Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Military As A Career Booster, The Draw Down – What does it mean to you?

Today’s posting was triggered by the article: “Should I Join The Military To Advance My Career?

 (See: http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2015//28/should_i_join_the_military_to_advance_my_career_108290.html, which is also the photo source.

I thought it would be helpful for my to offer my perspective as a semi-retired dude to those of you who are just starting or are down the career path. Perhaps it’s because I had lunch with 3 of my 4 grandchildren yesterday and think about their future often.

I strongly believe that a military stint is an incredibly valuable experience. It may not lead to a career and you certainly won’t enjoy every moment, but you will (as the article states) be changed – for the better. You will find you can do things you never thought possible and that you may actually have an affinity for leadership or for one or more of the particular skills you’ve picked up or expanded upon in the military.

My advice is pick a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that appeals to you, perhaps one that expands on your previous education or aptitude. As the article points out – it’s probably smarter to pick a specialty that can easily translate into civilian skills.

A MISO Tactical Team Leader is a great example. You are not only the manager of a team, but you are dealing with influencing people every day. You need to have the discipline to make a plan and carry it out. In most cases the tactical team is engaged in some kind of activity requiring interacting with people of all types – a very valuable skill.

While we constant debate whether or not PSYOP/MISO = marketing and sales, I believe we can certainly explain to future employers how our military experience will help their company succeed. 

It's clear that the shape of the military is changing. The active force is being reduced significantly and there may or may not be trade offs between uniformed positions and contractors. Whatever the outcome, your military experience will make you a better person and a stronger candidate for that next job.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

General McChrystal Talks About Leadership


One July 15, 2015 I attended a “Meet The Author” session with General (R) Stanley McChrystal held at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco. (see: www.MarineClub.com).

I had never met the General before, and my only previous impressions came from the media. The overwhelming one of which that his staff let him down by not doing their job with the Rolling Stone reporter (see: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-runaway-general-20100622).

While the General may be 60 he clearly projects confidence and energy. During his hour long talk (without notes) he came across as focused, direct and in this setting, candid. While I’ll admit that the moderator threw only ‘softball’ (easy) questions at him, the General’s comments spoke for themselves.

He was promoting his new book: Team of Teams (see: http://mcchrystalgroup.com/teamofteams/) about leadership, especially of large, diverse groups.  The central thesis of the book is that you need to treat teams as if they were individuals so that the teams in turn can effectively interact with other teams just as individuals reinforce, support and help each other.

His talk centered on his experience in command of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

ISAF, he told us, was composed of forces from 45 nations, each with their own particular national agenda, yet seeking strong direction from their boss. His job was to foster unity of effort – which was no mean feat.

The General described how he faced a new kind of enemy. One that was not organized in the traditional hierarchical way, but rather a loose network that was enabled by real time communications using mobile phones and the Internet. This enemy didn’t react in a predictable templated way like conventional forces from the Cold War or the World Wars. Rather this enemy was agile and didn’t play by any rules.

In this environment, the General noted, you were an enabler of those working with you, not an oracle from which all decisions would emanate. He learned this during his career. He commented on the evolution to this conclusion from his early self as a junior officer where he only wanted to learn the craft of soldiering, and always wanted to be in charge.

The General explained that historically senior military leaders envisioned themselves at chessboards facing an equal opponent. Today each of the opponent’s pieces is intelligent and independent. They also communicate with each other, work together, and do not follow particular rules.

He compared today’s senior leader to a gardener. The gardener’s job is to enable the plants to do what they do best – grow. The leader does the feeding, water, weeding, and harvesting thereby providing the best possible environment for his plants to grow, or in this case for the diverse forces to act with a unified sense of direction.

The General was quick to point out the dangers of micromanagement, particularly of strong, independent teams. “Eyes on, hands off” was the way he described his leadership still. The leader’s job is to instill confidence across the force.

He did point out that technology is a micromanager’s dream tool because the senior leader can see and communicate directly with the lowest echelon. Quickly the General added that this would be a mistake. The leader has a far-off, two dimensional view while the force on the ground was right there and could feel the pulse of the battle.

When asked about managing start-ups, the General felt that employees were not motivated purely by money. He felt that the attraction of being part of a team, having a cause/vision to believe in and being successful was far more powerful of an incentive then mere money.

After the talk the General was gracious enough to sign an untold number of autographs. He was charming, patient and concentrated on each and every person who met with him.

It’s easy to say why he inspired the loyalty of his forces.

Photo Source: The Author

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stars & Bars: The Power of Symbolism

Say what you will about what it stands for, but the latest debate over the Confederate Flag and the passion behind it clearly show the power of symbols.

Passion has been aroused on both sides of the Confederate Flag issue. Advocates and opponents are voicing their opinions and taking actions. While perhaps the debate’s center of gravity is the old Confederacy which has evolved even more in many ways – socially – economically – politically than even the past 200 years since the Civil War.

We can all agree that the Stars and Bars has galvanized people into action.

Isn’t that the essence of PSYOP?

A recent article in the on-line publication, The Havok Journal considers whether or not the flag’s historical connotation should be erased just as Pharaoh ordered Moses’ name stricken from the obelisks and pyramids of Biblical Egypt. (See: http://www.havokjournal.com/uncategorized/should-we-erase-history-over-the-confederate-flag/?utm_source=Havok+Journal&utm_campaign=23a276440a-Havok_Journal_Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_566058f87c-23a276440a-213402489 which is also the photo source.)

No matter what the outcome of the debate. Several things are pretty certain in my mind.
1.     No one will look at the Confederate Flag quite the same way again.
2.     Disaffected groups and individuals will use the Confederate Flag as a rally point or justification for their anti-social beliefs and actions or tools for other nefarious purposes.
·      The unintended consequences of restricting use of the symbol have not been a factor of the decision making process.
·      The flag may be used to arouse flag opponents.
·      Criminals may employ the image as a part of a cyber scam – click here if you hate the flag or vice versa.
·      Hacktivist groups such as Anonymous may take cyber action against groups they feel are not sensitive enough and continue to display the flag on-line.
3.     The PSYOP/MISO Community should step back and appreciate the raw power of historical symbols and take a fresh look at current operations and the possibility of applying this lesson.

This post represents a different perspective than I normally take. Please let me know what you think – one way or the other.