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Meet the soldier who uses ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Game Of Thrones’ to explain modern military conflicts

Matt Cavanaugh was caught in a holding pattern, as it goes for American military personnel leaving a place like South Korea. He had spent most of 2015 and some of 2016 away from his wife and two young daughters, and he had to wait a few more days before finally returning home to Manitou Springs.

“You’re just in a crummy hotel room doing nothing,” he says.

So the time was perfect to delve into a new project that had come to mind over the past year: a book comparing modern war with “Star Wars.”


It was an unlikely idea, especially considering the events that unraveled during his deployment. At a time of artillery exchange, at a time when two South Korean sergeants each had a leg blown off, how could the mind drift to a galaxy far, far away?

But Cavanaugh’s mind has always wondered. That is, after all, part of the lieutenant colonel’s job at North American Aerospace Defense Command, the underground outpost of Cheyenne Mountain.

“At NORAD, we’re often contemplating things that have not come to pass. In a lot of ways, we’re dreaming up fictions and then figuring out how to counter them before they ever become real,” Cavanaugh says. “Which is not all that dissimilar from the script of a film or the words in a fiction novel.”

And Cavanaugh always has found time for side projects, whether historical research, an op-ed or essay. At West Point, he started a think tank, the Modern War Institute, alongside John Spencer.

“He reminds me of one of these McChrystals,” Spencer says, referring to retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and is known for his regimented lifestyle.

“They run like 10 miles a day, read this, write that. … It’s like he doesn’t sleep. He’s just constantly learning about …read more

Read more here:: Task & Purpose

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