Of course I knew of GEN Cartwright before I heard his keynote yesterday. However, what I knew of him was news stories, blog posts, and a few videos of his previous speeches. However when the General spoke yesterday, I was surprised by the candor and subtle bluntness of his words.
In listening to the General speak, I was made to wonder why we cannot get such sentiments from active duty flags. Surely I appreciate the sensitive positions such men hold, and the fact that they occupy positions where their words reflect on those personnel and programs in their charge. But, there must be something we communication professionals are not doing for them that prevents remarks like this being often more regularly, or at all while in uniform.
It is not about ‘tough talk’ as much as it is the presence GEN Cartwright had on stage. It borders on being zen-like how he effortlessly moved from topic-to-topic with out the use of a prompter, notes or PowerPoint. Seeing such mastery of diverse and indepth is in every respect refreshing. It reassures me that those who make the decision to send me into harms way are that good.
GEN Cartwright’s full speech
Maybe it won’t be a great day for you–be careful what you wish for… In recognition of the success that Kony2012 had in rasing money for a niche geopolitical cause, students at MIT created a faux webpage “Kick Starter” pretending to raise money for things on the opposite side of use of force continuum – a mobile black site for intensive interrogations, among other things.
As the last blog I posted demonstrates, the ability for motivated individuals to become active in a conflict exists and is very real. What amounts to DIY intervention can have an impact upon the course of World events (similar to the warning given to us service members from the SECDEF). To me, what this says is that citizens no longer only vote for a foreign policy with their ballots, but they can also–directly–do so with their wallets, time and skill-sets.
The conditions are right, and the historical precedent is now set for the ‘memetic stew’ to bring forth a Non-Governmental Organization as a third option that takes elements from Kony2012, private security firms, and Kiva for those who wish to see some sort of change in the World.
What strikes me as ironic, is that the words typically espoused towards supporting World peace, are now the intellectual foundation under which we may see a new method for hard power applied in the World. This is not to say that the end goals of those who see the utility of hard power is all that different from those who see greater utility in soft power.
Rather, in the long term, I am interested to see if the potential I’ve outlined here coalesces to incorporate both hard and soft power elements. Such a coalescing would amount to a private sector analog to a nation’s foreign policy. Which would, arguably, be the tipping point for the replacement of the Westphalian era, where an organizational paradigm like a government is no longer required to bring together the ends, ways and means to execute foreign policy.
MIT has become my go-to publication for understanding how new models of conflicts are emerging. I highly recommend their latest article on events last year in Libya.
Motivated individuals were able to lend support and comfort to the rebels in Libya during the conflict. From giving instructions on first aid, to providing bandwidth and archiving services for the rebels messaging and other things, ‘civilians’ from Europe and elsewhere were able to support the rebels.
The phrase I find most interesting in the article is that the conflict was “fought with global brains, NATO brawn, and Libyan blood.” On this side of the pond, a lot of ink has been spilled for how the approach utilized by the Allies is a new model for conflict intervention. While I see that as certainly being a possibility, the conflict model for Libya writ large (encompassing much more than just NATO’s role in Libya) is much more likely to become the archetype for contemporary conflicts.
There are a lot of implications for civilians being able to personally intervene in conflicts:
- Are such motivated (could we term them super-empowered?) individuals still considered non-combatants in a conflict if they give support or aid to a side in a conflict?
- Does a civilian’s actions towards supporting a side in a conflict make them a legitimate military target by the opposing side?
- What is the threshold to where a nation is no longer neutral in a conflict because their citizens are directly supporting a side in a conflict?
Lastly, there is an increasing sense that the Westphalian notion of nation-states is being challenged by the ability for individuals to act globally. Generally, this has been characterized in economic terms. However, it now seems that nations are additionally losing their exclusivity on conflict intervention. New organizational paradigms seem to be emerging, where definition by citizenship is at best the penultimate criteria used by an individual for self identification.
Got my orders today, actually. I have a No Later Than date in June. Yeah, June. We’re in April.
It’s definitely a trend in my life for me to leave from places in unexpected ways. I left Afghanistan all of a sudden, and rather abruptly from my ship to go to Afghanistan–just crazy, crazy transitions. But, I’d be lying if I said I don’t find it all an adventure.
But, so yeah, Pensacola is next, and STA-21 probably isn’t going to happen for me this year. The due date for the package is July, and I’ll have been at A-school for only two months by then. So, meh, there will be other options out there. I figure most of the things I’m going to have to talk about in the near future will have to be [redacted] or maybe [redacted] cause you know CTRs do stuff like [redacted] for a living.
I’m a little bummed that the odds of putting a STA-21 package in are nil. Becoming a CTR was supposed to be [redacted]. But, has seemed to have become the primary plan. But, again, no biggie, I’m fine with that; it all happens for a reason. I only entertained this notion of becoming a CTR because it was something I was interested in becoming in the first place.
I just hope I find it fascinating.
One recurring thing I’ve been told over my last 15 or so months working at SHAPE is that I might be peaking in my career–very early in my career. And well, yeah, maybe I am. But, I don’t think so.
What now; what’s next?
VADM Richardson posted an interesting blog back on 17 January.
“This is pretty cool. I was recently briefed on the results of our first try at a new way for us to innovate. We held an “event” in San Diego that brought together 27 of our best and brightest Junior Officers, Sonarmen and Fire Control Technicians to participate in what will be the first of many workshops. Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE (DEVRON 12) allied with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory and the Submarine Advanced Development Team at NAVSEA, making this a “first of its kind” for the Submarine Force and maybe the Navy.”
After my last blog, this seems a pretty good story to follow up with. It’s all together far too easy to have the perspective that ‘everything’s wrong.’ What’s more is that it is way too easy to only point to things that seem wrong — Only pointing to ‘what’s wrong’ does not lead to innovation.
ADM Harvey’s strategic messaging has lately had a heavy dose of how our history demonstrates that we can meet the challenges of today. This example from VADM Richardson is emblematic of that fact. I’ll let Admiral Richardson’s post speak for itself. But, I think the names of those involved in the TANG Workshop deserve to be mentioned here.
FT1 Don Moreno – USS Bremerton
LTJG John Dubiel – USS Bremerton
FT1 Rich Gunter – USS Charlotte
STS2 Charles Augustine – USS City of Corpus Christi
LTJG Jason Frederick – USS City of Corpus Christi
FT3 Jordan Larry – USS City of Corpus Christi
LT Dan Kohnen – USS Columbus
LTJG Dan Justice – USS Florida
FT1 John Keagle – USS Florida
STS1 Randy Kelly – USS Florida
STS2 Don Grubbe – USS Houston
LTJG Stephen Emerson – USS Houston
FT2 Thaddeus Siongco – USS Houston
LT David Camp – USS Key West
FT3 Glen Elam – USS Key West
STS1 Robert Sarvis – USS Key West
LT Tim Manke – USS New Hampshire
STS1 J.P. Whitney – USS Norfolk
FT1 Brent Caraway – USS San Francisco
LT Eric Dridge – USS San Francisco
STS1 Rich Hering – USS San Francisco
STS2 Chris Remiesiewicz – USS Virginia
FT1 Brandolf Schlieper – USS Virginia
LT Arlo Swallow – USS West Virginia
FT1 Ben Lang – USS West Virginia
STS1 Gabe Brazell – USS West Virginia
STS2 Jake Malone – SLC Det. San Diego
The IDEO Coaching Team:
Maybe, I don’t want to be an officer. More so, maybe I shouldn’t be one. You guys seem to make it hard on yourselves to ask questions – to read, think and write. Enlisted types, when we do a version of ‘read, think and write’ we either are innocuous or irrelevant because of our rank, or are surprising (and thus welcomed) because of no one expecting us to think ‘big thoughts.’ But, whatever the case, us thinking aloud isn’t something that can cause officers to react. I’d dare say that it is almost safer for us enlisted types to think out loud because of our status in the military hierarchy.
In thinking back across the modicum of experience I have, I can only find one example of where someone (an officer) reacted negatively to me asking questions. It was a CAPT who was riding the SAN ANTONIO for one reason, or another. We were on the smoke deck, and I was attempting to talk to him about my Mobile Sea Base idea I had for the SAN (anyone read the news lately? I totally called this back in 2007). I don’t think the CAPT was as much bothered by my asking questions, as he just wanted from freakin’ peace and quiet while he smoked his cigar on the smoke deck. Whatever his motivations, it’s the only time I can recall ever being concerned about asking questions.
As many of you know, the Naval Institute invited me to the West ’12 Conference this year. One of the panels I attended was titled “Junior Warfighters: What Issues Keep Them Awake at Night?” the panel was comprised of O-3s and an O-4. I asked them questions, and the discussion turned to writing and publishing their thoughts. The answers I received were far outside of my perspective, and did not settle well with me. I couldn’t understand why they were telling me of their concerns for repercussions from their writing. They aren’t the first officers I’ve heard voice such a concern – quite the opposite actually. I have heard others say as such so often, that I’ve started to wonder if it was actually an excuse for not writing.
I watched the video made from the panel this morning, I asked if they had tried to get published, if they thought that publishing under a pen name would improve the discourse or be helpful in any way. But, again, the answers I was given were too far outside my perspective. I was told that it is important for a person to stand behind their words and thus not use a pen name. In addition to their concern for repercussions from publishing, the two perspectives caused a certain dissonance for me, I couldn’t get my mind around it. But, in talking about it on facebook, I think I’ve begun to understand.
No one reads, thinks and writes in a vacuum. I’ve often wondered (as have many others) why it is that the young seem to be the greatest source of innovation in the World. But, in coming to understand the answers I received at West I’ve also come to understand that a significant part of why the young innovate so much is that we do read, think and write in a vacuum in a greater sense than those older than us. We generally have fewer responsibilities – maybe a spouse, possibly no children, limited (if any) command authority. It seems to me to be one of the sublimely ironic absurdities of life that we give authority to those who have the experience to support keen discretion and wise decision making. But that to inherently have such qualities, one must have first lived a life, learned the resulting lessons and there-by limited their ability to fully engage in innovative discourse.
What this realization has lead me to is to wonder what this means for me. I’m a single guy, no kids, and no command authority; yet when I write these blogs, and talk publicly, I have a tacit sense of what I can and cannot say – I have tact. But, should I have less tact, in a sense? I don’t mean that I think that I should be bluntly provocative or that I should be writing the intellectual version of tabloids in my writing. But, that I should be even more bold to say some things, and even say things I know that others wish to say, but can’t due to other responsibilities their life choices have resulted in. Just as it tends to be the most junior personnel who have to scrub down a ship after a CBRN attack, shouldn’t it be the junior person who writes the words that cause senior personnel pause? After all, I am ultimately only responsible to myself. I do not have to worry about my words grossly affecting anyone else I could be responsible for. If the guy with kids to take care of can’t do it; the officer who would be judged more critically than I would can’t do it, or anyone with significant responsibilities can’t do it. But, somebody HAS to do it. Who better than someone like me?
I didn’t invoke John Boyd during the panel, though his ghost was probably cursing up a storm if it were present. But, Boyd’s example is replete with what it takes to fully engage in the discourse. Robert Croam’s biography doesn’t ignore the type of father or husband Boyd was – Boyd sacrificed a lot to be who he was. I cannot expect anyone (not even myself) to make the hard decisions he made.
Which only leaves me with the thought that we need a new dichotomy across the age axis in our Navy. We have the enlisted-officer dichotomy in the Navy that serves us extremely well. We should also formalize the age dichotomy so that our junior personnel can take advantage of their lack of responsibilities and station, so that they can think, read and write the things we need to stay innovative and ahead of any competitor.
Well, I am now of the demographic that must submit their PTS package prior to reenlisting. As I am sure is the case with most Sailors, I don’t truly know if I can stay in or not. One can guess and wonder. But, until you know for a fact that you’re good to go, you might be going home and finding a new line of work.
But, we in the United States Navy are not the only Sailors who are facing such an uncertain future. Sailors of the Royal Navy–some 5,000 of them–will be sent home as well in the next four years. Sailors who have been trained, honed their skills and are willing to defend their Nations.
But, of the English speaking peoples of the World, one group is looking for able bodies – Australia.
[T]o find enough trained personnel to crew its submarines and the fleet of new warships now being built, the [Australian] navy is also recruiting from the US, Canada and New Zealand.
Unreal, but rather brilliant.
Sometimes, I think the only secrets left in this World are in the minds of men…
Open source and commercially available intel via things like Google Earth seems to be quickly making ‘military watching’ the new pro-am hobby (the thin line between entertainment and war). Between the ‘work’ that been done in regards to those strange lines running across the Chinese desert, to the work at Georgetown on the bunkers of the Second Artillery Corps, it seems that anyone so inclined can do decent if not serious analytical work.
As well as this,
DigitalGlobe Inc. said Wednesday one of its satellites photographed the carrier Dec. 8. A DigitalGlobe analyst found the image Tuesday while searching through photos.
From the Associated Press.
From gCaptain (one of the best Maritime blogs and Facebook feeds out there).
Captain Seog Hae-gyun was confronted not by the elements that nature can throw at men and ships, but an even more insidious danger: that of pirates threatening him, his crew and his ship. In response, he acted with quick thinking, courageously, decisively and with extreme bravery to protect all those whose lives depended on him and his decisions. His selfless reaction left him with severe injuries and nearly cost him his life,
This is one of the more amazing stories I’ve heard coming out of the international campaign against piracy in the Western Indian Ocean, and This happened nearly a year ago, and this is the first I’ve heard about it (but it is very comfortable, living under this rock).
Bravo Zulu to Captain Seog Hae-gyun. From the IMO Website
When the Samho Jewelry was boarded by pirates, in January 2011, the crew took cover in the designated citadel but the pirates broke in, detaining them on the bridge. Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship’s speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog’s actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders.
In keeping with the finest traditions of any Maritime Service…
Look closely, you might find a grain or two of salt. More so, you’ll find a bunch of sea water. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying I’m experienced. But, I’ve seen the block, at least. I know what comes with a deployment, and I relish the idea of many more to come. Just the same, though; I want to go back and whisper into that kid’s ear. That kid who looks just like me, yet has “NON-PO” on his CAC card.
Want to know what I would whisper into his ear? For me to tell you that I need to tell you this, first:
“Flight of the Intruder” by Stephen Coonts.
Besides flying, he also acted as the squadron’s personnel officer, supervising a chief and [five Yeoman and Personnelmen]. The only portion of his administrative duties that he did not visibly detsest was his work as awards officer. He drafted the citations and recommendations for medals and gave them to the X.O. Harvey Wilson, to approve and forward up the chain of command. Lundeen kept a thesaurus on his desk that he referred to constantly as he drafted the award citations. He would gleefully read his better efforts to Jake as proof positive that the military in general and the navy in particular were “all [‘Effed] up.”
A long quote–I know. But, it is for good reason. I came right out of Boot/A-School to SAN ANTONIO. I knew nothing, I had no idea what it was to be aboard ship. I only knew I was going to do what Sailors are to do. I looked forward to it with relish. But, halfway through the tour, I began to wonder–I began to ask: What the hell was I or anyone aboard thinking. I would look around, and only be able to think that all any of us were able to accomplish was far, so very far, short of the standards held by those who came before us.
But, no. I was wrong. Part of my problem was the fact that I was privy to the writing of others, who would question what we as a Navy we doing. With all the challenges we face, all the ‘supposed’ shortcomings we have as a Fleet, I was reading ALL OF IT! God, what a mess my Ontology was–it was so hard. Imagine yourself, standing there at your DC locker, attempting to fit that experience into reading the writings of those 5-6-7 pay grades above you, let alone the amount of years they served. It was not an easy fit; truth be told, it didn’t fit. Ontology formed by experience does not juxtapose well with reading words. Especially when not much of it is favorable. Why? Here’s why…
I had a massive lack of context to place into anything I would read in regards to the challenges faced by the Navy in relation to acquiring new hulls, weapon systems, or anti-access strategies. To use a Thanksgiving analogy, I was child sitting at the adult’s table. The line between what was being discussed at the various blogs and what I was living on the deckplates is not a linear one–it’s non-linear, and filling in the aspects of a non-linear relationship is a painful one to live.
This is not to say that those writing such words as my mentors (CDR Salamander, Ray Pritchett, Steeljaw Scribe, CDR McGrath, as well as Byron, and any number of commentors on blogs) were misplaced, or wrong for finding such virgin ears such as my own. Rather, that such words do not give context anywhere near as well as experience does.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a difficult tour aboard the USS SAN ANTONIO. Everyday was a new experience, as I am sure, that the cliche of any day deployed is ‘groundhog day’ falls flat aboard any Grey-hull. Christ, it was my first tour, after-all. But, those experiences have taken sometime to settle-in, as have the words of wisdom from the blogs I read since day-one of Sea Duty.
So, then, what have I come to? Heh, yeah, it’s in lines of what I read in the quote above.
The military is chaos. War, and it’s analogs (any deployment), is chaos. It’s going to be a mess, it’s going to be no where near the order and rote-reactions that we portray to the public at large, and this isn’t a bad thing, either. In a manor of speaking, what separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of those who serve is who can deal, or who wants to deal, with such circumstances. Such a notion isn’t that far removed from ‘civilian’ life either.
Why do we train and drill constantly? Because we need to deal with the known before we can sufficiently deal with the unknown. On deployment–doing what we’re paid to do–the unknown is concentrated even during the best and most irrelevant (read: administrative) of circumstances. So, when faced with such a reality, it doesn’t jive with any expectations one may have preconceived regarding the military.
I’ve never had a Chief who didn’t try to articulate this fact to me. It’s not that every Chief failed at explaining this to me. It was that I had ‘read ahead’ in a sense. So, their explanations to me had much more to contend with in terms of my ontology before it could become an accepted fact… Man, it wasn’t easy. But, after Afghanistan; after a FIFTH Fleet deployment, and nearly a year of duty with NATO; after something like 20 books and hundreds of blog posts–Chief’s words are starting to sink in, I’m starting to understand.
The chaos will never end. The situations you find yourself in are going to always be new, and it is your duty to find the way forward–to recommend to your superiors what you think is the best course of action. More so than anything else, the devil is in the details. When you’re sitting there, and are attempting to articulate the challenge you face–as well the way forward–it’s almost inherent, that you will leave out some detail that really matters, but seems ill-fit to mention during the brief discussion you have. What results is an impression during the first moments of taking action, that the whole of the Navy is ‘effed up.’ As that YNSN, just starting out, your only default position is that the whole enterprise of the Navy is ‘effed up from the foundation up. That EVERYTHING is wrong, that you alone know how to fix the foundation, and will be able to improve everything by fixing this foundation. Some people call this idealism, and stop there. They think that when they reach these first challenges that cannot really be fixed, that any further movement beyond them–without really fixing them–is selling out, and accepting less than should be.
Maybe they are right; I’m not going to tell them they are wrong, at least. But, just the same, when you move beyond and start to see the other aspects of reality in an organization that exists primarily in the unknown, you start to see reasons that might not jive with the more foundational aspects (E-4 and junior) of being apart of the organization. It is at this point that you start to understand the nature of a non-linear relationship.
What I am left at to this point, is that I know nothing. just as when Socrates (I think I am right, when I attribute this to Socrates) went to Delphi and was told by the Oracle that he was the wisest of all the Greeks, because he knew that he knew nothing; I feel that because of continuing to read of my profession and those who have gone before me that I have THAT much more to learn. For a Sailor junior to me–even for those newly minted ensigns–I feel it is my duty, to now help them become accustomed to the random, the unexpected and even the unacceptable.
…If I could only go back, and tell that YNSN that it’s ok, you’re dealing with the unknown just as everyone else has. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have seemed that impossible and difficult to him…
- On Midrats 26 April 15 – Episode 277: Manpower, Modernization, and Motivation – an Hour with VADM Moran
- A Call to Write
- On Midrats 19 April 2015 – Episode 276: “21st Century Ellis”
- John Quincy Adams — The Grand Strategist: An Interview With Historian Charles N. Edel
- 4 Reasons Not to Resign Your Commission as a Naval Officer