FirstSpear

The Baldwin Files – What Next?

I did some walking around the homestead today. Specifically, I checked and did some minor clearing of an old logging trail that crosses a ridgeline on the “backside” of my property. I have about 56 acres of mostly steep hillsides, and the retirement home I am building is in a central bowl of about 10 acres. When I was a kid, I read about the Native American Tribes east of the Mississippi. They had semi-permanent settlements long before Europeans showed up. It was their habit to clear certain trails of debris to allow their warriors to move quickly and quietly when necessarily in or out of the villages. They used proper camouflage techniques so that those trails would not be obvious to potential raiders from other tribes. Likewise, they took pains to obscure the heavy traffic areas that led to their most productive fishing, hunting, and trapping, locations.

I always liked that idea. I have a one lane paved (public) road that leads to the edge of my property on one side. I do not own it and, therefore, cannot do much with the front door. However, I do like having a not so obvious private backdoor trail off my property that very few know about. Besides the work involved, I do my best thinking – at least I believe I do – when I am moving. Likewise, I have always preferred to give orders, guidance, praise, or admonishment, on the move – rather than in an office. So much so, that it was something of a running joke in at least one of my units. As in, “you know you screwed up if Major Baldwin invites you on a Wisdom Walk”! Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about where I want to take these articles. I already have some in the que in various stages of completion. The fourth and final chapter of the Fighting Load Continuum, something on the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel (A-TAP), and another on machinegun crew training that I am collaborating with Kirk on; just to name a few. Still, it seems appropriate that I also open this up to suggestions from the readers as well.

Of course, I have a one major caveat. I am not likely to attempt to write about a subject in which I have no expertise or that is too far outside my personal experience. I will talk about leadership, training, tactics, gear, and fieldcraft all day long. I have been practicing and trying to master those related skills all my life. That does not make me an expert, but it does make me more knowledgeable than average. I believe in self-reliance, preparedness, and have some experience with “survival skills.” However, my opening vignette notwithstanding, I am obviously not about to go “off the grid” and do not consider myself a Prepper or Survivalist. Therefore, I am not going to opine on how much seed you may need to stockpile in your bunker for the End Times. Although, just as clearly, I may talk about my homestead from time to time if it is germane to the subject.  

I do not talk about shooting. Not that I do not have an opinion, but there are others on this forum that are making a living and still doing that kind of training every day. I will generally defer that subject to them. I will take the opportunity to reinforce something that I have heard others say here; some of the recent shooting fads are just that – fads. In a year or two, they will be gone and some other shiny new technique will capture everyone’s imagination. I did make an exception a few weeks ago when someone mentioned that a shooter can use his thumb to “lock” a pistol slide forward when using a suppressor. Apparently, that is a thing and I was assured it works fine. OK. I am not ever going to try it myself so I will take their word on it. Still, using a part of your body to prevent a weapon from functioning as it is designed to work seems particularly ill advised. Indeed, an old fuddy duddy like me would call it an accident waiting to happen.    

SSD has been very accommodating with space here these last many months, and I appreciate that. Otherwise, I would just be another angry old man shouting at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn. Yet, I have a tough time gaging whether I am reaching what I consider my target audience or determining the level of interest in some of the subjects I have chosen to write about. Some individuals choose to comment and that is good, but I am assuming some number of others read the articles and remain silent. Many of the people who respond with any regularity are retired like me. That is ok, but it makes me wonder if more than a couple Active Duty guys and gals are reading these articles? If not, then I am clearly missing the audience I am most interested in engaging.

Therefore, while general comments are still welcome, I am hoping to get two specific types of responses after this piece. One, feedback from those that can give me some sense (hopefully) whether I am reaching that Active Duty target demographic – or not. Two, a sentence or two about what other subject matter readers might want me to explore or reattack in the future. All answers are welcome; even if the response is “Old man, your stuff does not appeal to me or is too dated to be useful.” Finally, I will be traveling to Fort Campbell (Sept 19th – 22nd) for the 5th Special Forces Group Annual Reunion. That is an opportunity for me to touch base with old friends – in and out of uniform – and younger guys still on the Teams. In years past, in between Group events, I have also been able to engage a few folks from the 101st as well. I am looking forward to it. 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, reader, contributor and friend.

34 Responses to “The Baldwin Files – What Next?”

  1. Dave says:

    RA Infantry Officer, I’ve read your pieces on the fighting load continuum with great interest and make sure to read when I see one of your articles here. I’ve commented a few times but I’m usually late to the party, or I’ve added nothing of value to the conversation.

  2. Colin says:

    I bought “The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation” and read it based on your articles.

  3. Moshjath says:

    Infantry Officer about to take command of a Company in the Eighty Deuce. Love your articles, especially the series on the fighting load continuum. The talent management series also had me think for a bit beyond the 50m target and give some hard thought to what I want to do down the road in the Army.

  4. Alpha2 says:

    I enjoy the articles and wisdom no matter the subject.

  5. brave but stupid says:

    Former Group Support medic here. I can vouch that your articles were genuinely of value to me when I was serving.
    Things I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
    A recommended reading list or book review for any subject you’d be interested in writing one on.
    Traits that you look for when selecting personnel for a role or team.
    Field oriented capabilities you observed the military improve at or get weaker at over your career.
    Any advice on how to maintain a specialized skill (like a foreign language or combatives) when it is not getting used, sort of a minimum effective dose recommendation for such things.

  6. brave but stupid says:

    Former Group Support medic here. I can vouch that your articles were genuinely of value to me when I was serving.
    Things I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
    A recommended reading list or book review for any subject you’d be interested in writing one on.
    Traits that you look for when selecting personnel for a role or team.
    Field oriented capabilities you observed the military improve at or get weaker at over your career.
    Any advice on how to maintain a specialized skill (like a foreign language or combatives) when it is not getting used, sort of a minimum effective dose recommendation for such things.

    • Terry L Baldwin says:

      brave,

      Good suggestions. I think I will be able to address #2 and 3 – at least in part with a couple of upcoming articles. I will work on #1 for sometime in the future. #4 is a hard nut to crack for everyone. The shortest answer, is that it is a lot like PT. You just have to find a way to do it that works for you. I will think on it and try to have a better answer down the road..

      TLB

  7. Kit Badger says:

    I enjoy your articles.

    And to the end of gauging response… It would be awesome, although a huge headache I imagine, if Eric incorporated some sort of Up/Down vote option for posts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Active duty SOF. I greatly enjoy your articles, keep them coming. I frequently share them with teammates too. I would love to see more articles on leadership and more specifically what we (DOD/SOCOM) can do better. I feel like senior enlisted leadership has been marginalized over the years, but it’s definitely more complex than just that.

  9. GANDIS says:

    USAF Loggie officer here. Been reading you posts since I was enlisted. I have actually used you hyperlinked name at the bottom do the articles to read all your previous articles as well. Never really contributed much as i feel as though I have little to offer. But always read your articles when the come out. Reading about bending the Army to your will where able was pretty inspiring.

    • Terry L Baldwin says:

      GANDIS,

      I had to laugh at your last comment. I WISH I had the power to bend the Army to my will. Mostly, I just had some success dodging the hooves of the pachyderm!

      TLB

  10. Chuck says:

    Terry,

    I would live to see an one off article about the next generation squad weapons and their implications on the fighting load continuum, as well as your thoughts on the future of infantry squad tactics (Where we are. Where we are going.)

    Much appreciation from this fella.

    Chuck

    • Terry L Baldwin says:

      Chuck,

      I will definitely be talking more about how tactics have evolved – good and bad – and implications for the future close battle. Starting with the machinegun piece I mentioned above.

      Reference the new 6.8mm systems that may eventually come on line. I do not think they will have any significant impact on the fighting load continuum – pro or con. We went from Garands and Browning MGs, to M14s and M60s, and now M4s and 240s. Individual weapons and ammo generally trended lighter over the years. Yet, the soldiers load keeps creeping higher and higher. Weapons and ammo don’t add or subtract weight – people add weight. And only people (leaders) can subtract that weight and push back against the tide.

      TLB

    • James says:

      This! Imagine will have to wait for the winner though.

  11. Attack7 says:

    Retired senior NCO who gets it- love the articles.

    I’ve asked those former subordinates currently in command positions around the Army today, very few knew about SSD or your articles. This isn’t new, very few people are true ‘stewards of the profession’.

    Have you thought of the speaking circuit? Not as a guest speaker, but truly getting into units, listening and helping? As a young reconnaissance NCO at a heavy division in the late 80’s, someone on the Division staff was smart/bold enough to have COL (r) Hackworth come and talk leadership to the Division’s Officers and NCOs. That’s the last time I saw a leader who wasn’t telling stories about leadership, but telling everyone ‘how’ to run a unit and it’s people.

    • Terry L Baldwin says:

      Attack7,

      Have you ever been to a BCTP session? The Army pays retired Generals (Gray Beards) to come in an actively mentor 1, 2, and 3-Stars. I have been in those conference room and TOCs many times. Those younger Generals learn a great deal about their craft and the Art of War from those sessions.

      I wish the Army would make the same mentoring program effort up and down the chain. A guy like me could help a new Battalion Commander, S-3 or Company Commander in a similar fashion. Likewise, Senior NCOs could come back and do the same for relatively inexperienced Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders.

      We sometimes forget that the guys at the pointy end are talented, but are also our least experienced leaders. Having said that, I know that few new BCs would be comfortable having an old guy come in and give them guidance – at least not in front of their subordinates. Funny, by the time they pin on the stars, most will take all the help they can get.

      I would love to do what you are saying. But I do not have the notoriety of a Hackworth, so it is not likely to happen. I may have to put all of these articles in a book and sell them at Clothing Sales.

      TLB

  12. Tango says:

    Active AF transportation NCO. I love your articles on leadership and find use out of much of what you post. It may not be exactly 1 to 1 trade off since I’m support and you were SF, but the leadership skill and mentality that comes along with your experience isn’t bound by duty titles. I find it all valuable and try to integrate the principles into my professional and personal life to become a more competent and complete leader.

  13. Tech says:

    Terry,

    I generally don’t comment any more and just enjoy reading for what it’s worth, but I’ll come out of obscurity long enough to tell you I am an active duty NCO and enjoy your articles.

    Your most recent articles on talent management have particularly spoken to my own battles to become a Warrant Officer; I have missed the opportunity to even submit my application to the last two boards due to administrative errors in my physical which were beyond my control. Your personal story of persistence and taking charge of your own career has encouraged me as I have not only worked to have the physical corrected and re-evaluated, but has to rebuild much of my application from the ground up due to PCS. For that, I thank you, because it can be a lonely endeavor digging yourself out of a hole, even when you didn’t put yourself there.

    • Tech says:

      Please pardon the atrocious lack of proofreading while writing from my phone and trying to entertain a toddler.

    • Terry Baldwin says:

      Tech,

      I am sorry to hear that you have hit some obstacles between you and your goals. It sounds like you have the right attitude anyway. Keep after it, and good luck!

      TLB

  14. Terry L Baldwin says:

    Tech,

    Sorry to hear that you have hit some obstacles between you and your goals. It sounds like you have the right attitude anyway. Good Luck!

    TLB

  15. SLG says:

    Not military, but still active and still serving in a tactical role. I find your articles to be very interesting and educational. I’m happy to read about whatever subject you want to write about. Not all of it translates directly to my position, but much of it does. And by the way, the thumb over slide is a stupid technique, but it does work and I suppose it has a place, just not in America (I hope). I originally learned it from a SOF guy from another country, and they used the palm of their hand, rather than their thumb.

  16. Mike says:

    I have enjoyed reading your fighting load and leadership articles, hoping to implement some of it when i get back on unit and out from a desk.

    Look forward to what comes in the future

  17. B Martin says:

    Terry,

    Former Forward Support Company Commander to an SF BN and currently a BOLC Instructor. I look forward to your articles. I reference your articles on Talent Management and Fighting Load to my newly commissioned LTs. Sustainers tend to over pack on non-essential items and under pack the Shoot/Move/Commo/Lead essential items.

    Thanks for your digital mentorship.

  18. Adam says:

    I am an active duty Marine artillery officer and I have read most, of not all, of your articles here, sir. I’ve gained a great deal of professional knowledge on equipment, field craft, and leadership. I’d like to see more on field craft, perhaps on how to hack it in the jungle, and leadership.

  19. joe says:

    AD SOF

    Very much value the insights you’ve been putting out there. So do my colleagues.

  20. Brant says:

    Sir,
    Former AD Infantry officer, now a Reserve log BN CDR. My face lights up a little when I see you posted an article. I enjoy all the topics and the depth you take them. I 100% agree with your comment about field grade mentors, like the MCTP model. This is especially important now that most field grades do not have much, if any, experience with Large Scale Combat Operations. Keep Up The Fire!

  21. Terry Baldwin says:

    ALL,

    I appreciate everyone’s feedback. I will check back here for the next few days in case there are some follow on entries. I will keep the articles coming. Thanks!

    TLB

  22. A dude says:

    You know, if you ask for advice, you may just get it.
    There are some great suggestions in the comments related to this column but what I would like to suggest is more of a macro view and stems from what you yourself have written in this article.
    Colonel, you write with keen insight and humor and what you have to say needs to be read by a larger audience. Col. Hackworth had a much larger impact than his peers because he wrote a book highlighting his experience in a dysfunctional Army of Excellence. Someone needs write a current version of Hackworth’s book. Why couldn’t you, sir? Besides, the best way to market a book at Clothing Sales is to have your book available at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.
    Someone also needs to write the book about the true progenitors of modern special operations, the North American Indian warrior, from a professional SF perspective. Why not you?
    I have more suggestions but I think this will suffice and I have to get back to work anyway.

    Good luck and God speed.

    • SSD says:

      Between smoking pot and a flippant attitude toward weapon safety, I pretty much wrote Hackworth off. But then he became a wannabe beatnik and made a really bad call on ADM Boorda, so I’ll throw that baby of a book out with the bathwater.

    • Terry L. Baldwin says:

      A dude,

      I appreciate the suggestions. I was being a little flippant when I mentioned selling books at Clothing Sales. I have no plans to do that anytime soon. I agree with SSD about Hackworth. He went way too far off the reservation a number of times for my taste. I do not want to go down the path he went down.

      As a rule, I do not believe in “tell all” books. Sure, I got to be Forrest Gump (or a fly on the wall if you prefer) during a number of interesting situations in my career – especially during GWOT. I was held in confidence by most of my bosses because I could be trusted to keep secrets. I don’t want to betray those trusts.

      Of course, there have been exceptions and I don’t mind using an individual’s poor leadership examples (including my own) to make a teaching point. I will continue to do that. Probably no book though.

      TLB