by Joe Klein

In Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home, award winning journalist Joe Klein tells the triumphant, dramatic story of two decorated combat veterans, Navy SEAL Eric Greitens and veteran Marine Jake Wood, linked by tragedy who return from the battlefield and use their military skills to lead their fellow citizens in new and inspiring ways.

With his trademark novelistic style, Klein places the reader in the heart of the action—from a makeshift hospital in Haiti, to the heat and chaos on the front lines in the Middle East, to the dramatic experience of men coming home from war zones and wrestling with the banalities of civilian life.

Klein paints a full and fair portrait of the difficult re-entry many veterans face. But Charlie Mike also illuminates the often-neglected narrative of hope. Klein brings the reader along with novelistic finesse and shows us how the military virtues of discipline and selflessness can provide a path to peace, personal satisfaction, and a more vigorous nation.


by Ben Kesling

A timely and searing account of the American war in Afghanistan

In Bravo Company, journalist and combat veteran Ben Kesling tells the story of the war in Afghanistan through the eyes of the men of one unit, part of a combat-hardened parachute infantry regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. A decade ago, the soldiers of Bravo Company deployed to Afghanistan for a tour in Kandahar’s notorious Arghandab Valley. By the time they made it home, three soldiers had been killed in action, a dozen more had lost limbs, and an astonishing half of the company had Purple Hearts.

In the decade since, two of the soldiers have died by suicide, more than a dozen have tried, and others admit they’ve considered it. Declared at “extraordinary risk” by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bravo Company was chosen as test subjects for a new approach to the veteran crisis, focusing less on isolated individuals and more on the group.

Written with an insider’s eye and ear, and drawing on extensive interviews and original reporting, Bravo Company follows the men from their initial enlistment and training, through their deployment and a major shift in their mission, and then on to what has happened in the decade since; as they returned to combat in other units or moved on with their lives as civilians, or struggled to. This is a powerful, insightful, and memorable account of a war that didn’t end for these soldiers just because Bravo Company came home.

Scuttlebutt episode #59

Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt's Memoir

by Kacy Tellessen

Kacy Tellessen is a grunt. After completing high school in rural Washington, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and began the hero’s journey he imagined might parallel those epic tales he’d consumed throughout adolescence. But what Tellessen lived through–from boot camp to the battlefield and home again–had little in common with Homer’s tales or Hollywood’s depictions.

In his memoir, Tellessen offers a truer account of life as a Marine infantryman: the complicated, conflicting, adrenaline-pumping, and traumatic experience of war. Though much of our country’s fighting and dying is done by infantry members, few accounts detail the grunt experience with as much clarity and vulnerability as Freaks of a Feather.
Kacy was born in Spokane and raised in Spangle, Washington, a small farming community that clings to the edge of the Palouse. Kacy joined the Marine Corps infantry directly out of high school and deployed twice to Iraq as an infantry machine gunner with Second Battalion, Third Marines from 2005-2009. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Zero-Dark-Thirty literary journal, as well as the SOFLETE website

Scuttlebutt episodes #63 and #97


by Chris Pavlak

When Chris Pavlak failed the bar exam in 2006 and 2007, the comfortable optimism of becoming an attorney vanished, replaced by feelings of shame, humiliation, and inadequacy. Fixated on the financial ascendancy of being a lawyer for a large law firm, Chris had attended law school for all the wrong reasons. In that hyper-competitive environment he became singularly focused on comparing himself to others, status, and making money. When chaos reared its ugly head in the form of repeated failures, he realized he would have to radically reshape his life. Uncertain about where a new path might lead, Chris embarked on a life of service in the United States Marine Corps.In From Lawyer to Warrior, Chris shows how failure might be considered an opportunity to willfully and courageously confront the chaos of life. The crucible of Marine officer training and the privilege of leading Marines ultimately helped recalibrate the vision of his life. This is an honest and inspirational memoir about reinvention and reclamation—of finding meaning in the uniqueness of personal tragedy by being absorbed in something bigger than yourself, camaraderie, and being responsible for others.

Scuttlebutt episode #69


by Dr. Michael Hunzeker

In Dying to Learn, Michael Hunzeker develops a novel theory to explain how wartime militaries learn. He focuses on the Western Front, which witnessed three great-power armies struggle to cope with deadlock throughout the First World War, as the British, French, and German armies all pursued the same solutions-assault tactics, combined arms, and elastic defense in depth. By the end of the war, only the German army managed to develop and implement a set of revolutionary offensive, defensive, and combined arms doctrines that in hindsight represented the best way to fight.

Hunzeker identifies three organizational variables that determine how fighting militaries generate new ideas, distinguish good ones from bad ones, and implement the best of them across the entire organization. These factors are: the degree to which leadership delegates authority on the battlefield; how effectively the organization retains control over soldier and officer training; and whether or not the military possesses an independent doctrinal assessment mechanism.

Through careful study of the British, French, and German experiences in the First World War, Dying to Learn provides a model that shows how a resolute focus on analysis, command, and training can help prepare modern militaries for adapting amidst high-intensity warfare in an age of revolutionary technological change.

Scuttlebutt regular and guest host on “Strait Talk” segment


by Adam Makos


From America’s “forgotten war” in Korea comes an unforgettable tale of courage by the author of A Higher Call.

Devotion tells the inspirational story of the U.S. Navy’s most famous aviation duo, Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, and the Marines they fought to defend. A white New Englander from the country-club scene, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighters for his country. An African American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi, Jesse became the Navy’s first Black carrier pilot, defending a nation that wouldn’t even serve him in a bar.

While much of America remained divided by segregation, Jesse and Tom joined forces as wingmen in Fighter Squadron 32. Adam Makos takes us into the cockpit as these bold young aviators cut their teeth at the world’s most dangerous job—landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier—a line of work that Jesse’s young wife, Daisy, struggles to accept.

Devotion takes us soaring overhead with Tom and Jesse, and into the foxholes with Red and the Marines as they battle a North Korean invasion. As the fury of the fighting escalates and the Marines are cornered at the Chosin Reservoir, Tom and Jesse fly, guns blazing, to try and save them. When one of the duo is shot down behind enemy lines and pinned in his burning plane, the other faces an unthinkable choice: watch his friend die or attempt history’s most audacious one-man rescue mission.

A tug-at-the-heartstrings tale of bravery and selflessness, Devotion asks: How far would you go to save a friend?

Scuttlebutt episode #74

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