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Chop that Sh*t Up!: Leadership and Life Lessons Learned While in the Military. Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Pinion, USA Ret. Koehler Books. 182 pages. $24.95

By Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie Spencer, U.S. Army retired

Chop that Sh*t Up!: Leadership and Life Lessons Learned While in the Military, by retired Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Pinion, is at times scary, thought-provoking, heartbreaking and amusing. It is a no-holds-barred look at life in the post-Cold War U.S. Army through the eyes of a warrior.

Pinion’s adventure began in the fall of 1990 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he received his Initial Entry Training. Upon graduation, he received the MOS of cavalry scout and became a member of the New Jersey National Guard. He soon discovered that the military was something he enjoyed. It fit his personality and his strong sense of patriotism.

The next fateful step was to return to the recruiting station and begin the process of moving from the National Guard to active duty. He spent the next 28 years and four months of his life as an active-duty soldier.

Every chapter in the book is a vignette from Pinion’s life as he progresses from young soldier to combat-tested senior leader. He seemingly holds nothing back. His self-esteem comes through loud and clear, as does his ability to admit when he has made a mistake. His missteps are shared with his teammates as lessons learned during leader development sessions.

Pinion served multiple combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. His tours included working with special mission units conducting bold and dangerous missions. He proved to be a remarkable leader who led from the front and ensured that his soldiers were well prepared for every mission. His outstanding leadership did not go unnoticed. He received awards and was promoted and given leadership positions of increasing responsibility.

As the months of deployments became years of combat, he began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The heat, the sleepless nights and the loss of friends and teammates slowly took their toll. Fortunately, Pinion received the help he needed before it was too late. He was able to continue his career. He was able to advance to the highest rank an NCO can attain: command sergeant major.

Tragically, many soldiers and veterans aren’t as fortunate. Two of Pinion’s teammates died by suicide, and this book just may be in response to his therapist once recommending that he “write it down.” Many, too many, are not properly diagnosed or undiagnosed, and are fated to suffer from invisible wounds in silence. They live with depression and recurrent nightmares because of their selfless service to the nation. We collectively and individually need to ensure that help is provided.

Chop that Sh*t Up! is easy to read and hard to put down. It has something for everyone. It is a raw, inside glimpse at the Army in peace and war, as well as an intimate look at the Army’s not-so-secret weapon: the NCO corps. The lessons learned by the author during his time in uniform are important and will stand the test of time.

Did I mention that it is also funny?

Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie Spencer, U.S. Army retired, held assignments with infantry, Special Forces and Ranger units during his 32 years of active military service. He is the former director of the Association of the U.S. Army’s NCO and Soldier Programs and is an AUSA senior fellow.

Command Sergeant Major (R) Daniel L. Pinion is a military veteran of the Cold War, Operation Joint Endeavor (Bosnia-Herzegovina), a short stint in Afghanistan, and multiple tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served in numerous infantry, armor, and cavalry leadership positions, including division reconnaissance, armor and infantry battalions, and cavalry squadrons. CSM (R) Pinion led in combat in every noncommissioned officer rank from sergeant to sergeant major during his twenty-eight-year career. Born in Ohio, raised in Andover, New Jersey, CSM (R) Pinion now calls Virginia home while serving as a deputy G-3/5/7 as a Department of the Army civilian. Welcome to military life!