I thought that a review of this post might be in order now that the author is being considered for the position of Secretary of Defense. I find it comforting that, at least one, of our leaders places a premium on the ancient art of reading.
General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC, has some strong opinions on the importance of reading. Here's what “The Warrior Monk” wrote on November 20, 2003, to an officer who inquired about the importance of reading to a military officer:
... The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men's experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others' experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
With TF 58, I had w/ me Slim's book, books about the Russian and British experiences in AFG, and a couple others. Going into Iraq, "The Siege" (about the Brits' defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req'd reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim's book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom"; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and "From Beirut to Jerusalem". I also went deeply into Liddell Hart's book on Sherman, and Fuller's book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).
Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the "4th Generation of War" intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say... "Not really": Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. "Winging it" and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don't know a hell of a lot more than just the TTPs? What happens when you're on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher HQ can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy's adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don't know what the warning signs are — that your unit's preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?
Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy's will are not allowed that luxury.
This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel's Papers (remember "Kampstaffel"?), Montgomery's book ("Eyes Officers"...), "Grant Takes Command" (need for commanders to get along, "commanders' relationships" being more important than "command relationships"), and some others. As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn't waste their lives because I didn't have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Hope this answers your question.... I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.
NOTE: This letter first publicly appeared in the blog “Strife” by King's College London
With Thanksgiving coming, I have to say how thankful I am for my on-line Writing Family. The friendships and support I've found in the last year since I came back to writing regularly have been awesome.
I am especially thankful and excited to be a part of Writing Without Drama. It is a small close-knit group of writes but the participation has been awesome. If someone has a writing related question or issue, there is always someone there with an answer, help and encouragement. We also have some regularly scheduled activities with an incredible degree of participation.
Tuesday Topics is a weekly post by writer, ghostwriter and professional editor, Jeremy Menefee. The members are able to suggest topics they would like for him to cover and he is extremely responsive and always posts valuable information for our writer's toolbox.
Friday Flash Fiction Challenge is something new we have instituted. Our first challenge was posted on November 11th. The challenge was to write a story from the perspective of someone of the opposite gender, and since it was posted on Veteran's Day, we also required that the story include a veteran. We had nine amazing entries. Quinne Darkover was so impressed that he volunteered to give Beta Reader feedback for all the entries in this and future challenges. Justin Ames submitted the winning entry, “Waves” which was posted in the group for everyone to enjoy (and possibly learn from). Justin won a free e-book of his choice from our list of writing related titles. Additionally, Kristen Leah Evans' entry was selected for feedback from all of the Group Admins including a full professional edit by Jeremy.
The second Friday Flash Fiction Challenge was posted this past Friday and is to write a story in a genre that the author has not worked in before. So far, eleven writers have indicated that they have accepted the challenge. With a limit of 500 words, our writers are learning to make every word count, a skill which will definitely help them in future endeavors.
This challenge is such a good exercise for learning the craft of writing. Not only do our members stretch themselves to meet the various challenges, but submissions are required to be in standard manuscript format just like they would use when submitting their stories to a magazine, anthology or contest so they are learning to use and feel comfortable with the correct format.
More, every entry receives either an acceptance letter for the winners or a rejection slip just like they would if they had submitted their piece for publication. This helps them get over the fear of rejection which paralyzes so many writers and prevents them from submitting their work to markets.
I am so thankful and proud to be a part of such an active and supportive group.
I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving.
So, my good friend and fellow author, Kari Holloway published her first novel this week. Cracked but Never Broken, , a Laughing P novel.
Marine. Rancher's son. Twin. Damien returns home thinking he would slip right back in, but his family and the small town he's from have been doing just fine. When secrets he thought were buried surface, can he tell friend from foe and win the girl, or will his inner demons ruin his chance for a happily-ever-after?
I haven't finished this one yet, but I can tell you that it's a real page-turner. Kari's editor, Hugo Award nominated author Brian Paone, had this to say about it: “The ending. Wow. Didn't see that coming.”
Just three days after her release, Cracked but Never Broken is sitting at #100 on the Amazon hot-seller's list for Romance.
Kari Holloway is a native to Leesburg, Georgia and graduate of Lee County High School. She attended Georgia Southwestern State University and completed her course of study in Psychology.
She grew up on her family's farm, a fourth-generation operation that plays some hand in her debut novel, Cracked But Never Broken, and the Laughing P series. Her mom was a collector of animals from simple cats and dogs to iguanas as long as a man is tall, emus who ran and danced through the yard, to a wild turkey that decided their home was his, and so many others.
Her days are filled with two kids and baking, but her hobbies include, with camera in hand, aquariums, theme parks, museums, and zoos.
You can learn more about Kari at www.facebook.com/k.l.holly, www.instagram.com/lunanara87, www.twitter.com/lunanara87, plus.google.com/u/0/103095218981244181137, www.linkedin.com/in/kari-holloway-96a5b7125
www.kariholloway.wordpress.com or at her website: KariHolloway.wix.com/fiction