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Monday, September 16, 2013

The 2013 First Chapter Contest – Yellow Bird Editors

Dear John Howard,

Hello! And thanks so much for entering the 2013 Yellow Bird Editors First Chapter Contest. I'm writing to tell you that your manuscript, There's a Moose in the Guard Shack and Other Adventures in Leadership, was chosen as one of only three finalists in the memoir category. Congratulations!

We will soon announce your name along with the other finalists and winners on our website. As soon as that goes live on Monday morning please feel free to share this news far and wide.

Congratulations again! I hope I'll get the chance to read more of this fascinating memoir in the near future!

Sara Kocek

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Howard's Law

1- Truth, Faith and Confidence
2- Amateurs teach amateurs to be amateurs.
3- You can’t overwork me, but you can hinder the quality of my product.
4- When Leaders don’t set priorities, Followers do! (also known as Followship)
5- Bad news only gets worse with age.

Definition of Position Terms

I need to define a few terms that we will address over and over throughout the entirety of this publication. Some are obvious and one would usually think there would be no need for defining them; but we all come from different industries, backgrounds and levels of understanding. The best way to get a level understanding so we stay on the same sheet of music is for us all to have the same definition of these terms.
One who is responsible for directing and controlling the work and staff of a department, entity, section, etc; actively controls the resources and expenditures; and has authority and accountability over the planning, organization, directing of activities, development of personnel, mission establishment, objective determination, and analysis of performance data.
One who functions as the controller and guide for the work activities of a group of people; responsible for mission accomplishment and the gathering of performance data. Primarily found on the front line of the organization.
Someone who takes you in a new or desired direction largely through vision and motivation
Hierarchy of Organizational Positions
Vice President
Manager *
Team Leader
* sometimes referred to as Superintendent in certain industries, often residing above Manager
Some notes on management and leadership:
The defined difference between managers and leaders can be simply stated as: Managers have subordinates and Leaders have followers.
Peter Drucker, who many consider to be the father of “modern management’ defined a manager’s job as: “is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results.”
Casey Stengel, long time manager of the “New York Yankees” and the “New York Mets” on the secret of managing once said: "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided."
Dee Hock, founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa, discussing leadership once said: "Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers."

Military Classes of Supply

Class I - Subsistence (food - Rations), plus gratuitous (free) health and comfort items.
Class IIGeneral Supplies: Clothing, individual equipment, tentage, organizational tool sets and kits, hand tools, unclassified maps, administrative and housekeeping supplies and equipment.
Class III - Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) (package and bulk): Petroleum, fuels, lubricants, hydraulic and insulating oils, preservatives, liquids and gases, bulk chemical products, coolants, deicer and antifreeze compounds, components, and additives of petroleum and chemical products, and coal.
Class IV - Construction materials, including installed equipment and all fortification and barrier materials.
Class V - Ammunition of all types, bombs, explosives, mines, fuzes, detonators, pyrotechnics, missiles, rockets, propellants, and associated items.
Class VI - Personal demand items (such as health and hygiene products, soaps and toothpaste, writing material,snack food, beverages, cigarettes, batteries, alcohol, and cameras—nonmilitary sales items).
Class VII - Major end items such as launchers, tanks, mobile machine shops, and vehicles.
Class VIII - Medical material (equipment and consummables) including repair parts peculiar to medical equipment. (Class VIIIa – Medical consummable supplies not including blood & blood products; Class VIIIb – Blood & blood components (whole blood, platelets, plasma, packed red cells, etc).
Class IX - Repair parts and components to include kits, assemblies, and subassemblies (repairable or non-repairable) required for maintenance support of all equipment.
Class X - Material to support nonmilitary programs such as agriculture and economic development (not included in Classes I through IX).
Miscellaneous - Water, salvage, and captured material.
FM 10-27-4 Organizational Supply and Services for Unit Leaders, United States Army and

Time Conversion Chart – Military to Civilian

Military Time Civilian Time
0001 hrs 12:01 AM (1 minute after midnight)
0100 hrs 1:00 AM
0200 hrs 2:00 AM
0300 hrs 3:00 AM
0400 hrs 4:00 AM
0500 hrs 5:00 AM
0600 hrs 6:00 AM
0700 hrs 7:00 AM
0730 hrs 7:30 AM (note the use of minutes in the time)
0800 hrs 8:00 AM
0900 hrs 9:00 AM
1000 hrs 10:00 AM
1100 hrs 11:00 AM
1200 hrs 12:00 PM (noon)
1300 hrs 1:00 PM
1400 hrs 2:00 PM
1500 hrs 3:00 PM
1600 hrs 4:00 PM
1700 hrs 5:00 PM
1730 hrs 5:30 PM (note the use of minutes in the time)
1800 hrs 6:00 PM
1900 hrs 7:00 PM
2000 hrs 8:00 PM
2100 hrs 9:00 PM
2200 hrs 10:00 PM
2300 hrs 11:00 PM
2400 hrs 12:00 AM (midnight)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Finished Edit Results

I have finally finished the edit work provided by my very capable editor, Cecily Sailer. This was a lot more work than I had ever imagined. Comparing the old version to the recommended changes took quite a bit of time—really consumed the hours and concentration of the grey matter.

The “out-come” is a great deal better than the “went-into”.

I changed up the entire manuscript to closer resemble a memoir and I think, even if I do say so myself, it works a lot better this way.

I have removed probably two thirds of the “lecture data” that made the former version closely resemble a text book rather than a memoir. I think this will work a great deal better and this action leaves me with a bunch of cannon fodder for this blog spot. I have a great deal more to say.

I may have used only one tenth of the true life anecdotes I have in the works and I still have a bokoo more that will be scribed before I am through.

Due to the rework, I now have a quandary: Do I send out queries to engage an agent or continue with my desire to self publish? Prior to the edit phase I had pretty much made up my mind that the self publishing route was the appropriate way to proceed. Now, I am having some second thoughts. Maybe, I just want to see what a few agents have to say about the reworked manuscript.

I think I will give a few of them a shot at it and see just what happens.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Edit results

I have had my editor’s comments back for a month and a half now and have only finished work on the introduction and three chapters.

This is harder work than the original writing. Most of that was easy—I pulled it right out of memory.

Now, I find myself word-smithing line by line and this is tedious and hard. I am having a good time as the work allows me to revisit the anecdotes//adventures and spend half the time chuckling and the other half searching for a better or more correct word. My editor, Cecily Sailor, has done fantastic work, but it still remains my work nonetheless.

I’m shooting to be finished by the end of May and be well into the next phase by then also.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ed Zern - An Open Letter

I am attending a writing workshop and our task this past week was to identify 10 influences on our writing style. Thus morning we were asked to assign codes to the 10: identifying those that had influenced the technical aspects (T) of our writing; those that inspire (I) us to sit down and write; and finally, those that effected us through their teaching or impact how we feel about our writing (F). From the influences identified, we were to now choose one and explain how (in a letter) that one specifically influenced us.

Trying to maintain my off-beat style while all the others wrote to their daughters (more than several), one to herself, and many to people who actually had an impact on their writing, I chose to phrase my letter in the form more of a complaint that a thank you.

Having accomplished the above tasks, I chose Ed Zern, the former “Exit Laughing” columnist for Field & Stream magazine. Mr. Zern held down the last page of Field & Stream for 35 years, beginning in 1958. Ed Zern’s mind kept me in giggles for a large chunk of my formative years and my adult life until such time that age and illness forced his retirement—a day that should forever be blackened on all calendars. Mr. Zern was 83 at the time of his passing in 1994. What follows is my attempt to answer the above challenge:

Dear Ed,

Well, how ‘bout it Ed? How’s Heaven” Of course I am assuming you made it to Heaven and participating—at least in the great fly fishin’ I am told that exists there. While there might be some doubt on you meeting the entrance requirements, I am sure anyone that spent as much time over their life fishing, and fishing as well as you did, at least acquired constructive credit enough to overcome any black marks you may have accumulated.

I just wanted you to know that I really miss your “Exit Laughing” commentary and to advise you that since your passing, not a sole at Field & Stream has reported on the by-weekly meetings of the Madison Avenue Rod, Gun, Labrador Retriever and Bloody Mary Benevolent Association. They must have continued their meeting, as a minimum to perpetuate the Bloody Mary custom. As removed as most of us are from the sidewalks of New York, we have no idea how some of our old friends are getting’ on—like Orville Dykenfoos.

I know you must be monitoring the Fly activity on the Beaver Kill but, again, no one else is keeping us advised. Are you tweeting this somewhere?

Of prime importance, there hasn’t been a contest of any nature run by the Association, at least to our knowledge. The accumulation of prize money by this time must be staggering. The opportunity to get at Big Money still escapes me. Given the current economy, Boy! what could I do with $1.98 right now.

That guy Heavey that holds down the back page now is pretty good but can’t, for the life of him, produce the seventeen tee-hees to a magazine page required to fill your waders.

I’m guessing from your vantage point you no longer have any editorial clout over the magazine goings-on. My complaints have been building for a while and maybe I shouldn’t be laying all this at your feet, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

I will say that I’m missing your whimsical endeavors so much that I am seriously considering dropping my subscription and picking up one to Outdoor Life.

Sincerely, Your fishing buddy forever,

John Howard

Friday, March 15, 2013

Copy back from Editor - 15 Mar 13

Beware the Ides of March!

About ten day back, I received the results of “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack” back from my editor. Let me say this right now. I haven’t seen that much RED ink since the 7th grade.

Nevertheless, I have not yet found one remark that I didn’t agree with—making the final product just that much better.

That being said, I haven’t found much time to work on the project since receiving back the copy.

Had to get the taxes started. Then my niece Jena got married and that took most of the weekend. Two of the grand kids rode back from Bryan/College Station with the wife and I; quickly followed by their parents, my daughter, Stephanie and her husband, Michael. Time had to be spent in and around Austin to make the visit memorable—they all have to be memorable!

Now I am back on the taxes—there’s a deadline coming up, you know.

Cecily, my editor, has recommended some changes that I am projecting will take some time to incorporate thereby pushing the finish of the next stage out some months.

All in due time! The work must go on.

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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just because your business card says manager doesn’t mean you are a Leader

Just because your business card says manager doesn’t mean you are a Leader!

Two distinctively different abilities by definition.

Manager – a grouping of abilities that provides one knowledge to react and plan for eventual outcomes

Leader – a talent that defines one’s reactionary capabilities and the providing of guidance for others to overcome.

Which grouping do you fit into? They don’t have to be exclusive of one another but most of the time, this is exactly the case. Leaders can be found at all levels of organizations—not exclusively at the top.

I spent time throughout my career working with and for individuals of both varieties. I also have worked with and for individuals that fit neither definition.

For my money, given the opportunity to choose, hands down I would pick the Leader. The challenges, the eventual rewards and the inevitable failures will provide much, much more in long term satisfaction than settling for a Manager.

Count on it!