George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt Jr., James Norman Mattis, William Childs Westmoreland, Daniel K. McNeill, Stanley Allen McChrystal, John Francis Kelly, Russel L. Honoré… and the leader’s list goes on.
All soldiers and patriots, all generals. Serving on the world’s battlefields, protecting us from enemies, directing rescues, recoveries, rebuilding during times of war and national disasters; on foreign continents, islands and hilltops they forged their mark with fire on world history. Proudly leaving the American brand of freedom and dedication to duty on display for all to see.
Few people in civilian life or military service will know the responsibility for tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars worth of equipment, the intricate logistics and decisions of battle. General and Flag Officers are a rare breed, a unique club of patriots who have earned their way to the top of command through experience and special training, dedication and success; all to meet those demanding appointments. No more than about 21% of each service’s active-duty general or flag officers may have more than two stars.
Many serve in and out of uniform, finding that their place in life is in service to our country. One such patriot is LTG Michael T. Flynn. A leader on and off the field of battle.
While having his time in direct combat situations and planning so that men could traverse a hill to take an objective, he also led from another decisive and paramount position – as the highest ranking military intelligence officer in the government.
He came from a strong family where the military was no stranger. They learned about life through a tough, hardened father who put in his twenty with the army serving in two wars.
General Flynn originally delayed-enlisted in the Marine Corps, then entered an Army ROTC program. To this day he’s not sure how the logistics of NOT going into the Corps worked out but, after college he entered the army as an intelligence officer.
Michael Flynn – Up Close and Personal
I had asked General Flynn:
RB ~ What motivated you to join the service in the first place?
FLYNN ~ “My father, my grandfathers (plural), and other family members have all served in the military starting with WWI. After having immigrated over from Ireland, my family’s history of military service to the United States is significant and drove me to want to serve as well…a decision I would readily make again. I absolutely loved serving in our military…simply the best people in the world!”
RB ~ What motivated you to stay in the service and make it a career?
FLYNN ~”I loved the people, especially the Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers I served alongside. They represent the salt of the earth and are why our Country is so strong. They are the rocks upon which our nation’s foundation is built upon.“
RB ~ What made you choose the branch of service you did?
FLYNN ~ “Originally, I thought I would join the USMC (and for a period of time, I did, going right up to the point of enlisting). But given that my father was Army (WWII and Korean War VET), I always felt I would join the Army. I got lucky, an Army Major and ROTC Officer who I played intramural basketball with at the University of Rhode Island offered me an Army ROTC Scholarship, one that had been turned back in from the ROTC Region. When the Major offered it, I accepted, and the rest is history. There’s a lot more to that story, but suffice to say, I got lucky and I’m glad that ROTC Major saw something in me.”
RB ~ If you were in a command position now, would it be easier or harder to lead than when you were active? (given political, social and other factors)
FLYNN ~ “I would serve again and would go back in today if needed.”
RB ~ We both spent time at Fort Huachuca. During my time it was known as STRATCOM (Strategic Communications Command) and later as the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. How did you find your time there?
FLYNN ~ “This assignment gave me my first glimpse into future warfare. I was assigned as one of the instructors to teach intelligence in low intensity conflict and multinational operations. this time frame was in the middle of the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan and we were watching their operations like hawks – learning all we could about how the Russians were being beaten by this very difficult but what appeared to be poorly organized foe in the mujahedin, an enemy we would face almost twenty years later.” 
RB ~ Being in charge, were you able to make “military” decisions, or did you ever feel the need to be more “socially aware,” “inclusive,” “accepting or understanding” in making the final determination of a personnel or operational situation?
FLYNN ~ “I always felt I could make the decisions I believed needed to be made (and always felt free to let my superiors know how I felt). My primary considerations for the decisions I was involved in or made were always for the betterment of the people I served alongside, to accomplish the mission I was given, and for the good of my organization, unit and our Country. That said, the acceptance of those decisions come with consequences. If you worry about being politically correct when making decisions to satisfy some political narrative, lives will be lost and units will be ruined.”
[ In General Flynn’s book “The Field of Fight” – which is great read and worth the time to know more of this patriot – he takes great steps to reveal that it’s vital to get inside another person’s head. “If you want to be a successful intelligence professional you have to learn how to get inside other people’s minds. Mostly you’re getting inside your enemies’ minds and you have to feel the same passions, beliefs, and fears that drive them.” He also made the point “You’ve got to get inside the minds of both the men you lead and the ones you have to obey…“ This aids in making those tough decisions.]
RB ~ During or after active service, over time, did you see an overly aggressive acceptance of our enemy or an Islamification of our forces?
FLYNN ~ “I did.”
RB ~ When I entered in ’68, in basic there were many mixed groups; black, white, native American, Hispanics – people who normally, except for the draft, might not associate but were thrown into living and working together, and it didn’t always work smoothly. In my last unit, I had a black first Sargent who always made the point that “in our unit, there is no black, no white, only green.” Was race considered at all during your service or did you see any changes over time?
FLYNN ~ “Everyone wore (wears) the same name tag…US Army (emphasis on U.S.) If you create a team atmosphere, if you build an effective team, if you create an atmosphere of trust, you will function as an effective team. I rarely dealt with any racial issues—I was aware of them and nipped them in the bud when they came up (and very fairly). We are a standards-based military. If you can meet the standards, you can serve. I don’t care what color you are, nor did 99 percent of the people I served alongside.“
RB ~ DADT (Don’t ask, don’t tell) wasn’t introduced till 1994. In your areas of work, was this a needed policy? Did it achieve its purpose, or something better left undiscussed assuming no discrimination issues?
FLYNN ~ “We are a standards based Army (and Military)…if you can meet the standards, you can and should be able to serve.“
RB ~ Women have many great skills that are of value to the service. How do you view women in combat and, understanding there have been great women fighter pilots, are we really in need of that segment in those situations or are they better used in other, less dangerous and volatile Occupational Specialties?
FLYNN ~ “Women have been serving in and supporting combat actions since the beginning of time and certainly since the founding of our Country. I am proud to say I have worked alongside many professional women, both enlisted and officers, who today continue to serve and have achieved high rank, to include Sergeants Major, and Flag Officer. Again, we are a standards-based military and if you can meet the standards, you can and should be able to serve.”
RB ~ I enlisted during a time of the draft. I saw a lot of changes in some people during basic and at the Academy. Many I’ve talked with think the draft was a good idea, building discipline and traits in people they don’t seem to find elsewhere in life. Is the military as strong with an all-volunteer military or would bringing back the draft be a viable idea for needed size and quality?
FLYNN ~ “The answer requires a Masters thesis. I am pro the all-volunteer force, but I am also pro-service to Country. We have to find ways to cause young people to want to serve. Currently, we do not have the capacity to take on the vast array and number of challenges our Country faces here at home and overseas…and our readiness is nowhere near where it should be. The DOD is bloated at the top and we waste too much time on unnecessary issues and actions. Instead, we should be exceptional at the basics.
One last point on this topic, when budgets are cut, among the first things to be cut are training programs (not weapons systems and platforms that never see the light of day on the battlefield). We better have really effective training programs when we do require a draft to fill the ranks of troopers to fight our enemies—that is how newly inducted trainees will be prepared for combat. We should also exercise the draft processes routinely so we’re ready when it does have to be implemented.
I see / saw people serving our military that love our Country. When members of our military are willing to sacrifice everything they have, for something bigger than themselves, that is pretty special.“
RB ~ Did you have opportunity to participate in the growing technology trends or during your time would you have benefited from it?
FLYNN ~ “Our survival instinct is so strong and it causes so many things to change in our behaviors when you’re in combat under severely stressful conditions, especially when lives are on the line. That is why innovation occurs on the battlefield more than in any other human endeavor.”
RB ~ After leaving the service, did you ever consider returning?
FLYNN ~ “I did not consider returning to the Military, although I felt a strong desire to continue to serve our Country in other ways and capacities.”
RB ~ Do you see enough of a separation between politics and the military? Has it gotten better or worse in the last 10-15 years?
FLYNN ~ “I believe the issue of political correctness crept too far into our ranks and needed to be excised out. We had / have some military senior people and many civilian seniors who look “up” instead of focusing “down” on the troopers who need their leadership, support and the resources these senior officials can bring to bear in order to have the finest fighting force on the planet.”
[ RB ~ It seemed that during the Obama years, ROE were warped, and limited or non-engagement was more the norm putting our forces and objectives in danger.
FLYNN ~ “What I will say about ROE is that they must be simple for the basic Soldier to understand and execute (almost on instinct). And they cannot and should not be changed often, especially on the battlefield. There are simply too many complexities and dynamics as well as a great deal of stress and confusion. ]”
RB ~ Is “PC” a danger to our methods of thinking and military operation?
FLYNN ~ “As you see, I’m not a devote of so-called political correctness. I don’t believe all cultures are morally equivalent, and I think the West, and especially America, is far more civilized, far more ethical and moral, then the system our main enemies want to impose on us.“
America is not a militaristic force overrunning countries. We don’t invade others for the purpose of confiscation and control. In the past we have taken part in operations that tend to spread our idea of democracy even when it’s not always the best cure for the illness.
But whether we’re aiding other countries in their own battles for freedom or directly protecting our own, we’ll never succeed without a strong, experienced, dedicated leadership in our military. One whose understanding of the problems, and participating in the resolution, comes from intense studies at war colleges, time in the trenches, and periods of passionate pertinency with their subordinates and superiors.
We thank all our military, their leaders and especially LTG Flynn for his service, in and out of uniform, as well as the time he took to participate in our military articles.
A greater understanding of this man and his passion for America can be found in the astute and penetrating pages of his book “The Field of Fight,” portions of which were recounted here. (noted as  ) His final insight is telling and needs to be considered and heeded.
“I personally believe that peace is an aberration, and war or conflict are the norm when it comes to human behavior. From serious wars being fought around the planet today to crime on our streets (all of which seem to be on the rise). Why it is paramount that America remain strong morally, politically (based on our constitutional values and principles) and militarily. We are at war now, we are challenged internally, and we will face great wars again. The latter are NOT things of the past.” ~ LTG Michel Flynn
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