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Photo - NASA Recovery Mission

Hires_150608-N-DT805-391cSailors recover the test vehicle for NASA's low-density supersonic decelerator off the coast of the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, June 8, 2015. The vehicle is part of a project to investigate and test technologies to land future robotics and humans on Mars, and safely return large payloads to Earth. The sailors are assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1. 
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer John M. Hageman 

Photo - Help on the High Seas

Hires_150610-M-ST621-321cA U.S sailor helps a distressed mariner get to the medical staff aboard the USS Rushmore in the Makassar Strait, June 10, 2015. The Rushmore offered assistance to distressed mariners in the waters between the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Once on board, the mariners received food and medical attention by Marines and sailors assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Essex Amphibious Ready Group. 
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos 

Photo - Building Classrooms

Hires_150609-F-LP903-996cU.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jason Kelleher lays brick for a new two-classroom school building during the New Horizons Honduras 2015 exercise at the Gabriela Mistral primary school site in Ocotes Alto, Honduras, June 9, 2015. Kelleher is a combat engineer assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271. 
U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. David J. Murphy 

Book Review - "Making the Case" by Kimberly Guilfoyle

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and interviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

9780062343970_p0_v3_s260x420Making the Case by Kimberly Guilfoyle is a “how to” book, centered on being an advocate for yourself.  She navigates between her role as a mother and as a co-host of the popular Fox show, The Five.  She provides a glimpse of her personal life and how those she most admired influenced her.  The suggestions in the book are useful for those retiring from the military. The author shows how people can organize their thoughts and plans, engage in meaningful discussions with those around them, and achieve certain goals in all aspects of life. Readers will also learn tips and strategies that make the best advocates so successful.

Those defending America will recognize the points she emphasizes in the first chapter in order to succeed: be clear about your objective, prepare a brief story about your subject that reflects character, ensure all the facts are at your fingertips, consider the perspective of the other side, know the moderator, consult experts, and never ask a question for which you don't know the answer. She directly noted to blackfive.net, “The key lesson for me: Don’t make this life about you, it’s about other people. I’ve tried to live my life in a way that respects the beliefs of my mother and father. They sacrificed a tremendous amount for me to be able to do what I do today.”

Those entering the job market must understand that these are challenging times.  The work force is not as stable as it used to be because employees are looking for growth and fulfillment.  Guilfoyle feels “Graduating from college is a pivotal point in a young person’s life. Many college graduates receive advice from their other friends who are also encountering this change.  But maybe they should consult and talk with people who had had life experiences.”

She went on to say to blackfive.net, “Today’s times are a lot more impersonal, due to an outgrowth of technology. Everything is automated.  When you apply it feels like going to an ATM machine.  When trying to apply for a job, attempt to meet with the person or at least talk with them on the phone so they feel your presence, even though it may be difficult.  This interpersonal connection should not be a forgotten connection.  Remember it is difficult to establish any connection with email. College grads and those retiring from the military need to be encouraged by letting them know G-d helps those who help themselves. They have blessings, gifts, passion, and drive.”

When successfully getting an interview she emphasizes develop a "One minute spoken memoir. This is the story you'll share about yourself during your interview. It should sum up who you are. In other words, you need to be prepared to succinctly explain to a prospective employer what you're trying to accomplish or why you are applying to their firm.”

Making the Case encourages people not to be afraid to make career decisions.  Guilfoyle uses her story in the hopes that she can inspire others to have courage, to be an advocate by making their own case, and to learn how to state their case effectively.

Photo - Vertical Replenishment at Sea

Hires_150614-N-MD297-021aAn MH-60S Seahawk helicopter lifts pallets of supplies from the flight deck of the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl during a vertical replenishment with the amphibious assault ship USS Essex in the South China Sea, June 14, 2015. 
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr

Book Review - "The Fixer" by Joseph Finder

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780525954613_p0_v3_s260x420The Fixer by Joseph Finder is a suspenseful novel.  What makes this story special is its unique and engaging emotional human dynamics.  Besides corruption and blackmail, the author delves deeply into the complex relationship between father and son.  The reader wonders how much of a person’s past is known even in a close relationship.

Finder explained to blackfive.net that he conceived of the story idea while “making renovations in the house we have.  I was talking to the workers and they told me about finding all kinds of interesting stuff like money.  I thought what would it be like for a guy totally broke to come upon a chunk of cash in a house.  The book starts off with a classic ‘what if.’  I chose the title because the house is a fixer upper.  Rick is determined to fix his own life.  The father and those he worked with are “fixers” who have helped pay off contractors.” 

Right from the opening pages this book is a real page-turner.  After investigative reporter Rick Hoffman loses his job, fiancée, and apartment his only option is to move back into his childhood home. Neglected for years when his father had to move into a nursing home after suffering a stroke, Rick starts to make renovations and finds $3.4 million hidden in the walls.  Trying to find out where the money originated and how it was placed there, Rick finds out that his father had deep dark secrets and a life he knew nothing about. 

The author noted, “My relationship with my dad was nothing like Rick’s.  Rick called his dad by his first name, Lenny.  I called my parents’ dad and mom.  Isn’t it interesting that there is this whole different world that you are not privy too, a past of your parents that could have secrets.  My own dad died while I was writing this book so it became a book about fathers and sons.  You never really know your parents, only a slice.  I made Rick’s dad have a stroke because of my dad.  That is why I had Rick unable to talk with his father since Lenny could not communicate.” 

As the story progresses, more of the father’s past is revealed; although it does not make him any more of a sympathetic figure.  This is also the case with the portrayal of Rick as a superficial and self-centered person, which contributes to the reader’s initial dislike. Yet, as the story advances, the reader is drawn to Rick when he finds his moral character. Even with some bad choices and questionable actions, readers will develop a fondness for Rick as he exposes corruption within Boston’s Big Dig Highway Tunnel project of cash payoffs, political deal making, and cover-ups that followed the twenty year multibillion dollar project.

Readers got a heads up that Rick could possibly come back in another story.  Finder feels that “as an investigative journalist he could uncover some mystery or conspiracy.  He has a lot of potential.  Maybe Andrea, the female lead, will also come back since she can use her financial background skills to help solve other conspiracies. I could make this exception, something I have not done with the other characters in my stand-alone books.” 

The Fixer blends suspense with a captivating and thrilling plot.  As Father’s Day approaches this is a good book that emphasizes the father-son relationship. It is a fast paced book that readers will not want to put down.

Ghost Fleet - A Review

Ghost Fleet.  PW Singer & August Cole, (2015). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY: 404 pages

GhostFleet cover

 If you've ever wondered what an operationalized version of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” might look like, noted national security analysts Peter W. Singer and August Cole have a book just for you.  A true triad of military, bureaucrats, and corporations overthrows a long-running government to form an uneasy alliance to run a rather large country.  Singer and Cole throw us the first of many curves by teeing this up, not in the US, but China...or, as they now call themselves, "The Directorate."

 This first fiction effort by the duo delivers wide-ranging action at a frenetic pace. The story begins in outer space and, in mere moments, the action plunges far below the Pacific Ocean's surface.  Throughout the story, as venues change, the reader gasps for breath and delves back in as the action continues.  This is a Tom Clancy-esque thriller with most of the pieces one would expect:  people unexpectedly thrust into difficult situations; well-researched, accurate portrayals of current capabilities; imaginative exploration of new, emerging, or desired technology; as well as good old fashioned palace intrigue and political gamesmanship.  For those making the Clancy connection, you’ll find this book of the Red Storm Rising genre - a look at how a world war type scenario would likely go. 

   Ghost Fleet looks at how the "Pivot to Asia” could go - and it can go bad pretty fast.  It also plays on many of the fears that serious analysts ponder regarding military procurements, military readiness and other economic tradeoffs.

 Buoyed by the massive changes spurred by their recent revolution, the Directorate decides that it is time to achieve their "Manifest Destiny" in the Pacific.  A major energy discovery gives them the opportunity to challenge US supremacy in the Pacific and even take on the US militarily, with the tacit assistance of Russia.  What ensues is a massive and coordinated sneak attack that cripples US capabilities throughout the Pacific Rim, most notably in Hawaii.  The Directorate, now occupying US sovereign territory and positioned to prevent response either from space or across the vast ocean, looks to turn America into a third-rate client state.  To counter this the US decides to reactivate ships (and some aircraft) mothballed by the significant cuts that US politicians foisted upon itself.  This is the rebirth of the Ghost Fleet that gives this story its name.

 It also evokes a slightly different comparison: this is the Navy's version of "Team Yankee".  Team Yankee was a very popular "must read” in the late 1980s, especially popular with the mechanized/armor community of the Army.  It is about warfare at its base level, but with existential impact.  In this case, the crew of a one-of-a-kind ship – rejected by the Navy when cuts were made – is being brought back to life by a crew trying desperately to make it work in very trying circumstances – fights the battle of its life for a noble cause.

 Singer and Cole introduce a number of characters including a Navy Officer whose transition to retirement is rather violently interrupted; a Marine thrust into the role of guerilla; a Sun Tzu-quoting Chinese Admiral; and a seductive assassin.  The story explores the very tempestuous relationship between father and son bonded in a moment of crisis while wrestling with demons of the past.   The duo’s style offers some nice bonuses.  The reader gets a murder mystery. The idea of "privateers” in the 21st Century is presented.   For the geopolitical thinkers, Singer and Cole skewer a lot of the shibboleths of current alliances and ask “who will really ‘step up’ when the going gets tough?”  The authors present some very interesting ideas of what could happen and what could emerge if all the geopolitical knowns were to suddenly change. Rather than distract, these threads are woven into a complex but compelling story that is both provocative and frightening.

 What this book does do well - and in a scary way - is show how pervasive a wired world could be and what would happen if a major actor were to severely upset the proverbial apple cart. Among the discoveries in the opening salvos of The Directorate’s aggression are the vulnerability of so much of the electronics used both in military equipment as well as the networks that course through the US.

  Ghost Fleet explores the extent to which autonomous systems change life and warfare. .  Can we trust the electronics we buy from overseas? Do we depend too much on automatic, autonomous and “linked” systems in our basic and daily lives?  What if a major competitor played on those fears with ruthless precision and execution?   This will confirm the worst fears of the Luddite or conspiracy theorist.  Those that are on the fence about the impact of autonomous systems will likely find that this book tips them one way or the other. 

Two things that one would expect to find in such styled books are not found in this one.  One is probably the book’s only serious flaw. The story does not give time stamps and the reader may not realize that the scenario has advanced in time as it changes chapter.  Without this context, the reader may become confused on why or how things changed so fast within the story.

The other creative difference is a positive: there is very little discussion of the machinations of the American politicians.  Singer and Cole - in a choice very likely calculated to avoid the politics of the moment - do not really describe much, if anything about the moves, motives, or response of the President, or most of the National Security apparatus.  While the Secretary of Defense is omnipresent, no one else is - nor are there any real discussions on the national politics at play.  Some may be greatly disappointed by this while others may find it a welcome departure in the genre.

Although cyberspace capabilities are a significant aspect of the storyline, this is not a book about “cyber war.”  If anything, this is may be the first real exploration of Demchakian "cybered conflict" in story form. Cybered Conflict is a construct provided by Naval War College professors Chris Demchak and Peter Dombrowski.  The premise is that the nature of conflict remains the same but that cyberspace capabilities add a new dimension.  They further purport that cyberspace is not a separate domain, per se, but is instead just another aspect of how humans interact and compete.  Cyberspace is itself not decisive but can certainly tip the scale in an existential conflict.  There are ample examples in this book on how this could occur. It is certain to ignite debate on the nature of “cyber war”.  

Thriller readers will find this a welcome addition to their collections.  Thinkers, advocates, policy wonks, geeks and nerds will all find something to chew on that will confirm or challenge their own biases.  Scheduled for a June release, this highly recommended story is a daring look at the fusion of traditional and modern warfare, delivered at "machine speed".