Eleven Years of Carrying the Gun

young psycho mantis metal gear solid

Today is the eleventh anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top Posts:
1. Army Myths: Don’t Lock Your Knees
2. The Secret Brilliance of “You go to war with the Army you have…”
3. Ranger Hall of Fame: SGT Martin Watson, Abraham Lincoln & Tom Hanks

Wow! Eleven years, huh.

Interesting that the back catalog is starting to get more traffic than the newer stuff. That wasn’t the case last year. That’s just the magic of the Google algorithm at work.

I’ve definitely settled into a better writing groove. The pieces are shorter, and the content is more focused and moving in the direction I originally intended when I relaunched. And that’s good.

Although, it seems I’ve certainly strayed from the original spirit of not blogging “about other blogs.”

If you counted the posts and categorized them, most are reactions to podcasts, which are basically audio blogs.

But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a little evolution.

The longer, more editorial stuff that I originally aspired to is still around. Most of it is found in external pieces. The rest can be found monthly at the top of the newsletter. Have you subscribed?


What did the past year look like?

Well, first of all, no one will ever challenge you if you write that we need to “do better” at anything. It’s also an easy way to garner attention. It’s much more difficult to find where we’re doing well.

As such, there was a string of posts late last summer as the Afghanistan withdrawal was underway tussling with “all the reasons we’re bad at irregular warfare” and some others pushing back against the common charge that “we’re getting our asses kicked in the information environment.” Also, the fact that things hit different when you can watch it in real-time. All emotion and absence of mind.

Everyone had an Afghanistan withdrawal think-piece, and I didn’t have much to add, but I fired one tiny dart into the ether trying to reconcile the 9/11 anniversary with the withdrawal. Did it matter?

Lots of milestones, reactions, and reflections. The GWOT was marked by a lot of things, one of those things was repeat deployments and credit card debt.

I marked the passing of Colin Powell, who I had the fortune of meeting on a number of occasions. His 13 rules sit on my desk. I’m especially fond of #1, #4, and #13.

I recalled a time over twenty years ago when I picked up brass with a Green Beret at a MOUT site at Fort Bragg.

I’ve basically given up on the new Star Wars universe (and the Marvel Universe for that matter). But one of my favorite scenes from the series was when Darth Vader finally flipped at the last moment? There’s always a choice.

Some of the best advice you’ll ever get – don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. It’s advice I try to live by, but don’t always succeed.

And as such, not everything was positive. As much as I try to resist, I sometimes get cynical too. Do you find yourself skeptical when someone says they are “getting after it?” It’s similar to how I feel about “threads.” It’s mostly a performance and it’s for them, not for you.

And what happens when everyone tells you to “start with why” and read Marcus Aurelius? Is that really unique knowledge or are we simply fostering groupthink?

A perennial interest of mine, there were a few posts on productivity – which was also featured prominently in a number of newsletters. In getting things done, especially when it comes to dealing with other people, you start with in-person, on the phone, and then via emailin that order. And related, there are very few things I have strong opinions on. One of those things is that “doing” email is the illusion of work. Sure, responding to email is part of a job, but with few exceptions, “doing” email is simply shuffling papers around. Have no doubt; nothing was accomplished.

We like to discuss “future war” these days. It’s fascinating that when we use the term “future war,” we kind of mean war that might happen now. I made an argument that to be effective in future war, we need to go back to what we were doing in the past – extended field training. What about leadership? What attributes do future leaders need? Are they different? Yes, a little bit I think. And we’re sure asking a lot.

Did you ever ready General DePuy’s 11 Men One Mind? It’s an infantry classic, and as relevant today as it has ever been.

Finally, future war sure seems like old war.

A friend of the blog once pontificated on Twitter: “What is something that seems like unconventional warfare but isn’t?” There is a litany of terms that are used in places where we think they make sense, but it turns out they aren’t even “real” terms or they are just being misused. It is helpful from time to time to go back to the books to see if what you think you know is what you actually know. Irregular Warfare? Real term. Hybrid Warfare? Nope. Expect to see more of this in the future.

Lots of psychology and information warfare. It all starts with the fact that “psychological” isn’t a dirty word – or at least it shouldn’t be. The primacy of video (aka ‘pics or it didn’t happen’). Smear war. When briefing, should you read off of the slide or have your audience read it themselves? I know you have a strong opinion. But there’s an actual psychological answer. Why is a lie so hard to debunk? Oh yeah, whatever you do, don’t click this link. Propaganda has no effect on you, only those other guys get duped. You’ve heard of deep fakes, but what are “shallow fakes?” They’re kind of like low-effort memes.

And I know it seems counter-intuitive, but it is behaviors that shape attitudes, and not the other way around.

Oh yeah. Lots and lots and lots of social sciences as sorcery.

And as has become the theme of this site – podcasts. There are way too many to mention, but here are the ones that got a lot of attention:

  1. What if the PLA doesn’t need NCOs?
  2. “It’s psychological warfare, just done with modern tools”
  3. Solid Snake Oil

Lastly, I got brave and wrote a few articles outside of CTG. This, the first, at MWI with a partner on how there is value in supporting cooperation between service-specific IO fields. The second, part two of a journey to figure out how to become a paladin. Here, an observation on observation. There are a few others out there too. And there are more on the way.

The post that I wanted to do better than it did: It has to be Social Sciences as Sorcery (and all the related posts). People don’t want to hear it, because it makes us rethink everything we’re doing. A little humility will go a long way. We don’t know it all, and thinking that if we can just get the dials right does us more harm than good.


A long time ago I learned that the future is video. And more and more, it seems to be the only thing that matters. I’m finally planning on jumping in.

Thanks for being here!


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An awkward anniversary

big boss blowing out birthday candles

I relaunched CTG one year ago today.

Just a random day in late October, I know.

If you’re curious about the history behind the steps I took to bring it back or why I pulled the plug in the first place, you can go down the rabbit hole on the tenth-anniversary post.

Having this space to write and reflect is important, personally. For me, writing is my best reflection. Sometimes it occurs in long-form and gets washed through an editor, other times it’s barely formed, simplified, and goes out in a tweet.

The stuff here at CTG is somewhere in-between. There isn’t really much of an editor. But at least I have the opportunity to expand on things here more than however-many-characters that other platform allows.

My favorite part of coming back has been connecting with old fans of the blog and welcoming new ones.

In terms of daily readership, the blog is nowhere near where it was at its peak (2015/2016) – but that’s okay. It’s definitely a little more niche and a little more tempered. Rebuilding is a slog, but it’s one that I enjoy.

Usually, this would be the spot where some announcement is made about an upcoming project or a big surprise.

Nope.

You can expect more of the same. Thanks for being here for it!


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Ten Years of Carrying the Gun

carrying the gun

Today is the tenth anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top Posts:
1. Company-Grade to Field-Grade: Introducing “Making the Switch”
2. TOC Operations: The nasty underbelly of the Infantry
3. Stanley McChrystal on FTGN Podcast

Ok, so it’s almost a little unfair to celebrate a ten-year anniversary when the blog was silent for four of them. Still, I did start this thing ten years ago.

A big part of the reason I went silent was a significant job change coupled with a media environment that was growing dangerously toxic. It just wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of at the time. It was a good, and well-needed break. I don’t regret it.

It’s good to be back, but boy rebuilding an audience is a slog!

I’ve enjoyed bringing CTG back to life over the past nine months. I went into the process deliberately. I reached out to peers and mentors who all encouraged me to get back into it. I took the time to redesign the blog (logo, site theme, some rules for myself/self-publishing guidance). I launched a Twitter and Facebook account for the blog, and I created an IG where I could more readily indulge my hobbies, which I know is a major distraction for the primary audience of the blog who are usually more interested in military matters.

And I started a monthly email newsletter.

The newsletter is where I write what old fans of the blog might have come to expect from me – a bit more editorial, a bit more personal.

You should sign up.

As I’ve done on other anniversaries (one, two, three, – looks like I didn’t do a fourth – five), this is where I write a little recap of the year.

I started things slowly by reconstituting old posts, which was a bit labor intensive – there are hundreds of them. Shortly after the relaunch, I published a primer on Unit Training Management – a boring topic, to be sure, but probably one of the most important skill-sets in the Army these days. With a new focus on information warfare, I started writing on that and looking around for inspiration. The launch of the Irregular Warfare Initiative (and podcast) provided plenty of material to work with. I especially enjoyed writing about their “Masters of Irregular Warfare” episode. And I learned one of the most important phrases out there: “Irregular warfare is the military’s contribution to political warfare.”

I also enjoyed listening to and responding to From the Green Notebook podcasts. As you can see from the top, my review of the Stanley McChrystal episode was one of the top reads. Joe asks good questions, the types of questions I want to know the answers to. I’m less interested in career recaps and highlights and more interested in “how did you feel” and “what did you do – physically – in response to that.” When FTGN launched a podcast review contest, it was a no-brainer to enter, and I enjoyed the challenge of writing a response to three podcast episodes with a tight word count.

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed connecting with scholars of information warfare and FICINT futurists. I wrote an information warfare piece for Proceedings that captures how adversaries might weaponize information and our own chain of command to gain advantage. The opening uses a bit of FICINT to paint a picture of what this might actually look like and make it real. Future war is going to be different from anything we’ve experienced before – we have to be thinking forward – and laterally – if we are going to have any chance at victory.

The post that I wanted to do better than it did: “Toxic Mentorship through Boss and Snake.” The game reference probably scared too many people off. Toxic mentorship is such a real problem and it deserves more attention as we slam our fists on the table extolling the importance of mentorship.


There are two things that I’ve enjoyed most since bringing CTG back online: 1) reconnecting with old fans, and 2) reaching new audiences. It is always a thrill to get a message from someone – especially folks I never even knew – who express joy that the site is back.

Most of these blog posts are written and torpedoed into the ether, and it’s never clear who is reading them or if they land. Getting those notes and feedback makes it worthwhile.

Likewise, it’s been fun to watch as the blog attracts new fans – especially as the site shifts towards more content on information warfare, political warfare, and psychological operations. To see folks from those communities find their way here is an indication that I’m shooting in the right direction.

During my hiatus, I continued to collect things that I want to write about, adding them to the already daunting list I’ve kept over the years. I’m in a great position right now to continue writing and exploring, and I intend on doing so.

Thanks for being a part of it. Here’s to another ten years.


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Five Years of Carrying the Gun

Today is the fifth anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top posts:
1. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
2. Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss
3. Army Myths: You don’t need 100 hours to get a Volunteer Medal

Top search terms:
1. army map board (see this post)
2. carrying the gun
3. infidel (see this post)

Another year of the blog, and I thought I hadn’t really written much. Looking back, there’s actually a lot that I’m proud of. My post on being prepared to be “the man” on day one was pretty popular. Spurred by an intense obsession with Life Is Strange, I wrote a few popular posts on suicide, veterans in popular culture, and empathy. The once popular subject of women in the infantry became a non-topic. I learned that uttering the word “millenial” garners lots of clicks and attention. Friend of the blog Drew Steadman wrote a short and popular piece on getting your hands dirty and leadership.

Perhaps one of the most popular posts of the past year was this one, about the importance of the platoon leader and platoon sergeant being on the same sheet of music.

Still, I admit that this past year has been pretty slow for the blog. Army life has a way of swinging like a pendulum; sometimes I have more time than I could ever want, and then I have no time at all.

There is still so much I want to write, but I find the depth of the topics to be overly constrictive at times. That is why I’ve begun writing shorter pieces to just get it out there.

I’m proud of the blog and prouder still that I’ve kept it going for five years. Here’s to another five.


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Four Years of Carrying the Gun

Center for junior officers bathroom machine gun
IMG_5499

Today is the fourth anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top posts:
1. Why We Need West Point: Painfully Written by an OCS Guy
2. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
3. Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss

Top search terms:
1. plexiglass boards army (see this post)
2. combat infantry badge (see this post)
3. how to make a map board army (see this post)

Anniversaries are a pretty good time for reflection. I’m surprised that I’ve managed to keep the blog going, and the readership growing along with it. Every now and then I wonder if it is worth continuing, and I always come back to the idea that it is, because if nothing else, it allows me to work out thoughts and ideas in a way I just wouldn’t if I weren’t writing.

While I don’t go around telling everyone I know I have a blog, I’m still surprised when people I know approach me and tell me they liked something I wrote. It’s always best when they say they thought one way on a subject, but now see it another way as a result of something I put up here.

Outside of the blog, I wrote a piece on the problem with Lieutenant’s who write that was published on the Company Command and Platoon Leader blog. I wrote it while in Afghanistan, and less than 24 hours of it being posted, some of the superior officers and NCOs I was working with found it, printed it, and were passing it around a small camp in Jalalabad. It was a kind of surreal moment, sitting there, watching a grizzled NCO read something I wrote in an operations center. He liked it, though.

I also published a piece in Military Review, Operational Resilience in the Infantry Rifle Platoon. For anyone who is wondering, publishing there is a very long process. I think I submitted the piece in October or November of 2014 and it didn’t publish until May-June 2015. It was a good experience though, and the editing process was painful (but useful).

Also, the Military Writers Guild launched, which is a consortium of military writers. I’m a proud member and glad to be a part of a community inside the military that is working towards expressing and sharing ideas.

There’s been an explosion of conglomerate military writing sites that sprung up over the past year(s), like Task & Purpose and We Are The Mighty, among others. Those sites provide a great outlet for military and veterans to get their thoughts down and out there, but don’t necessarily want to manage their own blog.

The lone blog seems to be a dying species. As I’ve written about before, I’ve never been very interested in documenting the day-to-day of what I do, for a bunch of reasons, but I do it sometimes, and I think it adds more character to a blog than listicles and clickbait.

Here’s to another year.

@dongomezjr

Three Years of Carrying the Gun

Today marks the third anniversary of this blog. Here are the stats:

Most popular posts:
1. Last night’s Budweiser ad “A Hero’s Welcome” was exploitative and offensive
2. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
3. How to Lead Infantrywomen in Combat

Top Search Terms:
1. troll
2. major league infidel
3. infidel patch

This past year the blog has seen exponential growth in terms of readership. I wrapped up the Iraq: Ten Years Later thing and have been slowing down with my writing since then, although I’ve been able to focus on longer, more thoughtful pieces.

I suspect that the rest of the year will be pretty quiet for the blog. I’ll write when I have time and it won’t interfere with my present duties.


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Two years of Carrying the Gun

I realized the other day that I missed the two-year anniversary of the blog (July 9, 2011). Like I did on the one year anniversary, here’s some stats:

Most popular posts:
1. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
2. Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss
3. Why we fight

Top search terms:
1. troll
2. major league infidel
3. drill sergeant

The post I wanted to be more popular than it was: Veterans on the Set of World War Z.

You can read about the day I started the blog here.

From the Introduction:

The blog is centrally about soldiering, writ large. Sometimes, I’ll write about things only remotely connected to soldiering, but there will be a connection there, somewhere.

I’ve decided that I’m going to drop the ‘Soldiering, writ large’ line. I’ve found it constraining, and a commenter recently pointed out how annoying it is. I typically do write about things in the soldierly orbit, but not always. So, on this, the two-year anniversary of the blog, it’s just ‘Carrying the Gun.’ I’ll write whatever I want.


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One year of Carrying the Gun

Today is the one year anniversary of the blog. A year ago today, in a stuffy central London dorm room I started this blog with the intent of using it as a clearing house for stuff that I found interesting, but had no place in my graduate thesis.

It didn’t take long for me to gravitate towards military topics, especially when I learned I would be heading back to the Army via OCS.

Writing here has been a good experience for me, and is serving as a kind of methadone for the more intense writing I was doing in graduate school and on veterans issues. Once I started OCS, I didn’t really have the opportunity to write much. I managed to pick up my writing during IBOLC, which allows weekends and nights off (when not in the field). I expect the next year will be exciting, because I’ll soon be out of TRADOC and back in the force. I’ve made a pledge with myself that I’ll mostly sit and observe while in TRADOC. I’ve been out of the Army for five years so lots of things have changed. But once I’m out of here, I’ll push a little harder in my writing – both here and in other places.

I’ve run into some of the people who follow this blog – many who are young infantry lieutenants as well. And I know that some of the things I’ve written have sparked tough discussions on important topics, which is a good thing.

According to the site stats function that WordPress.com provides, my three most popular posts are: The 3 things you can’t talk about with military folk, Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop, and Life in the Army – the ‘I Love Me’ book.

Most popular search terms that bring readers to the site: “i love me,” “fall of saigon,” and “shock and awe.”

The post that I wanted to be more popular than it was: “Black Swan, The Hurt Locker, and the strange intersection of ballerinas and soldiers.”

With nothing to compare this year to, I declare the first year a brilliant success!

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