Author Archive

 

Claude Berube has accomplished a masterful work with the release today of his most recent novel, THE ADEN EFFECT. Berube’s story is fast-paced, action packed, and full of wonderfully developed characters supporting a believable but creative narrative that keeps the pages turning.

The story follows Connor Stark, a former naval officer who lives anonymously in the rugged Hebrides of Scotland after having been dishonorably discharged until he is called back to service by the American Ambassador to Yemen, C.J. Sumner, to assist with countering the threat of pirates as she is embroiled in negotiations intended to gain access to oil fields off the coast of Socotra. Stark soon discovers a greater threat to the region and the country after uncovering ties with a prominent shipping company and Yemen’s ruling family which leads to a deeper chance discovery that carries the action even further.

From drug trafficking, to Somali pirates to high stakes politics, Berube has knocked this one out of the park. Steven Pressfield was spot on when he commented that the author “has given us the toughest, brainiest, and most interesting new hero since Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. The Aden Effect is the think man’s military thriller.”

Sales of The Aden Effect start today. I highly recommend you pick up a copy to give yourself an entertainment alternative from all of the electoral theater that’s forthcoming. Unlike this year’s politics, this story will not disappoint.

 



I had the great pleasure of attending the first day of the Navy Development Warfare Command’s Pacific Rim Innovation Symposium at SPAWAR in San Diego yesterday. It was an invigorating afternoon of debate, discussion and lectures. To set the tone, we heard from ADM Haney, PAC FLEET COMMANDER, who challenged us to think, question, debate, read, write and communicate. We also had the great pleasure of hearing from RADM Terry Kraft, the Commander of NWDC, Navrina Singh, who gave a fascinating talk on innovation at Qualcomm, and Dr. Larry Schuette, who offered some incredible insight to his work supporting innovation and science as the Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research.

During our breakout sessions I listened as SPAWAR scientists and the Commanding Officer of the Cape St. George discussed surface warfare innovations and white fleet concerns…needless to say I was very much out of my league, but happy to he apart of the debate even as an active listener.

Today I’ll give a talk on Innovation, as it relates to what I’m calling the small unit eco-system…I’ll post my remarks tonight.

If you have time, tune in for today’s session: https://www.nwdc.navy.mil/ncoi/pris

It’s events like this that give me great pride in our naval service and a hearty appreciation for the fact that they are leveraging their greatest strength – their people – to change the navy for the better!

On the day after the 237th birthday of the U.S. Navy, and two days after the 139th birthday of the U.S. Naval Institute, this is a wonderful thing indeed!



Walk the Prank: Secret Story of Mysterious Portrait at Pentagon

 

Navy Man, Lost at Sea in 1908, Surfaces at Parties; ‘The Project’

 

This story about ‘Ensign Chuck Hord, Lost at Sea’ should remind us all of the wonderful spirit and traditions (and sense of humor) carried by the brave men and women of our beloved Sea Service.

I would like to take this opportunity to start a campaign to have this portrait displayed proudly on the walls of the prestigious and hallowed halls of the U.S. Naval Institute…

If you agree, please share this story – pass it along, and do not let one of the greatest pranks in the history of our Navy (and an even better portrait of Ensign Hord and his blow-dried hair) go forgotten and uncelebrated.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304750404577319952818130854.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet



Today Captain Carroll “Lex” LeFon’s life was celebrated and honored on the sacred grounds of old Fort Rosecrans in Point Loma, California. The events transcended what is a typical mortal ceremony to honor our fallen; today’s ceremony was a deeply powerful afternoon reflective of such a deeply fine man. And Lex was cut from the sort of life-fabric most of us have only read about in our favorite works of adventure-fiction…he was a man full of passion, gusto, emotion, courage, intellect and love and he lived a life complete. He was a devout father, warrior, naval aviator, countryman, and writer. The tragedy of his passing is not made any easier by these truths. And yet there was, today, a certain majesty of the landscape, a certain power of the moment and crispness of the air and righteousness of ceremony that made that sadness not more powerful in despair but more more powerful in redemption: that this man lived as he did. I was in tears from the moment I had my place on the grass among the hundreds that came today to pay their respects. And so was everyone else there to honor this giant of a man.

As I drove away I thought this: how lucky we were to have had a man such as this in this world, brief though his time on station was. And I thought of a short poem often read to me when I was a child that I had thought was long forgotten but wasn’t and said to myself out-loud as I descended from Point Loma’s hills…

CHARTLESS.

I never saw a moor,

I never saw the sea;

Yet know I how the heather looks,

And what a wave must be.

 

I never spoke with God,

Nor visited in Heaven;

Yet certain am I of the spot

As if the chart were given.

-E.D.

 

Rest easy now Lex. We have the watch.



Posted by Alexander Martin in Navy | 3 Comments

Naval Academy graduate and Marine Officer Brian Stann is one hell of a fighter-leader. In a culture that worships professional athletes that excel at playing children’s games for millions of dollars, here’s a real life hero-professional sportsman we can all look up to…Semper fi Captain Stann. Keep attacking.



As a general rule, no matter how bad I, or others around me may feel, I find the use of overly sensitive, politically correct feel-good-isms to band-aid the moment a totally insufferable social exercise. This is an essay about my hatred for those language band-aids and those that use them…it is also an essay that presents a positive leadership solution that, like all leadership solutions I have used or continue to use, I have blatantly stolen from someone much smarter than myself.

A based on real-life example of someone I hate using false-language to assuage a real problem.

Situation: John loses his job. Meets his buddy, “Guy”, at the local Starbucks. “Guy” is a save-the-world from his air conditioned apartment on his MacBook Pro type. John is an urban laborer. Not a lemming. Just a normal guy. John tells Guy that he just lost his job. Guy provides his Oprah Winfrey-widsoms.

(John listens)

“Well, John, man, that’s tough, but, ya know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

(Silence)

They both take a pull from their $4 concoctions and stare at the hot barista, thoughtfully. John leaves with a shrug having gained nothing from Guy’s kind words. Guy feels better about himself, opens his MacBook and blogs about places he’s never seen.

The problem with Guy’s feel-goody response (there are many) is not only that it was a corruption of a very important aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy, but also that it was just plain stupid.

Nietzsche’s point was, ultimately, arguing that suffering is an imperative, not something that could or should be avoided, but rather that it is a natural life’s event that must be endured, embraced and overcome. To the point of being really stupid, Guy’s feel-goody adage-du-jour is so fantastically obtuse that he actually believes that John, who has a wife, two kids, a mortgage, and a mother with cancer that he is supporting, will actually find comfort being reminded that he is not, at this moment, actually dead. Thanks Guy, that helps me out a lot right now. You’re really stupid. I don’t need sympathy. I need a job. Also, your blog sucks.

I don’t say all of this because I’m cynical – I say all this because I’m a believer. I’m a believer in the good fight; I believe that humans can endure, and things can work out, if and only if we admit that it’s not going to be easy. And that’s why I hate Guy…

Such careful idioms and soft expressions are self-serving, indistinct and just plain boring. Feel-good words spoken to instantly connect with another in pain, sadness, or misery do much less to inspire confidence and much more, I think, to highlight a human being’s emotional ineptitude, in general, and our cowardice of character, specifically.

Better I think to shrug when we don’t have the answer and tell that person “I’ll be here for you” than to deliver a professorial speech on why “everything is going to be ok.” I say this because, well, everything is probably not going to be ok. Everything is probably going to be very, very bad. And no, it will not get better soon. Bad things usually get worse (much worse) before they get better. And isn’t it better to hear this from a friend? Or at least NOT hear that things are going to be just fine?

Such undemonstrative word fluff is predicated on the (incorrect) belief that everything in life (literally, every single minute) is supposed to be ‘great!’ (as if being ‘ok’ or, just plain ‘good’ means an unacceptable slip into some state of pre-depression) – this all firmly rooted in the (again, incorrect) belief that the state of nature is, in fact, one of disco, leisure suits, and Picardy breezers (or whatever your particular Utopia might be).

If I tell you that I’m having a bad day, your anemic moralizing does nothing to help me limp into the next minute of my life, collect myself, listen to my heart, gather my strength and continue the attack…that’s what dogs, stiff cocktails and old country music is for. I don’t expect you to have the answer, I just expect you to listen and pay for this round of drinks.

What’s even worse than the language fluff itself is when the person spewing the toxic blather actually believes that what they’re saying makes sense. I’d much rather be lied to for the sake of decorum than preached to for the sake of redemption – but I will listen to both forms of nonsense if you are buying the drinks.

All this leads me to the point of this article: if not PC-sensitivo, then what?

I found the answer to this question in the same place that I found the answer to most of life’s most important questions, in the Marine Corps.

In early 2006 a team of two traveling missionary-visionary-activist-adventurer-patriots came to our combat outpost along the Euphrates. We were all uniquely struck by these two men’s pluck and character. I attended their sermon, despite the fact that I hadn’t been to church since I was a child. They delivered a fantastic talk and what I took from that day I’ll never for the rest of my life forget…

Prior to their arrival that winter, I was a young lieutenant having trouble dealing with the grumblings of the junior Marines. I didn’t like to hear complaining, and it really angered me. Problem was, much of what the grumblings were about were legitimate complaints. I decided I didn’t want to hear it anymore, so I told my squad leaders to make sure no one complained around me. And the Marines, being the disciplined warriors they are stopped complaining within earshot of me. Ah. Much better. No more complaints from the men. (Personal leadership failure #254 that deployment = make decisions that make you “feel better” and leave your men feeling worse.) I’d walk around before a patrol, “hey there, Lance Corporal So-and-so, how are you today?” “Just fine, sir,” he’d reply. “Fantastic. Fantastic.” Then we’d push outside the wire into the strange world we were in, me feeling great about morale, country and Corps and that young Marine feeling terrible and sad because he’d just found out his fiancé was sleeping with the entire starting line up of the AA baseball team in his hometown.

And then I went to that talk by those two traveling missionaries. They told stories about their work in Africa and South America. They regaled us of adventures about some of the most poor and desperate people in the world and how, ultimately, it was a positive attitude and a certain honesty that led them to drive forward. Then they told us one of the most important leadership tools (and life lessons) I have ever heard: “and that’s just the way I like it!”

What does it mean?

Whenever a person has a complaint, they can tell you. Anything. Any complaint under the sun. The only catch is that they have to follow the complaint with the robust and positive affirmation: “and that’s just the way I like it!”

I loved this avowal! It was strong. It was exciting. It was revolutionary.

I rushed to my squad leaders and told them that anyone in the platoon could now say anything about anyone or anything, just so long as they finished it with, “and that’s just the way I like it!”

It changed our attitudes, lifted our spirits, and was, in my mind, a combat multiplier.

“Hey Lance Corporal So-and-So, how’s your day?” “Oh, sir, you know, I haven’t seen my friends or family in 200 days, my old man just lost his job, my boots melted to the asphalt yesterday and I’m about to go on a four hour patrol in 120 degree heat on the most heavily mined city in the world – and that’s just the way I like it!!”

“You don’t say! Well, have a good patrol.”

And then, not being able to do anything about the weather or his father’s job, my platoon sergeant and I could go and put in the paperwork for some new boots.

The Marines now had a vehicle that they could use to voice honest concerns, worries and complaints and get some of that darkness off of their chest, and I not only had the benefit of hearing those complaints as their platoon commander (and thus could be a better steward to them) but also had the advantage of not having to hear their complaints as complaints – they were now, somehow, an aggressively positive affirmation of what Marines believe anyway. That IS just they way we like it.

And so, in a world full of feel-goody false wisdoms and soft band-aid approaches to real problems, I recommend the actual “that’s just the way I like it”-wisdom of two pretty fascinating adventurers. It worked for us in combat. And it works for me today.

And in this way the philosophy of the Marine Corps, the traveling adventurers and Nietzsche are uniquely analogous…they did not promise us a rose a garden. We didn’t get one. And that’s just the way we like it.

 



As our ground wars in Asia come to an end (for now) we’ll need to come together as a nation and seriously address the long term needs of our warriors who have been to hell and back again.

 

Brave men and women, all.

 



Absolutely classic.

 

Your Tuesday moment of Zen…

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of Act of Valor at the beginning of the month. In all, I found it an exciting and entertaining piece of cinema.

If you’re looking for a good way to spend a couple of hours this winter weekend, go check out this action packed film.

My detailed review can be found at Proceedings Online:

http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-03/movie-review-act-valor-must-see

 

 

Also, you should read a better written and more relevant review by friend, teacher and SEAL Bob Schoultz:

http://bobscorner.wordpress.com/

 

For more detail on the film, check out the following reviews:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/act-of-valor-how-the-movie-was-made/

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/act-of-valor-why-the-movie-was-made/

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/act-of-valor-how-the-novelization-was-done/

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/act-of-valor-movie-american-sniper-book-spotlight-navy-seals-50th-anniversary/

 

Hooyah.



Posted by Alexander Martin in Navy | 13 Comments
17th

Servant Leader.

January 2012

By

How does a leader best organize people to achieve a common goal?

What is it he or she possesses – certain intelligence, behavior, vision, values, power, or charisma – that inspires progress in fellow men? What is it in a force of personality that creates a solution? We know we can’t go at it alone – how do we succeed, together?

Is leadership innate? Can it be taught? Better yet, can it be learned? What leadership style works best? In which profession? And in which situation?

Do those that follow you appreciate consistency or appreciate your ability to adapt your leadership style to the situation?

Does it all depend?

I’m confused.

No matter the type of leader you are now, or your answers to the above, a nod must be given to the immutable law of learning…that is to say, it never stops. A leader never stops learning. This much I know.

My first rule of leadership was simple: never say ‘never’, never say ‘always.’

Or, better put by Everett Dirksen: “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”

We had something we use to say in my last platoon that went beyond being flexible. We asked ourselves three questions from time to time and when we could and as often as we remembered – three simple questions meant to inspire us to live each day to our maximum potential and to remind ourselves we were leaders of men in austere conditions: Did I get stronger? Did I get smarter? Did I help someone?

Recently I realized I have not been asking myself those questions often enough and so I started on the second question – did I get smarter? – specifically as it relates to leadership.

I spent the weekend pouring over old notes from Annapolis, from lectures of the likes of Captain Bob Schoultz and others of his pedigree, and next thinking of scenarios from deployments or stories told by other mentors, teachers, fellow Marines and friends that I’ve known in my life. It was a brief exercise in an attempt to, well, get smarter.[1]

While rummaging through an old box of notes and papers and books I found a fascinating article from two professors at the University of Nebraska, John Barbuto and Daniel Wheeler. Their essay was entitled: “Becoming a Servant Leader: Do you Have What it Takes?”

The essay began with a series of questions that aimed to determine if you were a servant leader or not and went on to explain the composition of a such a leader…

-Calling. Do you believe that you are willing to sacrifice self-interest for the good of the group?

-Listening. Do you believe that you want to hear their ideas and will value them?

-Empathy. Do you believe that you will understand what is happening in their lives and how it affects them?

-Healing. Do people come to you when the chips are down or when something traumatic has happened in their lives?

-Awareness. Do others believe you have a strong awareness for what is going on?

-Persuasion. Do others follow your requests because they want to or because they believe they “have to?”

-Conceptualization. Do others communicate their ideas and vision for the organization when you are around?

-Foresight. Do others have confidence in your ability to anticipate the future and its consequences?

-Stewardship. Do others believe you are preparing the organization to make a positive difference in the world?

-Growth. Do people believe that you are committed to helping them develop and grow?

-Building community. Do people feel a strong sense of community in the organization you lead?

The ethics behind the ‘servant leader’ appeals to me. So much so that on the corner of the white board in my office I’ve written Dr. Albert Pierce’s points for “moral leadership” which are based on the leadership example of Admiral Stockdale. 1.) Set noble goals. 2.) Take active steps to pursue them. 3.) Pay a price yourself. 4.) Ask or order others to a pay a price as well.

I was taught that at Annapolis. They still teach that. It’s taught because it matters a great deal. More than anything else, I think.

Yes. This was the sort of leader I want to emulate. But can I? Am I capable of such a thing? I’m not sure. And I ended the weekend with the same two questions that I started with: Can I finish this move in two days? Perhaps. What is the best way to lead? I’m not sure. Not sure at all. But then again, as it goes with leadership, so it goes with life itself, if you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.

 

—————————


[1] To be fair, I actually spent most of the weekend moving apartments, but, whatever.



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