Driving home from work, I was skimming through the radio and heard an interesting article on NPR. Bob Curry, a Viet Nam Veteran who suffered from addiction, founded a Veterans group called Dryhootch.org.
Based out of Milwakee, WI, he runs a small group in a brick and morter building, but instead of serving alcohol, he serves coffee. What a novel idea!
Veterans leagues across the country serve alcohol, a depressant, to soldiers that potentially have PTSD. Accroding to Mr. Curry, Veterans leagues like the VFW, have been shutting down across the country because they have not kept up with the times.
As a leader, I deal with soldiers every day with some kind of substance abuse issue. The military offers help, lots of help. The problem is, if they continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, they find themselves out of the military and enrolled in the VA system. Dry Hootch is a great alternative for Peer to Peer help, a place to get information, and there is no stigma attached to any of it.
Not all soldiers that have PTSD, turn to drugs or alcohol. Not all soliders that turn to drugs or alcohol have PTSD but often, the two are intertwined. What a great place to go to online or in person to get headed in the right direction.
I tell soldiers all day long that I will give them the tools to help themselves, but I can’t hold their hand and make them do it. This is just one more tool I will give them to help themselves.
Flashback: After a week in Iraq, my team of 9 were ordered to move from Taji to a small FOB in the center of Baghdad, Iraq. We were still green and untested. Our team chief had not yet arrived and I was in charge. Nothing like an aviator doing the job of an infantryman.
We did our weapons checks, lined up our convoy and headed out of the gate. It was 0200.
We passed through the city of Taji and made our way from village to village.
Suddenly the sound of machine gun fire brought everyone to life. The radios exploded with chatter.
I got on the radio, “Where the fuck is that coming from?!?” I yelled.
My answer came quickly…it was ours. A runaway machine gun. The gunner broke the link of ammunition and the gun fires until it ran out of rounds.
The bad news was that we fired rounds by accident and we didn’t know who or what the rounds may have hit. We had to report it.
The next morning a called my boss, a Colonel I never met, who happened to be with the Colonel who was replacing him.
“Let me put you on speaker phone, Major.” the old Colonel said. I explained what happened and proceeded to get may ass chewed about why the weapon wasn’t on safe.
My answer was simple,”We are in a combat zone, sir.”
He continued in with the mostly one way conversation.
It was beyond me why it made sense to put a weapon on safe in a combat zone when you are actively looking for the enemy. In fact I began to question my own judgment.
After the conversation, I started to do my research and found, that in all reality, that Colonel was wrong.
The next time we spoke, I mustered up as much tact as possible and corrected him.
His answer, “Well anytime my guys rolled out we kept our weapons on safe. I suggest you do the same.”
Why is this important? In the world of IEDs and VBIEDs, that 1 second can make the difference between life and death when a bomb is driving at you at 40 MPH.
Lesson learned: Know the rules and know them well because even though someone is the boss, they just might be wrong.
No one ever sets out to fail. No one ever sets out to be a failure. But it happens. No one has ever been 100% successful at anything they have ever done…ever!
Over my life time I have had many successes and many failures. One of my biggest success has been my 20 year career in the Army. I started out as a Private, became and Officer, went to flight school and will retire as a Field Grade Officer.
One of my biggest failures was being a business owner to two businesses and closing them up. So, what do you do to turn around your failures?
In the case of my businesses, I was forced to file a bankruptcy. What a weight on my shoulders! It was such a horrible stigma. It was tough to get out of bed every day, but I did. I still had my Army career, I still had lots of ideas, and I still had my drive and motivation. It was dim, but it was there.
I had to focus on my successes. I focused on my potential. I focused on the lessons learned from my failures.
I regrouped and refocused. It didn’t happen overnight. The bankruptcy didn’t end for two years. There were other lawsuits from another small partner that didn’t want to get involved until he realized he was really losing money. But we, my family, got past it. In the world wide scope of things, none of it mattered.
So what did I do different?
1. Change my attitude. Like I said, no one likes to fail. You can feel like a loser or stand up, dust yourself off and drive forward.
2. Be honest with yourself. What really went wrong? What decisions did you make to let the failure happen?
3. Analyze your failure. If you’ve been really honest with yourself, you will know what went wrong and when.
4. Learn from your failure. Don’t do the same thing twice. If your failure cost you money, you might as well get an education for it.
5. Drive on! Put it all together and succeed.
If you think like a failure, you will be a failure. If you dream of success, you will succeed.
I love the Blotter. I remember growing up as kid. Our local paper came out every two weeks to find out who made the blotter. You make it once or twice while you’re in high school, you were cool. More than that, you became the problem child of the town. I…..was cool.
Every morning at 0500 hrs(that’s 5:00am) my Army Blackberry vibrates to my morning blotter email. I roll over and open the blotter. This is how my day begins.
Admittedly, I open it with butterflies in my stomach. Depending on who did what determines if I have to call the General when I get to work or not.
I can’t imagine Steve Jobs wanting to know if one of his employees got a DUI the night prior or if the police were called because a neighbors dog defecated in their yard and the police were called.
Imagine Trump telling someone they’re fired because of something he read in the blotter.
Some of what I read is funny…like the dog issue, drunken wives arguing during a barbecue, someones kid lighting off fire crackers.
Some are not so funny. Sexual assaults, suicidal ideations, internal investigations of stolen government property; all of these are man power intensive and have many secondary and tertiary effects.
But, this is the job of a leader in the military. We get knee deep in soldiers personal lives to ensure our tools of battle are safe and ready to go to war.
How deep is your boss in your personal life?
As a commander, it’s difficult not to get sucked into dealing with 10% of the soldiers 90% of the time. So when something good happens I truly enjoy it.
One of the Staff Sergeants in my unit was selected for promotion to Sergeant First Class. Because of the promotion process, this is one of the most difficult ranks to make.
Often, during such a ceremonious occasion, soldiers will choose who they want to promote them, even if it’s someone outside your formation.
I was honored and humbled that he requested that I promote him.
What is even more spectacular about this story was that he enlisted in the Army after working in the civilian sector for 20 years! He simply enlisted to serve his country.
I was proud to promote him. His wife, teenaged son and teenaged daughter were there. We read the orders and his daughter pinned on his rank. It was a great family affair.
After it was over he said, “Sir, after hearing you speak to us, I decided you were the guy that I wanted to have promote me.”
As a leader, these are the days you should cherish. These are the birthdays and Christmases of you job.
These types of events are one of the indicators you are doing something right for someone and when you do it, do it with humility and honor.