Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and may the odds ever be in your favor for those planning to do battle for Black Friday. I wanted to share the top items on my Christmas gift list and my favorite items from 2018. I share these for anyone that is searching for creative gifts for the tactical military leader and/or learning leader in their life, who may prove to be hard to shop for.

My 2017 Christmas Gift List is still very relevant and I encourage you to check it out if you need more ideas. Last year’s gift list was mainly sourced from my experience as a company grade officer in a brigade combat team. This year, the gifts are more based on my experience as institutional schooling faculty (i.e.not currently in the operational Army).

What’s on My Gift List


Tactical Tailor Malice Pack v2. It might be that I’m old school (or maybe just old, now that I’m surrounded by Cadets), but I’ve grown weary of my issued MOLLE rucksack over this last year. I just need an upgrade. This is the rucksack that I’ve had my eye on.  

ACFT Preparation Gear. For those in the U.S. Army, no matter your personal opinions, the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is coming and our old ways of preparing for fitness tests are over. Our new Army commercials advertise: “Warriors Wanted;” our Army’s underlying assumptions about fitness need to change with our emerging operating environment. Grit, mental and physical toughness, and a drive to win matters in our profession. I am aware enough about my personal strengths and weaknesses in my military fitness that I know there are a few things I need to start working on to prepare. Beyond the recommended gear below, I encourage U.S. Army readers to check out this War on the Rocks article by my friend, Will, on his observations from the ACFT test pilot. Also, look into the Mr. 600 ACFT website, from another friend, for a resource to help your ACFT preparations.

Books! (Of course). Here are the books on the top of my to-read list which I am most excited to check out going into 2019.

My Favorite Things From 2018


Here are the gifts, tools, and/or resources that I’ve enjoyed the most throughout 2018.

Garmin Fenix 5 (Plus) GPS Watch. Personally, I need a GPS watch that is durable, has a long battery life (20+ hours), and can support a variety of physical activities. This is my third Garmin GPS watch that I’ve owned and is my absolute favorite.

Tactical Notebook Covers Binder Cover. Most leaders have their binder or briefcase. In my current job where I wear ASU class-Bs most often (with a lack of pockets), I need a binder to hold documents and references, writing material, my legal notepad, etc. So, I went back to my elementary school roots and got a “tactical trapper keeper!” The old is new again! I absolutely love this tactical binder cover.

Logitech Wireless Presenter. While I believe every professional leader in the field should have an extending pointer, I am teaching and lecturing in the classroom much more in my current position. I quickly found I need a presentation clicker. This is an affordable and more-than-sufficient answer.

Right in the Rain Index Card Wallet. I don’t exaggerate in my about me page: I keep 3×5 cards on me at all times. This is how I carry them now. This is either in one of my back pockets of my ASU pants or in the calve pocket of my OCP uniform.

Books. My favorite titles that I read in 2018.

Timeless Gifts


Finally, these are my enduring recommendations for any leader or military professional regardless of time in career, age, level in the organization, or experience.

Harvard Business Review Subscription. HBR is my favorite leader development publication outside of the military realm. This $99 annual subscription helps me expand my leader growth horizon beyond strictly military context and introduces me to creative ways of thinking about leadership and leader development.

Audible Subscription. Audiobooks have been a powerful tool to maximize my learning and growth through books. I like Audible for its user-friendly platform and its extensive library of titles. If you listen to as many audiobooks per month as I do, Audible is a cost-effective option. To learn more about how I leverage audiobooks within my overall personal development reading approach, check out this blog post.

Garmin Fortrex 601. The Garmin Fortrex is a staple item for every Army tactical leader. I continue to find needs for this GPS tool, regardless of job, rank, or situation. I believe the 601 model is the best for value, but those on a budget can pursue the Fortrex 401. Conversely, those who need the best model no matter what can take out a small loan for the Fortrex 701.

And More Books… To conclude in the most appropriate way, here are a few of my favorite books of all time (beyond the three titles listed above for 2018).

The views and recommendations within this post represent my own personal thoughts only and not that of the US Army, the United States Military Academy, or the Department of Defense.

List Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. All monetary gain is in order to operate the blog. Beyond Amazon, I am not an affiliate with any of the other products listed. I do not own the rights to any of the items above. I am only recommending products that I use and/or genuinely believe in.  

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1 Comment

  1. Tactical Notebook Covers makes some outstanding stuff! Well beyond a basic cover at the PX. I’ve been really happy with my green book cover from him.

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