Archive for March, 2016

Vietnam War Intangibles…It’s Time We Ask!

March 30th, 2016. Published under Vietnam War Combat Veterans. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly March 30, 2016 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

‘It’s time we asked’ is the title given to a project developed by ‘us brothers’ (Michael D. and Stephen D. Moberly). Conceptually, the project evolved from far too many instances wherein we witnessed, i.e., heard parents, grandparents, wives, children, loved one’s, and friends of Vietnam War combat veterans utter the telling phrase ’he never talks about it’, to which, our consistent response is, and will always be, ‘did you ever ask’?

We admit the actual percentage is unknown…but, suspect it is significant, that is, the number of Vietnam War combat veterans, who, upon returning home, received few genuine – sincere inquiries regarding their experiences. Anecdotally, we have identified common rationalizations justifications loved ones frequently applied insofar as exhibiting a reluctance – absence of inquiry with one or a variant of the following, i.e.,

…I am going to – I believe it’s best to wait for him to bring the subject up…
…we don’t know what to ask, how to ask it…
…we just assumed he didn’t want to talk about it because he hasn’t said anything yet…

The ‘absence of inquiry’…generally, perhaps obviously, arose within familial circumstances and variously remain embedded in the common, but largely unrecognized impasse, i.e.,…

…why one party (the combat veteran) may have elected not to talk about it, and
…the other party (family member, loved one, etc.) may have elected not to ask about it!

Too, the reception for returning Vietnam War veterans, on the whole, and, for a variety of reasons, aside from individual family treatments, was far less generous compared to veterans returning from generational wars that preceded and followed Vietnam. Us brothers hold no illusions, nor do we believe the ‘it’s time we ask’ project will manifest as an antidote for wholly reconciling such circumstances. We suspect for some veterans the deferential ‘home coming’ influenced their inclination for silence and anonymity, i.e., ‘he never talks about it’, which was far too often interpreted as ‘he doesn’t want to talk about it’.

So, for many Vietnam War veterans returning home, any muted – slighted reception remains confusing as does the still occasionally heard phrase, ‘but, the Vietnam War was different, it was unpopular’.

Such inattention, however it was intended or rationalized at the time, especially by individuals one could legitimately presume to have had a personal interest and responsibility to ask, was routinely and in numerous instances remains variously translated by (Vietnam War) combat veterans particularly, as apathy, disrespect, or having succumbed to the ample anti-war rhetoric which was a consistent feature of the news, providing content to public – family discourse.
Us brothers suspect as well, some of the inattention manifested as an absence to much needed (at will, informal) path to – emotional outlet for reconciling…
…what they had done.
…what they had seen, and the
…physical-emotional endurance and resilience integral to combat.

(Mr. Moberly is an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and author of ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’ published by Elsevier in 2014, m.moberly@kpstrat.com View Mr. Moberly’s videos on YouTube at ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’. This post represents some of Mr. Moberly’s writing about his experiences in Vietnam as a combat soldier assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade in 1969.)

Vietnam War Combat Crossing Intangible Chasm

March 29th, 2016. Published under Uncategorized, Vietnam War Combat Veterans. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly March 29, 2016 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’.

In June, 1969, during the 15+ hour flight from the Fort Lewis, Washington to Vietnam in the relative comfort of a Braniff 707, one of several commercial air carriers contracted to shuttle troops to – from Vietnam. During the flight, any trepidations about war and my soon-to-be role as a combat infantry soldier with the 173d Airborne Brigade were variously suppressed – masked. There were soldiers on the aircraft who characterized their presence as a ‘return trip’, i.e., their second or third tours in Vietnam. Many told ‘war stories’ for the first tour replacements who cared to listen. At this point, I would not have known, nor did I have any reason to suspect some of thos stories may have been embellished somewhat to fit their audience of replacements.

Surveying other soldiers (fellow passengers) within my limited view, left me with the impression that few were wholly immune – impervious to the onset of a reflective cocktail of thoughts, memories, and ‘wish I had’s’ about what the future may have in store for them. While I saw no conventional evidence, i.e., hands clasped, heads bowed, or mouthing words in silence, etc., I presume there may have been a fair amount of praying occurring periodically throughout the flight.

For those fortunate enough to win the ‘window seat’ lottery on the plane ride to Vietnam there was ample time to observe the blue sky, the blue hue of the Pacific Ocean, the occasional cargo ship or island below, other aircraft, and experience 13+ time zone changes. Throughout the flight, one’s sense of direction was muted, aside from knowing the plane in which we were all passengers and hopefully held return tickets valid 365 days hence, would eventually be landing in Vietnam which we knew was west of our starting point.

When the aircraft finally lands at Cam Ran Bay, Vietnam, each soldier is rapidly engaged in the in-county replacement processing pipeline…usually culminating two days later, with arrival at one’s assigned unit, in my case, 1st platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade based in the Central Highlands where I was greeted with the unforgettable disdain as the ‘f…ing new guy’. The greeting evolved, I felt at the time, from probably deserved bravado, laced with unsympathetic and unforgiving ‘one liners’ about what lie ahead. At that moment in time, as a replacement, I felt truly differentiated from all other creatures on earth.

The opportunities a replacement can avail themselves insofar as commencing crossing the unpitying and unforgiving chasm from civility to recognition as a responsible, dependable, and contributing soldier to his combat unit can vary. Of course there are numerous variables, most of which come wrapped in their own intellectual, emotional, and physical endurance, functionality, and resiliency.

Of course there are acts and/or behaviors, should a replacement be attuned to recognizing them as unwritten and equivalent to a small culture’s expectations which have been established by the experienced ‘elders’ of a combat unit’s, irrespective of rank. For the astute replacement crossing the chasm may occur relatively rapidly whereas for the less astute replacement the ‘chasm’ can be unrelenting and take much longer, if it occurs at all.

Arrival at one’s combat unit the realization there are no opt outs, becomes operative, save for the obvious. This will become one of the most challenging ordeals one may ever encounter, that is, the enormity of responsibility to themselves and others and the anxiety that comes with it. Specifically, if mistakes or errors in judgment are made, particularly those with variously – potentially irreversible outcomes as judged through the myopic lens by other combat soldiers in the unit. Compounding circumstances-incidents like this, significant errors – lapses could shadow a combat soldier indefinitely in their combat unit unless – until relevant amends occurred.

Another distinctly combat related perspective that evolved very rapidly for some was the seeming randomness of combat outcomes, many of which were variously and wholly outside one’s sphere of control and/or ability to favorably influence. Usually, unless-until a combat soldier recognized the absolute necessity for sustained periods of complete sensory (mental, emotional, and physical) functionality, i.e., possess reaction transition time frames in the nanosecond realm and being fully acclimated to the suddenness and randomness which combat frequently occurred.

(Mr. Moberly is an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and author of ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’ published by Elsevier in 2014, m.moberly@kpstrat.com View Mr. Moberly’s videos on YouTube at ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’. This post represents some of Mr. Moberly’s writing about his experiences in Vietnam as a combat soldier assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade in 1969.)

Preparing For Combat…The Intangibles

March 9th, 2016. Published under Uncategorized, Vietnam War Combat Veterans. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly March 9, 2016 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

For the relatively small percentage of U.S. male citizens who entered military service…between 1965-1971, i.e., ‘baby boomers’, those who were assigned to – received infantry training assumed it was foreordained they would be serving in Vietnam in some combat role. Not surprisingly, almost all did so with little or no personal or direct experience with the emotional – intellectual differentials of actual combat and the wars’ theater, i.e., its people, history, culture, climate, and terrain, etc.

And, as in most wars and combat operations, but perhaps the Vietnam War particularly, preparing combat soldiers for entering the fatiguing environs of what is essentially a two-season climate, i.e., hot-dry – rainy-humid while being emotionally and physically prepared to engage or be engaged by adversaries who, in most instances were undistinguishable, but never-the-less willing and eager to harm – kill American soldiers. And, as in many instances, perhaps particularly combat, all the preparatory training completed and personal confidence one may have acquired as an outcome, for some, little may actually internalize or translate, unless – until they actually become fully emerged – engaged in all its realities and ultimately called upon to perform rapidly and effectively.

Perhaps necessarily so, infantry soldier preparatory training…as we knew it then, (1965-1973) was very structured. It encompassed some ‘things’ which many were hard pressed, at the time to find relevance, while other training involved mock-up (faux) exposures to combat like circumstances which largely focused on avoiding, mitigating, and surviving what the training regimen and military instructors characterized as variants of vulnerabilities and risks associated with combat in Vietnam, To be sure, the training was sporadically interspersed with, presumably embellished, anecdotes, e.g., the stealth, tactics, and ‘larger-than-life’ battle performance of the soon to be adversaries, which, at the time, were quite bewildering and disconcerting
In the Vietnam War…not unlike other wars – combat circumstances I presume, following one’s first visual of and/or contact with adversaries in combat, death, or the experience associated with incoming and/or returning weapons fire (intangibles), for a significant percentage, manifested as life – emotion – thought altering experiences (intangibles), usually with some level of conscious – sub-conscious permanency. For some combat veterans, such circumstances have been emotionally destabilizing, particularly if re-visited or conscious efforts made to psychologically reconcile observations and/or actions.

I have observed many infantry trainees, perhaps I should include myself, who, at 18 years of age, had yet to fully grasp, variously due to maturation and an abundance of self-confidence (intangibles) that, following the mandated 9 weeks of (infantry specific) training one would presumably possess the ability to physically and emotionally transition rapidly (intangibles) to activities that were utterly counter to their ‘life normalities’ prior to arriving in Vietnam, i.e., the inhospitable environs and extraordinary and largely unforgiving challenges associated with war and combat.

And, upon arrival as a f….ing new guy in a (Vietnam) combat unit, suddenly there was an absence of ‘life normalities’ aside from what one was willing – able to stow in their ruck sack. Adding to this wonderment, which evidence remains ample, is that, for a significant percentage of replacements, had, just days before, been their first ever ‘plane ride’ all-be-it a 15-hour duration air shuttle service from east-west coast bases in the U.S. to Vietnam. It is during that plane ride that one’s thoughts – feelings (intangibles) about the onset of and coping with their new realities often began to manifest.

Mr. Moberly is an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and author of ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’ published by Elsevier in 2014, m.moberly@kpstrat.com View Mr. Moberly’s videos on YouTube at ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’. This post represents some of Mr. Moberly’s writing about his experiences in Vietnam as a combat soldier assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade in 1969.

Vietnam War and Combat Intangible Frustrations

March 4th, 2016. Published under Communicating Risk. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly March 4, 2016 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, a quote widely attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, variously confirms a range of frustrations shared by many Vietnam War combat veterans with respect to how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were prosecuted.

In the U.S., we have come to assume any war, particularly those post-WWII, breed proponents and opponents with the differences frequently arising from nuanced social, political, moral, and even national security arguments, that eventually, but inevitably, morph as untoward revelations about a war’s underlying rationale and prosecution, which, in turn, give rise to doubts, questions, frustrations, and public weariness, e.g.,

• what are the ‘knowns and unknowns’, i.e., foreseen and unforeseen tradeoffs and consequences?

• is the war being prosecuted as effectively (tactically, strategically) as it should and with sufficient translucency?

• what means exist for regularly measuring the war’s status, i.e., are specific political-moral-military-national security objectives being met?

To be sure, frustrations…evolve, repeatedly evidenced when tactical, strategic, and/or policy misjudgments and misdiagnoses occur, all-to-often marked by an absence of ‘lessons learned’ from numerous prior comparables, i.e., the Vietnam War vis-à-vis the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It is with confidence, had any military war planner – tactician asked any Vietnam War (ground) combat veteran, prior to deploying large numbers of U.S. troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, to describe risks-threats for which it would be prudent to train and prepare combat troops for in advance, their responses would likely evolve around…

• there will be more sophisticated versions of booby-traps’ of all types the former a term/phrase ludicrously modified to IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and ‘suicide bombers’.

• any prospect of ‘winning hearts and minds’ of independently indigenous (religious) sects-cultures marked by thousand year histories of conflict, will be a long, risky, costly, and very likely produce a disappointing outcome.

• the wars’ in general, and fighting specifically, (in Iraq, Afghanistan) will occur with 360-degree asymmetry, and 24/7 spontaneity.

• recognition that the primary, perhaps the primary difference insofar as combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam, is terrain!

• training indigenous personnel for ‘standalone’ defense of their region – country will be challenging, time consuming, costly, and probably never produce a fully desirable outcome, lackluster performance of indigenous military will collectively translate to a political and social unsustainable willingness to continue indefinitely.

• mitigating – countering the influx and actions of religious indoctrinated – self-described insurgents will be challenging and achieve only sporadic territorial gains which can be quickly undermined – lost when troops are withdrawn.

It seems apropos then, to revisit the aforementioned quote attributed to Mr. Churchill, i.e., “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. It’s quite possible the U.S. military co-opted Mr. Churchill’s quote was co-opted and re-phrased to ameliorate the persistence of more recent tragedies as ‘lessons learned’. For example, the April, 1996 plane (Boeing 737) crash in Croatia that killed then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 34 other American aides and business persons accompanying the Secretary on a trade mission. Following this incident, the U.S. Air Force primarily, compiled a 7,700-page document titled ‘lessons learned’.

One of the most significant takeaways from that document, in my judgment, was the fact that numerous civilian and military pilots had personal and recent knowledge of the risks and challenges associated with negotiating the runway – a landing at the same Croatian airport. Such reports, conveyed over a period of time prior to the crash of Secretary Brown’s plane, were probably at echelons well below what would be required to produce change. As the report admits, most, if not all of the relevant concerns went un-asked, until that is, the Secretary’s plane crashed, upon which it became ‘time to ask’.

Mr. Moberly is an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and author of ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’ published by Elsevier in 2014, m.moberly@kpstrat.com View Mr. Moberly’s videos on YouTube at ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’.