FirstSpear TV

The Baldwin Files – Talent Management – Part 3 of 3

August 24th, 2019

At the end of Part 2, I had taken command of F Company of the Training Group’s 1st Battalion at Camp Mackall, NC. For those that do not know, Mackall is a small installation, occupied by elements of the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) about 30 miles west of Fort Bragg. It is home to several components of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). At the time, F Company ran 2 Phases of the SFQC. One (Phase II), focused on land navigation and small unit tactics and the other (Phase IV), conducted Unconventional Warfare training and the culminating Robin Sage Exercise. I was living the dream and enjoyed every day of that assignment. Of course, the Army’s personnel management system has the mission to make sure that nothing good ever lasts long.

It started indirectly. Although I had not known him before, I got along very well with the Battalion Commander (BC) who had hired me. As luck would have it, he came out on a Special Mission Unit (SMU) Command List shortly after I took command – and he was gone. It was a great opportunity for him – but turned out not so good for me. Another Lieutenant Colonel was activated off the Alternate Command List to take the Battalion. As it happens, he and I had been Majors together in 3rd Group (96-98), although I did not know him well. The mission at Mackall was clear for my cadre and me; however, as I wrote in an earlier article, there were many ill-conceived initiatives for the SFQC being considered at SWCS during this period. I quickly found out that my new BC and I were philosophically on opposite sides of these plans. That naturally led to friction between us. Moreover, as often happens in these situations, that friction eventually evolved into one of those annoying ethical dilemmas I have written about ad nauseam.

Long story short, in May of 2001, I was Relieved of Command by that BC, a.k.a. fired, sacked, dismissed. However, since that episode is convoluted and not germane to the subject at hand, I will save that part of the story for another time. Suffice to say, getting fired is considered a sub-optimum outcome to any assignment. That is also how I became personas non grata at the Training Group and, indeed, all of SWCS for the second time. I spent the next few months fighting the accusations made against me to justify my firing. I will mention just one here because it is the only accusation that was based on a kernel of truth. Allegedly, I had been “insubordinate” to the BC. For what it is worth, I have found that it is all but impossible to tell your boss something he really, really does not want to hear without him perceiving it as insubordination.

As a practical matter, there is an administrative process to appeal those sorts of negative personnel actions and I took immediate advantage of that mechanism. Bottom line, I made my case to the Army and achieved a partial vindication in a matter of 9 months or so. I received my promotion orders to Lieutenant Colonel in March 2002, backdated with an effective date of 1 January of that year. I purposely held my promotion ceremony in front of the Bull Simon statue across from the SWCS HQ. Then Brigadier General Stanley McChrystal did the honors. He was one of those SF qualified infantrymen I mentioned in Part 1. As he put the rank on my collar, he asked me, “Terry, is it true that you commanded three SF Companies?” I replied, “Yes Sir, twice successfully!” We all got a chuckle out of that.

That was not the end of the story; I also had to spend a considerable amount of money to hire lawyers who spent years getting the associated “bad paper” removed from my records. Oddly enough, that was not my biggest career management problem going forward. With my promotion orders came a letter from Department of the Army (DA). The letter stated that since I had more than 24 years of combined service I was ineligible to be considered for War College attendance. In effect, I was non-select for the school before I even pinned on that silver oak leaf. In turn, that meant that I was instantly non-competitive for Battalion Command or promotion to Colonel. Unfortunately, there was no waiver or appeal process for that verdict – and, yes, I looked.

However, in the interim, 9/11 happened and I had little time to dwell on it myself. I wanted to get into the fight ASAP. For that first few months, I was in assignment limbo at Fort Bragg. SF Branch wanted nothing to do with me and DA was indifferent. I came to realize that essentially I had been ejected from the system. I had not jumped ship, I had been pushed off. That was fine with me. I still knew a lot of people and started doing my own independent talent management. The pattern for the next 9 years went like this. I would call commanders I knew directly, or have a mutual friend introduce us and ask for work. I was not often rejected. I did a number of jobs: J3 (Operations), J5 (Plans), Chief of Staff, and Deputy Commander for example. Additionally, I did Liaison work between HQs on occasion and even commanded a couple of ad hoc organizations in theater.

I do not want to exaggerate my contributions to the mission. I am not pretending to be a hero. I took my share of risks, but I have no medals for valor or purple hearts. Nevertheless, I carried my share of the burden and then some. I am proud of that. The reasons I was able to do that for an extended period are directly related to the idiosyncrasies built into the current personnel management system. First, because I was a “free agent,” I could go where I pleased and no one at DA or SF Branch cared – or interfered. Second, the system was consistently failing commanders in the field. Almost everyone else was “locked” into his or her current assignment and even the system itself had no pre-existing mechanism to meet fluctuating personnel demands from the field commanders. Never mind “talent management,” there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that has to ignore its own rules to even try to support the warfighter. The result was that commanders – by necessity – had to make off the books “handshake deals” with their peers who were not deploying for critical manpower fills.

It was a heck of a way to run a railroad. Still, it worked for me for a long time. Of course, the system could not abide that sort of autonomous freedom of action indefinitely. Toward the end, I was involved in planning for the drawdown of all SOF in Iraq. In February 2011, I had briefed the plan for approval to all the senior leadership in the theater and beyond. Afterwards, I decided to take some down time back at Bragg with my wife. That is when SF Branch sprung their ambush. About 10 days after I got home they hit me with a “Request for Orders” (RFO) sending me to a Branch Immaterial (BI) assignment with the 8th Army HQ in Korea. BI simply means that the job required only a warm body to move papers. As usual with the system, my training, expertise, experience, and / or “talent” was entirely irrelevant to the job parameters.

To be certain, I could have dodged this RFO. Technically, I was “on leave” and could have got on the first thing smoking back to Iraq. The 1-Star Commander of the HQ I had been working for had asked me to come back as soon as felt like it anyway. I doubt that Branch would have even tried to “extradite” me out of theater. That is why they did not drop the RFO earlier. I also could have gone to a number of 3 or 4-Stars I had worked for and asked for a favor. I did not do either. My last boss in Iraq in 2011 was a Colonel (O-6) who had worked for me as a Major in 2004. One of my peers had already pinned on his first star and another was about to. I did not envy their success, but all were glaring reminders that professionally I was just treading water. Objectively, I had done all that I could do and then some from outside the system. And, just as obviously, the system saw no further value in me. I did not leave because I was tired, disillusioned, or discouraged but I also had no interest in just killing time. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that while I was still having fun and did not want it to end, just as clearly, it was the right time to go.

So I told SF Branch to find someone else and I dropped my retirement packet. Frankly, I do not think they cared. I believe that they offered that crap job as my one and only assignment option because they wanted to force me out. I may not be anyone special, but I am not Joe Shit the Ragman either. I thought that it was insulting and told them so. They certainly made no effort to dissuade me from leaving. They were convinced that I was “excess to the Regiment’s requirements” and needed to go. The sooner the better as far as the system was concerned. The funny thing is that when someone takes retirement “in lieu of PCS,” DA does not let you quit honorably; rather, they make it abundantly clear that that you are being fired as punishment for your transgression.  In other words, after 36 years of mostly exemplary service, DA itself declared me persona non grata! Somehow, that seems entirely appropriate.

In terms of military careers, in typical American style, today we have made promotions (and the resulting pay raises) the single measure of professional success. You either get promoted on a strict timetable or you are forced out. No matter how good you are in your current job, you must always keep moving with the herd. Therefore, the system persists in pounding ill-fitting human pegs into holes they are not suited for to temporarily fill spaces. And, I do mean temporarily. In a year or so we pull out all of the pegs and start pounding every one of them into new holes! In the process we disillusion far too many and they vote with their feet and leave. How exactly does a personnel system that facilitates and perpetuates high turnover help sustain unit combat readiness? It does not. That does not make much sense today. I would argue that it never did, and it is past time to overhaul our system.

I submit that the current system is actually optimized not to retain talent, but rather to deprive the Army of soldiers and officers – just as they are seasoned enough to be of real value to a unit. In effect, the system is fratricidal and designed to encourage the majority of our junior officer and NCO leaders to self-select out at the end of their initial contracts. In turn, we spend enormous time, money, and effort, bringing newer people into the front end of the pipeline to replace our loses. There is no real logic or military necessity that drives this dysfunctional methodology. We allow that nonsense to continue simple because that is the way we have always done it – at least since WWII. If an enemy had such a devastating casualty producing capability, we would be working tirelessly on an effective countermeasure. We certainly must stop doing it to ourselves – and soon.

Managing talent effectively takes more effort than what we are doing now. To make the best blades, you have to hammer the steel. The harder the metal, the more you have to hammer. It takes extra work, but those harder heads – if hammered properly by a good leader – often make great soldiers. I was lucky that some good leaders took the time and effort to hammer me. Here are some of the old-fashioned mallets used successfully on me over the course of my career. Rehabilitative transfers, “acting” rank (call it a test run), and Article 15s – used old school style to punish, educate and shape, not to terminate. Leaders must be provided these kinds of tools if talent management is ever going to be a reality. True talent cannot and will not be centrally managed and mass-produced by DA. Rather, it must be handcrafted by the individual soldiers themselves and their leaders at the lowest levels. The Army must push down the right tools and authorities to them and would be better served by removing the bulk of those “personnel management” responsibilities and decisions from PERSCOM.

Epilog: one of the foreseeable consequences of having been rogue for almost a decade is that I did not really belong to anyone at Fort Bragg. SF Command and later USASOC had carried me as “excess” on the books for that entire time. The HQ G1s had kept accountability of me, but none of the Staff Directorates owned or owed me. Therefore, there was no one obliged to even consider putting me in for an end of service award or to sponsor a retirement ceremony of some kind. Therefore, it is no surprise that I got neither. When I signed out on my last duty day in the Army, one of the Specialists at HHC USASOC gave me a folded American flag in a triangular display case and thanked me for my service. I thanked her back and left. I must say, it was an anticlimactic conclusion to a professional career I consider very well spent. Moreover, I will not deny, I thought the occasion was fully deserving of a wee bit more pomp and circumstance.

I did have one last “official” duty to perform. Two days after my retirement date, I returned to Camp Mackall one last time to take a student team’s Robin Sage Briefback. After interacting with the students, I sat down with a couple of the Cadre Team Sergeants and reminisced about the Q-Course for an hour or so. Although I did not remember him, one of the NCOs had gone through the course when I had been out there. It was a pleasant afternoon. Of course, I had to eventually let them get back to work; so, I said my goodbyes and headed home. Although I was driving east and it was mid-afternoon, I had no doubt that I was riding into the sunset. That is, after all, exactly the way a story like this is supposed to end. De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

You Never Know Where They’ll Show Up

August 24th, 2019

Stefan sends greetings from Croatia. 

MIG 21 in Vrsar

Soldiers “at the heart of” Modernizing Warfighter Gear

August 23rd, 2019

This is the Army News Service’s take on the Adaptive Squad Architecture industry day I attended earlier this week. I’m always interested to see what others take away from these meetings.

SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Army leaders met with industry partners Tuesday to focus on new ways to outfit Soldiers with lighter weight, wireless, and tech-compatible systems, looking at revamping the Adaptive Squad Architecture.

“For years, dismounted Soldiers have been overburdened by equipment which, while highly effective, often isn’t integrated with other equipment,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, PEO Soldier.

The restructure pinpoints Soldiers, at the individual and squad level, as the linchpin for ASA’s future modernizations. It’s one of the largest reconstructions conducted by PEO Soldier, Potts said

A Soldier’s lethality, mobility, and overall safety is “at the heart of the matter,” he said.

Potts, who took over PEO Soldier last year, unveiled his organization’s new vision to more than 100 industry leaders Tuesday in Springfield, Virginia. The goal is harmonizing Soldiers and squads as an integrated combat platform, similar to a Black Hawk helicopter or Abrams tank.

“(The Army) wouldn’t buy a tank piece by piece,” said Col. Travis Thompson, Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team chief of staff, to stakeholders. “So why would you buy a Soldier’s kit that way?”

The Adaptive Squad Architecture targets tomorrow’s battlefield, and creates ways to modernize, train, and structure ground forces within the architectural framework laid out by the Army, Potts said, adding, “The goal is to collaborate with private companies to provide next-generation capabilities and increase the lethality, mobility, and survivability, while countering emerging threats.”

“This is a collective venture (with the Army and industry partners) to change the paradigm of bringing capabilities to Soldiers,” Potts said, adding, “I’ll own the architecture. I just want the ability to plug in and plug out.”

Although the broad view doesn’t initially affect Soldiers, in the future their daily lives will change as modernized equipment becomes standard in their kits. The framework provided will “deliver capabilities to the field, faster, more effective, and cheaper” than before, according to Thompson.

In a grassroots effort to ensure effective modernization of new capabilities, Potts has welcomed input from ground-level Soldiers who are impacted by their decisions the most.

Tapping into how Soldiers feel about their equipment helps leaders develop an architectural path forward.

“Soldiers designing systems for Soldiers is dependent on [Adaptive Squad Architecture,]” Potts said, adding, the “from the bottom up” path to an integrated combat platform depends on the thoughts and ideas of every Soldier.

Potts, along with other senior leaders, has traveled the nation listening to Soldier’s needs, giving them a voice of change regarding their equipment.

Dismounted Soldiers may carry from 50 to 70% of their body weight in gear. In the past, with each piece of new technology a Soldier received, came the burden of more weight to carry around, along with the challenge to find more space to secure it.

Lighter gear will be found by eliminating excessive power sources and heavy cords currently lugged around, and streamlining multiple tech capabilities through a single hardware device.

“Our lethality comes from improving Soldiers’ kits,” said Potts.

This is a “new approach formed by old failures,” said Col. Troy Denomy, Soldier Warrior project manager. “Ultimately, this will get us very quickly to a point of sustained overmatch against our adversaries.”

Story by Thomas Brading, Army News Service

Photo by SSG Carmen Fleischmann

SIG SAUER Raises a Record-Setting $70,000 for the Honored American Veterans Afield Organization at Annual Charity Golf Tournament

August 23rd, 2019

NEWINGTON, N.H., (August 19, 2019) – SIG SAUER, Inc. is pleased to announce the 4th Annual 2019 SIG SAUER Charity Golf Tournament raised $70,000 for the Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) organization held August 9, 2019 at Pease Golf Course in Newington, New Hampshire.  In 2019 this annual event expanded to 192 golfers that contributed to the near doubling of the monies raised for the HAVA organization.      

“For over a decade, the HAVA organization has been re-integrating disabled veterans and injured military into American life through outdoor activities and the shooting sports,” said Tom Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales, SIG SAUER, Inc.  “For everyone at SIG SAUER it’s an honor to support this meaningful program, and contribute to continuing the services provided by HAVA that are making a difference in the lives of the men and women that fought to protect our freedoms.”

HAVA is a 501(c)3 organization founded in 2007 by a group of executives from the hunting and shooting industry to help disabled veterans and injured active-duty military returning from war heal, and reintegrate back into everyday life through participation in outdoor activities. HAVA sponsors guided hunts, shooting events, and outdoor activities across the country hosting hundreds of veterans annually.

SIG SAUER is a longstanding supporter and sustaining sponsor of the HAVA organization. Annually, SIG SAUER participates in HAVA sponsored shooting and hunting events across the country benefiting hundreds of veterans, including the upcoming 7th Annual Rock Castle Family Day on September 14, 2019 at Rockcastle Shooting Sports Center in Park City, Kentucky.   

To learn more about the HAVA organization visit

Platatac Peacekeeper MK4 Chest Rig Back In Stock

August 23rd, 2019

Thanks to a government overrun, Platatac has a limited stock of their Peacekeeper MK4 Chest Rig (with Low Pro Straps – included). The Chicom LW H-Harness is also available as an upgrade.

Peacekeeper MK4 Chest Rig

– 4 x MOLLE Rows 2 x MOLLE Columns (x2)
– 2 x medium-sized zippered pouches with front zip pockets
– 3 x 5.56mm Double magazine pouches
– 1 x Horizontal zippered pocket with Cyalume loops (under magazine pouches)
– 3 x External mesh pockets on rear
– 1 x Internal Velcro pocket
– Sewn drainage holes
– Built from 500 Denier Multicam Cordura nylon fabric
– YKK Zips with Paracord pulls

Chicom LW H-Harness
(Peacekeeper MK4 not included)

– Compatible with Peacekeeper MK4
– 55mm Folded 500D Cordura nylon to support heavy loads
– Folded construction with soft edges for optimized comfort
– 25mm elastic to attach PTTs or route hydration tube/antenna/comms cable
– Low profile, lightweight without affecting durability
– Adjustable 25mm web tape straps – Velcro loop at rear to attach individual ID markers – All ITW Nexus Hardware
– 130 gms

Primary Arms Optics Score Gold With National Tactical Officers Association

August 23rd, 2019

6 Primary Arms Optics were Submitted for Review by NTOA

All 6 Optics Passed Rigorous Testing in the Field by NTOA’s Tactical Officers

2 Received Gold Rating (Highest Possible)

3 Received Silver Rating (Second Highest)

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Following rigorous field testing, the National Tactical Officers Association has awarded Primary Arms with multiple Gold-tier ratings, representing the highest scores possible.

“The success of Primary Arms Optics achieving NTOA’s high ratings was the result of a team’s collaboration. Years of research, developing, testing, and quality control has been paid off. Primary Arms would like to thank the NTOA for the recognition and recommendation as well as our loyal customers for years of following and support,” said Joyce Banda, Primary Arms Optic’s Managing Director. “This accomplishment comes as Primary Arms continues to expand its Law Enforcement offerings. With support for T&E, product demo days, and trade-ups, Primary Arms is eager to get these high-performance optics into the hands of officers for further field use.”

The NTOA’s Member Tested and Recommended Program (MTRP) is a leading source for Law Enforcement groups in evaluating the practical use of products for tactical application. Started in 2003, the MTRP evaluates products across at least 6 of 13 different major criteria: design, performance, ease of use, size, quality, durability, storage, versatility, convenience, LE applicability, comfort, ease of maintenance, and accuracy. Products submitted to the MTRP are specially tested in the field by NTOA members, proving their performance with real world use. To pass, products must at least average a 3 out of 5 across all criteria. If a product passes with a 4-4.49 average, it earns a Silver logo, while 4.5-5 average ratings are distinguished with a Gold logo.

Primary Arms Optics submitted 6 different optics and all 6 passed the NTOA’s exacting standards. Two of the optics achieved the highest possible rating, distinguishing them with a coveted Gold logo. These optics include the Platinum Series™ 1-8×24 FFP Rifle Scope with Illuminated ACSS Griffin™ MOA (MPN: 610086) and the Silver Series 1-6×24 FFP Rifle Scope with Illuminated ACSS Raptor (MPN: 610005). In addition, three optics were awarded a Silver logo for exceptional performance. These optics include Silver Series™ 1-6x24mm SFP Rifle Scope Gen III with Illuminated ACSS® (MPN: 610017), the Silver Series Advanced Push Button Microdot Red Dot (MPN: 810001), and the Silver Series Compact 1×20 Prism Scope with ACSS Cyclops™ (MPN: 710001).

For more information on Primary Arms, visit the company website at


Eighth Order Kickstarter Campaign Reminder

August 23rd, 2019

This is a reminder about fellow Veterans’, William Romes and Tom Kerr, new company Eighth Order, Inc as well as their Kickstarter capaign.

Eighth Order is a foray into Veteran advocacy by the two with the expressed intent of Veterans helping other Veterans tell their stories. After nearly two decades at war, American Veterans are suffering in staggering numbers, with far too many homeless on the street, self-medicating, and taking their own lives. Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries are far too real and far too prevalent to sit idly by and not do anything.

With stacks of uniforms in our closets and an idea in our minds eye, we’ve set to doing something…anything…that can help other American Veterans.

As I stare at the stacks of utility uniforms in my closet, I remember thinking, “It’s going to be a shame to throw these out. There’s a lot of money spent, and hard work put into those.” Then I thought… “…and a lot of memories too…” With that I thought there had to be a way to re-purpose those uniforms. I remembered seeing the Eagles and Angles products posted on SSD and I thought I may be able to do something similar, but unlike what they’re working on. I thought those guys were doing awesome things and didn’t just want to “me too” something. However, their message is strong, and it resonated with me. Veterans telling their stories is a powerful thing, and not just for people to hear and celebrate, but also because talking about things helps them heal, even if just for a moment. With that in mind, I called the first person I could think of who would tell me to “knock it off, you’re an idiot”. To my surprise, Tom told me to do it, do something, do something about it…and that he wanted to be involved.

We have been working through the back end of this business since January and it is time to get moving. The product offerings will be a range of casual oxford style shirts with the inside of the cuffs, button line, and inside of the collar fitted with pieces of the donated utility uniforms. The uniforms are donated by American Veterans, along with as much or as little of their story they care to share. Those uniforms and stories will travel together to our factory in California. When a product ships, they will go with a card that discusses where that uniform has been and the things it’s seen. The goal, once this initiative gets off the ground is that a percentage of each sale will go to a Veteran non-profit organization focused on PTSD/TBI treatment and rehabilitation programs. With regards to transparency, I have spoken with a number of these types of organizations and to a company have told me to hold on that portion first off. They tell me that I should make sure the business is moving properly before committing funds to their organizations. One gentleman told me that nobody gets help if your company fails because it can’t pay its bills…ease into it.

Our initial offering is being launched on Kickstarter, with possibly a second product on that platform, to get things moving and funded. We anticipate offering several casual oxford style shirts as we walk this path, as well as a couple variations of blazers.

Our initial samplings are based on standard S-XXL shirt sizing. These shirts are made with 100% American cotton, meant to be worn untucked or tucked in and/or with a tie. When we roll out our blazers, they will be simple construction casual wear 4 way stretch Tweave or a similar textile. These products will be made exclusively of American textiles, in America, by Americans employed by American companies.

Thank you for taking the time to understand and we look forward to your support.

By: William Romes

SureFire Field Notes Ep 46 -The Flinchies with Chuck Pressburg

August 23rd, 2019

SureFire Field Notes is a multi-segment informational video series with tips and techniques from subject matter experts of all backgrounds. In this episode, Chuck Pressburg of Presscheck Training and Consulting, discusses the flinch response that many shooters experience.

SGM(R) Pressburg retired from the Army on 1 Jan 2017 after over 26 years of active service, mostly in Special Operations and Special Missions Units. After Infantry and Airborne Training in 1990, Chuck completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program and was assigned to the 1st Bn, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Chuck’s various assignments included:

10 years in the 75th Ranger Regt including platoon sergeant of a 65 man strike force deployed to Afghanistan twice in 2001/2002. Platoon highly decorated during the battle of Takur Ghar (Robert’s Ridge) for recovery of 2 missing US Servicemen.

24 Months rifle and sniper squad leader 82nd Airborne Division.

2 years Asymmetric Warfare Group(AWG) (Founding member, 1st Active Army unit member deployed to combat, Selection class #1, Operational Training Course (OTC) Class #1) Spending over 20 months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, conducting Small Kill Team (SKT) operations and Direct Action raids in support of conventional and Special Operations Forces.

12 years, HQ USASOC performing various tasks as required including a two-year assignment to the G8 section where Chuck performed Science and Technology R&D. While assigned to USASOC Chuck graduated from the Defense Acquisitions University’s Combat Developer’s Course and The Human Factors Engineering (MANPRINT) Course. Chuck spent several years assisting in material acquisition programs for SOF.