Archive for category History

Film: Saints And Strangers

My interest in this show is the private security angle and their importance to the founding fathers of the United States. It is a part of the story that always gets lost, but was absolutely critical to the early days of these pilgrims and their existence in the new world.

The videos below are cool background pieces, and especially the one about Myles Standish. I also liked this piece of video on the colonial weapons used. (wiki for Myles here)

Another relevant story to add in regards to Thanksgiving, are some of the myths associated with it. Like the actual food that was eaten (sorry, no pumpkin pie lol), and the probability that it wasn’t a day called Thanksgiving or celebrated in November. It was just a harvest celebration mimicking the English harvest festival, and it was probably celebrated late September or early October.

On Thanksgivings in the past, I have talked about the private security effort that was so crucial to the founding of my country, and it is very cool to finally see a show that describes the kind of environment they were operating in. A big hat tip to National Geographic and check your local listings when they show the series again. Happy Thanksgiving. –Matt


Saints & Strangers is a story that goes beyond the familiar historical account of Thanksgiving and the founding of Plymouth Plantation, revealing the trials and tribulations of the settlers at Plymouth: 102 men, women and children who sailed on a chartered ship for a place they had never seen. Of this group, half are those we think of as “pilgrims,” religious separatists who abandoned their prior lives for a single cause: religious freedom. The other half, the “merchant adventurers,” had less spiritual and more material, real-world objectives. This clash of values created complex inner struggles for the group as they sought to establish a new colony, compounded by a complicated relationship with the local Native American tribes. The conflicting allegiances among these groups culminated in trials of assimilation, faith, and compromise, that continued to define our nation to this day.



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Leadership: The Proud Prussian Tradition of ‘Disobedience’

The German and Prussian officer corps are the officer corps with the greatest culture of disobedience–with maybe the exception of the French. The stories and events that kept alive the virtue requiring an officer–even in war–to disobey an order “when justified by honor and circumstances” were corporate cultural knowledge within the Prussian and German officer corps and it is therefore important to recount them here. -Jörg Muth, from the book Command Culture.

This is cool. Back in 2012 I wrote a Building Snowmobiles post called General Hermann Balck, The German That Inspired Boyd. In that post I explored the origins of Boyd’s thinking when it came to battlefield innovation and leadership. Or basically, I wanted to find out who inspired him in the history of warfare or gave him the idea like ‘building snowmobiles’. And what I found out had it’s origins at Chet Richard’s paper called John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, and the Meaning of Life. Here is the quote I zeroed in on, and it has been fun to expand upon what made Balck interesting to Boyd.

Boyd’s appreciation for novelty grew as he mulled over the ingredients for success in conflicts. Boyd’s close associate, Pierre Sprey, credits Boyd’s conversations with General Balck (1979a & 1979b) as planting the seeds that led to Boyd’s fascination with innovation, novelty, and the importance of rapid, intuitive decision-making (Personal communication, September 23, 2012). Thus the elements of maneuver conflict that appear in the September 1981 edition of Patterns, for example, do not include the concept of novelty, but by 1986 it was there (p. 115). Perhaps it was not until he began to compose Conceptual Spiral, though, that Boyd realized how the term “novelty” encapsulated so much of his strategy.

So in my post, I wanted to find that translated taped interview between Balck and Boyd’s research team and talk about anything of interest to the readership here. (which by the way, if anyone has that tape, it would be priceless to get it up on youtube or in a podcast)

At the time, I was really into the concept of dissent within teams or units. To speak up and not have the fear of being put down by your leadership. This is necessary for healthy organizations and leadership absolutely needs feedback in order to gain a finger tip feel for their organization. You also need honesty so that you are able to make decisions based on reality, and not based on data derived from a group think type scenario. Too many leaders and managers in today’s private industry are so adverse to getting honest feedback, or lashing out at those within their organizations that have the courage to come forward and question the status quo or some policy that makes no sense. This criticism is often interpreted as an affront to leaders whose ego is more important than building a better organization or coming up with better strategies.

It is sad to see companies fail or falter because of these types of poor leaders, and their actions do immense damage. Within the PMSC industry, you see it all the time with Program Managers that lack management skill and leadership skills, yet are hired for the position because they knew someone or the company blindly hired them without proper vetting.

These PM’s would benefit greatly by just listening to their human resource and acting on that information, instead of trying to do everything on their own and not seeking input. To actually listen to those that have the courage to step forth and ask the all important ‘why’ question when confronted with idiotic policies. Policies that are often made without the input of others or the consideration of it’s second and third effects on operations or the morale of the contractors on that program.

So back to the main point. I ended that post about Balck with a question that has been bugging me since I wrote the thing in 2012. Here it is.

The other quote that perked me up is Balck’s mention of the Prussian military tradition of ‘expressing yourself bluntly’ to your superiors. lol I love it, and in the quote below, Model was his boss and Balck was telling him how much he sucked at commanding.
“Model listened to everything I said. We both expressed our opinions, shook hands and returned home. He never came to see me again. But every time I got a new assignment, he was one of the first to congratulate me.
That was one of the great Prussian military traditions: you expressed yourself bluntly but you were expected to never resent such blunt criticism.”
Boy, imagine if we had such a tradition in the US military? Or even in private industry? It also shows how smart the Prussians were about feedback and questioning authority. To actually have a tradition that forces folks to sit there and take criticism like a man…. I might have to explore this Prussian military tradition at a later point. Pretty cool and check this thing out. 

I thought at the time that this was crazy but awesome! For a military to have a proud tradition of ‘expressing yourself bluntly’ to your superiors is a pretty powerful concept? And most of all, where did this tradition come from and why is it important?

After making that post, it definitely got some traction and it sparked all types of conversations, and especially on Facebook. At FB, I even reached out to any of my German national readers that read the blog, and asked if they had heard of such a thing? Or even if there was a German phrase they were familiar with? I got nothing, and the question just lingered and the post just went into the archives un-answered.

Then late last year while reading an excellent book by Jörg Muth called Command Culture, I finally found the answer. For a quick reminder, Jorg came to my attention when I stumbled upon a post over at the blog called Best Defense, that described the command culture and the concept of Auftragstaktik (Mission Command) of the German Wehrmacht during WW 2, and compared that culture and command philosophy to the US military culture and command philosophy during WW 2.

After reading about the concepts, and how influential they really were to militaries around the world (to include the US), I was intrigued and had to find out more. I was amazed at how influential and sound the concepts were and I haven’t stopped researching the stuff since. Here is a segment about what Jörg’s book is about. (I also suggest the work by William LindDon Vandergriff, Eitan Shamir, Bruce Gudmundsson, Chet Richards, and Martin Van Crevald and their focus on Mission Command or Auftragstaktik and German military thinking during WW 1 and WW 2)

In Command Culture, Jörg Muth examines the different paths the United States Army and the German Armed Forces traveled to select, educate, and promote their officers in the crucial time before World War II. Muth demonstrates that the military education system in Germany represented an organized effort where each school and examination provided the stepping stone for the next. But in the United States, there existed no communication about teaching contents or didactical matters among the various schools and academies, and they existed in a self chosen insular environment. American officers who finally made their way through an erratic selection process and past West Point to the important Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found themselves usually deeply disappointed, because they were faced again with a rather below average faculty who forced them after every exercise to accept the approved “school solution.”
Command Culture explores the paradox that in Germany officers came from a closed authoritarian society but received an extremely open minded military education, whereas their counterparts in the United States came from one of the most democratic societies but received an outdated military education that harnessed their minds and limited their initiative. On the other hand, German officer candidates learned that in war everything is possible and a war of extermination acceptable. For American officers, raised in a democracy, certain boundaries could never be crossed.
This work for the first time clearly explains the lack of audacity of many high ranking American officers during World War II, as well as the reason why so many German officers became perpetrators or accomplices of war crimes and atrocities or remained bystanders without speaking up. Those American officers who became outstanding leaders in World War II did so not so much because of their military education, but despite it.
The book connects successfully the pre-World
War II officer education of the U. S. Army and its traditions and culture with the conduct of the War against Terror today.

So what golden nugget of information did I find that relates to the topic of this post? Here is a quote from the book.

It was not by accident that the phrase fuhren unter der Hand (leadership behind the superior’s back) originated from the German and not any other army. All those examples were collective cultural knowledge within the Prussian officer corps, recounted and retold countless times in an abundance of variations during official lectures, in the officer’s mess, or in correspondence between comrades. The independence that was expected from a German officer and that was part of the tradition of the German officer corps could always attain the character of disobedience, a fact that was also recognized and acknowledged. 

The examples Jörg mentioned were of famous military leaders in the Prussian army, and later the German army. They include men like Ludwig Beck, who had the quote that ‘military obedience has a limit where knowledge, conscience, and a sense of responsibility forbid the execution of a command.’ Ludwig actually put action to words in regards to Hitler and was involved in a plot to assassinate him.

Other names mentioned include Generalleutnant Johann David Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg who signed a treaty with France in 1812 without the permission of the king of Prussia. The king originally wanted the guy executed for taking the initiative and not consulting the king about his actions, but then when that treaty actually resulted in great benefit to Prussia, then all was forgiven.

Another guy mentioned was Oberst Johann Friedrich Adolf von der Marwitz, who refused a direct order by his king to loot a castle of one of their enemies. That this kind of activity was not appropriate for his prestigious calvary regiments, and that lesser free lancer units raised during war time were usually given these tasks. Of course this pissed off the king, and Marwitz got a lot of flack for it. On his tombstone, it says ‘ He saw Frederick’s heroic times and fought with him in all his wars. He chose disgrace when obedience brought no honor.”

Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz is another famous guy in Prussian history that told his king to shove off during a battle. The king wanted him to attack with his calvary at a specific time during the Battle of Zorndorf, and Seydlitz replied that it wasn’t time yet. The king got pissed off, and demanded that he attack, and Seydlitz refused because he already had a plan. He replied famously ‘Tell the King that after the battle my head is at his disposal, but meanwhile I will make use of it’. lol

Back in those days, if you refused the king’s wishes, they would have you executed, so you can imagine the kind of courage it takes to say ‘nope’ or be disobedient.  And of course when Seydlitz attacked at the time of his choosing, he won the battle. Which shows how sure he was of himself and what needed to happen.

The final mention of disobedience was Friedrich the Second, who was the Prince of Hessen-Homburg. He decided he was going to start a battle against some Swedish mercenaries (Battle of Fehrbellin) at a time and choosing of his own, before waiting on The Great Elector to show up. The time period was 1675 during the Thirty Years War, and wars at that time required that rulers be present on the field of battle before they start. Friedrich decided to buck the system and kick off a surprise attack without the ruler being there. (on a side note, the army raised for this battle, became the core of the Prussian Army)

Now why is all of this disobedience relevant to Prussian history? Because back in 1812, a lack of initiative and a highly centralized command led to a bloody and extremely embarrassing defeat of the Prussians at the Battle of Jena. This battle is said to be the turning point in Prussian military thought on how to fight and win wars, and started them on the path to developing Auftragstaktik. A command culture and philosophy that emphasizes individual initiative, and forming creative solutions to problems and operating off of commanders intent as opposed to hanging on their every word.

So there you have it. It was fun to finally close the loop on this question, and a big thanks to Jörg Muth for writing such a kick ass book. It is also a reminder to those leaders out there that are actually trying to build a better company or military unit, that feedback is essential to the health of your organization. The Prussians learned long ago the value of dissent or disobedience, and it was infused into their command culture through years of warfare and trial and error.

If in fact the US military or private companies are interested in implementing decentralized command principals like Mission Command, they will have to remember that your leaders will have to have some thick skin and put away their egos. They must study what works for war or business, and they must have an appreciation for those willing to speak up and criticize what is going on. After all, that individual might be responsible for taking the initiative and turning the corner of a battle, or finding a new market for your business, all because they dared to do something different or say something that needed to be said.

Or they make like Seydlitz and ‘fuhren unter der Hand’! –Matt


Frederick the Great compliments General von Seydlitz on his conduct during the Battle of Zorndorf. Picture by Carl Röhling

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Industry Talk: In Memory Of The Security Contractors Killed On 9/11

On this day, we memorialize all those that perished on September 11, 2001 at the hands of terrorists. We remember the sacrifice of those that responded to the incident and died or were wounded. Much attention in fact is given to the sacrifice of the brave fire fighters, police officers, first responders and soldiers that were killed that day. What is not really talked about is the sacrifice of private security contractors that died on that day.

Below I have found a list compiled by one website that did the work to find these names. I have also searched through the various databases that lists the deaths to find out how many died within the various companies involved. According to the statistics, Summit Security Services lost the most personnel on that day. That number was eleven. OCS Security lost five personnel that day.

In the world of security contracting, just one or two guys getting killed in an incident is huge. An IED here, a shooting incident there–these deaths send shockwaves throughout the community. This is because usually guys know the contractors killed or have one degree of separation. I look back at my time in this industry and I have met quite a few folks, and this is a very small community.

Within the company though, deaths really hit hard because these guys are a part of the ‘family’. The human resource office, the project manager, the CEO, the friends and families, and even the clients the companies serve, all grieve when one of their own is killed. They also build memorials to those killed.

So when I see that Summit Security Services lost eleven men that day, I just imagine how devastating that really was to the company. An example of other great sacrifices within a non-security company that day was Cantor Fitzgerald. They lost 658 people… A truly horrible loss and it takes real leadership to carry the company forward and heal.

In the past I have written about the sacrifice and heroism of Rick Rescorla, who is probably the most familiar security contractor to have died on 9/11. Today in my little corner of the internet and blogosphere, I wanted to not only remember the deaths and sacrifices of all persons involved on 9/11, but also give a special remembrance to those security contractors that died that day in defense of their client. Below are a list of 36 security contractors killed, and this post is dedicated to them. –Matt


FOB Rescorla in Afghanistan. Photo credit to the Rick Rescorla Memorial.



Patrick Adams – 60, Brooklyn, NY, Security officer, Fuji Bank

Godwin Ajala – 33, New York, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

Andrew J. Bailey – 29, New York, NY, Security supervisor, Marsh & McLennan

Lawrence F. Boisseau – 36, Freehold, NJ, Fire safety director, OCS Security

Francisco Bourdier – 40, New York, NY, Security guard, Deutsche Bank

Larry Bowman – 46, New York, N.Y., security officer, Summit Security Services

Edward Calderon – 43, Jersey City, NJ, Security guard, Port Authority

Mannie Leroy Clark – 54, New York, NY, Security guard

Francisco Cruz – 48, Staten Island, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

Denease Conley – 43, New York, N.Y., Summit Security

Samuel Fields – 36, New York, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

John R. Fisher – 46, Bayonne, N.J., security consultant, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Richard Fitzsimons – 57, Lynbrook, NY, Fire safety inspector, OCS Security

Ervin Gailliard – 42, New York, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

Jorge Luis Morron Garcia, 38, New York, N.Y., security officer, Summit Security Services

Charles Gregory John – 44, Security officer, Royston and Zamani

Philip Thomas Hayes – 67, East Northport, NY, Fire safety director, OCS Security

Ronald Hoerner – 58, Massapequa Park, NY, Security manager, Summit Security Services

Mohammed Jawara – MAS Security

Douglas G. Karpiloff – 53, Mamaroneck, NY, Security director, Port Authority

Barry Kirschbaum – 53, Staten Island, NY, Security manager, Marsh & McLennan

Leon Lebor, Security guard, Summit Security Services

Daniel Lugo – 45, New York, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

Anthony Luparello Jr., 63, SecurityWguard, American Building Maintenance

Sara Manley – 31, New York, N.Y., vice president and senior security analyst, Fred Alger Management

Robert Martinez – 24, Long Island City, N.Y., security officer, Summit Security Services

Robert J. Mayo – 46, Marlboro, NJ, Fire safety director, OCS Security

Stanley McCaskill – 47, New York, NY, Security guard, Advantage Security

John P. O’Neill – 50, NY, Security, Silverstein Partners

Alexander Ortiz – Security guard, Grubb & Ellis Inc

Rick Rescorla – 62, head of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

Esmerlin Salcedo – 36, New York, NY, Security officer, Summit Security Services

Nolbert Salomon – 33, Security guard

Francis Joseph Trombino – 68, Clifton, NJ, Security guard, Brinks

Jorge Velazquez – 47, Passaic, NJ, Security specialist, Morgan Stanley

William Wren – 61, Lynbrook, NJ, Resident manager, OCS Security

List compiled here.

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Cool Stuff: The Flying Tigers Heritage Park In China

“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the Royal Air Force over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”-Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Flying Tigers

Folks, this is quite the thing. I recently stumbled upon this massive memorial park project in China, and no one knows about it. At least I have never heard about it and I track this kind of stuff. And how cool is this?

So why is this significant? I am speculating here, but this would qualify as probably the worlds largest park ever dedicated to the sacrifice and efforts of a private military company, in the history of private military companies.( AVG or The Flying Tigers were a private military company/air force, and the work they did during WW 2 is the stuff of legends.)

The park is being built in Guilin, China. The site itself is located next to Claire Chennault’s command cave, which has been a tourist attraction over the years.  Now, there will be a massive park built right next to it.

The Flying Tigers Heritage Park committee are still seeking donations for the project, but obviously they have received some serious funding to get the park to this level. I recommend checking out the links below, and following their progress via their Facebook page. –Matt

Website for park here.

Facebook page for park here.


This is the artist’s rendition of what it will look like when complete.

Here is some of the progress made.

Here is a photo of the command cave with some tourists heading up there to check it out.

With this artist’s concept overhead view, you can see the size of the project.


Why the Flying Tiger Historical Park?
The obvious answer is it is a chance to honor, preserve the memory of, and record for history the remarkable story that is the Flying Tigers, the Chinese and the CBI theater of World War II. A story that for many reasons has been overlooked, forgotten, or buried.
Many books have been written about the Flying Tigers and the pilots who flew the Hump (Air supply route from India to China across the Himalayan Mountains… the most dangerous air supply route in the world.) but for the most part the story and record set by these combatants has been passed over when reporting on the larger history of the Pacific War in WW II. The Chinese contribution has all but been ignored and yet their sacrifices were what made it possible for our American fighting men to achieve the success they did.
So, within the park grounds, the museum and the cave, we will tell their story. We will have memorial walls and statues honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on foreign soil. The museum will have archives which will hold records, books and personal accounts of that dark period in our world history. Photographs and artifacts, both military and personal, will be on display. Archival film footage will allow one to revisit that time and experience a little of what these warriors experienced.
The Less Obvious Answer Is More Compelling…
Read the rest of this entry »

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History: The Battle For Najaf, By Travis Haley

This is an excellent story on this famous battle, fought by the contractors and military assigned to protect the CPA in Najaf, Iraq back in 2004. By now, most folks familiar with the battle have seen this video of the battle circulating around the net, and it gives a snapshot of what these guys were up against. Travis has added more detail to the big picture of what was happening at the time, to include lessons learned.

You can also read more about Travis and his history and contribution to the training industry over at his website.  He also did a post over at OAF about his experience. Check it out and it is definitely worth your time. –Matt


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War Art: One The Hard Way, By Dan Zoernig

This is cool. This is some artwork depicting combat that actually happened between a Flying Tiger and a Japanese Zero. For those that do not know who the Flying Tigers or AVG are, they were an American private air force that flew combat missions for the Chinese, against the Japanese, with US blessing, all before and a little bit during the beginning stages of WW2. They were the only game in town for attacking the Japanese after the Pearl Harbor attack happened, and it is some very unique American war history. America also cheered this company on as they did their thing in China, all because this country wanted some payback. A movie was also made about this company, staring John Wayne.

I should note that the Flying Tigers had a bounty program as well… Maybe that is why this pilot was willing to rip apart another aircraft with his own? lol As to the back story, Parker Dupouy was awarded the Chinese Sixth Cloud Banner medal for his heroic actions that day. I would say this maneuver was pretty damned aggressive and ballsy. –Matt

Buy a print of it here.


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