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“The Man in the Arena: Charlie Hood”

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Describe to me the moment you decided to join the military.

“I had just graduated college and was studying for the LSAT. The LSAT class was in a shopping center across the street from the University of Texas campus. Also, in that shopping center was a recruiter from every branch of the military. I knew I wanted more than to go to law school. I value honor and courage, and I saw the military as a way to act on those values. Additionally, I saw special operations as a necessary formative experience for me to meet this ideal of the man I wanted to become. Above all, I think I didn’t really know who I was, and I wanted a test of my core character. Anyway, it took less than a week of me walking past the Army recruiter on my way to class for me to drop in. Much to the recruiter’s chagrin, I refused to sign any contract that didn’t include Ranger Selection. Although he said he could not, somehow, he found a way.”

When you hear the term “leader” who is the first person who comes to mind?

“Although I only know him through his memoirs, I regard Colonel David Hackworth as the standard of military leadership. I value Hackworth because he focused on mission success, combat effectiveness, the welfare of his soldiers and enforcing the standard. As a Battalion Commander in Vietnam, Hackworth was not initially popular with his soldiers. This changed when his soldiers saw this discipline yielded success. Hackworth was also unpopular with some of his superiors due to his willingness to confront inequity and ineptitude. There are many in leadership positions that acquiesce to retain their rank and favor with superiors, but not Hackworth. While I disagree with how combative he appeared to be in his confrontations with superiors, I appreciate his cause.”

Tell me about one soldier who positively impacted your service.

“I have had many great leaders that have contributed tremendously to me professionally and personally. However, my first platoon sergeant has had the greatest impact. In an effort to describe him, he is a standards-based professional, driven, humble, fierce and one of the funniest people I know. He showed me the importance of leading by example, that one is not entitled to respect because of the position one holds. He was a phenomenal Ranger, and I have strived to emulate him in my career.”

How has military service changed you?

“The military has changed me for the better. Above all, the military has given me perspective and an intense drive. The perspective I’ve gained is the result of hardship and physical endurance. I believe this has made me humble, grateful and confident. The drive is the result of becoming intensely familiar with the relationship between unyielding effort and success. Before the military, I found value in effortless success due to natural talent. The irony is I’m not really naturally talented at much of anything. This was laziness and insecurity! I now view talent as empty if it is not paired with a superior work ethic. I celebrate the iron will and disciplined commitment that comes from pure determination. I celebrate that man in the arena, even when he comes up short.”

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Tell me about your worst day while wearing a uniform. Tell me about your best day.

“I have had many great days in the military, but the best was when I became a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment. I had accomplished my initial military goal and graduated the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program alongside 20% of the original candidates. However, October 5, 2013, stands alone as the worst day. I was part of a small quick reaction force element, which fast-roped into a dynamic IED situation to provide casualty care and exfiltration. I don’t intend to recount that night here, but as we were loading friends onto helicopters, I heard the words of General Sherman: ‘War is hell.'”

Who are some of your heroes?

“Many of my heroes exist in books, but that does not make them any less admirable. As a Texan raised on Lonesome Dove, Gus and Call were my original heroes. Dienekes, a Spartan Soldier in the book Gates of Fire is another. However, I have many heroes outside of fiction. I hold Major Dick Winters in extremely high regard. Martin Luther King’s fight against brutal injustice and inequality is bravery of the highest order. King once said, ‘A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.’ This is the ultimate definition of courageous dedication.”

What should the average civilian know about the military?

“The average civilian should know that they likely don’t know much about the military. It would appear that the ideas many civilians hold regarding the military are characterized by cynicism, romanticism or both. This is most likely a result of their exposure being limited to history books and war movies. The military is a very distinct subculture, and unless one has not experienced it directly, one most likely does not have a true understanding.”

Describe the funniest memory you have from the military.

“When I was a team leader, I had an especially temperamental squad leader. He was a lion on the battlefield, yet the smallest amount of friction or stress would cause him to lose it, which my fellow team leader and I found hilarious. One night in Afghanistan, we secured a compound after a raid. In the midst of questioning detainees and searching the compound, our squad leader’s mercurial emotions were on full display. To ease our superior’s stress, my fellow team leader and I released a heard of sheep that were within the compound, initiating a harmless stampede. Our squad leader didn’t find it funny, but neither did he know we were the sheep herders.”

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