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About Face: Odyssey Of An American Warrior
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Podcast Books > About Face by David H. Hackworth

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message 1: by Kristi (last edited Jan 20, 2016 03:37PM) (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) This thread is for discussion of About Face: Odyssey Of An American Warrior by David H. Hackworth. Please post any thoughts on the book or Jocko's commentary on the podcast.

Have you started reading this book?

What are you enjoying most?

message 2: by Kristi (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) I'm in the process of reading About Face, I've made it to page 55. Loving it so far!

Is anyone else reading this one?

message 3: by Kristi (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) As I was reading this morning about Hack in Korea, and the conditions that they endured, I was thinking how when I read a book I can read these words but I sometimes don't really understand. I stopped and re-read the conditions...

p. 53
It was so bitterly cold you couldn't sleep. You had to keep moving, stomping feet and flexing fingers twenty-four hours a day. Those who didn't were saying good-bye to their hands and feet (and sometimes their lives); for a while every day a couple men were evacuated because of frostbite - black toes and fingers to be cut off at the hospital. Grenades, knives, and ammo would freeze fast to the foxhole brim. Weapons froze, too - you'd have to kick the bolts of the M-I's and Browning automatic rifles to get them back.

It hadn't meant anything, the lieutenant's death. For openers, what he'd done was dumb. But more than that, we'd become immune. Fighting a war on the ground is like working in a slaughterhouse. At first the blood, the gore, gets to you. But after a while you don't see it, you don't smell it, you don't feel it. So what's another dead body? It's almost as if you don't care. In this case, we just leaned forward, kept walking, and tried to ignore the song in our heads, the one the troops called "The Bug-Out Blues".

I tried to mentally put myself there, but I've never seen or felt or been in that type of situation. I made me think about what Jocko says about war:

"War is Hell"

I think that must be the only way to explain it to a civilian.

message 4: by Matt (new)

Matt Garrett | 5 comments Mod
This is on my to read list. Are you finding many leadership principles displayed in the book? Unfortunately, at this time I'm trying to focus my reading on books that I can relate to leadership development.

message 5: by Neil (new)

Neil Gallivan | 10 comments Matt,
It's an excellent leadership book. The lessons are all there, just not clearly noted as in Extreme Ownership. Hackworth gives many examples he was challenged with, what the failures were and how they were detrimental to the effort, and then how he addressed them. This book is on par with E.O., just from a different angle.

message 6: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Received my copy yesterday. This is a substantial book! Hope others are reading and will contribute their thoughts. Just getting started so back with comments/questions soon.

message 7: by Charlotte (last edited Feb 01, 2016 07:55AM) (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen After the front matter and introduction the book jumps right to 6 February 1951. The battle that day was vicious, decimating most of the squads and many of his 3rd Platoon. They were accompanied by the 64th Tank Battalion but when they were fired on, the tanks became paralyzed. Right from the start Hack goes into action directing the tank commanders to fire and he goes tank to tank firing the .50 calibers to get them in the fight. This is the battle where Deboer dies....

Remarkable to think that Hack was only 20! I stopped reading at that point to create a timeline and do a little research on Hack and the Korean war. Hack was born on 11 Nov 1930 and enlisted when he was only 15 on 21 May 1946. He was all in and began to fanatically train by the book. I am in awe of the will he had to embrace this level of discipline at such an early age. What is it Jocko has repeatedly said, "discipline comes from YOU.." Hackworth had it!

One passage that struck me was on p.56, "We seldom saw a colonel, a lieutenant colonel or a major either.... So how could the brass know how defeated its army was if they weren't there to see an exhausted guy lie down on the road and and just give up? How could they know how cold and ill equipped we were if they weren't there to see blue, gloveless hands stick to the frozen metal of weapons? How could they know how steep and rugged the terrain was if they never climbed a hill?"

Leadership, leadership, leadership! Anybody else reading?

BTW- am I the only one who didn't know what "pusillanimous" means? Had to look that one up...ha!

message 8: by Neil (new)

Neil Gallivan | 10 comments Charlotte wrote: "After the front matter and introduction the book jumps right to 6 February 1951. The battle that day was vicious, decimating most of the squads and many of his 3rd Platoon. They were accompanied by..."

Leaders, bosses, those in positions to make decisions affecting the field, need to get out and actually see...experience...the realities of the task. Not just assume based on their past experience from years ago. A little bit goes a long way on many fronts. A daily battle that requires discipline and ego checks all around.

message 9: by Kristi (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) Charlotte wrote: "After the front matter and introduction the book jumps right to 6 February 1951. The battle that day was vicious, decimating most of the squads and many of his 3rd Platoon. They were accompanied by..."

Thanks for the background info Charlotte! I had to look up pusillanimous too...what a word! I'm away on work travel and couldn't justify bringing along such a heavy book, so I'll be back on this when I get home tomorrow. I am really enjoying (not sure that's the exact word) this book, interesting and full of leadership knowledge.

Where are you in the book now? I'll catch up to you this weekend and then we can share thoughts.

Have you read Extreme Ownership? I believe there is a similar part in EO about leaders actually going out in the field and seeing what the men see. Do you recall this part?

message 10: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen This book is packed with leadership examples and battle-space lessons... I have started taking notes and trying to apply them to myself. One on leadership that stood out was on page 81 about Captain Jack Michaely, George Company's CO.

"Michaely was cool as ice. He exhibited little emotion; the worse things were on the battlefield, the calmer his voice sounded on the radio. Later he said that as cool as he was on the outside, inwardly he'd churn:"I learned in WW II that the slightest bit of excitement in a leader is transmitted to the men. You might be afraid, but the fear gets magnified in the troops. Somebody has to keep his cool. If you are a decent leader, you don't dare lose it - for your own good. You've got to keep your unit up there doing its job."

Think about that for a minute! The leader's fear or excitement gets "magnified" in the troops (employees, direct reports, family members) Detach and remain calm!!!

message 11: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Another nugget was from p84 where Hack talked about an encounter with Sergeant Reeves, the second platoon sergeant. Hack says that Reeves was a bold, aggressive, good soldier but he rubbed Hack the wrong way. So one day they got into it in the chow line about who's squad would be first in line.

Hack was quick to say Reeves people were not eating before his. Then, "Words led to fists, and was I ever outgunned. With most of G Company looking on... Reeves cleaned my clock. I don't even think I got a hit in. ... He (Reeves) was a former division heavyweight champion , and he tore my ass simply because I had failed to to follow an age-old military axiom: Know your enemy. Needless to say, his guys ate first."

Ever happen to anyone? Yep and I learned respect too; albeit the hard way. "Know your enemy"

message 12: by Neil (new)

Neil Gallivan | 10 comments Critical lessons to never forget.

message 13: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Another gem from Lieutenant Bell, who was George Companies artillery forward observer (FO). "...the minute you get to a layup point you have to look around for an extra bit of good cover in case things don't go according to plan...Once the unexpected occurs it's too late to start looking around to see where you are going to go."

Jocko has talked about this. Expect the unexpected and be aware of where you are and what you would do if you encountered a bad situation. Situational awareness and training/preparing yourself for it.

message 14: by Kristi (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) Charlotte wrote: "This book is packed with leadership examples and battle-space lessons... I have started taking notes and trying to apply them to myself. One on leadership that stood out was on page 81 about Captai..."

This reminds me of a clip I saw from another Navy SEAL, Rorke Denver, who wrote Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior It's a YouTube, but I love his story about "Calm is Contagious"

Calm is Contagious

Let me know if you can't see the link and I'll post a different one.

message 15: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Kristi wrote: "Charlotte wrote: "This book is packed with leadership examples and battle-space lessons... I have started taking notes and trying to apply them to myself. One on leadership that stood out was on pa..."

Love that saying Kristi! Calm is Contagious... It's the same theme in all the chapters I have read so far. Leader's need to pay attention to their actions and emotions because followers mimic them and can amplify or intensify the behavior. This lesson really resonates with me. Early in my career I didn't get this and it's a good thing that I am naturally a calm person. I can see where there would have been many problems if I weren't because I didn't really notice the impact I personally had on my reports.

It's taking some time to read About Face because every page is filled with battle... great learnings but taking it slow.

What chapter are you on? I just started Hill 400.

message 16: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Hill 400 was a very difficult chapter to read and the battle was vicious for Hack and his Raiders... Guess the best takeaway is the example of brotherhood and dedication to each man on the team as they never gave up on each other and the mission. They never left anyone behind and stayed in the fight and beyond until the position was won. Regardless the cost, and it was high...

Another question I would have is for the commanders who gave this mission to the Raiders...."why"? The position was abandoned shortly after it was taken...

Is anybody besides Kristi and I reading? Would love to hear others thoughts...

message 17: by Neil (new)

Neil Gallivan | 10 comments Read it a while back. Why is still unanswered from what I've read there and in other books. Most of the leaders that have written about that war are still asking why. As it stood then and still, there was no reason that made any sense to fight for these high positions and then abandon them from a tactical or strategic standpoint.

message 18: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Neil wrote: "Read it a while back. Why is still unanswered from what I've read there and in other books. Most of the leaders that have written about that war are still asking why. As it stood then and still, th..."
Thanks for your insight Neil! I kept looking for the why, but never found it. Cost was paid for in lives lost...

message 19: by Kristi (new) - added it

Kristi (kristicoleman) Charlotte wrote: "Kristi wrote: "Charlotte wrote: "This book is packed with leadership examples and battle-space lessons... I have started taking notes and trying to apply them to myself. One on leadership that stoo..."

I haven't made it much farther than last time due to work trip and illness. I plan on getting back into the book tonight so I'll have more to write soon!

message 20: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen In Chapter 8, They Don't Have Cobwebs in Korea, Hack is sent home for a break and training. Here you begin to get more details of his early life and how he began to view Army training as antiquated and inadequate for the war we were fighting. Remember this was only 1952 and Hack was only 20 or 21.

Hackworth says, "The style of leadership I developed with the Raiders would stay with me for the rest of my Army career. I had more balls than brains; ... I was always teetering on the thin edge of regulations. Many times I'd be right on the verge of falling. Sometimes I'd even take a plunge. But there was always someone... to help me regain my balance, or hold the net." This says something about having good teammates who look out for each other and what made him the top soldier he was.

Hack attends a school that is teaching battle hardened vets the same curriculum as green recruits. In addition he didn't feel that the training provided adequate preparation for what these men would face once they were deployed. The last three paragraphs of the section, p.223, make it clear how flawed this was...

message 21: by Charlotte (last edited Feb 23, 2016 12:29PM) (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen I marked so many passages in Chapter 9 that I think I will re-read it soon. This chapter provides another look at how the Korean war shaped Hack. One of the most poignant paragraphs for me was -

"After the wounded had been evacuated. I went back to my CP to record the action: the casualties, the lessons learned. My little book would be a valuable teaching aid; I'd go over it with troops, and when we got into reserve we'd go over it again, again, and again. But I did not write down my own mistakes. I didn't have to. For all the work we'd done, for how on top of things I'd been feeling, that such a thing could happen and why--I was sick, guilty, and ashamed. My own lessons learned was indelibly etched in my brain: the image of two dead soldiers whom I'd known were irresponsible yet whom I'd tasked with the safety of my unit. I'd violated security and sent them to their deaths. Haley the third man, was the only soldier ever captured from my command.... But the tragic, unnecessary losses -- a direct result of the worst command decision I would ever make -- were crosses I would bear for the rest of my life. Happy birthday Hack. How's it feel to be twenty-two?"

This was a heavy burden and I expect to read about how Hack implemented the lessons learned in Vietnam... Heartbreaking

message 22: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen A lesson I learned a long time ago was that assigning critical tasks to people whom you know cannot or will not be able to do them correctly is a mistake. You can teach, coach, and encourage, but if it's critical, you're better off assigning responsibility to a capable responsible individual. Hack was trying to teach soldiers who slept on watch and were generally irresponsible and careless a lesson... They let their guard down, the position was overrun, and they were killed.... So sad!

message 23: by Charlotte (last edited Mar 02, 2016 07:47AM) (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen After Korea Hack returns to the states and gets out for a bit. He does different jobs to get by and goes to college. He longs to be back in the Army and on the battlefield. But the Army is changing and military spending is drastically cut during the Eisenhower years in office. None the less, Hack perseveres and finally gets a billet. In his words, "... it was a rude shock when I found myself assigned not to the 82d Airborne as requested, but to the 77th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in Manhattan Beach, CA. I was sure it was a mistake; I didn't know one thing about AD (Air Defense)."

One of the most endearing qualities he has is that no matter what challenges he is confronted with, he just goes to work and makes the best of the situation. Sort of like Jocko's "GOOD"!

Hack continues making progress and learning all he can during this time of administrative duties. He never compromises on his PT and never loses sight of his goal to get back to an infantry unit and back to the fight... During this time Hack continues work on his degree (University of MD - my alma mater), gets married, has two daughters, and goes TDY to Germany. Hack is maturing and mastering every challenge that comes his way!

message 24: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen The administrative tour comes to an end when finally his infantry orders come in and Hack reports to the 8th Div, 1st Battlegroup, 18th Infantry near Mannheim. A unit that was a direct descendant of his beloved U.S. 18th. Hack is overjoyed at his good fortune. "the battlegroup CO, who would forever after be my model, mentor, and friend. Colonel Glover S. Johns was the finest senior infantry commander I'd ever seen, or would see again. We shared a mutual, abiding respect almost from the moment we met: he was my kind of soldier and I was his. He was a warrior --..."

message 25: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Chapter 12, The Vanguards tells of preparations for war and on p402, Hack provides Col Johns farewell address before he is reassigned to Berlin as Chief of Intelligence. He says Johns was a leader who taught by example..." "...this great man's basic philosophy of soldiering was like being let in on the secret ingredients of some magical formula. To wit:..."

Colonel Glover Johns
Basic Philosophy of Soldiering
1. Strive to do small things well.
2. Be a doer and a self-starter-aggressiveness and initiative are two most admired qualities in a leader-but you must also put your feet up and THINK.
3. Strive for self-improvement through constant self-evaluation.
4. Never be satisfied. Ask of any project, How can it be done better?
5. Don't over-inspect or over-supervise. Allow your leaders to make mistakes in training, so they can profit from the errors and not make them in combat.
6. Keep the troops informed; telling them "what, how, and why" builds their confidence.
7. The harder the training, the more troops will brag.
8. Enthusiasm, fairness, and moral and physical courage - four of the most important aspects of leadership.
9. Showmanship-a vital technique of leadership.
10. The ability to speak and write well-two essential tools of leadership.
11. There is a salient difference between profanity and obscenity; while a leader employs profanity (tempered with discretion), he never uses obscenities.
12. Have consideration for others.
13. Yelling detracts from your dignity; take men aside to counsel them.
14. Understand and use judgement; know when to stop fighting for something you believe is right. Discuss and argue your point of view until a decision is made, and then support the decision wholeheartedly.
15. Stay ahead of your boss.

WOW... gems of leadership... Hope everyone is reading and will soon provide your thoughts and comments. But if not, take a look at these and see if you can use the wisdom...

message 26: by Charlotte (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Living conditions in jungles of Vietnam were horrific. Hack said, “You couldn’t wash up there (during the monsoons you were always wet anyway), you couldn’t shave (the slightest nick, like the inevitable cuts, rashes, or jungle sores, turned septic). The damp dark jungle was not particular: everything rotted there—your boots, your clothes, your skin. I learned not to wear them at all at Dak To, or undershorts either. Since you couldn’t keep them dry anyway, the only purpose they served was to rub you raw and start the rot. It was a hell of a way to have to fight.”

The NVA guerilla fighters were used to the jungles and were a formidable foe. Hack was a consummate learner on the battlefield and tried his very best to adapt to this horrible environment and crafty enemy to win and keep his soldiers alive. A daunting task.

In between all the training and fighting, Hack evidently also liked to “liaise” with the local ladies…

message 27: by Charlotte (last edited Mar 30, 2016 12:10PM) (new) - added it

Charlotte Allen Finally finished About Face! I hope everyone is reading or will read this book. It's long, but there are many lessons in it. I now have a great respect and better understanding of the Army and previous wars, including Vietnam, from a soldiers perspective.

Hack experienced a great deal of sustained combat and I took away that his main concern was always for his soldiers! He deeply cared that they were properly trained and supplied to fight and the failures of command wore on him until he went public with his views of the Vietnam war, which ended his career. I admire him for that. I was pretty stunned to see the percentage of soldiers killed in Vietnam from friendly fire... heartbreaking.

I hope others will add their thoughts and comments as they read this important book. I also hope to incorporate into my life the lessons learned. This book took Hackworth more than five years to write and it is worthy of a careful read.

message 28: by Jocko (new)

Jocko Willink | 8 comments This is the one book I have ever given as a gift. Only to my subordinate leadership.

message 29: by Eric (last edited Apr 07, 2016 05:06AM) (new)

Eric Z. | 3 comments Jocko wrote: "This is the one book I have ever given as a gift. Only to my subordinate leadership."

The only book I have given is Rich Dad Poor Dad ( I think it's that darned important financial advice)

Navy SEALs for Kids!

I am going to start giving YOUR book to my senior management.

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