Schoomaker: Unlucky General and Able Danger


Napoleon was looking to fill a vacant general officer slot. His adjutant reviewed the candidate pool and reported on their knowledge, skills and abilities. Napoleon was not interested in curriculum vitas. He was interested in something immeasurable. He said:

Give me lucky generals.”

Your Business Blogger wrote recently on character and how character is identified in the hiring process. The decision maker needs to know about future performance based on more than past accomplishments.

Let us examine a case study of the 35th Chief of Staff, United States Army: General Peter J. Schoomaker.

Is this a man we would hire?

Following is a review of some of General Schoomaker’s career highlights.


Desert One, Schoomaker

Schoomaker was a Major in Desert One in Iran under President Carter. He commanded a Squadron in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment in the botched rescue attempt of embassy hostages in Iran, 1980.

Special Forces has a rather unforgiving policy for failure: one strike and you’re out. This was not enforced for Schoomaker.


Waco, Schoomaker

Next stop, Waco, Texas. Working with General Wesley Clark as his Assistant Division Commander, Schoomaker met with Janet Reno, allowing the FBI use of Fort Hood. The tracked vehicles and military personnel present at the conflagration were Schoomaker’s. Posse Comitatus? Promoted by Bill Clinton.


Women in Combat, Schoomaker

Schoomaker has implemented an unusual interpretation of President Bush’s directive, and Congressional prohibitions, that women will not be placed in combat. Schoomaker circumvents the Commander in Chief and Congress by placing women in combat support positions in Forward Support Companies. Female truck drivers and Military Police are now in harm’s way.

towers_twin_burning _9_11.jpg

9.11, Able Danger, Schoomaker

And now, the latest chapter. Able Danger, and more burning buildings. Able Danger is the code name for a covert military intelligence operation. It succeeded. The 9/11 hijackers were identified before 9/11. Schoomaker was briefed. He knew. He said nothing. Schoomaker adhered to the the strictest interpretation of Executive directives and may not have informed the FBI of Jihadist threats.

Ed Morrissey, from Captain’s Quarter’s reports:

…the Pentagon has the most to lose if speculation that it deliberately withheld cooperation from the FBI when it could have stopped 9/11 is true, and that it has to answer for the destruction of the materials if the witnesses testify as expected.

Those decisions could involve high-ranking brass, such as Hugh Shelton (ret.) and Pete Schoomaker, and perhaps even Donald Rumsfeld.

Or perhaps they just involve second-tier leadership – which is why the Pentagon decided to reverse itself after seeing the public reaction to the aborted hearing Wednesday.

October 5th should be pretty interesting.

It matters little what Schoomaker’s resume says. It contains much commendable, as his awards and citations prove:

General Schoomaker’s awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two Army Distinguished Service Medals, four Defense Superior Service Medals, three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge and HALO Wings, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.

He could even be a nice guy.

In the end, it is his track record that matters. Would you follow that man out of a burning building?

Schoomaker, Peter J. is not a lucky general.

The Schoomaker career advance would be a case study on continued promotion in spite of these unusual setbacks. His life’s work is an inspiration on success following continued failure and missteps.

General Schoomaker is a vignette on making a hiring decision — evaluating what cannot be seen, and what can be seen all too clearly.

Every manager wants passion. Every manager looks to hire fire in the belly. Not buildings on fire.

Do not ignore red flags. No matter what the rank.

Managers, in the next interview you conduct, ask yourself this question with the candidate before you:

“Is this man lucky?”

# # #

TopDog08 has details of Able Danger.

Discerning Texan has conclusions.

The Strata Sphere has round-up.

Captain Ed has a detailed analysis at Captain’s Quarters at Able Danger Foxtrot.

LawHawk has Able Danger: We deserve better.

TapScott’s Copy Desk has What’s Going On?

QT Monster’s Place has videos.

Hack N Flack wrote on Able Danger — including Human Events On Line.

Baldilocks has a number of postings.

MacsMind says the Matrix applies.

Washington Post has more.

California Conservative has Open Trackbacks.

Stop the ACLU has Open Trackbacks.

Cafe Oregano has open trackbacks.

bRight and Early has open trackbacks.

Jo’s Cafe has open tracks.

Open Post at Mudville Gazette.


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6 Responses

  1. The Drill SGT says:

    I think the whole quote went something like:

    “Give me lucky men for my Generals, I can teach them everything else”.

    On the subject of Napoleon, you might at some later date expound on either of:

    1. Napoleon’s Corporal

    2. Planting tress and planning ahead

    3. Never quitting, though the battle seems lost

  2. The Drill SGT says:


    Though I agree with most of your stuff, I think that claiming the General crossed a huge line with women in Forward Support companies is a stretch. When I was in Germany in 76, our BDE HQ got women. Interesting aside. The COL refused to take one women, and held out till he was give four including a buck SGT. As you must be aware, it’s far easier to deal with 4 than 1.

  3. oregano says:

    He must have done something right to rise to the rank of General, despite his failures. There is more to his story.

    Though past performance may be an indicator of future results, the mark of a man’s character is not to be found in his accomplishments or failures. It is his response in the face of such triumphs and trials that will show you that of which he is made.

    Yeah, I just made that up.

  4. Jack Yoest says:

    Drill SGT

    re: quotes

    I think yours may be better.

    I just used one you mentioned with an unpleasent commenter. I refered to him as Napoleon’s Corporal. (Yes, Yes I know snarky, horrible.)

    But I think it was lost on him.



  5. The Drill SGT says:


    My point was that you could do a whole piece on the Corporal. What his purpose was and why Napoleon thought it was so important to communicate clearly in his line of business.

    Same with the tree’s story. Nappy gave orders that trees should be planted along all the major roads in France. The better to provide shade for his soldiers the Emperor said. An aide was puzzled. But Sir? it will take years for the trees to grow to the size needed. “Yes, of course, ” said Nappy, “that’s why it’s important to get started on it.”

    On the topic of never quitting, I think Marengo is the best example:

  6. swede4id says:

    Obviously, the case study of Gen. Schoomaker is an example of an outsider looking in. For example, the assumption was made that because then Maj. Schoomaker commanded a squadron of Delta during Desert One that he was responsible for the fiasco and should have been held accountable.

    It has long been established that the failure was due to the military’s inability at the time to carry out the operation. The mission called for Marine helicopters to be flown by Navy pilots (or vice versa, either way, the pilots weren’t trained on those helos), the Air Force had to fly in a C-130 tanker to Desert One to refuel the helos, and the operation was conducted at night during a horrible sand storm, a condition that the pilots weren’t adequately trained for. The operation went wrong when one of the helicopters crashed into the refueler, killing many operators and crew members, and aborting the mission.

    Now, anyone can see that if there was blame to be made, it was with the higher ups who planned the operation. President Carter asked them during his briefing if they were going to use non-lethal ammunition to subdue the hostage takers. Major Schoomaker was far from any criticism for the operation. As a side note, the results of the failure at Desert One included a revamping of the entire Special Operations community so that they all fell under one command, the Joint Special Operations Command.

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