Tuesday, May 14, 2024

20 years ago I was pulled into the Secretary of Defense's staff to become the Staff Director of the Detainee Task Force - my final assignment in a Navy career that spanned from July 1975 - June 2006.  In fact, today (14 May) is the 20th Anniversary of my first day in that office.  I was in the Secretary of Defense's office at 0530 a.m. to meet Donald Henry Rumsfeld with MGEN Mike Maples, Special Assistant Preston M. Geren and my (soon to be) assistant (a Presidential Management Fellow) Sarah Nagelmann.  For the next two years, we would make a trip through hell and back.  It was an unpleasant and painful journey for all of us - Secretary Rumsfeld endured the worst of it.  He was accountable for the sadistic behavior of soldiers he led six or seven levels down the chain of command.  Everything that happened in the Department of Defense (good or bad) was his responsibility.  The hell of the Abu Ghraib scandal was the worst possible thing to occur on "his watch" and he suffered immensely for policies he inherited from others.  Every bad policy in the military services during his tenure as Secretary of Defense was attributed to this singular human being.  He offered his resignation to the President twice during this period and the President did not accept it.  It was a privilege to be in the same room with this man.  In my 30 years of service in the United States Navy, this letter was the highest honor I received. 

Monday, May 13, 2024


I was a year and 4 months into command. when I received this letter from the Chief of Naval Operations. It came out of nowhere and gave me a motivational boost that carried me through 8 more years and two promotions.  Personal letters have meant 1000 times more than any medal in my career.  I proudly left assignments on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense's Staff at the Pentagon with NO awards.  How about you?  What has meant more to you?