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    All Quiet On The Western Front, But What About The Eastern One?

    Foreign Policy released this piece talking about an interesting move by the German Government.

    Since 1945, there has been an understandable sense of unease about the German government developing their military capabilities. This isn’t just external concern, but Germany itself has been very careful to maintain a very capable but small military force, which until their recent activity in the Global War on Terror they have not deployed.

    Recently, and with very little fanfare, the German government has begun integrating European Union units into their military structure to bolster their capabilities and also help develop combined training with their neighbors.

    FP does a fine job of remaining pragmatic about the various reasons for this, to include the UK’s exit from the EU and their previous dissent on an EU military force. However, with Czech Republic and Romania integrating two Brigades into the Bundeswehr, one has to wonder how much this move is motivated by a healthy fear of the hibernating bear to the East.

    Click here to read more


    The Chronicles of Failure: A Guide to Understanding the Benefit of Setbacks

    “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” - C.S. Lewis

    My name is Douglas Kiesewetter. I am married to a wonderful woman. I have a pair of beautiful and talented daughters. I am a Special Forces Engineering and Weapons Sergeant. I am a graduate of Texas A&M University. I am an entrepreneur whose career has spanned a variety of industries.

    In every single one of these noted areas of pride and personal achievement, I am a failure.

    As a husband, father, soldier, student and professional, I have made monumental mistakes, and yet every time I have learned from these failures and come away a much better version of myself. The path to success is rarely linear and for some of us it is marked by a series of painful lessons that show what right should look like, demonstrated through excellence in doing it the wrong way. We spend a lot of time focusing on the end state and rarely look at the road that led to the top of the mountain.

    At SOFLETE, and in most of the SOF community, we try to take pride in being self-aware. The first step towards using failure to facilitate progress is honest self-analysis. In our time together there have been some awesome talks about the failures that led us to being who we are today, and it got us thinking that we should start highlighting some of these failures and using them as object lessons to teach resilience and help others better frame their own journey.

    It is important that “successful” people tell stories about watershed moments that may have seemed like the end of a dream, but through persistence, changed techniques, and hard work developed into meaningful positive life events.


    From Spoiled College Kid to Roustabout

    Let me start with a failure, give you a little backstory, then put it into a more global perspective that shows you what I *THOUGHT* I was learning versus what I was *ACTUALLY* learning.

    Failure: In 2001 I was asked to leave Texas A&M University because I had not maintained a 2.0 GPA for two semesters in a row. I thought my life had come to an end. I was going to become the “Sanitation Engineer” my father had always threatened I would become without a college degree.

    Let’s be honest, this action came as no surprise to anyone in my friend group after several years of skipping classes to learn how to weld or go on road trips to recover auto parts for my 1968 Ford Bronco project that had become my real life passion. I had stopped seeing a benefit in a college education around the time my parents dropped me off at college and I started meeting people who were “salt of the earth” and had life experiences I craved. Experiences like bar fighting and roaming the Earth like a redneck Cain from Kung Fu. This lack of passion for academics meant that my inflated sense of self-worth and absence of any real work ethic was going to result in a hard fall from the University’s (and my parents’) graces.

    Now, don’t think I recognized any of this. I was self-pitying and unable to grasp how my professors couldn’t recognize my true genius. I was a wreck, but I was also a total piece of shit with an inability to accept ownership.

    The real adjustments started when I returned home, defeated, depressed, and yet still defiant. I didn’t endear myself to my dear folks with my refusal to get a job, or my insistence on going hunting with my friends every night and then sleeping in hung over until noon. Luckily for me, that only lasted about a week before my Dad came in and politely told me I had two weeks to find a job, pay him rent or move out.

    I was pissed! What kind of parent would treat their kid this way? In retrospect I am often appalled at the levels of entitlement I have displayed in my life, so don’t think this is a proud memory. My dad is a wonderful man who has been my closest confidant over the years, his advice and gentle prodding have gotten me back on azimuth many times.

    However, in that moment I resolved to show my old man exactly who he was messing with.

    I’m not sure my father knew it or not, but this is where the dogged defiance in me got sparked and started to get refined in the crucible of life. I spent the next two years trying to prove to the world that I didn’t need college and that I would make it on my own. I got a job as a bottom rung “roustabout” in the oil field. I worked 80-100 hour weeks in the West Texas sun, next to the hardest and least forgiving men I had ever met. I made a lot of money. I wasted a lot of money. But, I learned to shut the fuck up and buckle down.

    In college, no one will kick the shit out of you for missing an assignment. In the oil field, if you choose to ignore a task your boss is going to make some very direct and physical corrections. This kind of management forces accountability, and it helps you get good on your feet and with your hands. I loved the work, and I learned that if you listen to your more experienced co-workers and show initiative, you are given more responsibility.

    Transitioning from spoiled college kid to Roustabout wasn’t failure free in itself, but at the time I learned to adapt and thrive. What I didn’t know was that the lessons I was learning in the oilfield were actually setting me up to overcome my previous defeats and to progress on to even more difficult challenges.

    Forging Achievement in the Crucible of Failure (or, Alternate Routes to Success and the Value of Education)

    After two years, I started to realize “almost” graduating college wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. No matter how lucrative oilfield work was, it was impossible to ignore how lucky I would have to get to make it to 60 in the world I was working in. Discreetly (God forbid I admit I was wrong) enrolling in night classes, I started the process necessary to get back into Texas A&M and complete my degree. I did well in my junior college classes while still working full time, and was reaccepted to A&M to finish my degree. I walked across the stage to receive my diploma from Robert Gates in 2004.

    If not for my time on The Caprock I would never have gone back to night school and re-applied to Texas A&M get my Bachelor’s. The heat, almost cutting off my hand in a mechanical jack, suffering chemical burns that blinded me for three days, rig blowouts, sleepless weeks of work, authoritarian bosses, and a host of other environmental influences shaped me. I learned that there is joy in joint suffering. I learned that there is a value in education, even if it is simply to demonstrate your ability to buckle down and accomplish a prescribed task. I got to watch some of the most resilient men in the world wake up every day and push themselves to do their best in a raw and rugged industry. I knew I needed something “more”, but I hadn’t yet learned how to define that. Facing failure, adapting to my operational environment, adjusting my techniques, and re-engaging on a hard target really forced me to grow as a human.

    To forge achievement from failure, we must step back and assess what led to that defeat. We must address our own contributions to the failure and be willing to adjust our behaviors to elicit an alternate outcome. As a Green Beret, we often discount our tenacity as being “too dumb to quit”, but that ignores the true passions that burn inside. In order to persevere we must have a fire in the first place.

    Identifying our passions and utilizing them for the good of ourselves and our society fuel us through times when we can’t clearly define what victory looks like.

    I quit almost everything until I started to discover how to channel the passion I felt for recreational pursuits into other, more important, areas of my life. Getting kicked out of college and taking a manual labor job forced me to explore a lot of personal shit that I had actively ignored for most of my life. More importantly, that failure set the stage for my future pursuits. I learned that there are alternate routes to success, and that the shortest route isn’t always the most productive. This lesson has kept me in a lot of fights long after others thought I was out of it.

    Failure is a perception; we define our own end state. We all will be well served to remember that a single defeat or a series of defeats is not a lost cause.


    How Grifter Discovered SOLETE and Rebuilt His Body for Life

    A sneeze. A physical phenomenon experienced by almost everyone on the planet. I’d been sitting on my couch opening gifts and sneezed. I felt something in my lower back pop and that was it. I had to walk hunched over like an invalid and the next two days were spent laying on the couch reading books and watching Netflix. I couldn’t sleep, I could barely tolerate sitting on the toilet. I was miserable. And it only got worse. I felt like a slug. My emotions ran the gamut of self-loathing and self-pity, to regret and determination. I had done this to myself and the piper has come to collect.

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    What's the secret to passing Ranger School?

    What's the secret to passing Ranger School?

    I get this question asked of me a lot and I've probably given this little spiel in varying levels of detail a hundred times over the years, from the time I was a cherry tab laying it down for my roommate until now as I correspond with newly commissioned infantry.

    A number of people have spoken on this, a guy even wrote a whole book once; their accounts aren't bad ones, and you should soak up all you can. But my advice now after pumping hundreds of people into that course would be different from what I'd say the day after I graduated.

    Ranger School is more a selection than a "school". Not many people can list the tangible things they learned there and as many will tell you there isn't much "Ranger" stuff that goes on. You go to get your tab, it's a gate, one of the many herd thinning systems in place to set the special apart from the not so special...or in some cases the lucky from the unlucky. Here are what I think are the keys to success.


    How To Successfully Pass Ranger School

    The Physical Aspect. Google the standards for Ranger School; they're all over the internets. Know that you won't be tested in any of them under ideal conditions or on a flat course. Go being able to absolutely blow the minimum standards out of the water. You name a Murphy and it will happen to you: a grumpy grader, lack of sleep, didn't get to eat, broken boot lace, or having to take a shit, something will go wrong for one or all of the events, so you need to be good enough where it isn't the difference between passing or failing.

    Academic Knowledge. I won't rattle off the list of shit in the Ranger handbook but here’s the not so short list of the things you can't fake your way through:

    1. How to do skill level one shit, meaning be a guy who can effectively operate as a saw gunner, or rifleman and not be a fuckup. Definitely be intimate in the fine art of the machine gun: a quick way to your squads heart is being the guy that can make the pigs squeal. Broken down machine guns means no-gos. Bad. Although it's a leadership school, people need to be effective at the basics in order to be good followers; this is what gets you a go on our patrol.
    2. Land navigation and route planning. You need to pass a pretty easy land-nav course. That's the easy part. But understanding terrain and planning routes is one of the best ways to ensure your patrol's success. Don't be the guy that walks your platoon up a draw on the first movement in Mountains! You wanna get peered out? That's how you get peered out. If you're the dude that can walk point for your squad all the time, you'll be valuable, and being valuable is good. This comes down to rule #2 in life: Always know where you are.
    3. Block and Tackle/Basic Infantry Tactics. Remember what you're there for. Don't get so wrapped around the axle on what right "should" look like that you forget the basics of react to contact and raid/recon/ambush. Some of your dudes are shooting, which allows some of your other dudes to move closer to the bad guys...repeat until victory. Revert to this when things are going badly (with some gusto) and you can usually salvage what otherwise could have been a shit sandwich.
    4. The operations order. You don't need to be a strategic planner, but you need to know how to write and pitch an order. This doesn't just mean memorize the Ranger Handbook and have a good skeleton (which you should also do) but understand the "why" of every part of it.



    Intangibles. Leadership is about getting people to do what you want, and Ranger School is made to make people not wanna do anything. Everyone is tired, hungry, wet and too hot or too cold. Everyone in your squad (including you) will have bad days where they're worthless. They'll also have days where for some reason they're firing on all cylinders. Recognize these days in yourself (and don't repeat them often) and in others so you can either back off guys for the good of the mission or pile on them for the good of the mission.  


    Surviving and Improving Ranger School

    Everyone at Ranger School will have individual strengths and weaknesses based on their personality, physicality, and experiences. I went to School as a 19 year old PFC from a Ranger Battalion. I needed help writing an op order, but could keep the machine guns and saws running and was very used to being shit on all day everyday. I could carry heavy shit all the time, I was never so hungry that I was distracted, and I wasn't a real bad drone to a point.

    So here's what I did: I gave big hungry guys some chow every once in awhile. I talked sensitive dudes off the ledge when we were getting hazed on mountains by making stupid jokes and laughing. And I carried gun gear and ammo...and batteries, and water, and skedkos. When I had to tackle planning I never had to go it alone.

    My point is this: find what you're good at and do it for everyone. Figure out what other guys are good at and make them do it for everyone. There'll be a machine gun guy, a routes guy, a point man, a paragraph 3 guy, a sector sketch guy.....the list goes on. Just figure it out and make sure you're one of those guys.

    Ranger school will bring out the worst in some people and they love to feel better about it by involving others. If you're planning on stealing chow or dumpster diving or burying chow as a holdover or something else that will yield you some small advantage, just don't. You may not get caught. But you don't need to do it. You can get your tab and maintain your self-respect knowing you never ate out of a dumpster. And as a bonus you won't get kicked out of school.


    Here’s How To Succeed at Life

    I think this little list of things and advice can very easily be carried over into just about anything you pursue in life:

    • Master the basics
    • Know yourself
    • Embrace differences and use them to strengthen the team
    • Work hard
    • Be a good dude