3 Simple Ways to Introduce Your Kids to History



Benjamin Franklins’s father, a tradesman, had a small library in their home that Ben used to develop his famous curiosity. General George Patton’s father read the Iliad and the Odyssey with young George before he was 10, not only instilling a love for reading, but also an understanding of the human condition. The Wright Brothers’ father gave them a “flying toy” and their mother taught them how to use tools when they were kids, which sparked their interest in flying and mechanics.

As parents, we have the ability to influence and shape the passions of our children. Personally, we want our children to grow up with a love of reading and an appreciation of history. These two practices will keep them grounded and informed in a world of ever-increasing white noise.

To help foster these passions in my children, we make a deliberate attempt to educate them about and expose them to history whenever we get the chance, and there are three main ways we do this:

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Why Aren’t There More Books About Communication On Military Reading Lists?



By Megan Jantos

Leadership is communication, and communication is leadership. Don’t believe me? Try influencing others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation without communication. On the flip side, people naturally follow those who communicate ideas and thoughts effectively.

Yet, senior leader reading lists lack books that directly discuss the topic of communication. The last five U.S. Army Chief of Staff Professional Reading Lists only mention communication a total of six times. And, when mentioned it was typically from a technical perspective of physical equipment and networks (i.e. communications).

This baffles me because the foundations of communication remain constant regardless of history or echelon of command. During a typical interpersonal communication class, the first rule taught is “you cannot NOT communicate.” Every action — or inaction — is a message sent.

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What was Patton’s 7th Quality of Great Leadership?



By Josh Bowen, author of 3×5 Leadership

In the West Point’s special collections inventory resides Patton’s Elements of Strategy textbook from when he was a West Point Cadet back in 1909. This textbook was used for West Point’s “History of the Military Art” core history class, commonly referred to as “Mil Art”, and is still taught to this day. Inside Patton’s cadet copy you can find many hand-written notes and thoughts as he took the course. Most notable, however, is his writing on the inside back cover of the book: what he asserted as the “qualities of a great general.”

Cadet Patton’s Qualities of a Great General

  1. Tactically aggressive (loves a fight)
  2. Strength of character
  3. Steadiness of purpose
  4. Acceptance of responsibility
  5. Energy
  6. Good health and strength
  7. ______

What Is the 7th Quality?


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The Machine Will Run Without You: A Checklist for Checking Out


By: Joan Sommers

There are multiple reasons that take leaders out of the office and it’s not just TDY. Non-emergency surgery, NCO professional education schools, birth of a child, Ranger school, and the normal 30 days of leave a year will lead you away from the troops. The question is: Have you prepared your organization for your absence?

Part of this conversation is based on having self-awareness that when you are gone, someone else is doing your job. The phone calls and questions from higher will be answered by another person, so we have a professional obligation and responsibility to ensure that success can be achieved without us. This falls in line with the principle of Mission Command, however, junior leaders may not have enough experience in the unit, the Army, or in life to instinctively move into executing disciplined initiative the day you take leave. Mission command is grown and developed, not turned on and off when needed. Mission command also assumes that everyone understands the commander’s intent, which may not be true across your organization.

In the ensuing days before leaving, we find ourselves caught in a flurry of DTS, leave forms, and out of office setup. However, I would argue that as much preparation should go into leaving than the mission you are leaving the office to conduct.

Ask these questions while preparing for your absence:

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Investing in People: A Brigade Commander’s To Do List

B6 Green Book.jpg


By: Colonel (Retired) Rob Campbell

Taking command of a Brigade in the 101st Airborne Division in 2013, I knew I had to focus on making people better people. I had to invest in them. To invest is to dedicate time, talent and resources to gain something. That something would not be better physical fitness scores or proficiency on the live fire range. It would be better people. If we got this investment right, physical fitness and live fire performance would follow. I had talented leaders who would make us as proficient as we needed to be for the rigors or modern warfare, of this I had no doubt. Our people would make the difference.

In the fall of 2013, the Army was struggling with several social and behavioral issues, some which were a result of years of sustained combat. While suicide rates were down slightly from 2012, they remained at a 5-year high and had bypassed combat deaths prior to my taking command. Sexual harassment had also surfaced as a military-wide problem gaining Congressional and Army senior leadership attention. Along with these issues, combat stress, family separation from repeat deployments, marital and relationship failures, and off-duty misconduct (like driving intoxicated), all proved to be a significant challenge for leaders at all levels. The Army was struggling to build resilience in its soldiers, and many lacked coping skills to overcome these personal and family challenges. Add to all this the ambiguous future the brigade was facing. We were unsure if the Army would return us to a battlefield or deploy us away from home for another mission. While the Army and leaders at several levels addressed these problems, many of them still exist today. It was then and is now an environment ripe for investing in people. In my brigade, “Investing in People” would be our #1 priority and that would never change. Here is my Investing in People “To Do” list prior to taking command.

Investing in People “To Do” List

  • Investing in People events (counseling, solider concern boards, sensing sessions, battlefield circulation) reflected by my personal calendar
  • Personally select random soldier counseling packets for review and assessment
  • Meet early with my S-1 early to set tone and explain my intent
  • Visit and question leaders to test their understanding of our #1 priority
  • Champion deserving leaders by communicating with their personnel managers at Human Resource Command
  • Adopt and grow the Soldiers of Concern Program
  • Get out of my office and visit soldiers and leaders
  • Conduct sensing sessions with sample populations across the brigade to obtain and maintain the pulse of the organization
  • Send personal notes to soldiers and distant family members
  • Send notes to my leaders on their anniversaries and birthdays
  • Establish and foster a strong family support and readiness program
  • Measure the effectiveness of our effort

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Become an Innovation Insurgent!


This post originally appeared on Linkedin here. 

By: William Treseder

We love learning at BMNT. There are always ways to improve, and books are a fantastic source of distilled wisdom that you can apply in real-world situations. Below is a list of books we’re reading.

Think of this as your “Recommended Reading for National Security Innovation”.

Man’s Search for Meaning. Few books capture the human experience like this one, and certainly not in such a short book. BMNT is a mission-driven organization, and so are the customers with whom we work. We each need see ourselves as part of a larger narrative That provides meaning to the hard work of problem-solving.

Boyd: the Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War. John Boyd is a legend for his pioneering work on the OODA Loop and Energy Maneuverability. This biography sheds light on what it really takes to change business-as-usual inside the Pentagon.

Innovation requires sacrifice.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Constant change is a reality for our customers. We need to understand the drivers of these changes, how they are perceived, and predict likely responses. This book offers key insights to the nature of management in an era of adaptive threats.

Innovation is not about little improvements.

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. This is a very important book. It is more like a journal article: short and dense. Read it as a checklist, and make sure you satisfy at least the majority of the conditions described. Without a solid foundation, innovation isn’t sustainable.

Most innovations will fail.

Four Steps to the Epiphany. This is the ultimate entrepreneurial reference guide. It’s shocking how much wisdom is condensed in here. Everyone should have a copy.

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Getting the Cannons to Boston: Henry Knox



You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

Between chatting up customers, Knox was also reading all he could lay his hands on about artillery. The “Boston Grenadier Corps” whose members had to be at least five feet ten inches tall to best show off their splendid uniforms, gave Knox, six feet or more, the post of second in command. Knox, a genial sponge, absorbed all he could of the military arts.

In addition to artillery power, he was captivated by the political confrontations and strife around Boston. He had been present at the Boston Massacre and had tried to prevent the British troopers from firing into the crowd. He had fallen in love with Lucy Flucker, daughter of the Loyalist Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Thomas Flucker, the father, offered his influence to get Knox a commission in the British Army, but Knox refused. The family’s opposition to the marriage caused one Boston wit to rhyme:

But whoever heard                                                                                                                                                                Of a marriage deterred,                                                                                                                                    Or even deferred                                                                                                                                           By any contrivance so absurd                                                                                                             As holding the boy and caging his bird?

Stout Knox and the equally stout Lucy were wed notwithstanding, and she never saw her parents again. Meanwhile, Knox was spending more time with Nathanael Greene studying military science. When Revere stopped by to talk politics, the two would feign an argument to avert suspicion anytime a Loyalist entered the shop. After Lexington and Concord, Knox bundled himself and his sword beneath a cloak and by dark of night slipped over Roxbury Neck. Knox promptly offered to help design fortifications around Boston for the defending American rabble, and when Washington and Charles Lee, his third in command, inspected the work, “they expressed the greatest pleasure and surprise.” Washington had found a lifelong friend and his chief of artillery. Knox was only too happy, but where were the cannon? Then Knox remembered: Ticonderoga. Even before Congress, more militant now, approved the mission, Knox had set off with his younger brother, William, for New York. “No trouble or expense [should] be spared to obtain them,” Washington said in parting.

One story has it that Knox spent the night at Fort George on the way north where he met British Major John Andre, who had been captured by General Richard Montgomery. True or not, Knox five years later sat on the court martial that condemned Andre to death for his role in Benedict Arnold’s treason.

At Ticonderoga, Knox decided most of the captured guns were too worn for much use, and sorted out 59 cannons ranging from 4- to 24-pounders (the weight of the ball they fired). One was a fat mortar they nicknamed The Old Sow, which “hove bombs to an amazing distance.” By December 9, Knox had the guns aboard a selection of lake boats and set out down Lake George against the ice and snow. High waves sank William Knox’s boat “luckily near shore … [so that] we were able to bail her out.” Henry Knox, up ahead, had reached the southern end of the lake and “went ashore and warmed ourselves by an exceeding good fire in a hut made by some civil Indians who were with their ladies abed. They gave us some venison, roasted after their manner, which was very relishing.” Knox, the gourmand, even in the wild.

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Bookish, Bold, and Jolly: Henry Knox


You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

Paine provided the intellectual and emotional flint to spark colonists’ feelings into flames, Knox provided the physical means for the revolutionary army to start fighting. Henry Knox was a bookworm and also a poor, fatherless boy. To support his mother and his younger brother, by the age of 9 he was apprenticed to Boston booksellers. He was encouraged to read by Mr. Wharton and Mr. Bowes, his employers, but fiction was not his game. The glory of war and particularly the noisiest aspect of war, artillery, fascinated the boy, and he read every book on war, military training, and particularly weaponry stocked in the bookstore. Henry could hold his own in the rough and tumble of Boston alleys, but at the bookshop, he impressed patrons, including Sam and his cousin John Adams, with his intelligence and pleasant manner.

In his free time, he added to his book knowledge of war by observing militia drills and military parades. Eventually, Henry, 16 years old, joined ranks under the command of Loyalist Lieutenant Adino Paddock, where he learned about loading, firing and maintaining artillery pieces. From treatises such as Sharpe’s Military Guide, he absorbed information about designing effective fortifications, transporting heavy cannons, and discerning topographic features that could win or lose a battle. At 21 in 1771, Henry Knox opened his own bookshop with stock purchased and sent from London, as well as stationery, ledgers, and journals. But the trials of the British occupation of Boston inspired him to leave the comfort of a pleasant bookstore proprietorship to embark on a wintry visit to Fort Ticonderoga, which required all his youthful energy, savvy problem-solving, and fending off a few competitors as well.

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The Founding Failure: Part 2


You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

After his most recent failure of employment, Paine was contemplating forming a “Salt-Peter Association” to produce homemade gunpowder; instead, Dr. Benjamin Rush walked into his life. Rush had dropped by Aitken’s one day to chat with Paine who had similar views to his regarding slavery. Rush and Paine were both social mavericks, friends of Franklin and of independence. They somehow had a meeting of minds even though Rush was an early-rising teetotaler and Paine drank at all hours and slept late. Rush told Paine he had written down some of his thoughts “and was preparing an address to the inhabitants of the Colonies about it. But I … shuddered at the prospect … of its not being well received.”

Furthermore, Rush, while a radical, was well connected in Philadelphia, whereas Paine, a newbie, was not. “I suggested to him [Paine] that he had nothing to fear from the popular odium to which such a publication might expose him, for he could live anywhere, but that my profession and connections, where a great majority of the citizens and some of my friends were hostile to a separation of our country from Great Britain, forbade me to come forward as a pioneer in that important controversy.”

So, with Rush hiding behind Paine and Paine hiding behind a nom de plume, the pen that became mightier than a sword began to write. “O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth!” cried the anonymous pamphleteer. Paine referred to the Bible, with its book of Kings I and II, to claim that monarchy was an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Nature abhorred kings, he wrote, “otherwise she would not so frequently turn [monarchy] into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.”

“I have heard it asserted by some, that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness … Nothing can be more fallacious…You may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat.” Or, said the ex-corset-maker who could write from experience, “that the first 20 years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next 20…”

“The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, ‘TIS TIME To PART … nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined DECLARATION FOR INDEPENDENCE…”

There it was, finally, in black and white. Paine wanted to call the pamphlet Plain Truth. Rush opted for Common Sense. Rush won. Robert Bell, a printer “whose religion was at least doubtful” but of liberal views and actions was given the job of setting it in type. Why not? His was the only name to appear. The pamphlet came out on the same day that the King’s declaration to quash the rebellion was published in Philadelphia. Common Sense went for two shillings a copy, and returned £50 in the first week. Paine, being Paine, or rum being rum, wanted to rewrite parts of the second edition. Bell refused, presumably wanting to make hay while the sun shines. So, Paine went to another printer and had 3,000 copies run off at his own expense. Thus did Common Sense have two printers and no known author. “I believe the number of copies printed and sold in America was not short of 150,000,” Paine the ever confident said later, “[which] is the greatest sale that any performance ever had since the use of letters.” Despite his self-aggrandizing bluster, Paine gave his half-share of the first edition to buy mittens for the freezing troops of Benedict Arnold in Canada.

And what did the critics say?

Sam Adams, who knew something about making a fuss, said in Philadelphia that Common Sense had “fretted some folks here more than a little.” Edmund Randolph of Virginia said, “the public sentiment which a few weeks before had shuddered at the tremendous obstacles with which independence was environed overleaped every barrier … [Common Sense] put the torch to combustibles which had been deposited by the different gusts of fury … ” Ambrose Serle, secretary to Lord Richard Howe, the Admiral of the British fleet in America, believed John Adams had written it and called it: “A most flagitious Performance replete with Sophistry, Impudence & Falshood; but unhappily calculated to work upon the Fury of the Times … His Attempt to justify Rebellion by the Bible is infamous beyond Expression.”

Paine’s inspiration was colored by his own animus to the King. And while he had not read John Locke, he could not have been unfamiliar with the English philosopher’s dismissal of the Divine Right of monarchs to rule, and his argument that humans were born with certain “self-evident” natural rights, including those to life, liberty and property. Men had joined voluntarily in a compact choosing one to rule over them, but Locke held this authority was only to protect those rights, and once the original compact was broken, men had the right to rebel against the monarch for they, not God, had chosen him.

What part played the demon rum? Aitken had said Paine “would never write without that. The first glass put him in a train of thinking,” the next “illuminated his intellectual system,” the third loosened his ideas so that they “appeared to flow without any alteration or correction.” Whatever the stimulus, it was Tom Paine whose pamphlet was copied by printers all over the colonies. He threw down the idea of independence, which took root in every crossroads pub, village, farm, and the Royal Palace.

After publication, a London newspaper reported: ” … The Prince of Wales has been discovered by the Queen Mother, reading a copy of Dr. Franklin’s dreadful pamphlet, Common Sense and in response to the Queen’s searching questions, refused to confess how he got the copy.” But the Prince’s father got the message.

Check back tomorrow for a look at another founding father and don’t forget to join the #1776Serial Contest! 

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The Founding Failure


Thomas Paine

You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

The Founding Corset-Maker

 Tom Paine had been a dabbler at many things, a failure at all. Some of it he blamed on King George. It rankled even after he left England, so one day he took his quill and decided to put it all down on paper.

On January 9, 1776, in Philadelphia, a pamphlet titled Common Sense was published. It said in public what even most of the red-hot hawks had dared think only to themselves:

that the King was a tyrant and the only path for the colonies was independence. It uttered – screamed aloud – the unutterable. Probably more than any one event, more than any one person, Common Sense made it respectable for the general citizenry of the 13 colonies to conceive that their Revolution would be revolutionary; indeed to think of a communal future in independence.

The anonymously published pamphlet and the mystery of the author stoked interest. King George III thought Ben Franklin wrote it; others assumed it was John Adams. No, Thomas Paine had, even though he signed it merely, “an Englishman.” Thomas Jefferson once said Paine was “the only writer in America, who can write better” than Jefferson himself. That was a signal compliment coming from a college-trained lawyer who was about to do some significant writing of his own. It is even more surprising considering that Paine was a dropout from school, who failed twice as a corset-maker, twice as a tax collector, had two failed marriages, and was now on his second country, having been in the colonies less than two years. He had not yet dropped out of writing because he had scarcely ever done any. But, he scored a hit almost the first time out.

Tom Paine was 37 when he arrived in Philadelphia in November 1774, bearing a recommendation from Benjamin Franklin, a first-class boat ticket and strong opinions about George III. He had been born in Thetford, north of London, where he may have imbibed some views of democracy in Georgian England. Thetford had 2,000 inhabitants and two members in Parliament although only 31 citizens were eligible to vote for them. For Paine’s father, religion and profession were equally straight-laced: Quakerism and corset making. By scrimping, the father managed to send the son to school for seven years, but Tom was weak in Latin, the requisite passport into the professions. He had, however, developed an interest in the natural history of Virginia and ran off to sea, leaving his apprenticeship behind. His father caught him before the boat could sail, but Tom got away again, this time successfully. He next appeared as a journeyman corset-maker in London, age 20, and eventually drifted to Sandwich, setting himself up in the girdle business with a £10 loan, which he never repaid. “Disgusted with the toil and little gain,” Paine, now a widower, bade farewell to corsets for good and became an excise tax collector.

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