Congratulations Brigadier General Funkhouser!

On the first day of February 2013, I had the good fortune to attend the promotion ceremony of my close friend and former college roommate – Brigadier General Tony Funkhouser.  Tony and I spent several years together in Company G-2 when we were cadets at West Point.  For most of the semesters our sophomore through senior years, we roomed together and found we were compatible roommates.  Although we graduated in 1985, it often seems like it was yesterday.  My oldest Robby is now a sophomore (yerling) at West Point and it brings back mostly good memories to hear him talk about life in the barracks – the Saturday Morning Inspections (SAMI), the mess hall food, the crowded mailroom, weekend trips, and the late nights studying or finding ways to blow-off stem when we were overwhelmed!  Looking back at my own experience, it’s exciting to see Robby forging friendships at West Point that I know will last a lifetime.

Tony was the first Engineer officer in our class to make general officer.  It is a testament to his leadership ability, personal sacrifice, and especially his potential to continue to serve the Army and the Engineer Corps.  I am very proud to know such a fine friend, soldier and leader.  Our Army has chosen wisely in his case and we all expect big things from Tony in the future.  A number of other classmates were able to join Tony for the ceremony that was held at the US Army Corps of Engineer Headquarters in Washington, DC.  Tony is now the commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division .

USMA Class of 1985 graduates and G-2 classmates - Paul Howell, Tony Funkhouser, Bob Hume, and Sam Evans.

USMA Class of 1985 G-2 classmates – Paul Howell, Tony Funkhouser, Bob Hume, and Sam Evans.

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Sea Bright – Hit Hard but Rebuilding

Sea Bright, New Jersey
January 10, 2013

William and I were recently visiting Uncle Jeff and Aunt Peggy in their ocean front home in Sea Bright, New Jersey.  We went up to Sea Bright for only one night’s stay so William could do a live audition the day after which incidentally went very well – he was selected to perform in the Olympic Challenge 2013 Winner’s Recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, February 10, 2013. 

Anyway,   Sea Bright was hit pretty hard when Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the New Jersey coast on October 29, 2012.  Sea Bright is on a northern New Jersey barrier island just south of Sandy Hook.  One can see the Atlantic approaches to the New York Harbor from its shore.  When Sandy hit, the barrier island was completely inundated with storm surge waters, either from the sea with the main surge breeching the seawall, or from the Shrewsbury River between the island and mainland.  While only a few homes were completely destroyed, many others sustained massive damage from flooding on the ground level. 

During our visit we noticed that virtually all businesses in town are still closed and much of the town is still uninhabitable with no power.  Jeff and Peggy’s property, a four apartment home on the north side of the city, had extensive damage to the ground floor apartments but renovation work was nearing completion.  Their second floor apartment that they maintain as a second home and vacation get-away, however, had power and heat so we were able to stay with them there. 

Downtown Sea Bright, NJ.

Looking out over new beach at the huge sand dredger in the early morning Sea Bright fog.

The open Dunkin Donuts displaying Sea Bright spirit.

It was sad to see the damage and the once beautiful beach with sand dunes and thick dune grass now transformed into a flat and barren strip of beach along the encroaching Atlantic.  Similarly, the once bustling downtown area was boarded up and quiet.  Many of the beach-side clubs were totally washed away when the main storm surge slammed the coast.  Despite the loss and the devastation, what was really amazing to see was the simple spirit of the town that refused to give-up.  Like Jeff and Peggy, many homeowners started clean-up and rebuilding almost immediately after the storm.  Ocean Avenue still showed signs of the flood and sand that had been piled several feet deep but it was also apparent that work to restore the town was making progress.  Construction projects were on-going, the local hardware store and Dunkin Donuts were open, and a huge beach replenishment project was well underway.  It was a true testament to man’s persistence and also his stubbornness.  Sea Bright has endured since its founding in 1869 and will no doubt endure well into the future.  We look forward to visiting again this coming summer!

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Christmas 2012 and New Year 2013

Our family celebrated a nice Christmas and New Year’s this year.  Robby made it successfully to winter break and won a short two week furlough from his beloved asylum on the Hudson – West Point, and our family reunited for Christmas in Yorktown. 

Laura and the boys Christmas morning.

Soon after Christmas, however, we headed north for a busy New Years.  First we stopped in Philadelphia where William had a piano lesson and then we went to our lake house on Lake Owassa in northwest NJ.  We enjoyed the cold weather with snow to shovel, fireplace wood to chop, and good company with Grammy and Pop-pop.  We drove into New York City where William had another piano lesson and Laura, Robby and I enjoyed the local sights and had some great NYC pizza.  The highlight of our NYC afternoon, however, was Laura’s extravagant belated Christmas gift to herself and the boys.  She renewed the family cell phone plan and went smart phone wild, purchasing new IPhones for herself, William and Stephen, and the latest Samsung Galaxy for Robby.  Note that I was not included in this significant upgrade – I’ll have to be satisfied with my trac-phone and blackberry from work.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Laura and I also celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with a nice family dinner! 

Christmas Part II with family at Lake Owassa, NJ.

 

The boys with cousins at Aunt Peg’s and Uncle Jeff’s house in Edgewater, NJ.

Anyway, we enjoyed Aunt Peg’s and Uncle Jeff’s annual Christmas Party and then celebrated New Year’s Eve back at the Lake.  Incidentally, Robby and Stephen where the only revelers to make it past midnight to bring in the new year!  We have much to be thankful for and wish everyone a safe and prosperous New Year!

Ice trying to form on Lake Owassa.

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European Vacation – Not

As always this year has been very busy.  As the frantic pace at work started to accelerate in anticipation of the holiday break, I was selected to do something different that got me out of the office for a while.  I recently completed a trip to Europe where I travelled to Italy and Germany to visit several Army and Department of Defense commands – US Army Africa (USARAF) in Vicenza, Italy, US Army Europe (USAREUR) in Heidelberg, Germany, US European Command (USEUCOM) and US Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany.  I spent almost three weeks leading a study team conducting interviews and meeting with senior headquarters staff and leaders.  Our visit purpose was focused on determining Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) needs – USEUCOM and USAFRICOM in this case, and then assessing how well those needs are being addressed by their Army Service Component Commands (ASCC) – USAREUR and USARAF respectively.  Several other teams are looking at the other commands.  For more information on the GCCs and the Department of Defense Unified Command Plan, please check out this link

Our team at US European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

While it is always nice to do something different that breaks the normal routine, traveling anywhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas break is a bit hectic.  Europe and its history are certainly exciting but the weather was not the best – cold and raining in Italy and very cold and snowing in Germany.  Although good German beer and glühwein help take the edge off.  We did try to take in some sights visiting the sinking city of Venice and enjoying the famous Christmas Market in downtown Stuttgart. 

A typical Venice view.

 

Stuttgart Christmas Market.

Our work assessing how well ASCC capabilities meet, or fail to meet needs as we discovered in many cases in USAREUR and USARAF, will continue through the spring.  We have submitted a preliminary report but there is more work to be done.  Ultimately we hope to develop a feasible way the Army can re-structure and resource its ASCCs to better fulfill GCC needs.

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Thanksgiving 2012

The day started early when we rousted out the boys to participate in the local neighborhood 5K Turkey Trot.  It was a sunny yet brisk fall morning as the temperature was in the low 40’s at check-in.  The run turned out to be a fun event with Robby and Stephen placing in their respective age groups and William finishing well up toward the front of the pack.  Although it was supposed to be a family fun run it is hard for the boys not to compete. 

The three runners!

 We had a great Thanksgiving this year although it was spent at home with only immediate family.  Frankly it was nice to be at home and to take some time out from our busy schedules at work and school, at piano and scouts, and from our daily busy lives to enjoy time with all the boys.  Laura fixed a marvelous turkey dinner with her grandmother’s potato stuffing and all the trimmings.  Best of all, however, were the pies – pecan, apple, and pumpkin with too much vanilla ice cream and whipped topping!

 

The Hume Clan at Thanksgiving.

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Fall is in the Air – Short Stories Anyone?

It has been a long time since I posted something so I need to get back in the game. . . .

It’s a beautiful fall morning here in the tidewater.  I was up early to take Stephen to cross-country running practice at the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor’s Center and discovered a wonderful web site devoted to short stories.  How, might one ask, did I learn about a good website while driving to practice?

Well . . .  for the last several Saturday mornings, when driving Stephen to practice, we have listened to a radio program on our local NPR station, 89.5 WHRO, called “Selected Shorts.”  It’s a wonderful hour that offers some interesting short stories being read by sometimes famous personalities.  The week before last we heard Leonard Nimoy reading Steven Millhauser’s “In the Reign of Harad IV” – a story about a court miniaturist who longs to create smaller and smaller worlds and we also heard an interesting Jules Verne story of supernatural occurrences called, Frritt-Flacc .”  This morning we heard a short story about the Minoan eruption of Thera that occurred around 1600 BC.  At the end of the program they mentioned a 2013 short story writing competition being sponsored by “selectedshorts.org.”  So for all those frustrated writers, here is your chance to do something about it.  Enjoy!

 http://www.selectedshorts.org/

 

PS – One more interesting note about short stories.  When I was in high school I was introduced to one of the masters of the short story.  I don’t remember how or why I was going through old boxes we had in storage but I found a treasure trove of old magazines like Reader’s Digest my parents had been saving.  While I considered much to be trash, I was most fascinated by the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines that were chocked full of Hitchcock short stories.  I think I read all the AH stories I could find.  I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, unusual plots, and strange but compellingly believable stories based on unexpected situations and bizarre events that characterized Hitchcock’s world.  If you’re an AH fan you may be interested in the new movie, “Hitchcock” to be released in November 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting Times

An unsettled, and many would argue, a potentially hostile future. Upcoming presidential elections, rising oil prices, a shifting view towards Asia, and plans to reduce Defense Department spending and downsize and re-balance the military. What does it all mean and how is America dealing with it? Many questions, lots of opinions, and few black and white answers.

Such is the nature of strategy but that’s why it is complicated business and not for mere amateurs. While I am no expert, I frequently get asked (most often by my brother Richard), “what do you think about . . .?” Of course, I am always happy to offer an opinion. But before I do, however, I would like to help set some context – at least for national security strategy – for future posts.

Despite the political winds that the media would have us believe are in constant and violent flux, America’s security strategy has remained fairly consistent over the last 60 years. While change in presidential administrations, no doubt, drives changes and updates to national security strategy, those changes are seldom extreme. Context, therefore, is based first and foremost on understanding the current state of America’s national security strategy as communicated in several important documents. These documents and their development are all intended to be nested, with each successive level describing a more detailed supporting idea. One needs only look at the dates, however, to see that it is not a perfect science and they are not always updated in proper sequence. Ideally, the National Security Strategy is established first with the National Defense Strategy, and then to the National Military Strategy following in succession.

2010 National Security Strategy – President Obama’s vision  Go to NSS

      2008 National Defense Strategy – Former Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates’ vision  Go to NDS

             2011 National Military Strategy – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral Mullen’s vision  Go to NMS

The 2008 National Defense Strategy will likely be updated soon to align with the new defense guidance that was presented by President Obama on January 5th, 2012. He delivered his updated strategic “vision” in the Pentagon with new Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and senior civilian and military Defense Department leaders. For those who want to learn more, see the links below for a couple of good articles that address these documents. Enjoy!

“U.S. National Security Strategy: Rhetoric and Reality”
by Micah Zenko, August 15, 2011

“The 2011 National Military Strategy: Resetting a Strong Foundation”
by Nicholas R. Krueger, May 2, 2011

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Plebe Parent Weekend

Stephen and I recently attended my eldest son’s “Plebe Parent Weekend.” It was a great event where family had the opportunity to visit their Plebes, see their barracks rooms, meet their professors, and learn more about the Plebe experience. We also enjoyed the company of other families at some well orchestrated social events. Well done West Point!

Robby, Stephen and Dad in the Cadet Mess Hall at West Point, March 12, 2012.

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Congratulations to Maestro William!

William at the piano. How about those big hands!

Check out this winning performance at the 2012 Williamsburg Lion’s Club Bland Scholarship Competition.  Great performance William – bravo!

William’s Youtube Channel

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Republican Prospects

What will the November elections bring? I think it is likely we will see a general election with incumbent President Obama facing the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. While my purpose is not to get into politics, it is to highlight some information that has been overlooked by the media. Mitt Romney actually has a fairly well developed national security vision. After all, he has had the last four years to prepare for this campaign, so why wouldn’t he? He also has a robust team of national security advisors like Dr. Eliot Cohen, Director of the Strategic Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. As the elections draw near as America focuses on the candidates, I would encourage you to also focus on the trusted team of advisors the candidates rely upon.

You can learn more about Mitt Romney’s vision and his team of advisors at his national defense link: http://www.mittromney.com/issues/national-defense

Read Mitt’s national defense white paper:

An American Century – A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals

My brother Ryan with Mitt Romney in Colorado during the primaries.

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