Ep. 5: War in the Shadows: The Changing Counter-terrorism Landscape with LTG (Ret.) Michael Nagata

In this episode, we talked with LTG (Ret.) Michael Nagata about counterterrorism, U.S. Special Operations, and national security decision-making. LTG Nagata covers his experience fighting ISIS, how military tactics have changed, and why he joined the Army.

A’ndre Gonawela: This is the Burn Bag podcast. My name is A’ndre Gonawela.

Ryan Rosenthal: I’m Ryan Rosenthal.

Javed Ali: I’m Javed Ali, on behalf of Ryan Rosenthal and A’ndre Gonawela and myself Javed Ali, welcome to the latest installment of our exciting new podcast, The Burn Bag. Well news regarding threats from groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other foreign based terrorist organizations, recedes from national headlines. These threats still remain everyday across the globe, attacks continue affecting innocent civilians, and foreign governments. Nearly 20 years after the attacks in the United States on 9/11, the U.S. counter-terrorism enterprise remains focused on this terrorist landscape and ensures that our interests overseas and the U.S. Homeland remains protected. One of the key components of this enterprise involves U.S. special operations forces, and we’re incredibly honored today to be joined by Lieutenant General Mike Nagata, a true legend in the U.S. special operations and counterterrorism communities. We will explain his background a little bit later in the show, a preview, some of the issues we’ll discuss with him and why they’re so important. In the session with Lieutenant general, Nagata will get us perspectives on a number of key topics in which he is so well versed.  Based on the story of a career confronting terrorist threats on the battlefield and at the highest levels of government in Washington, D.C., we’ll ask general Nevada to elaborate on how this landscape looks now as compared to 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, based on his own insights from his career.

We’ll also ask him where U S counter-terrorism needs to get better and what needs to improve. Given his long experience in U.S. Special Operations, we’ll have General Nagata comment on how this military community is adapting to a changing landscape and weather threats like great power competition and regional adversaries like Iran and North Korea are causing a sea change in special operations doctrine, strategy and tactic. Last General Nagata will comment on how he sees the U S national security decision making process given how we understand the impact of how decisions get made in Washington and how they get translated or implemented on the ground and various hotspots and battlefields. We’re excited to have Lieutenant General Nagata speak with us and hope you enjoy the conversation and thoughtful dialogue.

We’re incredibly honored to be joined by Lieutenant general, Mike Macada true legend and the special operations and counter-terrorism community, Lieutenant General Nagata, you and I have had the benefit of working with each other for a few years. But prior to our experience at the national counter-terrorism center, I had known you by reputation. I saw your performances on many, a VTC from all the distant hotspots and battlefields from where you were deployed in those years. And I was always a big fan of Myers. I was really lucky to finally get to work with you both at the national counter-terrorism center and then at the National Security Council. 

For those of you who don’t know General Nagata’s background, as I said, a true legend in these very particular communities, 37 years in the U.S. Army, retired last year, and served his country and some of the most remote and austere and hostile operating environments on the planet over that time. So thank you so much, not only for being here with us and sharing your insights, but also for your service and sacrifices to the country.

General Nagata: My pleasure Javed, it’s an honor to be part of this podcast, and it’s a real treat to reconnect with you because of, as you’ve already mentioned, our long time professional affiliation. 

A’ndre: And on behalf of myself and Ryan Lieutenant general, thank you for coming on the podcast, as well as job of course described, you had a remarkably distinguished career in the military with an emphasis on counter terrorism and special operations. And again, thank you for your service to the country and the risks and sacrifices you have made along the way. Now that you’re retired and hopefully enjoying this new phase, we’d love to get your perspectives on counter terrorism, special operations and national security decision-making overall. We could not think of a better guest to help us understand these complex and important topics. So thank you. 

General: My pleasure

Ryan: General let’s let’s dive right in. As Javed and A’ndre described, you have unique experience in your military career and participated in virtually every aspect of the counter terrorism mission from battlefields and hotspots abroad. And then there are deployments you’ve made at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the White House, the Intelligence community wrestling with these strategic issues that could shape and have shaped the U.S. for the future. So what do you see as the biggest differences between the pre 9/11 U.S. counter-terrorism enterprise and the post 9/11- one that is almost 20 years old at this point?

General: That’s a great kickoff question. And I think I’ll start with, by giving you a summary statement that I think covers the waterfront. You’ve just tried to describe, but then I’ll try to be a little more specific as well. Whenever I consider the question of how I remember the United States approach to dealing with violent extremism and terrorism before 9/11 and compare it to where we are now, I think of the phrase that much has changed and much remains the same. I’ll start with the much changed part. If I focus my attention on how policy attention has changed when it comes to dealing with terrorism, the dramatic changes in resources that have occurred in the last 20 years. And as a result of these things how much our capabilities, our knowledge, our skill, our proficiency, our ability to work internationally against terrorism, principally through the means of more effective intelligence work and more effective employment of both law enforcement and military capabilities.

I can make the argument that the changes have been quite literally breathtaking.  Specific to the special operations world, when I consider our ability to do precision operations against individual terrorists before 9/11. And I consider what it looked like as if I retired from the world of special operations last year, again, I would use the same term, the differences are breathtaking. The things we can do today under what I think is a generally well-known rubric now of find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, disseminate, and then rinse and repeat as an almost endless cycle against terrorist groups and terrorist individuals. Much of that we are able to do today didn’t even exist when I was a young officer new to the special operations world. So when it comes to the employment of the intelligence law enforcement and military capabilities necessary to identify track, and then bring to either a law enforcement or military and a terrorist group, a terrorist individual, or a terrorist throttle threat, or plot dramatic changes. However much has not changed.

And here what I’m mostly referring to is the things and the policies, the resources, the capabilities, and the skills that are necessary to prevent the creation of terrorists or said slightly differently. The question of how does the United States and frankly, the entire world prevent individuals or groups in our nations, in our communities, in our societies from first of all, becoming radicalized, but ultimately becoming mobilized to violence because in many of societies, particularly democratic societies, holding a radical idea is not a crime. In fact, in our own country, holding a radical idea, which of course is in the eye of the beholder. But  even if it is radical, it is constitutionally protected. You can believe anything you want to, as an American citizen, that’s not a crime. In fact, it’s constitutionally protected, but how do we prevent the completion of the journey to mobilization, to violence?

In my humble opinion we paid very little attention to this compared to these other methods of dealing with terrorists I started with. And so the world’s ability to prevent people from becoming terrorists has not changed very much, but on the other hand, the ability of terrorist groups to inspire people to become terrorists has gotten much stronger which is a little beyond the scope of your question. But that is a very worrisome trend for me. In fact, I’ll end by saying I was on record while I was the director of strategic operational planning at the national counterterrorism center. And I still, when I give public remarks about terrorism today as a retiree, I would still stipulate that as a statistical matter,  I think it is provable, it is demonstrable there are more violent extremists around the world of all types, whether it’s on the Al Qaeda and ISIS for at variant, or it’s the kind of terrorists we have inside the United States of the domestic variety. There are more terrorists today than there were on 9/11, which is, which should be a troubling fact for everyone in the CT community.

A’ndre: So General, sort of building up on that and expanding on your statement that there are now more terrorists than there were perhaps on 9/11. Could you expand on how the terrorist threat landscape now it looks in 2020 now that we sort of perceive that ISIS has been greatly weakened. And how has it sort of differed from 2010 or even 2001. And also if you could bring in sort of domestic terrorism sort of landscape as well in this answer. 

General: Thank you. It has changed a lot and, and in many ways it’s changed to our benefit. Just as one example I think the experiences of the last 20 years have demonstrated to formidable terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, what a strategic mistake it is to try to create very large, very visible nation state like structures, whether it was what Al Qaeda was aspiring to do. Just prior to our intervention in Afghanistan, right after 9/11, or probably more obviously the nation state light structure that ISIS tried to create in Iraq and Syria. I think they’ve learned the hard way what a strategic error that was because it’s so easy to target and so easy to rip apart using both conventional and special operations capabilities. We’ve inflicted enormous damage, physical damage on both Al Qaeda and ISIS. And they’ve learned that lesson the hard way, and I’m glad they had to learn it the hard way, because it gave us an opportunity to inflict serious damage on both of these entities.

However, there is a caveat here, they still exist and they are now wiser than they once were. And the fact that they are wiser because of that hard experience is something we should pay attention to. And I think what we’ve now seen in terms of the distribution of that, we’ve seen both Al Qaeda and ISIS undertake, instead of trying to create large centralized structures, they’re now emphasizing, establishing large dispersed global networks that operate much more, more surreptitiously. This is now a much more difficult problem for us to deal with because it’s no longer centralized. It’s no longer as obvious and available for targeting as it once was. Another aspect of this is how much terrorist activity has moved into the cyber arena, how much violent extremist activity is coming you’ve indicated is created, is inspired, is resourced and funded through activities in cyberspace on the internet.

You know, this is everything from more well known activities like the proliferation, the ongoing proliferation of what we typically style as extremist content on the internet. Despite our best efforts to remove that content, I would personally argue the size and availability of the content has grown, not diminished. But just as importantly, and perhaps even more importantly, in some way, the use of the internet to inspire and mobilize people to violence in very effective ways that do not require face to face contact in many cases, do not require any training, any transfer of funds, any creation of sophisticated capability. I think one need only look at the enormous political costs that Europe had to endure because of inspired ISIS, attacks people with kitchen knives and rental vans. And what have you over the last few years, the price Europe has paid for amounts of lithology that while of course, every death and every injury is a tragedy- in overall, statistics killed very few people.

And ISIS had to pay almost nothing to create this violence on their behalf, across Western Europe for several years. In fact, there have been some recent attacks lately. This is you know, from as much as I hate ISIS, I have to admire how they’ve leveraged the internet to propagate small scale attacks that have done enormous political damage, which of course is the objective of terrorism. That’s something people often forget. The objective of terrorism is not to kill people. It’s to force political change that would not otherwise happen, or at least political chaos. And they’ve done so very, very effectively.  When it comes to domestic terrorism regrettably, and I think Javed had probably remembers me talking about this in various forum when we were both service serving together you know, rather unsurprisingly other terrorist formations, other terrorist groups, other terrorists leaders have been learning from the success that both ISIS, as well as Al-Qaida have enjoyed by shifting more and more of their activities into the internet, not just in terms of propaganda and recruitment, but for these other things I’ve described as well. And so what, unfortunately, we’re now seeing, and I think we will see even more of it in the future is other forms of terrorism, whether they’re ethnic supremacists of one time or another one disorder or another, or they’re, you know, I mean, the spectrum of terrorist formations these days is very broad, but they’re all going to take leaps from this playbook because you’d be crazy not to. It’s so it’s so low in cost, it’s very hard to target and it’s so effective. 

Ryan: General, thank you for that answer. So given all the threats that you just laid out and the possible future threats, are there any lessons we can learn from our foreign partners about, you know, things they’ve done well, or maybe things they have not done well that can maybe benefit U.S. policy and strategy moving.

General: There are several I’ll focus on one. So that I don’t go on too long here. Several of our partners and allies around the world have a virtue that we are still struggling with. I would argue as a government. They are more risk tolerant in trying to deal particularly with what I just talked about terrorist activity on the internet by comparison, we’re rather risk averse. Now, I don’t want to make light of this. There are reasons to be careful in how any U.S. actor, particularly at the federal level, does things on the internet. There are things we should not do. You know, we shouldn’t lie. The United States government should never be guilty of lying. We should always focus on the truth. We should be mindful of the fact that the United States has a unique standing and reputation in the world, and we should, we shouldn’t engage in things that tarnish our reputation and standing in the world.

So I’m not, I don’t think we should be risk cavalier, but I do believe the United States has tended to be risk averse when it comes to activities on the internet. Whereas many of our foreign partners or international partners, I should say are more willing to take some risks, to deal with extremist activity on the internet that we have not been. I’ll tell you a quick story as a way of highlighting this. I’m not going to name a location or the people involved, but there was a very unforgettable moment. I had several years ago when I was dealing with ISIS as a, as a combat commander and I was visiting one of my operations centers. And I discovered that there was a small group of my junior officers clustered around a laptop. And I wasn’t part of the conversation. I could overhear what they were saying.

And they were having a debate among themselves. There was some ISIS activity on the internet that we wanted to try to deal with, but we were having a debate, or at least my officers were having a debate on, well, do we really have the authority to do this? You know, do we have to go, you know, what level of permission is required for us to try to contest this activity? And I noticed that just within hearing range, what not part of the conversation was one of the international officers that was in my headquarters and he was listening to what they were talking about. And I noticed he walked away and then about five minutes, 10 minutes later, he came back. And, but this time he stepped right into the middle of the conversation among the Americans. And he said in very good English, he said, gentlemen, I’ve been listening to what you’ve been debating.

And I just want you to know I went ahead and I did it. And all the Americans looked at him and he said, you did what? And he said, I did what you are arguing about because it seems to me like the right thing to do. And of course they were a little mortified. They said, well, wait a second. Our conversation was whether or not we had the authority to do it. And my foreign officer kind of grinned at them. And he said, you are Americans. You may not have the authority to do it. I am not an American. I can do whatever I want to. So I just thought it was the right thing to do. And I did it now. You know, again, I’m not suggesting the United States should be cavalier. I don’t want anyone listening to this podcast to think that I’m, that’s what I’m suggesting, but I think it, that small story illuminates a difference that I think it is past time for the United States to examine. 

A’ndre: Sort of turning our attention to the future of special operations. You had sort of mentioned earlier about the pre 9/11 and post 9/11 sort of landscape of special operations. And I also see special operations forces have been constantly deployed globally over the last 20 years. First for listeners though, who are not as familiar, could you please briefly discuss what special operations is? And then could you go on into the idea, like is special operations, is the community, are they able to handle the stresses and pressures from this while still building the enterprise for the future, from a recruiting retention and technology perspective?

General: Okay, that’s a wonderful question. I’m going to start with the, to respond to the what’s special operations is I’m going to, I’m going to stick primarily to what I suspect anyone can find, but, you know, if you do a an internet search inside the department of defense for the formal descriptions, I’ll give you my summary of it. Special Operations today is all of it exists under a four star command called us special operations command, which is headquartered in MacDill Air Force base down in Florida. It is divided into, into both service aligned as well as joint aligned structures. The service aligned structures are Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, Special Operations Commands. These are entities that are charged with training and developing, recruiting training, and developing future special operations personnel that could either be Navy Seals or Green Berets or Army Rangers or Special Operations helicopters, or fixed wing aviation pilots.

The list is endless of the types of special operators we create. And then there are joint war fighting structures such as I was once the commander of special operations command central, which was the special operations command under central command. And in that capacity, I was responsible for all U.S. special operations, regardless of service across the CENTCOM AOR, which stretches from Egypt to South Asia. And similarly there’s one for European command, one for Pacific command, Indo-Pacific command, etc. So that’s, that’s the formal answer to what a special operation is, the less formal. And this is a personally held view depending on which special operator you thought that you might get a different answer, but my view is in the aggregate, what Special Operations forces do is that they are called upon to solve incredibly complex and often very dangerous problems that for a variety of different reasons, no one else is able to do, for example, a very long range, precision raid in denied territory with no nearby support available to kill someone like a Osama bin Laden, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the respective leaders of Al Qaeda or ISIS. In my view, no other force in the United States government was capable of those operations, only special operations formations could do it. What was the second part of your question?

A’ndre: Well, so the second part of my question is basically is the special operations community able to handle the stresses and pressures from, this whole change between pre 9/11 and post 9/11. So are they able to handle all these stresses pressures in regards to terrorism while still building the enterprise for the future, from a recruiting retention and technology perspective?

General: Yes, it’s a wonderful question. And one a very frequent discussion, both inside the special operations community, as well as in the broader department of defense. And there are reasons to be worried about the the, the ability of people with whom, which I wish to serve to continue to effectively cope with the seemingly never ending demand and pressures that come their way, everything from long term, repeated deployments, all the way to just, just the stresses of, of these very difficult things that they’re called upon to do often for very extended periods of time. So here’s my answer. I’ll give you the short version and I’ll amplify a little bit. The short answer is yes, probably, but it depends on what the future requires of us now. What do I mean by that? The answer I begin with is yes, because so far we have -not that there haven’t been strains and occasional cracks, but in the aggregate, the special operations community I hail from has been able to deal with rising demand for the last 20 years.

But they’re there, like I said, there have been cracks. There have been strains that we have had to go to the Congress on several occasions and ask for additional resources so that we could build structures, capabilities, and hire people to, to improve the resilience of our personnel. And I’m not just talking about, the gunslingers and the warfighters. I’m talking about the support personnel as well, who deploy just as frequently and sometimes even more frequently than we do, because they’re often in low density occupations that are in very high demand. And the good news is the Congress has generally been willing to give us those resources and thank goodness they have, because I think my answer that I started with would have been very different, had they not. So I give the Congress a great deal of credit, and I’ve obviously the leadership of several secretaries and several chairmen who were willing to support all those requests.

But demand continues to rise, which is why I make my answer. Conditional, if you template out, I think if anyone templates out the deployment tempo and then add on top of that, the amount of physical and psychological demand that has been placed on special operators since the events of 9/11, it is a continuously rising line, maybe even a curve. And that’s still true today despite the reduction in forces in Afghanistan, despite whatever we may decide to do about special operations, probably since in Syria, they certainly are smaller today, but, but demands have risen elsewhere. One place that is in terms of violent extremism is definitely headed in the wrong direction. And it has been for several years in North Africa. And there are other places aside where, you know, this more internationalization, particularly on the internet that I described earlier that ISIS and AICCU have been pioneers for that’s had real consequences.

And so the demand for special operations capabilities against terrorism continue to rise no matter how unwelcomed that may be. But yeah, this is anticipating a little bit where this conversation on this podcast may go, but the relevance of special operations forces for what some people are styling, great power competition. I personally view this as, as conflicts of influence or competition over influence that, that, that contest that is expanding in virtually every part of the globe is increasingly demanding the skills and the abilities of special operations forces. That is not a universally held view. There are some people who think that soft ought to, just sick to deal with, stick, to dealing with terrorism. And the rest of the department of defense will deal with everything else or rather the rest of the U S government will deal with everything else.

But if once these, this is a contest over influence where we’re trying, particularly when we’re trying to help our allies and partners around the world, strive for influence and access with these great power competitors that we have, that’s going to require assistance at in very discreet ways, often with very small footprints and very complex environments. And in my humble opinion, that’s tailor made for soft. So the demand is going to keep going up. I think the answer to your original question can remain yes, so long as both my colleagues in the special operations environment, and I’m confident they will do what I’m about to describe, but more importantly leaders in the Pentagon leaders at the policy level, in the U S government and the Congress recognized that that rising demand has a price tag, and it’s going to require even more investment in resilience and staying power than we’ve already made

Ryan: General. Thank you very much for that. And I think you’re, you’re talking about demands is really important and hits on really just a crucial issue. So let’s kind of talk about decision making within, you know, the U S government, particularly the national security council because we’re kind of moving in a, eh, we’ve over time have moved towards a, a type of, of organization where the NSC national security council, it kind of leads with what decisions are made in these. This is kind of how these demands are created. And so I, without being political, how do you view this decision making process in the United States and over time, has this been a transition that has been beneficial?

General: That’s a great question. My short answer is in the aggregate while some things have improved because of the ability of people in Washington, D.C. to understand things all the way down to the tactical level. And that’s what the advent of the digital age has created. You know, if someone in Washington D C wants to watch a predator strike or a special operations rate, they absolutely can do it. And frequently do there have been benefits for that because they have a much greater appreciation for the complexity and the difficulty of what, not just special operators, but other military formations, law enforcement professionals, state, department officials, et cetera, getting to see things more closely has a virtue, but in the aggregate, I would argue it’s been a net detractor as opposed to a net advantage. And I lay that at the feet of inadequate discipline among too many of our policymakers in being able to distinguish the difference between what you can do, because you have these digital abilities versus what you should do.

All too often, I’ve seen people in Washington D C and this is not unique to the national security council. I’ve seen this in a Pentagon. I’ve seen this in the State Department. I’ve seen this in the intelligence community, senior leaders across the board are vulnerable to the temptation because you can see the way something is being done. They then cannot resist the temptation to try to influence how something is being done. And, and, and if that means, you know, what people like John and I used to characterize as the 7,000 miles screwdriver from Washington, D.C. trying to turn a tactical screw, you know, in a seal platoon or a special forces team, or a, or what a ambassador is doing, or what a consular official is doing, or what an FBI league ad is doing. That’s far more likely to do harm than to do good. And so this is actually a very large topic. I’m really only sticking to one dimension of this, but, but if I could change one thing in Washington D.C., and when it comes to the relationship between people at the policy level, including people that attend national security council staff meetings all the way down to the tactical level, it would be somehow creating more consistent self-discipline that basically increases the likelihood that just because a policy can understand what is happening at the operational or tactical level, they don’t try to put their hands on it.

A’ndre: Thank you general. So we’ve covered a lot of, you know, your expertise and, you know, your experience sort of like working with these issues, but now we sort of want to pivot into some questions as well about, about you, as we referenced, you’ve had a long and incredibly distinguished career in the military, what motivated you to pursue this path? And when exactly did you know you were going to pursue it?

General: Oh, wonderful question. My reasons for joining the military, I suspect like most people were varied. There wasn’t any one particular thing, but I think there was one that dominated my, my interest or my desire to volunteer for the military. I should know that I didn’t join as an officer, as you probably have seen in some of my biographical materials. I enlisted, I joined the United States army as a private. I’m one of the ones whose source of commission was not, you know, a Military Academy or ROTC. I went to what is called the Officer Candidate School, which was created in world war two when there was a shortage of officers for an army going into combat. And so OCS exists to give enlisted personnel and opportunity to become an officer. But I’m straying from my point here.

What motivated me more than anything else was something that I think is pretty common in all young men everywhere, no matter where I’ve been in the world, I wanted to see what I could do. I wanted to apply myself against something that I’d never done before. That probably would be very difficult, maybe even a little dangerous. And I wanted to test myself, maybe said most succinctly, that’s pretty common. I think among all people everywhere, particularly young men. And so that, I think that was the primary impetus. But over the years, my motivation changed. I mean, I was certainly being challenged with difficult and dangerous things particularly after I joined special forces, but my motivation changed. My gradually over time, over the years, my motivation for staying became twofold. One was frankly I fell in love with the people that I was, that I had the privilege to work with the the officers, the NCO coasts the civilians that I was privileged to work with in my various assignments, not just in special operations forces, but in the intelligence community, in in several embassy postings you know, getting to work with people like job at, at the national counterterrorism center.

I fell in love with the people and, and correspondingly as I fell in love with the people. I developed an emotional, psychological attachment to goals and objectives we were chasing. I mean, just one example, you know, what is this? It was just, it’s just so unforgettable for me. When I used to hear people like General Patraeus or General McChrystal, both to my, I had the privilege to work for talk about how important it was that we protect the population that yes, we had to fight the enemy and when necessary, you know, destroy the enemy, but to the real object was not killing the enemy. The object was protecting innocent people. I mean, you know, talk about something that tugs at my heartstrings. And so I guess two different forms of love, one love for the people and one love for the mission and the object general.

Ryan: That’s a great transition into our last question about your, your toughest decisions you had to make in your military career and how you had to resolve those. We’d love to hear a little bit more about your experiences and your insights into how you went about dealing with them. 

General: Oh boy, that’s a pretty broad canvas. I think though that as I look back the most challenging, the most difficult, and frankly, in some cases the most perilous, not necessarily physically, but, but emotionally and to a degree kind of politically was trying to either either deciding something or proposing something that I knew would be would it be potentially disadvantageous to people that I worked for, whether it’s my commander or my civilian boss, depending on which assignment I had, or that I knew would be perceived as antagonistic to existing either existing policy or existing policy preference.

Those were the most difficult because as I would be formulating either my decision or my proposal for a decision, you know, I, I, I have very vivid memories of sitting in my command center or sitting in, you know, an airplane somewhere thinking about you know, usually I’d be typing it up in an email or a memorandum. And before I signed it before I hit send, I remember so vividly, so many times sitting there thinking this may be where this may be when my career dissipation light starts blinking. And you know, I like to believe, you know, you’d probably have to get a second opinion to know how consistent I actually was on these things. I like to believe that in most cases I told myself that it’s, if I get in trouble for either deciding this or proposing this, it’ll be worth it.

And I, you know, my in hindsight, I like to think that most of the time I hit send and most of the time I sent the memo I’m sure there were, I’m sure there were times I flinched from doing it, but I tried to err on the side of take the risk of doing it. But it’s a tricky business and, you know, you know, how, what, what was my success rate 50%, if I’m lucky, probably less than 50% of the time, I ended up being able to actually do what I wanted to do, but, you know, I, I take some, some comfort in hindsight of thinking, well, at least I tried well. 

A’ndre: General, thank you very much for that last answer. I mean, many of us young people, we see these issues of national security and uniform policy, and we think they’re very interesting, they’re fascinating topics, but many of us have also not sort of had that experience of being underground.

And it is important to remember, you know, that these are very, very heavy issues. These are issues of protecting the Homeland, protecting people and defending people against, you know, antagonistic actors. And certainly your last answer really draws on the idea and the fact that you and many others, like you have a lot of courage in taking these actions to, you know, to protect our country and to protect so many other countries. So no, once again, thank you. Thank you very much for, you know, taking the time to participate in this podcast. And thank you once again for your distinguished service to our country. 

General: Well, it’s my pleasure. And I can take the Liberty since you focused on young people. I’ll just put a plug in here for you and people like you, you know, young people, or at least younger than me who aspire for a successful and rewarding career in national security. You know, it’s a contact sport go into this recognizing it’s a contact sport and you know, hopefully you’ll not look, never be physically harmed, but you will. If you, if you are going to be successful, you will have setbacks. You will develop scar tissue and you should wear them as badges of honor. They’re not things to flinch from, but thank you again. 

Ryan: To hear other fascinating conversations, subscribe to the podcast and follow us on social media, at The Burn Bag Pod, you for listening. This is The Burn Bag Podcast. 

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