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    Memorial Day

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 27th May 2016 (All posts by )

    Today I drove through the gate at the nearby Marine Corps base. The young Lance Corporal who was faithfully executing his General Orders at the gate checked my ID card, saluted smartly, and wished me a “happy holiday weekend.” I’m not sure I can have that, frankly, for the similar reason that a devout Christian may think it strange to be wished a “Happy Easter.” It just doesn’t make sense when you examine what those holidays are about.

    To me Memorial Day is intensely personal. I’ve had varying levels of a relationship with 15 Marines and Sailors who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most of these men lost their lives in combat, but some lost their lives training for combat, too. Their deaths are still tragic–they were undertaking essentially the same tasks, doing dangerous work, and for the same ultimate goal.

    Their names are:

    Wroblewski.
    Strom.
    Crist.
    Yaggy.
    Palmer.
    Weis.
    Carazo.
    Cook.
    Claiborne.
    Quin.
    Parker.
    McHone.
    Budrejko.
    Bland.
    Wermers.

    Most of these guys are aviators. One was a UH-1 crew chief that I flew in combat with on dozens of occasions. I overflew over the wreckage which contained the remains of two of the pilots back in July, 2010. One of the 15 was a tank officer. Two were infantry officers. One was a special operations officer. One was a C2 officer. One of them was my “On-Wing” going through flight school (which means that he was the pilot who taught me how to fly).

    15 irreplaceable lives.

    I think about these men every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.

    I hate this holiday–every second of it. I hope you hate it too. Happy Memorial Day–my ass.

    Semper Fi, gents. Til Valhalla.

    Posted in Holidays, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Toward Financial Independence

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 28th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I commented in this post about the consumerist fog that in which I was living as a middle-rank American military officer, and my desire to “fix” or improve my situation by taking command of my finances.

    How did we do it?

    It was simple, but not easy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 14 Comments »

    Don’t you belong on a beach?

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th February 2016 (All posts by )

    In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:

    “I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)

    I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.

    As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Law, Law Enforcement, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    The Pursuit of Freedom

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 17th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Greetings, all.

    I’ve posted on Chicago Boyz and other blogs before, but it was a long time ago. Most of it was my work on the Clausewitz Roundtable. I’ve commented here and there, too. I’m happy to count Zen Pundit and Lexington Green as close blog-friends of many years.

    I’m back. Some has changed, but not much. I’m still an active-duty US Marine Corps Officer. I’m a major now, not a captain. I’ve been to the sand box a few more times since I last posted an actual blog here. I’ve deployed more than most for my time in service, but less than some. I’m not complaining, just saying.

    One thing did happen on my last deployment, in the end of 2014. Toward the end of deployments it’s not uncommon for things to slow down–lots of waiting for things to happen. So you have time to think. In that thinking I started to really question what the hell it is that I’m doing. Why am I fighting? What is it for? I suppose it’s connected to the fact that I was rounding out my fourth deployment to Afghanistan, and doing my small part to assist the Marine Corps with the turnover of Helmand Province to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps. I had deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, 2010, 2012-2013, and then 2014. Throw in an Iraq deployment, some time at sea with the Navy, and some other exercises, and you start to see the makings of a military career in early 21st century America. In any case, I was leading a unit and had a good amount of responsibility. But why? Why had the US come here, made the decisions it did, and why was it now trying to leave? And likewise, why was my Marine Corps doing the same thing? And me? Why was I a part of that?

    I have no real regrets about the service rendered for my country. The cost has certainly been steep, personally, though. The family, with each deployment, goes through a great deal of stress, and after about three such deployments, they get harder, not easier, for the family and the soldier to handle. I’ve also lost more friends than I care to count (I can count them out for you, I just don’t want to). There are other costs which are borne, too. But the remuneration has been decent, I suppose. We always managed to be somewhat comfortable. Maybe that was the problem…the comfort?

    Part of the expression of gratitude the country has for its military is the pay. For an officer, especially, the pay is quite good. I’m not going to tell you the amount of pay and allowances–that’s publicly available elsewhere. But suffice to say that the military has been quite shielded from the fears and losses of the great recession. Enlisted men and women do well, too, and can occasionally do very well when it comes times for reenlistment in specific occupational fields. Expenses have always been reasonably less than income, on average. There’s been no pressure from the economic environment to really think about my family’s financial situation today, let along 10 or 20 years from now. Yet something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel out of control, but I didn’t feel like I was in charge, either. I had a bit of a feeling of being adrift. The military side of things was very much in control of the situation–I always knew precisely how many people were under my charge, their individual strengths and weaknesses, their state of training and discipline, and their morale. I knew the capabilities of my equipment. I always strove to understand the mission, to lead with vigor, and to “own” my position. I was good at that. But personally and financially? I barely had a financial or a personal life. That had to change.

    So I decided to get a handle on things. I started to track every penny–even the pennies I don’t see because they’re “pre-tax” and given to the government for safe keeping until I claim my share back at tax time. I located all of my accounts. I found all of the debts, the interest rates, the amount of interest I was paying. I started tracking expenses, and then cutting them. I’ll be honest–the wife wasn’t exactly thrilled by me looking at things with such magnification. I started to read up on personal finance, investing, and life-planning in general. I read blogs and books, listened to podcasts, and talked with others about how to really order finances these days. And I began to radically alter our financial course. We paid all our debts, we bought a house (so, in actuality, we have one mortgage now). We’ve rented out our basement to a tenant. And we now save about 40% of all our pre-tax income. We’re not where I want to be yet, but we’re getting there. I’m not leaving anything to chance any longer, unless it’s a calculated chance intentionally taken. Every expense is now deliberately taken.

    I also decided to look for some hobbies. Being a military man has a way of becoming an all-encompassing experience. Your friends are basically military colleagues. Your work is military work. Military people know about “mandatory fun”–those obligatory nights spent with comrades and often with superiors. Your wardrobe is decided for you. Where you live is decided. My task was to carve out a bit of this life and make it mine. I had to get new friends and do new things with different groups of people. That would add richness to my life. I’ve done that, and I’m still doing that.

    I’ve been working on the above things–redirecting our financial life and reordering how I spend time–for a bit over a year now. The changes have been pretty dramatic. Looking back, I realize that up until I took command of my life I was living in a bit of a fog. With all of the turmoil of military life, the American people do much to make finances reasonably tranquil. This financial tranquility is both a blessing and a curse. You’re never really forced to grapple with the default decisions the consumerist economy makes for you. Nor are you forced to grapple with the reality that politics is not really national. It’s local. Your political power begins with you and those you immediately affect. You need to reclaim that power for yourself. Take charge of the fruits of your labor. Own your day to the extent you can. If you want to descend into the cesspool of national politics, fine–but do it intentionally. In fact, live your life intentionally. A life, intentionally lived, taken to the logical extreme, is the very definition of freedom. That is why I fight, happily, for my country.

    I’ll be blogging about my financial journey here, as well as on other things as I see fit.

    Cross-posted at Warrior In the Garden (my personal blog, which is in its infancy. Bare with me as I get it set up.) I also maintain a ham radio blog at the N0PCL Radio Site.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Commiserations, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Iraq, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Politics | 16 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War” Book VIII: Clausewitz Returns to Military Genius, and My Closing Thoughts

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 15th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz discussed my favorite topic, Military Genius, in Book I, and I wrote an amplification of that subject. In the intervening books, Books II-VII, Clausewitz scarcely touches on the subject, but briefly returns to it in Book VIII.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book V: Clausewitz on Combined Arms

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 22nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    Chapter Four of Book V of On War is titled “Relationship between the Branches of the Service.” This chapter, however, doesn’t really seek to explain the relationship between the branches (infantry, artillery, and cavalry). Instead, it seeks to explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three branches. The specific relationships between the branches are left for us to intuit.

    Clausewitz explains the strengths right off:

    “The engagement consists of two essentially different components: the destructive power of firearms, and hand-to-hand, or individual, combat. The latter in turn can be used for either attack or defense (words here employed in an absolute sense, for we are speaking in the broadest of terms). Artillery is effective only through the destructive power of fire; cavalry only by way of individual combat; infantry by both these means.

    In hand-to-hand fighting, the essence of defense is to stand fast, as it were, rooted to the ground; whereas movement is the essence of attack. Cavalry is totally incapable of the former, but preeminent in the latter, so is suited only to attack. Infantry is best at standing fast, but does not lack some capacity to move.” (p.285)

    Clausewitz then enumerates his thoughts on the combat arms:

    “1. Infantry is the most independent of the arms.
    2. Artillery has no independence.
    3. When one or more arms are combined, infantry is the most important of them.
    4. Cavalry is the most easily dispensable arm.
    5. A combination of all three confers the greatest strength.” (p.286)

    And so Clausewitz starts beating around the Combined Arms bush.

    But what is Combined Arms?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Clausewitz Roundtable, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book II: The Intellectual Style of the Military Genius

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th January 2009 (All posts by )

    Last week Lexington Green and I wrote on the virtues intrinsic to military genius. These virtues were categorized as intellectual, or psychological, or both. The truths revealed came from Chapter 3, Book I of On War.

    Book II of On War attempts to serve as bedrock to the theory of war, and in doing so, provides a guide to the kinds of knowledge that belongs in the intellect of the military genius. Book II also explains how that knowledge ought to be learned, and used, and ultimately the intellectual style of the military genius. This supplements the lengthy treatment I gave to psychological, emotional, and moral factors that help describe the military genius.

    How does the commander go about learning what he must? What is his intellectual style and what are his habits? What must he learn? How must he learn it? Should have be a disinterested third party with respect to his knowledge? Must he internalize his military knowledge? Is his knowledge derived mainly from experience, or from study? What are the pitfalls of the intellectual methods of the military mind?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Education, Military Affairs | 8 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book 1: Clausewitz on Military Genius

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 11th January 2009 (All posts by )

    I am reading Clausewitz because I fight as a profession. It is therefore my duty to heed my obligation to society that I read and understand my craft. Clausewitz, whether one agrees with him or not, has shaped the doctrine of all modern state-owned militaries. The capstone doctrinal document of the Marines, MCDP 1: Warfighting, is laced with Clausewitzian thought and terminology. Ask any Marine lieutenant what Friction is. He almost certainly knows!

    On my road to professionalism I have wondered what makes a person a genius at the military arts and sciences. Fortunately Clausewitz provided me the Third Chapter of Book One of On War, where he dissects military genius into its component parts and discusses them. In doing so he provides a great starting point to discuss the nature of military genius. What is military genius? Where does it come from? What kinds of people are military geniuses? Do we make geniuses, or are they born?

    Here I will digest the chapter and provide my thoughts, as well as questions for the Round Table.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »