Water, Air, Knowledge.. You need this .. remember?

5 Generations Mixer

Organizations throughout the world are now challenged to maintain business continuity by transferring knowledge from the older generations to the younger. According to some studies there will be 5 generations in the workforce all at the same time.

Gaps and Seems Less Seems…

There are a variety of reasons why people in the older generations have to work but more over there are fundamental business challenges due to this situation. Many organizations are having problems in estimating or planning for people to retire.
They are engaging older workers often too late for effective knowledge transfer. They may be unable to gauge what the real business value of a person relative to their functional capabilities are in a position. When companies or organizations focus on process and methods over people, they find that their bus-ability is literally walking out the door.
What is worse than this reality is that organizational transformation is not occurring as fast as needed to accommodate the younger generations.
Younger workers have a dramatically different view of work than older generations. This is directly impacting an organizations ability to build, maintain, grow and stabilize the workforce.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of issues organizations have now in terms of workforce stability are things they bring on themselves by treating employees like expendable trash.

Paying Attention

This is a narrative that really needs more attention. Organizations large and small aren’t going to necessarily go out of business because of knowledge transfer and knowledge management issues but it will cost them a lot of money. I can also think of some conditions where it can cause more serious concerns.

 Gen X Reflection

When I was a child, I thought that once you have a job it was what you did for the rest of your life. I think that my generation was a witness to the end of a sort of this renaissance of labor. I watched my father work as a pharmacist my entire life which in turn meant that he would be a pharmacist for most of his life. He could tell you about the interactions between two or more drugs, foods or other things you consume in less time than a google search. He didn’t need google, he is still around today and I would venture to say that for his area of work, he still probably depends much more on his tacit knowledge over his need to search something out.

Knowledge is fluid and changes constantly but time of exposure to information and knowledge creates wisdom. Wisdom isn’t just about information and knowledge itself it is married up with the experience over time of a person and the conditions in which the person lives and has lived. All of the factors and facets of a person come together in a point of convergence in a split second to form that point in which a person chooses left or right, up or down, in or out, etc.

What is different today is that we know less and depend more on the explicit query.

The discovery of information from an inherently explicit source that positions us to make a decision. It is a decline in specific experience and wisdom. They are replacing the pharmacist with automation. Automation doesn’t and won’t pull out tacit information from a patient, only a human would. Click click .. medicine dispensed and the young pharmacist walks up to the machine and validates the label, the canister and the pills themselves. She takes the bottle and places in a paper bag and hands it to another young lady to ring the customer up. On the side of the bottle,it says “do not consume this medication with grapefruit” The young lady goes as far as telling the customer not to consume the medicine with grapefruit. What she doesn’t know is Mrs. Miller (the customer). She doesn’t know anything about her and she doesn’t know that Mrs. Miller was a Russian immigrant that doesn’t read english well or understand what she is saying. She doesn’t know that she is nodding her head in acknowledgment out of courtesy. No one taught the pharmacist or the young tech how to interact with the customer and how to question a customer. How to elicit important responses and how to dig for answers.

The computer does not convey that experience

and when SmallGreens let go of all their older workforce and had a workforce knowledge continuity practice, they didn’t capture this sort of information from the practicing pharmacists. They just captured the process and maybe things to look for but not the value or importance of caring about every customer individually and looking for ways to find out information that could save your customer’s life or prevent a serious mishap. My uncle who is also a pharmacist told me that some companies value the quick dollars of a flu shot over the overall practice of pharmacists. The reason why this is important is because a young inexperienced person might easily succumb to a corporate short-term win scenario where the experienced professional would follow corporate guidance but take a more balanced approach to short-term thinking.

I talk to Boomers all the time about their lives at work or their experiences including military experience.  A great deal of the time they don’t even realize how much information they know and it is all wrapped in the narrative of their stories. As they are transitioning out of their jobs and they are asked probing questions the stories aren’t coming across. The questions can get to some of the areas but most of the time these sessions are 1.5 hours with some one to one or group mentorship later on. This isn’t enough. Some transfer will occur but there will be gaps that are significant. This could also be good depending on the job as someone might think of a new way to do the job better but unless the older way is known there is no way to measure. This unknown condition introduces risk and a lack of understanding of cost.

The other aspect of this is that some of our young people don’t want to be in one job for their lives and they want to walk into open heart surgery as the practicing surgeon after watching it a few times on you tube.

Kid only missed one You Tube video.. but a friend on glass will help him out.
Kid only missed one You Tube video.. but a friend on glass will help him out.

There is a sense that they lack the patience to learn and experience performing tasks and they are seemingly anxious to be recognized as subject matter experts. This is a pervasive problem that is systemic in our culture and society. It is something that we cannot avoid but we can’t afford to ignore.

Boomer Gen

I met an old warrior Green Beret this past week while on travel. He is a security specialist that looks at various concerns of physical, cyber, port and infrastructure security. He has 28 years of military service and a great deal of time on the ground in the commercial world as an expert. One thing that struck a chord in me was a story he told me about how a young security expert performed an assessment on a client site that took into account only the explicit information of information given to him about identified weaponry that would be a threat. It was as if this “dumb ass” didn’t know the physics of what happens when a weapon goes off or a bomb explodes.
I asked what happened after he read this assessment and he told me that he knew and reached out to one of the world experts on this subject to get this client squared away. You could say a lot about the young security expert in his defense but I would argue that his level of commitment, his heart, the nature of his honor and integrity and his tacit knowledge all come into play.

How many information technologists are out there that are called “system engineers” these people aren’t engineers, they don’t have engineering degrees or carry a card. They can’t engineer themselves out of paper box but they are called engineers and they gladly take on the title because it sounds glamorous.

 What’s next?


As companies are now recognizing these concerns and looking for ways to deal with them, there must be an effort to be realistic and honest about the situation.

Organizational leaders are going to have to set aside resources including labor to deal with these types of challenges.
  • They are also going to have to look at organizational governance to evaluate what changes need to be addressed.
  • They are going to have to face the facts that any efforts in knowledge management, knowledge engineering, and talent management are tied to change management and operational resilience.
  • They are also going to have to spend time thinking about the inside of their organizations as much as they spend thinking about the outside. The unspoken rules of labor don’t apply anymore.
  • The last part of this is that organizations are going to really have to focus on people. Not pay lip service to how they care but really make clear and visible efforts to engage their workforce.

As a senior leader once said “If people don’t like what we do they will show us with their feet.”

This statement is simply true and we have to wonder how much will that show cost!

Sequestration – Read___React___Respond

US Joint Force Command

Anyone who has worked at JFCOM knows what is coming with sequestration.   They had a preview of how our government handles this sort of business.  For those of you that don’t know how this works, here is a story for you.

Just a few years ago while working at (USJFCOM) US Joint Forces Command as a Consultant, I was a witness to a slow-moving train wreck.   It is amazing that although devastating to many, it essentially unheard of in any public discussion today .   The other very interesting part about the JFCOM closure was the psychological impact and the potential case study that was once again seemingly ignored.   As a person who was there through it all from beginning to end, I would like you to know what really happened and why it is important today.

I was working on a project that helped senior leaders and decision makers by creating simple to complex patterns known as Architectures.   From my perspective the work was and is important.  For years I had watched and learned from military and civilian leadership the process of knowledge transfer to  better our DoD Enterprise from end to end.  Unfortunately, even though they saw the economic and political situation coming there was nothing that anyone could do to stop JFCOM from closing.

It started with rumors

Pss Pss Pss.. Buzz.  “I hear JFCOM will be losing some funding.”

“I heard JFCOM could close”

“No, that could NEVER happen”

It happened slowly, day after day.  We heard rumors every day, they were everywhere.  Our government civilian leadership didn’t know what to tell anyone because they didn’t know.  Our military leadership started to learn what was going on but they couldn’t tell anything to anyone.    I don’t know if anyone else has termed this phrase but I would like to call this “The Milton Effect” like Milton from the movie Office Space.   Essentially, the Bob’s came in and just fixed the accounting error.  Unfortunately none of us knew that was happening or at the time knew what it meant.

Some people were just outright convinced that nothing was happening and that we should just relax.  Most of those folks were senior contractors or consultants that had seen and heard rumors over the “good” years, where the government just spent money and prosperity ensued.   I remember August of 2010, my civilian client just got handed a job that he had been preparing for years to execute.   We had a plan and mission that was to save the DoD millions.   The day he was given permission to execute his plan was a Friday, on that following Monday Robert Gates released “THE MEMO” which basically was the kiss of death for the great Combatant Command.   All of the planning and hard work that went into this work was stopped immediately and all bets were off.  What followed after the release of the memo was a domino effect of chilling and devastating personal and economic pandemonium.

Those damn contractors, they aren’t employees of the government and don’t deserve any considerations.  How do you treat those who mow your lawn?  And so, it began.  The quiet rooms and whispers in the halls, the separation of people in unexpected and surprising ways.  For all purposes, it was just like “Survivor.”  Who was getting voted off the island?  Would there be an island?   There were tears in cubicles and there was anger in the air.  Short tempers were everywhere and people snapped at each other .  The conditions continued to degrade.   One of my favorite stories was when a Senior General Officer called us into a meeting to tell us that he would “Always be open and honest and tell everything he knows.”    Except that he couldn’t and when the situation degraded and we met again he said ” I have to honest with you, I lied.”    Contracting and consulting companies didn’t know what to tell employees and panic was in the air for some, really for most of us.

JFCOM was a think tank in a lot of ways.  People are out fighting wars and those who support them are thinking about how to help those people.  It could be said that JFCOM needed to go, but I know the hearts of many that supported our war fighters.  I know their love for America and for the men and women that sacrifice their time and lives.  There was value that came from JFCOM, it was measurable, it was documented.

If someone walked up to you and punched  you in the stomach and took your wallet and as you went down put an elbow to the back of your head, it would have been an easier blow than this.   This was long and drawn out.  Day after day of not knowing and being fed misinformation from trusted sources.  They were misinformed too.

It wasn’t the economic situation that was most devastating, it was the emotional toll.  It was coming home and telling our families that we don’t know what is happening and that we don’t know at all anything that will happen.  It was the unknown of the abyss and that is what it was,  a dark time looming.  As people started to push each other away, others started looking for other options in terms of work.  We met with our company leaders from all of our organizations and we started to think about what the world would hold for us.   You see, we don’t work for a factory that is closing or a business that is going out, we work for organizations that support the government.  More specifically the defense industry.  Is it even possible that someone could close down the American defense machine?   The short answer is “yes”, the long answer is “no.”

My uncle tells a story of my cousin working for a large company closing down one of its factories.  He said that everyone was handed a pink slip except my cousin. My cousin was very worried and he knew that with his skills he could transfer somewhere else in the company.  He went to his manager and asked what would happen to him.  His manager looked at him and said “We can’t let you go, we don’t know what you do!”

Funny but true, JFCOM was very similar except that the DoD was betting that JFCOM didn’t do many things that were worth holding or for that matter studying.   All of the initial studies that looked at JFCOM were lacking information.  They really only looked at dollars at the moment.  They didn’t look at all of the implications and they never asked the questions that would clearly show the value of JFCOM.    With that they didn’t care about JFCOM and made the cuts.

When Hostess Brands closed its doors http://hostessbrands.com/Closed.aspx I am very sure that all of the workers were upset and with the sheer number of workers cut, it would hurt the economy.   The difference is that Hostess wasn’t telling their employees that rumors of the company closing are just rumors or that Hostess will change the signage on the face of the building and be something else.   For certain, Hostess employees know that they need to go and find other jobs.   This is not the case in our industry.   “Listen, JFCOM will just change to YRfriendCom and we will continue the mission.”

Continue the mission?  What the hell does that mean?  What mission? Eventually, the flow of funding started to end.  The money stopped coming and the people started walking.  It was a dead man’s walk to the door.  It was tearful lunches, every week.  Every Friday, we toast old friends and wish them well as they start on their journey.   Civilian leaders are shifted and the sign is taken down.  Some of the work was transferred and the leadership is able to keep the civilians employed by moving them around.  If a civilian knew how to spell something that a contractor in another division was doing, that civilian could find him or herself in that position as a subject matter expert.   One friend went from Public Affairs Officer to Internet Expert.

It ended

And so, after many months of people being laid off or moved around or finding their own way out and onto something new they went from one ship that sunk to another.   In this industry it is clear that no one is safe.  If you aren’t growing, you are sinking, there is no such thing as “stability.”   The emotional toll of the JFCOM closure was severe in that we were a witness and victim to the true nature of political games that our Washington representatives play.   It boils down to the fact that we were and are being undermined by the people who are elected to help us.   You think I am being long-winded?  Maybe, I haven’t said enough.   You are already feeling the effects of this bad behavior.

This year YOU are subject to a raise in taxes.  This year our military takes a pay a cut.  This year programs are going to run out of money and our government officials don’t even really know the implications.

Sequestration will

It will be slow.   It will be painful for people in waves.  It will go noticed in only the community it has an effect on during the time that it hurts the community.  It will result in emotional and economic pains that will impact cities and states in ways that could make America the Detroit of the world.    The problem isn’t that funding is being cut or that our programs don’t have money.  The problem is the sneaky and procedural way that this is happening.  It is blow after blow and blow and our memory as country is so bad and we are so distracted by other things, we are losing everything and don’t know it while it is happening.  It is like Congress, the Senate and the Executive office is pickpocketing America.

How do I know?   Well, not only because it happened and history repeats itself but also because I am watching it happen in slow motion again.    Last week a friend of mine was away on military support business in a far away foreign land providing support and maintenance for a very important military activity.  In the middle of what he was doing, he had to stop and travel home from this very far away place.   His contract is out of funding and the work that is important is left undone until they can possibly sort out the funding.

As I talk to friends and neighbors in places near and far I hear the echos of General So and So telling me that he is honestly going to tell me everything he knows.   I am seeing people losing their work, contracts being defunded, the whispers and the infighting for whatever government crumbs that appear to lay at the top of the fish tank.  I hear of the uncertainty from people in many companies and people discussing their options on a daily basis.

Lastly,  I see our government leaders go on vacation and our President hanging with his friends in Florida.    If you think for a minute that you or I could look the other way and say that this is not my problem or that this will not have any affect on you, take some time to think about the history of our world and the history of our country.

We need to talk about this… We need to work together to change this.. 

In support of our Warfighter Creed


 “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Google “Contractors Creed” and this is what you get from http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?57037-Contractors-Creed

I am a contractor. I look out for myself, the operators to my left and right, and no one else.

I will always take advantage of the fact that I can finally tell Commissioned Officers to pack sand, and will do so at every possible occasion.

I am my country’s scapegoat, the “plausible deniability” warrior, and I love it.

Less than 700 dollars a day is Unacceptable.

I am trained to eat things that would make a Billy goat puke, but will refuse anything less than 60 dollars Per Diem because I am greedy.

I care not for ribbons, nor awards for valor. I do this job for the opportunity to kill the enemies of my country, and to finally get that boat I’ve always wanted.

I will be in better shape than 99% of the active duty personnel, although this is not hard.

I will equip myself with the latest high-speed gear, and will trick out my M4 until it weighs more than 24 lbs, not because it works better, but because it looks cool in photographs.

I will carry more weapons, ammunition, and implements of death on my person, than an infantry fire team, and when engaged I will lay waste to everything around me.

In any combat zone, I will always locate the swimming pool, beer, and women, because I can.

I will deploy on my terms, and if it ever gets too stupid, I will simply find another company that pays me more.

How complicated…  or Maybe not

While this particular writing is referring to contractors that are serving (yes I said that) in the field alongside our finest.   It is a common theme heard in any situation where defense contractors are present.

According the NY Times “There were 113,491 employees of defense contractors in Afghanistan as of January 2012, compared with about 90,000 American soldiers, according to Defense Department statistics. Of those, 25,287, or about 22 percent of the employees, were American citizens, with 47 percent Afghans and 31 percent from other countries.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/world/asia/afghan-war-risks-are-shifting-to-contractors.html)

If that is true, which I believe it was at the time and still is, than contractors are part of our fighting forces and moreover they are part of our planning forces.   What this means is that

  • Contractors are people.
  • Contractors have a stake in war fighting personal and professional.
  • Contractors and Government Civilians are similar in a lot of ways.
  • Contractors and military service members can operate under the same conditions.

Captain Obvious

Good ethics and values are not bound by our uniform or contract.  In other words, whether I took an oath and wrote it down as a human to human kind of activity or I took an oath on my own the result is the same.   In contracting documentation and presentations given to government workers there is a note on the fact that a government worker took an oath.  Here is  an example ethics handout it is public via google.


More on this www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/ccap/…/gov.ctr.relationshipaf.doc (Air Force document).

What the documents say is “do the right things” and they tell you what those things are by law.   Interestingly enough,  I have worked for years with contractors and leadership has told us over and over what the right things are.   The point is that WE should be ethical in OUR behavior REGARDLESS of whether we are government or contractor.  More often than not in my experience a lot of contractors are more inclined to do the right things because they really have more to lose.

Let’s think about this for minute..

  • Contractor does something wrong the result is termination of the contract.
  • Government worker does something wrong the result is an inquiry, after years the government worker is either terminated or promoted.

Isn’t this true?  Or do I just have a great imagination?

Point – If you are bored by now

We need a creed on behalf of our war fighter.  We need to be ethical and have integrity because.. JUST BECAUSE folks….  Politics are for politicians and there are a lot of them.  One thing I have learned over the years is that politicians don’t stop bullets from the boardroom.  I don’t really care what they are doing frankly, I care about what I am doing.  Am I doing what is right for my friends in the field?  Whether they are paid for by the government through one color of money or another doesn’t matter, the result is the same.  We are fighting for freedom; our freedom and democracy; our democracy. I am **ANGRY** because I am an American and I love this country and want it to exist and I want my kids to have choices in their lives.

I am tired.. of hearing excuses from individuals that they can’t do the things they need to do because of someone else.  I have mentioned in posts before that I know people that don’t give up but they are few.  So, here it is.. the short of it…

In Support of our Warfighter Creed 

I support our Warfighter. I think about my country and my family and the extension of those around me, I consider operators regardless of uniform and title.  

I will work to have faith in those around me and build trust with those whom I don’t know well in order to protect and preserve our existence as we know it.

I will lead from where I am and seek to be better every day knowing that if I excel those around me excel. 

I will look to practice being selfless and empathetic of others. 

I will be strong and take a stand when I have to. 

I will share information to benefit everyone that shares my cause.

I will reuse and recycle process, methods and tools anywhere and anytime I can.  

I have a code and recognize that others do as well, I will respect them as I expect them to respect me. 

I will collaborate, cooperate and communicate every opportunity I have as I understand together we are stronger. 

I will work to sharpen my body and my mind to be strong and ready. 

I will be concerning with my actions and take responsibility for me. 

I will be honest.

I will be loyal. 

I will deliver results and prove them when possible through measured success. 

I will not always know the mass effects of my work but I will recognize that results are independent of intent and results will vary while intent is consistent.  

I am accountable for my actions and I hold myself responsible and expect others to do the same. 

I know and understand right from wrong and if I am challenged to understanding the difference or I feel as if I am uncertain, I will ask a trusted agent to help provide clarity. 


More ?

Some people can easily tie this to religion.. it can’t be about religion because we will differ.  This has to be for the purpose of our shared values.  Religion is divisive, that being said… if your faith is aligned with these concepts.. this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

I don’t expect people to take this idea and run with it or change their behavior overnight but I do want people to think about and recognize that our failings are our enemies strength.

The reason why American’s are so good is because we have shared values sewn together as a diverse tapestry with drastically dynamic and different roots.  In other words, we are all very different but when we come together these differences melt into something very powerful, common and known.  Ask anyone who grew up in a place like Coop City in the Bronx, we were all different but we were so tied together that we have been bound in friendship for almost 40 years.

Take a stand and share this creed..  letting people know that you care is a step towards building trust. 

For Those Who Serve (Forgotten Troops)

In my office I have a plaque that Kenny Williams gave me when I decided to leave Joint Forces and move on to work with DISA.

From One Warrior to a Cyber Warrior

I see this almost every day, sometimes I am facing it for hours.    What does it mean? What does it mean to you?

What does it mean?

As I have stated in earlier posts, Ken for me is a personal living hero.  He is a man of honor and integrity, he is a man of purpose, and he is a true leader.   Most people talk about “the warfighter” and don’t know anything about war or service for that matter.   Ken doesn’t just talk about people in the field, he actively works to help them.   This year as shown in his dispatches from the field, he chose to go out and help them in person.   To me it is no different from a firefighter or a police officer or anyone else who serves our community and makes sacrifices for the GREATER GOOD of our country and our way of life.

It is a volunteer military but what would this country do if people didn’t volunteer?   These people are making a choice and a sacrifice.   In some cases they make the ultimate sacrifice.

I am responding to those of you who can’t deal with what Ken has been writing and to those of you that have told me that it is by choice that our service members are serving.  You are RIGHT!  It was their choice, and their choice made it so that you or your children or grand children aren’t sitting in a festering pit wondering what war they are fighting and why.

The common saying by service members is “I would rather fight the enemy on their land as opposed to ours.” The young men and women of our country are doing us a service and they deserve not only our respect but they deserve our support and our attention.

It is my personal responsibility as an American and as a person who recognizes that people are putting themselves in danger for ME and my family to do everything I can to recognize them and support them.

What does it mean to you?

I am sharing my plaque with you.  I can’t write a blog every week saying the same thing as you will either stop reading or ignore me.  This is reality.   What I can do is share with you this reminder,  copy the picture, print it do what you want but know that this plaque is for all of us.   This is what it really says to you.

You may not be a Marine, but the Marines love you.  They would give and have given everything to protect you and our way of life.   You don’t have to be there with them to help.   You can be where you are and lead/follow from where you are to help them.   Although this plaque says “Semper Fidelis”  the blade this plaque holds is not bound to one service .   Take a moment at some point everyday to remember that good people are working for and fighting for you today.   Find ways to stand up for them and protect them and remember them,  think about them because they are certainly thinking of you.

Final Thoughts

There are American troops in everywhere, if you are serving them in some way as a government employee or contractor don’t fail them.  Don’t make excuses either, excuses don’t stop bullets.   If you are a citizen, please take some time to think of them.  If you are service member, Thank You.

Dispatches from the Front: 29 July 2012

… From Ken


In some of the return e-mails, several have asked I not include or discuss the “un-pleasantries of war” in my “Dispatches”.  To those kind souls, my advice is to simply delete all future e-mails from me.

Unfortunately, I am not in a pleasant place to accommodate such a request.  The truth often is not pretty.  It matters not how eloquently words are strung together, daily death and destruction is difficult to mask.  I will try harder, but there is little in the few local Afghan merchants, third world mess hall workers, the barren landscape with its’

oppressive heat, the three separate species of birds [(1) mourning dove;

(2) black and white winged starling; (3) small body sparrow], the mice and rats, that are available to write nice things about.  I promised myself to record what I have seen and not made-up fiction.  I have

always believed, “to thy own self be true”.

Your’ Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force, and Coast Guard, our coalition partners, and the civilians, both DoD and contractors are doing a terrific job with their tasks.  Never have I seen any of them appear weary in doing their duty.  They are the doers of good and doers of the right thing.  I have never seen them afraid or discouraged, only strong and courageous. Sure they bitch, but I remember the same grumbling heard during any deployment or any place I have ever worked or traveled.  It would worry me more if I heard nothing.  They all have and draw from an inner strength securely put in place before their arrival.

To each, it is different; as it should be.  A life lived is determined by circumstance, luck, timing and your beliefs.   Surely there are other qualifiers, but without the benefit of a glass or two of a fine ancient single malt whisky to stimulate the senses, those are enough.  For me my inner strength comes from my absolute belief in God and His Son Jesus.

I believe in Them as much as I believe there is a United States Marine Corps.  I make a sorry Christian but I learned early in life, “once you trust in the Lord, fear not what others can do unto you”. I was also taught that “a man’s true worth is what he has done to help others”.

Every day is a gift and you only are given so many.  How you consume each daily gift is totally up to you.  I promise you, a day does not pass without reflection on just how lucky I am to live in the day and time I do and to be blessed with the people I know and have known.

Sadly, I am confident my enemy believes in Allah as much as he believes in the Taliban. That is why I have to help and do all that I can to kill him.   Negotiations, peaceful resolutions, let’s meet and sing “kume bye aye” are for the diplomats and politicians.  God bless their work.  A warrior’s work requires a more direct solution.  I never liked it years back when I first read it, but now fully understand, “From the ashes of the vanquished, the victor is able to build unencumbered”.

Unfortunately, we will not see victory in Afghanistan.  Also, the last I checked, we are not here to make Afghanistan the 51st state.

Counterinsurgency warfare or “COIN” operations is our current strategy.

Winning the hearts and minds of the people is a good thing.  I am from the old school and new techniques come hard to me, especially when a “time line” is put in place and when reached; you declare “success” and leave. COIN will indeed work as long as the people you have “won over” feel protected and free from retribution of evil.  I simply do not believe the Afghanistan military and police will be able to maintain good order and discipline throughout this miserable country once we and our coalition partners depart. My opinion and my opinion alone, their success will be short lived and “good order and discipline” is not going to happen. The evil that awaits the Afghan military, police and peoples still exists and patiently waits.  My advice if asked by the Afghan military or their government would be simply what I was taught as a young Marine officer; successful warfare requires the identification of the enemy, massing all available weapons and firepower and then close with and destroy them. I would also recommend they concentrate their remaining time and efforts on mastering all fire support weapons and the ability to deliver accurate artillery and mortar fires whenever and wherever needed. I would include close air support (CAS) but Afghan air force does not exist.

You cannot blame the Taliban for their tactics.  Even our forefathers shot from behind trees and harassed the British and with deadly accuracy.  When combined with determination, luck and tenacity they overcame the odds of winning against the mightiest military of that time.  The IED is the Taliban’s tree.  And yes there are volumes written on what really caused the Colonial victory.  However, I bet you, not facing a superior force on the grounds of their choosing, army against army, will be mentioned as a factor.

Daily routine has settled.  I am up at 0330 and complete the causality report by 0700.  If there are no US KIA’s, I decree that day as a good day. The report covers from midnight to midnight the day prior.

Unfortunately, someone has died every day for 41 days since I started this task.  Whether US, Coalition, Afghan military, police, innocent civilians; someone has been killed due to this war.  Compared to the bombing of London, Dresden, Tokyo of wars past, civilian causalities are very small.  But to the family of the one killed, it is as tragic as it was back during any time period.  The enemy also pays a toll.  I read and write those reports too.  I hate to say it, with each EKIA, the same glee that comes from catching, rolling and then crushing a Tsetse fly stirs within the black chamber of my heart.  May the Lord forgive me.

For those who have never hunted in Africa: The Tsetse fly has a harden exoskeleton that when he bites you and you slap him as you would a mosquito; once your hand is removed, it flies away to bite again.

The rest of my day 2200+ is crunching data sent in from the outlying US and coalition commanders concerning their assessment of the Afghanistan military’s and police’s ability to maintain good order and discipline.

Make no mistake; it was 46 partner nations who took from the Taliban their position and influence in this country.  Those nations are the same ones who trained and supplied the Afghan security forces.  These newly trained units are holding their own in the “cat and mouse” campaign being conducted by the insurgents.  I have observed, as soon as the “mouse” is recognized as a “rat”, the “cat” extends its lethal claws and calls in coalition fire support to neutralize the threat. The “rat” is quickly terminated but most often sent back into its hole.  For those times, congratulations abound and medals issued. Once close air support and effective artillery have been taken out of the equation, it is easy to predict the future as well as outcome.  The Afghan military and police may now own the nice shiny watch given to them by the coalition partners. Unfortunately, we all know, it is the Taliban who owns the time.

Oh look!!! There goes a little mouse scampering across the floor with a bit of cracker!  Isn’t he cute?  I will name him Marroof.  What else do you want to know about that mouse?

Semper Fidelis,


CJTF-1, ID, CJ5 Assessments

Task Force Defender

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

APO, AE 09354

“Shut up”..! That was the best advice I got this week.

About a month ago I changed jobs.   I went from a military component organization to a DoD component organization.  Don’t know the difference?  Don’t worry it doesn’t matter, that much.  Well, at least that is what I think after a month or so.  I am not writing about the job though as much as I would love to start putting key to board on my thoughts.  I am writing about what one person told me this week that I thought was interesting and important.

I changed positions not only from one company to another but from one government organization to another, I started to look, listen and learn about the culture, the job itself, the organization etc.   In my head I started to see a picture, it was becoming clear and I was convinced that my coming in would CHANGE things for my new organization.  After all, I have experience with my ABC’s and 123’s.   Where I left people would say “ask Howie” and I would come to meetings with my trusty notepad and pen with various process and methods to help whomever has a problem.   You could say that I was there long enough to be a known commodity.  I have spoken and written about Joint Forces in the past, it is no secret that the Joint world has a certain flavor / culture that is based on the Joint lexicon and taxonomy and fundamentally like the rest of the world you are who others perceive you to be.   In other words,  if someone in leadership says “that is the smart guy” then that is the smart guy.    Now, I wasn’t the smartest guy in the room and I wouldn’t pretend today that I should have been labeled as such.   What I did have was “trust credit” which means that leadership knew if I read something or wrote something or better yet attended a meeting, that they would get my honest opinion but I would back my perspective with some facts (where possible).   This is important, because YOU have this too in some degree.

I left my position at what was Joint Forces because I felt strongly that I can help more people from the DoD enterprise.   What I didn’t count on was that it is going to take a long time.  

I thought I would come in and start looking at the situation, perform analysis, make assessments and start to ask questions that would challenge my new leadership into thinking in ways previously undiscovered.   What I found was different from what I thought.   It doesn’t really matter why but it has really challenged my thinking in ways that were previously undiscovered.

I miss my friends and co-workers at what is now Joint Staff and I miss the others that have since left and moved on to other positions due to the Joint Forces disestablishment.  Looking at my work today, I see connections between what I did and what I do.  I have asked both my current leadership and my past leadership if I can find and bind these connections and thankfully they both agreed.   Which brings me to this past week.

There are days that I am sitting in my old office not far from where I used to sit, hanging around the people I grew up with career wise.  It is nice to see them and spend time with them knowing that they mean a lot to me and that I mean something to them.  This past week I had some things to do in the office and went down to take care of them.   One of the civilian leaders came down and saw me sitting there.   Immediately he was interested in what I was up to and sat down to have a chat.   I explained that I am working hard and running on the old hamster wheel trying to figure out the best ways I can help my new organization in ways that made sense to them.   He knows me pretty well and he understood clearly what I was going through.   He looked at me and said “You know what your problem is?”  “No sir” I said .  Then he paused and said “shut up.”    He went on to explain that I have been in my new position for a very short period of time.   He said “I know you, you are a great leader and after 27 years I know who will be leading and who will be left behind.”  He continued “You need to listen for at least 90 days, you need to LISTEN not speak, not write, not know, just listen.”   My first class when I took my MBA was about “effective listening” and of course, he threw me back there in a blink.   I thought I was listening and taking note and looking and learning, but maybe not.   It wasn’t a punch in the face or anything, it was simple truth and I like to say that when I am talking to people who I am giving them the same.  It was a good dose of my own medicine and I think I needed it.   He didn’t just leave it at that, he gave me a plan to execute after the 90 days and he asked me to follow-up with him to see how I was progressing.   I have that plan written and I have my listening ears on.  All this time, I thought I was going to just go in there and help them but really my helping them is helping me.

I don’t know what the results will be 90 days from now for the people I am currently working for but I do know that 90 days from now I will have practiced better effective listening skills and I will look make every attempt to “shut up” unless there is something I have to say.   With all the talking and communication we have to do today it does seem that we do a lot of this wha wha wha something important wha wha wha something something and really the only thing we needed to say was the something important part.  All the wha wha’s are just to hear ourselves.

“Wha Wha”