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Dateline: Mississippi State University, 10 December 2010.

I was honored to have been asked to be the guest speaker at the 10 December 2010 Joint Army-Air Force Commissioning ceremony at Mississippi State. There were four cadets commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the US Air Force and one commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. It was a pleasure to have been asked to speak and a joy to share some of the lessons I have learned with these new lieutenants who are beginning their careers.

After the ceremony I received some very nice complements on the talk and I was appreciative of them. I told several that what I told these new airmen and soldier were what I wished someone had told me when I was an Ensign. The text of my remarks is below.

Greg Mortenson Lecture

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Sara and I attended an excellent lecture tonight by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. We arrived at the Humphrey Coliseum shortly after 1800 for a 1900 lecture. Following the requisite introductions, the lecture began around 1910.

I had seen Mortenson video when he gave a talk at the Naval War College. I really enjoyed that lecture but he was even better in person. He seemed to really enjoy being here and we certainly enjoyed having him here. He mentioned that in a early meeting with some of our students, he asked how many had been involved with community service. Typically he said he gets about 60% to 80% response but at Mississippi State he got 100%. Similarly, later he asked how many students had spent 10 hours or more talking to their elders about historical events (depression, World War II, etc.). Again, we had about 20% greater response than others.

Mortenson said he did want to come back and visit some of the public schools and nursing homes. I know he would get a wonderful reception.

Following the lecture we waited in line with some friends for the book signing. I got both my hard back Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time signed and by hardback copy of Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan signed. Of course I have both as Kindle editions and I have bought and given away probably 10 to 15 copies of the paperback Three Cups of Tea. We had a short conversation while he was signing and I found him to be very pleasant.

His Central Asia Institute has been added to my list of charitable organizations. As I get older I find I prefer more and more to donate money to my church and to some specific organizations rather than run them through clearinghouses such as United Way. This way I can get money directly to the places that need it without the overhead charge of these clearinghouses. Call me cantankerous.

"Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice", by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, 17 July 2010.

This is yet more evidence how Greg Mortenson and his book "Three Cups of Tea" is making an impact. I am impressed by the impact Mortenson is having on the military, and perhaps, vice versa. I am looking forward to his visit to Mississippi State in September and would love to follow up the visit with one from General Petraeus or Admiral Mullen.

Because Thomas PM Barnett just passed a milestne, his 10,000th blog post, I thought I would mention it here. Tom's blog was the genesis of my own but he has been much, much better at it than I have. Perhaps one day I will achieve that level but not right now.

Tom state he has no plans for changing his blog; " It remains as it has always been: a workspace to organize my thinking, catalogue sources, and write whatever makes me happy to write." That too is my philosophy.

Congratulations Tom! Well done. I have indeed enjoyed reading both your posts and your books over the years.

The Best Military Books of the Decade, Navy Times, 18 January 2010, p 4

The Navy Times has published its list of the best military books of the decade. I can't say I disagree with too many of them and am surprised by some. For example, The Fourth Star made the list, which I think is appropriate, but it was not released until late 2009.

The list.

  1. Shane Comes Home by Rinker Buck, 2005
  2. Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell, 2009.
  3. The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army by David Cloud and Greg Jaffe, 2009.
  4. The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq by John Crawford, 2005.
  5. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick, 2005.
  6. The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, 2008.
  7. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, 2009
  8. Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America by Nathaniel Frank, 2009.
  9. The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War by Brandon Friedman, 2007.
  10. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R, Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, 2006.
  11. Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq by Jason Christopher Hartley, 2005.
  12. The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education by Craig Mullaney, 2009.
  13. The Long Road Home; A Story of War and Family by Martha Raddatz, 2007.
  14. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks, 2006.
  15. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swafford, 2003.
  16. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War by Evan Wright, 2004.

That's five published in 2009, one in 2008, two in '07, two in '06, four in 2005, and one each in 2004 and 2003. Fully eighty-eight percent of the best books of the decade were written in the last half of the decade with thirty-one percent coming in the last year. All of these books deal with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So, did the books most recently published make the list because they were fresh on our minds or was it because it takes some time to put things into perspective before you can write a good book about a war. I lean towards the latter.

There are other books that made the reading lists of some officers mentioned in the article but did not make the list. For example, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden published in 2000 would have been a good choice. I also think there should have been room for The Sling and The Stone: On War in the 21st Century by Thomas X. Hammes published in 2004 should have made the list. I would have also included Inside CentCom: The Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by Michael DeLong in 2004 and Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq by Linda Robinson published in 2008. But, it is not my list.

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