SigSpace - Work en Because "Bataan Happy Fun Kittens and Rainbows March" doesn't flow off the tongue. <p>I wasn't always a lame ass admin puke. It's hard to remember sometimes that even as recently as six months ago, I was a lame ass intel puke--and while the transition to admin was sudden and hurty, it was relatively recent.</p> <p>Harder still to remember is that once upon a time, I carried a ruck and some really expensive equipment on and off helicopters, and rode around in HMMWVs, and even returned fire occasionally.</p> <p>There aren't many cool military jobs stateside. By and large, the more interesting the job, the less application you have in times other than war (or deployment). My wartime job is interesting. My stateside job involved signing my name to a lot of forms today so I could get some pay problems unFUBARed. Yeehaw. It's important--certainly to the soldiers getting paid--but it's not terribly interesting when you get down to it, and the fact that I'm actually pretty good at it is more depressing than encouraging.</p> <p>I've been thinking about it more since I've been going through photos from Afghanistan in 2006 and planning for some of my soldiers to come back from their current tour there. I'm fortunate to have been able to go the places I've been and see the places I've seen and shoot at the assclowns at whom I got to shoot; not many get those opportunities even once, let alone get paid to have them. I should be grateful that I got to go at all, not annoyed that other people are having fun without me. I should be glad to be here and enjoy my family and my friends and my nation. And I should remember, too, how much I wanted to be back here when I was over there and all of the stuff that I wanted to do then but couldn't. And I should do some of it.</p> <p>OK, so I'm still holding off on forming the Police cover band. But I did start geocaching a little, using the ridiculously expensive set that I have signed out from work (for um, training). I am reading more. I'm writing a bit more, although work still sucks up most of my writing energy. And I'm looking at doing stupidly ambitious things, just because I can.</p> <p>I decided last week that I am going to try to go to White Sands, New Mexico in late March for the <a href="" rel="nofollow">21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March</a>. 26.2 miles, starting at 0700 and ending when you hit the finish line or fall on your face. For added fun, I have tacked on the additional intent to compete in the "military heavy" category, which means regulation uniform and boots and a 35-pound ruck sack.</p> <p>Step one was finding out if I would be allowed to take time off to do something so lunatic. I e-mailed my battalion commander and full-time boss for permission. His response, paraphrased, was "I'm game, who else is going?" In the last few days, I've found another MAJ and a 1LT who are "strong maybes," but no enlisted takers--I'm not sure what that says about our relative abilities to perform on-the-spot risk assessments.</p> <p>There's still time. Registration doesn't even start until mid-November. Meanwhile, the LT and I have been doing some easy pace (4 or 4.5 MPH) rucks around Camp Murray, just to get a feel for the undertaking. The Bataan march will be the equivalent of nine laps, roughly. Hopefully, we can find some more interesting places to train up.</p> <p>I'm actually really excited for this, which is pretty stupid on the face of it, but it's something that I know will be a) difficult, b) painful, and c) absolutely within my ability and will to accomplish. Added bonuses are getting out of my office, and associating with other insane people. If I can actually burn some of my accumulating leave at the same time, so much the better.</p> <p>Anyway, that's one of my projects for right now. When I get some new strings for my bass, maybe I'll start working on another.</p> <p>Sig</p> History National Guard US Army Work Tue, 01 Sep 2009 02:51:41 +0000 sig 664 at Your tax dollars at work <p>I'd apologize for not updating, but I don't want to be <a href="" rel="nofollow">this guy</a>.</p> <p>Annual training was splendid, thanks for asking. I probably ought to post about it. Note, I didn't promise to post about it. I didn't even suggest I was thinking about a post. I just said that I probably ought to. You should see my "probably ought to" list some time. It's absolutely horrifying in scope and scale, and that's just the work-related stuff.</p> <p>Ahem.</p> <p>OK, so with the September drill weekend just a few weeks away, instead of preparing for that I got to spend Wednesday through today (being Sunday four days after aforementioned Wednesday) at a conference for the brigade-sized-element-that-is-not-really-a-brigade over my battalion. Being that this is toward the end of the fiscal year (which is a whole 'nother post that I will also probably not actually write), said BSETISNRAB was able to attain <a href="" rel="nofollow">really swanky accomodations</a> for only a fair bit above the normal lodging rate authorized for this region. (For the curious, we stayed in the "Deluxe Lodge Studio Room.") Because they are pretty clever, they set up the tables in such a manner that there was no electricity for me to charge my laptop, meaning that I could only do about 90 minutes of work (on battery) while they were yammering on (and on and on and on).</p> <p>The first portion of the conference was for the AGRs (Active Guard/Reserve--the full-time permanent people who run things the <em>other</em> 28 days a month). We showed up on Wednesday afternoon, got checked in, and had the conference all day ("all day" adjourning around 1430) Thursday and then Friday morning; checkout was at noon, and then the commanders and senior NCOs started showing up for the second portion, which was geared toward them and scheduled in a similar non-grueling manner. Since I'm cool like that (and because it was recommended for unit readiness NCOs), we stayed for the entire period through Sunday noonish.</p> <p>The accommodations were nice. REALLY nice. The conference was a little disappointing. Much of it ought to have been directed at the commanders and 1SGs rather than the full-time staff. It's nice to know that our NCOERs and OERs are ridiculously behind (my company is 52% up to date, vice the BSETISNRAB average of roughly 60%), but I already <em>know</em> that and know that it's a problem. However, <strong>I have no control over this and damned little influence over it.</strong> I cannot make people do their evals; I certainly can't make them do them <em>right</em>, and even giving a class on it would be problematic since a) I'm not actually in a position of authority and b) I have never actually written an NCOER for anyone but myself (yet another post).</p> <p>During the second portion, they unveiled Yet Another Tracking System for me to maintain. In this case, it's a comprehensive know-all-do-all web-based retention tracking tool that will feed stats up to the state level and allow us to keep better tabs on soldiers who are thinking about escap---er, allowing their contract to lapse. Retention tracking is important, no question, but this tool is <em>really</em> detailed: name, contact info, family and spouse info, pay entry base date, birthday (?!), ETS date (obviously), contact records, counseling records, and all sorts of other silliness in this big-ass color-coded Excel spreadsheet to which everyone and their mother will have at least read-only access. In theory, the Retention NCO (a one-weekend-a-month soldier) would keep this up to date, but since so many of those fields are things requiring access to personnel records, in practice it would find its way to my plate.</p> <p>First and most obviously, this is a massive privacy invasion. There is no need for that many people (and they included everyone in the NCO support chain, chain of command, and retention system) to have that kind of information on my soldiers. All it would take is one jackass to lose a laptop and it would be in the open. Since that happens roughly every seven minutes within DoD, this is of concern to me.</p> <p>Second, this is the fourth or fifth place that some of this data is stored and updated--by yours truly. Seriously. I have to update many of these things on the battalion's Access database, the Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS, web-based, frequently down for no reason), Commander's Dashboard (ComDash, web-based, usually works but isn't super detailed), and Digital Training Management System (DTMS, web-based, slower than payday, and designed by people who hate soldiers) already. I do not need <em>another</em> One True Solution for tracking soldier data. I need three <em>less</em> solutions.</p> <p>Here's how we track retention in my company. Each month, I run the retention report on ComDash, which pops up everyone in the unit who is scheduled to get out in the next six months. I must update their status (even if there is no change) at least every 30 days during those six months. I put in who contacted the soldier, the date they did so, the soldier's intent (get out, extend, undecided, etc.), any supporting notes, and check a few applicable boxes. Usually, I print this report out before drill and put it in the Retention NCO's box; it's his job to hit up as many of those people as possible and find out what their plans are and what it would take to include the Nasty Guard in them. He makes notes on the sheet, and I update ComDash on Monday after drill. If we're doing really well, we can record it as "Already Extended" and file the accompanying paperwork.</p> <p>Some soldiers just aren't up for it any longer; they want to do something else with their lives. Some are lazy. Some want more than the Guard can provide, and seem not to have realized that with the current economy and new political climate, we can't afford big (or any) bonuses to keep them in uniform. Some just have done their time and aren't willing to deploy again. I did 11 (mostly) easy months in theater; who am I to tell someone who has spent 27 months in Iraq that they need to step up to the line again? If I think it's good for the unit and good for the soldier, I will try to talk them into it, but I won't try to guilt or trick them into staying in.</p> <p>[Ironically, our Retention NCO inadvertently ETSed when his paperwork got screwed up and he was mistakenly listed as ineligible for extension. Don't worry, we got it fixed.]</p> <p>The point of this digression is that the current system takes me about 15 minutes--<em>per month</em>. I don't need or want yet another spreadsheet to track the soldier's family situation and factors coming up in their lives. That's clearly an officer idea, or from the perverted mind of a full-time Recruiting and Retention Command (RRC) puke. In a company of only 61 soldiers, where even the platoon sergeant might have 12 people under him, a good NCO can keep track of his people with a notepad and a bad one wouldn't use the spreadsheet anyway. If we lose someone to civilian life, it is not because we didn't know exactly when and why it was going to happen. This is a solution in search of a problem.</p> <p>The conference wasn't <em>all</em> about making more work for SSG Sig. A big portion of it (outside the sessions) was supposed to be networking and crap like that. Oops, gave away my attitude a little. I'm not a big socializing networking sort of person. This may amaze some of you, but I don't actually like talking to people I don't know. That's one of the reasons I do so well squirreled away in a SIGINT company office with only a taciturn cav scout for company. I was able to put a few names to faces, and gain new appreciation for some people at echelons above BN, but I'm not a big drinker, particularly when I'm one of the two or three most junior people in a crowd.</p> <p>We aren't into golf or the bar scene, so a lot of the amenities of the resort were somewhat wasted on us. We did go for a nice walk or two, and play on some playground equipment, and even take Siglet for his first swim. He was unimpressed, mostly (I think) because the water was chilly, although he stopped whining once he saw the ladies. Way to suck it up and drive on, son--you're a credit to your gender. In the evenings, we went out to eat (cheaper than eating at the resort, even at "discounted" prices) or did a frozen pizza in the oven, and played Nintendo DS games while waiting for Siglet to fall asleep.</p> <p>Overall, it was somewhat entertaining, and the closest I've had to a vacation since I started this job back in March. I have taken one (1) day of leave since then, and that was a must-stay-home-to-watch-Siglet deal (not that I didn't enjoy it), so this was kind of nice. Still, there's a lot of work that did not get done in a timely fashion, and I'll be playing catch-up right until the drill weekend. I would have been a little happier if we had more small group sessions so I could pick the brains of some of the other Readiness NCOs, and a little less time getting briefed on stuff that applies to only a handful of people in the audience.</p> <p>One plus: I sat through the brigade (well, BSETISNRAB) command sergeant major's brief on the wacky National Guard enlisted promotion system, and I think I can definitively say that my briefing is both better-focused and more entertaining than his. I finished working on it at annual training (in the evenings after my regular training and frantic attempts to do my day job), but then they never scheduled a time to do it so I'm giving it at September's drill. Interestingly (to me), I don't like talking to individual people but I have little problem telling groups of them that they are doing it wrong.</p> <p>Sig</p> Family National Guard Siglet Work Mon, 31 Aug 2009 03:58:46 +0000 sig 663 at Frustration <p>So one of my SGTs (and a good friend from our tour Afghanistan) comes in to the office on Tuesday to do part of a make up for a drill that he will be missing, and help me with some miscellaneous issues that require a sergeantly bit of judgment and discretion. In passing, he mentions that a mutual friend from our company was in a car accident last Friday but "is going to be fine."</p> <p><a href="" rel="nofollow">This one</a>. [<a href="" rel="nofollow">Text version for media impaired</a>]</p> <p>So before anything else, let me sincerely thank Dave Buckingham, H. L. Kurt, and Brian Mounce for investigating a crash in the middle of the night and taking prompt action which saved the life of my friend, who hunts bad guys in Burien as a county mountie when he's not hunting bad guys in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. Your nation and community are blessed for your concern.</p> <p>(It should be noted that my tovarishch has really bad luck with vehicular incidents during the summer. In June of 2006, he was crushed against a building by a humvee; the medic was driving, so at least the morphine arrived promptly. In June of 2007, he got plastered by a van; he's not sure of the details, since he has no memory of the event. Last year he was exceedingly careful. This year he was a month early, but at least he was <em>inside</em> the car this time.)</p> <p>I didn't take the news too seriously until Wednesday morning when I idly looked up the story on the intarweb. Holy crap, thought I, someone is going to want to know about this. And sure enough, we have to file a serious incident report up the chain to State whenever one of our guys is involved in something wonky.</p> <p>The problem is that all we had to go on was the initial tip from our other guy, who lives down the street a few doors from SGT Painmagnet (as I have now dubbed him), and the news report. I have left voice mails at every number I have for the family. I was able to get semi-official confirmation about his general status and whereabouts, but Harborview is not in the habit of giving out information to anybody not related to the patient. The company commander, another captain from Battalion, our supply sergeant and I all went up there this morning, but were not able to get much more than sideways confirmation that he was there and not in any particular danger of expiring any time soon. We couldn't even leave a message.</p> <p>This is very frustrating. SGT Painmagnet loves the Army and loves his Army job--but his wife does not. His family is completely disengaged from the military, attends no functions, and has never even been seen aside from when we returned from OEF. It probably never occurred to anyone to let us know that he was in serious condition in a hospital after a bad car wreck, but we're supposed to report his status to higher headquarters on a regular basis. Our first report looked an awful lot like the news article.</p> <p>All I can do is leave nice voice mail messages and ask his battle buddy to ask the wife to contact us. I'm not about to intrude on an already stressful time by showing up at their house. I <em>may</em> storm Harborview again, however.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard Work Fri, 22 May 2009 02:49:57 +0000 sig 658 at I suspect he makes better coffee, too. <p>Yes, work has gotten better. I'm now merely very busy instead of ridiculously overworked. I have a sneaking suspicion that a solitary NCO who is really on the ball can do this job without any minions, assuming he doesn't EVER get far behind. Since I'm still a total n00b and don't have access to some things, I can use the help. Also, I'd like to have a day off again some day.</p> <p>Fortunately, after a few weeks of scrambling by myself, I have a new minion. Unlike my last minion, who seemed thoroughly offended by my asking her to file anything, PFC Minion is quite content to do menial paperwork tasks and train himself to be able to do less-menial ones. This is odd when you consider that SPC Drama, my old minion, was a 42A administrative specialist, and my new minion is a 19D cavalry scout. From this scientifically random sample, I conclude that 42A school is a complete waste of time and that we should populate our personnel offices with cav scouts--as an added bonus, he won't get "lost" on the way to work.</p> <p>I like my job a lot. It's several orders of magnitude greater responsibility than any I've ever been given, and quite a bit more than I anticipated when I applied for the Training NCO position in December. 28 days a month, I <em>am</em> the company. I wield a crazy amount of power inherent to my position, and even greater power by virtue of the fact that my company commander and 1SG trust my judgment more than is, strictly speaking, wise. I also have a disturbingly competent supply sergeant, without whom I would have run screaming from this job within the first 48 hours.</p> <p>But in exchange for this power, I am responsible for paying soldiers, getting their orders cut, getting their travel arranged, getting them into schools, getting them promoted, getting them re-enlisted, getting them trained, and keeping them informed and ready for drill when it arrives. And very few of my powers are explicitly coercive--I can't really <em>make</em> people do much, when you get down to it.</p> <p>One of the reasons I haven't been posting much is that a lot of my writing energies go into my work. I write between 40 and 100 e-mails a day--usually around 80. Many of these are writing to persuade someone to do something for me, or to do it more expeditiously than they might have otherwise. Examples include getting the pay people to research pay problems for my soldiers, do those administrative actions beyond my power to get issues fixed, research things in databases I can't access, etc., etc. There's a definite art to this. I'm pretty good at it--I can fake "humble" in print, less easily in person--but it is work.</p> <p>The other major writing task is the drill letter. This is supposed to go out two weeks before drill to all of the company soldiers, telling them where they need to be and when and in what uniform, and what they can expect and what they need to bring or be prepared to do, etc., etc. It usually contains wisdom from the commander and 1SG, and maybe a blurb from higher about this or that issue. Historically (in our unit, at least), it runs about two pages. Since my commander and 1SG rarely deign to comment for the drill letter, this means I have TWO ENTIRE PAGES to write about what I think is important, and I have a <strong>CAPTIVE AUDIENCE</strong>--they've <em>got</em> to read the stupid thing. Now some might look at that and think, "Crap, I have to fill two pages. OK, I'll just copy/paste from last month and change the dates."</p> <p>But you know me. I'll say it again: captive audience. The hard part is not turning it into a collection of essays and creative writing. Anyone can announce a PT test the following month, but how many bother to do so in haiku? Drill letters and the once- or twice-weekly activity digest e-mails (because stuff happens more than once a month) are one of the consistent joys of my job.</p> <p>And then there are those intermittent joys. It gave me great pleasure to write a memo to get SSG Smallville promoted to SFC Smallville, a well-earned accomplishment for a friend and mentor who is hard at work taking care of our joes in Afghanistan right now. (I was a little less ecstatic when it took <em>SIX</em> drafts before S1 was content to pass the memo on to higher.)</p> <p>I was also moderately pleased to be tangentially involved in processing paperwork to get <a href="" rel="nofollow">our favorite drill-dodging assclown</a> one tiny step closer to achieving the civilian status for which he is yearning.</p> <p>Overall, it's going OK. In another six months, I'll be pretty up to speed on the day to day and just a bit behind the curve on some of the rarer problems, and by the time my first year is up, I'll be actively plotting something to relieve the boredom. But right now, I don't much like to write about work, because I start thinking about all of the stuff that's not yet done.</p> <p>Speaking of which: Top, I know you're reading. Your completed travel voucher is sitting in a manilla folder labeled "1SG" (clever, huh?) in the vertical files on my desk. All it needs is a signature. If that's too much effort for you, I might possibly forget to pay you next month, понятно?</p> <p>(See? A fine art.)</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard Work Wed, 22 Apr 2009 03:54:38 +0000 sig 657 at Work update <p>I've been dreaming about delinquent NCOERs.</p> <p>My job kind of sucks right now.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard Work Fri, 27 Mar 2009 02:25:42 +0000 sig 656 at It's a remarkably popular office, some days. <p>During the course of my day, I was visited or called by the battalion commander, his executive officer, my company commander, and the company first sergeant. They all wanted to know variations on the theme of how things were going, how the transition was, was I happy with the way it was working, was I about to go on a killing rampage, etc., etc. The BC is not my favorite person in the world, but we had a 10-minute conversation that was remarkably pleasant and interesting. The XO just wanted to shoot the bull and give a sort of pep talk. The company CO actually just wanted to drop some paperwork off, I think, but she was being polite.</p> <p>Actually, I think only 1SG was wondering whether I was a lit fuse or not. He knows me best.</p> <p>Work continues to be interesting. My minion has been having some health problems, so she's been out a fair bit. While she was waiting at the ER late the other evening, we texted back and forth and she told me what I which databases I would need to update if she were to die on the table such that our monthly reports didn't get screwed up too badly. That's dedication to duty right there.</p> <p>My predecessor has taken to flinging everything directed at the "Readiness NCO" my way since, as he gleefully reminds me, that's my title now, not his. I retaliated by directing every call asking for him (by name) back to his extension; since no one actually calls for the Readiness NCO (and most people don't know that's now me), that's effectively every call that comes in the office.</p> <p>The IT situation is... interesting. It took me a week and a half to get an account on the network so I could do more than open the office and make coffee. That was frustrating, although to be fair it was not G6's fault; the paperwork never made it to my boss to pass on to G6 shop [-6 means the commo people, which means computers and such nowadays].</p> <p>Having received an account, I discovered several interesting things. First, my desktop computer sucks. A Pentium-4 is perfectly adequate to do basic tasks, honestly, but it starts chugging when you add all of the extra overhead of a government network and all of the security and auditing that requires. 1 gig of RAM is incomprehensible in this day and age.</p> <p>More incomprehensible is that my network account does not come with any network drives mapped: no personal drive, no share, no nothing. Other than my e-mail being configured in Outlook, none of my profile settings roam, so every time I use a different computer, I have to set everything up again. There IS a share, of sorts, but I had to browse to it through the literally hundreds of computers on the network domain, and it's cluttered and insane, full of read-only documents going back five or six years that no one can delete because the original owners retired or otherwise vanished years ago.</p> <p>From the perspective of a former IT professional (now reformed), this is Very Bad. For one, it's very difficult to find ANYTHING, since the share is used by echelons above battalion, even. For two, unless you find such a share, all of the working documents are in your My Documents folder on the local hard drive, which is never backed up. Frequently, we find ourselves stuck temporarily because needed files are on my computer under someone else's profile, and only they can get at them.</p> <p>Since DoD has mandated that we not use USB storage <em>ever</em>, the only way to backup or transfer files is to burn them to CD-Rs (not CD-R/Ws). This is, supposedly, safer. In reality land, where I work, it's just idiotic.</p> <p>I've also noticed that the G6 employs a ninja-style help desk, meaning that they resolve (or try to resolve) your help requests without ever contacting you. I only found out I had an account by logging in to it; they had helpfully sent an e-mail notification to my new account e-mail address, which I found after logging in. I put in a request to fix my e-mail alias, since no one was able to reply to my e-mails without it going to a non-existent address on a different domain, and they fixed it without so much as notifying me that they were looking at the request. While I applaud the speed with which it was done, that's really lousy customer service, and I despair of having to actually communicate with them when I have a real problem.</p> <p>[However much you think you hate calling the help desk, I can almost guarantee that it's not as much as I do, unless you are <em>also</em> an embittered former (or current) professional computer nerd.]</p> <p>On a brighter note, I learned today that I have my very own Dell Latitude D620 laptop, several years old now but in virtually new condition--the dust cover is still on the keyboard. On a darker note, it may be in such pristine condition because no one knows where the power adapter (or any other extra, like a case) might be.</p> <p>Anyway, we're getting there. I have my predecessor/mentor for another week and then a few days after our next drill, and then I'll be mostly on my own, although there are lots of people around to answer questions. It should be interesting.</p> <p>Also, for the curious, <a href="" rel="nofollow">the lieutenant</a> was in the office today and we had pleasant and non-confrontational conversation. She's not my favorite person and likely never will be, but my opinion of her inched up a fair bit. Equally nice and rare it is to be pleasantly surprised by a junior officer.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard Technology Work Sat, 28 Feb 2009 04:22:38 +0000 sig 654 at Apparently, Fort Lewis doesn't have a single ice-scraper truck. <p>I received a call last night from my squad leader telling me not to come in today; they were preemptively canceling operations for the day.</p> <p>So let's review my week, especially for those of you not following on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a>: <ul> <li><strong>Monday</strong>: Went to work as normal. Didn't get much done. <li><strong>Tuesday</strong>: Took the day off to get a DA photo and apply for a job. <li><strong>Wednesday</strong>: Worked from 0530 until about 1000, when they closed the base. Part of this was taken up by our Christmas party, which for reasons unknown included making waffles. <li><strong>Thursday</strong>: Base not open until 1000, but I had a prior engagement in Tacoma and then Kent which lasted until 1015, by which time the base had been closed again, so I drove home. <li><strong>Friday</strong>: Slept in, made coffee, webwandering.</ul> <p>Not the most productive week.</p> <p>Really, it's not even the snow--it's the other people. That was the reason I went in early on Wednesday; there were only a few inches of snow, but there was at least half a foot of stupid. The MR2 does surprisingly well in the snow and ice, assuming you can get the parking brake disengaged and are in no particular hurry to get anywhere, but I am not so trusting of the thousands of SUVs with which I'm sharing the road.</p> <p>Sig</p> Heavy weather US Army Work Fri, 19 Dec 2008 16:59:11 +0000 sig 632 at You can get money just about anywhere, after all. <p>[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 05 OCT 07.]</p> <p>That picture in the right column mocks me: <em>why do I have my picture on this site when I don`t write anything?</em> Of course, my own site mocks me in its entirety: stuff I wrote two months ago is still on the front page as of this writing. I wish I could say that I`ve been doing big important things, but the only accomplishment I can boast from the last few weeks is that I finally beat the main campaign to <a href="">Neverwinter Nights</a>.</p> <p>I just finished up a length post on SigSpace about some of the new recruiting/enlistment incentives that the Guard has been pimping heavily, including their wacky new <a href=",13319,147317,00.html">Active First</a> recruiting program, which apparently is a weird hybrid deal where you go into the Active component for a few years and then transition automagically to a Guard unit for an as-yet undetermined further period of time. If anyone is interested in my thoughts on the matter, they can be found over <a href="529">here</a>.</p> <p>One issue I mentioned in passing but didn`t really address was the long-term consequences of emphasizing monetary incentives so heavily in our recruiting. I`ve never been particularly comfortable with this, mostly because I`m good at cost-benefit-analysis. As I have said before (<a href="459">here</a>), you can`t pay me enough to do this--and they don`t.</p> <p>Current Army marketing seems geared toward benefits: training, personal growth, and money. Especially money. This is fine and dandy--these are legitimate benefits of service. But once you get in, are they enough? I`m told that it gets pretty hot in the summer in Iraq, and rumor has it that <a href="390">people occasionally try to kill you</a> in Afghanistan. College money that you may not ever live to spend is not terribly valuable.</p> <p>I don`t really want my Humvee crewed by soldiers who are in it for the college money. I want guys who know what`s at stake, know the kind of people we`re up against, and are there because they would rather fight the jihad in their backyard than in ours.</p> <p>To be fair, once you get in, the Army does its heavyhanded best to <a href="">brainwash you with deeper values</a>. As my drill sergeant put it, "You only thought you were joining for college money." Sometimes these stick. Sometimes they don`t.</p> <p>I think we might build a better force if we were trying harder to appeal to people who already buy into those values. Can you fill the ranks of an army at war with altruists? No. But how much would it cost us to add "serve your country" to the message? After all, we`re competing for the same pool of candidates as that other force that slays dragons.</p> <p>For what it`s worth, I think the new campaign is a step in the right direction. <a href="">This video</a> makes me want to enlist, and I`m already in.</p> <p>I don`t think we`re in danger of becoming a mercenary army, as some critics have charged. But who is more likely to stay in uniform, keeping their experience and training in the force--someone who joined for the GI Bill, or someone who joined to serve?</p> <p>Sig</p> <p>[Full disclosure: I joined for the security clearance and the chance to beat down rioting college students. I stayed for the MREs.]</p> Enlisting National Guard vox veterana War on Terror Work Fri, 19 Dec 2008 01:31:29 +0000 sig 627 at On vocation <p>[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 28 AUG 07.]</p> <p>This is probably interesting only to me.</p> <p>I have long considered myself a computer technician temporarily in uniform--a "fat computer nerd trapped in a soldier`s body." Part of this is the whole National Guard Thing that they sell you on--one weekend a month, etc. The idea when I signed up was that I could get some training, pick up a security clearance, get in shape, and Do Good, and then come home and get back to my IT career, hopefully by which time the economy would stop sucking. This was mid-2003, by the way.</p> <p>But it`s time I do the math and face reality.</p> <p><u>Computer tech career:</u> <ul> <li>9/00 to 10/00 -- Small computer shop. Printer tech, phone guy, accounting. Laid off. (6 weeks) <li>12/00 to 9/01 -- Major corporate desktop support. Contractor. Quit right before being laid off. (10 months) <li>9/01 to 3/03 -- Small land development company. #2 in IT department (of 2). "The good job." Laid off. Can still visit for free lunch and reminisce. (18 months) <li>6/03 to 11/03 -- NMCI. Google it. Fear it. Never work for it. Fired for being right all of the time. (6 months). <li>09/05 to 10/05 -- NMCI. Everyone who knew me before was since fired or laid off. Job still ridiculous and painfully mismanaged. Quit because the war was preferable. (2 months)</ul> <p>Total time: <strong>37.5 months</strong></p> <p><u>Regime Change Specialist career</u>: [only full-time counted] <ul> <li>01/04 to 08/05 -- Training. Basic, language school, AIT. Came home with a security clearance and a tan. (19 months) <li>11/05 to 01/07 -- Operation Enduring Freedom. Came home with additional VA benefits, stories I can`t tell, hearing loss, and occasional nightmares. (15 months) <li>02/07 to 09/07 -- Document translation and Other Duties As Assigned. (8 months)</ul> <p>Total time: <strong>42 months</strong>.</p> <p>And I`m on track to stay in uniform full time for FY08. And maybe to go language school again after that. By that time, we should have invaded somewhere else.</p> <p>It`s time to face it. I`m actually a soldier who used to do computer work.</p> <p>It`s actually kind of cool. If I`d known that I had surpassed the time-in-IT mark this summer, I might have had an extra beer--the E-5-single-income-kids-on-the-way equivalent of a party.</p> <p>Anyway, it`s deep thoughts like this one that have been going through my head lately. I note as I post this that my resolve to get SOMETHING up today was so strong that it was felt by TF Boggs, too. Wiggy.<br /> I`ll try to do better.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard US Army Work Fri, 19 Dec 2008 01:21:55 +0000 sig 625 at This and that <p>Life continues on, about as normal. I go to work, I work out, I come home, I play with Ian and Sunbeam, Ian goes to bed, we watch movies or play video games, I go to sleep. It's a pretty awesome life, actually.</p> <p>This weekend was a drill weekend--our annual death-by-Powerpoint day on Saturday, during which we take care of all of the mandatory briefings, and then more paperwork and training today and the holiday party. The latter was thrown together at the last minute when previous plans fell through, so there was very little speechifying and whatnot, and mostly just people talking and enjoying each other's company.</p> <p>On top of this, though, we attended the centennial ball for the Tacoma Armory on Saturday night, as described in the Tacoma News Tribune's <a href="" rel="nofollow">article</a>. (For more on the armory, see pictures <a href="" rel="nofollow">here</a> and some history <a href="" rel="nofollow">here</a>.) Sunbeam thinks the armory is insanely cool, so our attendance was obligatory.</p> <p>Since I had no intention of wearing period costume, this meant dropping $45+ on updating and cleaning my Class A service uniform, which hadn't seen service since I graduated from Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow back in August '05. Only a few short years, but I've added two pay grades, seven ribbons, and a combat tour to Afghanistan since then. The bling was impressive, particularly if you don't know how bogus most of those ribbons are.</p> <p>I'm sure she'll tell you all about it, but Sunbeam wore a dress from back in college--that fit again. Take <em>that</em>, pregnancy!</p> <p>Of course, this was a fairly prestigious event, and it seemed that the average rank circulating was at least MAJ. Not a good place for the Guard's most junior and inexperienced Staff Sergeant to hang out, but given the riot of obscure dress uniforms not often seen out of the outdated uniform regulations, I was fairly inconspicuous. And the horse-drawn carriage ride was mildly amusing.</p> <p>We were home late on Saturday night, and then of course I had the drill silliness this morning, so it's been a long weekend and I'm heartily tired of Army business. Fortunately, I can now return to my regular workweek of Army business.</p> <p>Sig</p> Family National Guard Work Mon, 08 Dec 2008 04:25:48 +0000 sig 613 at