Friday, May 31, 2013

Lincoln's Call to Service—and Ours

A proposal that would help young Americans understand that civic duty is not restricted to the military.

A version of this article appeared May 30, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Lincoln's Call to Service—and Ours.
     My father first took me to Gettysburg when I was 12 years old. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, home from the first of two tours in Vietnam. I remember in particular the hundreds of obelisks poking over the berms, the oxidized plaques attached to rocks and the statues lining the roadways. All spoke for the thousands of men and boys who had died in the grass and dirt serving their nation. I was young, but I recognized the gravity of the place.
     Though I went on to have a career in the military, the visits to Gettysburg with my father were not preparation for soldiering as much as they were early lessons in citizenship—a particular understanding of citizenship that President Lincoln defined and challenged us to fulfill when he delivered his famous address there. It's a citizenship that does not simply reflect upon the sacrifices of others, but that honors their sacrifice through action: "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."
     Today, as ever, the task is unfinished. Yet the duties of citizenship have fallen from the national agenda. Talk of service is largely confined to buoyant commencement ceremonies. And too often it is just that: talk. Less than 1% of Americans serve in the military—a historic low during wartime—leading to a broad, complacent assumption that serving the nation is someone else's job. As we've allowed our understanding of service to be so narrowly limited to the uniform, we've forgotten Lincoln's audience: With the armies still fighting, the president exhorted a crowd of civilians on their duty to carry forward the nation's work.
     It is right that we send off the young Americans graduating this month from high school, college and professional schools with speeches. They should be congratulated for completing the many exams now behind them. But we must remember another test—Lincoln's test of citizenship—and begin to mark these important junctures in life not just with words, but with real-world commitment. Universal national service should become a new American rite of passage. Here is a specific, realistic proposal that would create one million full-time civilian national-service positions for Americans ages 18-28 that would complement the active-duty military—and would change the current cultural expectation that service is only the duty of those in uniform.
     At age 18, every young man and woman would receive information on various options for national service. Along with the five branches of the military, graduates would learn about new civilian service branches organized around urgent issues like education, health care and poverty. The positions within these branches would be offered through AmeriCorps as well as through certified nonprofits. Service would last at least a year.
     Returning military veterans would be treated as the civic assets they are and permitted to use a portion of their GI Bill benefits to support a period of civilian national service, since such service helps them transition to life back home. The new service opportunities would be created in accordance with the smart rules that have guided AmeriCorps since its founding in 1994, which allow that program to field tens of thousands of service members without displacing workers and who fill vital niches their paid colleagues do not.
     Serving full-time for a year or two needs to be a realistic option for all young Americans, regardless of their family's finances. So civilian service positions would be modestly paid, as AmeriCorps positions are now. (Most AmeriCorps service-members receive a $12,100 stipend for the year, and if they complete their term of service, a $5,550 scholarship to help cover tuition or to pay off student loans.) Government agencies focused on the challenges that these service-members address, as well as the corporations that will benefit from employing Americans whose leadership will be cultivated by service, should step up to fund these efforts. Instead of making national service legally mandatory, corporations and universities, among other institutions, could be enlisted to make national service socially obligatory. Schools can adjust their acceptance policies and employers their hiring practices to benefit those who have served—and effectively penalize those who do not.
     More than most Americans realize, the demand to serve already exists. In 2011, there were nearly 600,000 applications to AmeriCorps—a program with only 80,000 positions, only half of which are full time. The Peace Corps received 150,000 requests for applications but has funding for only 4,000 new positions each year. This gap represents democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.
     Some, particularly after having just observed Memorial Day, might think that only war is capable of binding a generation and instilling true civic pride. But you don't have to hear the hiss of bullets to develop a deeper claim to the nation. In my nearly four decades in the military, I saw young men and women learn the meaning and responsibilities of citizenship by wearing the uniform in times of both peace and war. They were required to work with people of different backgrounds, introduced to teamwork and discipline, unified by common tests, and brought even closer by sacrifice. Some discovered, often to their surprise, that they were leaders.
     This transformation is not exclusive to the military. Those who disagree need only visit young teachers working 18-hour days together in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. In rural Colorado health clinics, in California's forests, or Midwest neighborhoods devastated by tornadoes, skeptics would see teams of young people—affluent and poor, college-educated and not—devoting their days to a singular, impactful mission.
     Universal national service would surely face obstacles. But America is too big, and our challenges too expansive, for small ideas. To help stem the high-school dropout crisis, to conserve rivers and parks, to prepare for and respond to disasters, to fight poverty and, perhaps most important, to instill in all Americans a sense of civic duty, the nation needs all its young people to serve.
Whatever the details of a specific plan, the objective must be a cultural shift that makes service an expected rite of citizenship. Anything less fails Lincoln's test.

Gen. McChrystal, a former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and of the Joint Special Operations Command, is the chairman of the Leadership Council of the Franklin Project on national service at the Aspen Institute.


1. INDIVIDUALLY READ General McChrystal's ARTICLE. Once your read the speech, in class you will create a draft outline for the speech and for homework you will refine the speech and research it for time. It is recommended that you read & re-read his article a number of times in the refinement of your speech. 


PREPARE a one minute and thirty second (1:30) long speech agreeing or disagreeing with Gen. McChrystal's opinion about national service. Ensure there is an introduction, a few specific points supporting your concurrence or non-concurrence and end with a conclusion. Your speech will be given in class on Tuesday. Your grade will reflect the quality effort of preparation and speech execution within the confines of 1 minute and thirty seconds.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Student-Cadet Improvement...Making Ourselves Better By Looking At What You or We Don't Do Well

How do we get better at the things we do in life? School? Relationships? Work? Activities?

Often we get caught up in just living the schedule of our day and life without ever stopping and reflecting on HOW  we are performing (good, mediocre, poorand WHY we are performing at that level?  It is a type of "groundhog day" effect which means each day rolls into the next day without any change or day runs into the next. 

Do the following evaluations or selections ever surprise you? 

  • Interim Report 
  • Report Card
  • Making a sports team or a performance team
  • Failing a test or quiz
  • Not receiving a promotion
  • Not being selected for a leadership or management position
  • Not being able to get hired for a job 
Should you be surprised? 

How could you prevent being surprised, in those areas?

Class Activity:
Break Up into small groups (teacher directed) and your group will discuss and record responses to one of the two following questions:

  • What are the SPECIFIC things a student-cadet does or does not do to be unsuccessful in NJROTC?

  • What are the SPECIFIC thing a student-cadet does or does not do to be unsuccessful in school?
We will discuss your collective comments in class afterwards.

Your Homework:

Make an entry on the blog (First name & class period) that is a specific behavior or action which causes you to be less successful in NJROTC and in school in general. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

OODA Loop and Decisionmaking (Boyd's Cycle)

John Boyd on Wikipedia

Colonel John Boyd (USAF) was an exceptional fighter pilot and military strategist. Part of his talents were in his ability to analyse a situation and synthesize options in order to make an informed  decision. He developed a decision-making process called Boyd's Cycle, or more commonly known as OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) Loop. It was originally designed to depict the decision-making process a fighter pilot went through in conducting a combat "dogfight" against an enemy (opponent) aircraft. The ongoing and competitive decision-making process each goes through in trying to gain positional advantage over each other to engage their opponent with their weapon systems results in the pilots continually cycling (looping) through the OODA Loop process.     

The above graphic of the OODA Loop is in its basic form. Since its development, OODA Loop has been used for everything from strategic organizational decisions to individual decision-making, military planning, sports, and it is very popular in the business world. 

The below graphic is the OODA Loop with a more advanced depiction of the process with a more explanatory breakdown of the components associated with each step in the OODA process. 

Class Discussion Points:
Background: On Tuesday when we conducted the competitive drill game of Snake (individuals / small groups conduct drill movements in a large open space with the object of intersecting another team / individual. Once an individual or team is intersected they are absorbed by that team until one team wins), each of you was performing an ongoing decision-making process to either catch or avoid being caught by your competitor. 


  1. What are some examples in everyday life where the OODA Loop decision-making process is involved?
  2. What is the advantage of being able to make decisions quicker?
  3. In a competitive situation, what is the benefit of being able to make a decision quicker than your opponent or adversary?
  4. Using the concept of OODA Loop how can you improve your ability to "out-cycle" your competitor? What step could you individually or organizationally develop to out-cycle or gain an advantage over a competitor...? How could you do that?
Homework Assignment:   Identify the situations, during the remainder of your day and night, that requires you to use the OODA Loop process. We will discuss them in class tomorrow.  

Decision-making is a skill that is invaluable to being successful in life no matter what the endeavour. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Memorial Day Module: Somalia 1993

As we approach Memorial Day, this year we are going to focus on a more recent combat operation, Operation GOTHIC SERPENT in October 1993 in Somalia. Above is the Medal of Honor Citation awarded to Master Sergeant Gary Gordon (as well as his fellow sniper Randall Shugart), 1st SFOD posthumously for their actions on that day.

Reference A: A quick synopsis of the Operation is included here (check this out on your own):
Operation Gothic Serpent Wikipedia

Reference B: For a more formal version of the operation go to the Army Historical Branch version:
US Army in Somalia

We will start this module by reading the above citation that I want you to consider the price paid by American fighting men and woman everyday. With less than 1% of the American population serving in the military and of that 1% an even smaller number of those serviceman serving in a combat environment, it is important for you as an informed and involved citizen to be aware of their sacrifice for our freedom.

Let's get oriented to Somalia to gain some perspective on the country, the people, the politics, and the environment, here is a short video:

Reference C1: 1992 1993 Starvation in Somalia
Reference C2  (Post 1993 Anti-Americanism)

Reference D: Now let's review The Battle of The Black Sea by watching the following documentary:

History Channel Black Hawk Down

We will watch the movie: Black Hawk Down and present our upperclassmen battle studies and Memorial Day remembrances based upon that operation and the bravery, heroism, and sacrifice made that day.

Reference EBlack Hawk Down (The Movie)

Monday, May 6, 2013