I salute you

A letter to women entering U.S. Army service in the Combat Arms, written by an Infantry and Military Intelligence Officer with 12 years of service.

Full disclosure: I used to be against your entry into Combat Arms. However, through slowly and painfully confronting my own fears and pride, my thinking has begun to evolve.

I am proud to be a part of this Army and equally proud to soon share the honor of combat arms (Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery) experience with women who choose to serve this country on the front lines. I want to applaud your courage for taking the first step into a world of testosterone and bravado, a minefield of assumptions and emotions regarding your arrival. You will not be the first women to serve with great distinction in the U.S. Army as many have come before you to fill the ranks with strong women dedicated to their craft and willing to die for their comrades, their country. However, you will be the first to break one of the final and most culturally accepted boundaries to women, acceptance into the Infantry and Armor Corps of the U.S. Army.

The choice by U.S. leadership follows the opening of combat roles to women in at least a dozen countries around the world, including France, Israel, Canada, and Germany since the 1980s. There is precedence, you are not alone.

Our culture has long painted a picture of women largely as damsels in distress in need of strong men to rescue and enable them. You can see it in Hollywood, in books, in kid’s play. As a child I fed off that lie, dreaming of rescuing, of protecting damsels in need. In reality, I could not even talk to a girl to save my life, let alone theirs. When I married I sought to be all for my wife, her foundation.  In reality, I have learned I need to work through my weaknesses and stand back in awe as she goes through life with more strength and courage than I ever will. Now I have a daughter. I hope and pray I will raise her to be confident in who she is and boldly deny the whispers of society that would threaten to hold her back from her goals. Similarly, I hope to raise my boys to be encouraging and open to a truly equal playing field where all good work is celebrated with no gender bars, to accept that we as men need women, often more than they need us.

Our species is one of the exceptions to the rule that the female is generally the strongest, the feared one, the hunter.

Culture rather than demonstrated ability shaped your genders history in battle. A man’s “sport”; war was and sometimes still remains a male vocation. I believe part of the reason is the domination of men in the arts and politics throughout history. How many heroic women do we not know of due to the proclivity of men to write about men, men to vote for men, men to celebrate men? If you do a simple Google search (or Bing) you will find them, countless women as strong as men (mentally and physically), depended upon by men to routinely be a part of or even lead the “vocation of men”.

Fear holds us back.

Though male dominance in America has been fracturing for decades you will still come against those that push back as you begin your careers. Soldiers you lead, NCOs that mentor you, and officers above you will question your ability, your worthiness. That is a fact. It has happened to innumerable men before you and is central to a profession whose end goal is perfected craft. My advice is to persevere. My time in the Infantry was not easy but I am proud and grateful for the painful times, the learning curves that helped to shape me into a better officer. As long as you focus on a few key responsibilities you will find success and eventually respect and loyalty from subordinates, peers, and leaders.

Take care of yourself. Push away the idea that this is selfish; it is in reality the most unselfish part of being a leader. If you are mentally, physically, and emotional fit, you will be able to do the following. Take care of your Soldiers. Fight for them at all times, show them you are willing to sacrifice (especially your career) for them, and they will respond in ways you cannot believe. An enabled and trusted Soldier is a force of nature. Take care of your peers. This will be what carries you through the hardest times in the Military; the bonds between people sharing misery and stress are strong and will enable you to confront insurmountable trials. Finally, follow well, follow actively. Obey the orders of those above you, but not blindly. Leadership is a constant dialog up and down the chain and is necessary to maintain rule of law, encourage common sense, and achieve success.

Does this mean I am 100% comfortable with this transition from the status quo? I do not have to be, because it is not about me. I promise you this, I will continue to work on the assumptions and bias about women I struggle with, stop speaking against your efforts in any forum, and wholeheartedly applaud your future successes. 

An Exercise In Caring About The Presidential Race

This began when I asked myself what I believed about the current issues discussed during the election process. What right do I have to criticize the presidential candidates when I do not understand what I think or believe about the major topics?

Tax Reform:

·       When Warren Buffet admits to paying less in taxes than his secretary, you have to admit there is a problem in our tax system. I believe a flat tax, whether it is 10% or not, would do more to level the bubble than anything else. A flat tax code with no loopholes would do multiple things:

1.     Lower the tax rate for middle and lower class, allowing them to retain and/or spend more on the local economy, thereby boosting business. It will also allow people and families to set aside money in case of emergency.

2.     Give business leaders clear guidance and understandable requirements which will allow them to make quick and more accurate decisions for their companies.

3.     Tax all US citizens the same flat tax on all wealth, closing the loophole of off shore accounts.

·       In addition to the ~10% flat tax, I support a higher tax bracket for US companies with over 50% of holdings and operations overseas. This would:

1.     Provide a lower tax incentive to businesses to keep or move operations and workplace locations inside the US to encourage workforce/job growth in the US.

2.     Provide a balancing of gain vs loss. If a US company decides to move operations outside of the US they would be moved to the higher tax bracket for all revenue gained in the US market causing a balancing of loss of jobs vs national tax revenue. More, or at least steady, tax revenue would then be able to be used in job creation programs as well.


·       I would retain the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and work to continually modernize and streamline the web and walk in processes for signing up. I would raise the penalty for not having medical insurance each year until the average penalty is at least $1000 to encourage more to purchase healthcare, thereby decreasing premium costs across the board. Instead of starting from scratch, I would work with law makers, the healthcare community, and pharmaceutical companies to constantly improve on the existing ACA.

·       I would also push to change the eligibility age for Medicare to 68 in four years and 70 in eight due to advancements in healthcare and longer average lifespans and work force longevity. This would cut down on costs and reflect current reality.

Gun Control:

·       Each year, more Americans die from gunshot wounds caused by other Americans than during combat operations in any war in the last 10 years. While I fully support the right of an American to own and “operate” a firearm, I would push for several control mechanisms.

1.     Mandate back ground checks prior to all Gun purchases, including at Gun shows and during private sales (similar to having to have a notary public witness and confirm private auto sales).

2.     Mandate gun safety training prior to all initial gun purchases.

3.     Mandate Gun Insurance prior to being able to purchase/own a firearm. The US mandates health, home, and automotive insurance to protect citizens in the case of accidents or emergencies. Some requirements to maintain the insurance should be; yearly gun safety training certificate (similar to boat safety training requirements) and proof of safe storage at home.

4.     If another adult lives in a home with a gun and is not the gun owner, they must either have Gun Insurance or maintain a yearly gun safety training certificate.

5.     Provide incentives for practicing gun safety including providing gun safes or trigger locks to those without the means or access to purchase on their own.

6.     Restrict access to past violent offenders and people on No-Fly lists in order to keep legally sold guns out of their hands.   

7.     Lobby for funding of gun violence research by CDC, at a minimum, to figure out the root causes of gun violence, looking at it as it is, a health issue.

a.     Using that data, work on educating the public and look at current or new policies that should change or be put in place (similar to the education on the effects of smoking that has caused change).

Government Reform:

·       First and foremost is the desperate need to bring back congressional term limits. In the absence of these limits we have seen the result of politicians concerned mainly with the next election than on getting things accomplished for their constituents. Nepotism has also been allowed to creep into politics.

·       I would push for tying political leaders pay and benefits into the federal spending bill to force the house and senate to stop taking our country to the brink (or over) of default and/or sequestration.

·       Push for restrictions regarding sessions. A session should not end unless all deliberation is complete or proper extensions are completed and signed.

Pro-Life/Pro Choice:

·       Pro-Life. I believe life begins at conception and that all abortions other than those conducted to save the mother should be outlawed.

·       I would work to remove Federal funding from Planned Parenthood, while working with States to build the necessary programs to meet the requirement above, most likely working with existing medical institutions inside State borders.


·       I would temporarily close the borders to all immigration and give current illegal immigrants inside the US a choice; receive US citizenship and all requirements that come with it, i.e. Taxes, or return to their home country immediately. This would cause:

1.     If they chose to become a citizen, all rights and requirements would be in play, increasing the tax base and potential buy in to the Affordable Care Act.

2.     Require employers to abide by federal and state law in employment of the new citizens (A reduction in illegal employment and treatment of undocumented people).

3.     The closed borders will potentially stabilize the economy/job market and better able to keep up with citizens entering the work force through age.


·       I would use the current process to screen the refugees but would work to increase not only its accuracy and involvement of other federal intelligence organization, also whenever possible shorten the timeline from the current one to two year wait.

1.     As an alternative I would work with the UN and Aid agencies and regional countries in close proximity to the source country of the refugees to build more capacity in existing refugee camps and/or build new/additionally camps to hold more people. Not only would fewer refugees need to enter the US, but they would also be in close proximity to their home country making it easier to return when it is stable again.

National Security:

·       Maintain a strong military:

1.     Focus on small unit training and equipping soldiers with the best hardware vs spending on big ticket items such as the F-35.

2.     Work to expand the SOF community without decreasing standards.

3.     Stop the downsizing and maintain a force ready and trained to provide the means to a political end state in the best interests of the US.

·       I would force the government to lead when war is required. The policy makers responsibility it to provide a political end state and it is the Military’s responsibility to provide the means to meet that end state. Over the past decades, policy makers seem to have put both responsibilities on the shoulders of the military and that would end if I was President. It is the trained purpose of the US Military to Destroy governing and military capacity in support of political goals, but the Military has been forced throughout OEF, OIF, and OIR to Build governing capacity which falls completely outside their expertise and responsibilities.

·       Continue to restrict monitoring of citizens information and require warrants for access.

·       I would not be lenient on any Americans who illegally share classified information and would push for harsh penalties to safe guard our ability to protect our Nation.

·       Work to establish clear guidelines, norms, and requirements for what causes a person to be placed on the No-Fly lists in order to protect the right of American citizens while also safe guarding them against would be attackers or terrorists.

Foreign Policy: 

·       My 1st priority would be engagement with Mexico. American has become so focused on conflicts and economic struggles on other continents when a nation in need sits along nearly 2,000 miles of US territory. I would work with the Mexican government to encourage stronger diplomatic and economic ties to not only strengthen their country but to provide the US a more stable and potential partner nation for long-term mutual gain. I would offer support for their constant war against the powerful drug cartels and the terror they spread. Bottom line, a stronger and more secure Mexico would help our border security and encourage the Mexican people to enter their local economy and slowly build the middle class.

·       My following priorities would include diplomatic outreach to European and Asian countries, maintain a presence and provide training to Middle Eastern countries to enable them to provide stabilization to their region, and economic growth in Africa.

·       The US would no longer be the police of the world. I would shift to working within the current governing structures such as the UN and NATO to push for mutual goals. I would encourage the use of economic and other political tools before violence to negotiate issues.

Internal Policing:

·       Work with States to mandate the use of body cameras by all police units to protect both the officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect.

·       Hate speech – I would work to build policy that makes hate speech and incitement of violence against any person or organization in the US unlawful and met with steep penalties.


·       Place more control at the State level and decrease the controls at the Federal level. Federal oversight should be reserved for education financial aid programs and to monitor higher education institutions to ensure there is a healthy balance of liberal and conservative viewpoints taught or propagated.

·       Place more importance on the grade school teacher. Raise the pay for certified teachers to not only encourage current teachers to stay, but to also make getting a teaching job more competitive, which will help raise the quality and longevity of the teaching core.

·       Decrease the importance of 12th grade testing required for a high school diploma while concurrently increasing the importance of testing to enter higher education to encourage students to take ownership of their education, decrease high school dropout rates, and build the workforce.

·       Work with higher education institutions to create more short-term apprenticeship programsfocused on specific job skills to speed up the education-to-job process.

Power Of Federal Government:

·       I believe the Federal government purpose is to support the States where and when nationwide (cross state borders) actions are needed. The primary functions that should reside at the federal level include nation to nation diplomacy, international aid programs and military leadership with the purpose to provide a safe, secure, and free society.

·       I am dismayed and disgusted by the recent fear mongering regarding terrorism being propagated through the media and Presidential candidates. History tells us that fear is the most powerful weapon of politicians/leaders to consolidate power. People become willing to give up freedoms that they or others would have died for previously and the government becomes increasingly powerful until the excuse of “this is for your own safety” is enough for the general public to accept atrocities against portions of the population deemed a threat. There must be a balance of open discussion of threats and education about what they mean in daily life. If I was President I would make it a priority to speak to the American people routinely about current issues, social and other, and educate the people about what is being done at every administrative and government level to dispel false rumors and restrict unnecessary fear.   

Time = Opportunity

We live in a culture of instant gratification and chaotic speed. We stress when traffic causes us to lose five minutes of our precious time, we groan and sigh when a cashier has to call for help, we flip out when a plan dissolves (ok maybe just me). We as a country have led the world in the creation of new gadgets designed to make our lives easier yet busier.

1910 ish:

  • Travel was done predominately by foot, horse, or train.

  • Dialog was carried by handwritten letters, telegrams sent by DOT-DOT-DASH-DOT-DASH, rudimentary radio, or the age old mouth to ear approach.

  • The country had around 75 million inhabitants.

  • There were roughly 8,000 cars, 140 miles of paved roads, and the common speed limit in cities was 10 mph.

  • About 8% of households had phones.

  • The airplane was only on paper in its most infantile form.

  • TV was the theater (actual stage with people). One production per night.

  • The ocean was a barrier.

2010 ish:

  • Travel is conducted predominately by car and plane

  • Dialog is done through word of mouth, emails, letters, cell phones, blogs, twitter, Facebook, MySpace, the internet in general, satellite phones, TV, radio, etc.

  • Population of close to 300 million.

  • As of 2007 there were around 240,000,000 cars registered in the states, there are roughly 4 million miles of public road and 4 million miles of highway, and the common speed limit in cities is 36 mph.

  • Around 85% of Americans have cell service of some kind.

  • There are 22 CATEGORIES of aircraft.

  • TV is now a large and narrow box with better colors than real life and you have hundreds of channels and mainstream movie theaters show 2-30 different movies every week.

  • The ocean is a playground and something to fly over.

I could continue, microwave meals, instant coffee, dishwashers, elevators/escalators, pay-at-the-pump…we have steadily sped up our lives to the point that we can’t handle to wait, to sit and think, to listen. In our busy lives we hardly ever take the time to be with people and listen to them. We are living a movie with no dialog. It keeps the mind busy but does not completely satisfy.

Time after time I have heard stories of kids saying that the thing they appreciate most or desire most from their parents is time. All they ask is for the parent to tune attention from self to them for a few minutes and to enter their world. What does a child have to look forward to in life if they grow up with an energetic zombie as a parent? Going full speed, always moving on, moving on. I believe that if kids were given the ability to use remotes on their parents, the pause button would be worn down to nothing.

Time is truly the most precious commodity and we all control an equal portion of it. What will you do with yours? Will you take two seconds to say hello to your neighbor? Will you stop what you are doing and laugh at your child’s poorly articulated joke? Will you finally get back to writing that best selling book?

Dr. Livingston I presume?

What if the guy who asked “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” had presumed wrong?

How can you begin to think about how you think? I recently took a course called Structured Analytic Techniques. Its purpose was to get analysts to consciously think about how they think through a problem and get past any invalid bias and/or assumptions made in order to get as close to the truth as possible. (Purpose: 1) Recognize cognitive biases and social, belief and behavioral biases. 2) Understand mindsets, and (cognitive) mental shortcuts and the problems they present for analysts. 3)Apply critical thinking skills to mitigate these biases, mindsets, and mental shortcuts)

The course truly opened my eyes in a cognitive sense. I began to actively look at the assumptions I made everyday and to evaluate their validity or attempt to break past them. Everything from assuming that someone is a bad person not worth my while since they just broke the speed limit, assuming the news anchor I don’t like is wrong 100% of the time, assuming that I am better than those around me.

It is amazing when you take the time to figure out why you think a certain way. At first my wife didn’t enjoy my new learning as I constantly questioned her assertions and provided devils advocacy…this did not continue for long as I, as a smart man (cough), realized that it may not be the best for our relationship…

What are your biases, what do you take for granted, what do you assume? There is both positive and negative bias and their sources come from many areas of life. Home town lifestyle, family values and rules instilled by parents, political views adopted from a TV talking head, etc.