Interview with Michael W. Woody, US Army
Name: Michael W. Woody
Military Branch & Rank: US Army, Sergeant First Class
Dates of Service: 1989 – 2010
Villanova Degree: M.B.A., 2014
Date of Interview: July 9, 2019
Interviewer: Michael D. Brown
Audio Producer: Laura Bang
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli
Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko
MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown and we’re here today at Villanova University, recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.
MICHAEL BROWN: Good afternoon, today is July 9th of 2019. We are here today for another segment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans in Falvey Library’s Rare Book Room. I am joined by army veteran Michael woody today, who is a Villanova MBA alum, and we are happy to have him here today and thank you for joining us, Mike.
MICHAEL WOODY: Thank you for having me.
MICHAEL BROWN: So, as we get started let’s talk a little bit about where you were born and when you were born.
WOODY: I was born way back in 1969, at Woman’s Hospital Philadelphia. My mom and my dad: they actually met in CCP, the Community College Philadelphia. And they started a relationship and soon I became a little baby boy living in Mount Airy. My father was a cop, going to school, and my mom was a housewife.
BROWN: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
WOODY: I have one brother, one sister. My brother was also born in Philly and my sister, she was born in Nuremberg, Germany.
BROWN: Interesting. And what was your childhood like?
WOODY: I think it was beautiful. I learned a lot of different things being a young kid in Philadelphia. We lived in Mount Airy; I actually had to go back and forth off of Wissahickon Ave from North Philly through Germantown, all the way to Mount Airy because that’s where our grandparents lived.
WOODY: So, I had grandparents there. Right now, everything’s turned into Temple University, down there where she used to live. And then Germantown is where my dad’s parents lived. So we saw this change in architecture, change in space, going from pretty much right off of Broad Street then go up Wissahickon to Germantown, you have a lot more trees but it’s still a tight space. The further you get out into one really nice part of Mount Airy, you have these huge single-family homes and then starts to turn into cobblestone stone roads, and then we had to go through the park. I can’t remember, maybe Cresheim Creek Valley Park; I can’t remember but, that’s where we lived. At that time there were new row homes on Williams Ave.
BROWN: What schools did you go to?
WOODY: I can’t even remember that school; that’s a long time ago. But my father was in the army. He was a Philadelphia cop and then when he joined the army, we moved to our first place to Nuremberg, Germany.
WOODY: I went to a little school called Herzo Base in Germany. Then we moved to Fort Lewis, Washington. I went to a little school, Tillicum Elementary School. Then we went to Georgia, Faith Middle School. Then Schweinfurt American High School. This is probably the wrong question to ask me because I went to like ten different schools.
BROWN: That’s good, that’s good. It’s all part of your story though.
WOODY: I went to school in Germany then middle school in Schweinfurt, Germany then we went over to high school in Würzburg, Germany. And then I came back to Georgia; we moved back to Fort Benning, Georgia and I graduated from Spencer High School. Then I was accepted to the local school; it was Columbus College back then now it’s Columbus State University.
BROWN: In Georgia?
WOODY: Yeah, in Columbus, Georgia.
BROWN: So what was it like being an army brat and moving all the time every two, three years?
WOODY: I now know that I never had to be educated in diversity. I, as a little kid, even my own family and in my own neighborhood, everybody thought I was something that I really wasn’t. So, my father looks Caucasian, and my mother is obviously Black, and so everybody thought that I was Dominican or West Indian. When I would tell people I’m Black, people would say “no.” So, I already had this identity thing that was going on really early that help me identify with [Insertion: <people>] like our neighbors in Washington State who were Samoan. So, I didn’t really see skin color; I saw “Why are you cooking the pig and start turning them?” And man, that was freaking me out there, you know for Billy, I mean so they’re actually having a bunch of people with their dress scarf and they’re cooking in the back. And one of my best friends named Abraham; he was from Ethiopia and he’s telling me how he lived in mud houses. And then in high school, some of my best friends used to call us salt pepper. Obviously, I was pepper, and my friends were salt. So, I’ve been around these diverse situations with people from different backgrounds: north, south, different countries. If you know anything about the military, there’s a lot of soldiers that married people from other countries. And so, I was going to school with their kids.
BROWN: No, it’s interesting. I think it really sets the stage for, again, for who you are. Like you said, looking back diversity was just the norm for you; it wasn’t foreign.
BROWN: At what point did you start thinking about joining the military yourself?
WOODY: When I failed out of college. Actually, I couldn’t afford college. When I first graduated from Spencer High School, I went into Columbus State University and it was familiar because a lot of people I knew were there. As I was saying, where we live now, half of my son’s school, I think they all go to Westchester University. So it was a lot of people I knew in high school and so it’s a little familiar.
BROWN: It was an extension of high school almost?
WOODY: It was extension and so everything was a party, you know? Everything was play and not too serious, but there were some social issues that were presented, and I got wrapped up in that my first semester. You know, fall, football, and I used to run cross country. I had these activities going on and I just didn’t study so I was immediately on academic probation. I came back and I tried. I didn’t have the greatest motivators as parents; I kind of continued that. Actually, I took one class that kind of devastated me: English. I thought I could write well; I always thought I could write well. And I remember I spent a lot of time with that class and I got a D, no matter what effort I put in. I got excluded and so I got a full-time job. I got a full-time job actually working in the bank and I worked my way back into going to another school, Troy State University. I think it’s just Troy University now. But I got fired; it was very racial, couldn’t been a lawsuit. So, I had these dynamics and that’s when I started looking at the military. What happened was I would get into these job situations. Telemarketing, man, I did door-to-door vacuum sales. And I was like, “this is bull crap, man.” I was like 19 years old, and I just didn’t want that for me. And I resented the military, to be honest with you. I’d been around it all my life. There were lots of times I couldn’t get sleep because we lived close to the tank range or there was all shooting going on all the time. So, I actually just went to the recruiter to see what they had for me. I was a musician in high school, so he tried to assign me to a music contract and that was smart, but I was just foolish. And I’m at Fort Benning, home of the infantry.
WOODY: I’m just like, “Hey I want to join the infantry.” And he’s just like, “No, no, no you want to play tuba.” You know what I mean? And I said, “No, I don’t want to play the tuba anymore; I want to shoot guns.” And in my mind, what I thought the infantry was – my dad didn’t go to combat – so I thought the infantry was like when you’re a kid and you’re playing guns and robbers. That’s what I was hearing when they got together at the house talking about the next surprise.
BROWN: Yeah, sure.
WOODY: Yeah so, I wound up joining the army from there. My parents weren’t too thrilled. I got a way to get out of Georgia, you know? And I wound up in Fort Ord, California. The funny thing is that, while it is basic training, my dad was a basic training commander, and he worked across the street from when I was going to training. And his fraternity brother was my commander who actually knew me before I went there.
BROWN: Small world […]
WOODY: Small world. You remember going through and you’re getting your shots or whatever? So, guy’s giving me a shot and he looked at me and said, “Well I guess you’re not gonna be on the basketball court Saturday.” I said, “No, I won’t.” Yeah, it was a little too familiar.
BROWN: What were your initial thoughts of basic training? Was it easy, was it challenging?
WOODY: It was challenging and easy. I think maybe it’s the military brat in me, but I never look for easy things. So, the challenge is part of my life and I loved joining the military; and I hated that everybody was yelling at us. And then there were people who didn’t cooperate in your platoon. That was the weeding out process, that people who just couldn’t follow instructions, you know? And that’s a challenge in itself. That’s what I realized: I could follow instructions really well and then I could remember details, and that I could be the best at some of the events. I mean, like we need to have the whole platoon there at certain times then I could actually be the best.
BROWN: And you learn a little bit about yourself.
WOODY: I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I love working in groups; I love that I need team players. I also learned to resent people that refuse to comply; people who refuse to understand that this whole boat needs to move, and they need to pick up an order. And you probably remember those people too.
BROWN: Indeed, we all had them in our platoon. So, what’s after basic training, where are you heading to next? And what year was this? Let’s go back even further, what year did you go into basic training?
WOODY: Alright, 1989. July 1989. So, I graduated high school ‘87 and 1989 I jumped into basic training. On 10 July 1989 went to basic training and graduated 12 weeks later. Twelve weeks later and had orders for Ford Ord, California it was just awesome.
BROWN: A lot different from Fort Benning.
WOODY: Yes. Mind you, I was raised in Fort Benning as well. You know what I mean? So, there’s a little loss. But one little minor detail is that I, getting on my way to California, was getting ready to marry my high school sweetheart. I had a high school sweetheart in 12th grade, graduated, went to Fort Ord, California.
BROWN: Is this for your AIT? Standard?
WOODY: Oh, you’re not infantry. So, infantry is all wrapped up in one.
BROWN: I know that; I want the listeners to know that.
WOODY: Oh, oh OK. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to, yeah. So, in the 12 weeks in Fort Benning is a little different. Everyone else gets this kind of combat introduction training so they know how to survive as a soldier in the military, and then they go off to whatever they’re gonna be: a mechanic or whatever, you know? The first I don’t know how many weeks, eight weeks or whatever is probably all uniform. You know, regardless of job and then that last weeks are whatever your specialty is. So, actually all of us were in shock because we are, as always, hard about this AIT thing. You know, I mean we couldn’t wait to go to AIT so we could get away from these drill starts in this hot weather. Because I told you, it started in July in Georgia.
WOODY: You know what I mean? So, our AIT, we did the exact same stuff. We’re in the woods.
WOODY: And they said, I think, that we get an extra-long weekend. No, we had a longer break than usual. It was maybe a five-hour break, six-hour break. And then we were all asking, “When’s AIT? What are we going to do?” We thought we were going to get more respect, you know? Nope, it just started and it’s all the same.
BROWN: Same drill sergeants.
WOODY: Oh man, awful yeah. So, AIT and then we graduated. What was unique about my graduation is that everybody in these two companies that started basic training; they were all going to the same place. So, it’s cohort.
BROWN: Oh, that’s nice.
WOODY: So, there were like 200 soldiers that just graduated. We were all going to the exact same battalion, which was crazy. I mean, it was crazy. So, on our way there, these guys knew exactly who was coming. They had an opportunity to scan their roster and just pick who was going to be in each winning company. Out of 200, they pick 12 guys to go into a scout platoon. So, these are guys that, you know GT score had to be over 110. They had to be extremely high PT score, your physical fitness. So, they picked 10 to go into the scout platoon, which is like your more elite platoon.
WOODY: They do reconnaissance.
BROWN: Right, and that’s where you were going too? Talk to me about the differences between Fort Ord and Fort Benning, Georgia.
WOODY: Oh my gosh, Fort Ord is in your mind. It is a dream come true. Well, where it’s located is a dream come true; it’s on the California coast. Central California, right outside of Monterey. People will probably recognize it if they think about the Pebble Beach golf course. It has the Santa Cruz mountains and it’s about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. It’s beautiful. Oh, and when I was there – this is how fancy it is – when I was there, Clint Eastwood was a mayor of a little town outside called Carmel. So, it was ridiculous. So yeah, you have all these broke soldiers who are kids sent out there to this super rich place on the coast. Oh, and they have a Formula One track. It’s called Laguna Seca and you can hardly sleep on Saturdays because you had these loud Formula One cars; it’s very exotic.
BROWN: But it sounded like something that there’s things to do. You weren’t bored.
WOODY: No, I’m not bored. Like I said, I was just trying to take my girlfriend there. So, we went there, and I thought I could live off base. It was like a smack in the face almost immediately. I’m a young soldier; I got my girlfriend living in a little town marina. And I’m thinking I’m gonna not live in the barracks because I have my girlfriend there and I’m like, “No that’s not the rules. You have to live in the barracks.” And that’s how I got married because if I was married, I didn’t have to live in the barracks. I found so Justice of the Peace […] I think I developed right after basic training that somehow, I was gonna have a silent last word. You know, and it would be like an action, and you know when thrill sergeants are telling you and they won’t even let you respond. And so I just developed this silent last word: “No, I’m not gonna respond but I’m gonna do something to defy you.”
BROWN: Definitely, and so talk to me about learning to be in your news job in the scout platoon.
WOODY: So, I think we were talking about diversity and stuff earlier. So, I realized real fast that in basic training, which is diverse. But not everybody was exposed to what I was exposed to. So, there were some separations. The people who were all from Montana were over here; people who are all six foot two and play basketball over here. You know, there’s this ambiguous separation.
WOODY: Yeah, and then there were the obvious ones with race, religion, and nationality. For some people, their background. So, when I got to the scout platoon which is really elite. Rangers, they’re all Rangers and the rest of battalion is not like that. So, they had these guys who were sent to Ranger School and if you made it, they sent you to be a leader in the scout platoon. Well, luckily for us they were there just specifically to torture us when we showed up. And it’s funny, you talk about the AIT, so we got to see everybody else in Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie company that came from basic training and stayed with us and they were living the life. But they would look at us and it’s like, “Man, it’s like you guys are in worse than basic training,” you know? We were just always outside, flutter kicks with our uniform on a Friday evening. Everybody’s getting off and we’re there on a lawn, and they’re throwing water on us. I mean, we got better treatment in basic training in our platoon. And actually, I wound up finding out that my squad leader was a racist. And here’s the thing, I couldn’t really complain because he had just won the N SEAL of the Year Award for […] California. Yeah, talk about learning how to defy in silence, trust me I’m the expert. But it was amazing. I mean, we went there and I kind of loved it. I actually didn’t even realize why some of my cohort were complaining as much as they were. I mean, I thought some stuff was over the top.
WOODY: I mean very unjust, and the treatment would never happen today. However, I had this mentality, maybe because my dad was in the army too, that you know that you’re not going to get the best of me. Like, “Alright come on OK flutter kick, come on give me,” and I just wanted to outdo my buddies and make sure you can’t smoke me. That didn’t really work for me because this guy would always try to find something else. And like I said, I just got married so he was making sure that I stayed at work.
WOODY: And he got a young woman out there in California who never gets to see her husband. And we are back there in the 1980s; that’s Cold War stuff. So, what do we do? They’re always going out to the field. I remember those days, we used to go to the field for like a month. I don’t think we would do that anymore. However, 90 days probably after we landed in Fort Ord, we wound up responding to Manuel Noriega in Panama. There were six Navy Seals. The Navy SEAL team went in. I guess they tried to keep a small operation and eventually turned into operation Just Cause. So, they sent our battalion in after those guys got killed. Interesting, you know? It was funny because, remember the Solider of the Year squad leader I had? Man, he turned into a coward of the year immediately. Remember, we were specially selected to get in this crew and we’re supposed to do reconnaissance every time; we’re the first ones in and it was scary. Hey, look, I had no frame of reference. I had never, you know? All of us, the military was new, so our newness went right to combat. These other guys that had been in three, four years had never seen anything like this before. So, for us this is our new norm you know? We’re still adjusting so getting shot at was like OK this is just part of our training. You know what I mean? So, our boss, I remember, we’re first squad scout platoon and it was scary. We flew into, I forgot what Air Force Base. Howard Air Force Base and we’re lining up on this baseball field, the whole battalion. We’re kind of like just getting our little area and it still didn’t sink in. It’s just super-hot and it’s very tropical. And maybe around 8-9 o’clock, you start hearing some stuff go down and you can actually see it’s like “boom,” “boom.” And all of a sudden, it occurs to everybody this is real. I mean, we didn’t go into battles like how they have a World War II. No, it was nice, sunny, hot and we were complaining “I want some water,” you know? Then it got darker and we started to get sleepy and all sudden you start seeing lights going. And we’re probably about maybe two to ten miles out of town, and we are seeing it is going down. Man, it was like a movie, and I remember, “OK this is real,” and we stopped joking. Well, I take that back. I was a private so all we did was make smart ass comments.
WOODY: And I remember watching that. You’re just at the end of the fence, like you know, it says we’re in the baseball field. And we heard from our platoon Sergeant that the scout platoon is going in first thing in the morning. And we’re just like, “Oh my gosh,” right? So, this is one of those things that the enemy only fought at night. So going in the morning, we didn’t know that at that time. But we went in the morning. Our platoon went first to kind of clear the route for the battalion. So we went and nothing happened and we wanted to station our position on top of these buildings. We kind of made the headquarters out of this soda company, which is interesting. So the whole day was keep on the lookout for the battalion moving in from the headquarters. You know, Alpha Bravo Charlie.
WOODY: So, we get in the soda company and we’re staying there. This is the first night. So, it’s the second night in Panama, alright? It gets dark, no explosions going off, we’re fine and we get in there, so they got to stop. About 9 or 10 o’clock, and our boss realizes where we’re positioned. Everyone’s got a point on the soda company; it’s fenced in. So, we’re rotating from that post and at our post there’s a huge lamp light that’s just basically right on us like, “Here we are. Please shoot me right here.” So, our squad leader looks at us and says “Hey, get a couple of rocks and blow that light out.” And as a matter of fact, all these lights went let’s blow them out, right? So, we’re throwing rocks and our assistant team leader let’s say, Sgt. Kissner. I’m not saying that squad leader’s name. I’m going to protect his name because he’s a jerk. I mean, and it’s got more to the story there. So, Sgt. Kissner was my assistant team leader and he said, “Hey Woody, let’s get this.” So, we’re throwing rocks up there; he’s about three feet away from me, and remember we have all our combat gear on. Whatever, he throws one rock, and he does it right where there’s a grenade. And right between us, there’s a grenade just “pop, pop, pop, pop.” We’re on concrete and we just looked at each other like, “It’s been a nice life,” you know? Like we’re gonna go. And it didn’t explode. I’m serious, still to this day I have no idea what happened there. And it’s funny because he’s my boss so I couldn’t even talk crap about him, but like you really messed up; you almost killed me, right? So, we knocked the lights out; he pulled the grenade in and we’re kind of getting the sleep plan together. We’re talking, and the only thing to drink there is soda. I don’t know if you have been really kind of anxious and have anxiety when you drink soda. You have to really use the bathroom a lot, right? Just setting you up for what happens next. We kind of got attached, right? We’re gonna sleep and it’s [makes gun noises] AK47. So, there’s almost a whole platoon of guys attacking us, and I just woke up and my instinct, along with my partner, is just to look around. And we just start peeing in the spot where we’re laying right there. We didn’t even worry about it. Man, that soda sure was strong. I mean, wow, those AK47s kind of suck too. But we just stand our ground and just kind of make sure not nobody’s hurt and then we get, “OK first squad, we need you to go outside the soda company and find out what’s going on out there.” Right? Crap, I’m not gonna curse but I’m like “W-T-F,” you know what I mean? Like, I’m a private still. So, for Sgt. T that meant not the whole squad because the whole squad meant he would have to leave. So, he says, “Sgt. Kissner, you and Woody, go outside there and go around.” This is day two, alright? So, we go out and we don’t see anything. But we’re just like Tom and Jerry, just creeping; we’re trying to walk in the shadows, kind of walk around. Also, we hear, “Halt! Who goes there?” We go, “It’s us,” and we walked on the machine gun position. It’s just a little bit after midnight so Sgt. Kissner throws – you know how you had the number combination? – he throws a number combination at them, and the guy throws it back. No, the guy throws a number and he’s supposed to respond with a number. And the number was wrong, and that guy says, “Wrong!” We hear [gun trigger] and we’re like “Woah!” And he’s like “This is Sgt. Kissner, put your weapons down!” We’re all putting our weapons down and he puts his flashlight on us. And it’s like, “Oh my God,” and this is only day two! So, they let us in and it’s this big soda factory we’re walking in. Then this E-7 out of nowhere starting yelling. He actually almost gave me a heart attack. He starts yelling, “[…]” So that’s heart attack number three, right? He’s like, “we got Claymore mines our there?” “Yeah, we’re ready to blow.” Still day two, alright? So we go back and my buddies – because I’m the only private that went – they’re like “What happened out there?” Dude, it’s stupid here; it’s stupid. So, that was a consistent theme. We move on to day three. Two days later, Sgt. Kissner, because first squad mission but it turned out me and Sgt. Kissner are first squad. So, me and Sgt. Kissner had to go check out these tunnels, alright? So, we’re checking the tunnels in daylight and we’re like, “Man, these are crazy.” These guys made a network of stuff, but we couldn’t go investigate so we left and we’re reporting back. And as we’re crossing the hill, we’re all of a sudden coming under fire. This is the first time we’re getting attacked by the Panamanians during the day. Like, what the hell? So, we’re going back and we’re trying to shoot back. They’re shooting us and the company’s like, “Hey! We see people over here! We’re shooting them down!” We’re like, “Hey, we’re getting shot at!” It was the same battalion; they were shooting at us. So, heart attack number four, right? So, we continue basically, pretty much everything wrapped down from there. Noriega gave himself up, but there were some stupid moments where our squad leader got a power trip. I remember we had moments like this, and things were calm and he would just at us, all the privates like, “Crawl on the concrete!” Like, “Why Sergeant?” and he’s like, “Because I’m the Sergeant.”
WOODY: And we’re like, well we just found out you’re a Sergeant of cowardness is what we found out, you know? He just lost all our respect, including Sgt. Kissner’s. So anyway, we got out of Panama. We wound up a couple months later going to NTC in the Mojave Desert. And we’re in the training exercise and we’re doing reconnaissance and he and the other guy, PZ, […] and we can’t, just like with your GPS signal sometimes, you can’t get a connection. So, we couldn’t you know raise a long […]. And he comes back, and he accuses us of going to sleep. Like, no that didn’t happen and he’s like “You’re an F-ing liar.” And then he proceeds to call me the name of a very famous rap group of the time, N-W-A. He just used those words and then he pushed me over my right side. And I’m about 5’11” and he was about 5’5” and he just started, I guess hitting me and wailing on me. It didn’t really hurt. So I just started, “Ow, Sgt. T, you’re hurting me.” Just so they knew. And he hit me in the ribs. Then I got up and I actually went to town on him. And then he called the radio, “My private attacked me.” No, he attacked me. And I guess he thought he was going to brain wash the other privates. One, that was his favorite, was like “I don’t know what happened, Sgt.” This is all going on the radio. So, when you’re in scout platoon you’re on the same net, but you’re in these long different locations. What I found out later was that everybody was on the radio like it was a TV show, listening to what happened. And by the time our buddy O’Keefe got on he said, “Sgt. Tucker lost his mind, blah blah blah.” He was telling the truth. And I couldn’t believe it; somebody’s telling the truth about what happened. And they didn’t really want to talk to me; I was getting accused of attacking this. So anyway, the end result was I ended up being removed from this scout platoon and he stayed. But it was great because what I did down there to survive that scout platoon was, I guess I’m setting up for the theme, was what I said before: my performing to survival to stay in the position happened to meet the best performance in that platoon. So, I felt, in my mind, if I performed better than anyone when I was running, shooting – I couldn’t shoot at the time – in any of the task that he couldn’t mess with me.
WOODY: Anyway, I was stupid. I just tried harder to think that he could stop messing with me, and by accident I would have these extremely high numbers, but he wouldn’t stop messing with me. So now I go down to Alpha company; they make me assistant machine gunner which is like the lowest job in the entire infantry platoon. And remember, I’m a combat veteran at this time and I’m a former scout. So, they put me at the bottom, and luckily for me they had this marksmanship competition like two weeks, three weeks later. I won from the entire division as assistant gunner, M60 machine gun competition. I got a big ole trophy for it and that’s when they sent me to pre-Ranger school. So, I go to pre-Ranger school; I graduate. This is right there in Ford Ord. That qualifies you to go to Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia.
BROWN: So, you’re going back home.
WOODY: Going back home. However, in this little time, Sgt. T – I did not know – was working at the Ranger school. So, I go to the Ranger school, and I see some dude looking at me, shaking his head, giving me a thumbs down. Alright, I’m like, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me, really? I just beat you up, man; you tried to send me to jail. You know? And he’s over there. And, I have this extraordinary look so I’m going through the Fort Benning base. My assistant team leader, Sgt. Kissner, the one who almost blew us up with a grenade, was my first instructor. He was my first evaluator, and he’s just kind of like, “Hey, you’re good.” He gave me some pointers and confirmed what I thought already: that everybody there hates Sgt. T. I wind up graduating from Ranger School, but on the day of graduation, guess what I see? Sgt. T – because he couldn’t influence me not to make it – and never acknowledged whatever. So, it was a good day for me. My father, I told you was an army Ranger, so he came pinned my Ranger tap on. So, I went on to actually wind up working at Ranger School. Six star TP, Florida phase ranger school. As soon as I got there, starting major’s like, “You can run kind of fast so we’re going to put you on the best Ranger team.” So, competed the best Ranger team, not really good results. I was like the youngest, lowest ranking guy and there’s a team yet with some dude we met at the competition from the Canadian Rangers. Right? So, it’s this big muscle-bound ranger, you know? He’s huge, but he can’t row march for anything. He’s like all those muscles. I mean, he had the highest number of pullups in the entire competition, but as soon as you gave him a weapon, his medic. So as soon as we got to the competition, we were eliminated. Couldn’t shoot for two people. And so I went to go to the next year, you know the major said, “You’re gonna do it again.” Like, do it again? And the first evaluation is pushups. It’s Sgt. T, I got to tell my cousin. You’re laughing, but I wasn’t laughing. I mean, I can laugh at it now but like, my life was a nightmare. When I tell you I thought that my life was a fantasy world, announcing I grew up with this racist former squad leader. We have combat experience together. Well, I know he doesn’t want to remember it because I remember how much of a coward he was, right? So now he’s like trying to get in my way, right? And so, I told my coach. I said, “I can’t go on that line.” He moves the line, and this guy, he’s whispering to whoever’s line I’m in, “This is going to be great.” So, I counted out 120 pushups; the guy counted 75. And I’m looking at my […] like, never mind, you know? This is what life is, right? So, I go on again, unsuccessful run at Best Ranger. I got that guy who’s my boy, Daniel Robinson Neal, he was first Ranger battalion guy. But, again, this shooting range. And actually, at that point, I had practice because this is my last year. Remember the moving target range? I had practice waiting for targets to line up so I could get two in time so I could cover to make sure it didn’t happen again. I didn’t shoot it now, but my partner shot like ten targets out of 40. He shot ten; I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, so that was while I was stationed in Florida. That was great because I kind of felt like I still had this monkey on my back from my old leader. I came down on orders and ended up in Fort Drum.
BROWN: And what year was this?
WOODY: Fort Drum, 1996. I’m getting ready to have a third kid. So, interesting things. You know that lady, the women, my college sweetheart who ended up being a high school nightmare. I wound up divorcing her because of all these other situations.
BROWN: Yeah, yeah.
WOODY: It didn’t work out then we had a kid together. Then when I was in Florida, I met a nice young lady and we got together and then we had a kid. So, I had two kids at that time. And then we’re moving up to Fort Drum and when I’m moving up to Fort Drum, my first son – I had two girls – and now my first son is on his way.
BROWN: OK. So, what unit were you with at Fort Drum?
WOODY: I was in […] you know what I mean? Second brigade, but I started off working at pre-Ranger. They knew I just came from Ranger School; they were trying to make more rangers in the division. Stuff that I did not know. So when I signed up, my son was on base and I was in processing, you know? They had me stay in this room like everybody does. It was like, TDY barracks. And I come back from lunch in processing and there’s a note on my door that says, “You must see the division Sergeant major.” That’s not good news, man. Listen, you will see this division sergeant major at 1:30.
BROWN: And what rank are you at this point?
WOODY: That’s at E-6.
WOODY: Yeah, so, I’m like, man I don’t know what I did and I haven’t left the Ranger unit. There’s probably tons of things you could have on me, so I’m thinking I have a fresh new start; I can’t get out. So, I went see Sergeant Major Harman, Teddy Harman. He says, “I want you to be a pre-Ranger. I heard you did Best Ranger a couple times and you’ve been constructive down there. I want you to go where we have a course called ‘ML triple C,’ which is a combat course that we want all our infantry guys to go to. And we have another course with just all new leaders to go to.” OK, cool, I go there. It was great. When I was there, I was a doer at that point. I didn’t get up to talk in front of people at all. I’m just like, “hey you want me to knock down that wall?”
WOODY: Yeah, task oriented. Now they want me to be in front of people, teaching. That’s the difference with Ranger School; it was just you’re already out there in the field, executing. You’re basically critiquing what they’re doing. So now I have to give classes. So, they had this little ITC instructor training course we go through, which was run locally by the people who teach there. And it was totally unethical, this stuff that they were making us do before we got into the course like to control the classroom. Since it’s probably going to be veterans listening to this, you know. So, it’s a bunch of Rangers; they’re out there, misfits in Fort Drum, NY. And then they have us out away from the main base and we have these shacks that we teach out of. So, I’m teaching and these guys, I mean, they tortured me. I mean, literally, they made me study teaching an ambush class. And I’m teaching the class and they’re like: “I can’t hear you!” “Whatever!” They’re eating, all the stuff that would never happen; they’re having a food fight. One dude pulls his shorts down, I mean he’s butt naked, and he jumps out like “What are you going to do about that!” I’m like, are you kidding me? They’re like “You’re not controlling this classroom!” Like, you’re not controlling yourself! So, that’s how I learned how to teach; these guys did that. And what happened was, after that, they made it so traumatic that I went through the instructor cycle six times straight. When I went for the sixth time, the second brigade major came up to me and said, “Look, you don’t need to be out here; you need to have a platoon. I’ll give you a platoon.” Who says that? “I’ll give you a platoon,” right? Ok, give me a platoon. So, I went in which is great. As soon as they went down there, for me, all the diversity stuff that I had a kid – some of the hard stuff I had with Sgt. T – it all came together, you know? So, I was like real evil like, “Get this thing done, or I’ll kill ya.” But then I’d turn around like, “If you need any help,” you know, “just come to me and I’ll help you out.” First thing in the morning, I was always the fastest guy; I was always the fastest guy in whatever unit. It was a great way to start every day like you can’t catch the platoon sergeant. Like, “Who wants to run with me?” “No, not me.” So, every day I didn’t run with them, they’re like “Phew, he’s giving us a break.” I was like very high intensity; I wouldn’t say I was working off insecurity, you know? I never wanted to be found out to not be good. So, it turned into I got into the Audie Murphy Club. My sergeant major was like, “Hey, I’m going to select you to be in Audie Murphy Club because you got these high numbers over here and all your soldiers are top. Your platoon’s got the top number of marksmanships, physical fitness.” And remember EIV?
WOODY: You know, I had the highest number of EIVs. So, what’d I get rewarded with? That nightmare in my mind. They think they’re gonna reward me, they’re like, “We’re sending you to scout platoon.” I’m like, “yay.” Alright, so go […] scout platoon. We made two deployments and it’s interesting. It’s good. From there, I had my third son and I went to Fort Bragg. Actually, I was having some problems with my sergeant major. I don’t know why. I think what happened, by the time I escaped this other leader, and then had these performance level things going on, I could recognize somebody who wasn’t gonna help me out, or is kind of a bad person. And I have a reaction to them.
WOODY: And with the rank I had at the time, E-6, I didn’t really have to do your tap dance anymore, you know what I mean? And then you got my face on a wall, you know? The brigade’s sergeant major was like, “I’m gonna give you the platoon.” I was his boy. So, there’s a part that – and he’s Ranger too, you know? Sgt. Major Lopez. And so, we had a new sergeant major, came in, and the first day he just comes up to me and says: “I don’t care if you’re Sgt. Audie Murphy or what! If you correct your dental records, I’m going to kick you out!” Like, they were talking about dental records? Like dental practice? And I’m like, “Wow. What a greeting.” You know? So, I volunteer—a couple of us volunteer to go to Saudi Arabia to send a company. Go to Saudi Arabia, came back, they kind of lied to us. So we volunteered like they said. If we volunteered here, you’ll be able to you know, have assignment of choice when you come back because they needed to send people. So I volunteered with guys in my platoon. Actually, because I was E-6, they wanted to fill the platoon properly so I went down to squad leader. But I have 15 guys from my platoon came over to Alpha company too, and to the same platoon. So, it’s almost like the platoon I went to; it was basically my platoon all over again because those guys are distributed to any company, and they followed me. That was great. So, we went but we’re on the way back; we found out there’s four companies that didn’t go. We went and they’re like, “Oh, when we get back, we’re going to go to Bosnia.” Well, we found that out – this is a six month tour – we found out 30 days in that we’re gonna have to go to Bosnia too. Like man, whoa this is regular army stuff, right? I mean, I should be happy like why should I be surprised? This is regular army stuff. So, we thought we know most of the guys that volunteered were your Ranger guys. So, we’re like, “OK, you’re gonna pull down on us?” So, what do we do? We start to try to contact ranger branch: “Hey, get me out, get me out of here.” You know? So, I got these orders to go to the first ranger battalion, you know. However, my new battalion commander, who just came from D.C., working – was it infantry branch? He knows the ranger branch guy officer, and somehow, they deleted my order.
BROWN: So, you’re going to Bosnia?
WOODY: I am going to Bosnia. So as soon as they get back, they’re like: “Oh, we’re going to scout platoon.” As soon as we got back, get scout platoon; I have to train scouts to go to Bosnia. I got to Bosnia; I get into a huge accident. My driver got into a huge accident. I got three teeth missing here, and a big gash in my head. And that sergeant major that hated me – ironic, the dental record guy, now I’m missing my teeth, right? So, thank God I got my dental records in. But I saw him, and I’m out. So, I’m out. And my driver wound up going to […] I never saw him again. I haven’t seen him since, you know? And then I got sent to Tuzla. I went out there.
BROWN: Where were you originally in Bosnia?
WOODY: Camp Demi. So, it was Camp Demi, I got evac to –
WOODY: Tuzla and I was there for two days. I did not know what was going on. I got back, however. So, what happens is that accidents in theatre are reported to the theater commander, and it’s like a blemish on the battalion commander that you got an accident down there. So, for some reason now I’m like under fire by the battalion commander, you know? I said I had […] new brigade commander who was also a Ranger tap guy too. So, I’m like I came back, and they put me on a guard post square. They put me on a guard post. I’m like, “What is it going on?” They’re like, “we’re going to get rid of you. You did all this stuff wrong.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, I was the last vehicle. They accused me of speeding, right? And that we hydroplane. So, you know how smart Army guys can be sometimes. Sergeant major wakes me up in the middle of the night, telling me they’re moving me and then they threaten me and say, “Hey, you know you were in the colonel’s convoy, and you caused the accident. You know you were speeding.” If I was speeding and I’m on the last vehicle in the convoy, what was everybody else doing?”
WOODY: So, yeah and so I kind of had that smart ass, you know? And they’re like, “We’re gonna get rid of you.” So, they sent me to an Alpha company. I go there the first time, so at this point that level of rank E-6. The first sergeants – they’re like, you know, they’re buddy-buddy and I don’t know what’s going on down there. This first Sgt […] He’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on there, Woody. Just do what you want up here.” He said, “You want to prepare a defense, I’m gonna let you. I’ll give you a convoy.” And so, I go see brigade sergeant: “Hey, this is what’s going on.” Anyway, I kind of fought out of that, but I had to get my way out of […]. So, that’s why I volunteered to go to special unit, long range surveillance. So, it’s all like some Special Forces guys, guys trying to go into Delta, guys coming back from delta. So, everybody thinks they’re a superstar, and I’m used to tight-laced, whatever. You know, I mean, like conventional Army. I got, you know, my hair is tight; my boots are shined. These guys are walking around with beards. Like, “what the hell is going on around here?” “Oh, Woody, relax.” It’s almost like The Californian, you walk in –
BROWN: […] army.
WOODY: Yeah, it’s like, they might as well have been smoking weed. Like, “What are you worried about it?” But they can shoot amazingly, and they are, you know, amazingly muscular and like, they could do everything. So, I went to this part of the army like I was not familiar. I totally want to be part of it, but I realized that man, I’ve been brainwashed, man. I mean, I turned. That was a tough time; I think it was the first time I realized I had turned into someone else. You know? And being in the military turns you into someone else. And so, the First Arm Sergeant pulled me into his office and I said, “I want these guys in formation. I expect boots; I want to see haircuts.” And he’s like, “Jesus, Woody. Come here, come here.” First Arm Murphy – we had a commander named Murphy and a First Arm named Murphy. So, we said everything was Murphy’s Law, right. So, he says, “Hey, relax.” I said, “What?” He said, “Dude, everybody’s selected to be here. They got through top-secret clearance and everybody’s special, so let’s just relax.” You know?
WOODY: “Alright.” And it was hard, man. So, then I realized, he was just asking me to be me.
WOODY: You know? It was hard. I didn’t realize how much stuff that I had packed on. I mean, in my head. So, it was really cool. However, they got really too cool, because I felt like they actually had a couple incidents. Like, when those guys mess up, they mess up big. And I went back to the first start after being there two years. Like, “Are you guys going to be in Army Times? Is something gonna go down? I don’t want to be here. I warned you; I’m warning you now.” And so, I volunteered to go on a 82nd airborne, which is across the street. The guys are saying, “No, no, you don’t want to do that.” Yes, I do. We had guys who came out stripping down in Fayetteville, you know, this kind of crazy stuff. We had a squad leader who was a drug dealer, and his team leaders were reporting to him. He was the pimp, and the drug dealer, and the stripper. I mean, it was like crazy like they found out about it, they didn’t move. Like, that’s not surprising to y’all? I’m out, I’m out. I’m getting out of here. It was crazy, then I went to 82nd airborne. However, here’s a funny thing for you. They’re so crazy, everybody’s Ranger, special forces, whatever.
So, the squad leaders came to me on time, at a water platoon; that’s my thing, swimming. And then they come to me, “Hey, sorry we’re trying to get all the platoon sergeants’ approval.” Because, First Arm Murphy, you know, he’s single – I mean, he’s married and doesn’t have any kids. So, he has like three or four cars; he and his wife have three or four cars. But he drives this crappy van; it looked like the Mystery Machine. So, they’re like: “We want your permission that we’re going to steal it on Friday and we’re going to design this weekend.” I’m like, “What?” “No, we’re just gonna steal it and do some stuff to it.” Alright, so they stole the van. So, what they do is they paint it all black, alright, and then they paint this big ole ranger tap on both sides. You know on the Humvees, you have the stenciled name over here?
WOODY: Yeah, so they put on driver side, “Household six,” his name, his wife’s name, and over here they had “Household six” stenciled on the window. He had no idea, because what happened was, he asked for a ride because he said the mechanic was gonna fix his van. So, he has to arrive for one of those. So, first thing PT Monday morning – I totally forgot that I had agreed to this. Totally forgot.
So, all those dudes are walking around, and we see in the middle of the PT, there’s this ridiculous black van. Oh, and on the back doors, it says: “I love myself.” And it has all the badges. You know, he’s a Halo guys, scuba, you know Ranger, and it says, “I love myself.”
Here’s the problem: he has to drive that thing home. So, when he’s driving all over Fort Bragg, which is like the most populated base in the country. Everyone’s just stopping like, “Oh my God.” It was s hilarious. But that’s like – they went to 82nd airborne. That’s when 9/11 kicked off.
WOODY: So, 9/11 kicked off, yeah. We had already, it’s funny, we already were training that desert stuff. I started going through divorce, and it was getting a little crazy. So, I requested – they had me back at pre-Ranger 82nd. So, I did that for a couple months, then I came out orders to go to teach at West Point prep. New Jersey. So, I was actually getting close to home, right? So, West Point Prep – I was so bored I started my own company. I started training executives and stuff I thought I knew. I had Adie Murphy, taught at Ranger School. I said, “You know, if I could get civilians to, you know, do the same thing if this is wroth money.” And I started making money taking the civilians on Friday and charging them to go shoot, themselves, in the paintball field. And I just called it “leadership,” you know? It kind of worked out well; I was able to ask – first time I made enough money in the one day that I didn’t really worry about making another batch, or getting another ripping in the military. Like, this is more validating, holy moly. And then to see everybody’s happy faces. From there, however, that show didn’t last too long because I got orders to go to Fort Hood, TX. Fort Hood, TX was – course 9/11 had gone on and the division was building up fort ID. Me, being infantry guy, I had done all this stuff. A lot of these special operators and knuckleheads – knuckle draggers. They figured they’d put me in electronic warfare. Trust me, I didn’t have a clue either. You know, here I am an E-7, and we went to go see the division star major. He looked at a bunch of E-7s like, “Where do you want to be?” And I’m looking around like, “I want to be on the ground! Blah blah blah blah.” And he’s looking at me like, “You’re going to division.” I’m like, “Wait.” I look around and I’m like, “I got more badges; I’ve been in combat before, what’s going on?” He’s like, “Exactly, this is a mechanized unit. You’re a light infantry dude. You don’t know anything about tanks; you don’t know anything about that.” Like, absolutely. Actually, I should have been on his side, but my hardheadedness was like, “I’ll get the manual, Sgt. Major! I’ll find out!” E-7s are looking at me like, “Dude, he’s giving you an office job, man.”
WOODY: So, but I got this office job it’s ridiculous. When I go over there, I see an instructor that I used to work with in Florida. Big, big heavyset guy and he’s like, “I heard that you’re here. I had to get you here.” I said, “You screwed me, man!” But he was looking out for me, I guess. So now I had to learn about electronic warfare, which is super nerdy, man. Right? I didn’t realize I had those kinds of brains but, you know. I’m learning about wave propagation and networks. I actually went to this course, man you’re getting by like people who are teaching astronauts. I mean, I’m listening to some of this high-speed stuff. I have no idea why I’m in there. I mean, most of the guys were in the class up with me it was Air Force, Navy, and they are pilots. You know what I mean? And they’re like, “What do you do?” Like, “I’m a ground pounder, man. I’m a grunt.” “Why are you here?” “I have no idea.” But it was great because that was the first time I put a project together, which was more of a civilian thing.
WOODY: It was a corporate job; I was working for the division. And from Fort Hood, the time before we left, I had to basically just put together the first electronic warfare program for an army division ever. Now, there was another thing to it. There was another Sgt. T. This guy is a Major and he is nicer, but he just didn’t want to – he just had to put this together, and in his mind, I think was like an opportunity to fail. And so he put everything on me. So, I mean, I had to go back and forth to the Pentagon. I had to do all the TDY missions together. I had to do brigade training. But then when things went right, guess what? I’m there, everybody recognizes me in the fight. So, we made alliances with the British military because they were fighting the IRA in electronic warfare. And this is all to counter the […] So that was good, went combat, came back. Wound up trying to get back to New Jersey. Go to Princeton or something. I was going to manipulate myself into the Princeton ROTC so I could sneak into the class and try to get a degree from Princeton. Nah, I wound up at Temple. So, that’s what happened. That was my last assignment, Temple University. I was teaching there, juniors, and then I started going to school like the second semester and wound up retiring. Because, they’re like, “Hey, we can extend your stay and keep you here.” But that was a ploy because, you know, what they do is like, “Oh, we’re gonna send you back out to Big Army and then we’re gonna give you promotion. Or you can stay here, get great success. You can stay here and teach Temple.” I said, no, I’ll get my degree. It’s somebody else’s turn to put into the military. I wanna see my kids, you know?
WOODY: So, I retired.
BROWN: How many years in?
BROWN: OK. So, did you finish your degree at Temple?
WOODY: Got my degree at Temple.
BROWN: In what?
WOODY: Political Science. I was pissed off, man. The only reason I got political science degree was because of the political climate at the time.
BROWN: And were you prepared with your time in service? Were you ready, with that transition?
WOODY: You ask me, do I think I was ready? I thought I was ready.
WOODY: I thought I was ready; I thought I had – I think I gave you some outstanding leadership challenges that ever came. Personality. Solid guy. I thought I had all that on my resume. However, I thought it was an easy thing. The one thing in the military is that if you don’t have it, you could go get it, you know what I mean? I could fix that. know what I mean? When I was going to companies to interview – like on the way to getting my bachelor’s degree – which had no interest. I said, “Oh,” you know, “this is only because I don’t have my bachelor’s degree.” I taught myself into that. So then same thing: I would make the interview, go to the interview, nothing. So, I said, “Aw, you know what,” again the army way, I went, “I’m gonna go get a certificate, project management. Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, Greenbelt. Yeah, I got this, OK. Ready.” I was paying my way to do volunteer project management stuff; I just felt like I wasn’t ready. So now I’m feeling ready; I’m listening to civilians, going to conferences. It didn’t make a difference. OK, I’ll just go to grad school. Hello Villanova. I went to an open house at Villanova that was run by Professor Monahan. I’m getting chills just thinking about him because I don’t get impressed by people too much. But he had an open house out here, and at that point like, you know 21 years of military, NCO, trying to transition to Philly. I have this kind of no nonsense attitude; you see him standing across from me with the hats to my back, you know? I had my hat toward my back. I went in there with freaking Temple sweats, Temple alum, you know what I mean? I had something Temple on, and I went in there, sitting in the back. Everybody else – this is an executive MBA program – everybody else is in a suit. I look like a freaking janitor who just like took a break in there. I told you, I used to run off insecurity. You know, at this point I’m just confident, you know what I mean? Just confident and I don’t care about impressing people, which is the wrong thing to do if you’re a veteran coming out and transitioning and you can’t have that.
WOODY: So, Professor Monahan. He just – he has no idea how he enlightened me. Now, when he was talking about the executive MBA program, everything he said, everything he pulled up, everything. It’s almost like he tapped into my neuro waves and just like massaged them in such a way. At the end of the talk, literally, I put both hands on the desk, I slapped them down, everybody looked at me. I said, “Where do I sign up?” That’s when I applied to Villanova. I forgot who called me a couple weeks later and told me I got in. It was the EMBA program, Class 13, yeah. But the experience was great because Villanova introduced me to a different culture, alright? I think all the things I just told you about rolling around in the dirt, grenades falling between me, and you know, people painting the boss’s vans. And, all of a sudden, I got into this gentlemanly, corporate environment. I would say, corporate environment. So, it was a challenge for me.
BROWN: Sure. It was foreign; it was different.
WOODY: It is different and so, they put you in a team in the Executive MBA. They put you in a team of five. What happened was, it was so foreign to me that I started checking out. That’s actually when I found out I had PTSD. I knew. All the great things they did to introduce us to the course: they passed the iPad; we had to go around, and when everybody was saying what they did, by the time I got up, I didn’t know what to say. I just stood up and said, “I’m just an asshole” and I sat down. Seriously. It’s funny because I went to a system thinking conference like a couple years ago for John Shied I think he just retired. And my buddy then, who’s still my buddy now, Chris Lindberg, runs it. They were running this conference and he asked me about this story and he said, “Tell them about the time you called yourself an asshole,” in front of all of us. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m probably not supposed to be cursing.
BROWN: No, that’s OK.
WOODY: Anyway, so the lady and the class that was currently going through the EMBA, she stood up and said, “What’s funny is our veteran said the same thing.” He didn’t say, you know, “bleep-bleep.” He said, “blank bag.” Right? It’s weird like there’s some kind of crazy study that— But I think what happened is I felt like all my value disappeared.
WOODY: Everything I did in the military had no relevance in this business world, and I didn’t know how I was going to – and it’s almost like you fooled yourself for 21 years. How? Like, I’m a fraud. You know? Even though I can pick up accounting, and I can pick up on all the statistics stuff. Like I said, when you go to these interviews and they tell you that when you’re jumping out of airplanes, leading people in different environments, and doing all these amazing things – what I thought were amazing – and that it has no value at their location. It just tore me up, and I didn’t know how to behave.
WOODY: But so, the first thing I did, made sure I did, was gain a lot of weight. I made sure I went deep into my depression, and I made sure I was very inactive, and I wound up doing really bad in the accounting class over there. I wind up transferring to the regular MBA program, which was good because it helped me find my bearing. However, that EMBA class was gonna graduate like ahead of time, or whatever, because all the classes are compacted.
WOODY: So my whole mission was to graduate with those guys, and so I took like crazy classes. There’s Anne O’Connor, you can go ask her how many times I said to sign me up for more classes that I’m allowed. And she actually, “No, I can’t do that,” Anne. I’d just go there every day, like “OK.” And so I was able to graduate with my 2014 cohort.
BROWN: Yeah, well good. I think, you know, what I hear from you and the themes I’ve picked up through your stories is that, from growing up, whether you want to call it adversity or whatever you want to call it, being an army bread is not easy. You’re moving around; you’re meeting new people, which can be OK, but it means you have to make new friends. You have to, you know, it’s tough for a kid. And then when you get in the military, your first real snapshot of leadership is a lack of leadership. So, I feel and I hear your story is really perseverance, dealing with adversity, and overcoming that said adversity. Not everyone can come from that background. To go from being a grunt to getting a Villanova MBA. It’s just not that common, but you did it. And you said, you know, you were able to pick up the statistics and, you know, do all these things. Learn from instructors who are teaching astronauts. You know, you’re in classes and I hear what you’re saying when you say, you know, “I’m an asshole,” “I don’t belong,” “my value, where is it?” Your identity almost as strikes you—
WOODY: You just got bleeped too, by the way [laughs].
BROWN: So, I think what I hear you saying is that you probably like being your own boss.
WOODY: Well, yes, that’s a good segue.
BROWN: Because I think hearing that, you don’t have to worry about anymore Sergeant Tuckers, right?
WOODY: Well I think that’s part of it. I mean, I love being part of a team.
BROWN: Sure, but you can now lead that team.
WOODY: Right, and you know what I don’t really get a high from that, to be honest with you. But I do get a high – I feel like I provide balance. So, like, they could take me down, trust me. I feel like they enjoy telling me what I do wrong.
WOODY: But I think they know I can take it, you know what I mean? Even with what I said, I have four kids. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they will actually make fun of me to my face. You know what I mean? They will mock me or whatever, and it’s all good fun, but I feel like it’s the kind of love they have. And you’re right, the reason I got into the, you know, business I got into, which is leadership development, is because of the situations I got in. And even I had to check myself. I think I told you, I got into Audie Murphy Club, and I got these guys, but I’ll also tell you that I was not a nice guy during those periods of time. There was a time, as much as I wanted to hear from my soldiers, I found out that they were scared to talk. And they didn’t want to mess up.
WOODY: And I was like, that’s not what I’m trying to teach. Now, I’m trying to share with other people: you can’t lead organizations like that. You could still get excellence, because even when I check myself, these guys worked even harder, you know? It’s almost like, “We got his respect! And he’s going to give us—” you know, I’d call them mental steroids. I would say I would give you mental steroids. I always have a motivational speech for all. Now, I see. So, I read Harvard Business Review, every business strategy. I try to get, you know, I go to Barnes & Noble and get every leadership look out there. And it’s apparent to me that most people who write these things have not let people, you know? Because they would know people’s – I think the military gives you a full plate of humanity. And whether you decide to experiment with each meal on that plate, or ignore and just concentrate on one thing, it limits you. But when you get that – it was amazing to me how diverse I thought the corporate world was going to be, and how much it wasn’t.
WOODY: So, yeah, you’re right. At that point, when you get so many interviews, and I start getting an interview, and I realized that I felt like I was smarter than the other person on the other side of table. It was like, the last three times that I got an interview I was like, “What’s the point? What are we doing this for? This is ridiculous. You don’t need me.” You know what I mean? It’s funny, Alex – you know Alex. So, he’s my chief strategy officer. We were just talking all morning about what you’ve learned in the military is not the case. “Cultural fit,” we recently got told we are not a “cultural fit” for this company’s leadership training. So, we spent like two hours this morning figuring out how to understand what “cultural fit” means to people. In the military, at some point, you’re not a cultural fit. But the only character guy, we’re gonna make you fit; we’re gonna onboard you in the proper way. So, I think that, like you said, that having that organization beginning to help people understand that you should just value everybody’s, you know, strengths –
BROWN: Sure. And so, as we wrap up, I want to ask a question I usually ask everyone. As, you know, if someone were to approach you today and say, you know, “Mike, I think I’m gonna join the army” or “I’m going to join the Navy,” or whatever. What advice would you give them? Would you say: “Turn around and run,” would you say “Go be an officer,” would you say “Yeah, I know recruiter. I’ll walk you over there?”
WOODY: Funny, my daughter just asked me this two weeks ago. And for her particular situation, I think today it’s different. I think that I don’t know how much the country is ready to back all the soldiers in the future. I mean, based on what we’re going through right now and based on what guys went through and past. I just recently was in Utah this weekend and I’m with the CEO of Mission Continues, Spencer. And he looked at me. He also is an army brat that went to the military. West Point grad and Harvard grad.
WOODY: I’m sitting there, “Man, I was military brat. My dad, you know, same thing.” And he says, “the cottage industry.” That so many people aren’t doing it and so it’s hard for me to advise. I would definitely – this is probably now what people want to hear – I would say find out what you want to do on the outside and try to marry it. I mean, for most people, I would tell them to do infantry, but I don’t know. I don’t want anybody to go through the treatment I went through.
WOODY: You know, solving things with guns or whatever. I’m not sure that’s the best way. I do believe we do need a strong military. I would advise them to go in. I’m not sure what a long-term career would look like, but I would think a lot more people would need to go on an initial contract. So, I would tell him to go to the Army, not Navy. And yeah, be careful. Careful of what you’re going to. There’s a lot of options; not every option, as you know, is on the battlefield. You know, there are a lot of support jobs. If you go back to World War II, there are people who were just inventors and scientists. There are jobs like that in the military that a lot of people can take part in; I think a lot more people should participate.
BROWN: Sure. Well, thanks for coming out today. I appreciate it. I hope you find some value in telling your story; I don’t know how often you get the chance to sit down for a couple hours and do this. I hope you found some value in it. I’m glad you were able to do it here at Villanova, and I thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
WOODY: Thank you, I really appreciate it very much.
BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Departments. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at veteransvoices.library.villanova.edu.
 Unknown person. Best guess: grandmother.
 Lakewood, WA.
 Fort Benning, GA.
 Referring to cooking practices.
 Unknown person. Best guess: brother.
 Best guess: “expelled.”
 In Troy, AL.
 Base closed in 1994 due to Base Realignment and Closure action.
 Inaudible phrase. Best guess: “near me.”
 “Advanced Individual Training.” Similar to a trade school, Advanced Individual Training (AIT) schools teach Soldiers the technical skills needed for their specific Army job. Most Soldiers attend it immediately after Basic Training. Provides in-depth and hands-on job training. Definition from GoArmy.com.
 General Technical section. The score represents the soldiers’ reading, language, and basic math skills. Depending on the branch of the military, it may include mechanical knowledge. The GT score, along with the nine other sections of the test, is called line scores. Definition from operationmilitarykids.org.
 This score qualifies to become officer.
 In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration of an area by military forces to obtain information about enemy forces, the terrain, and civil activities in the area of operations.
 Formula One, abbreviated to F1, is currently the highest class of open-wheeled auto racing defined by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), motorsport’s world governing body.
 Inaudible phrase.
 Panama dictator.
 The United States invasion of Panama, codenamed “Operation Just Cause,” lasted over a month between mid-December 1989 and late January 1990.
 Sergeant First Class (SFC) is the seventh enlisted rank (E-7) in the U.S. Army, ranking above staff sergeant (E-6) and below master sergeant and first sergeant (E-8), and is the first non-commissioned officer rank designated as a senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO).
 Inaudible phrase.
 The Claymore mine is a directional anti-personnel mine developed for the United States Armed Forces.
 Fort Irwin National Training Center (NTC) is a major training area for the United States military in the Mojave Desert in northern San Bernardino County, CA.
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 Inaudible phrase.
 Unknown person.
 Unknown phrase. Best guess: 431 Polar bear.
 TDY: Temporary duty.
 The USARJ Sergeant Audie Murphy Club is comprised of the top two percent of the noncommissioned officers in the U.S. Army. They are selected to the club based on demonstrated leadership, professionalism and overall general military knowledge.
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 City in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
 Inaudible phrase.
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 Inaudible phrase.
 The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement to “respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours.”
 Temporary duty travel
 Irish Republican Army
 Inaudible phrase.
 Unknown person.