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Author: Howard Hatfield

Writer’s Digest Book Awards Review

Writer’s Digest Book Awards Review

“There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”

Developing and practicing good leadership is a skill many people seek, and this book by a materials management and manufacturing professional provides a colorful and fascinating collection of anecdotal accounts of situations involving leadership by the author as well as his employees. Each clearly explained situation is followed by the pertinent facts that affect any decision or solution as well as what lessons can be derived from the occasion. The value of story-telling as a means to educate people is extolled.

The author poses a set of seminal rules that can help readers in any situations they encounter. The responsibilities of management and the mentoring process are key areas delineated.

The first person writing is to the point, candid and credible. Subheads break up the text and highlight critical areas. Maps, photos and a cartoon illustration provide a graphic dimension. Quotes from various luminaries lead off chapters.

The appendix area includes an interesting rundown of military classes of supply, military time telling, and definitions of key managerial positions.

“Judge, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.”

Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Competition


Texas Book Festival – 05 Nov 16

Texas Book Festival – 05 Nov 16

This weekend, I will be signing and selling my book “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack” at the Texas Book Festival surrounding the Capitol of Texas in downtown Austin. Look for me at the Writers’ League of Texas booth 111 – 112, in Exhibitors Tent # 1 on the southeast corner of Colorado and 12th Street.


Howard by Ali - 2 - 17 May 13 - Larger

I’ve been a member of The Writers’ League for some time now and this is the first time I have had the opportunity to participate in their Book Festival activities. I’m really looking forward to this. I hope to see a lot of you guys out there.

There are some really interesting people showcasing their talent this year; both on the non-fiction and fiction sides of the aisle.

Look for people like the following:

Our Great Big Backyard

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM

Location: First United Methodist Church
Authors: Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager

Join us as we celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of our National Parks Service with First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager! They’ll share their new picture book, Our Great Big Backyard, and inspire us all to head outside and enjoy our great outdoors. Join them afterwards for a book signing at the church; books will be available for sale in the foyer. Moderator: Dorothy Guerrero


For decades, LAURA BUSH has championed key issues in the fields of education, health care, human rights, and the preservation of our nation’s heritage. A hiking and outdoors enthusiast, Mrs. Bush encourages Americans to spend time in and care for our national parks. The author of the bestselling memoir Spoken from the Heart, Mrs. Bush also founded both the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Today, as the chair of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, Mrs. Bush continues her work on global health-care innovations, empowering women in emerging democracies, education reform, and supporting the men and women who have served in America’s military. Mrs. Bush holds a degree in education and a master’s degree in library science. She taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston, and Austin and worked as a public school librarian.

2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner: Custer’s Trials

11:30 AM – 12:15 PM

Capitol Extension Room E2.030
Booksigning: Main Book Signing Tent (Congress near 10th Street)
Author: T. J. Stiles

In his 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Custer’s Trials, T.J. Stiles paints a portrait of Lt. George Armstrong Custer that is both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, casting surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure. Join him as he shares the key to understanding Custer. Moderator: Ray Brimble


T. J. STILES is the author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, winner of the 2009 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War. Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New Americawas awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in History. A member of the Society of American Historians and a former Guggenheim fellow, Stiles lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and two children.

History Repeated

11:45 AM – 12:30 PM

Capitol Extension Room E2.014
Booksigning: Main Book Signing Tent (Congress near 10th Street)
Authors: John Pipkin  Dominic Smith

xx-johnpipkin-photosmall   xx-dominicsmith-photosmall

Astronomy and art lured novelists John Pipkin and Dominic Smith deep into the past to uncover rich, untold stories in their new novels, The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter and The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. What does it take to recreate the scientific, artistic and human landscapes of a world centuries before us? Where does a writer draw the line between fact and invention? Join them for a discussion of how they recall the past on the page. Moderator: Erik Ankerberg


Speaking & signing Good Clean Fun

Texas Book Festival, First Baptist Church,

901 Trinity Street, Austin TX

Saturday, November 5 at 12:30PM

NICK OFFERMAN is an actor, humorist, and woodworker. He is married to the most beautiful and talented actress working today, Megan Mullally. They live in Los Angeles, California, with their poodles and an impressive collection of assorted wood clamps.T. C. BOYLE :

Speaking & signing The Terranauts

Texas Book Festival, Central Presbyterian Church,

200 E 8th Street, Austin TX Saturday,

Saturday, November 5 at 1:00PM

T.C. BOYLE has published fifteen novels and ten volumes of short stories, including the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning World’s End; The Tortilla Curtain, which was awarded France’s prestigious Prix Médicis étranger; and most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Harder They Come. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.


Stop by and give us all a look.

What’s Been Happening? – 23 Sep 16

What’s Been Happening? – 23 Sep 16

I’ve had a busy few weeks and have not been active here in a while. I’m sorry!

During this period I have been busy reading and conducting Q&A sessions at two Literary Salons mostly here in my local area.

The first one was on Old Mueller (the old airport) at the Wildfire Terrace Apartments in their Terrace Room. We gathered around 6:30 PM and socialized for a while and started the Reading about 7PM and afterwards shared refreshments and more social time.

I read from the chapter “Let me tell ya ‘bout Cold” and then conducted a Q&A session afterwards.

Cold is a relevant term and I hope I achieved my goal describing the different levels of cold that one might experience over a lifetime? I’m positive that there are very few, if any that can match my experiences in this area. I would welcome to hear about yours if you think you can match or exceed mine.

This was great fun and the questions from those in attendance were fantastic. I had a fantastic time and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I even had three cousins in attendance: one first—another Howard, one second—another Howard but using his first name Les and one third—Les’s daughter Caroline with her boyfriend Eric. Howard and Les had driven all the way from Cypress, TX and Caroline lives here locally. What a surprise to see them standing outside the building waiting on me to show so they could get inside. Catching time here and there, while trying not to ignore everybody else, we conducted a mini family reunion. Great fun!

The book sales went fairly well also.

This past Wednesday, we conducted a very intimate session at The Trails at Carmel Creek retirement facility in Hutto, TX.

I had several friends and associates join me there and we had a good representation from the facility with us also. The session followed the same structure as above, but since it was somewhat smaller, we conducted the entire session sitting in the lounge area instead of the grand room.

I chose to read and discuss the chapter Kick it to the Can – Coaching the Cosmos. This selection is very different from the others in the book as it tells of my first opportunity coaching a youth team in an organized soccer league.

The take-a-ways from a situation involving youth can be exactly the same but more specific than one including adults. I believe I learned just as much from this short duration soccer season as I ever learned from any session with adults in similar situations.

While the session was more intimate, I did get to spend more time with each attendee than I did in the previous session.

I thoroughly enjoyed each opportunity and welcome more of them in the future.

See you out there at a future event!

Aging Workforce – Their Replacements and Leadership – 12 Aug 16

Aging Workforce – Their Replacements and Leadership – 12 Aug 16

Baby Boomers exit the workforce

I don’t know if most of you realize it, but the Baby Boomers are getting out of the workforce at record rates. Just who will take these guys’ places?

Are there members within your personnel with the ability to step directly into those shoes? Are they qualified to undertake this transition? Are you? Or is your management team going to have to go look for your next group of leaders? So many questions!

I read an article running in the Boston Globe over the weekend about this problem; specifically in New Hampshire, but it pretty much applies nation-wide. (

There’s an open window here and so many things to consider. As the economy continues to grow, this is a question that must be addressed—the sooner the better. Has your organization thought about a succession plan?

Level of Organization

The problem that most organizations are facing is that the trouble will be at multiple levels of the organization—from top and middle management, continuing through skilled workers and all the way down to near the bottom of the staff. The coming purge will effect professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers. The Baby Boomers are at every level of companies out there.

Unemployment Problem

Adding to this trouble is the level of unemployment existing in most of the country. As low as it is, it’s very likely that a great deal of those on the unemployed list are the un-employable. One also hears of the great number of those who have just stopped looking for work. This may be true but a great deal of those people are of the Baby Boomer age who lost their employment during the recession and now have qualified for retirement and are no longer looking for work.

I had this same experience several years ago here in my area. I had been used to gathering some 300+ resumes after advertising a position. All of a sudden, the unemployment level had dropped to around 2% and I was getting less than 10 resumes; sometimes as few as two. And, worst of all, none of the candidates were qualified. We may be approaching that low watermark once again; especially with talent level and skills. Incidentally, the article revealed a New Hampshire unemployment rate of 2.8%. Additionally, the state projects a need to fill 80% of the production jobs available over the next decade.

Katrina Evans, from the New Hampshire “Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau” stated “We’re having to rebuild the entire pipeline of workers. It’s not even so much a skills mismatch as it is a body mismatch.”

Leader’s Concerns

Here are some of the other concerns expressed by CEOs and economists:

  • “78% said it would affect their ability to implement new technologies and increase productivity”
  • “the shortage of skilled labor is so severe that it’s actually affecting the ability of companies to grow”

What’s the Answer?

Yes, just what is the answer? The Governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, is on the right path. She’s created a Manufacturing Sector Partnership. The initiative connects educators with the organizations that need help. Other companies have gone out on their own and sought out their needs, even offering incentives to bring on board the skills they seek.

What these guys are doing are good answers, but what about your own back yard?

I would propose that when you are looking for candidates to step into supervisory roles that you first look internally. Your organization just might have the resources to fill leadership roles walking around your own facility and not even know it. Often the case is that skills have been acquired over years and years of observing those leading them without the learning individual even knowing they possess the desired knowledge.

Of course, an internal fill does not necessarily solve the overall problem. Worst of all, you set off a cascade of fills and back-fills that seems to be never ending until such time as you hire from the outside the guy//gal that stops the upward or lateral movement of personnel.

Let’s Talk Leadership

How do you identify candidates for leadership positions from within? That’s often easier than one might think. It’s nothing more than simply discussing the situations that take place on a daily basis. Routine staff meetings are a real good place to start. Reviewing production, practices, procedures and goals is a good way to learn what’s known throughout the organization. Members of the management team should be noting these skills and ideas of those reporting to them as a routine practice (warehousing the data)—how else could they be collecting information for annual reviews and like requirements.

Discussions held during meetings should involve as many team members as possible and solicit ideas for all. Sometimes it’s that quiet guy over in the corner that has a good idea, but isn’t ready yet to share it. Draw it out of them; and in the meantime you just might be building a bit of confidence that will pay off later—like in the situation we are discussing today.

What can I add?

When I first started writing my book “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”, I had two specific goals in mind.

My first intention was to document stories that my family had never heard that concerned some of the situations that had taken place to and around me during my days specifically in the military and subsequently in my manufacturing assignments.

My secondary intention was to document situations and solutions that I could pass on to others to assist them in becoming better leaders and managers without having to experience the frustrations I had experienced in trying to better myself as a leader. I knew the Baby Boomer exodus was just around the corner.

In this light, my book, even through all the changes it underwent over the several years I worked on it, these two basic goals remained intact. The stories are there for the family, especially the generations that have followed me. And, the lessons I learned are there in somewhat of a logical text form. Also included is an appendix (D – Review of Lessons Learned) which provides a detailed breakout of the lessons I took away from my experiences in a handy format that works well as a lesson plan for the conduct of training on those take-aways.

You can also see this section on the About the Book tab on this website just following the book cover about a third of the way down the posting.

I hope you give it a look.



Canvasing Venues for Speaking and Book Signing Presentations

Canvasing Venues for Speaking and Book Signing Presentations

I am currently canvassing venues for speaking and book signing presentations. Of course, I’m looking for arenas and organizations that want and have the need for discussions on Leadership and//or Business Management.

But, I’m willing to take on a Veterans organization that would like to discuss stories of the past or training in Leadership and//or Common Business Management problems and solutions.

I’ve developed a list of Chambers of Commerce and Jr. Chambers of Commerce in the Central Texas area as a start to seek out speaking engagements with. This is not a very long list, but it is a place to start, particularly on the business side.

Should of any of my readers and//or followers have an opportunity or need a guest speaker; I am thoroughly interested in giving your idea a shot. Who knows what it might turn into? You can contact me through the contact page on this sight—an email will be sent directly to me and I will respond appropriately.




Who might you meet in my Book? – 04 Jul 16

Who might you meet in my Book? – 04 Jul 16

Some of you out there may be wondering if your name made an appearance in my recently published book on Leadership: “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”

Below is a partial list of those quirky and/or otherwise characters whose names do appear on the pages. As a follow-on volume is yet to be edited and published; if you do not find your name below, it might just show up in the next edition.

Here is a short listing of the characters you might meet, recognize, remember or know very well (These entries are in no particular order):

Tommy Wilson and his moose (Platoon Clerk and chocked full of excitement)

David Fitzsimmons (Fitz) (2nd Platoon Clerk and the hardest at working to impress)

Frank Lefevers (Best 2nd right hand any officer could ever have)

Alan Grant (My last Platoon Sergeant and professional)

Donald Jenkins (Pillsbury Dough Boy—enough said)

Joseph Guarino (trouble from day one through day last)

Martin Snyder (Best ration sergeant in the United States Army)

John Workman (The other best ration sergeant in the United States Army)

Marvin Craighead (Always looking for the next challenge and never afraid to take on a problem)

Ron Acuff (My platoon’s 3rd Class II & VII Section Leader and good at it)

Larry Wilson (My platoon’s 2nd Class II & VII Section Leader and 2nd POL Officer – a great guy and a good friend)

Vince Festa (Transportation Corps officer I served with in Alaska—nice & experienced guy)

Dave Elberfeld (Transportation Corps officer I served with in Alaska—next door neighbor for a year or so)

Ted Kuchta (My platoon’s 4th POL Officer—a bright hope for the future—I would have liked to have spent more time with him)

Doug Brown (My platoon’s 3rd POL Officer and a former NCO with a good head on his shoulders)

Pat Phillips (A tragic loss that came way too soon—unfortunately at his own hands)

Vince Fuentes (Battalion Operations Officer—level head screwed on straight)

Roger Issacson (My Battalion Commander upon arrival in Alaska)

Stan Pearson (My Battalion Commander for last year or so in Alaska)

Peter Burbules (My Battalion Commander during some hard times with great struggle)

William Krukemeyer (Best Aircraft Maintenance Officer I ever served with)

Phil Rivard (My Company Commander & boss during a challenging time of change)

Ed Armatoski (The guy that pushed me toward Alaska in the first place)

Denys Danley (Hard working Petroleum Accountability Clerk)

Pat Crumbliss (Supply Specialist in my platoon for three of my four years in Alaska)

Howard Kerr (Important Petroleum mission specialist on the coldest night of the year)

James Maggard (Hold-over from original Petroleum Bad-Guys who later redeemed himself)

Chief Maynes (Ration Sergeant who had to follow Martin Snyder and John Workman—see above)

Sgt Stone (Never knew his first name – probably was sergeant for all I know)

Thomas Steel (One of my most trusted NCOs during the years I spent at Fort Bragg)

SFC Torric (The source of some hard lessons – both taught & learned)

Warren Sanford (Another one of those 2nd right hands that made my job easier)


These and many others will be revealed during the course of my storytelling and advice rendering.

If you haven’t obtained your copy yet; there’s still time and they’re available from many sources.

Barnes & Noble




Infinity Publishing


Or, if you like; you can contact me via email and I’ll send you info on how to obtain a signed copy directly from me. Just go to the Contact Page on my website and fill in the info:


(Left to right) Frank Lefevers, Pat Crumbliss, John Howard Hatfield,

David Fitzsimmons, & John Hoey

(Fort Greely Alaska – August 1973)

More Catching up with Leaders of the Past – 14 Jun 16

More Catching up with Leaders of the Past – 14 Jun 16

I posted just awhile back about catching up with leaders of the past. One of my connections was Doug Brown (see 29 May 16 posting). Since catching up with Doug, we have talked almost every day since.

One of our mutual associates was another officer that served with us in Alaska, Ted Kuchta (see Fitz’s and his Spare Tire chapter in my book: There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack). Getting into contact with Ted came from an offhand comment from Doug. “Have you been in contact with Ted?”

To my surprise, Doug had Ted’s email address. I jumped on that right away.

It took a while, but finally the other day I got a response. I was thrilled to have made another reattachment.

Ted Kuchta

I had worked with Ted during my Army days in Alaska. Ted came to my unit (1973) as the first school trained POL Officer (Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants) since my original Platoon Leader had been relieved way back in early 1971. The Army in Alaska was pretty far down on the priority list at this time due to the continued field exercise being conducted in Southeast Asia. In late 1973, things had begun to ease up just a bit and we seemed to be getting our fill of both officers and enlisted personnel.

Ted filled a need that we had had for some time. It wasn’t that his predecessors were ineffectual or simply caretakers while waiting his eventual arrival, not in the least. Actually, for some time, I had been the lone officer in the platoon. The first guy assigned to fill the shortage might have been considered a caretaker. Gary was a Transportation Corps officer and really didn’t fit the need—or any other need either. Gary washed out and was given a second chance leading a TC platoon, but didn’t cut it there either. Two eithers and Gary disappeared.

Larry Wilson

Larry Wilson, a Quartermaster Lieutenant, arrived next and was assigned to my Class II & VII Section. Still having problems in the POL Section, I was finally able to convince the Command that my biggest need was a petroleum officer. Short of that, I needed an officer to fill the leadership role while I continued to oversee and monitor the accountability role. This was a workable solution and actually allowed the unit to prosper while waiting on given expertise.

Clifford T. White

After little over a year, another couple of Quartermaster Lieutenants showed up. Cliff White was assigned the position of Class II & VII Section Leader, the position that Larry had vacated, allowing me to spend more time with Larry and his development. There’s another face or two that lead the II & VII Section in the mean while, but we will not go into them here—both came from combat arms assignments and were not fully suited for the position. Cliff had the training, he just needed the experience. Like all three, Larry, Doug and Ted; I have searched for Cliff all over the internet looking places.

Doug Brown

Soon after Cliff’s arrival, Doug Brown arrived. (See Catching up with Leaders of the Past posting just prior to this posting). All of a sudden, I had almost a full complement of officers filling positions within my platoon. The only shortage that existed—as it had from the day I arrived—was an Ammunition Warrant Officer. That was soon resolved by a Warrant being assigned to my senior ammunition NCO—finally not just full strength, but over strength. Doug was extra.

As it worked out, Larry was able to seek out a position in the Battalion Operations Staff Section and that opened the way for Doug to take over the POL Section. This worked out just fine for the period of time that Doug filled the position. Remember, Doug had come from Officer Candidate School (OCS) and other than his enlisted general supply experience, he had no POL experience; just like Larry.

Ted Kuchta (again)

Not very long after Ted’s arrival, the Truck Platoon Leader departed and Doug volunteered to take the position, thereby allowing Ted to put his training to full use in my POL Section. Immediately, we had Ted in the field on short duration exercises getting the experience that he needed. One of Ted’s first several exercises actually took him to Fort Yukon, Alaska—just inside the Arctic Circle—a real stroke of luck for a new Second Lieutenant.

Not long thereafter, we found ourselves in February, 1974 at Fort Greely, Alaska in a major field exercise and Ted was really getting his indoctrination in Arctic POL Support functionality. He performed very well, I am proud to say. Ted had all the attributes to become a fine Army Officer. I have since learned from Ted that he served 22 years in the Army and is in sales now.

Wrap up

Everybody mentioned above (excluding Gary) possessed leadership ability and I would be proud to stand alongside any one of them when a time of need for such requirements existed. They proved their worth under some extreme circumstances that can be matched by few others.

172nd Support Battalion Officers

Doug Brown, 4th from right, front row standing

Ted Kuchta, 3rd from right, front row standing

Larry Wilson, 5th from left, front row standing

Cliff White, 3rd from left, front row standing

John Howard Hatfield, 3rd from right, back row standing


Catching up with Leaders of the Past – 29 May 16

Catching up with Leaders of the Past – 29 May 16

Lost Connections showing up

People pass into and out of our lives, particularly if you move around as much as I have. Where do we keep them? How do you stay in touch with all of them> do you want to stay in touch with each and every one of them? Maybe not!

Sometimes re-connection kinda just falls into your lap, right out of the blue. That’s what happened to me today. Two of my best associates (and friends) from the past fell right into my lap.

Edward J. Herrera

Pulling yesterday’s mail from my box this morning I found I had a short note from Edward Herrera. Eddie was my fish old lady during my Corps of Cadets days at Texas A&M. He looked after me and I looked after him. That’s what you did. We were assigned these positions because we were back to back alphabetically (Hatfield & Herrera) on the roster of freshmen assigned to Company H-2 in the Corps of Cadets. This relationship lasts forever, but becomes less immediate after graduation, but a lifelong commitment, once established, endures.

All through our tenure at A&M, Eddie and I discussed what we would do if we were put in charge. As each year passed, we gained privileges, but never were we able to enforce the control and implement the ideas we always planned on putting in place. If we could just make it through our current set of circumstances, it would all fall into place. Each year turned out to be the same as the one we just experienced.

After graduation, we went our separate ways, Edward off to the Military Police Corps in the Army and I off to the Quartermaster Corps in the Army as well. We reconnected years later, fifteen as a matter of fact at our twentieth high school reunion. Edward was working down in Sugar Land, Texas and I was working in the Dallas area. We didn’t see much of each other except at the every five year reunion. I do not recall ever seeing Edward at the every five year Texas A&M class reunions. I always connected with his sister Betty, also in our high school class and she would pass along my wishes to get together to him.

Staying connected seemed to be much harder than it should have been. Off and on, then off again. Edward gave me a new email address just last summer and then today I get this note stating: “I haven’t had a computer for some time, but just got a new one. Here’s my email and phone number.”

I have reconnected with one of the most important people in my life. Or, should I say: one of the most important people in my life has reconnected with me?

William Douglass Brown

After the mail box walk with my Pups and discovering my Edward mail, I was checking my Facebook page and came upon another reconnection. Just like the previous, Doug Brown had initiated the reconnection. I cannot tell you the hundreds (maybe thousands) of times I have tried to find Doug Brown on Facebook or—after all its been 40+ years since I had seen him. There must be millions of Doug Brown out there. I have been as deep as 10 pages on both sites searching and finally giving up to time and promising myself that I would try again and harder.

I have yet to ask Doug why and how he came across my name on Facebook. I’ll get to that later. There’s been far too much to discuss today as we fly emails back and forth mentioning the slightest memories of our past and common acquaintances. What a time this afternoon has been.

What ever become of… Do you know where So-in-so is now? Do you remember the guy that… On and on the questions went, back and forth. It just got better and better.

Background on Doug

Doug had joined my platoon in Alaska just at the right time. Larry Wilson had been wanting out of his position as Petroleum Section Leader. I believe the stress was beginning to be more than he was willing to take. At the time, I was coming up on DROS (date returned from overseas) and I think that Larry really didn’t want to be next in line to assume the leadership role for the platoon. Things changed and the Army ask me to stay another year and Larry was off the hook. By that time, Doug had joined the platoon and was an easy replacement for Larry’s position.

Doug was just out of Officer Candidate School (OCS), full of vim and vigor as they say and ripe for any challenge. I was surprised that Doug was back. You see, he had just left us as a Staff Sergeant not that many months ago—now he’s back as a Second Lieutenant. Doug didn’t have any real petroleum experience, but that didn’t matter. Between the two of us, I had all we needed. During the training process, I could make the difference. The ball would just keep on rolling. Doug fit in real well. One of the best officers I ever served with and right up there at the top in dependability.

Together, Leadership came as easy as any other time I had in the Army. We were challenged and came out on top.

Continued to Reconnect

In his final email (now) yesterday, Doug stated: “Here is Ted’s email address: He remembers you very well and I just received an email from him.

Ted Kuchta was Doug’s replacement as Petroleum Section Leader, coming at just the right time, with the Petroleum School under his belt and allowing Doug to move over into a Platoon Leader position and, again, keeping the ball rolling. I have fired off a reconnect email to Ted Kuchta and hope to hear back from him real soon I can hardly wait!

172nd Support Battalion Officers

Doug Brown, 4th from right, front row standing

Ted Kuchta, 3rd from right, front row standing

John Howard Hatfield, 3rd from right, back row standing


Blue Smock Leadership and the Funny Papers – 12 May 16

Blue Smock Leadership and the Funny Papers – 12 May 16

Making a Point with a Distraction

How do you keep them distracted when you are trying to make a point? You know they need the learning experience. So where do you get the media to distract them while you get your point across?

All during my career in the military and manufacturing I would recognize characters in the morning comics. That’s right, the morning comics—the Funny Papers. I had several favorites: Beetle Bailey, BC, Boris & Natasha, Hagar the Horrible, Wizard of Id. Of course, while in the Army it was Beetle Bailey, but even until this day, I see someone there that I just know I know. After the Army, along came Dilbert and many of my civilian counterparts started to show their face.

Recognizing characters – Beetle and the rest

But, for a very long time, it was Mort Walker’s Private Beetle Bailey and his Army chums: Private Zero (especially Zero), Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel  & Otto, Cookie Jowis, Private Killer Diller, General Amos T. Halftrack, Miss Shelia Buxley, Lt Sonny Fuzz, Lt Jackson Flap and Private Plato. Then there’s those supporting characters who showed up infrequently just to keep us grounded: Chaplain Snodgras, Martha Halftrack, Private Rocky, Private Cosmo, and Captain Sam Scabbard. (You can find all these guys and more to fill in your nostalgia gap at

And while we’re at it, wasn’t Camp Swampy a great place to work? Zero stress, you might remember. No chance of getting burned out there.

I found less people I knew in BC, the Wizard and Hagar; but once in a while, there they were jumping right off the page reminding me of something that had recently taken place at work.

I used several comic clips as I wrote my Book “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack” as reminders of the real action that had actually taken place when the adventures actually happened.

Whoa! What is this?

Then as the years rumbled past, I discovered the Far Side. No longer did I recognize the players as people I had known before. No, I’d never met these guys before. But something in the puzzle that Gary Larson laid out often struck me as familiar. I could see the players as my compatriots and a familiar situation that had recently confounded the group.

At one particular organization I worked with in the early 90s, this held very true. Every day, there was another cartoon that fit the bill. I could use this, and I did. As an early-to-work-guy, I found the time to prepare the day’s thought after my arrival. I cut the cartoon from the morning Dallas Times Herald (and later the Dallas Morning News after the Times-Herald folded), got my handy-dandy bottle of white-out from my desk drawer and began to alter the caption. With a couple of trips back and forth to the copy machine, I was ready to finalize my masterpiece.

Putting action to the plan

I put together my morning epistle for the manager’s meeting training session, an event that started at 0900 hours and depending on the principle running the show, lasting sometimes till what often seemed like dark! This was usually the case when the Group Vice president Pat B. decided to join the harang. There was a great deal of stress on the managers and supervisors; they all had been with the organization for some time and I was the new guy, brought in to train and develop them to become experts in a new manufacturing software system. Pat B. was a great injector stress.

The guys saw no real need for change, they had zero buy-in with what the numbers said daily or ever for that matter—the problem had always been somebody else’s problem. For the first week or so, I just added the altered Far Side cartoon to the back of the morning’s training issue. For a while that worked. I would train, they would pay attention (& learn—well, most of them anyway), and then we would arrive at the Far Side comment on the current situation.

Woops, there’s a fly in the ointment!

Things began to change quickly. I noticed it right away and had to change my methods. As I would get up front to do my morning training and passed the training packets down each side of the conference room table, I began to notice the shuffling of the packets; well not really shuffling. All they had to do was to turn the packet over and right there on the last sheet was the cartoon. They were looking for the Far Side cartoon to see what the morning laugh was going to be. I had lost them!

I had to change up my tactics and do so quickly. It took some time to gather them back into the fold and get on with the training.

My first thought was to place the Far Side page at different places in the training package. Well, I know you understand the principle of trial and error. Well, this was a big error, to say the least. They all spent whatever time it required to find the cartoon and then show their neighbor on each side and across the table that they had found theirs and compare with each other to insure that they all had the same edition. That didn’t work, obviously. I was pretty much stumped at that point. I had to have the cartoon or they’d spend the entire time discussing why I didn’t. I had painted myself into a corner.

The Japanese are coming!

That Group VP, Pat B., had just arrived back from a visit to some of our suppliers in Japan and had advised the management team that he was considering converting some of our practices to what the Japanese did as routine. He thought this would improve efficiency and productivity. He mentioned a few of his ideas and solicited the thoughts around the room. As the New Guy, I pretty much kept quiet and let the others have their say.

One of Pat’s ideas was to outfit the entire plant, some 600+ personnel, in smocks. The idea was to lessen the perceived differences between the hierarchies of the staff—make everybody feel as though they were just as an important part of the team as anybody else. The principle was thoughtful. At this time smocks were available to everybody within the plant except the temporaries—not a large contingent. Some of those in positions that were required to accomplish a fair amount of material movement wore smocks as a matter of course, but not full time.

The ruckus begins

Because we already had smocks, Pat’s idea was to just increase the current provider’s contract and make the T@&%y Blue color available to everybody. Pat subscribed to the theory of management by walking around (MBWA) and he had obviously done his work by canvasing some of the workforce about how they felt prior to announcing his idea to the staff.

Because the Manager’s Meetings usually ran much longer than they should have, I tried to keep my training to a 15 minute block and no longer. (Get a thorough understanding of how I feel about this topic from my book “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”, see the chapter on Mess Hall Cups) From that day forward running almost a week, the meeting would take several tangents from the selected material—usually to discuss smocks. I could see the writing on the wall. This was a much bigger topic than just decreeing that everybody wear smocks. There was more behind the rumblings than just the perception of unity.

My theme for the next week was in the vane of: “Your smock’s blue. Mine is too!” I began to find the altered cartoons hanging at a boo-koo of work stations all over the plant. The managers and supervisors had not kept them to themselves; they’d made copies and distributed them everywhere. A great deal of those I used showed several cave men wearing leopard skins sitting around the fire pit conversing with one another—Gary Larson used many fire side meetings to comment on society.

The caption I changed to: “Hey look! Grock’s smock is blue just like our’s!!”—complete with the original misspelling. I never ask Pat if he had noticed them, but it quickly became obvious that he was getting feedback on this issue. As I was free to walk the entire plant floor, including the warehouse, shipping and receiving dock, and all the offices; I was being asked routinely if a final decision had been made.


A straw breaks the camels back

Several days into the ruckus, I had an idea that I thought would relieve the tension just a bit. I obtained a medium sized smock—far too small for me, but just right for Let, our oriental data entry clerk and actually way too big for her—and talked my wife into using her sewing abilities to help me out. I rummaged around and found a plethora of badges, ribbons, a tags, and medals from my Army days and Patsy sewed them up one sleeve, down the other, and all over both sides of the chest area. It looked as official as a dress blue smock ever could.

The very next morning after the Manager’s Meeting had concluded and I had presented the training session, I ask everyone to hang on for just a minute. I had previously insured that both Frank (Plant Manager) and our guy Pat B. were both in attendance. I turned to the door and signaled my support team to enter. Jim, our PC Specialist (our cameraman for the morning) came in and took up a position first, raising his video camera and awaited the rest. Let strode in wearing her dress blue smock and took up a position squarely in front, followed closely behind by Warren, our Printer Boy for lack of a better title. Warren was armed with the GI Standard Issue Pointer.

After the room decibel level lowered to a dull roar, I started my briefing as Jim filmed, Let Vanna Whited as best she could, and Warren squarely pointed to what I discussed and where I indicated. Each description of the indicated badge, medal or service stripe was followed by a resounding guffaw and complete understanding of the award and//or problem resolved. The badges were awarded for such accomplishments as (1) pulling an overnighter to discuss supplies with overseas vendors in China or Japan (2) most PC board mistakes from sister company repaired in a 6 hour period (3) most number of times promoted into a new Title with larger responsibilities without a pay raise granted…on and on I went. I tried to capture every feeling associated with each member of the conversion team that they had advised me of over the preceding weeks. They had complaints, mostly minor, but complaints just the same. They really just wanted somebody to listen to them.

A final decision

Pat made his decision that same afternoon. No smocks plant wide. The company would still supply them to those that wanted the extra protection when they needed it.

The main concern that management had overlooked was the fact that the workforce was primarily women of the ages 18 through 35 (almost 75% as a matter of fact). The work was not hard and the majority of the women were seated during most of their shift. While a great deal of them wore jeans to work, they ALL tended to dress up on Friday, not really elaborate mind you, but dress up they did. They were afraid that the smock rule was going to take away their ability to show off for their fellow workers—an ability they did not want to lose to the smock rule. The smock had actually lost out to one of the very social identities it was intended to overcome.

While I had made this very point during the dress blue smock briefing, I was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. Pat had received feedback in the same vain from all corners of the plant. When he discovered that his managers and supervisors were just as much against the idea as the greater number of his workers were, he came to the appropriate (and popular) decision that smocks weren’t to be the uniform of the day.

I kept all those cartoons but could find only the one when I came to look for them.

Which way would you have voted?

Introduction to Leadership – 10 May 16

Introduction to Leadership – 10 May 16

Excerpt from the Introduction to “There’s a Moose in the Guard House”:

Search for Knowledge

Didja ever hear ‘bout…, did I ever tell ya ‘bout…, or ya ain’t gonna believe this s*#*t, but… We’ve all heard the typical stories that start this way. During the years I spent leading, directing, managing, and supervising operations in both the civilian and military arenas I read volumes of literature on the art of leadership and management. Each undertaking lead me through an accounting of situations and problems which were not remotely related to the problems and situations I found my employees getting into. While I was in the service the literature related fairly well—most of it being written to be military specific. Upon moving into the civilian arena, I could never find logic and advice that dealt specifically with personnel and organizations at the level that would benefit my situation. I often came away from the experience with a distaste for what I had just consumed.

In almost every publication the case studies felt contrived. I had never met anybody that had these sort of problems, even remotely. I also found that most of those providing these observations were, for the most part, academic types that had never worked one day in a real industry—not one. What will follow is not meant to be a knock on academics; they have certain skills that are vitally important to the learning environment, but they inhabit a distance that is vitally important to true objectivity. It’s that the recommendations coming from the studies I read were usually laundry lists of the same guidance that I received in college classes, training sessions, and seminars. I really wasn’t looking for more worn out jargon.

I started the search for good advice early in my career.

To Begin

My initial assignment found me assigned to one of the two separate infantry brigades in Alaska with the primary mission of protecting the two Air Force bases from the Red Bear (or the Soviet Union). One of these bases was outside of Anchorage and the other up near Fairbanks. The mission was taken very seriously as the entire state of Alaska is well within striking distance of Russia’s right coast. Several times during my tenure there, we were reminded of this fact very clearly.

I had inherited an organization that was wrought with bad apples, bad practices, and an even worse reputation. It was about this time that our Brigade Commander, Colonel John A. Bender, provided each officer in the Brigade with a copy of “Guidelines for the Commander” by General Bruce C. Clark, The Pentagon, (6 Jan 1972). I pored over this publication and the general tone of the book so captured my attention that I set down a portion of it (calligraphy style) and hung it next to the door exiting my office so everybody could see it on their way out, but primarily to remind me of what direction in my leadership actions I wanted to take.

Putting it Together

My original document was titled LT Hatfield’s Laws. Over time, I added a law here and a law there. The initial law was a summarization of Gen Clark’s guidelines: Truth, Faith and Confidence. Gen Clark advised commanders to be “honest, just, and fair… keep his men informed at all times…above all, set the proper example…men will do instinctively what they have been in the habit of doing in training.” A great deal of his advice was derived from the teachings of Baron von Steuben at Valley Forge and published by the Continental Congress. Nevertheless, it still applies just as much now as it did then.

I determined that I would tell my men the “Truth,” set such an example so they would have “Faith” in my leadership and conduct training that produced a level of “Confidence” in their abilities to prevent any second guessing in their activities and operations. Before you begin to think that this was a “beamed down from above” insight, let me clear some air. The bar for me setting a good example was not established at a great height—the two lieutenants preceding me as platoon leader had both been relieved from the position I was now appointed (sorta like catching a bridal bouquet with both hands tied behind my back). I wouldn’t have to be outstanding to overcome their records. But, I was determined to try.

Ever Changing

Very soon I was reworking the document. Adding the second law: Amateurs teach amateurs to be amateurs. I was determined that my people were not going to be the butt of jokes at the officers’ calls any longer. My goal was to establish a degree of professionalism that was unprecedented within the command. At this time, the Vietnam conflict was still being contested and our staffing was fairly low—routinely residing close to or just below the 50% level. Officers in my grade were pulling extra duty at the rate of once a week and about every other weekend. As a jab at the situation of myself and others like me, I added the third law: You can’t overwork me, but you can hinder the quality of my product.

As a new Law came to mind, I would commit it to paper and hang it off the rear of that frame hanging on the wall. Periodically, I would review the hanging paper and consider the proposed addition, insuring it had stood the test of time and belonged on the front with those that had. The fourth law: When Leaders don’t set priorities, Followers do! Came to mind after returning from a major field training exercise in the panhandle of Florida. Coincidentally, the fifth law: Bad news only gets worse with age was moved to the front after the same exercise—a lot of learning opportunities took place in Florida during that particular trip. “Bad News” had been hanging on the back side of the frame for quite a while—the time for its move to the front had now come.

Today’s List

Eventually the group of Laws became what is today’s five. Each Law has at least one “story” attached to it—most have several. I will get to each as the appropriate time and place present themselves.

During discussions and in particularly story telling I would point out the particular Law that applied—soon, most every supervisor was reminding me of applicable laws when the opportunity was appropriate.

Upon leaving the army, the three laws and their title was changed to become Howard’s Laws, the same laws that hang on my wall today.

Howard’s Law

  • Truth, Faith and Confidence
  • Amateurs teach amateurs to be amateurs.
  • You can’t overwork me, but you can hinder the quality of my product.
  • When Leaders don’t set priorities, Followers do! (also known as Followship)
  • Bad news only gets worse with age.

Howard’s Law hanging on the wall adjacent to my desk.

Proposed Laws are on the askewed page hanging from behind.


Check out the “About the Book” page for an outline of adventures and takeaways.