The Product Manager Resume

How to write a Killer Resume?

1 – Strong action verbs lead every bullet
2- Use your space VERY well
3- Quantified metrics for everything

The purpose of the resume is to get you the interview. These techniques are the areas that others I’ve helped out in the past tell me are the most helpful in preparing their resumes for:
-Acceptance to Business Schools
– Breaking into tech
-Promotions at major tech companies

More detailed discussion as a video

And a view of my current resume as a google doc if you’d like to see how I’ve done it.

The Trinity of Leadership and IBMs Purpose

There is a trinity of leadership that I have written about before.

  1. set the example
  2. align the mission
  3. take care of the team

In this video I talk about how I plan to contribute to IBM’s purpose this year by following the trinity of leadership.

IBMs purpose has been declared: to be the catalyst that makes the world work better. Here’s how I plan to help contribute to that.

How I plan to apply the Trinity of Leadership to IBMs Purpose (under 4 mins)

Why are all the artists men, daddy? (Happy International womens day 2022)

  • “Why are all the artists and composers men, daddy?”
  • “Can I really ask for a starting salary that high?”
  • “Would a man take credit for this work?”

Women are wonderful and powerful – first as humans they deserve respect, equality and inclusion. And they do NOT yet get it. It is up to us, all of us to Help make the world where they do. 3 ways

  1. by acknowledging and recognizing the problem in the past and present talking about it and how it isn’t right
  2. by being an upstander – using our positions and what power we have to help correct the imbalance
  3. by offering individual ally ship, support, help, companionship
An few words on a big problem

Ukraine fights for us all

It feels very strange to be observing the war that Russia has imposed on Ukraine by its invasion.

I am very sorry for the people in Ukraine and I wish them great luck, strength, courage, and success in defending their homes and their people.

I don’t have anything earth shattering or new to add to the chattering voices with all of their takes. Except that for me personally it feels confusing and depressing. It makes my recent personal and family challenges seems small and yet because they are so fresh it probably makes me empathize more deeply with the scale and the scope of the human suffering happening because of this.

  • I have been to war but it was ten years ago.
  • The war I went to was much smaller and across the world, it was not defending my home and my people directly and with them in immediate danger.
  • The global pandemic that has ravaged the world killed ~6M, and threatened the life of my smallest daughter in particular, has likewise ravaged Ukraine and now something even worse is added to it.
  • The sudden crash volunteer effort I was a part of starting in August of 2021 to help evacuate Afghan allies of the war was moderately to poorly successful. And exposed me to secondhand anguish through the images, the videos, the words, and the risk to my friends and family of my friends. But everyone living in Ukraine or with friends or family in Ukraine is experiencing that now as well.
  • When my wife lost her father suddenly in December to a heart attack, it was an enormous impact on her and on her family. That’s one that she is very still working through the grief of and will be for years. Many people are losing their fathers  and mothers and siblings and heartrendingly children in Ukraine now.
  • When Jesse Smock, my friend that I met in elementary school and lived with as roommates in college who spoke at my wedding died in suddenly in December that was challenging too, don’t know where near to the same depth that’s what my wife experienced. Many people are losing their close friends and much closer relatives all the time now.

Life must go on, and while parts of it feel very natural like taking my girls for a walk or reading to them or singing to them some parts of life feel very inane now.

I suppose there’s nothing really for it except to do what we can to call on the members of our government and those with power to do the right thing to help the people of Ukraine, to donate money effectively (more below) and to try to be kind to ourselves and others.

1 A whole list of non profits and NGOs
Many working fast and effective right now

But if you want more speed:
2 Direct to Ukrainian central bank (language here is Ukrainian) if you want even more speed there’s always
3 cryptocurrencies

4 Consider whether you can afford to give even more or want to direct your charitable giving to some of the most statistically and rigorously effective charities knowing that much giving will be re-directed- justifiably– to ukraine but that other programs still save lives a couple good guides: or

My memories of Jesse Smock

Jesse and I and Olivier at my Wedding, where Jesse spoke movingly.

Today I will attend the live stream of a funeral for a friend of mine. Jesse and I met first in elementary school. For half a semester we both went to Crestview elementary school in the 5th grade. We met again at baseline middle school in 7th grade. He walked up to me at the drinking fountain and said “don’t I know you from somewhere?” and I said “yeah I think… from Crestview –  don’t you like dinosaurs? And he said “yes”. I said “cool”, and he said “cool.” We became friends, he and I and the Canadian immigrant named Olivier that only spoke some English. We were just the right kind of smart and funny and interesting and dorky and unpopular enough to become fast friends. Another that we ran with a lot at the time was named Calen. Once on a bike ride together with those three I hit a slick patch and fell off the bike and cut my knee up. I still have a scar from that today.

But Jesse’s scars proved to be deeper and less visible. I don’t know what makes a person an addict. I know that there is some contribution from genetics and from environment and from childhood. I know that there is no one single cause any more than the nature and nurture debate is solved for any other outcome. I know that Jesse’s death should likely be categorized as one of the “deaths of despair” that are so on the rise in modern America for young and early middle-aged men.

I was surprised but not shocked when Olivier texted me on 13 December to tell me that Jesse had died. Jesse and I had last spoken on November 14th, hed texted me for my birthday and we talked. He had been tired and frustrated with his addiction. He was running low on patience for the value an addict can offer the world. I tried to answer him, to help him answer that voice with attention to the past, present, and future.  That he was loved, that he had value, that he had contributed to the world and would yet still do so. We also talked about books, and sci fi. He had enjoyed the Three Body Problem but was so mad the “Sophons” were made from Protons, not Bosons. He said it was so obvious.

It’s hard for me to capture all of the memories and feelings I have about Jesse. In between starting writing this and now I’ve watched the funeral livestream and his mom Chris and his brother Sam prepared amazing remarks. They were so deep and eloquent. And Olivier spoke very well extemporaneously and so did a few other of our friends. I’m sure I cant equal what they said. But I do want to express some of it.  Here from afar in the home-office of my North Carolina home where I need to stay for my daughters during this global pandemic that keeps me from going home to see my friend off.

There are so many memories there from the early to the recent, moments in the mountains, on Boulder Creek, in the basement of his dad’s house watching stupid cartoons, at Olivier’s house introducing him to my daughter. At his mom’s house setting up LAN cabled XBOXes for a Halo marathon. Watching the sunset over the mountains the last time I saw him in person with my wife and daughter there. Seeing the shakes in his body but the kindness and gentleness in his spirit. The gift of a check to be deposited for my daughter’s college savings. Dressing up for the Renaissance fair as kids a Samurai, a Knight and Jesse as a bare-chested barbarian. Dragging Olivier into our apartment on his birthday reenacting a scene from Boondock Saints. Jesse speaking touchingly at my wedding to my wife, offering a kind toast having ridden a greyhound bus from Colorado all the way to North Carolina. Having just shaved his face and hair back and pulled on a suit for the first time in months. Watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy in that basement of his dad’s with Jesse’s amplifying comments from having read the Silmarillion that none of us had. Playing the Lord of the rings video game, him as Gimli, me as like Legolas and Olivier as Aragorn, Jesse and I reenacting Gimli and Legolas’ screen antics counting the number of orcs we slayed. Talking with Jesse in June of this year when he was in a very bad way and Olivier broke his promise to Jesse, to tell me about it. To tell me that if I wanted to speak to him before he died I had better do it now, today. Telling Jesse that he has value as a human. That he is loved that, his family, that my family and I appreciate him. That I can’t be there for him in person like his family and Olivier can. That I can’t even be available at any hour. But any day I will make time to talk with him about anything, feelings, or needs, or aliens and the cosmos. Listening to Flogging Molly turned up loud pretending we were pirates. Playing Sega Dreamcast at Masons house across from boulder high school… Getting so mad at each for how the characters we played fought each other that we fought in real life and wrestled and scuffled. Making him even madder by threatening to “unleash the power of my martial arts training” on him before Olivier separated us. Remembering Jesse defending me to his dad who thought my military ambitions were all in act and that I was a “stalking horse” that would not follow through. Driving together through the canyons in Colorado to Gateway talking and trying to catch up after years of being apart, me in Afghanistan him across the United States, San Francisco and New York and Chicago. Climbing up the Palisades together, the three of us poorly prepared for an adventure again but making it up as we go and living in the moment. Jesse dashing right up to the edge of the rock ledge, dangling his feet over the drop hundreds of feet down. I can see that picture so clearly in my mind, feeling the fear that he jump. Olivier assuring me that he would not. Talking with him again by phone in November that last time, about what he thought of the world, the pandemic, the war on drugs, the politics of the day. I told him then how grateful I was to him for the most salient memory I have of him.

My most salient memory of Jesse was our talk in the Denny’s by our apartment late one night Junior year of college. I was in my more hardheaded libertarian phase and he in his nearly communist one. He taught me then, though it took me years to absorb the lesson, that we as a people owe everyone the basics. Shelter and food and healthcare and security. He and I saw the world so differently then.This moment was a turning point in our relationship. For years we drifted apart for some time and came back together only in bits and pieces. But there at the end, this moment represents the greatest lesson that Jesse taught me. I told him that when last we talked. Like he did to many others, he taught me one of my more meaningful lessons in life. I’ll always be grateful to him for that, and his generosity to me, to my wife, and to my daughters.

We are our brother’s keepers.

Thank you and rest in peace, Jesse my friend. I miss you, we all do. We will work to carry the best of you foreword in the world. We love you.

The war on talent is getting intense! A tactical manual for hiring managers and recruiters.

First off I hate applying war related terms to things that are not war.

But it seems that the broader industry is determined to do so, so I’ll indulge that and see if we can make some interesting connections between that kind of language and some insights that I can offer as someone who has been to war and is also one of the people that recruiters and hiring managers is presumably interested in understanding as a part of this “war for talent.”

I served for eight years as a ground intelligence officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, the bulk of which was involved in counterinsurgency warfare. In counterinsurgency warfare the most critical aspect to it is understanding the population and meeting their needs in a way better then the insurgents can. In the current “war for talent” the roles of the recruiter & the hiring manager are very much driven by their ability to understand and meet the needs of the talent they are looking to hire.

I flatter myself that I may be a member of this talent pool that recruiters and hiring managers are interested in hiring, both based on qualifications and recent interest and outreach from recruiters and sometimes hiring managers. I’m currently a product manager at a major tech company and product managers are, similar to ground intelligence officers, trained to deeply understand the needs and the pain points of their users and customers and build tech solutions to meet those in a sustainable way that people will pay for.

But what you want are some quick tips and tricks that will give you the edge in this war for talent: in understanding and meeting the needs of people you’re trying to hire. Especially those that you are proactively recruiting versus those that come to you applying on your jobs boards.

  1. It’s not about you, it’s about the talent. If you are contacting someone and asking them to consider a role with your company you need to be ready to quickly understand what their needs are and determine whether it’s realistic that you may be able to meet those needs.
  2. Don’t waste talents’ time. Odds are people you’re trying to recruit aren’t interested in a 30 minute get to know you call or free and open jam session. If they tell you that they’re not, you need to respect that and get to brass tacks if its what they want.
  3. It’s about the mission and the team. Basic human psychology is oriented on autonomy competence and relatedness. That means that people want ownership of outcomes they want to feel competent and capable in what they’re doing, for it to be on a mission worth doing, and to be doing so for a team that’s worth doing it with, and have good relationships with people in doing so. Find ways to speak to these needs.
  4. Mind on my money. If you were trying to recruit me and I ask you to disclose the range of salary and total compensation for the role, you need to do that. Not to equivocate or try to get me on a call or say we’ll handle it later. There will not be a later.
  5. Don’t make me jump through hoops. Or at least have a ramp to the hoops you want me to jump through. If you’re going to have multiple interviews, testing etc. be ready to share with the talent what it will take to get to an offer.
  6. If you encounter someone who is very clear and has done the above work for you and hands that to you in a concise email you have three choices.
    • A You can ghost them: which will reflect poorly on you and your company’s professionalism.
    • B You can provide partial answers and try to get them on the phone which may lead to continuing conversations or may have the same effect as option A.
    • C you can respect that this person has put care and thought in advance into what their needs are and communicated them to you clearly and answer as candidly as you can and see whether continued development is interesting or not. And if it is not, you can tell them so, and why, and wish them luck.
  7. If all of this goes well and you end up on a call with talent please do not ask them why they want to join your company or why they want to leave their current company. You just did a lot of work to get them on the phone with you – why would you ask them why they’re on the phone with you? Or if you really must do this, be transparent about why you’re asking even though youve already been in correspondence, what is it you’re trying to understand.
  8. Some people may still be willing to come into an office. People who are not will likely not be easy to convince. It’s likely a losing battle to try to do so.
  9. Don’t lie. Dishonesty or even the perception of it can be a deal killer not just for this hire but for any future. You can ruin your reputation, and that of your company. The written offer better match the verbal offer and if there’s ever any need for change or adjustment, over communicate and discuss clearly.

Of the above advice comes directly out of my own personal experience interacting with recruiters or hiring managers over the past year or two. I have a bad story related to each of these pieces of advice.

Are you more on the talent side than recruiter or Hiring Manager? Im happy to share a bit of help with you too:

Here is my standard reply to cold outreach by recruiters, feel free to use or remix it!

Thanks for contacting me!

Ahead of such conversations I find it really helpful to get a lot of background information exchanged proactively 🙂 

Could you please share a bit more with me on the topics of:

  1. How you noticed me as a candidate
  2. The mission and team both the macro-sense for 
    1. Company as a whole and
    1. For the team and role I’d be considered for
  3. Number of people I’d lead in the roles considered:
    1. Direct Reports
    1. By influence
  4. Whether this is a distributed role or if it would require appearing in an office
    1. If office appearance is required, where and how often
  5. Percent of travel availability expected
  6. Compensation range offered
    1. Salary
    1. Equity
    1. Bonuses
  7. Typical benefits packages extended
    1. Healthcare insurance plans, self and family
    1. 401k Match %
    1. Life, Long and short term Disability insurances, self and family

In return here’s a bit about me:

  1. “Tell me about yourself?” Sure, here on my blog
  2. May I see your resume? Yep! Most current is here as a google doc:  for frequent updates
  3. Is your LinkedIn page current? It is!
  4. Have you taken a personality test or 360 evaluation? Many! summaries in google doc
  5. Any videos? Yes!

On the other hand… I’m grateful.

I am grateful to have been born, to have become a Marine, to have become a veteran and to have met the fine people in those endeavors that I have.

My service in the Marine Corps seems inevitable in retrospect. It is consistent with and core to who I am. I have a lot to be grateful for in it. I learned more from my service and the wonderful people I met about mission and leadership, about teamwork, about getting things done, and about nobility, than I did in any other context. My service in the Marine Corps also led me to meeting my wife and, therefore, to our two beautiful daughters who give meaning to my life in a way that nothing else does.

I strive to turn my experience as a Marine and Veteran into an example to them, for how we can protect and defend people. Porters Protect people. My wife and daughters inspire me to keep charging. I’m grateful to them for it.

A fellow veteran of the Afghan war, and good friend of mine challenged me to write and publish my more positive feelings as a contrast to the darkness that sometimes comes and to publish the two as a pair: the duality of the veteran experience, I’m grateful to him for presenting me that challenge that I have accepted here.

A mantra I have long respected is the serenity prayer. I seek the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I wouldn’t change any decision that I had control over. And I can’t change or control the things that I wish were different.

I can’t.

And I will do my best to not dwell on them too persistently. To hold gratitude: the emotion inconsistent with hate or anger closest to my heart on these days. To my brothers and sisters in the Marine Corps and the other services to our civilian colleagues, to our Afghan allies and to all of those who undertake great works to make the world better and safer and kinder for others: thank you. And to those well wishers to take a moment to wish me or others happy birthday, happy Marine Corps Birthday or happy veteran’s day, regardless of the spirit in which it is intended, thank you as well.

Thank you.

Oh, Happy (X) Day

My birthday is rapidly approaching, so is the Marine Corps birthday and veteran’s day. This used to be kind of fun. Now it feels very depressing.

“Happy birthday!

Happy veteran’s day!

Happy Marine Corps birthday!

Thank you for your service!”

When I observe most people saying this I feel they do so from a self-serving place. they want to feel good about themselves for having wished me some positivity.

Knowing people who have died in a war that we lost is painful. Knowing that there is a gulf between me and people who have not experienced that is painful but it’s not nearly so painful as knowing that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands that are terrified for their lives because of the actions of the US government in which I participated. And that we’re not helping them.

Images of me with different Afghan Allies and interpreters. All are different, all are still at risk or have close family that are.

On my second deployment two of our interpreters were particularly instrumental to the level of success my team had.

One of them, Nemat, was home visiting his family when Kabul fell in august. His family helped him to escape, disguising himself and concealing his documents and passing through three Taliban checkpoints  then pushing him through the press of a crowd where he waved his blue passport at the American Marines who pulled him up and over the wire. He is home safe. What about his family that helped him to escape? He served with U.S. Army Special Forces, he served with U.S. Marine Corps infantry, he served with my advisor team. His interpretation skills helped the Afghan army respond to a mass casualty bombing of his fellow Afghan citizens by the Taliban, he was one of the most tactically apt of our interpreters and best able to explain tactics to the senior Afghan officers we worked with. He is applying to join his local Police Department. And he wants his mother and father and brothers and sisters to be safe so they aren’t targeted for the work he did for us, or for their efforts in helping him escape in August.

Another of our interpreters, Safi, likewise critical to our success, expert at smoothing ruffled feathers needed in high stakes senior leader negotiations, is currently working as an interpreter for USCIS helping to process an Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy Wisconsin. His wife gave birth to his baby daughter two weeks ago. Her father is an American citizen and presumptively she is too. When I ask people what we should do they say: no problem just have her American citizen father with his blue passport show up at the consulate or embassy with her and her birth certificate and we can get her an American passport! What embassy? What consulate? And where should his wife, who gave birth to their daughter go to have the interview on which her family reunification visa is currently pending? He did everything we asked him to do as a country. He served with us in areas of great risk. He was shot at, blown up in an armored vehicle, he saw the bodies of his fellow Afghan citizens stacked up by Afghan soldiers responding to that mass casualty. He provided interpretation for General Milley now commander of the Joint Chiefs of staff when he came to check the coordination center we advised. Safi’s family fortunately deleted the photos of that event before the Taliban came and seized the computers from his home. He completed the special immigrant visa process and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He went back to Afghanistan to provide interpretation to train drone pilots who subsequently surrendered to the Taliban and know his face and where he used to live. he filled out all of the correct paperwork to request to have his wife join him in the United states, he even hired an attorney to make sure that it was all correct. And now that she has given birth to a two week old little girl who should be an American citizen. And still they wait for us to do something.

What can we tell her?

What can we tell him?

What can I tell him?

There are others too. I often wake up to emails to my personal inbox from an interpreter that served briefly with us that has none of these advantages and has stuck with his family in Afghanistan and I don’t know what to tell him. I have heard directly from the state department that humanitarian parole reviews will only be completed for people who escape on their own from Afghanistan and there is nothing that can be done for those that are there. And since he did not serve long enough to be able to apply for a special immigrant visa that is not a path, not that it would be speedy enough to help him or his family.

There is one interpreter  who was very helpful we’ve all lost touch with including the first two with whom I’m in regular contact. And then there’s the others whose names I don’t even remember and those from the first deployment.

It’s sad that I know young men whose lives were cut short. Men who were my fellow Marines. My brothers. A man with whom I dodged machine gun rounds mere feet above our heads and laughed dozens of days before his body was ripped apart by homemade explosives. Whose bronze star medal with a V for valor for saving the life of our Sergeant Major was expedited so that it could be presented along with his Purple Heart posthumously to his family.

It’s sad that I know a Lieutenant Colonel who was killed by the Afghans that we were sent there to mentor. That I know his wife and his children had to continue their lives in his absence. That I know that the attacker from that attack lived despite his wounds from my Marines’ response to it. That he was released from prison not by the Taliban as the country fell but by the government of Afghanistan is a part of the negotiations with the Taliban to try to mollify them. He was never a member of the Taliban they just admired his work killing American Marines. So he was released even before the country fell.

These are sad things. And I carry pieces of them with me as a veteran, as a Marine. But none of them are nearly as sad as the stories of the Afghan people that tried to help us in our war. That we abandoned. Whose families are now in jeopardy. Who tell me not to worry when I tell them “I’m sorry” in a text message.

 I’m sorry that I can’t help their families yet and I will keep trying.

This is the veteran experience.

Happy birthday.

happy veteran’s day.

Thank you for your service.

…And on the other hand. I AM grateful.

We will never arrive

Arrival bias is a powerful thing. It’s that thing in your mind telling you “I just need to get one more thing done. THEN everything will be good. I just need to buy one more object, then life will feel better. I just need to accomplish one more task. I just need to catch up on my to do list with a few more items. Then I can finally relax. Then I will have arrived.”

This is an insidious feeling. One can recognize it then get trapped by it again in a moment. I’ve been very trapped in it for the past few months. I’ve been meaning to write to have an update to share with friends and colleagues for some time now. But carving the time in which to compose it has always been waiting for just one more thing. 

So I’m just doing the dang thing. Whats new? 

Let’s start with the good, great, wonderful in the world: family first. The Six Year Old loves kindergarten. She goes in excited just about every day. We live close enough to walk, and often do: morning or afternoon, or sometimes both. She is creative and and excited to learn and she keeps going at it. She is loving and sincere and cares deeply about others. 

On the way to school

The baby is fearless. She’s starting to take more and more steps. She’s wild. She does the things you dont want her to do: gleefully, determinedly. She crawl-runs (“cruns”) to the street from the park. She throws sand. She climbs up onto precarious spots on moving bins, on the kitchen table, into aa hammock. She eats black beans eagerly and snubs baby food squeeze pouches. She demands. DEMANDs that you read her another book. Or the same book you are currently reading to her at that very same moment. 

She has climbed an end table to give this hug

Abby is loving teaching yoga again and is very happy to be back out and at it again, and we’re glad the masks we’ve gotten for her (and the 6 year old) function as well as they do to protect our family. 

Loving Yoga

And some challenges: 

We planned for a while then executed suddenly. We swapped the kid’s playroom and my home office/guest room/gym. Now the home office/gym is upstairs between the girls’ bedrooms, and the guest room/playroom is on the ground floor. It’s getting to a pretty good state but the shelves and boxes still need a good deal of sorting. Now when my sister comes to visit we can sacrifice the playroom, without having to sacrifice the office (which isn’t really much of an option).

As a part of that move I did a good amount of network wiring and we’re still figuring it out and how things will connect and what wires must be visible and which can be hidden and how. But it’s fun to show a bit of progress here. 

Childcare is a challenge. We juggle between us and have hired a wonderful and caring person who is triple vaccinated, willing to mask indoors and great with kids. We get help from friends with rides to and from school. 

Its still a challenge. It’s so constant and seems like an endless and constant triage. 

Time management overall has been a challenge. Between moving projects, childcare, our day jobs, the constant maintenance and upkeep and cleaning that is necessary for anyone to do, it would be challenging for anyone, even us as fortunate as we are with dependable income and support from friends and family. To that I’ve chosen to add a good deal of side-project work, like volunteering. 

I’ve been volunteering as a member of the Tech Team with Team America Relief.  For the two weeks in August from 16 Aug-28 Aug things were intense. We did our best to improve the information picture and increase the confidence of official US Government groups (e.g. State and Defense) regarding the status of the people in need of evacuation, and then directing those people to the least bad gates at the airport through which they might escape. We did this because those people deserved our help. Through the strong work of the US Government organizations, the tenacity, courage and cleverness of the Afghan people escaping and the dedicated work of my fellow volunteers in providing this information channel we assisted ~400 people in escaping. And we have records of over 20k more that have not escaped. So in the 6 weeks following those first 2 intense ones we’ve been trying to sort out through what can still be done. Those of us who still hang on are trying to figure out what we can do to help, to advocate for people, to improve the information picture, to connect them to groups succeeding in running chartered-flights. 

I planned to write a separate post about this, about the lessons Ive taken from managing the product we’ve created there under the intensity we’ve seen it through, and likely still will, but probably not right now.

It sounds like the baby is refusing to nap. And the six year old may get tired of watching Tarzan and fruit salad and demand more paper airplane time soon. 

And all that is fine. There is no arrival. Only these moments in life. 

As Afghans suffer

I tweeted this, this morning. 

Now I have some time, the baby is in bed, my wife and daughter are watching olympic gymnastics and I’ve hidden myself in the office to write some. 

From reports I see linked to from twitter things in Afghanistan have gone from bad to worse. Much worse. It appears a majority of provincial capitals have been captured by the Taliban. Evidently the Biden administration is deploying more US troops to better secure the area around Kabul. Some efforts are being made to evacuate not only Americans, military, civilian, and friendly nations, but also some portion of the 18,000 Afghan combat interpreters still in the country, and then there’s their families. Spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters. 

I feel heavy. I feel sad. I feel a tightness in my chest again. I feel a major part of what I spent my youth in is worth less than I had hoped. I know men who died there, I know men who lost limbs there. I can see the faces of people who still live here. If they live still. 

My heart breaks most of all for the little girls. 

My own little girls get so much. They get to play safely at the park without even needing to be watched by their parents. They get enough food to eat, whenever they want it. They can have as much food of whatever kind they want, when their parents will let them. We have clean water. We have no real risk of violence to speak of. They dont need to vanish into a bag at a given age. They will choose who may touch them, when and how. They will marry only if they wish, and only whom they wish. 

It’s not that I’m surprised.It’s just that I’m realizing now how much hope I had been holding out that I was wrong, wrong back then, wrong a few years after when I said “if you think the collapse of Iraq is bad, just wait til Afghanistan goes.” I was hoping I was mistaken. I’m still hoping that. 

In 2010, in 2011, while there, we knew the civil war was inevitable. We knew the game we were playing was “get out of Afghanistan alive.” The runner up prize was always surviving the inevitable civil war.  We Marines played it by trying not to step on explosive devices, trying not to catch a bullet that came too near. Trying to keep a delicate peace with our Afghan Partners that we embedded with. Some of the Afghan military we mentored played it by trying to get us to fly them to the USA or to Germany for advanced medical treatment for bad backs. Some of the smooth talking local contractors we worked with lined their pockets with percents from the pay they got to build barriers in days that the coalition engineers would have taken weeks to get to. Saving to buy plane tickets to get themselves and their families to Dubai. Or as much of them as they could. Our interpreters pressed us to sign recommendation letters for Special Immigrant Visas for them to evacuate. And the people playing the long game, playing for runners-up, the villagers, the military members, they socked away money, and gear, ammo, night vision, magazines, trucks. The villagers played both sides socking away connections and reputation and vouchers that they hadn’t been on the wrong side. 

I hope they won. I hope they all won. 

I don’t keep in as good of touch with my Marines as I wish I had. I’m only in touch with a few of them to the point where they’ll return text messages. A smattering of folks from over the years. Various schools, training programs. A few from the first deployment. All the officers and a senior NCO from the advisor team. I wish I had been better about getting a real roster of personal emails and cell phones that would last longer on that fateful day we all went our separate ways from the armory. I tried to look them up again later, as I prepared to exit the Marine Corps, while I still had access to internal DOD systems. But I was at a joint command and not on the Navy and Marine Corps Intranet. And Facebook was already a more useful tool. Even that didn’t prove very effective. 

I did manage to establish good contact with the officers though, and one of them told me he had heard, maybe second hand, that our interpreters from that deployment had made it to the US. 

I’m hoping he was right. 

I’m flashing back to when we were working with those `terps. To when they helped us coordinate the rescue of 9 surviving civilians of a bus that rolled over a large IED ,no doubt meant for us. Or our Afghan Partners. To when they helped us embed and teach the basics to those local Afghan Army Partners on that most IEDed of routes in Afghanistan. To where they were able to provide much more of the security on their own, even American Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) began to trust them enough to set and hold a cordon for EOD to come out and disarm devices. Mostly I’m remembering how we received the motley crew of Afghan Officers and NCOs assigned to an “Operations Coordination Center Regional” (OCC-R). We were supposed to teach them how to perform modern Combat Operations Center management. For an entire Regional Command. Across Afghan Army, National Police, Civil Order Police, National Directorate of Security (NDS -dont think FBI think KGB) and government. We were supposed to teach them this from our vast trove of knowledge as Captains and Lts. But its OK, because a few of them had college educations, and only many of them could even read, a bit. Some genius wanted us to teach them the US Military Decision Making Prices (MDMP) -formal staff planning done by US Majors and LtCols. After a day of attempting this I called an audible and we switched to teaching them the basics of terrain analysis (KOCOA-W), and structured 5 paragraph orders (O-SMEAC). 

We had to teach our ‘terps first. Because obviously they had to understand anything we were teaching to the soldiers and police officers. Turns out the `terps were mostly more competent tacticians than the soldiers and police were. Or at least they could communicate the concepts to us much more clearly. Which brings me to what I’m flashing on the most. 

When we told our ‘terps that we didn’t want to sign recommendation letters to get them out of the country. That we though they needed to stay and fight for their country, for their people. My Intel Officer said it first. He put on a heartless face much of the time, and the idea of an Afghan brain drain wasn’t just ours, senior generals were saying it at the time too. But that same intel officer revealed his softer than advertised heart soon. Some period of time before we were heading out of country he surprised the `terps with signed letters of recommendation. I signed one for each of them too, most of us did. I think we got our Colonel to sign them also. 

So yes. I hope they made it. That their families made it. [Update: 15 Aug 21 – talked with one of our interpreters, He’s safe in Texas, his family is still there. And one of our Interpreters is currently stuck in Kabul. He went home to visit family. I hope he makes it out again safely, and that the others did too — UPDATE 19 Aug again my interpreter made it out through his own courage and persistence got on a plane and is in Qatar. Thousands more are trying.] But even if they did, there are thousands just like them that didn’t. There are thousands of solders and policemen that have been known to be such. And their families. 

And I hope the soldiers and police that are fighting win. [Update 19 Aug they did not win, they’re trying to escape and evade now.]

That they strike great blows against the Taliban to protect freedom, literal freedom for the people of Afghanistan against those that would control, subjugate, torture and kill them. Or that the surrenders are amicable. Or that the deaths are as quick and painless as possible. 

But I cant forget that there are real people there who are going to suffer. 

And the little girls. My heart breaks for them most of all. 

Some possible concrete actions

  1. If you are a US DOD or DOS veteran in ACTIVE contact with an Afghan ally on the ground trying to evacuate contact me.
  2. Donate to some of these orgs or find other well established charities helping [beware of scams!]
  3. Contact elected reps with call on them to evacuate wartime allies
  4. Ask military veterans, or Afghans you know how they’re doing. Listen.
  5. Even more ideas here

PS: I have much more to write, about what I remember. About how the thousands dying there compare or contrast to the thousands dying in my own country from a preventable illness. About how the changing climate imposes more struggle on all of us. On our girls and on our boys. I’m feeling all of these things and it is cumulatively heavy. But it doesn’t compare with the real suffering of those there now. Their confusion and fear, pain and heartbreak. So to them: As-salamu alaykum. May peace be upon you.