Flag Watch: Although he humbly disagrees with me, here is one superior officer I’m convinced will soon receive his flag. Colonel Stephen James ‘Jamie’ Gayton, RA USMA received his PhD in Public Policy from the Pardee Rand Institute in Santa Monica Saturday. Shortly afterward, he was honored to help hood CJCS Mike Mullen receiving an honorary degree. I am pleased to observe that Col Gayton is the senior of the two doctors by just a few minutes. I honestly don’t know much about Adm Mullen, but I immediately admired that he quoted C.S. Lewis. I strongly suspect that he is one of the good guys and I do know he has done a great job helping the military adopt hi-tech in a highly useful and somewhat cost-effective fashion. That’s not trivial. (Look below in the comments for someone who knows him and/or balanced discussion.)
Col ‘Jamie’ Gayton is finishing up now at the War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA and will go next to West Point to teach economics. (Lucky guy, and lucky his 3 boys! Carlisle has had such a rich history. George Washington noted marching past the magazine at Carlisle.)
Gayton had a highly successful tour in Iraq commanding an engineer battalion. He is well-known for taking care of his troops and getting tough missions accomplished. I’m pretty sure that he also made it look easy. Few commanders do both jobs well. He was known as tough, but fair among the local emirs in Iraq.
Most modern officers combine a fairly high degree of intellect with basic compassion and an ability to get tough when the situation truly calls for it (and not before). Earned PhDs are not uncommon among senior officers and by far the vast majority of those PhDs are very well earned indeed. That’s part of your garden variety standard for being a good officer, worthy of advancement. Col Gayton is not your garden variety officer.
I tender this thought to RS readers who are unfamiliar with the military: when you hear that tired old joke about ‘military intelligence’ being an oxymoron, I want you to remember this video. I want you to tell the joker that they understand neither the term ‘military’ nor the term ‘intelligence’. And that they certainly do not themselves possess any of the latter. I say this because I had a cousin who was an O5 in V Corps MI during the cold war. I took the train up from VII Corps in Stuttgart and visited his family in Frankfurt. He was not a spreadsheet or video game MI analyst. I didn’t know it until years later, but I actually met two of his operatives. He conducted their debriefs right in front of me and I did not realize it. He was the real deal. He later dropped a couple of scintillating thoughts on me – not to prove his brilliance, but to safeguard me against my own dumb EM stupidity – I was a SP4 with a clearance and took cold war risks I hadn’t considered in a theater where the Soviets were highly and darkly active. I have zero patience for jokes about MI ops that kept me alive (or at least uncaptured) in spite of my own ignorance. I learned today that a FOX producer did not know what a Soviet defector is (or why). Sheesh. Sorry I digressed. These officers (and others like them) are the reason I have no patience with…
Jamie’s thesis was not theoretical. His paper on the training and deployment of Styker brigades survived the forge of reality at the Urban Warfare Center at Fort Polk (my old home when the 551st MP Company still existed). The results of his research will save lives and help win battles. It will probably become a TM or FM if it isn’t already.
A degree from Pardee-Rand is distinctly non-trivial. Rand Corporation has been around since the 1940s and has developed, stimulated, and challenged minds for generations now. And then put the product of those minds to good, practical use. Ever ride a bus? The computer algorithms used to plan its route and schedule were developed at Rand. Use the internet ever? Rand again.
Rand Corporation is a national treasure.
So are officers like Gayton.
I met Jamie at one of our sons’ Boy Scout camp outs when they were Webelos’. We clicked.
When I called him in PA about my son’s death, the call lasted about 20 seconds. Neither of us could speak. This O6 took time away from his studies at the War College at Carlisle to fly back to LA and speak at my son’s memorial. This O6 put the entire U. S. effing damn Army on hold to fly to LA and attend to a friend’s grief. I don’t think it was flattery of me or my son, but Erik’s own demonstrated motivation and commitment, and Jamie’s own hopes for the future of the officer corps that caused him to take my young son’s ambitions for West Point so seriously. Had Erik survived to become a junior officer, Jamie surely would have been his ‘rabbi’.
If he has that sort of compassion for a friend, what sort of compassion does he have for his troops? Will he be tough, fair and compassionate with cadets going through the hardships of a West Point education?
I’ll let you be the judge, dear reader.
I know he will be supplying cadets with the core knowledge he truly believes: the absolute superiority of free market capitalism – something most students today don’t get, even (especially!) in the Ivy League. The closest you could come today might be arbitrage at Stanford B school, but that’s cynical technical manipulation, not core belief in a basic philosophy. Today, we see the price we are paying for 30 years of that omission in our childrens’ educations. Recently I heard several B school students reveling in the fact that they could manipulate markets, make tons of money via derivatives and arbitrage, and await a bailout if they blew it. I heard nothing of the sanctity of the sacred trust to carefully guard other people’s money. Oh, they know how to spout that ‘standard drivel’ about increasing shareholder value. But they don’t believe it for a second. To really believe that would be entirely naive. These kids will be managing pension funds in 5 or 10 years. Or Social Security. So I tremble for the generation that is coming of age. And those like types who will govern or regulate them.
This officer will supply that want in his students. Students who are the future of the US Army, and in a very real sense, the country. That’s very, very reassuring to a businessman.
Remember this superior breed of officer. Remember that the services are producing more and more of these officers – and yes, even slowly beginning to advance more of them to flag rank (where they should be).
Jamie, I am proud to call you my friend and even prouder that you call me one.
I was was there when you got your hood.
I expect to be there when you get your flag.
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