Sir, Put Down Your Narrative And Step Away Slowly

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A U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, gives his platoon a command during a final drill evaluation at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 22, 2018

I am skeptical of a lot of the recommendations I read on leadership, which often strikes me as pyramids of buzzwords, but I liked this article by a former British submariner who went on to do a PhD in leadership.


His first step is: "Ask difficult questions – It is too easy to go with the flow. Chances are that if you don't understand something, others do not either. Or it is a narrative fallacy that everyone believes without evidence." This resonated with me. When I was a reporter, I often found the best question was to say I don't understand something—this policy, or how this works. When I said, "General, that's an interesting approach, but I don't see how you are going to get Congress to go along with it," you could see the colonels all lean forward, because they were wondering about that too.

His second step: "Identify false narratives." As he notes, this is difficult, because, it "requires critical thinking skills. Military Estimates can be a tool to identify false narratives but be careful you are not affected by confirmation bias. Look for information that does not fit the narrative." I think this may be the hardest step, because organizations really cling to the narrative they have developed.

Third, "Be prepared to challenge, manage upwards, or to challenge your peers."

I think this is easier if you have his fourth step firmly in hand: "Consider new possibilities – Construct a new narrative based on critical thinking from the first stage. Be prepared to test the new narrative as well as the old (i.e. carry out the process again until you have a tried and tested awareness of the situation)."

He does have a buzzwordy label for all this, which is "SWAN"—for "Start With Another Narrative." In this case, I think he's earned it.

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)

Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

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Audie Murphy (U.S. Army photo)

Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018

On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.

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A Purple Heart (DoD photo)

Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

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Ships from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 transit the Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2020. DESRON 23, part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erick A. Parsons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.

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Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Oscar Temores and his family. (GoFundMe)

When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.

Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.

"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."

That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.

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