25 February 2009


“Nada es tan peligroso como dejar permanecer largo tiempo a un mismo ciudadano en el poder: El pueblo se acostumbra a obedecerlo y él se acostumbra a mandarlo, de donde se origina la usurpación y la tiranía.” - Simón Bolívar, 1819

Simón Bolívar es uno de los héroes de Hugo Chavez, el presidente de Venezuela. Su gente acaban de votar para aprobar el reelección indefinidamente de su presidente. Qué irónico.

"Nothing is more dangerous than to let the same man stay in power for a long time: the people will become accustomed to obeying him and he will become accustomed to commanding them, from which usurpation and tyranny come." - Simon Bolivar, 1819

Simon Bolivar is a hero of Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. His people just voted to approve his indefinite reelection. How ironic.

24 February 2009

The one mode or other...

"The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to inspire strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself." - Major General John M. Schofield, Graduation Address, West Point, 1879

Every cadet here has memorized that quote. I can rattle it off in about thirty seconds. But some upperclassmen seem to have forgotten it.

The way one of them trains us flies in the face of Schofield's message. His manner and tone of voice inspire strong resentment and a desire to disobey. He always screams, never encourages or compliments. And my classmates have no respect for him.

Today, I watched as he yelled at one of my classmates to get his knees higher while doing high knees. The upperclassman held his hands at waist level, and expected my classmate to hit his hands. Meanwhile, as the upperclassman did "high knees", his feet barely left the ground. You cannot expect someone to meet a standard you do not meet while you stand six inches from their face.

The other upperclassmen I trained with had a purpose: they had us carry each other, drag each other, help each other. They were preparing us for combat, imparting wisdom, doing the workout with us. They never lifted their voices, except in encouragement. In short, they respected us.

They made an army today. The other upperclassman destroyed one.

I talked to one of the "makers", and he said he'd talk to the "destroyer". But at the same time, we had to realize that we'd have crappy bosses in the Air Force, or anywhere. And sometimes you just have to deal with it. But we can learn how not to lead: don't yell unless you need to. Hold yourself to the same standard as you hold your troops. And respect people, especially your subordinates.

Will you destroy or make an army?

Disclaimer: I have to say that the majority of the people here are great leaders and are becoming greater. But there are always bad examples. We can learn from them and make ourselves, this Academy, and this world a better place.

21 February 2009

There's a snake in my room

Got to hear from retired LtCol Barry Bridger this morning - he was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for six years with the likes of John McCain and Capt Lance Sijan, the first and only USAFA graduate to earn the Medal of Honor.

Hearing about the struggles those guys went through, it's hard to complain about anything else. Years of torture, solitary confinement, limited food, and lack of medical care... I can't imagine.

LtCol Bridger was one of the best speakers here for the National Character and Leadership Symposium. It's a high-class event, with world-renowned speakers and heroes.

One of the greatest stories LtCol Bridger told concerned the prisoners' fight for their right to worship openly. They devised a plan, through tap code, to all worship simultaneously one day: share scripture, sing songs, and pray. The Vietnamese woke them up that night and took 36 of the 'instigators' to a different camp, and put them in solitary confinement. The rest kept worshiping, under the threat of torture for themselves and the 36. In the face of their unbreakable will, the Vietnamese granted them the right to worship.

And I've been known to complain about having to go to church in service dress.

On a lighter note, while in solitary confinement, Bridger heard the telltale American rhythm signaling the start of a tap code conversation. He replied, and the other man in the next cell identified himself as John McCain. "I've got a big problem," he tapped through the wall. Bridger paused, looked around his meager cell, and asked what could possibly be worse in John's cell than his own.

"There's a big snake in here!"

Bridger laughed so hard he cried. Then he said: "There's a huge black tarantula in mine!"

Pause. "Can we switch?" Again Bridger cracked up. Laughter, he said, was one of the most important contributors to their survival and resistance. During an interrogation, he complained about the lack of food and medical care. The interrogator, one they called Elf, yelled: "Cao! This is not your American country club! This is Vietnam, and you are a criminal."

"Well, I knew something was wrong," Bridger quipped back. "Thanks for confirming it."

LtCol Bridger is a man who deserves the highest respect: in six years of confinement and torture, he never gave the Vietnamese what they wanted. And yet he insisted on thanking us and honoring us. All such men seem to have this humility. I pray that one day, I may have it too.

20 February 2009

20 days, 24 miles

There are twenty days until recognition... twenty days until I can wear my backpack, walk and talk where I want, wear civies, and listen to music. It's coming fast, but these last twenty days won't be easy...

We're restricted this weekend, not allowed to leave the base. Unless, of course, I'm on a training ride. And you can bet I'll be training tomorrow. Just got back from a ride tonight, but I only had time for a lap around the base before the sun went below the mountains: sunset comes fast in the shadow of the Rockies, and with it comes cold.

A lap around the base is twelve miles, but it has 1200 vertical feet. The shaded descent down Pine Drive was chilly, but the long climb up the overlook was pretty comfortable, save the wind, with a long-sleeve jersey and vest. Wind plus hill equals hard, but it feels good when it's over.

Today was my second time on my new bike: with sickness, intramurals, and training sessions, I haven't had many opportunities to ride; I've only put 24 miles on it. But the bike is sweet - light, fast, and smooth. Thanks, dad!

12 February 2009

Colonels and majors

Talking with my Spanish teacher in class the other day made me want to make Colonel. He's one, and he knows what he's doing. A man like that has a lot of influence, and if he followed God... imagine. But I still don't know what God has in store for me. I should put more effort into asking Him.

Something else I have to ask him about: my academic major. We had majors night tonight, where all the different departments break out cool exhibits in Fairchild Hall and try to get kids to major in their department.

I was lucky - no, blessed - to find a 2010 BSU'er at the Mechanical Engineering display. She told me a lot about the department and the major, which sound like a good fit for me. I could even take some English courses on the side to satisfy my dualistic academic mind...

My English 211 teacher, a P.H.D. and a retired colonel, thought I could double major. But that's a huge courseload: near 150 hours for each, with no overlap.

So I'm leaning towards ME, and wondering how long I'll be wearing the blue suit.

06 February 2009

What a week

"At the United States Air Force Academy, cadets endure painfully hard academics, military instruction, and an overall strictly regimented existence. The workload is monstrous—more than most human beings could possibly complete, really." - Princeton Review

I laughed at that once, but I can certainly agree with it now. To be honest, this week would have been beyond stressful without God. Spending the first half hour of my days with God really made them go a lot more smoothly.

I'm nearly finished with the week now, and I can't remember a busier one. I've learned some things, including one hard lesson from my Spanish teacher, a full-bird: Hay que empezar más pronto. I've received feedback from a classmate or two and wished I could've given some to upperclassmen. I guess the leadership on a mission trip is a lot different than leadership in the military, but I'm not sure it should be.

01 February 2009

Bucket list

I figured I'd better start writing these down - I'll probably bold the ones I finish. But that doesn't mean I won't do them again...

-Be God's instrument in the salvation of a people who have never heard His name
-Ride around El Lago Atitlan on two-wheeled vehicles with my dad
-Learn a third language
-Learn to play an instrument (guitar?)
-Get lost in the woods for good week
-Road trip across the country
-Be a husband and a father
-Know God
-Make myself small enough to be used by God
-Visit all seven continents and all fifty states
-Watch a sunset from the air with my wife
-Hammock between the skids of a helicopter
-Run a half-marathon
-Run a marathon
-Run an ultra-marathon
-Jump out of an airplane
-Get stranded on a tropical island
-Translate the Bible to a language that doesn't have it (fourth language?)
-End world hunger

Faceplants and avalanches

Here's a shot from Arapahoe Basin, up in the Rockies at 13,000 feet. Had a blast skiing there all day Sunday. It's pretty raw - as if the only change made to the mountain was to add some lifts. Pretty sure there was only one green run in the park - I never took it, so I took some spills. Adam, my roommate, was lucky enough to see the worst faceplant I've ever executed: going fast, I got into some deep, choppy powder, and my right ski got caught under the snow. The rest is history, to be recorded by everyone on the lift with oohs and ahs.

But, I did get a lot better: I've learned to carve, to stay in control with out going down the mountain sideways. It's a blast.

So are the mountains. God's mountains. Who else could create something so beautiful?

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth."
- Isaiah 40:28