If You Don’t Like It Here, Leave.

If you don’t like it here, leave. — Brigadier General Freddy McFarren, circa 1995

This is just an anecdote. No punchline. Just a memory for me. I felt compelled to write it down.


We felt pretty proud of ourselves the night before. The entire United States Military Academy Class of 1996 gathered in the south auditorium of Thayer Hall, which was just large enough to hold an entire class. There, Lieutenant General Howard Graves, the Superintendent, gave a briefing about the strategic vision for the academy, upcoming changes, and other academy news. LTG Graves was a tall, barrel-chested, quietly-professional Army officer who, after his graduating from the academy in 1961 spent a few years in England as a Rhodes Scholar. Everyone liked him.

Though we wore pressed wool uniforms, we were still very much traditional college students in the emotional sense, complete with a misunderstanding of the real world. Though, none of us had the wisdom to realize that we lacked the aforementioned understanding. It is important that you realize and acknowledge the shortcomings of a college student’s intellect, else this story will not contain any meaning for you.

LTG Graves’ briefing ended, as it always did, with a question-and-answer period. One of our intrepid classmates stood and asked a very pointed question. It was accusatory, inflammatory, and disrespectful. Being cooped-up Cadets, we found the civil disobedience to be delightful, and we responded to the question with immediate cheers and applause.

LTG Graves answered the question in a stoic manner and abruptly ended the briefing. Our class exited the auditorium with mixed emotions. Some were laughing. Many were quiet.

One of my classmates looked at me. “This isn’t going to end well,” he stated. I didn’t have the maturity to understand what he meant at the time, but I learned quickly.

The next day, at lunch, an announcement was made.

“At 1900, all members of the Class of 1996 have a mandatory briefing in South Auditorium. Uniform is Dress Grey.”

This was curious. We’d never been caused to attend whole-class briefings two nights in a row. They were cutting into our study period. How dare they.

That night, the nearly-1000 of us herded into the auditorium and waited. Shortly after 1900 (7PM), an announcement came from the back of the room.

“The Commandant of Cadets!”

We all sprang to our feet and stood at attention. Behind us, Brigadier General Freddy McFarren started walking down the aisle.

Pause for a second. You need to understand a bit about BG McFarren. Imagine Ross Perot. Now give him a bit more muscle, a more pronounced jaw, but keep the same fiery attitude, Texas accent, and swagger. You now have a thorough, accurate, and complete vision of BG McFarren.

“SIT DOWN!” he commanded.

We complied.

This was unusual. Most Generals would tell us to “Please take your seats.” This sounded agitated. He was clearly angry.

“Who the hell do the lot of you think you are?” I remember it beginning.

I can’t remember many specific things he said, but he called the briefing to address the prior night’s insubordination directed at LTC Graves. His words were blistering. They were angry. They were hurtful. They were not politically correct. They were certainly not for the faint of heart.

And he was right.

Though I don’t remember exactly what he said throughout his 40 minute rant, I remember his thesis, which he stated explicitly and repeatedly.

“If you don’t like it here, leave.” He substituted various synonyms for “leave” throughout the speech, including, but not limited to, “get the hell out” and “quit.”

He ended the briefing as briskly as it began and walked out. Looking around the room, we all wore ashen expressions of shock and embarrassment.

The popular colloquialism applied. He’d just ripped us a new asshole.


Today, I see the behavior toward LTG Graves as our class’ worst moment. I am still embarrassed. Though, I’m able to find humor in it, when necessary. 20 years does have a way of healing wounds.

In retrospect, BG McFarren’s words can be summarized in one sentence. “To be able to attend one’s college of choice is a privilege.” I lacked the emotional maturity at the time to realize this. His stern words helped us to realize this as a class.

In the wake of this one-sided conversation, nobody quit.


I don’t know if anyone from my class ever apologized to LTG Graves, but I hope someone did. He passed away in 2003.

Prior to graduation, I had the chance to meet him on a couple of occasions–mandatory socials and meet-and-greet type situations. I remember him looking me in the eye. He had an extremely kind expression. I remember him being an extremely active listener. He thrived on intelligent and respectful dialogue.

You see, he really did care about our school. Because he wore the title of Superintendent and 3 stars, we Cadets found it appropriate to view him as a dictator perched atop our college, but we were wrong for doing so. He wanted to do the right things for us and the institution. We lacked the wisdom to see his true intentions, or maybe we just chose to see things otherwise because it made for a more exciting narrative. It doesn’t matter at this point.

Any way you look at it, we were wrong. If he were still alive, I’d probably sit down tonight and hand-write an apology. He deserves that, at the very least.

Because he cannot receive my apology, I write this. Maybe it will cause someone to pause for a second and not respond to anger, emotion, or group pressure. Maybe it will facilitate persuasive, intelligent dialogue. Maybe it can help to encourage respectful discussion and prevent angry exchanges and harmful escalation. Maybe.

Today, I’m not an undergrad. I’m not a minority. I’ve never been marginalized (that I know of). I’m generally happy, but bad/sad things have occasionally happened. So, you can write me off. You can discount my words and say I don’t understand. But, I ask that you remember one thing, at the very least.

These words are written by a man who was once a college student, now older, with regrets.



When he was much younger, I played tag with my oldest child. I realize that nowadays this game is no longer politically correct, as it is both violent and exclusionary. However, hear me out for a second.

He was always able to tag me after just a bit of running. As a dad, you must employ a liberal let-my-kid-tag-me policy, else they’ll get frustrated and quit. The playing field must be leveled by throttling-down on adult speed and agility. Essentially, parents Harrison Bergeron ourselves for the sake of the kids.

When “it,” I’d give chase and remain far enough back to allow the kid to feel like he was skilled enough to deftly avoid my pursuit. After awhile, I’d throttle-up in order to give him equal time as “it.” This was when something curious happened.

He’d pick the nearest object–maybe a tree, maybe a chair, maybe a bush–touch it, and yell “BASE.” According to him, being on base meant that he was immune to being tagged. As he and I were the only participants, this left me in a bit of a lurch. A conversation ensued.

“You’re just calling base when I get close to you.”

“Uh huh,” he replied.

“You can’d do that. You just pick the nearest thing and call it base.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s not fair. You can’t just call everything base when it suits you, and you’re just making up the rules for base as we go.”

“Well, this is base,” he stated while looking up at me in a righteous and defiant manner.

At this point, the conversation proves useless, and I resort to wandering around and acting disinterested until he vacates his self-declared base. At that point, chase began anew.

I realize now that this notion of “base” reinvented itself on college campuses, still with the same self-righteous indignation and disregard for logic.

Now, they are called “safe spaces.”

Azimuth Check: This is a Private Space

First, please note that this blog is my private space. It is my safe space. You don’t have permission to be here unless I explicitly give it to you. Don’t make me get some muscle.

How do I do this? Easy. Just a few steps.

  1. Occupy a space that is widely and reasonably regarded as public and viewable by members of the public.
  2. State that I need privacy and a safe space.
  3. Prevent press access, photos, videos, etc.
  4. Profit?

Most of the individuals in the video you’re about to watch are students. Two are public employees. One of those public employees works for the University of Missouri as a director in the student life department and not, so far as I can tell, an academic. The other is an assistant professor in their communications department. Her name is Melissa Click and she appears in the last moments of the video. She specializes in the field of Mass Media.

Judge for yourself. How well does this purported mass media expert understand the role of the First Amendment in a public space, especially as it relates to members of the press?

Azimuth Check: What can be done with 36 Months?

Random musings after returning from a trip to Washington, DC.

36 Months

My good friend Daniel Gershburg finally started blogging, and the internet is better because of it. To date, he has only published a handful of posts at 36 Months, but those that are there are great. You should follow it, as I am.Compass

Today’s post focuses largely on impostor syndrome, an affliction suffered by most (all?) lawyers. Read. Learn.

Here’s something you may not know about Daniel: He is the only person I’ve ever invited to guest-post here at Unwashed Advocate. This is true. I asked him twice. He politely declined both times. I can’t say that I blame him. The content at 36 Months is all Daniel, and that’s a good thing, and right for him.

The Military Brain Drain?

Since I first wore a uniform, there have been no less than 4 occasions in which the military was accused of hemorrhaging its most talented young leaders. Largely, this is blamed on a very impersonal and imperfect personnel system, lack of mentorship, and not utilizing the skills and education of young leaders. Today, The Atlantic decided to weigh-in. On this, I have several thoughts.

Imperfect Personnel System. The military human resource systems manage an institution that employs more than 1.4 million total uniformed personnel. Think about that. That’s a lot of people. It is impossible to give each of them a long, detailed, personal evaluation for promotions and selective growth opportunities. With an institution that employs that many individuals, the system, out of necessity, will be largely impersonal.

Consider my last promotion in the Army, to Major. After I served a requisite number of years as a Captain, the Army considered me for promotion. In deciding whether I should be promoted, a board of 3 senior officers, randomly selected from across the Army, sat down at Ft. Knox, Kentucky to review the files of hundreds of us who were eligible for promotion. They looked at my evaluations (each a 2 page document that reviewed my performance at least once a year (I had about a dozen)), my Officer Record Brief (a one-page document that summarizes my career, awards, assignments, deployments, and educational history), assorted other awards and official records, and an official photo in snazzy, military-issued polyester. They had just a couple of minutes to review my records and decide whether I was a good or bad candidate for promotion. After that, they had to move to the next person’s file.

Is this impersonal? Yes. Is it necessary in an organization that manages hundreds of thousands of personnel? Yes.

If you work for a huge organization, expect the personnel systems to be tailored accordingly. Don’t act surprised when you feel like just another number. I asked one of my good friends and a former JAG officer why he left the Army. His reply was “I wanted to be part of a meritocracy.” That’s fine. He wanted to get paid for his abilities, not his longevity. He made the right choice. Being 1 of 1.4 million wasn’t for him.

Having said that, the military does make attempts to design evaluation systems that allow for effective “racking and stacking” of personnel by ability. However, let’s go back to that 1.4 million number. With that many people, designing a perfect and infallible system is impossible.

Lack of Mentorship. I grit my teeth when I hear about the military’s “lack of mentorship.” This is bullshit. Mentorship happens all the time. It happens at every meeting, training event, and social. Mentorship happens most effectively when junior leaders watch senior leaders at work. Again, this happens all the time. The problem is that many junior leaders don’t pay attention or believe that they need frequent feel-good conversations with their leaders or tummy rubs when they properly format a memo.

The problem is not a lack of mentorship in the military. The problem is a lack of junior leaders capable of or willing to recognize and learn from the mentorship they are given.

Senior leaders can provide mentorship, but they can’t internalize it for others.

Utilizing Skills. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Army’s Engineer branch.I love listening to young members of this corps. One in particular amused me.

“I have a degree in civil engineering and passed my fundamentals of engineering exam. Now, in the Army, I just learn how to blow stuff up,” he said.

I replied “Did you think you were going to be building a suspension bridge over a particularly scenic span of the Hudson River? Did you google Combat Engineer before you chose to enter the Army?”

And, with that, the conversation moved to another subject.

As an aside, would you complain about being paid to just “blow stuff up?” Me neither.

And Keith Lee is mad, mad, mad.

He discovered that Fiverr isn’t just for having videos made to creep-out your buddies.

Law Hawk Returns

He’s back, and better than ever.

Big thanks to JMo for getting this to me.