocol-type things.


When you are a brand new lieutenant, your focus and training is usually about being the best platoon leader you can be. That doesn’t leave much room for protocol and traditional formalities, especially when text messages and emails are the norm these days.

So it isn’t surprising that lieutenants at their respective Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) would often email or call me to ask: should I write an introductory letter to the battalion commander. The answer is always yes. Continue reading Adjutant Advice #1: Write Your Boss an Introductory Letter

Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

Today’s guest post is written by Oren Hammerquist, an Active Duty Army NCO who’s bringing a much-needed enlisted perspective to B&B’s ongoing musings on Army culture.


I grew my mustache on leave and a whim. In fact, wear of a mustache has a much longer tradition in my family than military service. I see it as a hobby and a way to maintain some facial hair. As expected, I returned to both compliment and ridicule. Opinions on mustaches vary widely. Perhaps one day my hobby will grow old. At a minimum, I must wait until people have forgotten I did not used to wear a mustache so they will ask what changed. But this time has not been wasted. I never expected my military mustache would teach me a valuable lesson. Now I know the truth: mustaches make better NCOs. Here are five reasons why.

Continue reading Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

Lessons from a First Year in ACS

About five months ago, around the time I started this still-young blog, I shared my lessons from a first semester in ACS – the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program. It didn’t seem like there were many firsthand experiences shared, so I decided to pitch my voice into that void on the off chance that I might help someone out or at least get them to think about ACS.

One semester later, I feel like there are a few more lessons worthy of sharing as I wrap up my first of two years in grad school. The overarching lesson? Grad school isn’t that different from many things I’ve learned in the Army: Continue reading Lessons from a First Year in ACS

Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

Post #7 in the “In Between” series.

I’ve come to appreciate a handful of things about basic military administration and organization since I’ve spent some time away from it. As a leader, you have the very real responsibility of keeping your organization knit together and operating functionally and smoothly by mastering those administrative/organizational exigencies. We often lose sight of just how fundamental much of what we do in the military is.

From my brief foray into the civilian world, let me share just a few things I miss.

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Don’t be like Zoidberg.

 

Continue reading Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

An Adjutant’s Advice

One of the very first stops an officer makes when he or she arrives to a new unit is the office of the Adjutant. It makes sense as the Adjutant is usually the S1 Officer-in-Charge, the personnel manager and supervisor, in charge of handling the personnel manning of the organization. But the wise and experienced officer knows that the Adjutant is more than just a pit stop. He or she is a gatekeeper, a hub of information, and one of the leaders in the organization who has the boss’s ear.

Here are some pointers from this Adjutant, ranging from how to best use an Adjutant’s skills to your advantage to how to best manage your records and career.

Continue reading An Adjutant’s Advice

Addicted to Action

After I passed the guidon off to my replacement and moved to California for grad school, I was sad to leave the organization I led for 15 months and the relationships that I forged, but I was relieved to be done. My responsibilities were abdicated, the rat race was complete, and I was off to a new adventure in the Golden State. I now have more time with my family, an amazingly flexible schedule, and the rare chance to expand my educational horizons.

Then it hit me. I miss the action.

I miss the time spent taking care of business, planning training, executing tasks, working with fellow soldiers, and basically staying busy all of the time. I had an Outlook calendar full of events and just had to look at my unit training calendar or the battalion’s long range calendar to know what to expect for the rest of the quarter and those in the future.

And the calendars were full, but never mind that. There were plenty of unscheduled tasks to keep me (and everyone else) gainfully employed because of what many call “fires.”

For the uninitiated, a fire is a problem that, as you can guess, needs to be “put out.” They are usually challenges that crop up outside of the normal battle rhythm or planned events that must be resolved before flaring up, spreading, and drawing the ire of higher-ups.

“If nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter.”

The problem is that an organization can extinguish fires as they crop up, or they can jump from fire to fire with an unhealthy intent, creating fires where they need not be.  In my short career, there have been frequent periods when just about every day there was a fire to put out.  I found myself joking with peers that, “if nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter!”- a reflection of the attitude that the organization seemingly always had to have a crisis to handle or we weren’t working hard enough.

What existed was an addiction to action.

I don’t miss that.

Continue reading Addicted to Action

Batman v Leadership, Part 2: The Bad

In Batman v Leadership, Part 1, I discussed five leadership traits of The Batman that represent some of his good, positive leader qualities. But anyone familiar with the Dark Knight’s M.O. knows his techniques, actions, and demeanor are often at odds with what we’d want our kids to take away as healthy behaviors.

Continuing and concluding my two-part look at some of Batman’s leadership characteristics, I now bring you some of the Caped Crusader’s less desirable qualities from which we might be able to learn and avoid ourselves.

Continue reading Batman v Leadership, Part 2: The Bad