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Unconventional Is An Insult?

Randy Wilson


In this week's film, "Tea and Biscuits with Berkeley", we check in with Mark Hoban and the progress of his various unconventional projects.


On a related note, a recent email suggested I was "unconventional".  I was happily composing a thank-you note in reply when Momma pointed out it was intended as an insult and therefore required a duel, or possibly even a feud.  (As a Southerner, I am familiar with the rules of both, so I chose 8oz gloves--but my challenger has not replied.)


I wasn't insulted, as I'm actually quite comfortable being tagged unconventional.  Conventional thinkers typically have a narrow, limited source of fresh ideas.  (That would make it difficult for me to work.)  I guess I fit in well at TurfNet because there are a lot of unconventional, non-linear thinkers in residence.


TurfNet has a lean, unconventional command structure capable of producing new ideas that larger, more conventional operations are forced to mimic... along with quick implementation that most others, well, can't.  Peter McCormick and the team at TurfNet were moving away from print--both office and mass distribution--when it was still considered an unconventional strategy.


I'm an unrepentant unconventional, mostly because my formative years were spent on a US Army Special Forces base in the Bavarian Alps.  (When everybody's dad in your 8th grade class is a Green Beret, your outlook gets a little skewed.)


I wasn't insulted, as I'm actually quite comfortable being tagged unconventional.  Conventional thinkers typically have a narrow, limited source of fresh ideas.  (That would make it difficult for me to work.) 


Army SF units, although identified in popular film culture as monosyllabic, barely literate killers, are actually populated by highly intelligent, multi-lingual operators trained in a wide range of skills.  Probably the most important skill is solving problems using unconventional, indirect tactics, rather than relying on force alone.


The ability to come up with unique, innovative solutions is highly valued in SF, because small units cannot afford to attract attention and leave evidence behind.


My unconventional mindset rapidly increased when I enlisted in SF.


Well into SF training, a parachute broke some of my things--a metatarsal, an asteroid thrombosis and a coccyx, to be specific--and I was placed on a temporary medical hold.  (Apparently it was poor public image for me to hobble around Fort Bragg with my ass bandaged like a mummy wearing a giant diaper.)


While I waited to complete the remaining courses necessary to become a flash-qualified SF medic, I was temporarily stashed in the JFK Special Warfare Center and ordered to make training films for Special Operations.  They lost track of me in there for years, until they ran short of medics at 5th Group and sent me off to pull 90 days of Emergency Room training duty . . . with no appreciable medical skills.


At the Center, I produced a series of training films called "Area Studies", designed to help operators who might find themselves in Southwest Asia.  To accomplish this, I had to film Ivy League experts from the Institute for Strategic International Studies (SIS) teaching various subjects like "Pashtun Separatism", "Baluchistan" and "Utilizing Pack Animals in Kurdistan".


The submersion into Unconventional Warfare (UW) went deeper as I cranked out film projects for the 4th PSYOPS Group and Counter-Terrorist units.  I worked for Col. Nick Rowe doing SERE School training films. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape)  Col. Rowe wrote "Five Years to Freedom", detailing his escape from the Viet Cong after being held prisoner for five years.  Col. Rowe assigned me to work with Gary O'Neal, a highly decorated expert in martial arts, special ops and UW tactics, who is now in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame.  O'Neal utilized Native American techniques of stalking and tracking in the training methods, certainly unconventional, but incredibly effective.


During this period, I absorbed huge amounts of unconventional thinking--not because I was particularly studious--but because the endless repetition of editing film/tape burns ideas into your head forever.  This might explain my offbeat method for producing golf business films, as I believe the message will not be received well or retained if the approach is too direct.


Unconventional thinking can help minimize risk, lower costs and reduce energy and inputs, especially in a constantly changing environment where a rigid, by-the-book response has already failed.   As we face the current wave of problems to be solved in golf operations, this version of an old saying comes to mind:


"Generals always fight the next war with the tactics from the last war."


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