Veterans Day speech from MGoat’s dad to his school:
Dr. Semmler, Mrs. Vandenberg, administrators, fellow officers and faculty, and beloved students, I wish to give you some insights into military service and lessons learned which are test yourself, marry well, and remember your guardian angel.
First to address title.
I am a Lieutenant Colonel, but can be addressed as Colonel.
How many of you know what you want to be when you are 22? Well, when I was your age I knew I wanted to be a fighter pilot.
When I was in first or second grade, playing cowboys and Indians, oops can I say that, with a bunch neighborhood boys in some nearby woods, a pair of fighter jets flew over us maybe a few feet above the tree tops with the roar of a thousand lions.
After they passed over us, I turned to the oldest boy, Raymond, a red head, and said that’s what I want to do when I get older. His eyes grinned and said “sure” and pointed his play gun and shot me. Of course, I had to fall and twitch my arms and legs dying an agonizing slow death.
Speaking of the neighborhood gang of boys, when I was in maybe the fourth or fifth grade, we would ride trees. Now you may ask – what are you talking about. We’d go deep into the woods with our Dad’s saws and axes where I’d climb up a tree near the top and my buddies would chop it down and I’d wrap my arms and legs around the trunk and ride it down as it fell to Earth.
Now back to preparing for military.
Since my Dad was in the Air Force, we traveled a lot. I went to five different high schools in two different states and three different Countries. Last two years I lived in the dorms of those schools. Changing schools demanded being able to make new friends which most military children of military Dads did.
You may ask well Mr. Fountain how did you prepare yourself for college and a future in the military? Well I spent most of my time worrying about pimples, my hair and clothes. I had to look cool.
I did well in math and science but Shakespeare made no sense to me. I did graduate, left England, my parents, brother, and sister went to Mississippi State.
Mississippi State for males had mandatory ROTC either Army or Air Force, which put me on the path to becoming a fighter pilot. Of course, I joined the Air Force ROTC.
My college years started at a time of significant turmoil within the US – Ole Miss integration, assassination of John Kennedy, and Vietnam War and the draft. Many of my friends got married or sought higher degrees to get deferments from being drafted in the Army and sent to Vietnam. Well your Mr. Fountain wanted to find the quickest way to get to Vietnam as a fighter pilot. Remember the tree riding, I wanted to test myself.
Fortunately, in my senior year of college the Air Force started a program where they would pay for 35 hours of flight instruction. I did well and got my private pilot’s license in the minimum time even some spare to take my girlfriend flying. As a young man, I finally found something that I was good at.
I graduated and was commissioned as second lieutenant with an assigned pilot training date. At pilot training, I did well – one of the first to solo in jets. Unfortunately, I became cocky ie success went to my head and stayed there many years. Because of my high standing, my bosses asked me to train other new pilots but I turned it down again cause I wanted to get to the war in a fighter.
I got my wish and headed to learn to fly fighters ie how to drop bombs, shoot rockets and missiles, strafe at both air and ground targets. On entering Tucson, Arizona something prompted me to say “I’m going to meet a girl here with a pool and some money.” A couple of months later I met my wife (to be) at a party neither one of us wanted to attend. That should have been a clue to me that some force was involved in my life.
Now the war stories. Picture this I’m 23 years old sitting on a canvas seat in a cargo plane circling my new home, a fighter base, DaNang, flares hanging in small parachutes lite up the night sky, and an airplane called Puff the Magic Dragon is spewing out streams of red bullets at the hillside while rockets from the hills like huge Roman candles are fired at the air base with a few red fire balls around the base. Welcome to your new home Lieutenant.
I begin flying missions within a week. I volunteered for every mission to North Vietnam I could get – after a hundred missions to North Vietnam you get to go home. Unfortunately, we lost about a quarter of our crews. On one of those missions at night in North Vietnam near the South China Sea, we a flight of two were bombing a suspected truck park. Our leader flew in and dropped parachute flares over the suspected target lighting up the night under a cloud layer. This meant we had to fly through the clouds out over the sea so not to run into the mountains, then once below the clouds we’d fly toward the flares and suspected target looking for trunks to drop the bombs on. Well on our first pass orange like golf balls surrounded the plane and we dropped some bombs and pulled up into the clouds hoping they would not see us but the orange golf balls followed us out. I called out on the radio that the gun is radar tracking probably 37mm or 57mm anti-aircraft artillery. Well on our leader’s bomb pass while we were out to sea a large explosion occurred. We could see the intensity of the red glow through the clouds plus the emergency locator beacon bleeking began meaning a crash. I called our leader’s callsign and no response. I also called airborne command and told them no response on the radio from our lead.
A day or two afterward I was asked for a second time to be a summary courts officer to write to the pilot’s mother and sanitized his belongings and ship them home. It’s hard to see your buddies die and even harder to write one’s Mom. I was growing up fast.
I still volunteered for the most dangerous missions and after 100, I was assigned to England flying same fighter. Got married in Seattle, Rosie’s home, and off to England we went.
England was a shock for Rosie. While in Tucson, we saw each other almost every day, but in England once a week a slept with my jet loaded with a nuclear bomb and every sixth week I went to garden spots on the Mediterranean for bombing and aerial combat training, while she stayed on our rented farm with coal fireplaces for heat and a year later with a baby girl. However, most months, we went to London for the weekend and saw plays. Plus skied in Austria, visited Paris and Amsterdam.
After three years in England, I received an assignment to Goldsboro, NC. And shortly afterwards Nixon became President and the military went to work to bring our prisoners of war home. As a result, my fighter squadron deployed to Ubon, Thailand just after Rosie and I had our second child. Now my second war story.
I was part of a large strike force, maybe a hundred planes, target was Kep Airfield, about thirty miles northeast of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. It was heavily defended by Migs, Soviet fighter jets, surface to air missiles – size of telephone poles at speeds of Mach 3.5 with a large fragmentation warheads, and of course all kinds of anti-aircraft artillery. Our mission was to spew out strips of aluminum foil to confuse the enemy radar. Vietnamese radar operators would see a huge blob on the radar screen and not be able to pick out a particular airplane to direct a missile toward. Being on the front end of this blob, they would shoot missiles at us which we would dodge if we saw them in time to maneuver. Bare this in mind these missiles are flying at three times the speed of sound faster than a speeding bullet.
After dodging several missiles over Kep, we turned and headed out to the Gulf of Tonkin i.e. out of the enemy’s reach. On the way out, we, eight fighters, 1500 feet apart both lateral and vertical with electronic jammers on hopefully protecting us from missile attack. I was on the far outside of the formation. To my right I could see a wall of thunder clouds like large balls of cotton white on top and dark gray near the bottom. I glanced to my left to check for Migs and I turned my head to check inside to maintain my position in the formation. I caught sight of a very fast-moving missile that popped out of those clouds. I immediately pulled back on the stick, flight control, and zoomed almost straight up. In the corner of my eye I saw the missile explode and a bunch of black stuff go thru the same stop of the sky I just vacated. Within seconds the pilot of the plane next to me called on the radio “I’m hit – lost right engine”. Snowball, the pilot’s name, jettisoned everything from the bottom of his plane – huge gas tanks spinning around falling to the ground. Our leader called – Cactus 8, that’s me, escort him the DaNang, nearest base to us.
Snowball pushed the power up on his good engine and I set up a weave, sweeping back and forth behind Snowball to protect him from Migs. Migs were known to be launched against a crippled airplane. We did make it to DaNang. His plane had a thousand or so holes in it. We cheated death that day.
When I reflect on my military career, three lessons come to mind:
like in the Footprints in the Sand poem, my Guardian Angel carried me through most of my life particularly through 260 combat missions and my 50 years on marriage.
marry well. Find a spouse who will help you get to Heaven plus bring you down to Earth i.e. rid you of being cocky.
Number three –
test yourself, expand your experiences, try something totally new.
Now don’t go riding trees, your teachers are testing themselves – Mrs. Diadone getting a doctorate, Brawley & Milligan running marathons, Burger and Cashman giving up business work and teaching.
CtK offers a lot of opportunities to expand your experiences take advantage of them.
Thank you and God bless America.
Check out Rob Cannon (@GnarlyGoat): https://twitter.com/GnarlyGoat?s=09
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2 TIMOTHY 4:2
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing
It takes two flints to make a fire.”–-Louisa May Alcott
“Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence.” –Mike Schmoker
“I invite everyone to choose forgiveness rather than division, teamwork over personal ambition.”–Jean-Francois Cope
“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” –Patrick Lencioni
Leaders Leading Leaders
The Leaders I was most drawn to in the Army were men so simple and regular in their personal habits that you could set your clock by what they did. The IMPACT they had on me resounds to this day. My office is very spare. I only have what I need and I keep it all in a specific location that never varies so that I never to look for anything. I park my car in the same spot every morning so that I can find it quickly every evening after a long day of thinking about more important things. Like Nick Saban, I eat the same thing almost every day and my wardrobe does not have much more diversity than President Obama’s does.
I do these things (and many others) to simply my life and promote Consistency with three objectives in mind:
the more decisions I remove from my daily life the more likely it is that I will continue to Accelerate. As we said in Q1.1 (the DRP), discretion is a cage with velvet bars. I don’t get up in the morning and decide whether to exercise that day. Because my Habits are so ingrained, I just find myself at a Workout every morning via a series of non-decisions that were easy to make because I didn’t have make them. By abandoning discretion to Habit, I have freed myself from having to decide.
the more reliable I am in the small things, the more people will believe they can rely upon in me in the big things. Trust is one of the most critical components to the Prosperity of any Group. The decision whether to follow a man or share Leadership with him is founded upon it. The Virtuous Leader uses every opportunity he gets to remove doubt from the minds of his followers through radical Consistency in small things, because it is the small things in which they will most often see him engaged.
simplicity reduces mistakes. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the antidote to Murphy’s Law that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. The American military calls this tendency of events to become chaotic the “fog of war”. It is a theory based upon Clausewitz’ observation that war is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth. For me to maintain Momentum through my “fog of life” I need a Truth sensor that is not clogged up by the minutiae of small decisions. Simplicity cuts through the fog.
Strong Routines are the framework of Consistency