Forthcoming book: Things You Are Not Supposed to Know About a Military Career

Update, published in November 2019. https://books.google.com/books/about?id=B9C8DwAAQBAJ

Available on Amazon

A practical guide for any young person considering a military career that analyzes the traditional career path and provides proven alternatives that lead to success, options and most importantly maintenance of the individual and freedom of action.

Complete a military career on your own terms, with success defined by you while achieving financial security and independence and providing post-service options to follow passions in either work, hobbies or entrepreneurialism.  

Introduction

Chapters

  1. About
  2. The Vision
  3. Principles
  4. The Problem with the Traditional Career Map
  5. The Alternative and Fun Path
  6. The Real Key to Success in Anything: Mind, Spirit, Emotions in Balance
  7. Your Brand
  8. Pathways
  9. The Journey
  10. How to Prepare Beforehand
  11. In the Beginning
  12. Lieutenancy
  13. Captaincy
  14. Majority
  15. Decision Points
  16. Leave at Twenty-Years
  17. Stay until they stop promoting you
  18. Contracting
  19. Employment with Industry, Business or Education
  20. Government Service
  21. Entrepreneurialism
  22. Dilettante
  23. The Roadmap
  24. Finances

Finding Purpose Rebrand

I began this blog as I prepared to retire from the Army with two missions. First I wanted to “talk” through my own journey and second, I hoped talking about and discussing what I was learning would help others.

I have accomplished, I believe, my first mission in that I found my own personal purpose after military retirement. I hope that the post I shared during the journey have helped and might someday continue to help others.

As part of newfound purpose I have decided to rebrand the site toward my passion for trying to understand the world around us. I am very dissatisfied with the pundits, experts and paid shills that appear on television and in print and digital media trying to explain the world, geopolitics, and government. I will become my own Geopolitical and military analyst. I will seek out my own foundational answers to human and cultural problems – with the assistance of the great minds to guide me. If others find the questions I pose, the answers I strive for and the analysis I arrive at useful I will be pleased. If I write to an echo chamber I at least know I can trust that the analysis was honest and sincere.

As I look upon and reflect upon the world I am very often left with a sense that things are tragically wrong – so wrong that politics and political movements cannot right the trajectory of the ship. We are in a time of tremendous transformation, perhaps greater than most want to admit. Technology will soon exponentially change us -our relationship to one another, to government and to life – we are entering this great change with many of our core values, presumptions and assumptions askew. We have lost much of our humanity in a traditional sense and have lost sight of what is permanent and important.

Words, certainly not my words, cannot change any of this. However, words are important. Ultimate truth exists and it should not be removed from the Earth merely because it has been forgotten by most and is unpopular to many that still acknowledge it.

Writing here about things that matter from a perspective that acknowledges ultimate truth and respects the great minds and ideas that have come before us is one of my purposes now. Perhaps you might occasionally find my efforts useful.

I hope within the next year to secure an adjunct professorship at a local college. I realize adjunct professors are not supposed to express an opinion and I realize from my recent dealings with academics that the sort of opinions and ideas I will express here are definitely not in favor. I believe intellectual honesty is important. Therefore, I say let it work out as it should, I will be me – much like I have been most of my adult life.

The Fremantle Diary

I read The Fremantle Diary in college, I found a very old copy collecting dust deep in the recesses of the library at The Citadel. When I first read The Killer Angels I was amused by the quirky little British Lieutenant Colonel climbing a tree to get a better view of the action – that was of course Fremantle. The movie version of the book portrayed him much the same. I suppose the comical thing is later in life I myself ran into British “tourist” in the most bizarre places, places where people are killed, robbed, starved and kidnapped – but here these folks were going on about the wonderfully economical holiday they were on.

I truly believe it is impossible to go nearly anywhere without unexpectedly encountering a British tourist – well almost anywhere else in the world, most of the States seem not to interest them. They can be very audacious in their travels.

Lieutenant Colonel James L. Fremantle, formerly of her Majesty’s Cold Stream Guards, was no exception, except perhaps his travels had an official purpose as well as the ordinary and expected British curiosity.

I was personally struck by his description, as he sat along the bank of the Potomac River, of the Army of Northern Virginia marching north in 1863. It is not at all the description you may have received in history books. He described an army that was often barefoot, racially integrated, equally equipped or not equipped across the formation and in incredibly high spirits.

His account of armed soldiers of color marching along side white soldiers was the first I had ever heard or read of such. It was not until the mid-1990’s that I saw the full account of this fact in other primary source documents.

Fremantle is a fun and informative read and I am happy to await the arrival of this volume so I can enjoy it again.

Retirement might be the Time for the Classical Education you Missed

Life, adult life at least, seems to be centered so much on the now and the future that we seem to have little time to focus on the past and classics. Philosophically speaking, it is hard to imagine who or what we really are without recognizing that we all merely stand on the shoulders of giants. Unfortunately, our education system has essentially succumbed to this way of seeing the world – we teach some technicalities but little of the classics. We do not produce deep critical thinkers.

Most “educated” people, even those with advanced degrees, are painfully ignorant of items that people much less formally educated understood well in the past. If your classical education is lacking a bit, like most other educated professionals, perhaps the freedom that military retirement brings should present the opportunity to rectify that situation.

My wife and I watched Christopher Robin last night – the philosophy of Winnie the Pooh is pretty profound; “some times the best somethings come from doing nothing”. That is a fun and excellent movie by the by.

We spend our lives doing something, doing things. In retirement, perhaps doing “nothing” and expanding one’s classical education is the best something we can do. Susan Bauer has written a wonderful guide to help shape what doing nothing to accomplish something might look like. This is a wonderful guide.

I highly recommend it!

From Amazon: The enduring and engaging guide to educating yourself in the classical tradition.

Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven’t because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise.

Newly expanded and updated to include standout works from the twenty-first century as well as essential readings in science (from the earliest works of Hippocrates to the discovery of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs), The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of six literary genres―fiction, autobiography, history, drama, poetry, and science―accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter―ranging from Cervantes to Cormac McCarthy, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Aristotle to Stephen Hawking―preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing.

The Well-Educated Mind reassures those readers who worry that they read too slowly or with below-average comprehension. If you can understand a daily newspaper, there’s no reason you can’t read and enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets or Jane Eyre. But no one should attempt to read the “Great Books” without a guide and a plan. Bauer will show you how to allocate time to reading on a regular basis; how to master difficult arguments; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre―what does Anna Karenina owe to Madame Bovary?―and also between genres.

In her best-selling work on home education, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children; that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In The Well-Educated Mind, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them to the use of adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading. Followed carefully, her advice will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.

Proper Work for Retired Gentlemen

I have oft repeated something I once read or heard early in my military career: “A retired officer should go home to work the family estate, write or teach”. I do not recall where I first came across this notion but it summarizes the essence of what was a proper vocation for a retired officer in the past.

Few of us actually have family estates to go back to, those days are long gone. However, writing and teaching are perfectly respectable avocations. It certainly beats prostituting oneself to the military-industrial complex of defense contract work or the mind-numbing waste of government employment.

I have engaged this semester in substitute teaching at a nearby high school. I plan to only teach history, economics and government – just a couple days per month – but I have filled in a couple of other courses recently just to get a feel for the school.

In reality this goes hand in hand with the minor and very small nonprofit I am standing up with the purpose of “enhancing scholarship, education and critical thinking related to matters of first principles.” I get the opportunity to engage with and teach young folks a small bit, I think it is worthwhile.

I must say I came away today a bit concerned about the notion of police in schools. I realize I simply do not know all the facts, I have not done this long. However, I saw something today that is concerning.

I teach one county over, in a rural high school. The county is not wealthy, it is not the poorest in South Carolina but there is poverty. Most of the student population is black. The student body are all basically country folks regardless of race.

In one class today there was a particularly engaged young man. He answered all my questions as I was giving the assignment and seemed interested in doing the reading in order to answer the follow-up questions I presented. At one point he asked if he could read on the carpet. The regular teacher had set up a pretty comfortable environment with lamps and a carpet for reading. He asked politely and I concurred.

Everyone in the class was reading, I was up front at one point and another young man came up to ask a question. The door to the classroom was open. A deputy sheriff that works at the school walked by addressed the fellow that was up talking to me saying essentially “hey you take that hoodie off your head”. He then addressed the other young man, lying on the carpet across the room, with the book on his chest reading asking what was wrong with him and if he was preparing for a tornado drill.

This was not friendly banter. It was not the sort of thing (tone) a coach might say to a knucklehead that is goofing off. This was authoritative and demeaning talk. It was I have a tin badge and a gun and you need to respect my authority talk. The kids did not show the affection or respect for him that you would expect if it were something other than what I observed.

I shut the door and told him we would call him if we needed him.

Look I do not know if this deputy has had run-ins with these two. I do not know if these fellows are trouble makers. I do know that they listened as I introduced myself, told my introductory joke and gave them a challenge question to ponder during the reading. They showed me respect. I know they seemed engaged and interested in learning something. I have no idea what the history there is, but I know after having seen real knuckleheads in my life that these two did not present and irredeemable to me.

I do not know what I do not know but it seems to me having cops in school, particularly if they are as abrasive as this fellow, is just a bad idea.

People might say that with school shootings this is just the way of the future. I say bollicks. I would much rather be allowed to carry my pistol on my person on school grounds and let any other teacher that wants to do so be likewise armed as opposed to turning schools into something like prison camps that make youngsters like the two in this story hate cops.

What I witnessed to day is just bad all the way around.

A Boy and His Dogs

I was privileged to grow up in the hundred acre wood – almost literally. I had access to fields, streams, woods, marsh and all sorts of flora and fauna for a young boy and his BB gun and later shotgun or .22 rifle to explore to his heart was content. My life would have been incomplete had it not been for my various fourlegged companions. There were many of them over the early years of my life, often more than one. Within that expanse, I created a world of my own consisting of imagination and exploration. During the summers and any time I was free from the governmentrun prison school, I was in the woods, sometimes all day.

My dogs were an integral part of that life. Without their companionship, without the lessons they taught me about stopping to literally smell the roses (or whatever else they stuck their noses into) I would be a very different person today.

It is then natural that in retirement, as I enter the second stage of exploration, wonder and excitement with the mysteries and wonders of the world that I should have four-legged companions.

A few years ago I inherited two small dogs when I married my lovely and brilliant wife. Maximilian Augustus Tiberius (Max) Clark – a Jack Russel Terrier, may he rest in peace, and Leopold Octavius Titus (Leo) Clark – some sort of half weeine dog/fluffy dog. I added the more illustrious monikers to their names to compensate for the fact that they are so small. In fact, one day whilst driving through post, a gate guard laughed at me because Leo was sitting on the middle console and the guard initially thought it was a small blonde-haired girl.


Leopold Octavius Titus (Leo) Clark

Last fall, as my son was nearing graduation from college, Sitka the beagle dog we adopted years ago and had essentially become his dog passed away. He decided it would be a grand idea to go out and get a new dog, a boxer. Never mind that he lived in an apartment that did not allow pets. In came Cooper Clark into his life. A couple of weeks later, Cooper ended up at my house.

Cooper Clark

Cooper lived with us “temporarily” for that semester. Once my son graduated, moved into a rental house and got a job, Cooper went back to live with him.

The thing about Mr. Cooper is he has a lot of energy, he dislikes staying in his box beyond night time, enjoys running in the yard, adores Leo and loves to ride around in the truck. Cooper is also a big fan of a schedule, he likes to eat on time, wake up at the same time, he knows when it is cuddle time with the wife on the couch and he is well aware of when bedtime is. He likes a hard schedule. When all of that is askew, he chews things, runs amok and generally is a bad guy. Thus, Cooper came back to live with us permanently just this year.

Honestly, I would not change a thing. Cooper has destroyed some of my stuff but he has gotten better. He has learned to love and respect his leash on walks and he and Leo accompany me each day in the truck as I take care of B&B Clark Consulting business. The students over at Augusta University love him. One day whilst checking on the JagRide bikes I bumped into a friend of ours who reported back to the wife that she had seen Leo and Cooper (no mention of me!).

A man needs a proper dog to ride in his truck and Cooper fits the bill. He and I are magnanimous enough to allow Leo to tag along.

A Fun Gig

One never knows where or when small and seemingly insignificant skills acquired over the course of a military career might prove useful and profitable. I just found a perfect side hustle for my small company, B&B Clark Consulting.

Augusta University JagRide

I cannot count how many times while stationed overseas or deployed I purchased a used beat up bicycle. In some instanced I purchased more than one bike on a deployment when some sticky fingered never-do-well would re-appropriate my ride. I became pretty adept at maintaining these old clunkers.

Additionally, like many military folks I became pretty good at operating and maintaining GPS enabled equipment. So much of our individual kit and vehicles required this knowledge.

Last month I came across a contract opportunity to maintain the bicycle fleet for Augusta University’s JagRide program. A company out of Charleston owns the bikes and the prime contract. This opportunity was enough to push me over the threshold and make the decision to turn in my notice to leave my government service position. I decided last month that GS work was not a good fit for me, but this contract opportunity gave me the courage and motivation to make the move.

The bikes are GPS enabled so my skills at minor bike maintenance and GPS/electronic systems come in handy.

This is not enough work or money to equate to a full-time job, it is not intended to. I have several other things I want to do with this company, this allows me the time and space to do that.

As a tremendous bonus, my boxer, Cooper, truly enjoys this new gig. He rides along in the truck as we check on the bikes and he is a big hit with folks walking around campus.

The takeaway of all this is one should never underestimate the myriad of skills you pick up over the course of a military career. Some of those might buy you freedom and opportunity some day.

#AugustaJagRide

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

Contractor Life

I just returned from almost 30 days at the National Training Center (NTC) observing Cyber, EW and Signal guys do their respective things.   You may ask why on earth would one voluntarily spend time there.  I can only say – it was a lot of fun.  Driving an air-conditioned Jeep Wrangler around the desert, wearing comfortable clothes and sleeping each night at the Landmark Inn sure beats the O/C life (I enjoyed that too when I had that job by the way).

If you are interested in my observations and have Intelink access take a look here.

I was painfully reminded that not much has changed since I was assigned there, observing brigades month after month. Take a look at Three Questions that Defined the US Army Signal Corps to see what I am talking about.

Overall, I am glad I took the contract.  The contract is ending and up for renewal at the end of this month so it was really a no-brainer in terms of long-term commitment.  I may stay with a new offer and keep on observing or not, I will wait to decide.  It was, however, enlightening to get back around military folks and do what I know.  It was and is such a different experience that my foray into project management at the University where I worked during terminal leave and the first few months of retirement.  The money is a lot better in contracting also – the University paid a fair wage but there is so much more to be made working as a contractor.

There is something simple and comfortable about working in your wheelhouse, with a culture you understand and appreciate.  Add to that the fact that as a contractor you have such freedom, freedom to speak your mind and do what you think is right.   Having your finances in order before retirement makes that so much smoother and more comfortable. There are many things to consider when looking at post-military retirement work, but my experience thus far with contracting has been rewarding.

The bottom line is, I am actually having fun going to work.  I like the people I am around, I like the work and I love the freedom.

I did not enjoy missing the wife and the dogs and all of my stuff.   I certainly cannot see myself doing this long-term.  Right now, however, it is a heck of a lot of fun!

Post-Retirement 7-Month Azimuth Check

I officially retired 01 APR 2018, however, I went on terminal leave in JAN and took a position as a Project Manager at a small university (perhaps I should have read my own article I wrote much later).  I plan to write a much more detailed article about project management and how it does and does not fit with military veterans and retirees.  There are many articles that suggest this as a natural course, after all, many of us are accustomed to synchronizing efforts, setting and following timelines and basically getting things done.  These are key skills that translate well into project management – with a caveat – at the right place, in the right role and in the right culture.

Any company, anywhere, that seeks a person that thinks on their feet, can understand and follow “doctrine” and best-practices but is agile enough to adjust on the fly and has a proven record of getting things done in adverse, chaotic and challenging environments would do well to hire many veterans for a project management role.  I can think back to the faces and names of dozens of aggressive staff officers and see them making a real impact in a company that knows how to ride the various horses it adds to its stable.

I have been a member of PMI (the Project Management Institute) for about a year and a half.  Through various venues, I have met a lot of PMP’s and discussed how they do things at their company.  I have read various articles and probably just like you I have previous experiences with PMPs that worked for contractors as part of contracts I either managed or worked with.  I certainly do not know all there is about the “profession” but I have made some observations.

First, the term “project manager” is used in job advertisements to describe everything from vacuum cleaner salesmen to administrative assistants to engineers managing massive capital construction projects.  Despite PMI’s efforts to say it is a profession,  and their test, anybody can, and is called a project manager.

Second, not every organization that employees project managers, in the sense that PMI perhaps intends, operates in the same way.  On one end of the scale are organizations that look for PMs that can be that aggressive staff/action officer, taking broad guidance and intent and shaping plans, timelines and actions to get the task and mission accomplished.  On the other far end are organizations that see project management as a set of constraints, rigid left and right boundaries, and project managers as nothing more than applicators of those constraints and mere administrative staff to collect and report data.

I did not know it for sure when I accepted my position, but I  joined the later type of organization, one that sees project management as a set of hard-wired rules that could be applied in almost all situations.

From this I took my first lesson-learned: LL#1 Don’t fear not getting a job in the interview, have a real conversation and get a clear understanding.

I made this realization pretty quickly into the position but I determined that I would stay at least a year, perhaps eventually show them there were other ways and learn to embrace some of their controls.

An early red-flag, one that continually popped up weekly, if not daily, was this organization’s experience with another veteran.  This fellow held my position previous to me.  He was younger than I, he left the Army as a Captain, I did not and do not know him personally but I knew something about him.  My wife also works at this university, she had been familiar with him and some of his projects.   I was initially informed that his departure was amicable and mutual but over time I began to sense much angst toward him and perhaps even the mention of his name.  We will call him Tom for this narrative.

Almost weekly, when I would come across a problem or a roadblock in a project and I would envision possible courses of action to get around it I would hear words like “Tom did that and so and so did not like it, we cannot do that”.   No matter how illogical the conclusion was that had become part of the law.   I began more and more to ask myself why am I seeing the same type of solutions to the same type of problems, better solutions than the ones I am being dictated?   Tom is human, as a human he is fallible, I do not know a lot about him other than the things he did are the things I would have expected of him as a young staff officer, these were the same type solutions I was coming up with.

I realized the organization simply had not known how to utilize Tom and they were unwilling to learn from him.  My second realization was that I would likely be no different.

And this taught me my second lesson-learned: LL#2 Make sure you go to work for a company that hires you to do what you know.

I very likely would have resolved to stay for the year I had committed to in my mind if it had not been for one additional factor.   The week after I began they moved a person from another department in as a project manager.  I found this person’s character and personality revolting.  I dreaded going to meetings to hear their opinion of proper project management and even Oxford commas.  They fancied themselves and expert on the military (because their father was a cook), the English language and government relations.  They even schooled me one day on how the government works because they are enrolled in a public administration course at night. I suppose I never learned that much dealing with so many government agencies myself.

In our business in the military, where we can say real words, this person and I would have come to terms, one way or another.  In the world of “nice” words and no ability to perhaps call them out for combatives you are left with few options when faced with an obstinate fool.

My third lesson-learned from this experience; LL#3 Life too short to associate with people you do not want to.

I would have powered on through #1 and #2 but when combined with #3 I was done.   I turned in my notice in mid-April.  I made it four months.  I had become that statistic I had sworn not to be, I was a veteran that left their first full-time job in the first year.  I offered to work part-time for a few months to finish out a project, they accepted and I have been doing that since.  That project is wrapping up now and I look back to wonder what all went wrong.   The three months as part-time were great.  I did not attend meetings with the loud-mouth.  I did not ask permission to do what is right to move my project along.  I came in, I did my work, I pushed things that needed to be pushed and I submitted reports.   Ultimately, that is just the sort of job I was looking for, if the last three months were the reality I would still be employed full-time, and happy.

I do not regret taking the position.  I turned down others before and since, some that paid much more.  However, money was never the main objective.  I wanted a position where I could use my skills, do what I know, make a difference and enjoy the people around me.  None of that materialized sufficiently to make me stay.  I learned a lot (about myself and people), I got to ride to work with my wife and have lunch with her for a time and that was nice but in the final equation, things did not balance.

How could this have worked better?   I take all the blame.

The organization simply did not know what they had in Tom and they did not know what they had in me.  I am certain during the interview process I could have and should have spoken up, been more candid, asked questions during the time the red-flag popped up.  They may not have hired me, people in the civilian world turn interviews on small things, but if that were the case it was not a loss and still the right thing to do.  At the time I thought I was clear about me, who I am and what I want but perhaps not.

I should have set the conditions for our relationship in a stronger way earlier.  I do not need to be managed, I will not ask permission to do what is right and I do not need to be retrained on everything I know.   If I were a youngster, without a pension, perhaps I would need to accept that I have to change most of who I am.   They hired a  guy that spent 30 years in the Army doing things.  Obviously, I have much to learn, change and adjust – but my core – that is simply who they hired.  I failed to establish the proper parameters early on.  We could have done great things together, not teaching them how to utilize me was my failure.

Finally, we certainly did not like everyone we served with in the military.  However, our promotion system over time would rid the system of people like the individual from LL#3.  If they had ever been commissioned in the first place they would have been sent home as a lieutenant.  I would not have worked with this person as a “peer” at this juncture of my life.   However, I take responsibility for this.   I should have taken charge of the situation earlier.  Perhaps announced my disdain for dealing with them and given the organization an opportunity to make an adjustment one way or another.

I take the blame because I control me.  Companies that want to leverage and tap into the skills and experience that veterans bring to the table could learn by applying the converse of the above.

My free-time since May while I worked just part-time has been great.  I have worked on tasks I thought I would never get to.  One of my hobbies is reading and writing about the philosophy of John C. Calhoun, another is genealogy.  As much as those subjects may interest me they do not make for solid general social conversation, most people glaze their eyes over

It has been a great life – but there has been a subtle burning desire.  I want to do a few more things.  Pile up some extra money and maybe have one more adventure.

So.

Moving forward – I have decided to do something that I almost swore I would not do – Defense Contracting.  A young fellow with a small subcontractor reached out to me twice about an O/C-T position, I rebuffed him the first time.   The second time I told him I would consider it and within 5 days they sent me an offer letter.  My how different the process is compared to civilian jobs.   No formal interview – just a conversation about the task to see if you are the real deal.   No references – your record and the people that know you speak to that.  No long process – they have a contract with an empty spot and they need your skill-set.

I am excited to see what the next few months bring.  I had the most enjoyable three years of my career out at Fort Irwin as an O/C and now I get to go back – this time with an air-conditioned Jeep! This will NOT be forever, it is not my full purpose,  and that flight back and forth between rotations will get tiresome but I get back to the desert, in boots, training troops.  What is not to love about that, if just for a short time.