Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Kelly Leadership Survey Highlights the Disconnect Between Employees and Managers

visit for world survey results

The 2012 Kelly Global Leadership Survey of 170,000 people around the world highlights the disconnect from what employees want from their managers and how they are led.  Interesting reading if you are the leader or the here to check out the suvey.  The ability to lead can be taught to any manager, but the ability to provide a vision, empathically listen, empower employees and democractically include employees without being perceived as the authoritative leader is a skill that must be practiced to be mastered if it doesn't come naturally to managers.  Sign up for training on how to improve your management style and take your organization to the next level of harmony, high performance and achievement.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Organizational Spirituality is alive and well with Michael and Son

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Michael and Son owner Basim Mansour and get to know a little more about the company and the leader who leads this great company. In an industry suffering from volatility in consumer spending trends, construction subcontracting of electrical trade work , material cost volatility in copper or other manufactured residential products, shortage of credit, equity and capital among homeowners, many trade contractors have not figured out how to stay in business, let alone grow. Mansour's company has grown from $250k in annual sales in 1990 to close to $100 million and 400 trucks in multiple cities from Philadelphia to Raleigh, NC without outside funding.  In the last four years, Mansour has grown the company by almost 100% during one of the worst economic conditions ever faced.  In less than 23 years Mansour has attributed the company’s success to staying customer focused and team oriented.  Mansour was forced to drop out of college with 6 credits of formal college education under his belt before he left college to support his family and run his father's business in 1990 after his father passed away suddenly leaving him to support his mother and younger sister.

Mansour was taught a strong work ethic and technical skills by his father, but the business growth has been all his determination, effort and force of will.  He uses the analogy of pushing a sled in football practice to being an entrepreneur and forcing success.  He means to tell entrepreneurs that they have to put everything they have into their business endeavor to make a business succeed.  Really digging your toes in and pushing with everything you've got to be successful.   He was 19 and his family had just lost their primary bread winner in a family business.  His family was left with little money.  They had to borrow money just to bury his father.  He has lived through the hardships facing utility cut offs and struggling to make ends meet.    He however was no stranger to hard work and survival.  His breakthrough came when he was so stressed and frustrated with a pounding head from the pressure of trying to make ends meet that he said to himself, "So What! What can anyone really do to me now?" He likens the self-realization to death row inmates who have certainty of their fate and embrace acceptance.  He bootstrapped this business from that position with a contract from Pulte Homes to provide services to a new home subdivision going up and leveraged that starting cash flow to continue growing.  He instilled teamwork at the core of the business philosophy and remaining focused on servicing and pleasing the customer with a passion.  His story is not typical of most trade contractors you might meet, but is often the formula of the great entrepreneurs.

Where Mansour is unique from other small business owners is that he cites no proprietary formula, genius or patents that are the secret to success.   No formal business school training.  No government grants or hand-outs.  No outside consultants.  No outside angel investors or venture capital funding to get his business off the ground.  He cites plain old hard work and teamwork.  He formed an advisory team of subject matter experts on everything from electrical, mechanical and plumbing to make up his core advisory team to help him evaluate products and services.  They developed a team sales approach and brought in a sales training expert to educate his technicians on creating a balance between sales, service, educating the customer, and cross-selling add on services through traditional marketing.  The simplest form of marketing:  slapping a label on all the appliances they can service when in the home was a tried and proven strategy that works for many trades contractors, but the difference for Michael & Son was an in house state of the art call center and enterprise system handling the call volume and dispatching service and access to the owner for every customer or employee.   This approach, along with tight cost controls, instilling disciplined values of teamwork to every employee has created a unique service organization.   Even master electricians with years of experience hired into the company spend weeks in training to learn Michael and Son systems to include HVAC or plumbing capabilities to explain other areas of the company's offering and capabilities before they step foot in front of a customer to install a generator or complete another electrical repair.  The same goes for those who answer phones and talk to a customer with a problem.

The company remains more than relevant with state of the art technology like tablets that technicians carry to educate customers with product videos.  Customers sign and pay for orders with a mobile commerce solution tied to their enterprise system tracking key performance metrics that tie behaviors to incentive pay for employees resulting in 20% to 30% higher pay for employees.  In an industry which is highly fragmented with over 80% made up by independents and just 20% concentrated in giant international conglomerates who focus primarily on government and commercial services in the electrical trade space (like large national giant MC Dean).  Michael and Son focuses on residential consumers, and have achieved a leading geographic presence in the markets they serve and are on their way to becoming a national organization (again without any outside funding or Wall Street investors).   The company now offers franchising opportunities and partnerships to experienced trade professionals to offer them a great work environment and company to work for and offer support.   The company has demonstrated the basics of building a business making the transition to becoming a great organization.  A state of the art training program for all employees, a fundamental belief in customer service with basic tenets of competent technicians who arrive on time, in clean logo'd uniforms, driving immaculately clean vans (seen as rolling billboards), labels that are slapped on every appliance they can service from the hot water heater, to the electrical load center and central air conditioner and furnace are the foundational  business techniques that have delivered their outstanding results.   
The company also promotes their “Helping Hands” program where the company’s and Mansour’s charitable work is highlighted on local broadcast channel infomercials along with the Youtube video series (as featured in this post) that provides an audience with the opportunity to share and profile their charitable projects while also promoting the company's capabilities.   I was genuinely impressed with the company's owner and the employees I met including the young technician who came to service my Sears Central Air Conditioner last summer and all the good hearted people working for Michael and Son Services on the phones.  I would highly recommend buying from Michael and Son over their competition like Sears Home Central, Lowes, Home Depot, United Air Temp, or an independent operator (unless I knew the local independent operator personally or he came highly recommended by someone else I knew personally).   To learn more about Michael and Son Services, Inc. capabilities, visit or call 703-658-3998. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Narcissistic, broke, and 6 other ways to describe the Millennial generation

Narcissistic, broke, and 6 other ways to describe the Millennial generation

Interesting article about why millenials need leadership in their lives more than ever.  Article in The Week makes the following points about millenials (those born in the 80s and 90s):
  1. They're spendthrifts
  2. Broke
  3. Socialists
  4. Narcissists
  5. Political
  6. Less religious
  7. Stressed
  8. And what else?  ENTREPRENEURS!
If you're under 25 and starting a business, don't forget basic leadership traits, or better yet, hire a Marine to teach you about leadership traits and values like exercising good and sound judgment in making your business decisions, so you're not broke before you reach age 30.  Or better yet order a copy of How To Compete With The Industry Giants The Field Manual To An Entrepreneurial Society.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Leadership in the Economy Means CFOs Have To Balance Risk Goals Better Than Ever

This article is reposted from CFO Magazine, and I thought you should all see it and understand why it is taking longer than expected for the economy to recover, for unemployment to fall, and for company's financial growth to return to a steady and healthy financial pace.  It all comes down to confidence and how well companies feel about taking risks.  CEOs are on CFOs to come up with ways to "think outside of the box", while CFOs are seeking ways to manage risks.  The below article in CFO Magazine helps frame the discussion:
Private-Company CFOs Have Cash But Won’t Use It
Private-company CFOs surveyed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said they have enough cash or have even increased their cash this year, but they remain reluctant to deploy...
Published: Thursday
Private-company CFOs surveyed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said they have enough cash or have even increased their cash this year, but they remain reluctant to deploy it.

Forty-three percent of the 1,250 senior executives in an AICPA Business and Industry Outlook Survey released today have “about the right amount” of cash currently, while 36% said cash assets have increased from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2012. Thirty-six percent also said they specifically had more noncyclical cash and liquid assets, up from 31% in last year’s second quarter. Almost half of those surveyed were CFOs who were also CPAs (the next-most-prevalent title was controller, at 22%), and 69% represented privately owned firms.

But 24% of the total respondent base said they were hesitant to deploy their excess cash, an increase from 20% who felt that way last quarter. Only 12% said they would actually use it.

The reluctance to spend cash stems from an overall negative take on the economy. The AICPA’s CPA Outlook Index dropped two points, to 67 from 69, from this year’s first quarter to the second. Similarly, expectations for revenue, profit, and employment growth slid this quarter, though they were essentially unchanged from last year.

But not all is doom and gloom, according to Jim Morrison, CFO of plastics compounding firm Teknor Apex and chair of the AICPA’s Business Industry Executive Committee. He does not consider the two-point drop that dire, considering the index has dropped 9 to 10 points in some years.

“We might have been in a holding pattern for a while, but we are going to resume growth,” Morrison says. “It may not happen right away. There’s still optimism that over the next year, we will be on a growth pattern rather than a downward spiral.”

Morrison is also optimistic about the growth prospects for his firm, which provides plastic compounds to manufacturers in the automotive and retail markets, but he is a bit more cautious regarding the economy. “Our own organization is able to grow in this environment . . . but we are unsure about how the overall economy is going to go.”

The AICPA’s findings back up that sentiment. More than 60% of senior-level CPAs in the survey said they expect their own companies to expand in the next 12 months, a result that’s unchanged from the first quarter.

In the Midwest, the most optimistic region, 59% of the respondents looked more favorably on the economy than they did in the first quarter, which compares with 54% of respondents from the West, 52% from the Northeast, and 51% from the South. The manufacturing and automobile sectors have driven most of that growth in the Midwest, Morrison says.

Those companies that are the most poised for growth, though, tend to be smaller in size. Among companies with revenues between $100 million and $1 billion, 66% said they expected to expand. That compares with 62% of respondents with revenues of more than $1 billion, down from 65% last quarter. The drop in the larger firms’ expectations marks the first time since 2010 that the largest companies were not the most likely group to have growth on their mind.

Respondents also showed a slight improvement in their ability to obtain the necessary financing to expand. While more than half viewed credit availability to be about the same, only 10% saw it as a barrier to a stronger liquidity position, down from 13% last quarter.

“The banks are just getting their act together in terms of where they feel comfortable lending. Their sweet spots are probably in that midlevel company size,” says Morrison. “It’s not surprising that the liquidity side is improving a little bit every quarter.”
For information on solid profitable investment opportunities for your organization or company, endorsed by public and private enterprise and part of the growing initiatives in meeting renewable portfolio standards in many states, contact Raj Dwivedi at 410-992-2646 or at 301-892-0207 for information on some really innovative ideas to help your company's economic situation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Public speaking as a tool in leadership some unconventional tips from Entrepeneur Magazine

We all end up speaking in front of groups at some point in our careers or in any leadership role.  If you're a strong communicator, you probably know what works for you already and have honed it like the great speakers we know and love. This is a great animated video with some tips on public speaking that can help anyone that has to get up in front of a group of people to speak and keep the audience engaged.

The first time I recall having to publicly speak professionally was at the age of 24 having to get up in front of my peers and commanding officers at a dinner nearing the end of training in the US Marine Corps Infantry Officers Course (IOC). In attendance were many of the groups and base unit commanders, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner (and our former CO of OCS from a year prior), male visitor guests who were invited by staff and students. My peer infantry officers and I were all on the hook to deliver a short speech quoting from a historical figure in the study of military science and/or warfare.

All of my peers chose to quote generals, presidents, kings, and actual historical characters. I chose to go with something more humorous to mark the occasion, using the quote from fictional character, Conan the Barbarian. My notable quote that I delivered was: "A great warrior was once asked what is best in life to which he responds: 'To crush the enemy, to see him driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of his women'. Who was this great warrior? Conan the Barbarian." Quoting this fictional warrior character could have landed me in trouble, but I knew I wouldn't get in trouble when the entire room erupted in laughter, including our medal of honor guest. When returning to my seat, the event coordinating officer, a fairly serious captain and instructor in the course, smiled and just said, "there's always one, nicely done, Dwivedi."

Remember when speaking in public or when presenting something to keep your audience engaged and that humor is as much about timing the delivery as it is the material you choose to present with your sense of humour.   It is also a great way to have fun with presentations and to develop skills in public speaking.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Great video but leadership traits JJ DID TIE BUCKLE make the leader

This video is a classic YouTube hit which makes a great point on leadership and followership.  I like the connection that is made between the leader and the first follower about spontaneous or natural leadership.  In my book, leadership traits of JJ DID TIE BUCKLE are developed to help individuals stand out.  Real leaders who develop their leadership traits in organizations are easy to follow because people in an organization believe in the leader and associate with the leader.  His success is their success and the organization's success is his success.  Traits like exercising judgment and justice (or consistent treatment of all followers) are interwoven throughout an organization by the leader and followers.  It becomes an expectation.  Leaders are dependable, show initiative, and are decisive. 

Leaders use tact in all their dealings, have high levels of integrity, and endurance to see tasks through to the end.  Traits of bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty and enthusiasm are what make organizational leaders great leaders and help ordinary organizations become great.  The dancing guy video puts a dimension on the study of leadership that makes a great point about the first follower, but it is the unwavering leader with traits like JJ DID TIE BUCKLE that sets the tone and standard that makes an organization or team great.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Motivating employees through leadership trials

Do you recall being so tired that you could just sleep where you sat down?  Or you dozed off at the wheel while driving every time you blinked, the blinks got longer?  Generally that comes from exhaustion or a lack of restful sleep.  If you ever served in the infantry then you know what I mean.  Carrying a combat load of upwards of 65 lbs on your back in a pack over miles of difficult terrain for days is physically exhausting, and then returning to regular civilization can be equally exhausting.  Yet time and again, I saw a different attitude in people when they were the person in charge of the excursion, or the leader.   When people were part of the squad or fireteam with no responsibilities to lead, they shouldered their heavy burden and trudged along with either words of gripe about this or that, or they would be deep in thought about something else and focused on how much being in the infantry really sucked right at that moment in time.  I recall many such thoughts.  Yet when the same individual was tapped to lead the squad and had to make sure everyone was hydrated, and still physically able to keep up with the squad, the leader didn't seem to mind the distance, terrain or heavy burden he was carrying and in fact would often run up and down his line to make sure everyone else was OK.  Where did that burst of energy come from?  The same individual that was just so exhausted had forgotten his exhaustion and a shot of adrenaline had kicked in because he was in charge and had to make sure that not only was he personally squared away, but all of his charges as well as their leader.   

Why is that?  Why is it that something that could be so straining and exhaustive when you are following others and seems impossible to accomplish becomes trivially easy when you add the responsibilities of having to motivate and encourage others to do the same, follow and/or keep up?  It is the leader's job to keep everyone motivated, focused and on target to do the right thing.  The individual who believes in leading by example has to actually live a leader's life of personal sacrifice which is a tough life to live in the infantry.  It means less sleep, rest, food, water, personal time to take care of yourself.  Motivation is not a one size fits all solution in any organization, but leadership is a key motivator.

In my book, motivation in a work environment is achieved when individuals are known for their strengths and contributions and individually challenged.  The idea is to turn everyone in an organization into a leader who believes in leading by example and is occupied in his/her mind with keeping others motivated and encouraged.  You can only accomplish this by having people on board that are all capable of leading or being a leader.  If you bring 'A' players onto your team who care only about themselves, gripe about their environment or other problems and let their issues affect their work or other people's work, it takes what could be a great team down to the level of good or ordinary.  Great teams are built with interchangeable members who all have the potential to lead at one point or on some task or project with unselfishness as their key leadership trait.  These types of individuals generally don't want to lead because they know how hard and risky leadership actually is to achieve high performance.  A bunch of 'B' players can be valuable members and drive  'A' performance results for a team.  This probably defies logic, but 'A' player individuals from top tier schools tend to be selfish in their interests rather than selfless leaders (it goes with the territory of being graduates of top-tier schools and being 'A' players).

I'm not saying all good leaders are reluctant leaders as there are exceptions to everything, but going back to the infantry anyone who volunteers to do something for personal gain of things like pay, benefits, title or sense of entitlement and draws their primary motivation from those things probably isn't fit to even be on my team.  Those people are mediocre or average performers on their best days despite thinking they are 'A' players.  They give far from their true capabilities and act as individuals making it difficult for a team as a group to generate high performance.  Look at your  own current leaders who head departments, chair committees, lead companies, or may otherwise be the head honchos.  Do they lead selflessly and demonstrate through their actions and words that they care more about supporting you or the organization than they they do about themselves, their agenda, their initiatives, reputation or pet projects?  If you can truly say that they do, then I'll wager you're working for a high performance organization that is going to be around for a long time, and is led by leaders who understand how to motivate employees.

For most organizations including public and private enterprise it is rare to find leaders who keenly understand individual motivation as a means of rewarding employees and subscribe to using it over some cookie cutter standard performance appraisal system or generic assessment to try to get a consistent rating system for employees.  That generic system is to make it easier for the organization, not to optimize the motivation of the individual employee contributing to the team.  Those cookie-cutter performance appraisals with unobtainable goals don't work to get high performance out of motivated employees.  Those performance appraisals are far more subjective than objective and most of the employees know they are subject to their boss's whim.

However, nothing works better for motivating employees than a trial at leadership and putting employees in charge of things for a period with full support to see how things turn out like the Celebrity Apprentice (I hate all reality TV shows, but that's a different subject).  This approach works well in the infantry to evaluate small unit leadership and from what I've figured out after 20 years in business roles is that most people in business act the same way that people in the infantry act.  Human nature, it turns out, really is accelerated in the infantry because the lifespan of infantrymen is fairly short especially those who have been in ground combat.  A requisite for leadership positions in my book is that people are disqualified for a job opening if they apply for the position without being asked to apply.  If you applied that requisite to your employer, current boss or elected leaders, how would they stand up to that qualifier?  Do you think someone had to tell them to apply, talk them into accepting the job, or do you think they just seized an opportunity on the vacancy?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why is the common sense of accountability so uncommon today?

The Oz Principle book is free just pay shipping in our estore or very inexpensive on Amazon

What happened to common sense in organizations?  So many decent people simply have lost touch with the basic principle of accountability.  The excuse of someone else will do something, or will say something is the prevailing culture in many organizations today and at every level.   Organized labor has built a model on sticking to the strict confines of assigned duties and responsibilities, disincenting people to just fix things or try to fix things they see broken, if it is not in the job description.   How crazy have we become?   This is not how we solve challenges that daunt our personal existence and larger community around us.  It may not be such a stretch to say that almost all the human caused disasters of the last centuries can trace the root cause of failed outcomes to the lack of accountability at some basic level.  Analysts or decision makers ignore signs and warnings of imminent attacks on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center, and the world pays a heavy price.  Germans internally fail to see Hitler's folly and allow him to rise or act with enough conviction internally to stop him in his tracks.  Japanese military leaders unquestioningly follow the most brutal and sadistic tactics failing to question their leaders orders, let alone pressure to stop their country's aggressive emperialism.  Tribes of native or more primitive cultures fail to see emperialist outsiders dividing them internally in the name of trade only to enslave them and force assimilation upon them.  Sometimes well intentioned leaders just get it wrong, but when there is nothing or no one to hold them accountable, it makes it a lot easier for them to be wrong than right.  

Lobbyists and their clients that generate language into bills that become laws making it possible to favor one group over a majority of ignorant, apathetic constituents thrive because there is no accountability.  The dismantling of economic safeguards in banking laws that were in place for almost 80 years to protect the American people from excessive risk in banking were directly related to crony capitalism, yet  no one is accountable for the mistakes made, so what's to stop it from happening again and again?  Corporate executives take unprecedented risks, follow foolish paths based on selfish interests and fail to listen to anyone who disagrees with their decisions, and are largely unaccountable by anyone let alone a governing body representing shareholders, consumers, employees or communities where those businesses operate.  Adverse impacts happen to an employee's livelihood when they disagree with bosses in organizations, so the safe and prevailing wisdom of self preservation is just pretend to not see the problem, right?   What have we become?  Are employees and the communities where they live really surprised that their pay is frozen or there are massive layoffs or closures of once thriving enterprises and communities when no one just solves problems when they first appear?  

Is it really any wonder that children in the US can't focus for more than a few minutes, read or do math at grade level on par with other industrialized nations?   Is it really any wonder that as a nation we have a national health crisis around costs that rise inexplicably and disproportionately to the rest of the costs in society and Americans overpay for basic health care services that workers like doctors and nurses would probably do for half the pay if asked (how does the military do it?).  Doctors, insurance companies and trial lawyers won't budge on controls or costs because the root cause of relative unaccountability to each of their groups benefit from higher costs.  Why aren't we as Americans outraged that maladies such as obesity, diabetes, & heart disease that could all be prevented grows to epidemic levels in kids and adults?  If it isn't a lack of accountability at personal, community, corporate, and governmental levels that has put us where we are, what else is it?  Who else but you and me are responsible for the state of our personal health and economy in the US?  How many people do you know that are eligible to vote didn't bother to cast a vote in their primary election?    How many people do you know have such a short attention span that they cannot read a 200+ pg book in a few hours, but can watch television for hours without end?  How many American people do you know have not read at least one 200+pg book in the last year, and proudly admit they hate to read?   How many American people do you know work in positions, report to bosses or work in organizations that they really do not like, but work there any way just for the paycheck to support a lifestyle or an over-extended household motivated by consumption and competition with their neighbor's consumption?   

Education and knowledge is free in this world.  Public libraries have every book published available to them for nominal costs and available to anyone for free.  MIT has free open course ware classes funded by volunteers and donors where anyone can sit in on the lectures available to the world for free.  Anyone can log in, audit whatever classes they want and actually learn something new about themselves and the world in a world-class higher education system.  The Khan Academy has volunteers and some of the best educational paid staff teaching subjects that anyone can learn or relearn at their own pace in the K-12 curriculum, yet labor organizations representing teachers see the innovation of Khan Academy as a threat and discourage their use.   Return to the basics of accountability as originally portrayed in the book the Oz Principle, but apply it to every aspect of your life.  Excuses are like TV reality shows they all suck.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do You Measure Success?

At the beginning and end of each day I try to "sharpen the saw" as Stephen Covey put it in his time management/planning classes.  A time to reflect on things for yourself.  I used this time (literally a couple minutes in the morning and night to ask myself the following questions to quantifiably measure my progress against my personal goals of success.  I changed the focus of trying to chase wealth and focused instead on chasing after a quest for knowledge and self improvement.  In Hindu philosophy there are many demigods and godesses (not mutually exclusive to pray to any of them, and Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that believes in one overall God - to all you bashers and haters who view religious philosophy solely through the lens of your specific monotheistic faith).  The concept is that two competing godesses who are personnified as very beautiful women wish to be pursued before they shower their attention on whomever pursues them.  One is called Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and the other is Lakshmi the goddess of wealth.  Many a Hindu merchant prays to Lakshmi for success or money (which is like you or me playing the lottery as the sole retirement investment plan), but never really does achieve great success beyond the immediate fruits of his physical or mental labor.  The countering philosophy is rather than pursue Lakshmi, pursue Saraswati (or knowledge) because it makes Lakshmi a little jealous and she reminds you that she's there and has gifts for you if you pursue her once in a while.  So the concept basically says pursue knowledge and the side effect of wealth and success becomes more plausible.  It is a simple concept, that I have not always adopted personally, but have learned to redefine success.  This Hindu philosophy has born to be universally accepted in many philosophical and religious teachings of basically doing good for others or similar concepts.  A more modern interpretation reinforcing the universality of the position comes from Victor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning.

I have adopted these 10 questions as the yardstick to how I did each day toward achieving my own success:

1. Did the people I love hear or feel from me that I love them today? 
  • I have been absent from this aspect for a long time in my life, taking everyone around me for granted.  I work on achieving this in small ways like making coffee for my wife Christy before she goes to work and on weekends and bringing it to her in bed, or taking our daughter Rachel to school whenever I can, or making sure our son Alex or my dad or brothers hear something positive from me and not just gripes or complaints about something.  I try to find ways to talk to my friends or family and/or exchange emails to brighten their day without asking or expecting anything from anyone and just like doing it to the point it makes my day better.
2. What's the biggest thing I did to improve the world?
  • This isn't the easiest thing for me to think about, because I'm not the type that was out to improve anything but his own lot in life.  But I discovered that the little things like recycling, not printing something that can just be shared digitally,  sharing an idea with someone who can turn it into something wonderful, walking or biking somewhere vs driving, or turning off the lights or power to equipment so as not to waste water or energy count in this bucket.  Bigger things like donating to a charity or finding solutions for things plaguing groups like veterans or my community count a lot more to me, and I'm a work in progress.
3. Did I physically work out my body today? 
  • I know my family and friends who know and live with me every day will laugh at this one because I don't exercise any more and haven't really in over twenty years.  I do nothing close to what I used to do when I was an active duty Marine or afterward when it hadn't quite rubbed off and I was addicted to physical training before our kids came along, and I developed a love for fine cigars, alcohol, food and physical comforts like using a snow-blower vs shoveling the driveway or driving vs walking or biking.   Most who know me would consider me a level just above functioning ameoba when it comes to physical activity levels.  However I do something every day whether it is a "Surya namaskar" or "hello sun" exercise or something like the daily seven the Marines use to stretch and warm up their muscles before running to prevent injury.  I do something each morning to help me stay flexible which in turn keeps my arthritis and gout at bay and makes it just a little easier to walk my gargantuan girth around.  As funny as it may sound to my family and friends asking this question, I do understand the benefits of this question and do think about it.
4. What did I plan for tomorrow?
  • I have no problems with this one, because I am a natural planner and thinker.  In fact I think my wife Christy thinks it is the Dwivedi curse to be more "thinkers" than "doers."  There might be something to it.   I am just not comfortable going to sleep until I know what I have to do tomorrow and the day after and next week, and I like to draw her into my plans.  I, like others (I am sure), plan in my sleep which gives me ideas to develop new opportunities.    Christy thinks my ideas come too fast to execute properly on any one and she might be right about that.  How does it work for you?
5. Did I do anything to compromise my integrity today?
  • I have not had a problem with my integrity since early adulthood and childhood.  Learning valuable lessons about humility and integrity getting caught in a lie.  Nothing worse than tangling webs of deceit about skipping school, or getting in trouble or something like that.  A sick feeling that just becomes impossible to shake.  I learned that my word and reputation are two of most important things of value as my reputation precedes me everywhere I go.  I make sure that my deeds and actions match what I projected outwardly that day so I can sleep soundly.  If not I am troubled in my sleep because I would consider myself a fraud, and I can't be successful at anything if I think I'm a fraud.  No matter how much money is in my bank account or how many people love me, I can't be happy or successful if I'm not happy with myself. 
6. Did I offend anyone with unkind words or deeds?
  • I have had the problem in my past of being way too harsh with subordinates and demanding excellence from everyone and everything around me.  It's a character flaw that I've had to learn valuable lessons in life about going out of my way to be kind in words and deeds all the time even when I think people deserved the criticism I have delivered.  I'm a work in progress.  And sometime, I just keep to myself and say nothing rather than express unkind words.  How about that for progress (those who have been affected by my past words or deeds know who you are)?
7. Did I accomplish something worthwhile today?
  • I love what I do, and I chose to work in the printing industry specifically because of the sense of accomplishment that I got from seeing a short term project conceptualized, executed, closed and the reward of feedback almost instantly.  I am sure many craftsmen and professionals feel the same way about their jobs whether it is working with their hands or ideas.   It helps me to sleep at night knowing I have accomplished something worthwhile today.  Even if it is making progress or a plan by furthering along the process on something, I feel good when I accomplish something worthwhile and it drives my success.
8. Did I help someone less fortunate?
  • I am a work in progress with this one.  But I'm learning about giving in whatever way I can.  Freely sharing ideas, and helping others become successful.  My dad is the gold standard in my mind with giving tangible cash or wealth as a percentage of income that puts me to shame.  I also see Mr. Warren Buffet and the Gates Foundation as the platinum standard of philanthropic giving to help others less fortunate.  I have spent my life so narcisistically accomplishing my personal goals that I have left this off my daily priority list before I end my day.  I am reminded by Christy, my dad, my kids and others to make this a larger priority toward a successful and purposeful life.
9. Did I make wonderful memories today?
  • I can honestly say that if life for me ends tomorrow, I have no regrets and the best memories to take with me of when the kids were born, when Christy and I met, when my best friends and I met, and when I learned significant lessons in life that have created wonderful memories.  My goal is to keep this going with new ones every day.  It is what drives me with renewed purpose.
10. Did I show and live Oprah's "attitude of gratitude" today? 
  • Christy turned me onto this from her utter belief in Oprah Winfrey being the wise sage that Oprah really is to people.  This concept of an attitude of gratitude comes from Christy and I thank God every night and every morning when I wake next to Christy with the many blessings I have received in this life.  I have learned that I don't have as nice a day or as good a sleep if I just complain or griped about setbacks or something else that happened that day when something may not have gone the way I wanted.  When I put things into perspective of the kids are healthy, happy, we have an abundance of love around us and wealth and everything we need, I feel better and do much better.
This is just part of my daily checklist now, and I would be remiss if I did not give full and grateful credit to Inc. Magazine's Geoffrey James (a brilliant writer) for posing these questions in a way that got me to really think about success this way.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lessons in leadership learned from Star Trek's Q

It may seem ridiculous to many non-trekkies, but I'll admit as a fan of most things put out by Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, I usually learned something from the writing on the original series as a child, and Next Generation when I was a young student.   The fictional stories of command responsibilities, adventure and danger inspired me to seek the life of adventure and danger as promised to those who volunteered to join the US Marines when I graduated high school.  I can easily say I was influenced by Star Trek's writers who dreamed big and created characters who lived with courage.  I found a way to adopt some of those fearless character traits into my leadership style.  

To me the heroic fictional character Captain Picard was the yard stick for a leader that people in real life would be held against somewhere in my mind.  I was fortunate in the life I was born into and there were real life examples of leaders shaping my thoughts who way exceeded any fictional character.  I learned more about leadership and life by the time I was 25 than most people probably do in a lifetime.  I had faced the unknown and deployed to war and returned unscathed, I had graduated college, and I was already married to a girl I met just six months prior to getting married.  I had watched my dad lose his wife and partner in life (my mom when I was 18) to cancer and be the foundational rock in my and my brothers' lives.  The man that raised us with exacting discipline, critical of our mistakes and demanding of excellence (seemingly) without mercy from us demonstrated the greatest example of love, compassion and stability that anyone could have ever shown us.

He inspired me whether he intended to or not to be more than what I was, and to dream bigger than what I thought was possible.  My leadership style was also influenced and shaped by my two older brothers who I'd looked up to my whole life that helped me through almost every difficult challenge in life and were the root source of strength that helped me to endure any hardship or pain encountered throughout life.   Those two guys were there my entire life and showed me examples of what to do as well as what not to do. 

I also witnessed and learned first hand from many friends (including girlfriends who can be very influential to a young man), colleagues, peers, teachers, professors, managers their real life leadership examples which shaped my leadership beliefs.  These are the every day people who inspire us to go to school (or stay in school or go back to school when I was choosing a path of full time active duty as an enlisted Marine with no use for finishing college).  These same people are the real life leaders who inspire us to learn an instrument, appreciate art, music, simplicity and culture.  They encourage kids to join or start a band, adults to be happy and get divorced or get married, or just learn new stuff about life as they get older.   If these real people were the mold for leaders, then the institution that is the Marine Corps and the non-commissioned officers would be the forge and fire needed to create the leader that shapes civilians into Marines.  They solidified that leadership belief system into me to simply accept nothing less from myself and from others who would lead people.  I came to expect a minimum competence from people in leadership or management roles and was often disappointed. I was often disappointed further when these individuals lacked even more basic leadership traits of employing justice, using good judgment in all things, being unselfish in their positions of leadership and authority, acting with decisiveness, demonstrating consistent dependability, showing initiative, having unwavering integrity, show bearing in tough times and during celebrations, demonstrating courage and job knowledge, having unwavering loyalty to subordinates (like willing to stick their neck out for subordinates and peers) and exercising tact when frustrated.  

If Warren Buffet can use the expression that he won the lottery in life being born to his great parents, which enabled him to be the genius of business and industrial capitalism, then I can say that I won the leadership lottery in exposure to great leadership by being surrounded by some of the best examples that ended up as my NCO instructors, roommates, company and battalion peers and commanders from great leadership schools like the Naval academy, ivy league colleges (Williams College in particular gets a shout out for their contribution), public and private universities, and from all walks of life where they all underwent the extraordinary transformation to become Marine commissioned officers sent out into the world to command in real life.  This was so much cooler than anything ever imagined in the fictional world of Star Trek.  

I am not sure, however, that I would have appreciated these people in real life as the leaders they were (and most still are) if I had not been influenced by Star Trek's fictional leaders and my imagined yardstick of what I should expect from leaders.   So laugh all you want at the Trekkies, those of you who were non-Trekkies, but you could learn something from the yardstick of leadership created in the fictional character Picard and expect some proximity of that guy when you compare his leadership traits with those of your company's executive leaders or your elected leaders who are more like Ferengi than Picard or like the leaders in your own life that helped shape your beliefs.  Don't have any idea what I'm talking about?  Ask a Trekkie. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where does Loyalty fit in your leadership formula? How ruthless do you really need to be?

A friend of mine whose brother (let's call him "Bill" to protect his privacy) worked for a company that claims to be the "world leader in its industry," let's call them ("ABC Co") to protect their privacy.  Recently Bill had the awful experience of being let go after 4 months of rejoining his former employer after a two year stint working for a smaller rival company, in a different geographic region of the country.  Bill's a successful sales guy.  He originally worked for ABC in the middle-Atlantic states for 6 years, then relocated to the southeast when he joined a rival.  ABC had no presence in the Southeastern US, and had no non-competition agreement with Bill, and he departed on good terms from ABC.

Two years go by and ABC expands to enter the Southeast market and one of their executives that is an old "friend" of Bill's working the same trade show "happens" to run into Bill while both are working the tradeshow.  The ABC executive boasts that they're intent on dominating the market and essentially will crush the smaller rival in the Southeast when they enter the Southeast.  The executives at ABC make it clear that they want Bill to rejoin ABC because of the groundwork he's done in locking up the market with a loyal customer following for the product line.   After a few weeks of discussion and discovery that Bill's smaller rival has no non-competition agreement in place preventing Bill from walking over to rejoin ABC, they woo Bill to come back promising him whatever he basically wants in exchange for signing a non-competition agreement with them.  A dream scenario for Bill, right?  Hardly.  On day one they incorporate his client list into their database making it now their intellectual property and begin a pattern of making his life difficult and making it clear that they will not let him succeeed in his new job.  His immediate manager does not return phone calls or emails in a timely manner to answer questions needed for Bill to do his job effectively. When problems emerge, Bill's manager lays all the blame squarely at his feet giving ABC cause to terminate him for non-performance.  They offer Bill two months pay in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement and accepting the non-competition agreement.  They don't want Bill working in their industry for another rival and communicating with "their new customers".

There's a lesson of leadership or lack of it here by the executives of ABC, and there is also a lesson in leadership for Bill in this scenario that goes to loyalty.  ABC would probably be wise to settle with Bill and the rival company Bill left to join ABC.  In fact, if I were Bill, I would go back to the smaller rival and promise to make it rain all over the Southeast with his former customers which ABC is clearly poaching if they would in exchange  indemnify and defend him as an employee from any claims of violating ABC's non-competition agreement that Bill signed when he joined ABC (which was a condition of their offer to join).   It certainly seems like it is intentional interference in the smaller rival's business by ABC, but I suppose it could be argued either way to decide.  It is precisely this lack of loyalty in business that should have you outraged when an "industry leader" uses tactics like this.  There was a complete breach of trust by ABC executives that brought Bill into this company on the promise of a new career.  How ruthless does a company or organization need to be these days to compete?

It is fascinating to me that in publicly traded organizations and in public policy circles so called "leaders" use subjective techniques to allow crony hires and terminations.  One of the 14 characteristics of leadership valued highly by the USMC is "Loyalty" among their leaders, and that loyalty is designed and programmed into leaders to flow downhill to subordinates to protect them from fool-hardy initiatives of  idiot managers hired in usually as cronies making a name for themselves with risky "intrepreneurial" initiatives that tend to shutter divisions and get people laid off.  It seems in short supply to find loyalty as a trait among executives today outside of military leadership circles or former military trained leaders (but even there, individuals can become power-crazed egomaniacs who forget their basic leadership training and function). 

Leadership certainly seems to be lacking at ABC because how does any leader maintain that leadership position in their industry with antics like this and not have significant backlash?  Who really wants to work for or buy products from a company that treats employees and people in general this way?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book signing event 4/25 at Barnes & Noble, Bowie, Maryland

Please join me for this book signing event April 25, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble, Bowie Town Center.  See address and link below.  I look forward to meeting anyone who can come out and lives in the metropolitan DC or Baltimore region.   There should be plenty of like minded people who have enjoyed this book and are helping me to put together the next edition with their stories of leadership, business challenges and solutions to inspire entrepreneurs and scholars everywhere.
Please bring your copy or pick one up at the store for me to sign.
I hope to see you at this event if you are a Marine from Quantico or a member of the military serving on any of the nearby bases, you should find a number of people of like interests and minds for business as well as executives from area businesses that are familiar with the book.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This picture says it all.  Support the public library system in your neighborhood.  If they don't have my book, please let us know and we'll donate our published books to your local public library.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Request a quote from our network of service providers at or join our network at and let our buyers find you.
Tell us about your small business and how you compete with the larger industry rivals. We'd like to include your story as a published case study in the next edition of How To Compete With The Industry Giants. Deadline is Sep 15, 2012 for the 2012 second edition book. If interested please contact me at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You know I have to include a video by the US Marines on leadership here on this site.

Monday, February 27, 2012

When are you ready to lead?
Recently a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant's question on a Linkedin discussion board, drew a considerable amount of discussion.  This guy was one from the latest OCS class to graduate from  Quantico and was awaiting the beginning of TBS (The Basic School) a 6 month training program that teaches new Marine officers the fundamentals of the Marine Corps infantry, structure, weapons, skills, etc. before they are further trained in their military occupational specialty school.  This essential training pairs people together to receive foundational hands on practical learning of what life in the infantry is like.  For graduates of law schools who have joined the USMC on a contract to join the JAG corps, or aeronautical engineers who joined the Marines on a contract to attend flight school, or others whose ambitions are to learn a valuable specialized skill in air traffic control, cryptologic communications, classified material or intelligence administration, logistics, aircraft maintenance or mechanical maintenance of ground vehicles including tanks, amphibious vehicles or other light armored assault vehicles, the mission of the infantry is an arduous, difficult and physically demanding lifestyle which is focused and centered around developing the tactics, techniques and strategies of warfighting with boots on the ground, fingers on triggers shooting things or plotting to destroy the enemy and his things as the leader of Marines in combat. 

The Marines philosophy steeped in tradition and practical necessity have proven that officers must be able to take command of a unit and direct that unit effectively to either defend or attack an enemy that will wipe them out if given the chance in rear areas or places of sanctuary under normal rules of war like hospitals, chapels or around civilian non-combatants.  They know an enemy would if they could attack them in rear administrative areas and remain vigilant to create safe zones to allow Marines a respite from the front lines so the support staff of a "safe" environment can be created.  It is within this safe rear environment where there are Marines with the military occupational specialty such as baking cookies, cooking hot food, fueling vehicles, or typing reports exist.  In a rifle battalion this area is called H&S Co, and it is the dread of any warrior to be assigned to this rear area for guard duty or anything else, and this would be the equivalent of traveling to a corporation's home office.  Every Marine, including those in the H&S Co must know how to wield the weapons issued and available to them in a time of crisis and must understand how to react in a time when leaders are needed at critical moments in a battle or engagment or other encounter with the enemy.  History has shown the Marines that immersing all Marine officers in an infantry environment regardless of military occupational specialty, forges bonds between Marine officers which are stronger than any other service.  The pilots flying missions to support the infantry Marines on the ground calling for fire to drop a bomb on an enemy position or an enemy surrounding them are personal friends or friends of friends because of the experience shared together at Quantico.

The Marines know what they are doing when it comes to building leaders.  The 2ndLieutenant's question asked how does a new 2nd Lieutenant joining the Marines gain respect from his Marines who are clearly battle hardened and extremely "combat mature" as many have already had 10+years of constant deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and most of the Marines senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs or NCOs) have completed multiple tours of duty and have "seen it all", and any new 2ndLt coming into their midst is going to be an outsider with no "combat experience" who will not have a chance to be taken seriously or offer any meaningful contribution to the unit.   It might seem impossible or daunting trying to put his stamp of leadership on a unit as a new young and inexperienced commander taking over, right?  How many of you have experienced something like this in your jobs taking over a company or business unit with solid performers who applied for the job of leadership but didn't get it, and they brought you in?  

This scenario plays out in varying degree in almost every command or management structure in today's environment whether it is the Marines or any business.  A new boss taking over an existing team has an opportunity to dramatically succeed or fail spectacularly depending on how he behaves or is perceived upon initial arrival, and then how he actually performs his job as the leader.  Ultimately his actions to get his unit to pull together will determine the success of the leader.  You see it in sports teams and business organizations.  New coaches, players or managers are brought in to make changes, add inputs and improve the overall situation.

Some of the best responses from the group of around 20 Marine officers (including a well respected retired Colonel) came down to these core responses:
  • Trust the more experienced NCO/SNCO (staff non-commissioned officers) to advise you
  • Tust the system that put you in charge
  • Trust your gut and be your own guy
  • Trust other more experienced officers to help guide some decisions and ask them for advice
In a nutshell all the leadership advice came down to those 4 basic responses that people with more experience than you are there as partners to help you and the unit succeed.  So basically keep your mouth shut, ears open and offer advice/input when asked by the more experienced SNCOs.    I agree with this, but to an extent.  I shared my story with the new 2dLt when joining my infantry unit as a new officer which was this:

When I graduated from Quantico's Infantry Officer Course (IOC which is another couple of intense months after TBS), our graduating class was the first since the Vietnam war to be graduating new 2ndLieutenants as platoon commanders to join their units already in theater of conflict.  I was assigned to the billet or role of Executive Officer (XO) of H&S co which is usually reserved for a more senior 1st Lieutenant or Captain who already has command experience as a rifle platoon commander or has been an XO in a rifle company who understands the rifle battalion structure.  I had a couple years of prior enlisted experience as a reservist and they figured that was good enough to be the new H&S Company XO.  Yes the Marines know what they are doing with their leadership training.

When I arrived, I had no idea what an H&S Co., was and all of the training at Quantico for the last year had been structured to teach how to lead a rifle platoon in combat and fire every weapon imaginable in the entire Marine Corps inventory of infantry weapons.  The senior staff enlisted Marines, a  First Sergeant (1stSgt who had served close to 30 years including in Vietnam and had already retired and been recalled), and a Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt who had close to 25 years of service and been recalled and was an infantry veteran of Vietnam) greeted me with mock courtesy for the rank and ridiculed me along with the company commander with every joke imaginable about how useless 2ndLts were to the Marine Corps.  My personal favorite was "2ndLieutenants are like bananas, they're born green, they live yellow and they die rotten", something the Captain used to get a laugh out of telling.   The company commander was not that impressed that he'd been given a 2ndLt with no experience at all.   Not the best of environments for a new leader.

After a couple months of living out of holes in the sand that we would dig, then move somewhere else and dig more holes and live out of, and with a growing force making it certain that ground combat was about to begin against the dug in Iraqis just miles away from our position, it became clear to everyone that there was a lot of unknown and uncertainty.    The 1stSgt and Gysgt were the grumpiest old Marines I had ever met, particularly the 1stSgt who had been recalled and had to abandon his dream of retirement and had survived Vietnam would openly complain.  The Captain was the same way but in a much more depressed and insane manner where he was convinced he was going to die and we were all going to get wiped out.  The Captain had not been through any warfighting school or been near a tactical environment or actual combat unit that deploys or trains for combat regularly in over 7 years.  He had spent the last 7 years in a headquarters assignment in Norfolk, VA, and was obviously scared witless when it became closer and closer to our actual line of departure into live ground combat to locate, close with and destroy the enemy.  He suffered from terrible insomnia and was a basket case (the official Marine Corps SNCO term for a rudderless or clueless leader).

On the night of departure into the breach of obstacles and subseqennt engagement with the Iraqi infantry, the Captain basically lost his mind due partly to lack of sleep, but also due to paralytic fear that had gripped him because of the uncertainty as to the outcome of what would happen.  The same 1stSgt and Gysgt who had just months ago been chiding me about my youth and inexperience and jokes about how useless 2ndLts were, did something remarkable by going to the battalion sergeant major (SMAJ) the most senior enlisted Marine who advises the battalion commander and the battalion executive officer XO and made their case clear for the Captain to be sent back to the rear with the logistics train, battalion aid station and other follow-on gear that we would link up with in a few days and to put me in charge of the company for the tactical deployment of the company coordinating with the adjacent units and providing the security necessary for a successful outcome.   I couldn't believe it.  In the end, they had observed me doing my job without a second thought and putting forth the best effort I could with the little knowledge I had about their company, but the vast knowledge I had about the various crew served weapon systems and leadership I had been taught at Quantico.  In the end they knew the Marines knew what they were doing and had put me in that company for a reason, and they trusted me and those decision makers who put me there.

My advice to the new 2ndLt was to trust his judgment and the counsel of senior peer lieutenants, as much as he did the senior more experienced combat veteran SNCOs and not to be intimidated by the "seasoned combat veterans" or in a business organization the "skeptical professionals" who know it all and test your abilities, knowledge and worthiness to be the new leader.  It doesn't hurt to keep your mouth shut, ears and eyes open when you first take over any new organization or are charged with leading a new group, but jump in with everything you've got when you're  gut tells you're ready.  Any leadership flaws you have won't matter all that much.  The emphasis on "emotional intelligence" or any other leadership buzzword out of Harvard Business School are secondary to genuinely following your instincts and trusting the organization that put you in charge to back your decisions.  Leaders emerge when the opportunity or situation requires them to emerge, and they will find themselves leading teams without title or authority.  It turns out people instinctively follow competent and genuine leaders who exhibit the traits and characteristics of leadership using their hearts as much as their heads. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

This article is about my old platoon commander at TBS (instructor and teacher).  First Marine officer I got to know as a 2dLt going through training and had an impact on shaping our minds as leaders.  He's a very good man! 

from an article July/August 2011The Unquiet Life of Franz Gayl
A tech-savvy Marine who made too much noise, helped save the lives of countless troops in Iraq, and paid with his career.
By James Verini

Photo:Matt Dunn
As he had every morning for years, on October 4, 2010, Franz Gayl woke up at five, fed his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and then walked down the street from his modest home at the end of a cul-de-sac in northern Virginia to wait for the bus to the Pentagon. Once there, Gayl swiped his badge, thanked the security guards, and proceeded down the vast corridors to an office of the B Ring and the Marine Corps’ Department of Plans, Policies and Operations. At almost exactly seven thirty, Gayl, a science adviser to the Marines, walked into his Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a secured office in which military employees with high-level security clearances spend their days, and sat down at his desk, eager to get to work. Though Gayl had followed this routine for more than a decade, he still loved the exact minutia of it.
Then the day went sideways. His supervisor walked in and said, “Come with me, we’re going to see the general,” referring to the head of the department. With the general when Gayl arrived was a representative from human resources. He handed Gayl a letter. The subject heading: “SUSPENSION OF ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.” As the others watched him, Gayl began reading.
“Credible information exists which raises serious questions as to your ability or intent to protect classified information,” the letter, from Marine headquarters, read. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, had been investigating Gayl, and, “[b]ased on the forensic analysis contained within the report, it appears that on multiple occasions you used an unauthorized USB media flash device within the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), in violation of SCIF security requirements.” The letter didn’t specify what, if anything, was put on or taken off the flash drive. It concluded, “The culmination of the above demonstrates a disregard for regulations, a pattern of poor judgment, and intentional misconduct.”
Gayl was asked if he understood the charges. He said he did. He was led back to his SCIF, where he was given a few minutes to collect his belongings. He was brought down to the parking lot, where a car was already waiting. He was driven to Marine headquarters, where another general was waiting. Gayl was “read out” of the cascade of clearances he’d accrued over the years—top secret/SCI, top secret, secret, confidential.
Back in the car, his supervisor handed Gayl a letter notifying him that he was now on administrative leave, pending review. He was driven to the bus stop. He thanked the driver, and, as he was getting out of the car, the supervisor said, “One more thing, Gayl—I need your Pentagon badge.” Gayl handed it to him.
With that, Franz Gayl’s thirty-five-year career working for the Marines came to an abrupt halt—and, more than likely, ended for good.
“It was a disgrace, a public humiliation. I think it was designed that way,” Gayl (pronounced guile) told me ruefully about that morning, whose details he remembers down to the minute. But he couldn’t help but admire its efficiency. “It was beautifully choreographed! It was so well organized, even for the Marines.”
Nor could Gayl claim to be surprised. “I’d been expecting something like this for years, but they finally found a way to make it happen,” he said. The flash drive is a red herring, he believes—another in a series of reprisals against him by the Marines for revealing what he calls unconscionable mismanagement in the high command. After returning from a tour in Iraq, Gayl went public with an account of how Pentagon delays in sending protective equipment there may have cost troops their lives. He appeared on PBS’s NewsHour and testified before Congress, and in doing so crossed many people more powerful than himself, including General James Mattis, now the chief of U.S. Central Command and one of the most important men in the military.
Many Marines have personally thanked Gayl for his outspokenness. He’s been called a hero by senators and a “super-star” by the former commandant of the Marine Corps. But according to other Marines, Gayl was long a dangerously untraditional thinker in an organization that values tradition above all. “Just by virtue of his ideas, he made enemies,” said a general for whom Gayl once worked.
This is not the first federal investigation of Gayl, nor the first time the military has tried to dismiss him. His former supervisor, who urged his firing years ago, said Gayl had a history of insubordination and inappropriate behavior. “He had four or five projects he felt committed to, and when it came to them he wasn’t too interested in what the leadership or regulations required him to do,” he said.
Oddly, it’s a characterization that Gayl himself doesn’t entirely refute: “I was always a contentious figure,” he told me. “Everyone who has associated with me, they all think I’m a little … well, wack.” But “everything I’d complained about before going to Iraq was a theoretical exercise. Iraq was the first time that there was a real correlation between the problems I knew about in the Marines and the actual human impact.” So he broke ranks. “It struck me that if I didn’t go outside of command, there’d be no change. I also knew it would be career suicide.”
Gayl enlisted in the Marines the day after his seventeenth birthday, and at fifty-three he still looks the part. At six feet tall and 220 pounds, he has gone soft around the middle, but he has a Marine’s at-the-ready bearing, massive arms, and a Robert Duvall-intense balding pattern. He calls to mind the actor until he opens his mouth, at which point a fusillade of figures and acronyms and jargon comes at you in a Minnesota accent.
“But what was special about this LAV was it had a 25mm Gatling gun on it, and it was just awesome! It would tear up the targets!” he explained as we drove out of Washington, D.C., in his wife’s cherry-red Volkswagen bug on a recent April morning. Gayl, wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and very clean white sneakers, was describing in minute detail a day fifteen years prior that he spent blowing up things in the Mojave Desert. My question hadn’t been about light assault vehicles—I’d asked how he met his wife—but he stores most memories according to what he was doing, or, more specifically, shooting, for the Marines at the time. (He met his wife on the flight to California.)
We were on our way to Quantico, which elicited more fond recollection (“When I was on an antitank assault team there I used to fire flamethrowers!”) and then got Gayl onto the subject of the famous Quantico brig. At the moment it was home to Bradley Manning. Gayl had surprisingly little sympathy for him. “He apparently acted on his conscience, and I have great respect for that,” he said of the WikiLeaks source, but “there was no way he could have read all that material and educated himself on the issues.… I would have more respect for him if he’d stayed in the chain of command.”
“Isn’t that a little ironic, coming from you?” I asked.
“I guess it is!” he said. “But the last thing I ever wanted to do was become what we call a whistle-blower. Whistle-blower—in the Marine Corps? Snitch. Narc. Traitor. It’s as counter to the Marine ethos as you can imagine. It is going outside the family. Never embarrass the Marine Corps— that’s what I grew up with.”
Gayl grew up in a military family, of sorts. His father, Franz Joseph Ferdinand Gayl, was raised in Berlin and in the 1930s joined the Hitler Youth. When he tried to enter the Wehrmacht officer corps, a records search revealed that his mother was Jewish by birth; undeterred, he became a Luftwaffe paratrooper instead, and was captured in North Africa. He spent the remainder of the war in American prison camps in Texas and Maryland; he was sufficiently impressed with the country that he returned after the war to finish his architecture degree, and met Gayl’s mother, a computer scientist and amateur historian.
Gayl described his father as both a visionary and a man with a “strong distrust for the capitalist view of technological progress.” In the 1970s he became increasingly pessimistic about society and moved the family from Minneapolis to an uninhabited island in Lake Minnetonka. There he taught Franz to drive a World War II-era amphibious landing craft and an engine-propelled sled for traveling on ice that he’d built, among other machines (though he didn’t allow him to shoot guns or even play with toy guns).
He also descended into a crippling depression that Gayl believes came from self-hatred: though he had Jewish ancestors, he remained to his death a casual conspiracy theorist about Judaism and a virulent opponent of Israel. “You know how there are some people who seem to want to kill themselves slowly? My dad became like that,” he said. Gayl’s parents divorced when he was in his early teens, but not before his father passed on to him an awe for the Marines— the heirs, as he saw them, to the Prussian military tradition.
After flirting with juvenile delinquency, Gayl dropped out of high school and enlisted. His transformation was instantaneous. “It gave me a purpose, an identity, a shared identity,” he said of the Marines. “The basic principles of self-disciple, the will to see things through, endurance, a sense of civility. It’s a pattern for life.” He was assigned to the infantry, then officer candidate school, then Ranger school, then jump school, along the way designing equipment that would be used in the first Gulf War. He was made a war tactics instructor at Quantico and sent to the Naval Postgraduate School, where he earned a degree in space systems operation. Michelle Shinn, a physicist at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, where Gayl worked on a free electron laser project for her, said that he had a natural gift for seeing the practical potential in abstract science. “I had a healthy skepticism about his ideas,” she said. “But we tried them, and they worked.”
Based on their research, he built, in his living room, a weapon for immobilizing people without injuring them (and tested it, on himself). When he was awarded a patent, what had been known in military labs as the Gayl Blaster became the “high intensity directed light and sound crowd dispersion device.” Popular Science chronicled his work, as did Wired writer Sharon Weinberger in her book Imaginary Weapons. When he left the Corps in 2002, after twenty-two years of active duty, the Marine commandant wrote him a note: “You have been a super-star for the Marine Corps for your entire career; if I had a chance to vote you would be our first one-star space general!” That year, he was hired as a science adviser to the Marine Corps at the Pentagon.
But Gayl had an equally pronounced talent for making waves. In 2004, he wrote a report exposing the dysfunction of the Marines’ science and technology division. Unsatisfied with the attention it got among the brass, he published an article in the Marine Corps Gazette suggesting that the service risked irrelevance if it didn’t change. The report was right, the general whom Gayl worked for told me, as was Gayl, usually, but he was also incapable of subtlety and indifferent to hierarchy.
“He’s very smart and gifted and very passionate about what he does. He would do anything for the Marines,” the general said, but he was not particularly well liked in the high command. “I think people resented his intellect.”
In 2006, Gayl accepted an offer to deploy to Iraq to join the staff of General Richard Zilmer, his former commander at the Pentagon. Zilmer was leading the Marines in Al-Anbar Province. Anbar would later become known as a cornerstone of the surge, but when Zilmer arrived it was, he liked to joke, the “ugly stepchild” of Iraq’s provinces. Neglected by the Provisional Authority and at the heart of the insurgency, troops there were dying at a rate of nearly one a day, mostly because of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
For months, Zilmer had been requesting equipment to combat insurgents, including laser dazzlers—nonlethal devices similar to what Gayl had designed that can disorient drivers of oncoming vehicles to avoid violent encounters at checkpoints—and a surveillance system to seek out bomb planters. Most importantly, he wanted mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, trucks with raised armored V-shaped hulls that provide exponentially better protection against mines than standard Humvees. Indeed, a growing chorus of generals had already been asking for the vehicles. But they had found the Pentagon in no rush to field them. So Zilmer called in Gayl.
“Franz knew how to get money, he knew how the Hill operated, how the Pentagon operated. His understanding of those processes was superior to a lot of the people he was working for at Quantico,” the general said, and thus, “Quantico never fully trusted him.”
Particularly distrustful was the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the Quantico-based department responsible for taking equipment requests from commanders like Zilmer and deciding what should and should not be delivered. “Franz has always had a bad reputation with the people at MCCDC,” the general said. When Gayl was ordered to deploy, its head was General James Mattis.
Also known as Mad Dog Mattis, Warrior Monk, and Chaos, Mattis was, and is, a legend in the Marines. An immensely capable war fighter, he had commanded troops in the first Gulf War, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, where he led the 1st Marine Division’s famous charge into Baghdad, a campaign chronicled in the HBO miniseries Generation Kill (Mattis’s character was played by actor Robert John Burke). A soldier-scholar, he helped General David Petraeus rewrite the Army’s counterinsurgency field manual. He also had a reputation for blunt, Patton-like utterances. In 2003, for instance, he told Iraqi military leaders, “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Putting Mattis in charge of the MCCDC seemed, at the time, a way to infuse a hidebound procurement agency with new energy. The problem, however, was that Mattis had spent his entire career on the operations side of the Marines. He had little experience on the support side—the world of acquisitions, contractors, and Beltway politics.
Mattis and Gayl had already had one run-in. The Marine Corps science and technology division that Gayl had officially lambasted in 2004 was part of the MCCDC, and the briefing he gave to Mattis, newly installed as its leader, was not well received, Gayl recalls. Nevertheless, in Iraq Gayl was determined to get what the Marines in Anbar wanted. Stationed at Camp Fallujah, “I’d see the helicopters coming in daily with these busted-up, blown-up kids being flown in to the field hospital,” he said. He sent report after report to Quantico. He stayed up for days developing proposals and researching contractors who could fulfill them. He worked all of his angles and contacts.
“He was one of the few guys from back at headquarters
trying to help us,” Gary Wilson, a lieutenant colonel stationed
in Anbar at the time, told me.
Yet Gayl ran into the same intransigence Zilmer had. In answer to his request for MRAPs he encountered a wall of resistance: the vehicles wouldn’t be applicable after the war; they weren’t versatile enough; industry couldn’t manufacture them en masse. Some Marines, including the general I interviewed, took Quantico at its word, and still do. Gayl didn’t, and he wasn’t alone: a colonel who worked on the MRAP requests told me, “I believed them at first, but the more I thought about it and the more I asked questions, the more the arguments didn’t make sense.”
The real problem, say some Marines I spoke with, was that the military was simply too plodding to react to an insurgency. “We never underestimated the insurgents’ capabilities, but I think people back in Washington did,” Wilson told me. “There were too many layers and too many ways to impede people like Franz.”
Some Marines point out that the MRAPs would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the Marines are frugal by nature. Roy McGriff, a lieutenant colonel who studied the use of mines by insurgencies and had been urging the Marines to look for alternatives to Humvees for years, said, “To a man, up the command the reaction to the MRAP was ‘It’s too expensive, we’d never do it.’ Meanwhile we had Humvees with canvas doors. I could stick a pencil through the side of it and kill you.”
But others believe the problem was neither red tape nor money, but rather that the MRAPs threatened pet programs in which the Marines had already invested and on which many officers and civil servants had staked their careers. “We don’t reward managers who do the right thing by the war fighter or the American taxpayer. The ones who get promoted are the ones who get the gear out there regardless of whether it’s right,” a lieutenant colonel who worked at the MCCDC told me. “And the more expensive the gear, the more successful the manager.”
Gayl would become convinced of this view.
Upon returning from Iraq in 2007, he learned of McGriff’s work and contacted him. McGriff told Gayl, to his amazement, that the process for fielding MRAPs was supposed to have begun fully two years prior. In February 2005, as deaths from IEDs started to soar, McGriff had written what is known as an Urgent Universal Need Statement request— the military equivalent of saying “We need this now”—for a fleet of the vehicles to go to Anbar. The request included information on MRAPs manufactured by a South Carolina company; several of them had, in fact, already been sent to Iraq. The request had been signed off on, and McGriff had even briefed Mattis directly.
“I told [Mattis] we must transition as quickly as possible to a family of MRAP vehicles,” he recalled, “and we need to get them wherever we can.” Mattis then shook his hand and said, ‘That’s what we’re going to do.’ ” Yet two years later, McGriff’s request had vanished. “I don’t know what happened to it,” he told me.
What happened, it appears, is during the spring of 2005, staff from the MCCDC and other Marines met to discuss McGriff’s request. The question at hand was what effect the MRAPs would have on existing programs. A PowerPoint slideshow that Gayl would later unearth and make public showed that the money needed would eat into a number of projects dear to influential Marines, including, most notably, the long-awaited and very costly expeditionary fighting vehicle. Mattis in particular had championed it. (The lieutenant colonel who worked at the MCCDC also singled it out, telling me, “The expeditionary fighting vehicle has been such a huge resource drain. But heaven forbid anyone stand up and say cancel it, because you’ll be branded a heretic and you will not have a future” in the Marines.)
Gayl went from frustrated to incensed. “I realized that kids are getting hurt and killed on a daily basis as a direct result of delays that could be avoided.” When allies arranged for him to brief key officials in the secretary of defense’s office on his views, Mattis and other top Marine generals objected and the briefing was canceled, blocking Gayl’s last opportunity to work through the chain of command. Then he saw an Inside the Pentagon article that quoted Marines Commandant James Conway telling the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the first MRAP request hadn’t been made until 2006. Conway would later tell the Senate Armed Services Committee the same thing. “I looked at that and said, that’s a lie. The commandant of the Marine Corps told a very serious lie,” Gayl said. “Then I said to myself, the commandant wouldn’t lie. But the people who prepared him would.”
Gayl contacted Inside the Pentagon to ask for a correction to be printed. None appeared. So he e-mailed Sharon Weinberger, attaching Roy McGriff’s original MRAP request, and that afternoon, May 22, 2007, a damning headline appeared on “Military Dragged Feet on Bomb-Proof Vehicles.” The article, which didn’t mention Gayl by name, made its way through the military in hours. The next morning it was published in the Defense Department’s news briefing.
The rebukes started flying at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. An aide to Delaware Senator Joe Biden then called Gayl. During visits to Iraq, Biden and then Missouri Senator Kit Bond (each of whom has a son who served in the military in Iraq, Bond’s as a Marine) had learned about MRAPs and were trying to appropriate money for them. They’d written to President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates without effect. Would Gayl be willing to brief their staffs on the MRAP affair, the aide asked—and, if need be, talk to the press?
Gayl came home that night and spoke to his wife. If he went public, he told her, all of their plans—their retirement, their kids’ educations—would be at stake. “I said, ‘Honey, I have to do this. I’m sorry our lives aren’t going to turn out the way we thought they would,’ ” he recalled. “I felt, whatever the cost, we could not allow another Marine or soldier to ride outside the wire in anything but an MRAP. That was my goal.”
Characteristically, he did not start at a low volume. At once he briefed not just Biden’s and Bond’s staffs, but anyone in Congress who would listen. He e-mailed David Petraeus. He became an on-the-record source for USA Today. He went on the NewsHour and on National Public Radio, and testified before the House of Representatives.
And in July, just two months after the article, Robert Gates announced the creation of a new MRAP task force to ensure that the vehicles got to Iraq as fast as possible. He asked Congress for an additional $750 million just to fly them there. By the next year they were being manufactured in the thousands.
“We have yet to have a Marine killed in the Al-Anbar Province who is riding inside an MRAP,” General Conway admitted at a press conference. “So with that knowledge, how do you not see it as a moral imperative to get as many of those vehicles to theater as rapidly as you can?”
Two weeks after Gates’s announcement, Gayl received his first formal letter of reprimand in thirty years working in or for the military. That fall his first proposed suspension notice came, and for the next three years, Gayl says, he saw his duties diminished and was subjected to needless counseling, name-calling, and attempts at intimidation. According to notes he kept, he was threatened with demotion and told he should resign.
He, in turn, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging illegal reprisals for his whistle-blowing and hired the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit law firm that represents whistle-blowers. Gayl’s defenders in Congress also rallied around him. Biden and Bond wrote a letter to Conway calling Gayl a “hero,” and during Senate hearings Claire McCaskill asked Conway to ensure that the Marines didn’t persecute him. Conway responded, “We are making every overture to ensure that we don’t violate any aspect of his whistle-blower status. But if it’s determined that Mr. Gayl has done something other than what his leadership and his bosses have instructed him to do, then that outcome will have to be determined as to what happens to Mr. Gayl.”
Gayl’s critics say that he did indeed contravene orders and that it was only a matter of time before he met with disciplinary action. His former Pentagon supervisor told me he believes Gayl is exaggerating or even fabricating his claims of reprisal, and that Gayl has a history of inappropriate behavior and insubordination that justified his dismissal.
“I think he was treated exceptionally fairly. I think we bent over backwards for him. If it was anyone else it would have happened much differently,” the supervisor, Retired Colonel David Wilkinson, said. “He had a deep-seated feeling that he had the answer. Everyone else was wrong, and he had it right. God bless him for it. We want guys like that in the Marines. But there are ways to go about doing things and ways not to.”
Gayl could certainly act eccentrically. Last summer, he mounted a campaign to advocate sealing the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico with a particular kind of high explosive (though not a nuclear bomb, as some were proposing); the White House had to publicly disown Gayl’s idea. This was not the first time an administration had responded awkwardly to something he had said: in 2005, Gayl wrote a report, Realism and Realpolitik, whose chapters include “The Logical Absurdity of a ‘Global War on Terrorism,’ ” “Gracefully Accepting America’s Decline as a Step Towards 21 Century Survival,” and, most significantly for those who know of Gayl’s family history, “Planning for Israel’s Evacuation.” He sent the report to George W. Bush with a letter attached that said, “I am a loyal supporter of your determined vision. But I also believe in signs, and perhaps the unexpected aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a sign that we should consider modifying our national course for a time.”
In 2006, the NCIS and the FBI first began looking into Gayl. The investigation is still classified, but it seems to have been incited by communications he had with Chinese diplomats while writing Realism and Realpolitik. The NCIS would say only that it was eventually “resolved in Gayl’s favor.” But in 2008 it opened another investigation after learning that Gayl may have divulged classified documents in the case study he wrote on the MRAP affair. During that investigation, the NCIS found out about the flash drive.
It wasn’t just these investigations that raised questions. By his own account, Gayl skipped meetings he was ordered to attend and informed the Marines he would continue to talk to Congress, without going through the congressional liaison, whenever he liked. At Plans, Policies and Operations, Wilkinson says, Gayl openly discussed his depression, and in the midst of the financial crisis he took to warning about the possibility of widespread social collapse. He wrote a letter to his neighborhood association that predicted a future without electricity, clean water, or adequate law enforcement, started stocking up on canned food and purchasing shotguns— and kept his coworkers abreast, in detail, of all of it.
“I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t know what to look for in guys who may be ready to go over the edge,” Wilkinson said. “When he started expressing his concerns about the stock market crash and the state of the country I asked, ‘When do I need to worry about things like this?’ ” Gayl’s worries and fears of reprisal eventually left him incapable of doing his job, Wilkinson said. “He wasn’t doing what needed to get done. Everything else was becoming a distraction to him.”
Gayl, who can’t help being candid, at times uncomfortably so, discussed all of this openly with me. He showed me the gun safe in his living room, and the letter he sent to his neighbors. He even volunteered the exact daily dosage of his Prozac prescription. Such exactitude and bluntness define him. His attorney told me he’s never had a client do so much of the work of building a case. Gayl corrals witnesses and prepares them, digs up years-old e-mail exchanges, writes arguments. He responds to the NCIS’s queries with meticulous briefs, and has buried the Department of Defense inspector general’s office, which is investigating his case, in documentation.
“Franz has got incredible survivor instincts and is very smart,” a Defense official involved with the case said. So much so, indeed, that “Franz sometimes makes life more difficult for Franz.”
But that Defense official suggested that both NCIS investigations were probably unnecessary and may well have been politically motivated. Of the flash drive allegation, the official said, even if it is true, which is in doubt, “I’m having trouble believing that someone could lose his security clearance and his job, potentially, for using a flash drive.”
The evidence would seem to warrant skepticism. According to internal Defense Department documents, the supposedly classified material Gayl divulged in his MRAP case study was not documents but two footnotes that referenced nonpublic requests for equipment—requests that Gayl himself wrote while in Iraq. It has not escaped the inspector general’s notice, meanwhile, that the official who reported those footnotes to the NCIS was formerly General Mattis’s chief civilian aide at the MCCDC, the staffer who oversaw the 2005 briefing that Gayl claimed to the press and Congress had hobbled the original MRAP requests. However, the Defense inspector general has found that neither NCIS investigation of Gayl’s conduct technically constituted reprisal.
As for the details of the MRAP affair itself, the Pentagon’s own internal reports have borne Gayl’s claims out. Its audit of the case found that, under Mattis, the MCCDC “stopped processing the [request] for MRAP-type vehicle capability in August 2005. Specifically, MCCDC officials did not develop a course of action for the [request],” or “attempt to obtain funding for it,” and concludes that it failed to “address an immediate and apparent joint warfighter need.” (Gayl served as an expert source to the auditors, even as he was being investigated for his own research.) A Naval Audit Service report found that the MCCDC’s process for handling Urgent Universal Need Statement requests like McGriff’s was “not effective.” And this January, Robert Gates told the Marines to cancel the expeditionary fighting vehicle. By now a notorious albatross, the program has eaten up $3 billion (or about six times the budget for Roy McGriff’s original MRAP plan), with little to show for it.
Even Gayl’s staunchest critics don’t deny the justice of his cause. “Everyone’s interpretation was that Franz had nothing but the best intentions for the Marines and the Marine Corps,” Wilkinson told me. “Gayl’s answer turned out to be the one that the secretary of defense went with. History will show getting the MRAP to Iraq was the right decision.”
Gayl’s case and his fate may finally hinge not on the truth of his claims, however, but on their timing. Marines like Wilkinson say that Gayl’s disclosures only pointed up issues the Marines were already handling internally, and that the MRAPs would have gotten to Iraq with or without Gayl. His defenders counter that he was essential in saving lives. For his own part, Gayl takes no credit for agency—only amplification. “I was just the messenger,” he said. “The Marines [in Iraq] were making the requests.”
Gayl remains astonishingly loyal to the service that pushed him out. “I love the Marine Corps. It’s my identity,” he said. But “talking about brotherhood and taking care of our own, blah blah blah, all that stuff—it’s wonderful, if it’s real.”
He’s not alone in this conviction. “Anyone who actually tried to help us, like Franz, ended up getting a bloody nose from the bureaucracy. Anybody who tried to work with Franz got ostracized,” Gary Wilson, the colonel who met Gayl in Anbar, said. “The reason people take umbrage with Franz is not just over the MRAP. It’s because he made an indictment of the whole system.… He realized we’ve priced ourselves out of the defense business.”
“The organization he professes his undying loyalty to has turned its back on him,” the general whom Gayl worked for said.
The Marine Corps would not make anyone I requested to speak to available for this article, and General Conway, now retired, did not respond to an interview request. James Mattis likewise refused multiple requests for comment. As the general who took over U.S. Central Command from David Petraeus and oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is by some measures the most important uniformed official in the military. He is discussed as a possible candidate for membership in the Joint Chiefs or even as a future national security advisor. In public statements, Mattis has said that MRAPs did not arrive in Iraq sooner mainly because of lack of industrial capacity to make them. This is a contention most Marines I spoke with don’t buy, and one largely disproved by the fact that the Pentagon managed to get thousands of MRAPs built and shipped to Iraq a year after Gates gave the order.
In response to a lengthy list of questions for Mattis, his spokesman sent a three-sentence reply:
Our young troops constitute a national treasure, and we have always been committed to getting them the right equipment at the speed of war. There never has been— and never will be—anything more important than making sure our courageous young men and women in the fight are well trained, well prepared and well equipped. We fulfill our solemn obligation to our troops by never being content with how we provide the best possible training and equipment within the fastest possible time.
When Gayl and I went to Quantico in April, he pointed out his old barracks, the obstacle courses he’d trained on, the classroom he taught in. At the National Museum of the Marine Corps, he described with textbook precision each weapon and vehicle on display. It was a Thursday. Without security clearances, Gayl is all but unemployable in Washington, so he can make such weekday excursions.
Lately he’s been filling his time reading the Koran and the Talmud, and studying Chinese. He’s preparing for the likelihood that he’ll have to leave government service altogether, but his greater concern is that the brass’s story will win out. “If they say it enough, it will become the history,” he said. “They’re confronted with the fact that the blood of their fellow Marines may have been unnecessarily shed on their watch. After promenading themselves in front of widows and wives and wounded Marines organizations and all this glorious patriotic nonsense—now they have to admit, Whoops, I was negligent? I was asleep at the switch? Your son didn’t need to die? They’d never admit to that.”
James Verini is a journalist in New York. You can read his work at