Lethal Minds Volume 9
Volume 9, Edition 1 01MARCH2023
LETHAL MINDS JOURNAL
Lethal Minds Volume 9
Volume 9, Edition 1 01MARCH023
Letter from the Editor
As in all complex things, humans seek reductive stereotypes to explain things they have not experienced and do not understand. The military is hardly exempt. Hollywood gives us Gunnery Sergeants Highway or Hartman as model Marines, alternately growling or screaming, but always demeaning. George C. Scott’s Patton was the icon of a general officer for a recent president, vocally disappointed when he discovered the measure of a General is more than barking and pointing. With the current popular imagery, civilians may perhaps be forgiven for thinking all service members are bearded, baseball-capped behemoths who lift weights and glisten until it’s time to swathe themselves in nylon and NODs.
I won’t shy from acknowledging we are likely complicit in our own shallow portrayals. I joined the Marine Corps not least because I wanted the kids in my high school class to marvel at how the short, skinny Boy Scout on a skateboard, the one who avoided certain hallways that held bullies, became a “minister of death praying for war”. Those things I sought proved to be artifice; another recruiting poster image of sprayed on sweat over artfully smudged dirt.
Still, I found sublimity within military life. Those evanescent moments laden with deep meaning, often wholly personal to me, are perhaps ironic in an organization built on shared realities. I remember the first taste, almost thirty years ago, fast roping from a helicopter into the frigid claws of a February night in Quantico, Virginia. Like a drug, those moments became the rush I chased thereafter. I flash forward ten years, to a young Marine with his eyes closed in prayer crossing himself then opening them to look into my own, nodding that he was ready to meet our hard duty. I remember stepping around a corner on a cold night in a bad place, a sergeant roughly grabbing me by the collar and pulling me back, saying, “Sir, that’s my job. You get behind me, we don’t feel like training another officer.” I think of the back ramp of an aircraft yawning open, my consumption of the oxygen in my bottles increasing with the expanding view of the desert from 10,000 feet. I was there because I was more afraid to acknowledge I didn’t want to jump than I was to jump.
I’ve kicked that habit. But like a twelve-stepper rubbing a thumb across a two-year coin, I look at the boat paddles hanging on my wall and reflect. They are gifts given me by treasured comrades and represent moments of euphoria and tragedy alike. They are martial expressions of brotherhood from rough men; reminders of the beauty present in a business founded on ugliness. They are flowers plucked from a crack in a busy city sidewalk, now pressed and dried between the pages of the book that is my mind.
This month’s Lethal Minds Journal features fresh flowers from active and former service members. They offer us moments of beauty amongst the sameness, the boredom, and the grinding nature of duty as a way of life. Cora Reichert returns with poetry I genuinely believe will someday be nationally recognized. Miles Lourenco offers fiction, a gift carved from the writer’s mind. Take it. This month, multiple writers offer their thoughts on military transition. It’s a reflection of our culture, one that fundamentally demands we take care of one another.
All it takes is all you got. Submissions are open at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire for Effect.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor in Chief – Lethal Minds Journal
Dedicated to those who serve, those who have served, and those who paid the final price for their country.
Lethal Minds is a military veteran and servicemember magazine, dedicated to publishing work from the military and veteran communities.
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The Scuttlebutt Podcast is a free podcast and newsletter cover how to help you succeed outside of military service.
Recent episodes include:
23. Rich Jordan on Empowering A Team
41. How to use Chapter 31 Veterans Readiness and Employment benefits with Max
51. What If My Passion Has Nothing To Do With What I'm Doing Now with Bill Kieffer
In This Issue
The World Today
Dispatch From Verdun
Across The Force
Prayers From The Foxhole
The Price We Pay
Book Review - Last Stand Of Fox Company
Book Review - Seven Seconds To Die
The Written Word
Poetry and Art
Health and Fitness
Treating Shin Splints
Transition and Veterans Resources
Hunts For The Brave
Dartmouth College - The Next Step Program
The World Today
In depth analysis and journalism to educate the warfighter on the most important issues around the world today.
Dispatch From Verdun - Michael Jerome Plunkett
Sometimes you need to be willing to go off the beaten path in order to find what you are seeking in life. On the battlefields of Verdun, France that is only about four or five feet. It was my first day on the battlefield and I was exploring the wooded area behind the Douaumont Ossuary where the remains of some 130,000 soldiers (both French and German) rest in the catacombs. During the battle, this area quickly became a wasteland from all the intense artillery shelling. Today it is dense with conifer trees, underbrush, and walking trails. The German government donated some of these trees after the war reparations for the destruction of the French countryside during the war. I paused beside a small creek to watch the water run down the side of the slope, as I did, something caught my eye.
When you are completely surrounded by the natural world, anything artificial jumps out at you.
My first thought was maybe the object I saw jutting out of the mud was some kind of snail shell. It had a similar ribbed exterior that spiraled upward. I had seen snail shells everywhere on the ground in the hour or so since I had begun exploring. But it was too elongated to be a snail shell, almost like the bottom of a lightbulb. I stepped off the path and straddled the creek, bending over for a closer look. Whatever I was looking at embedded in the mud had not come from the natural world and I had an idea of what it might be.
I wish I could say I did the safe thing and called the proper officials and kept my distance but curiosity got the best of me. I reached down and poked it. First, gently and then with more force. It budged and the mud began to give. I pushed harder. The mud cracked all around the object and I jumped as the mysterious nub broke loose and revealed itself to be much larger than what had been protruding from the bank of the creek. It landed in the water with a splash.
My hunch was correct. Laying in the running water beneath my feet was the fuse and cone of a 75mm French artillery shell that had been fired during the Battle of Verdun. I hesitated for a moment but I could not just leave it there. I delicately picked it up and allowed the water to wash most of the mud and vegetation off it. I almost could not believe it. But of course, this was exactly what I should have expected.
I had come to this city after working on a novel about this exact phenomenon for two years: artillery shells and other munitions are still turning up all over this landscape a century after the end of the battle. The French government actually has an entire department dedicated to the ongoing munitions clean-up of battlefields from the world wars. Their sole job is to safely dispose of these munitions which are often dead but are sometimes alive and dangerous.
The Battle of Verdun holds a special place in the minds of the French. While French cities all along their north-eastern border fell to the invading German forces at the start of the First World War, the city of Verdun held out against insurmountable odds. In 1916, the Germans launched a massive offensive that lasted almost a year against Verdun but they never took the city. The French emerged victorious but at a dire cost. There were over 700,000 combined casualties, over 160,000 of which were French dead. Approximately 80% of the casualties were due to artillery fire. The battle itself can be thought of more as an artillery duel than a conventional infantry battle. Often, infantry forces would have to use the massive shell holes as their defensive positions because their trench systems were being destroyed faster than they could repair them.
Estimates are that one-third of artillery shells fired during the battle were defective and did not detonate upon impact. You would not know it from the landscape. Even today, evidence of the colossal artillery bombardments is hard to miss. Nine French villages were annihilated over the course of the fighting. Their destruction was so severe that after the war, the government declared all nine areas as well as other large sections of the surrounding lands unsalvageable and prohibited the families from returning. Some defied the proclamation and returned to risk rebuilding their lives on the lands of their former homes, but most did not.
It’s difficult to put into words the sheer magnitude of this battle and the ways it has affected Verdun since its end. Unfortunately, my editor has informed me that putting it into words is exactly my job with this article, so I can’t just leave it at that. Trying to describe the colossal size of the battle and the subsequent recovery of the landscape since the end of the war presents the same types of challenges astronomers face when they try to describe the size of the universe or the distance from one start to another. The numbers are just difficult to hold in your mind. Over 300,000 dead between both parties, that’s not including the wounded. Somewhere between 40 to 60 million artillery shells fired by both sides in ten months.
The most effective way to do it comes through comparisons. Break it down into something smaller and familiar. For instance, if you were to take the number of dead soldiers and lay them “cheek to jowl” they would stretch the distance from Verdun to Paris, over 215 kilometers. Or how early in the battle, during the initial bombardments from the German artillery, shells fell every three seconds. Even with these comparisons, it feels like I’m only getting at parts of a much larger and sadder truth.
The way the French have chosen to memorialize this battlefield is truly unique. At the Douaumont Ossuary you can view the remains of the soldiers stored in the vaults through a series of low windows on the back of the building. The bones of these soldiers are just piled there for anyone to see. Some vaults bear a semblance of organization: femur bones are stacked like firewood and skulls are grouped together. Other vaults are a massive collage of human anatomy gone wild. They look like they were just tossed in there. It’s a symbolic gesture that is both blunt and poignant. Here is the cost of war. Unfortunately, the people paying the closest attention aren’t the ones who need to learn the lesson.
Seven of the villages that were destroyed are still in ruin, left as monuments to the sacrifice that the French made to stop the German invasion. These towns are listed on government census documents with official populations of zero and they still appoint mayors as symbolic representatives of the towns that died for France. Once a year descendants meet and have a ceremony for the village on the same grounds where the debris of the buildings their ancestors once made their homes in lie all around their feet. It’s not uncommon to find pottery and even the odd household item while taking a walk over these grounds. I left my 75mm fuse behind but it was far from the only thing I found. Roof tiles, molding, clay pottery, ball shrapnel, jagged shrapnel from a large caliber shell that looked like the bark of some prehistoric tree, wire from defensive positions, a handheld brush (possibly from a shaving kit), and more. And I wasn’t even really “looking”. I had no equipment, no specific site. I wasn’t on my hands and knees. This stuff is everywhere.
American Battlefields such as Gettysburg feel more like Disney World with its battle-themed restaurants, souvenir shops, and wax museums when compared to a place like Verdun. Which is not to say that Gettysburg does not respect its hallowed ground or that Verdun does not have its fair share of monuments or souvenir shops. But still – something about Verdun feels different. Try to imagine visiting an American pilgrimage site like Gettysburg or Ground Zero and finding a vault with the actual remains of the fallen open for viewing. I can’t.
Is there any other way to see the battlefields of Verdun than in the rain? For me, there isn’t. For most of my time on the battlefield a low fog hung over the landscape and obscured the tops of trees. I could only see about twenty feet in each direction. It was like being transported to another time. Every tree around me seemed somehow a witness to the horror. Something about their bare forms against the matte, flinty sky said “You don’t know what I’ve seen”. But of course, that would be impossible. Any trees present at the beginning of the battle were blown to splinters within only a few weeks of the fighting. In fact, aerial photography for decades after the war reveal the whole region to be nothing more than a pockmarked moonscape while natural vegetation slowly tried to take root in the poisoned soil. Despite the tree donations from the German government, large sections of battlefield were either deemed too dangerous to operate on or were allowed to recover naturally, however long the time period may be. So in a way, these trees are witnesses of a much different breed. They grew up through the war-ravaged soil. They took root in a landscape saturated with the remains of some 80,000 bodies that were never recovered. They reclaimed what had once been theirs from Hell itself. In doing so, they have demonstrated that rebirth is possible.
Life can move on. We can heal.
Michael Jerome Plunkett is a writer from Long Island. He served in the United States Marine Corps. He hosts the Patrol Base Abbate Book Club and runs the LitOfWar Foundation. He is writing a novel about the ongoing ordnance cleanup in Verdun, France. He currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina where he makes a living as an EMT.
Across the Force
Written work on the profession of arms. Lessons learned, conversations on doctrine, and mission analysis from all ranks.
Being Heard – The Obligation of a Leader
-Chris M. Davis USMC
General Douglas MacArthur wore the stars of a General Officer in the U.S. Army for an astonishing three decades. Initially promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1918, prior to hostilities in World War I concluding, he would remain the highest ranking General in the services when World War II ended. No one in U.S. military history has stood at the peak of military leadership longer than General MacArthur. When asked, later in life, how he might sum up all failures he had experienced in war and life, he replied with two words: “Too late.” (1)
Ancient scholars remind us that the opposite of andreia – the Greek word for "courage" – is not cowardice. It's melancholia. Courage, as the ancients believed, is that honest commitment to noble ideals and one’s duty. Therefore, the opposite of courage is not, as some might argue, being afraid. Rather, it's apathy (2). It is a failure to act. It is doing nothing, when there is something that is expected or necessary of you. It is having no agency (buy-in) in the outcome of one’s task.
In the military, even carrying out the right action too late has negative consequences. That is why many of us are bred by the maxim often attributed to General George Patton: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” Likely that is what MacArthur was suggesting. Bad outcomes are the result of preparing too late for a combat patrol or failing to promptly recognize those triggers that an enemy’s location is nearby. Or, maybe, failing to pass along the detailed observations (intelligence) gathered on a recent mission, so it can be processed before the next patrol departs friendly lines. Never be the one sitting on those most important pieces of information.
If you’re a leader, it is expected of you to act boldly and to be heard.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a cohort of highly-accomplished military leaders (#DARE2023) within the Department of the Navy to answer two specific questions posed by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) – Admiral Michael Gilday – on Force Design and Talent Management. By law, the CNO bears the ultimate responsibility for “the command, utilization of resources, and operating efficiency” of the U.S. Navy, and therefore remains deeply invested in its personnel make-up and overall design (3).
This was an opportunity of a lifetime and, by opportunity, to be heard. It is one for which I have dutifully prepared, throughout my career. Along with my fellow selected briefers, we presented to the CNO many proposed initiatives – three of which are worth highlighting here, given the encouraging way they were received by the highest-ranking officer in the Navy:
First, we proposed an Office of Force Design that would report directly to the CNO (or Chairmen, Joint Chiefs of Staff). The reason for this is pretty straight-forward. The internal feedback loop which drives innovation and raises the military, especially the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps-team, to be prepared for future military contingencies around the globe must come from within the ranks, rather than top-down. There, where small-unit leaders all over the world are presently testing our capabilities, is where insights and feedback are best positioned to drive further innovation and increase lethality. This office, in our estimation, tightens the “Kill Chain” (4) and moves innovation closer to the speed of relevancy.
Next, we proposed ending re-enlistments. Period. One of the most common recurring concerns for service-members is the lack of control one feels while they are serving (real or perceived). Therefore, for enlisted service-members, we proposed that after one’s initial contract, all subsequent service should be based upon the individual accepting orders (for a specified duration) for a certain position or location. For those assignments which are more difficult to fill vacancies or for where the mission otherwise demands, the Department of Defense should offer incentive pay. However, unlike traditional allowances or cost of living expenses, this monetary amount we proposed should be paid in full upon initial check-in to one’s gaining command. That way, a servicemember has the ability to put that money towards something productive, such as purchasing a house.
Finally, for Officers, we proposed an “Opt In” promotion system. Recently, each of the services proposed and successfully granted the ability for officers to “Opt Out” of a promotion that they did not – for whatever reason – desire. Under the proposed system, so long as an officer has satisfied those statutory requirements for promotions (e.g., ‘key billet assignment’ in-grade and required professional military education) along with recommendations from the chain of command, officers should retain enough control over their careers to place themselves on a Promotion Board for consideration – regardless of time in grade requirements. Ultimately, we saw this as a way to incentivize the behavior(s) we are seeking to cultivate in our officer corps.
However, the most enlightening moment occurred near the middle of my brief when the Admiral stopped me:
"You know Chris, it's fascinating to me that none of these good ideas you mentioned make it to my desk... All I seem to get is the same recycled, bureaucratic proposals from the Beltway."
This comment struck me. If one has an idea for how to improve the Service (read: make us more lethal), it’s important that we share that information. Further, it was reassuring to know, as Admiral Gilday pointed out, that our Leaders want to hear these ideas. For some of us, it’s not always obvious that leaders actually care? So where does this leave us?
An organization, like the U.S. military, is perpetually in transit between a past that forms its memory and our vision for the future that inspires its evolution. Along this route, leadership remains indispensable. Leadership is needed to help the organization reach from where they are to where they have never been and, sometimes, can scarcely imagine going. Between these two axes, a leader balances what they know which is necessarily drawn from the past, with what they intuit about the future which is inherently conjectural and uncertain. Without leaders who act, institutions fall into perpetual staleness – a dangerous place for the military.
None of this excuses our obligations, as leaders, to conduct ourselves with diligence. If one wants to share their ideas with leaders at the highest level it should not be raw or unfiltered. There are mechanisms in place for one to refine and improve or add, if necessary, context to the problems we are trying to solve. One individual’s observation/incident is not necessarily indicative of a Service-wide problem. However, if (or when) one has an idea worth an audience with senior Flag Officers, we should recognize that our voice matters.
It goes beyond just our own voice. The combat historian and U.S. Army Officer S. L. A. Marshall said, "The courage of any one man reflects to some degree the courage of all of those who are within his vision." (5) You make a difference when you step up to be heard. Because you make others brave enough to be heard in the process.
There are problems everywhere and in every organization. The military is no different. What separates the military is that we have leaders that permeate our ranks – top to bottom. Being a part of the solution is one of those aspects that distinguishes you as a leader, from being a follower, in our organization. Therefore, if you have a meaningful solution, it is your obligation to be heard. You never know who will be listening.
Chris is presently a Fellow at Georgetown Law, where he is earning his Masters of Law (LL.M.) in National Security Law. Upon Graduation in May, he will return to the operating forces with orders to Camp Lejeune.
Op Eds and general thought pieces meant to spark conversation and introspection.
Prayers From the Foxhole: Square One - Katherine Dexter “Dex”
My introduction to Buddhism, at least where the seed was planted, was in my Russian professor’s office as we discussed my failure of the class. I was dissolving. My marriage was ending, and the resulting arguments were keeping me up well past midnight almost nightly. I was barely speaking English, Russian was out of the question.
My professor is one of few women I have ever met who truly intimidated me. She was a native Russian herself, and on the first day of class she dutifully informed us there is no concept of “good enough” for students, we would always be striving to improve. She was slender, colorful, expressive, and blunt. While not personable, she was dedicated, and as is the hallmark of every good teacher, she kept the gates to the knowledge of the Russian language perpetually open. She quite literally wrote our textbook. After my embarrassing midterm, where I tripped over vocabulary I barely understood, she pulled me into her office to tell me I would not be passing the class. She knew I was a mother too, and pressed me for more information, sympathizing with the intense demands of very young children. It came pouring out of my trembling mouth. I was sleeping in the basement, we were getting divorced, I was finally leaving a life-long religion, and my parents had picked a side. It wasn’t mine.
I was stumbling off a cliff with no safety net and no bottom in sight. She sighed in some degree of understanding and encouraged me to drop the class. Then she told me how she’d discovered Buddhism, nearly a generation ago while living in Moldova. Her marriage and family are her own stories to tell, but I will say that she found peace in the turmoil of similar circumstances. It was a rare moment of connection at a time when nothing made sense, but I wasn’t ready.
I had grown up in the high-demand, high-control shadow of Mormonism. The church would prefer to be referenced as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I would prefer to be referenced as no longer a member. Other sects of Christianity sometimes do not accept Mormons as Christians, but ultimately the church does center on Christ, even if there is a heavy layer of other distractions. In leaving Mormonism, most ex-Mormons use the term “shelf-breaking” to reference the moment all their suspended questions collapsed, effectively destroying their last shreds of faith. I can attest that my own shelf was irreparable, and under such an overwhelming amount of religious rubble, the idea of clearing it away to make room for something new was, at that moment in my professor’s office, impossible. Peace was attractive though, even if it seemed like a pipe dream.
A year and some months later, the ruins left by the widespread destruction of my previous life don’t feel quite so overwhelming. The questions I have for God, or whatever is out there, are quietly demanding answers, and I’ve found the time to wonder if Buddhism might have some. But that’s the thing about Buddhism. It’s not so much about the answer, at least in secular Buddhism. There’s a focus on your need to have certain questions answered. To be clear, I’m not sold on any particular religion or school of beliefs. I am at square one, and I am pulling questions out of a hat, deciding if they are worth the time it took to come up with them in the first place. This concept of assessing the need for certain knowledge, especially where it concerns abstract ideas, like beliefs in things hoped for yet not seen, is a sweet balm on the wounds religion gave me: the bruises left after I was passed from ordinance to ordinance, covenant to covenant, gripped by the heavy hands of eternal consequence, my present misery ignored.
In stumbling off a cliff I have found a measure of freedom, the way your lungs still find the ability to make you gasp in an ice bath. I had been told all my life to believe or else, and I have picked “or else”. Through an enlistment, a marriage, two births, a divorce, and the regular, thorough beatings most lives hold, I had been wandering through a fog, desperate to find my way to the God I had been promised. In many ways I am still wandering, even as I release myself from the need for a path. Buddhist ideas are clearing some of the fog away in that respect. Where one question used to gnaw at me, others are taking its place.
Is God real?
Why do I need to know?
The Price We Pay: An Analysis of Marine Corps Doctrinal Buy In - Chase McGrorty Hunter
“I expect all Marines – enlisted and commissioned – to read this book, understand it, and act upon it.” Those were some of the closing remarks from General Krulak in his 1997 forward to MCDP-1 Warfighting. Nearly three decades after the republishing of MCDP-1 from its original name FMFM-1, the expectations set by General Krulak that every Marine would read and understand our philosophy of warfighting is not even remotely close to being realized.
Standing in front of a class of nearly one hundred sergeants during their first week of Sergeants School, I ask, “who has read MCDP-1?” maybe a dozen hands make their way into the air; half of which do so hesitantly. This result is not an anomaly. It is the norm I have come to expect after teaching a year’s worth of Sergeants School as an instructor at the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer’s Academy. The fact of the matter is, as an organization, we operate under the guise that we all ascribe to the Marine Corps philosophy on warfighting while many within the ranks hardly know of its existence.
I do not think less of these Marines for not reading MCDP-1 because I was under the same blanket of ignorance for much of my career. I read the document briefly as a Sergeant but needed to make more effort to understand it. Quickly discarding the reading from my mind, I did not think about or even hear about MCDP-1 again until I was a Staff Sergeant arriving at the SNCOA and assigned my first class, Intro to Warfighting Philosophy: MCDP-1. Fast forward one year into teaching this subject, and besides the professional embarrassment I admittedly have for having not educated myself on our philosophy prior, the question strikes me as to how I, a career Marine, and presumably many other career Marines can operate in an organization daily with no fundamental understanding of the underpinnings of its philosophy?
Examining this question, I now had further; I immediately came to the conclusion that it is not critical or required to understand our doctrinal publications to be successful within the organizations, as I can at least look at my anecdotal success while operating under blissful ignorance. Not only did that resulting answer not satisfy me ,but it was a drastic simplification of the real issue. I acknowledge that knowledge of Marine Corps doctrine is not a prerequisite to success in this organization. However, I am now left to ponder how much more effective I or any other leaders could be in our endeavors if armed with this understanding. How much better could we act in line with our organization’s objectives? Most importantly, how much are we losing as an organization for allowing this lack of understanding to go unchallenged within our Corps?
To make sense of this organizational misstep, I likened it to something I was already familiar with, finance. In finance, there is a widely used term called opportunity cost. It refers to the danger associated with not doing something. For example, many people are afraid to invest in the stock market because they fear losing money in a future economic crash. This fear causes people to keep money out of investments and instead put it in a “safe” holding such as a savings account. Although they are correct that the chance of losing money that is kept in a savings account vice stocks brings the risk to virtually zero, they often do not consider the opportunity cost missed by not investing. A sound investment strategy, although taking on an inherent risk, has the potential to offer dramatic returns to the individual investing money which will never be realized should the chance to invest be forgone.
This returns us to the issue we are facing in our organization: the opportunity cost associated with not pushing a sufficient understanding of our warfighting philosophy down to the troops at the tactical level carrying out the mission day-in and day-out. Knowing this shortfall intimately through my experience on the enlisted side, I quickly reached out to members of the officer corps to gauge whether this is organizationally an issue or something that resides on the enlisted side only. After talking with nearly 50 officers, many of whom were at TBS or recently graduated, I quickly realized a drastic disparity between our different communities within the same organization. The consensus I received from many officers is that at TBS, you live and die by the little white book we know as MCDP-1. At every given opportunity, particularly during field exercises (FEX), officers are forced to draw on the principles in MCDP-1 that are occurring in the decisions they make. Careful analysis after FEXs are led by officer instructors to make mental links between our organization’s philosophy and the practical application of the young officers enacted leadership.
Learning this, I was led to my next question: why does the Marine Corps place such a significant emphasis on our young officers being thoroughly indoctrinated in warfighting philosophy concepts but leaves the enlisted with virtually no introduction until they reach the rank of Sergeant? I discussed this question with a friend who was previously a Staff Sergeant in the infantry before he went on to commission and was a lieutenant finishing his training at TBS. Having combat deployments as an enlisted Marine and now having been through the officer training pipeline, we dissected this paradigm together. One of the assumptions we drew was that the Marine Corps relies mainly on the art of war to be carried out by its officers and the science of war to fall into the purview of its enlisted. We supported this notion by looking at that relationship within our own MOSs. As a chief within a communications platoon, I have never expected my communications platoon commanders to know the inner workings of data network systems. On the other hand, I have looked to those officers to provide me with the plan we will take into the battlespace based on their larger purview of the units’ operational obligations and their closer tie to the battalion commander’s intent. With guidance that I would liken to the art of war, my Marines and I, the specialists of the MOS, apply the science of war needed to bring that intent into a reality by exercising our intrinsic knowledge of the systems at our disposal.
I am not dogmatic in my belief that officers and enlisted are wholly separated in the practical application of the art and science of war. However, I have come to ponder whether this has some truth. With this rudimentary explanation in mind, I come back to the question of opportunity cost for our organization but look at it through the lens of where we are heading as a Marine Corps. Through the implementation of Force Design 2030, we are looking at a future that involves Marines operating in smaller forces that are more widely distributed than we may have ever seen before. With this understanding that we will expect our Marines to operate autonomously in line with our organization’s objectives in small groups, the need for enlisted Marines at the lowest levels to understand documents like MCDP-1 becomes increasingly vital to future success.
Operating in a C2-depleted environment offers the realistic expectation that the senior most Marine, in many cases, could be fireteam and squad leaders, left with decisions aligned with strategic and operational objectives. The argument can be made that Marines will make those correct decisions in line with higher intent as they have throughout our history; but how much more lethal do we become as an organization if that Marine at the lowest level understands the theory of war and how their tactical level decisions impact the operational and strategic levels? How much more effective does that squad leader get at giving orders to their troops when having a more intentional understanding of the tenants of the nature of war that General Carl Von Clausewitz is revered for expanding upon, such as human nature, friction, and complexity?
Arguably the most prominent divide between Marines and their understanding of our doctrinal base is the understanding of maneuver warfare, the hallmark concept of what came out of the Marine Corps intellectual renaissance of the late 1980s. The Marines of that period looked introspectively and intently within our organization to examine the shortcomings that defined the Vietnam War. This understanding of a need to change how we fight fueled the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Gray, to adopt maneuver warfare as the way forward for the force, a way of training and fighting that we would still ascribe to over 30 years later.
Over the last two decades of war, our historical reliance on the ability to reach back through traditional means of communication to a command structure for guidance has found its graveyard as we prepare for the future of warfare. Marines responsible for operating in the current and future highly contested environments will not have the luxury of picking up a radio and simply keying out back to the command. It is that small unit leader on the ground within the weapons engagement zone that will have nothing to fall back on except their understanding of warfighting to lead those in their charge. If a commissioned officer is the only Marine in that situation with a thorough understanding of the intrinsically essential elements laid out in MCDP-1, then we have yet to set our Marines up for the rigors that will be demanded of them. The price of this organizational misstep could be those same Marines’ lives.
Book Review: The Last Stand of Fox Company - Matthew A. Wedin
The Last Stand of Fox Company centers around United States Marines in 1950 as they are surrounded by two Chinese divisions in the bitter cold of Chosin Reservoir. The story follows the Marines of Fox Company as they fight their way south against Chinese human wave attacks. This story displays the relentless fighting spirit of Marines in the trying times of the frigid first winter of the Korean War.
Once the First Provisional Marine Brigade landed at Inchon in September of 1950, they, along with other US and UN forces rapidly advanced and retook South Korea, pushing past the 38th parallel, ignoring Chinese warnings that Chinese forces would attack if that line was crossed. These 10,000 Marines quickly found themselves surrounded by 100,00 Chinese soldiers. The only chance of survival they found was brutal fighting through the Toktong Pass deep in the mountains of the Korean Peninsula. The mission of holding this pass was given to Captain William Barber and the Marines of Fox Company. The Marines of Fox Company were tasked with securing the deep ridges of the pass to allow for safe passage of the other Marines of the Provisional Brigade. This undermanned company was soon surrounded by 10,000 Chinese soldiers.
After a sleepless night of movement and defensive preparations, the Marines awoke to bugle calls signaling the first of many attacks by the Chinese over the course of four days and five nights. The unrelenting devotion to duty by the Fox Company Marines was demonstrated by their ability to hold their positions while being staggeringly outnumbered. Marines fought for one another through the daunting weather conditions even as their weapons continually jammed from the extreme cold. This often led to hand-to-hand fighting against the Chinese. Three quarters of the Fox Company Marines were killed while holding their positions against the enemy. As Marines fought, they were forced to cross the ridges under fire in order to properly resupply multiple positions. Many Marines lost their lives in these actions as they were met with multiple bugle-signaled charges by the Chinese. Chinese forces often attacked at night and Marine positions were constantly overrun, requiring the Marines to direct their fire in multiple directions through their designated sectors of fire. After multiple days of relentless fighting, the Marines of Fox Company were finally relieved by a force of 500 Marines traveling south from Chosin. This action cut a hole in the Chinese lines and allowed the dilapidated remnants of Fox Company to slip through to safety.
This book provides many first-hand accounts of the courage and determination of United States Marines as they fought for each other in the frigid conditions of the Chosin Reservoir, and I highly recommend it. The unrelenting fighting portrayed in this book was mostly done by the junior ranks within Fox Company, and was not primarily for Corps or country, but for their brothers to the left and right. Multiple Medals of Honor and Navy Crosses were awarded following this daunting battle, forever etched into Marine Corps history.
The portion of the book that stood out most for me was the courage of the junior ranks as they battled the Chinese as well as the horrendous weather conditions. They had never seen cold to that degree as their weapons malfunctioned due to the cold and their clothing did little to protect against the bitter cold. Many Marines were suffering from frostbite throughout this battle. The only positive aspect of the weather came in the form of cauterization of wounds due to freezing blood. Many wounded began to bleed out as they arrived at the aid stations as the blood thawed and revealed multiple wounds that had yet to be discovered because they were too cold to bleed.
The Marines of Fox Company exemplified the highest standards of combat valor seen throughout Marine Corps history. The valor displayed in the junior ranks shows the true fighting spirit that is possible when push comes to shove. The Korean conflict has taken a back burner in terms of recognition since it ended by armistice in 1953. The Marines of Korea are often referred to as “forgotten warriors” as time ticks away. Leaders must communicate the dauntless courage displayed by these Marines to ensure their sacrifice is not forgotten. This information can also serve to instill pride and confidence in subordinates. The courage portrayed by Marines that came before must be communicated by leaders at all levels as we serve as the keepers of tradition for our subordinates. Pride in our organization will allow us to maintain the standards of excellence that have long been established by the courage and valor of Marines that fought and died for each other, our country, and the Corps. The Marines of Fox Company are a prime example of what Marines can truly do when faced with daunting odds in a seemingly winless situation.
Book Review: Seven Seconds to Die - CPT. Jonathan M. Warren
Col. (Ret.) John F. Antal’s work focuses on an underreported and under-appreciated area of modern warfare: the proliferation of drone usage. Col. (Ret.) John Antal spent thirty years in the U.S. Army and served in postings from the platoon to corps level; vital experience which helps frame his analysis of the use of drones by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. His central thesis is that the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which occurred from September 27 to November 10, 2020, provided a glimpse into modern warfare that all military and national security professionals must study. His thesis is primarily supported by his contention that it is the first war in history “that was shaped and primarily won by robotic systems.” While this contention may be debated by historians and military professionals, Col. Antal undoubtedly raises key questions on the current and future implications of unmanned systems on warfare while calling on those with the capability to do so, to learn from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War and implement its lessons to avoid unnecessary bloodshed in the future.
Col. (Ret.) Antal begins the book by introducing the reader to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that lead to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous and land-locked region, lies between the two countries and has been the center of strife between the two since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This strife escalated into full-scale war between 1988 – 1994 when the two countries fought the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. Col. (Ret.) Antal details how this war was one which espoused the Soviet military tradition of warfare and devolved into a prolonged conflict fought between hastily and poorly trained militaries resulting in numerous military and civilian casualties. This war ended in an Armenian victory and the creation of the Republic of Artsakh – a notionally independent republic encompassing the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh which was largely dependent on Armenia for economic, military, and political support. More importantly, this war set the stage for the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
The lessons of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War were not lost on the Azerbaijanis. From 2010-2020, Azerbaijan spent approximately 24-42 billion USD revitalizing its armed forces. Included in this revitalization campaign were major investments into unmanned precision strike systems, primarily from Turkish and Israeli suppliers. Rather than relying solely on improving traditional Soviet and Russian systems such as long-range artillery and tanks, the Azerbaijanis focused on adopting and integrating the Israeli Harop loitering munition and the Turkish TB2 unmanned aerial system into their offensive operations plan. This investment would prove decisive over the forty-four-day war in 2021.
While the Azerbaijanis embarked on their modernization campaign in preparation for retaking the lost Republic of Artsakh, the Armenians doubled down on the methods that led to their initial victories and on traditional methods of combat. They focused primarily on improving their defensive positions on high ground in the belief that these would hold out long enough in a future conflict to allow mass mobilization of Armenian reserves. Rather than preparing for the future of warfare as their counterparts were, the Armenians remained rooted in the past. Their failure to adapt should have become apparent during five days of combat which broke out in July 2020 when the Azerbaijanis used unmanned systems to great effect to repeal Armenian violations of a line of control established following the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. Sadly, for the Armenians, these failures to adapt and learn vital lessons from July 2020 would prove decisive during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Following this short, but effective introduction to the conflict which led to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, Col. (Ret.) Antal details this conflict and the effective use of unmanned systems which led to a decisive and complete Azerbaijani victory. Here is where the author and book truly shine. Col. (Ret.) Antal argues the Azerbaijani victory occurred in three separate phases: (1) blinding, destroying, and disrupting key warfighting networks; (2) fixing combat power inside of strike zones to shape the battlespace; and (3) maneuvering to capture the center of gravity by seizing the decisive terrain. Through the thorough detailing by the author of how the Azerbaijanis executed these three phases, the reader comes away with an unnerving picture of modern warfare and unmanned systems’ influence on it.
By blinding key air defense (ADA) networks, electronic warfare (EW) nodes, command and control centers and logistical points with a layered offense of unmanned systems, the Azerbaijanis were able to effectively erode the Armenian defense while limiting their own casualties. Ingenuity, through the repurposing of old An-2 aircraft into unmanned drones used to lure Armenian ADA systems into action, contributed greatly to the Azerbaijani efforts. Within a week, the Azerbaijanis were able to reduce the Armenia ADA network to primarily old shoulder-fire man portable systems. From there, the Azerbaijani unmanned systems network was able to operate with near impunity over Armenian lines. In stark contrast, manned Azerbaijani aircraft flew only about 600 sorties and did so over friendly lines while using stand-off weapons.
With the Armenians effectively blinded, the Azerbaijanis were able to fix their combat power in their defensive positions. This allowed them to both attrit the defenders with loitering munitions and outmaneuver them under the cover of their unmanned aerial systems. It was during this phase that an anonymous Armenian soldier said that upon hearing an Israeli Harop loitering munition they had seven seconds to run or die. With the Armenian forces devastated and confined in their ability to move, the Azerbaijanis were able to capture decisive terrain like the town of Shusha. These seizures effectively signaled the end for the Armenians.
Following these incredibly detailed and compelling two chapters, the author dedicates the next seven chapters to a variety of topics associated with unmanned systems. These chapters range in subject matter and while all are interesting to the reader, some are not associated with the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War at all. Stepping away from the compelling story-telling that permeated the first two chapters, the author relies on a tone that more closely resembles a military field manual. Putting the pacing and tone of these chapters aside, the level of detail and material covered will still appeal to many readers, while others will wish the author had put more of an effort in applying the material to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. For example, Chapter 8 asks if the tank is dead (it’s not) while spending no time detailing the effect of loitering munitions and other unmanned systems on tank combat operations during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. It feels the author unnecessarily deviated from his successful methods which made the book so enjoyable to read initially.
Luckily, the author closes the book on a strong note by outlining fourteen lessons from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. These are lessons that leaders down to the squad level can, and should, learn and implement into their training. Of note are the impacts of masking and executing and training mission command in a degraded or denied environment. For years, the U.S. Armed Forces have trained and fought in an environment where they had near total control over the airspace. Recent advancements in drone technology and the proliferation of commercial off the shelf systems have dramatically changed this analysis. Now, some of the greatest threats and most effective means of striking at U.S. assets are directly tied to an unmanned aerial system. This situation plays out in the CENTCOM area of operations on a near weekly basis. Col. (Ret.) Antal’s book serves as a stark warning to those who refuse to learn the lessons behind this proliferation of unmanned systems and those who refuse to properly train for them.
7 Seconds to Die: A Military Analysis of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War and the Future of Warfighting is a flawed but vital entry into the reading list of military leaders. Col. (Ret.) Antal has done an outstanding job of detailing the build-up and conduct of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War and more importantly the key role unmanned systems played in the Azerbaijani victory. While the book suffers from some simple editing errors, primarily in the details surrounding Maps # 3 & 5 and small grammatical issues, it is largely fast-paced and engaging. Even those disinterested in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War will find something in this book which causes them to immediately begin looking up further information on. Luckily, the author provides ample resources supporting his work so further research is not difficult for the reader. This reviewer was particularly disturbed by the relatively advanced nature of our adversaries’ ability to conduct offensive drone warfare versus American defensive capabilities and for this reason alone highly recommends this book to those seeking to train for the next war.
The Written Word
Fiction and Nonfiction written by servicemen and veterans.
Fall Gelb - Miles Lourenco
10 May 1940
Ypenburg Air Base near The Hague, Netherlands
First Lieutenant Albert de Witt looked at himself groggily in his small bathroom mirror. Putting down his razor, he wiped his face off with a wet wash cloth. He paused for a moment, listening. He again heard the unmistakable thrum of engines, though they sounded distant. Albert went to the window of his officer’s billet and opened it, looking outside towards the sky. The sun had just peeked above the horizon.
As he looked out of the window, he saw someone run from the building housing the radio room. The man ran to a large hand crank air raid siren surrounded by sandbags and began frantically turning the handle.
The loud wail of the siren shattered the morning stillness. Albert felt a chill run down his spine. He was spurred into action by a loud rapping on his door. Whoever had knocked was clearly running down the hallway knocking at every room, and Albert could only make out part of what he said.
“…. Squadron scramble! Squadron scramble! Everyone up and out!”
Albert jumped for his closet and grabbed his flight jacket, throwing the thick leather coat on and putting the inflatable life vest over it. He dashed out of his door and headed for the stairs. The other pilots, in varying states of disarray, were streaming from their own rooms. The pilots sprinted out of the doors at the bottom of the stairs and began running for the field where their planes, Fokker D. XXI’s, were lined up and already swarming with ground crews preparing them for takeoff. All the time, the air raid siren continued to whine, joined now by sirens from various points around the air base and the nearby town.
Standing a few feet away from the line of fighters was the distinctive figure of the squadron commander, Captain Wilhelmus van Lynden. The pilots slowed to a trot and gathered around him. In contrast to everyone on the airfield he looked unbothered, his uniform was immaculate, and he gazed around at the chaos with raised eyebrows.
“Are you school children or officers in the Royal Army Air Brigade?” van Lynden had to shout to be heard over the sirens. “Pull yourselves together! The Germans are here, and everyone is going up. There is no more time to waste; they are bombing everything. We are to intercept bombers in the area of the Hague. I have no more information. Get to your aircraft.”
“Yes, sir!” The pilots chorused back after a moment of silence.
Albert sprinted to his aircraft, his ground crew had already prepared the Fokker, and the canopy was open. Sergeant Weld flashed him a salute which he hastily returned.
“Good luck, sir.
“Thank you, Weld. Look after the boys while I’m gone.” Albert gave his best effort at a reassuring smile as he climbed into the cockpit. He hoped he looked confident despite the looming sense of dread in the pit of his stomach.
Captain van Lynden led the way, taxiing his plane around to the takeoff field and gunning the throttle. The squadron followed frantically, and Albert was shocked there were no collisions. As he began his takeoff run he could see the aircraft ahead of him trying to follow van Lynden as best they could.
“They’re on us! 3 o’clock high!” Someone yelled over the radio.
Albert had just barely gotten his plane up when he saw a German twin engine fighter, a Messerschmidt 110, dart downwards out of the sky. A devastating burst from its guns immolated one of the Fokkers ahead of Albert, and he pushed his joystick forward to avoid the rest of the enemy planes diving on the squadron struggling to take off. He had barely gained any altitude, and his evasive movement almost sent him nose first back into the ground. He yanked the stick back desperately; the Fokker’s fixed landing gear almost skimmed the grass as the plane righted itself and an ME 110 shooting by him barely avoided flying into some nearby telephone poles before climbing.
Albert knew he was in trouble. The German attackers had both the speed and altitude advantage. He pushed his throttle as far forward as he could, trying to get some speed of his own with which to make something out of his temporary safety. The radio was awash with shouting, and looking around he saw a hectic dogfight had begun. The Germans likely could have used their opening advantages to win the fight outright, but it seemed they had become so excited at the initial success of their attack that the ME 110 pilots began to inadvertently give up their speed advantage. They had caught the Dutch squadron low and extraordinarily slow. The sight of such easy targets made the German pilots worry less about retaining their initial speed than getting kills, and they began to turn tighter amongst those of Albert’s squadron mates who remained.
The ME 110’s were bulky aircraft, and the Fokker’s could both out turn them and retain their speed more effectively in those turns. Albert saw one of the enemy aircraft turning in front and slightly above him. He pulled up, lining the plane up in his sights. It continued its turn and Albert suspected the pilot did not see him; the combination of the low morning light and his plane’s green and brown camouflage pattern made it hard to make it out so low to the ground.
Once the ME 110 was lined up neatly Albert pulled the trigger. The Fokker shuddered as its four 7.7-millimeter machine guns fired. Rounds impacted all over the German aircraft, and a nasty plume of black smoke began to pour from its left engine. Albert let out another burst of fire and the fuselage caught alight. The 110 continued in its turn but suddenly angled downward, plunging into a grassy embankment below where the flaming wreck caromed off the slope and slid to a halt.
There was no time to celebrate, a Fokker missing most of its left wing fell past Albert’s aircraft in a spin. He looked around to see another ME 110 coming at him almost level. He threw himself into a tight turn, barely avoiding a burst of cannon fire from the enemy fighter and tried to come around behind it. The German pilot was smart and kept his plane flight straight and level past Albert’s turning Fokker. This gave the ME 110’s rear gunner a clear shot, and he let out a wild burst of fire from his MG 34. Some of the rounds found their mark and Albert felt his aircraft quake violently as they impacted. He pulled off of the German plane’s tail and again tried to gain some speed.
More gunfire than before filled the sky as Ypenburg’s anti-aircraft emplacements opened fire. Albert looked around, straining his neck, and saw the Germans appeared to be pulling away.
“Shut the hell up, all of you!” Captain van Lynden finally made himself heard on the radio. “Form up over the airfield. They kept us low long enough for the bombers to reach their targets.”
The bombers were clearly visible up above, swarms of them for what seemed like as far as the eye could see. Looking around, Albert counted only nine of the original fourteen Fokker’s in the squadron formed up. Captain van Lynden began gaining altitude.
“Follow me and for God’s sake conserve your ammo.”
Claustrophobia - Jake Howell
“It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
“Take a deep breath.” We have all heard it. When we are overwhelmed with nerves or anxiety, confused, afraid, or when things are just happening too fast, “Take a deep breath.” It is a cure-all. A simple, universal way to calm down and take control in the midst of stress.
I do not consider myself a fearful person. However, in spite of some concerted effort to face a few of my more tangible fears, one or two resilient phobias remain. One of those is the feeling of restricted or absent air. It is not necessarily claustrophobia per se, but it is closely related. It is not being stuffed into the bottom of a tied-off sleeping bag by my siblings, it is when they would sit on my chest, reducing my lung capacity, while I was stuffed inside the sleeping bag.
Taking a deep breath has always been my coping mechanism. It was my coping mechanism through Parris Island, through the School of Infantry, and a deployment to the Al Anbar Province. If I can control my breathing then I can control my heart rate. If I can control my heart rate then I can control my fear or stress level. For years that method had worked for me. It was universal and reliable . . . So I thought.
In the summer of 2010, some of my friends and I decided to tour Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. To date, explorers have mapped over 400 miles of passages. This makes Mammoth Cave by far, the longest cave in the world. Mammoth Cave is absolutely beautiful. There are enormous cathedral rooms, winding subterranean rivers and even towering waterfalls, all 150 feet or more underground.
My brother Matthew, also a Marine, was the organizer of the group. He had gotten our group of four together and picked out the specific tour we would do. Matthew signed us up for the “Wild Cave Tour.” He said it was the “most aggressive” tour the park offered. Had I checked the website for a description of the Wild Cave Tour, I would have found this:
Face the darkness – and the challenge. Journey with experienced guides and a small adult group through some of the starkly beautiful yet physically demanding ‘wild’ areas of the cave. Climb, crawl, squeeze, hike and canyon walk in the realms of Mammoth Cave. See places no other tour encounters and feel the thrill of exploration!
Time: 6 hours
Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: Extremely strenuous
While I do not recall Matthew saying the phrase “extremely strenuous,” he did pass along a word of warning that he had read on the website when booking our tour: “Chest or hip measurement must not exceed 42 inches; if you are larger you may not physically pass through the crawlspaces.” I do not think any of us actually measured our chests. Being in our early 20s and brimming with confidence we thought: “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
As we descended into the yawning blackness that was the mouth of the cave, I thought about Odysseus venturing into the Underworld looking for the prophet Tiresias to ask him about the dangers that lay ahead. As it happened, that association was not far off. There was even an underground river in Mammoth Cave called “Styx.” I did not know it then but in the cave, we would all face our own fears, our own Chthonic monsters that would test us in ways that combat had not.
In total, we had a ten-person group. Our group of four consisted of two friends, James and Joe, my older brother Matthew, and me. Five other people that we did not know also signed up and our guide made ten. By three hours in, there were only seven of us left. The claustrophobia had been too much for some and the dank, stagnant air and absence of natural light was too much for others.
We were three miles in, which also meant that we were at least a few miles of arduous crawling from an escape. We were 120 feet underground, almost 40 meters beneath the surface. There was no electricity. The only light we had was provided by our dimming, yellow-tinted, halogen-bulb headlamps. It is difficult to explain just how black it was in the cave. This was not the same as a night with no moon or a matter of giving your eyes time to adjust. I did not realize until I was down in the cave that I had never experienced real darkness before. When we turned off our headlamps there was simply nothing. What had, only a moment before, been a large, stone and mud corridor lit up by our darting headlamps was now, utterly and completely, a cavernous and empty blackness. It was a penetrating and all-consuming dark. The kind of dark that makes you wish you had triple checked your batteries before you enter.
Eventually, we crawled up to a thin horizontal slit in the limestone. It was roughly 30 feet wide but, vertically, it was incredibly short. This was when I remembered the 42-inch chest circumference restriction for which I had not measured. The crack in the rock we were expected to force ourselves into was so thin I thought there was no way any grown adult could make it through. Nevertheless, our guide went in first. She disappeared through the crease in the rock and one of the other people in our group followed behind her. To my surprise, people were somehow finding a way to squeeze themselves into that tiny crack. Joe went third and I was next. I got down on all fours and began to force my body into the opening in the limestone. Matthew followed behind me.
The crack was so thin that, to this day, I am not sure how I fit my body in it. Every movement required an incredible effort of grinding, scraping, and dragging. Just to advance an inch meant shifting, squirming, twisting, and squeezing every appendage just to eke out a minuscule fraction of progress forward. I had to turn my head sideways so that my chin was above my left shoulder because my helmet was too tall to fit through.
There I was, at the moment, surprisingly quite content at 120 feet underground for the last three hours. I was dragging my body through what felt like the eye of a needle. My cheek was scraping on the stone as I inched my way forward until the top of my head hit something solid in front of me. As best as I could, I lifted my head and tried to see what it was. My head had hit the bottom of Joe's boots . . . He wasn't moving. Trying to remain calm, I quietly said: "Joe, what's up? You okay?" He responded: "Yeah, I'm fine. The guy in front of me is stuck and he's panicking. Can you back up?"
That is when I realized that forward progress, no matter how slow or difficult, was helping me stay calm. But now, for the moment at least, I was halted. I shifted my body and ground my face against stone in an effort to look behind me. Right then, Matthew's helmet hit the bottom of my boots . . . That thud was like the sound of my coffin being shut, the final hammer stroke that sealed my fate and my airway. I was trapped. There was no way we could go backwards or try to turn around, there was just not enough room. Once this thought started to sink in, I felt my heart rate increase. I felt fear growing in the shadowy corners of my mind demanding to be acknowledged. My eyes dilated and my body made the choice without my permission to go into panic mode. In an instant, I overrode that decision, took back control and forced myself to take a deep breath. I thought: "Just stay calm . . . you're fine" . . . that is when it happened.
Already fragile and teetering on the edge of terror, I attempted to take that precious deep breath . . . the only thing that would help me keep my composure. I began to inhale and was abruptly halted almost instantly. The slit in the rock was so tight that my lungs could not expand beyond a shallow breath. I was only able to fill about a quarter of my lung capacity. There was absolutely zero give in the rocks. This was not mud or dirt, it was not soft and mushy, it was not a matter of trying harder. I was 120 feet underground in the dark between two massive flat stones and these stones were not moving . . . I could not breathe. My one reliable method of controlling my heart rate and my fear had been taken from me and I was stuck.
My time in the Corps had taught me that panicking was the absolute worst thing I could do. Hanging onto my sanity by a thread, I searched through my mind for a solution, for an idea, for a way to escape. While my body was trapped there, almost motionless, my mind was a flurry of explosive movement fighting to tame my fear like it was a wild stallion. I was desperately trying to maintain control. My body was still. My mind was racing. I was suffering in silence.
Finally, in the back of my mind I could hear one of my Sergeants from the Marine Corps. I had heard it at least 100 times: "mind over matter, if you don't mind, it don't matter.” It was as if I had just been set free. I realized that I was not actually in any physical danger. The problem was not that I was unable to breathe, the problem was that I was afraid of not being able to breathe. The problem was in my head. The problem was that I was afraid. My heart rate slowed and I was at peace. The stallion had been tamed. I waited, calmly taking in my halted shallow breaths with contentment, patience, and in silence.
Eventually, we made it out of the crack. We had been trapped there for a total of about four minutes. It was stressful and terrifying, but only for as long as I allowed it to be. Inside that crevice, 120 feet underground, I had fought with my own Chthonic monster and came out the other side a victor.
Poetry and Art
Poetry and art from the warfighting community.
Chow - Joseph S. Pete
In every war movie there’s a scene where someone
gets killed out of nowhere.
In The Kill Squad, the sergeant lectures on,
smiling and waving, all diplomatic and shit, about hearts and minds,
and the importance of public relations during an indefinite occupation,
before stepping on a hidden landmine
and getting blown to fine powder and pink mist.
In real war,
you’re bored as hell
for an indeterminate duration,
lulled into complacency,
then have to cope when a suicide bomber
rips your chow hall tent asunder,
when all the faux, simulated comfort of back home under the canvas
transforms in an instant
into an open-air mortuary of dark blood and brain splatter,
when you're staggering around in the ringing and confusion,
when you’re choking convulsively on all the smoke and soot,
when you’re retching too violently
to just die in peace.
Treasured - Cora Reichert
The flowers I pick
for the divorced Army vet
in room 253,
well, those flowers are
dead in the water,
their vase as much formaldehyde
as the lab smell of a funeral
parlor after a drowning.
I gave dead things
to a drowning man,
clinging to a Browns game
by the rails of his plastic bed.
The last ten evenings
of life are the longest.
The first to bloom
becomes the harvest rose.
Cut flowers to keep him company
if he goes tonight-
"It's not difficult, we've all done it.
Just a snip of a stem
and we flatlined, gently. You too
will be treasured now.
After all, books are also dead.
The banana on the table
Monsters - Tyler Anderson
Health and Fitness
Fitness and PT Guidance for improving diet, physical performance, health, and leading troops in physical training.
Treating Shin Splits - Michael T. Fanning DC, DACBSP®, CSCS®
It is not uncommon to hear athletes complain about "shin splints". "Shin splints" are endemic in both endurance athletes, and tactical athletes (2). But what are shin splints? Can they be avoided? How can they be treated?
When I hear an athlete tell me they were told by a healthcare provider that they have "shin splints", it typically results in an eye roll. I have no use for that diagnosis. It tells me nothing, and it often causes patient confusion. Generally, when athletes think of "shin splints", they blame them on "tight muscles" (tibialis posterior) and try to remedy the pain with a few stretches, taking ibuprofen before a run (this is a terrible idea as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications hinder musculoskeletal healing) (4), or "icing" after their run or ruck march.
Unfortunately, the culprit for "shin splints" is often a bone injury of the tibia (aka 'shin bone'). "Shin splints" can best be defined as a spectrum of bone injury. This typically begins with a mild stress response which can worsen until a stress fracture occurs (2).
When do we see these type of injuries? Usually, “shin splints” are seen a few weeks into a new running program, basic training, specialty schools, etc., where mileage and intensity increase suddenly. It is also seen in chronic overtraining, caloric restricting diets, or low bone mineral density. The common theme is lack of recovery, or lack of nutrients available for full recovery,
Now, for a moment, consider the physiological process that occurs in healthy bone: osteoblastic (building of new bone) and osteoclastic (breaking down of bone). In a healthy subject, these physiological processes are occurring simultaneously, and are held in balance with good diet and rest. In long bones, like the tibia, there are two different types of bone: the outer cortex and inner trabecular bone. Think of the cortex as the outer concrete of a skyscraper, while trabecular bone is the scaffolding that gives structural integrity to the outer concrete. When osteoclastic occurs at a greater rate than osteoblastic activity (due to insufficient rest, caloric intake etc.), breakdown of the trabecular bone results. The outer cortex remains intact. This can be uncomfortable and painful: this is a bone stress response. As physical activity remains or increases, and enough trabecular bone breaks down, the outer cortex may break. This is a stress fracture.
Bone stress response injuries are often missed until a fracture occurs, as they are not visualized on standard x-rays. An MRI of the shin is needed to see the breakdown of the inner part of the bone. Often, bone stress injuries persist for months if not managed appropriately.
The best way to avoid these types of injuries is to follow a running/rucking program that progressively exposes you to demands. One rule of thumb is to avoid increasing your running volume more than 10% per week (there are some exceptions here, but it's outside the scope of this introductory essay). A well-balanced diet, with adequate protein intake is important too. Supplementing calcium, vitamin D and magnesium can also be used to mitigate these injuries. The cheapest and most effective tool is a good night's sleep, which is good for recovery and regulating hormones (3).
If you suspect that you may be dealing with a bone stress injury, you should be evaluated by an astute clinician. You can suspect this injury type with reproduction of pain with direct palpation to the shin bone, pain that worsens the more you walk, run, or jump. The 128kHz tuning forks is a poor diagnostic tool for this but can be utilized. Just don’t ‘hang your hat’ on that test.
Bone stress injuries can easily be managed. The quickest and most effective treatment is to go non-weight bearing for at least 2-3 weeks, via bilateral axillary crutches. Some athletes don't have that option, but the causative activity must cease: stop running. During the healing process, you must maintain a positive nitrogen balance. This is easily accomplished by consuming a small protein snack between meals and one just before bed, while having a sizeable protein portion at every meal. This simple regimen keeps protein, the building block for all the body’s tissue, in the blood at all times.
The trick here is that you will typically feel better before the bone is healed. This is why it is important to have this injury overseen by a healthcare provider.
Athletes with recurring bone stress injuries may have low bone mineral density which can be genetic or developmental (long time swimmer with minimal land based training?). This can be rectified with strength training (1). Another consideration for males is low testosterone, which is often seen in athletes who chronically overtrain. Females need to be aware of any menstrual cycle abnormalities. Either way, an extensive clinical work-up is needed.
Remember, "shin splints" is a non-specific term that typically means a bone stress injury. And in the worst case, a stress fracture. Avoid running too much, too soon without a diet rich in protein. Ensure you are sleeping to recover and strength train. If you are not sure, seek assistance from a healthcare provider. Any questions can be directed to email@example.com
Transition and Veteran Resources
Career and civilian transition guidance, geared towards helping servicemembers plan their careers and help transitioning servicemembers succeed in civilian life.
Reflecting Forward - MSgt Nate Gladdin, USAF
If you have never heard the author Jim Harrison speak or seen a photo of him I suggest you do both before you read any further. I’m convinced that if he had been in the military he would have been an enlisted man. He would have been admired by his peers and subordinates. His enlisted superiors who did not take the time to develop themselves would’ve been intimidated by his dialogue and at times flippant tone. No doubt he would have exhausted the nerves of the officers appointed over him—something I cannot help but find endearing.
I am not an avid bird hunter. In forty-one years of living I have never lifted a muzzle nor placed pressure on a trigger in the direction of a grouse, mallard, or bobwhite quail. This is not due to a clash of morals or disdain for firearms, I simply was not raised around anyone who spent their days hunting winged creatures.
Conservation is also something I am not well-versed in, but I see its value. Often I find myself in nature, allowing it to wash over me. However, I haven’t embraced it in a manner which would require me to sign a petition demanding action on behalf of one of nature’s beautiful creatures.
The irony is these two tend to commonly resonate with me within the pages of books. As a young man I became enamored by the West through movies and Louis L’Amour novels. I imagined the open plains, the harsh truth of the badlands, And the dust on the tongue of a cowboy desperate for a drink of water after surviving a cold night with no fire. In-depth pieces centered on the outdoors, constructed well, are something I tend to lose myself in.
Poetry also reminds me of nature and Billy Collins has a delivery that reminds me of a brook, flowing unimpeded and calm underneath a canopy of trees. Without question, one author, one poet more than any other, draws me in with his ability to craft a story in and around nature. That man is Jim Harrison.
Because of Jim Harrison, I have spent time in his home state of Michigan canoeing down rivers and walking for hours through the woods under a scorching August sun. In Iowa and Idaho I have explored nature, covering distances I would not dare walk if there was a sidewalk beneath my feet. I sought out evenings with friends in foreign countries where copious amounts of wine are served with fresh waterfowl or red meat while imagining how Harrison would have captured them under pen. However, for no explainable reason, before now I only pondered the thought of hunting birds. During my twenty two years of military service I preferred to use reading and nature as methods of privacy and reflection and, until recently, they were not to be applied otherwise.
Beyond the tobacco barns and across from the three ponds which make up Congamond Lake, along the Connecticut and Massachusetts border, there is a patch of land which belongs to the birds. I was stationed nearby, where I flew the mighty C-130 Hercules; a rugged and stubborn aircraft that operates best in dirty environments. For two of my four years on that tour I would take my yellow lab for long walks in this small sanctuary spanning a few hundred acres. He trotted forth as if he were in a land made for him, stirring up ground dwelling birds of whatever sort, as well as the occasional rabbit. After each success he looked back at me for acknowledgement. As that final summer turned to autumn and autumn into winter I found myself fighting the urge to retreat to my house. I chose instead to find a way to endure the bitterness of New England. It was that open field and the sound of birds rustled into the sky by my companion that brought me peace. After our walks I often took time to read short stories or poetry by Jim Harrison. His words captured my emotions in a way I trusted.
How could a man who hunted whitetail deer as a boy and still enjoys campfires not enjoy this aspect of the outdoor sport? How could I overindulge in spirits, food, and the prose of Harrison but not become curious about bird hunting? How could I enjoy nature so much without conservation coming into view until my forties? It’s a twofold answer.
First, I was focused on my duties. I have always been average in my mechanical and technical abilities, yet I chose to serve my country, initially as an aircraft mechanic, then as an enlisted aviator. Both demanded consistent work to better myself in trades I probably had no business being a part of. Countless hours of studying and flying, either stateside or downrange, consumed large periods of my life. In my spare time I volunteered with athletic teams, choosing to develop athletes in a team environment. The need to be a so-called “expert” and develop others in the same way led me to focus nearly all my time on team environments.
Thisbleeds over into my second reason. I was raised to serve others, not myself; humility was also more valuable than money in my family. I carry both as a source of pride. My mother raised me righ but, despite her best efforts, I managed to turn this into an internal battle.. If it didn’t make someone else better at my expense then it wasn’t worth doing. In an unhealthy way I allowed the core values of my branch to, at times, consume me. There is a delicately thin line between putting others and the mission first, and using them as an excuse to neglect oneself.
As I write this I am in the final twelve months of military service. I promise all of you who are yet to reach this space in time it comes with its own set of thoughts and emotions—some healthy, some not. As I prepare to re-enter civilian life I am allowing myself to look beyond the horizon for the first time. The opportunities that life offers outweigh the trepidation of transition. I refuse to allow anyone—including myself—to view me as some old sergeant-turned-veteran with no direction. I consciously seek those who retired before me to help me understand my forthcoming freedoms and options. Prospective jobs and hobbies are on offer, however the most clear message I’ve received is both simple and complex: I must be willing to reflect forward; to spend time rediscovering me. I must sit still in the few moments between current obligations and process what is needed so I can prepare for what is wanted, a life filled with new passions and new opportunities.
Enter Russell Worth Parker. Worth is now a writer and the Editor in Chief of Lethal Minds Journal. He is a veteran and accidentally a mentor of sorts. More importantly he is a fine storyteller. His abounding grasp of the English language is accented by his North Georgia upbringing. It is garnished with self-deprecation. All of this makes him someone I respect. I also find it humorous that to hear him and Harrison speak is to discover both ends of the narration spectrum.
Worth is also someone I trust with my time. Which is why I often buy books he offers up without knowing the author or the context. At no point have I finished a book he’s suggested and thought the hours had been wasted. As was the case for one of his latest suggestions, For a Handful of Feathers, by Guy de la Valdéne. The growing collection of unread novels that litter my office pushed me to ignore it. However, on the cover it read, “Introduction by Jim Harrison.” I bought it on impulse and principle.
The introduction was Harrison, come back to life, and yet I must say he was but a gateway drug for the writing that followed. This is not a book solely about hunting bobwhite quail in the panhandle of Florida. It offers up something beautiful about this natural world and where we find balance with it. The pages are the lived dichotomy of the taking and conserving of life and nature. Guy de la Valdéne didn’t persuade me to move back to my home state, where I was raised in the prairies and swamps and on more than a few occasions caught gators under spotlight with my uncles. What he did do was remind me of the preciousness of land. Of the need for it to flourish on its own while mankind balances it out in a way which only we can.
Through his pen he has inspired me to finally begin bird hunting. I’ve listened to Worth speak about it. My brother-in-law sings its praises, offering on more than one occasion to take me with him. More and more often I’ve been imagining what it would be like to allow myself to enjoy doing something in nature that could help develop belonging, offer up avenues to write about, and through conservation still give back. For a Handful of Feathers was the ink I needed to dry on the page.
The timing could not have been better. The vast lands of Wyoming await me and my wife later this year. It is where we’ve chosen to retire. At the base of the Bighorn Mountains I will read and write. I’ll explore the peaks and lakes they offer with Katie and walk the open plains with hunters who I befriend. This will be the place where I assimilate back into civilian life, where I focus on my love for a woman and love for myself. Surrounded by natural beauty I will find new work and new friendships.
Through organizations like PB Abbate or BHA Armed Forces Initiative I believe I can find my tribes within the veteran community. My plan will be to carry others along with me on this journey through storytelling. As I attempt to become a hunter who looks up towards the skies where I have long flown, I’ll do my best to share my experiences along the way. And possibly I’ll be able to help other old, salty NCO types realize this as well.
Hunts For The Brave - Robert Moyer
Growing up in the city, I never really considered myself “connected with nature.” I did my fair share of fishing and camping as a kid, but I never really saw the forest for the trees. These were just events, nothing special or magical. At the age of 18, I left for the Marine Corps and my opportunity to get out of the city and see the world. I had never been on an airplane before leaving for Parris Island, South Carolina, so in my mind the “travel and adventure” had already begun. Throughout my time in the Corps, I lived in multiple states, and traveled to more countries than I can remember, but I never really developed an appreciation for my surroundings, they were just places.
I did a couple of combat deployments to Iraq.s As much of a shitty place as it was, there was something to be said about the beauty it held. The rolling hills of the desert, the flowing rivers, the historical aura that permeated. The quiet moments during the brief intermissions of combat. Is it weird to say that there was a certain peace inside a combat zone? Don’t get me wrong, this was no “Gucci” deployment, and we had plenty of kinetic combat operations. We did our jobs over there and did them well. We sent plenty of the enemy to the afterlife, and took some casualties; but that’s part of this line of work. Right? Compartmentalize and move on, there’s no time to actually think about what happened.
In my opinion the brotherhood that we share allows us to “compartmentalize” and push to the next fight, the next deployment, the next whatever is next. The operational tempo does not allow you to actually process or think, just keep moving forward. So, what do you do when the brotherhood starts to break, and you can no longer keep things compartmentalized? For me, it hit hard during the downtime. Partly because I was in denial that there were even issues to deal with, like I said it was all part of the job, so why would there be any issues. Everyone around me could see that there were “issues”, but me. Luckily for me, I had people that care about me, and forced me to do something outside my comfort zone.
I got linked up with an organization called Hunts For The Brave. They are an organization that take veterans and service members out on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor experiences in order to reconnect them with nature. But like I said, I’m a city boy so connecting with nature wasn’t my thing. I was invited to participate on a “cow” hunt. I had no idea that a “cow” was an elk, so I politely turned them down. I got invited on a turkey hunt, again I said thanks but no thanks. Then my Commanding Officer said, “you’re going”. I resisted the entire time, came up with a bunch of reasons as to why I can’t go, and just bitched and complained about it all the way up to the morning of the hunt.
On the morning of April 17th, I was picked up by Jon, one of the board members, and we drove for about an hour through the mountains of Utah. We went through a bunch of locked gates, and after what felt like an eternity pulled over on the side of some dirt road. We unload our gear, and I get told to go sit down by a tree. Jon walks out to an opening in front of me and starts sticking things into the ground. He comes back and sits behind me and says, “don’t shoot the decoys”. The sun hasn’t come up yet, and I’ve never hunted turkey before, so I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I say okay. Then he says, “no matter what, make sure you shoot one with a beard”. I think to myself, what in the hell is he talking about.
Around 0615, there is enough light, and I see what I think is a turkey just sitting there, to then find out it’s the decoy. Jon says “those are the decoys, that’s how close you want them to come before you shoot. Don’t forget, make sure it has a beard”. I quietly ask, “what’s a beard”. Which he then goes on to explain. About 10 minutes later, the sun begins to rise, and I can actually see my surroundings. I’ve seen many sunrises throughout my life, but this one felt different. The air was chilly in the mountains, the ground was wet from the morning dew, and the breeze was just enough to let you know it was there. It was quiet, and I think for the first time I was actually absorbing nature.
Then the unexpected happened. With the sun shining behind them, I watched as turkeys flew out of the trees. Who knew that turkeys slept in trees? Who knew that turkeys could fly? I sure as hell didn’t! I was stuck in this moment of serenity, that I don’t think I ever felt before. I watched as the turkeys walked around pecking at the ground. Jon sat behind me and used different calling techniques to lure the turkeys to the decoys. I watched as the turkeys navigated their way through the field toward the sound of the call. Then just when I thought I had seen everything, this turkey puffed up his chest, spread his tail feathers out, and started strutting around. I was in shock. I asked “is that a beard?” and Jon replied with a yes. I asked if I should shoot it, he again replied yes.
I had heard of “buck fever”, but never knew what it was. For reasons unknown to me at the time, my body was shaking uncontrollably, I figured I was just cold. I could feel the vibrations of the turkey as he was “spitting and drumming”. I watched as he came closer to the decoy, lined up the sights of my shotgun, took a deep breath…. Bang! Dropped him where he stood! I was in disbelief, not because I killed an animal, but about everything that I had just witnessed and participated in. My heart was pounding, my body was still shaking, I still feel those emotions 8 years later as I write this. Did I have buck fever from a turkey, or was it something more? Or was it a combination of both?
I knew right then and there that I was hooked. Not only to hunting, not only to being connected with nature, but to an organization that provides these experiences. How do I show veterans and service members that are dealing with the things that I was dealing with, or worse, an organization like this? How do we let our brothers and sisters know that there are alternative means to medication? How do we tell them that the brotherhood still exists when you’re out, or away from the fight? Hunting and fishing may not be for everyone, but there are a lot of good organizations out there that can help us “get off the couch”, and back to doing the things we enjoy (even the things that we didn’t know we’d enjoy). Hunts For The Brave has taken dozens of veterans and service members out on outdoor experiences, regardless of their “disabilities”. We’ve seen amputees climb mountains, quadriplegics shoot rifles, and many more. Sadly, a common response they get is, “I don’t deserve something like this”. I’m here to say, you do, and it can be life changing!
Dartmouth College - The Next Step Program
If there’s anything Special Operators do well, it’s identify a good deal and jump on it with gusto. Thus, I was unsurprised when I arrived at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business’s two-week program, “The Next Step: Transition to Business” (TNS), to find that a significant portion of my classmates were fellow members of USSOCOM, all at the point in their careers at which it is time to think about what comes next. The conventional forces were likewise represented by a superb contingent of soldiers, sailors, airpersons and Marines but the coolest part of the class composition was the presence of elite athletes; Olympians, Paralympians, and National Champions across a wide distribution of sports. That’s by design. TNS is designed for “individuals who have spent their career in the armed forces or elite athletics and who are ready for a new phase in their life… and will benefit immensely—and immediately [by] obtaining the edge they desire to transition successfully into a new and rewarding career.” In my cohort, that meant seventy people in a 50/50 mix of military members and elite athletes.
Does it sound like anyone you know might benefit? Yeah, I thought so.
Let’s be clear. I am not a business guy. I have a pathological fear of Excel spreadsheets. Phrases like “P/E ratio” and “Accounts Receivable” find my eyes glazing over as I alternate between intense anxiety and deep contemplation of whether Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch in Predator could beat up Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix in Commando (the answer is yes). However, TNS is NOT an MBA program. More akin to a therapy session taking place in an idea factory, TNS is an amazing two-weeks for people who have been hyper-focused on one thing for a long time and now need to shift gears to something else while surrounded by similarly situated people. That something else is business. And as there is no denying that business concepts touch pretty much any endeavor we may choose to undertake in life, it’s a pretty important one.
TNS is an amazing venue in which to hear world-class business leaders and professors offer their insights on finance, leadership, consulting, human resources, entrepreneurship, communications, and strategy. As a military officer, the leadership, communications, and strategy classes were naturally of great interest. But even a dolt like me got something out of the classes on Excel and Accounting because there was no pressure to do anything but learn as much as I could, an outcome in which every professor was clearly invested.
TNS is not all classroom lectures though. There are dinners focused on hearing business leaders speak from the heart about how they became successful, networking events in which Marine Sergeants rub shoulders with billionaires and opportunities to work out with Olympic Gold Medalists. In short, it is a unique and amazing experience. So do I have your attention yet? Good. Let’s talk details.
The TNS application committee “focuses on fit more than set criteria” but the target applicant has at least three years of experience in the military or as a national team level elite athlete, is recently separated or retired, or relatively close to doing so, and has plans to pursue a business career. In my class, there were the aforementioned service members, which was great, but no one ever grew by staying in their comfort zone. So sitting and talking to athletes who had dedicated themselves wholly to being the best in the world at something really hard was for me the most valuable element of the program. I could not talk to the captain of the 2018 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Team, or one of two women who took the only US Gold ever in Cross Country Skiing in 2018, or a member of the 2016 Olympic Gold Medal Women’s Rowing team without realizing that there are people in this world doing amazing, worthwhile things that don’t involve getting shot at (and yeah, there were some accomplished male athletes too, but these women were particularly badass). For me, perhaps the most singularly important night at TNS involved talking about fear with a member of New Zealand’s Olympic Swim team and an Olympic Biathlete who was years out of competition and the work force and looking to re-enter it after many years. Hearing about their challenges, their concerns, and their goals going forward was incredibly helpful. That epiphany was worth the price of admission alone.
So what is the price of admission? Great question! You’re clearly on your way to business success. The answer is a two-category scale based on your Adjusted Gross Income. If your AGI is above $70,000, you pay one rate. If your AGI is below $70,000, you pay another. Financial aid is available (I got a stipend courtesy of a generous donor). $1,000 is due as a deposit at enrollment with the balance due before the program begins. Of further note, TNS is GI Bill eligible and is also approved for funding by a number of military charities.
What about housing? It’s in the tuition. We stayed in the Hanover Inn in downtown Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s a gorgeous hotel with great food in walking distance of the Tuck School of Business and anything else you might want when not in sessions.
And food you say? There were nights I either hit a restaurant with classmates or cruised out for a quick bite myself, but breakfast and lunch, along with about half of the dinners, are rolled into the tuition. And the food is legit. Surrounded by elite athletes, I focused on my nutrition and tried to mimic their choices despite my military-conditioned palate that pretty much just wants meat, carbs and caffeine.
But surely travel drives the cost up, right? Nope. JetBlue donated the tickets for the class, so they flew me from DC to Boston for free. From there, the Dartmouth Coach carries you the rest of the way to Hanover and back for $38 each way.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “that all sounds great but I haven’t finished my bachelor’s degree yet.” Not a problem. It turns out that being a world-class athlete or a military member may mean you haven’t closed out that aspect of your development due to other requirements like…I don’t know…intense alpine skiing training or multiple deployments. TNS applicants do not need to have achieved a specific level of education. The curriculum is designed for participants with no educational background in business, finance, economics, accounting, etc. All you have to do is commit to come all day, every day, including nights and weekends and do the pre-program online modules and reading before arriving on campus.
And that’s what TNS is all about: commitment. Commitment by the donors, faculty and staff of the Dartmouth University to give back to those who have committed themselves to the nation on their behalf. Go get yours at the link:
This was originally published at www.SOFLETE.com but the good folks there care more about you than they do holding on to a few words. Check them out for your fitness programming, selection prep, and mental preparation needs.
This ends Volume 9, Edition 1, of the Lethal Minds Journal (01March2023)
The window is now open for Lethal Minds’ tenth volume, releasing April 1st, 2023.
All art and picture submissions are due as PDFs or JPEG files to our email by midnight on 20 March.
All written submissions are due as 12 point font, double spaced, Word documents to our email by midnight on 20 March.
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