Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I have never been comfortable saying Happy Veterans Day, “Thank you for your service” has always seemed a more appropriate sentiment.  I do recognize and appreciate the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day; one memoralizes our loss, the other acknowledges our service.  This service and the sacrifices that come along with it are why I have never been comfortable giving thanks on this day.

I understand the sentiment and take no offense at receiving it.  This is especially true when it comes from those who have not served.  It is indeed the sentiment and the appreciation that counts, and, I at least, accept it for what it is.

All of us are taught right from the beginning about Duty, Honor, Sacrifice, Service and all those other terms the Drill Sergeants begin to verbally assault us with in Basic.  Indeed, that is what Basic is all about; stripping us down, peeling away the individuality and bad habits, and then building us back up into trained individuals functioning together as a part of a team, which in turn is part of some bigger and greater than itself.

We all have our own reasons for putting ourselves through the suck and volunteering for service.  Some of us are legacies, like LT Dan of Forrest Gump fame, members of our families have given it their all in every war our country has ever fought in. I myself, had both of my grandfathers serve, my father, both uncles on my mom’s side, a bunch of cousins as well.  I did not serve, initially anyway, because of this legacy, I did it for reasons strictly personal and selfish.  I went in with eyes wide open, looking to give my all, but that was more to do with paying my way for the benefits available, rather than a sense of blind patriotism or valor.

As I grew into what would turn in to a career, a lot of that changed.  I learned what it meant to belong, to be a part of something greater than myself.  I was fortunate that I had awesome mentors and leaders right from the beginning who helped put a slacker onto the path that would lead me to working at the very tip of the spear with people who would give the Spartans someone to fear and emulate. I was able to work with professionals, doing work that prior, I had only read about or watched on dramatized T.V.  I was privileged to befriend people, some of whom would pay the ultimate sacrifice, people who understood brotherhood and sacrifice.  Men and women who never think of themselves as brave, but continue to master the basics in order to prevail over the obstacles placed in front of them.

It is because of people like these that I have never been comfortable wishing a veteran a “Happy” day.  I do not judge or cast aspersions on anyone who does though.  It is a great honor to live in a country which recognizes us with our own special day.  For many though it is not a happy day.  Many who have seen the most extreme of horrors which war can produce are thankful to still be here, but suffer the guilt of doing so.  Gunshots are deliberate but the bullets are indiscriminate.  Why did I survive when the person next to me did not? How did I make it out of a blast zone unscathed when those around me were maimed or killed?  Was it all worth it in the end?

I will not speak for all Veterans, just for myself.  Today is our day, and I truly appreciate the recognition.  Along with the pride that comes with that recognition is a healthy measure of solemnity and a little bit of guilt.  I grew up in an era of war in which there are no lines of opposition.  The enemy is ruthless and we no longer fight to conquer and vanquish them.  We lose our friends in actions in which the objective is to preserve life but not to destroy the enemy who is creating those circumstances.  American Service Members do in other nations what those nations cannot or will not do for their own people.  That is our calling, our service. and we bear the burdens of this profession for the remainder of our lives.  I thank you for the recognition of my service, especially this solemn day.  To my Brothers and Sisters, past, present and future, Thank You for your Service and Sacrifice.

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Hiatus is Nearly Over

Posted: July 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

Fear not dear readers, as few of you as there may be, I have not forgotten about you nor has my need to put into digits the stupid things that flow through this enormous melon that rests atop my shoulders.  I have taken a little hiatus in order to dedicate my time adjusting to working as a civilian over the last few months.  This particular topic alone has given me a huge repository of thoughts and feelings I probably should commit to the ether along with all the other drab bits that pop up everyday on our news feeds.

I am just about ready to pop back into a semi-regular bit of publishing this fluff.  After all we have flags to talk about, the newly discovered bi-racial identity syndrome, the ramping up of the next Presidential election that is already underway.  Side note: Republicans, pull your heads out of your asses and trim some of the shit from your party before it devolves any further.  The two-party system sucks monkey nuts as it is, but at least do your best to make it competitive with the other party.  I will also finally start getting some the feelings of anger and disappointment I have stored up since becoming a civilian again; it has not been all bad, even been some really good times, but there have also been some times that make me wonder why I ever volunteered to protect a document most people do not even understand.

I hope to begin to change the look of the site a bit and let it reflect the direction I want to take it.  From time to time I will have some guest writers, some will write under their own names, others anonymously in order to keep them safe in their current employment.  I no longer have the yoke of government employment to weigh me down and temper the terms I use, so anything political is fair game now, some of my potential guest writers will not have the same freedom.  Since I am gainfully employed, if horribly over-qualified and well under-paid for my current position, it is still paying the bills.  Besides, employers these days seem to think they have the right to troll personal information and social media of their employees, so I will be smarter than the dumb-asses out there who have called out their employers by name as they disparage them and subsequently lost their jobs.  I am no less immune from bad decisions than anyone else, but I am self-aware enough to know when everything looks red through my baby-blues to stay away from the keyboard.

So, stick with me as I implement some change over the next few months and knock the rust off of my feeble mind to try and put out some quality, entertaining pieces of opinion.  I may never expand my readership beyond you few loyal readers, but you deserve the best for continuing to check in during my downtime.

Here is to the future………

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Long ago I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and during all my years in uniform I, like the hundreds of thousands of others who served with me, did our best to do so.  Unlike many of the sheep in this country I never really needed anyone to interpret the meaning of it for me.  I always felt that it was written in pretty plain language and it was done so in order to protect the rights of us citizens from the tyranny of government, and that we as citizens would have a foundation for which to fall back on when citizens have felt that they have had enough of intrusion, mismanagement, and people who rule with the sole intent of amassing power and money rather than honoring their solemn oaths to represent the people of this country and their ideals and needs.

I am a firm believer that the Constitution does not need a whole lot of clarification or additional laws added to the books to fill in any perceived gaps that out Founders conveniently left out way back in the day.  We have given up their plain language for interpretations heavily influenced by which side of the aisle you sit on from a political perspective and whether or not said politicians are influenced from lobbyists, who in my mind operate in direct contradiction to what the Founders intended when writing the Constitution.

The issue I take with Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act is less that it is heavily influenced by the evangelical misconception that America is a Christian nation (see the snippet of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution above, i.e., The Bill of RIghts) than it codifies in law the inability of the people to determine how they deal with things such as: what is a marriage; how do you deal with a business owner who denies a transaction based on their own prejudice; or, in general, takes away the ability of the people to determine what they think is either moral or ethical.

I have had this argument before with many people and it is not very popular.  My contention however is that it is not up to me, or the government to determine right and wrong (I do not mean in regards to violence or anything of a true criminal nature).  I find it hard to believe that our two parties who seem to work under their own agendas rather than that of those they are elected to represent, could actually make a coherent argument on moral or ethical grounds.

What I find wrong with RFRA is not that (using the same tired example as everyone else) a baker can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, in all honesty that is the right of the business owner, because, if that is their opinion and how they choose to run their business, then it should be up to the people to determine how long they stay in business.  What RFRA does, in my mind, is it takes the ability of the people to determine how that business is affected and allows by the the ability for that business to run and profit via discriminatory practice, as is their right as a business owner, without the ability of the people to influence that, as is their right under the Constitution.

The purpose of the Constitution is to give everyone an equal shot on the playing field.  It is not however, contrary to popular belief, not there to guarantee that everyone will actually get an equal share of the pie, just that they have the opportunity guarantee to the to try.  The Preamble, to paraphrase a little, goes on about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happyness, it never says that you are guaranteed to get it.

Using the example of the baker again: if said baker refuses service to a same-sex couple, as a business owner they should make that decision understanding that the will of the people will determine their future profitability rather than hide behind protections, codified in law, that are in direct contradiction to the Constitution.  Don’t believe that can be the case?  Take a counting daily of the number of apologies issued by businesses, reporters, public servants, etc. as a result of hurting someones’s feelings.  You cannot go a day without hearing about an apology being issued for someone saying or doing something, most of the time in a hypocritical fashion, because the apology is done without conviction or remorse, but simply as a a matter of doing business, so they can get back to business.  Laws like RFRA give cowards with a little money, influence or power something to hide behind when they allow their true natures to come forward and affect their decisions.  They are better worded, carefully crafted restructurings of Jim Crow laws from the 50’s brought into our supposedly enlightened time in the 21st century.  Despite all the means we have available to us to communicate and educate ourselves, we constantly use them to further ignorance as a country and bury our heads in the sand even further.

I am no Constitutional scholar, nor am I some talking head with a platform available to me to influence the world. ,Maybe we need less of that in our country and more people speaking up directly.  People who, regardless of their belief structure, are concerned with betterment, betterment without affecting the liberties of others.  Our Founding Father’s, even with all the flaws they may have had were not Constitutional scholars either.  They wrote the first one, the only one we have ever had.  They were prescient enough to provide a means to alter the document as well, because even they knew that they could not foretell where this experiment of a country would end up.  I am not into the big Fed, stepping in to State’s rights and attacking the laws they create.  I am in favor of the people of this country exercising their rights guaranteed by the Constitution to say they think something is totally fucked at any level of the government.  Acts like the RFRA take away the ability to do that because it makes the erroneous assumption that when people speak out against a perceived discrimination or institutional prejudice that it is somehow infringing upon the religious freedoms of those perpetrating them, when in fact it is more about people sticking up for the rights of others against people who are hiding their shitty natures behind words from a book originally intended to provide a framework for goodness, but rewritten through the millennium by leaders who used it as a means to instill fear and rule absolutely because of it.

This is not an attack on religion or religious belief.  I honestly could care less about that.  What it is an attack on is the ability to hide behind law because you are a shitty person with shitty prejudice, and do so in the name of your professed morality and righteousness, based upon how you choose to worship.  Laws like RFRA in Indiana are the reason behind the erosion of the moral fiber of this country because they allow prejudice to foster rather than die at the time and choosing of the people.  It is a violation of the Constitution of this country because it takes away the ability of the people to say what they feel.  Debate should be vigorous and passionate and like it or not for either side of it, the outcome should be decided by the majority and the effect, not the politicians looking to maintain distance between the masses, further empowering them and those who lobby them.

SSDJ – Same Sh!t Different Job

Posted: January 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

I was fortunate in my 21 year career in the Army that I was part of an organization that was in a constant state of transition: it was not always easy or made sense, but the Army I came in to was radically different than the one that I left.  The Army I came into was prepared to fight a war that was a few years dead already.  The Cold War was over and we were a heavy, cumbersome creature prepared to fight state sponsored land wars, meaning the Russians, or as they were know at the time, the Soviets.  While we were not ready to transform with technology and capabilities, we were doing it from a human capital perspective.  I came into an Army where Reductions in Force and Qualitative Management Programs were the norm along with slow promotion rates, stagnant pay, limited supplies and opportunities for growth were minimal; similar but not exactly like the Army I recently departed.

As we moved to a more agile and flexible force, opportunities opened up for many.  Use of troops in non-traditional combat roles forced  myriad changes across the training spectrum and as a result it helped to shape the retention, promotion and pay systems.  Basically, we were learning too much and becoming more educated at the hands of the tax-payer and we were now able to take those skills  and use them in the private sector.  No longer was an Infantryman just a killer at the end of the gun, he became a leader, a manager of resources, a trainer, a peace keeper and sundry other skill sets were developed as the technology advanced as well.

As the 20th century closed out we were forced to change how we do business as terrorism became the new buzzword and terrorists became the new enemy.  9/11 closed out a period of reactivity and ushered us into a more proactive approach to terrorism.  Along with that came even further transformation.  We needed to rethink at what levels what types of decisions are made, we needed empower people at lower levels to be the leaders that the Army preached we were and allow them to make decisions based on the ground truth, rather than from afar.  We created networks, human and technological to help us gather and pass information.  The Army as a whole became flatter and this was especially true in the Special Operations community.  I was fortunate enough to work with some true visionaries when it came to Command and Control strategies and tactics and as a result was able to spend the latter half of my career with more influence in the bubble I was responsible for than at any other time.  As a Senior NCO I had more freedom and authority than my mentors did.

Any organization that grows and develops rapidly will eventually need to cut out the deadwood or face it infecting the rest of the organism.  Sometimes you have to cut away a little bit of the live, healthy wood along with the dead to make sure it has a chance to continue on.  While the Army I left is wildly transformed from the one I came in to, it has reached a certain plateau and unfortunately it is time to do some housekeeping.  The growth, promotion and other personnel issues have been allowed to go unchecked and we were beginning to see “forced” reduction through promotion requirement changes, retention of promotion and pay requirement, bringing back Qualitative Management Programs and other shenanigans.  It was a fairly easy, if bittersweet, decision for my wife and I to retire while I had a positive attitude and could walk away with the respect and love for the institution I put so many years into.  Basically, unlike many I have seen go before me, I knew it was my time and needed to punch out.

After just a few months in the private sector, I wonder where some of the leadership visionaries I used to work for actually took their ideas from, surely it cannot be from the business world like they claimed because the flat, bottom up organization I came from are a far cry from the top-down, stove piped examples I am seeing in the private sector.  We had officers who majored in and studied business and were able to dissect those lessons and apply them effectively and efficiently in an organization that was designed to operate at a 100% plus loss annually.  The USG is the ultimate 1% organization, billions in revenue annually and it all has to be spent as programmed or you will not only loss what you saved this year, you will not get your increase for annual operational costs for the next and subsequent years.  Even given that we had mostly effective processes for programming our needs and correcting them as needed.  In the private sector, if the retail industry is any indicator, there is a distinct lack of application of this type of knowledge.

Stove-piped and cumbersome processes are the norm.  Lack of strategic implementation as people protect their own internal empires rather than contribute to the cohesiveness and vision does not allow for sharing across the continuum.  Top driven policy masquerades as collaboration, and, for the first time ever I see the benefit of the Army having Warrant Officers in between the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned ranks.  Private industry suffers because it has only leaders and minions.  I have been trying to read as much as possible and ask as many questions as I can of my new mentors in my new career field as if possible.  So far, with my new eyes, I see the retail industry as really good at rapid growth but wholly unable to sustain it, while the Army has the mechanisms in place to maintain rapid growth but is unable to due to outside policy and regulated manpower requirements.

I am truly enjoying learning and growing in my new career field and I do not mean to make uneducated commentary on the business world.  These are just some observations of someone who spent a long time learning the intricacies of one behemoth organization and now I am doing the same thing in another sector.  So far it has been an interesting and sometimes perplexing ride.

The two best units in the Army are the one you are going to and the one you just left.  For my brothers and sisters out there looking to make the change, either through retirement, desire to leave, or because they say you must a few words of advise.

1. As cumbersome as it may seem and no matter how much you question it, the military chain of command is pretty efficient.  Do not expect the same, so when you are privileged enough to have one a a management team that actually supports you like I do, it is a pleasant surprise, especially, when you do not see it outside your sphere of influence.

2.  Remember the leadership principal that no one is irreplaceable.  It is the truth out here just as it was while serving.  Even if degraded somewhat a team should still be able to function somewhat efficiently without any one person being present.

3. I am approaching the team I have working for me the same way I did when I had one in the Army.  They should have the skills to take my job at any time and move beyond me.  Basically, the “child should surpass the parent” philosophy.  While that is in all the literature it is found less in practice out here than you would think.  See the stove piping and fiefdom protecting above.  But just like anywhere else you will never affect any change if you do not live it, so do it, train it and live it.

4.  I did not know what to expect anymore the first time I stepped off a plane into a war zone any more than I did stepping into my first interview.  Just like everything in my military career it was a challenge and I needed to embrace it.  There is a level of fear and trepidation associated with anything new, but I was able to walk down the street shopping in a bazaar in downtown Jalalabad bad in 2002 when I knew absolutely nothing about war, then I can tackle anything the private sector can throw at me.  I may have to beat some things into my head over and over again, but I was a master of “fake it till you make it” once I can do it again, just like then I have to keep the career-enders to a minimum in the interim.

I have spent all my adult life adapting to challenges, so has most everyone in the military today.  Moving on to the private sector is just another one.  Just like most things it is best to do it with at least a modicum of a plan, but sometimes you have just have to say “fuck it” and react accordingly.

More observations in the future as I continue on this journey.

Unfortunately I can’t carry a tune in a dump truck.  All that aside, it seems that Coca Cola has managed to offend all true patriotic Americans, or more accurately, Mericans, with their latest commercial centered around the tune America the Beautiful.  I had to look up this bit of marketing which premiered during the Super Bowl, since I was unable to watch what turned out to be a bronc buster of a victory for the Seahawks due to being in a timezone not very conducive to the tailgate party of the year.

Here is the offending commercial, just one of a few that caused a ruckus last night:

The latest controversy seems to be centered around the fact that Coke, a global corporation, headquartered and created in the good old U.S of A, had the temerity to set the commercial to the tune America the Beautiful and not only show images of….foreigners….but change the words from English (yes the official language of our country is the same language by name of the country we fought a revolution from) into the various languages of those represented throughout the commercial.  Surprisingly there is not an Atheist boycott being pitched due to the “GOD shed his grace on thee” verse, that would be a left-right sense of unity that even a fresh, cold Coke could not achieve.

How dare Coca Cola, an American corporation do what they did and not expect a backlash?  I mean what do they know about being American and what kind of example are they setting for our children with this commercial?  Coca Cola, a company that can show the US government a thing or two about being successful around the globe and actually making money at it.  They are one of the most successful US companies today, with a global presence, welcome in the may countries they bottle in and enjoyed freely in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet.  I have been in countries where you can get your head cut off with a rusty knife for having alcohol, but you damn sure can enjoy a cool refreshing Coke.  That naysayers is an example of America at its finest and it is because of a nasty old corporation, that big mean 1%.  Coca Cola is doing successfully and making a profit, invited in with open arms, while the American government pours dollar after dollar down the drain to exert our way of life overseas; that is tax-payer dollars by the way.  They are doing this while making a profit.  Yet Coke is fucked up because of the commercial they put together?

I will tell you what is really fucked up.  Americans, so blinded by their prejudice and hatred who are willing to give up or boycott a successful American product that has succeeded where our government has failed.  People who are willing to talk shit about a product and their commercial because they translated the words to an American staple at baseball games into the many languages spoken by people of nationalities who inhabit our country.  We are and always have been a melting pot and that is what this commercial shows.  What the comments of the detractors show me is that Coke has a much better perspective on the world and what it takes to succeed than the narrow-minded, biased opinion of the average American.

What everyone should be mad at from last night is the piss-poor performance of the most talented quarterback in the NFL today.  I mean come on, he choked like a starlet in a gonzo porn movie.  The Super Bowl is the NFL’s way of sucking more dollars out of the pockets of fans all the while hiding the fact that they are actually a non-profit, tax-exempt organization.  Just to clarify, that is not the teams, just the organization they are governed by.  So Coca Cola, an American corporation with a global reach and a high tax base is the devil for putting together an example of what America should stand for, but the NFL will continue to rack in billions each year and not pay a single dime in taxes?

Go ahead boycott Coke.  That is one thing that your endless social media rants may be able to effect a change on.  Highly doubtful because it is not like the bars and clubs are going to change their cola choice when you order a Jack and Coke, a Bacardi and Coke, or, being the responsible tag along who got stuck with designated driver duty, a simple Coke.  We pretend to be leaders in the world, set the example for other countries when it comes to freedom and liberties, but all you hear is the same sorts of vitriolic trash prevalent in those countries we try to force our way of life on.

Before I wrap up, you veterans who took offense at the Budweiser “A Heroes Welcome” commercial because it was over the top and exploitative, fuck off.  Was the commercial over the top? Possibly, but what does that really matter.  So Budweiser is going to make some money while giving recognition to a returning veteran, big deal.  At least they did it in his hometown and with his friends, families and neighbors.  He wasn’t stood up at a podium in front of a couple hundred people that could give less than a shit about him and honoring the promises they made him all so they could gain a little favor as leaders with a constituency that has no clue what he has been through.

Here is that commercial:

And finally a little flashback to 1971 when Coke enlisted a bunch of hippies and foreigners in one of the most recognizable commercials ever to be made, singing one of the most recognizable ditties ever recorded.  Coke has been this way for at least 42 years people, most of you shit talking, trash mongering ass-hats are not even that old.  Put your efforts into something that will actually do something good for our country and the rest of the world.

Oh, have a Coke and a smile.

Here is  a little Gracie and her blended family for good measure: