Chief Wiggles On ISIS, Al Jazeera America, “Collateral Kindness” & Operation Give
I came across Chief Wiggles after hearing about a book he had written called “Collateral Kindness.” Not a usual read for me, I couldn’t help but respond to the nagging sensation that this book was one that I should pick up. After all, any book written by a guy confident enough to invite others to call him “Chief Wiggles” throughout his life would, obviously, have something interesting to say.
He did and not just in his book. Paul Holton, alias Chief Wiggles, had a great many interesting things to say, stories to share, and insights to explain when I spoke with him last December. He was overseas when we spoke and the early morning phone call (5 a.m.) seemed rather routine for him -- a byproduct of having spent forty-four years in the armed services as a Human Intelligence Collector and more.
Admittedly, Paul’s positivity and unusual path couldn’t have made for a more pleasant or interesting conversation, especially when discussing the topics of ISIS, U.S. involvement overseas, Al Jazeera America, Christianity, Operation Give and his book, “Collateral Kindness.” What amazed me most was the enormous kindness innate to Paul’s personality, also demonstrated throughout his military career, despite what one would think given the nature of his tasks. No doubt, it will strike you the same as it did me when you read his interview below.
Enjoy getting to know Chief Wiggles. His interview is engaging, forceful, and extremely human.
What is your personal mantra?
I have four: To build bridges to help and connect people through giving; to give back more than I take; to create opportunities for other people to share in the giving process, both as a giver and a receiver; and to create opportunities for deployed soldiers to be involved in the giving process, whereby, they may practice diplomacy through giving.
Briefly explain your personal and professional background, including how you got your nickname “Chief Wiggles.”
When I was in third grade, one of my friends - my first name being Paul - called me Pauly Wally Wiggles, and it just stuck. During my second deployment, as an Intel Officer, I couldn’t use my real name on my blog and decided to use my rank, Chief Warrant Officer, and my nickname, Wiggles. I became Chief Wiggles.
I joined the military back in 1970 during the Vietnam War and just retired last year as Chief Warrant Officer 5, after 44 years of service. For the majority of my time in the military I have been what they call a Human Intelligence Collector and worked as an Interrogator during my three deployments to the Middle East. I also, retired 3 years ago from FedEx, as a Worldwide Account manager.
I taught for many years (approximately eight years) as an Adjunct Professor at the University. of Utah and Brigham Young University. I am currently working in South Korea at the Korea Battle Simulation Center in the capacity of the Operations Officer, where I have been for the past two years.
What year did you found "Operation Give?"
Operation Give was founded during my deployment to Iraq in the fall of 2003, when I was working in the Green Zone as a Strategic Debriefer for the Governing Council of Iraq. An anonymous attorney found out about what I was doing and volunteered his services to set up the organization as a legitimate 501c3.
Why did you launch this organization? Explain its mission.
It started by accident -- a result of an experience I had giving a stuffed Monkey to a small crying child, desperately in need of help. It mushroomed as I shared the story of the little girl on my blog. It was furthered by numerous efforts on my part to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people and then to write about my experiences in my blog. At its peak, my blog had about 30,000 daily viewers, which lead to a lot of volunteers who wanted to get involved.
The purpose of Operation Give - first and foremost - is to provide opportunities for military service men and women, veterans, and other willing volunteers to serve their fellow men; providing opportunities, supplies and resources necessary to serve the needs of others.
Share with us details about your newest book “Collateral Kindness.” including what it is about and why you wrote it.
"Collateral Kindness" shares what few in the U.S. media have -- the beneficial side of our military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. This story offers a very humanistic, personal account of this time period in our nation’s history, including the breaking down of culture and language barriers, the gratefulness the U.S. military received from those we were charged with protecting, the heroism of the many U.S. military lives lost in upholding their call to duty, and the numerous continued efforts from former U.S. servicemen and women to help the people in these regions.
"This book helps make sense of all that was spent and all that was sacrificed through the true-life story of Chief Warrant Officer, Army Interrogator Paul Holton."
Having spent forty years serving in the military, are you just as proud today to be an “American” as you were at the beginning of your service? Explain.
The answer is "Yes," in fact, more so now. Over the last 14 years, our country (all that we know and are) has been under attack by various forces throughout the world. Enemies have been emboldened to act out against us. We’ve taken that fight -- a bastion of freedom for ourselves and others also seeking relief from tyranny and oppression.
Our military has been called upon to be the first responders to fight against bondage throughout the world. And we have been doing so with less than ever before through constant cuts in personnel and funding, even though our enemies grow in numbers and strength. We are the best trained, most experienced, best equipped military in the world...hands down.
Many in the United States don’t know what to believe when it comes to ISIS and the extent of this problem. Do you feel the ISIS problem is being accurately portrayed by the US media? Explain.
At a time when many people in the world spend most of their days worrying about a plethora of trivial matters of everyday life, there are some serious atrocities going on in the world that aren’t getting much media attention. A few articles have bubbled up now and again, but they only stay at the forefront of national news for a few short hours before they are lost again in the sea of meaningless triviality.
Having lived in Mosul, Iraq for one year on my last deployment and having spent much of my time working with the Christians, the Yazidis, and the Muslims living in the Ninevah Plains area of Iraq, I have a heightened interest in the tragedy occurring right before our eyes. With thousands brutally murdered and many more forced to flee for their lives, one has to wonder, where the outcry for the almost 2,000,000 people displaced by ISIS is? Where are the news stories? Where is the support from the world Christian community for the displaced Christians who have lost everything?
Do you feel the United States is at fault for the rise of ISIS?
No, but I believe we opened the door for their expansion through the vacuum we created when we decided to pull out all of our troops and not to leave any type of security force in place to keep and maintain the status quo. Also, by not forcing both religious factions to share equally in managing the affairs of governing Iraq.
In your opinion, what should be done to neutralize or eliminate ISIS altogether?
The nations of the world need to join together to fight this cancer with all our might and force. This is going to require that all of the western world join together with boots on the ground to go after ISIS in an aggressive manner, with each of our special forces in a combined and joint effort.
We have emboldened ISIS by our inability to attack the problem head on with an all out effort to eradicate them. So far, in my opinion, our response has been weak and misguided, with no display of our resolve to wipe them out. This problem is not going away and only continues to grow as we continue to show that we are undecided and uncommitted to an all out offensive against them.
Many people are suspicious of Al Jazeera America News Network, saying that they are helping ISIS and radical Islam grow in the United States? What are your thoughts on this.
Based on how I saw Al Jazeera support our enemies during Operation Iraqi Freedom and how they covered the news stories and portrayed US involvement, I have no respect for them as a news organization. I felt that most (if not all of their coverage) was no more than propaganda for the opposition. I definitely feel that they have a strong bias for the other side -- supporting our enemy’s cause, opposing our way of life, supporting such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.
Should we ban all Muslims from entering the United States for a period of time as suggested by Donald Trump?
I don’t necessarily agree with what he said. Donald Trump’s manner engages people more than being right. It is certainly time to act. The complacency of the American people is part of the problem. His remarks are extreme but hopefully it will rally all of us to do something. It will take all of us.
For me, this is a very real conflict. During my last deployment, I lived in Mosul, and acted as “Key Leader Engagement Officer.” All of the leaders I worked with are dead or fled and all of the cities previously inhabited by Christians are in disarray, abandoned, or decimated. I, for one, want to do something...to act and not just talk about it. The need and tone is “ACTION.” Yes, you want to be educated and get your act straight, but you need to act.
Share with us some thoughts on how we can bring peace between the Muslim population in the United States and the rest of the U.S. population? How do we get people to stop running in fear at the mere utterance of the words "Muslim" or "Islam?"
The good Muslims in the United States need to step up and show themselves. They need to demonstrate how they are going to help us temper the fear in our country through the their steadfast allegiance and cooperative efforts. We need to see Good Muslims in action. News networks need to make a point of sharing good Muslims through their media outlets.
We also need to see an aggressive campaign from our government regarding the way we are going to solve this problem. Our success has not been reported...unlike ISIS’s, which is being reported all the time.
We have the might, power, and will to go after our enemies...we have the capability. We just aren’t using it, and when we do use it, we need to report those successes. The tone from the Government is just not strong enough. That weakness causes more insecurity within our country and hurts our relationship with the Muslim culture.
What is the biggest mistake the United States is currently making regarding international relations?
The world wants us to lead but we are afraid to lead. We’ve taken on this new character, personality, image that “No, I don’t want to lead. In fact, we will follow.” In switching gears, we are throwing the world into flux. No one is leading.
What is the biggest success?
The mindset of our military is still our strongest element. Our military is ready and willing to step up and do what we need to do to eliminate ISIS. We need to talk about the success of our military in taking out ISIS leaders. In addition, the heart of the American people remains strong and supportive of our military. There are a lot of heroes out there.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as being ingenious, resourceful and having made a difference...and having done so against all odds.
Paul Holton is a military leader and author who seems to understand the difference between “fiction” and “nonfiction” and he isn’t afraid to say it...or write it. Operation Give is just one more example of Paul’s stellar strength, dedication, and heart. He’s a hero who puts action into words everyday for the benefit of many and it is his “never surrender” attitude that will be the crux of truly “making America great again!”
Add "Collateral Kindness" to 2016’s list of books to read. You will be happy that you did.
Many thanks to Paul Holton and Ironrod Media for making this interview possible