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Friday, February 22, 2013

Mess Hall Cups - Its just a flippin Coffee Cup

Communication (good & bad) - Meetings: their agenda and conduct - Get it right the first time - Organization and opportunity

Mess Hall Cups tells the story about how crazy situations can get when communication is less that perfect. The simple becomes complex and next to impossible. 

At the time, I was less than a year returned from an overseas assignment with the Army in Alaska and serving as the Procurement Officer in a proto-type Materials Management Center (MMC) supporting the units of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I had been selected to represent my organization as it’s sole member in the materials section of the forward headquarters.

Along with managing, processing and monitoring material requests from the forward location through a electronic transceiver set-up communicating with our rear location hundreds of miles and several states away; I had the additional responsibility of directing the data transceiver section from the Data Processing unit that routinely supported the MMC.

I also had drawn cash money from the Finance Officer at Fort Bragg in the event the requirement for readily available support items were needed that we could procure off the local market—by the time the events recorded here take place, local procurement had been accomplished several time (mostly small vehicular repair parts).

Our forward section leader was a major named Labatt—the officers in the section referred to him as Combat Labatt. He had never seen troop unit duty having served in post level transportation positions such as post motor pool commander, household goods coordinator and the such. He was a nice guy and paid a great deal of attention to what we had to say as the responsible officers within our areas of responsibility. He fell into his moniker of Combat Labatt due to an incident when he had to brief a visiting dignitary in battle dress—he had never before geared-up in military web gear and he looked a sight when he casually strolled into the section tent that afternoon. He was quickly corrected and assigned his new moniker.

The story’s goal was to procure twelve minor pieces of equipment for our mess facility in a remote location in the panhandle of Florida. The task seems simple; one might think. Overall,  I have no idea whatsoever just how many people in total were involved—I was on one end of multiple telephone conversations and during the time thought everything was on the up-and-up.

Following the story there is a discussion of communication; both good and bad. Pointers are covered on holding meetings and advice on getting it right the first time.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Nenana - Two shorts and a long - backstroy

Human Skills - Technical Skills - Interviewing for Technical Skills - Conceptual Skills
- Writing Skills- Interviewing in general - Ability to Lead

Nenana – Two Shorts and a Long details the events when brains are not engaged, an occurrence involving an experienced petroleum handler//truck driver who makes a small mistake and ends up feeling the brunt of it from numerous sides.

On a return trip of four hundred plus miles on a lonely lightly traveled road may cause the brain to quit functioning. But a good four or five mile walk should give one time to contemplate their situation and cause one to readdress their situation  before becoming the butt of the story. Don’t believe tit for a minute. This doesn’t always happen. When the brain shuts down, there is no telling when it will become awake again.

Petroleum distribution is not entirely difficult. One should attempt to stay awake during the tenure of their challenge.

The adventure here involves close support for remote operations more than four hundred miles from home by a singular and well experienced individual. He knew his job and had some six plus years experience doing that job.

We were stationed at Fort Richardson just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The mission required travel up the new Fairbanks Highway to Fort Wainwright and field refueling support of an Infantry Battalion and supported units during a summer exercise (approximately 22+ hours of daylight, hardly ever getting more than dusk-like outside) and almost around-the-clock activity—stressful for the cheechako, but routine for the experienced petroleum handler (POL man).

I had been in touch with my guy at least every other day and had discussed his performance with the commander in the field several times. All had been OK. I had zero concerns that everything was going according to Hoyle—no worries.

The real story takes place during the trip back to Ft Rich; did I mention the four hundred mile trip. A great deal of the road at that time was still gravel and travel while not fast was pretty good for the most part. I knew it would take him some time and he might even be on the road overnight—it did get darker the further south he traveled. He had his gear and had authority to pull over wherever he found appropriate—capability was not a problem.

Once again, I was serving as Staff Duty Officer (SDO) at battalion headquarters when the call came in. Well actually I had been out in the area making my rounds and the Staff Duty NCO had taken the call. He had my recall instructions when I returned. That’s when the adventure began.

We will discuss human and technical skills in addition to how one should go about interviewing for those skills. We will also look into conceptual skills and writing skills and I hit briefly on the ability to lead.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Doors blew open

Calm vs. Excited - Trust

The Doors Blew Open might better be described as an adventure that really wasn’t.

What happens when there’s almost an adventure, a bad situation and the reactions to what might have been?

The level of excitement achieved an extremely high point. Excitement ran rampant all over Fort Richardson, Alaska for half the night and most of the early morning.

The occasion was once again my turn to serve as the Staff Duty Officer (SDO) at battalion headquarters. The SDO stands in for the regular staff officers when they depart for the evening and performs certain security verifications throughout the organization’s areas of responsibility.

The SDO checks the Charge-of-Quarters (CQ) that similarly perform a like function just one level down and he//she makes several rounds of the facilities checking their status and security.

For close to two years, there were only seven of us (lieutenants and warrant officers) on the duty roster that were required to pull this duty. Fare or not, that’s the way it remained for that period of time.

One distinction I should point out: the Staff Duty NCO was not allowed to sleep at any time during our shift and the officer was. The NCOs who manned their roster were many more in number than the officers. The NCO’s turn came up maybe once a month where the officer’s turn rose to the top about every week—sometimes twice with a day off between when weekend duty rolled around (two separate rosters). When one of our cohorts were on leave or engaged elsewhere, it seemed like you were pulling duty all the time.

The NCOs were allowed to take off the next day but the officer wasn’t—everything in the military has a tradeoff.

I will say that I often found the only footprints in the snow to be my own; of course this can be misleading when there has been recent snow coverage. But, nonetheless, I felt that some of my compatriots where not holding their end of the bargan.

The discussion points in this adventure revolve around excitement and what Chicken Little would do given the opportunity. I might add that Chicken Little failed to show his face but this had no effect on the excitement level.

Most situations in life don’t have a profound effect on life overall. The story related here actually left me with not just one quote that I will always remember, but two. I will never forget what SSG Jones said when I reached him that eventual night. Nor will I ever forget what CPT Love relayed over the radio from his remote training location just after I heard what Jones had to tell. Lucky, maybe! Providence, maybe! I don’t know. But let nobody fool you. When you come across a teaching point in life, you damn well remember it. This adventure had two!

Those of you in management positions that have round-the-clock operations know just I felt when awakened in the middle of the night with an alarming situation. Give it a read.

Tommy's Moose

Attitudes – Beliefs – Values - Truthfulness – Fairness – Consistency – Getting’ Better and Efficient

Tommy’s Moose is an adventure that takes the reader on a trek of terror and the steps taken to abate that terror. There’s an unscheduled late night visitor to a lonely guard post—what excitement that visitor creates. Discussion points include: the attitudes – beliefs – values of those you work with, the role of being truthful – fair & consistent with those you work with, and the goal of always striving to make your organization better and more efficient.

This actual event took place one evening about a year into my tour of duty in Alaska on a cold night in December during my turn as the Officer of the Guard at Fort Richardson, Alaska. This was my second winter in the command so I was no longer a cheechako and knew my way around. I was familiar with the ammunition area as this was part of my platoon’s area of responsibility—I’d been there numerous times.

The prime character in the unfortunate event happens to be my platoon clerk, Tommy. I say prime character here because Tommy starts the ball rolling and is intimately engaged the entire time that the action takes place. One might consider the actual prime character the Moose that enables Tommy to take the actions he eventually took—I will acknowledge that the Moose did have a major role in the event; a fact one will discover.

Anybody in a leadership position that has any sort of security arrangement will be familiar with the goings-on when employees are confronted with the unknown of darkness and the unexpected.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gettin’ closer

Just scheduled an update meeting with my editor. I am closing in on the apex of a 4+ year journey on my project. I have pretty much decided to self-publish the book(s) and am really looking forward to the next phase.

I have absolutely no idea at this point just how much work will be involved in fixin’ what my editor has decided that needs to be fixed—for that matter, I don’t even know how she liked the read, if at all.

I have patiently waited on her email saying she is nearing the end for three weeks. That three weeks is not a long time when compared to the years I have spent in the work-up, but it has been a nail biter.

Let me take this opportunity to again thank all those that have helped, assisted, listened to and read my stuff during the last four years or so. I appreciate your every effort and you have been an immense help to the overall project.

I still have a great deal of work to do right here on the blog. I fully intend to publish a backstory here to each chapter I have in the book. The backstories will be a short synopsis of what is included in each story and additionally provide just a little explanation to fill in details that the casual observer might not understand.

Every industry, as I have painstakingly found has their own lingo that is not intuitively obvious to the run of the mill outsider. I hope the backstories provided here will assist in smoothing over the rough points that it just doesn’t make sense to detail in the stories themselves.

Keep watching. It’ll be over soon—I sincerely hope.