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The Freedom to be You

One of my objectives in retirement was to stand up a nonprofit corporation with the intent of “enhancing scholarship, education and critical thinking related to matters of first principles”. Additionally, the purpose of the organization is to encourage the study of the works of John C. Calhoun and to defend that which is good of his legacy.

Last night my wife lovingly looked at me and said people would not understand and that somebody, somewhere would eventually call me a racist just because Calhoun was involved.

Heck my daughter attends the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson, on the grounds the Calhoun family gave to found that orange covered place. When I was a youngster in school I was taught Calhoun was the greatest statesmen to ever come from SC and one of the greatest from the US generally.

This perplexed me. I am a chauvinist for certain, in a loving, paternalistic sort of way. I cannot help but be who I am and believe that women are the fairer sex and that men were created to leave the cave and protect them. I do not apologize for that. I am perhaps a curmudgeon of sorts in training in terms of cultural, social and moral values – I cannot hide nor deny that.

But a racist because I think there is still great value in the political philosophy of John C. Calhoun? Do some of his words offend modern sensibilities? Certainly. Can the same be said of many other men of his time and after, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind? – certainly!

The thing most people seem to have forgotten or were never taught in history courses is that everything must be taken in context.

I thought deeply about what she said. Shame on anyone that ever or eventually paints me with such a brush. I also resolved to come to the conclusion that I do not care. If one can find anyone that I ever worked with or for or that worked for me that would honestly call me a racist then I would say they had traveled to a parallel universe to find said person.

There is no truth to it.

As a benefit to my efforts with this new organization, I have been dialoguing with a man whom I have read and respected for years. In the next couple of weeks, I will sit with him and have lunch. He is perhaps the most accomplished scholar alive, perhaps ever to live, related to the life and works of Calhoun. This man, since retiring from his professorship at the University of South Carolina has been called a racist in many places on the web. He is a curmudgeon, he is old school, but I have read most everything he has written and I have never seen anything that would qualify as racist.

It is a sad state of affairs in a society that claims to love freedom where an individual can be denigrated based upon spurious and unfounded accusations simply because they support elements of truth that are uncomfortable to someone else’s narrative.

The beautiful thing is. I am free to do what I believe and I need not care what anyone that would spread such filth might say or believe.

Part of finding purpose is knowing where you stand and not being afraid to be present in that spot.

The More Things Change….

It is my sad duty to report that all is not well with the US Army Signal Corps.

I retired from active duty in the US Army as a field grade Signal Officer after 33 years of service last April. I took a position as a project manager at Augusta University and then a contract position with the Cyber Center of Excellence doing lessons and best practice analysis. (you can read a bit about what that experience taught me here). Last August I took a mundane general service position with the Signal School because I had heard things might be changing and there might be hope for the future. I wrote about those hopes here.

My assessment at this point is things are not better, nothing is changing in a positive way and essentially the Signal Corps is mired in the same sort of ineptitude, bureaucracy and petty political in-fighting and personal empire building that I observed across the breadth of my career.

In short:

  • The organization lacks a clearly defined, articulated and disseminated strategic plan and vision.
  • “Leaders” spend much of their time refining and shaping organizational charts – not to build efficiency and effectiveness but to solidify personal empires.
  • Instead of making many new hires of fresh thinking, eager people with unique skills, the School has populated its upper tiers with people that just walked over from other ineffective entities on Fort Gordon. Some of them came with real baggage and in some ways, it is the island of misfit toys.
  • Senior Civilians on Fort Gordon, in general, exert too much control over the future – as a result of efforts at empire building mentioned above. Senior officers have always been and continue to be either blind to this or afraid to rock the boat.
  • The NCO Corps in the Signal Corps is, at the senior levels, perhaps the worst in the Army. Everyone that wants to become a Sergent Major becomes a Mason and that club exerts undue influence in how the NCOs act and perform and where their loyalty resides. (this became painfully apparent to me a few years ago when I conducted a 15-6 on allegations against a BN CSM and found an entire platoon of Sergeants Major willing to lie for him despite proof contrary to their statements I uncovered later on)
  • Too many Colonels with no other place to go and no real prospect of decent employment after the Army migrate and roost at Fort Gordon, occupying positions that could make a difference, if only…
  • The union at Fort Gordon exerts entirely too much influence on operations. Supervisors are afraid to supervise for fear of a complaint.
  • Too many ordinary civilian GS employees that perhaps could make a difference have simply given up. They come in each morning, put their heads down, do mundane tasks and go home.
  • The Signal Corps was perhaps the originator of the insane concept of the “top 5” or whatever number you want to designate. The notion that you have to have a senior civilian, warrant officer, NCO and other spuriously designated folks to make a “command team” is ridiculous but it is alive and well at the Signal School. This in effect “excuses” every little GO that cycles through there from making hard decisions.
  • Overall the Signal School is like 11 men on a football field, all running around, some trying to secure little plots of land for themselves, others hoping they just get to stay on the field and get paid a little longer and others dancing in the endzone to be seen – yet the ball sits at the 20 and never moves forward.

A friend of mine laughs at me often when I make statements akin to those above saying “man, Barry, you say some stuff”. He is not disagreeing with me, he is stating in his own way that people do not state the truth about the state of the Signal Corps in the way that I do. I realize that making such raw statements sets me up as a straw-man, my assertions are easy to dismiss as rantings. I might even agree, if I were disgruntle or felt slighted in some way but I do not. It took me years to arrive at the conclusions above, years of observing a Signal Corps that was divorced from the real needs of the warfighter. I came back to be a GS employee because I heard there was hope. I am not disgruntle. I am disappointed and perhaps a little angry that such ineptitude has gone unchecked for so long.

It is said often that one should not raise a problem without presenting a solution. I have often found that to be a lazy way for bosses to tell subordinates not to complain. However, there are solutions to all of this. Some big and some small, some painful and radical and some mundane and easy. It is not the point of this post to articulate those. I have rallied for many of those points numerous times in the past to no avail. In my current position I advocate for some of the smallest of fixes – yet nothing changes. If someone with power reads this, does not get personally offended and dismiss it and wants to see real change, contact me, I will join your team and help.

Barring that…

I will soon transition out of my GS position and focus solely other pursuits that interest me. I have done my best during my time in uniform, as a contractor and as a civilian employee to effect change or at least find a team with a leader that wanted to really move the ball. Life is too short, there are too many other interesting things to do.

I have taken numerous oaths over the years, and take the idea of doing one’s duty seriously – I have, yet nothing has changed.

Not Small Differences

I joined the Army (the Army Reserve actually) during my junior year of high-school.  I had to gain the permission of my parents and I looked a little silly returning my senior year with my basic training haircut.  This began a journey that ended this year in an active duty retirement and many exciting and fulfilling years in between.   I knew from the time I was a small child that I wanted a career in the military but in 1983 a speech by Ronald Reagan gave me cause to join as soon as I turned 17 two years later.

On the night of this “blue wave” election night I am reminded of that Evil Empire speech and what it meant to me then and what it should mean to our nation.  Watch it if you have forgotten Reagan’s words concerning Godless communism – the very sort on the ballot tonight.

In my adult life, I cannot recall a single good president, not one since Reagan.   Some were clowns, others disgusting fools, or slick snake oil salesmen but none have been statesmen and none have led us toward the ideal of traditional Americanism in the way Reagan did.

Congress and the Senate have certainly been no better, in point of fact much worse.  In terms of general trends, we have moved much closer to socialism and away from the traditional American values of family, self-reliance, work and Christianity.  Democrats, particularly the loudest of them, the ones that like to shout down anyone that disagrees with them, may not admit they have been winning but the facts are fairly self-evident to support this truth. Regulation has increased in the aggregate, personal freedom has decreased., the size of government has increased and traditional Christian values have been eradicated from public life – communism, err progressivism,  has been winning.

In our system, we generally perceive mid-term elections as a way to alleviate buyer’s regret from the proceeding presidential election.  This is generally why the party of sitting presidents lose control of the House of Representatives during mid-term elections.

To utilize a millennial term, this year feels different.

Donald Trump is different.  He is the physical manifestation of a lot of frustration that has built up in conservative-minded Americans since 1988.   Bush I was a company man.  Bush II was overwhelmed and unprepared for the circumstances he found himself in – he did more damage than good.   Conservatives have suffered for years under inept Republican presidents and two Democrats that did irreparable damage to the nation.   A man, Trump,  that spoke in ways that are common and to the point was the result.

Many of the Democratic offerings in this election are the left equivalent of a Donald Trump.  If Democrats believe Trump to be despicable they have responded by selecting outright socialist and proto-communist.  Spin it as you will, call it progressive, “compassionate” open-minded or any other euphemism many of these folks believe in tenets of Marxism.

We have perhaps crossed the Rubicon of civility, respect and cooperation and it is likely undeniable that there is a great gulf in what the far right and far left believe America is supposed to be.

If a mid-term election is supposed to be a safety-valve, something that allows the electorate to blow off steam, how does this continue to work when the poles are so far separated.   The ideologies and philosophy that now separates us are not small differences.

Will the most radical of the left be satiated with a blue wave, what about a blue ripple?   What happens if there is no blue wave at all and outright radical socialist like Abrams and Gillum lose, what with the most radicalized of the left do?   What if the Democrats fail to even gain the House?  Will the most radical of the left stop protesting in the streets of the Pacific Northwest and go get jobs like the rest of us or will the blue wave morph into something else?

Only time will tell.

Book: The Annotated Secessionist Papers, 2nd ed.

Annotated Secessionist Papers

Barry Lee ClarkBrian McCandlissMichael PeirceWalter E. BlockThomas E. Woods Jr.Kevin L. ClausonKirkpatrick SaleForrest McDonaldGene H. Kizer Jr.Thomas J. DilorenzoDonald W. Livingston: The Calhoun Institute, Jun 21, 2018 – Political Science – 254 pages

A collection of essays, articles and papers, in the tradition of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, that discuss secession from a legal, constitutional and historical perspective.

Amazon Best Seller

Find it on: Amazon and Google

The New and Improved US Army Signal Corps

I have been associated with the US Army Signal Corps since 1985, yes sir, that is over 33 years.  For the majority of that time, I have been disappointed with the leadership, direction and culture of the branch.  I tried at various times to divorce myself from the branch, once when offered a menu of options I choose to accept a cash payment in lieu of a transfer and I regretted that decision often.  My views, more or less have always been consistent with the observations I made recently in a post called “Three questions that defined the US Army Signal Corps“. It has been my considered opinion that the branch produced some of the worst officers in the Army.   In my estimation, we have been led over the years by generals that simply did not get it.   The branch, historically, has been burdened by an entrenched bureaucracy at Fort Gordon that was generally out of touch with what the warfighter really needed and often incapable of innovative thought.

I recently discussed my observations out at the National Training Center (NTC) and my assessment is that the Signal Corps continues to fail to provide the types of mobile, agile, secure systems the warfighter wants and needs.  Worse, tactical skills and acumen among Signal Soldiers are, in my considered opinion, at their lowest point in the 33+ years I have been around.  However, upon returning from the desert I saw a reason to hope for a better future.

I contend and will continue to assert, that it was wasteful and stupid to create the Cyber branch.  The roles and functions of that branch are not unique or different enough from what the Signal and Military Intelligence branches were capable of doing.  Creating a new branch just added waste, bureaucracy and desynchronization.  However, it is a fiat accompli, it is done.  With this change, I think the Signal Corps has the opportunity to divorce itself from the computer geek image and culture and become relevant teammates, partners and supporters of the warfighter.

The contract I was working came up for renewal last Friday.  I was offered the opportunity to stay on with the new company, with a significant raise.  However, something interesting happened last Thursday.  I received the offer letter from the new company but I also received an offer for a GS position with the Signal School.  The GS position was for much less money, it is not the ideal role and I probably will not have much of a voice unless I find a way to work myself out of the dungeon.  The thing is, I sense something new is going on in the Office of the Chief of Signal and the Signal School.  I wanted to be part of that.

The contract position was with Capabilities Development Directorate (CDID).  That organization is filled with old bird Colonels that should retire, old GS employees that have been on the job too long (most that have been promoted far beyond their capabilities).  CDID is a dead, old, slow, cumbersome beast that has produced bad doctrine and poor materiel solutions.  The money was nice but CDID, as it stands, is the past, a boat anchor!

Fortunately, the future looks good.   Pieces and parts of what is now CDID will soon have to vet their ideas and products through the Signal Branch, instead of developing doctrine and solutions in a vacuum of old tired heads.

Training is moving out from behind computer monitors into the field.  Soldiers are being trained, for the first time in a long time to be warrior technicians instead of geeks.  Additionally, the model of training is giving way to education, a point me and others have screamed for over the years.   If you educate a young man in the fundamentals he can, over a career, master many skills as opposed to trying to train him in a short period on things that quickly become irrelevant.  These are good changes.

I cannot say with certainty if these changes will hold. It is impossible to know if the vanguard of old heads occupying desks and cubicles will coalesce to inject stupid into this progress.  I also cannot know if I myself will be around as a GS employee long enough to see any of this come to fruition.  As I said, my current role is certainly not intellectually compelling.   However, I do, for the first time in 33 years have great hope for the Signal Corps and I am very happy that at this point in my life and career I have the opportunity to be part of the change.

Signal Corps Soldier