Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Continuing Education

I am into my third week of AOWC (Advanced Operational Warfighting Course) online. The virtual class room is pretty much boned and yet again another example of the DOD living up to accusations of Fraud, Waste and Abuse. Btu the course itself is pretty fun. The idea behind this course is simple. You are going to be a staff pouge for much of your military career (simple fact of army life) so we are going to make you a really good one. Why? Simple, it is better to have 12 Blutchers than one Napoleon (for my readers lacking any military history knowledge (Hi Aunt Jan) Blutcher was the Prussian who aided Wellington at Waterloo and helped win the big one).

Translation: Genius is a great thing, but if you only have one of them he can't do two very important things. One, he can't be everywhere. Two, he cannot be 100% on his/her game 100% of the time. So what happens if you get hit in 2 places or on a bad day? Bad things happen. The Prussians figured this out and devised the staff system as we have come to know it (although we in the US modeled ours after the French Staff System developed prior to WWI). The idea is that even if we don't get a genius (a Fredrick the Great) we can train enough Blutchers that it won't matter. Our sum whole leadership will be better than your sum whole (especially if you only rely on one guy).

I am doing the AOWC to finish off my ILE (Intermediate Level Education) which is the Masters Level of military training. This stuff isn't easy by a long shot. We study leadership, operational and strategic thinking, critical thinking, history (as in we dig out the lessons it can teach us, this is not done very much in civilian schools or they are horribly off due to lack of (go figure) critical thinking). I personnally am really enjoying this as it is challenging (nothing good is easy) and it makes me think and learn and push.

Now, as I am wont to do, I have been thinking about all of this. When you boil it down, the US military produces some amazingly educated people. Then I realized that actually we produce not some, but a hell of a lot. A Captain is going to have not only lots of hands on experience in high pressure situations and in "intersting" locations, but he has been taught a huge amount. College, but also the courses the army will send him too. In my case, a rough translation of what I have been taught is going to equal two BA/BS degrees and 2 Masters degrees (when I complete ILE anyway).

This being the case, can someone tell me why the hell we still get looked at like we are gunslinging cowboys who can't put two words together in a sentence? I guess it is just easier to steriotype us, because actually thinking about what we say and do, and realizing that maybe the answer can't be condensed to a bumper sticker, would require some critical thinking and some serious education too.

Which is seeming to be in shorter and shorter supply in this country.


  1. Your Blucher comments are spot on. From the Napoleonic era histories I've read the lack of subordinates that could think for themselves was more of Napoleon's downfall than anything else because he couldn't be everywhere.

    As for the sterotype comment, well that's because a few loud types set the tone for the whole group no mattter what you do. I read a very interesting article on the public perception of scientists politics vs. their actual views and it doesn't surprise me at all how far off things are in regards to sterotypical views vs. reality.

    Something you live with unless you're planning a PR campaign to dispell myths.

  2. ...because folks don't know squat, but Hollywood has to sell to the existing perception.

    And because MoveOn has not been collectively incinerated yet, but I have my fingers crossed there. :)

  3. Actually, I am considering a PR campaign of sorts. This has some background in a conversation with one of my relatives on the Fourth. Politics of course, me on my side, relative on theirs. Said relative made a comparison that still makes me mad every time I think about it (a new height of sorts, normally I just move on). And it was all perception. I had just spent 20 minutes giving a very detailed explanation on the orgins of the Taliban and Al Quada (since the relative was one of the "we created them during the Cold War" crowd), and without even a blink this relative made a comment that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the perception they had simply couldn't be moved by facts FROM ME.

    I have more education than this person did, I have more experience, I have real world contact and interaction with this area and its peoples (not exactly a country expert, but I have 12 more months over than this relative and know a hell of lot more Arabs than said relative). But it doesn't matter. The myth overpowers everything I say and is more than a equal counter to any mere facts. And since I am "Little Mike" and "just don't know any better" I have no argument worth making.

    The part that really boils my blood is that this person made a comment that was simply insulting. No, it was beyond insulting. I almost actually struck this person I was so mad. And they never noticed and it never occurred that their comment could possibly be insulting. And the cherry: they wouldn't have cared if they did know because they were "right" and I should just suck it up and not argue because its not my place to argue.

    I am simply now to the point I can't even really talk to these people anymore. I am to the point I don't want to be polite. I actually would love to just start yelling at them and calling them names. This of course would be bad on the family so I am trying to hold off. But I am really past trying to reason, so a PR campaign where I just start doing the same thing back to them is appealing.

    Damn, do I sound bitter or what?

  4. Pearls before swine. Some people just don't give a shit about reality -- they care about making themselves feel good.

  5. Ignorance is Bliss.

    And no, you're not bitter. Mike - I know exactly where you're at as I've been there before. Even my in-laws have a similar situation and the common solution for us has been to ignore it. Literally tune it out and don't talk to the people unless you have to. It's done wonders and our collective blood pressures don't go up anymore. Yes, it does result in a semi-permanent estrangement between relatives and relations but its either that or open warfare.

    Although knowing you maybe open warfare is the preferred option. :)

    Best of luck.

  6. Actually I am moving towards open warfare. I could tune it out if they were able to just keep quite like I do. I don't bring up stuff unless asked. But they don't they are always baiting. Used to be my dad, now it is me.

    Tell me something, how mad would you be if someone told you that an organization you had proudly belonged to for 7 years was the exact equivalent of the Irania Militia and that you would the exact same things they did because "That's what you guys do."?

    This from the same people who said the following right after I called my mom and dad to tell them I had been wounded: "Well, what do you think about encouraging Mike to join the army now?"

    Open warfare is looking really good right now.

  7. I would indeed be angry, but I suspect that these people thrive on attention and getting you angry. But of course one should know your enemy as well as yourself. I'm thinking though if you don't even respond to their words (no matter how blatent it is) it will make them even more upset and make you fill with glee as they squirm and cannot get a rise out of you no matter how hard they try. I could be very wrong though and these people are filled with righteous self-confidence and no position or action on your part will move them from their constant baiting.

    It's very hard to accomplish, but if you pull it off they'll blow up in public and look like a fool while you smile politely and sip your drink in the social setting cool as a cucumber. For me the trick has been to treat the offending person as if they were a gnat. You don't talk back to a gnat, you gently shoo it away. "I'm sorry. Were you talking to me? Terribly sorry I was focusing on something far more important. Excuse me while I return to that activity."

    Like I say, easier said then done. I've only pulled it off once and the damage is permanent. You'll never be able to go back once it is achieved.

    Regardless, best of luck on whatever approach you pursue.

  8. True enough. I have tried the gnat theory. Hard to do. But I do get some success now and then. I have noticed that it gets harder for said relative to bring up certain subjects. When they cite "I saw this on the History Channel" and your response is "Yeah, I wrote a research paper on that for my Masters Degree" its does get "and moving to the next topic..." response.

  9. Righteousness releases endorphins into the brain in the same way that opiates do -- you'll never convince them or argue them out of their positions, because they're a bunch of addicts whose fix comes before any inconvenient facts.

  10. Honestly? If any relative of mine pulled that I would slap him or her in the face and tell said person that they had gone beyond the pale and were no longer my family -- and stand by it.

    So the moral of the story is, you probably shouldn't have anything to do with my example...

  11. Bonus! The password to post that comment was "commo"