A Tribute to Our Protectors

I originally planned to post this yesterday, but I got carried away typing about the National Veterans Freedom Park.

One of the troops from the old 55th Mobile Command & Control Squadron — where I was the Operations Officer in the late 1990s — clued me in to this video called “Remember Me.” It’s extremely well done, and a heart-rending tribute to our uniformed forces. Click on the link, spend five minutes watching, remember and be thankful.

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On Veterans' Day: National Veterans Freedom Park

Even though I’m an Air Force veteran, I think of Veterans’ Day as something for those other folks — for the real veterans, in other words, for those who faced more danger and hardship than I did. The most danger I faced was cleaning up burning red phosphorus at the AF Rocket Propulsion Lab, and I didn’t have any real hardship — my remote tour in Greenland was more fun than not, and my requests to go to the Iraqi AOR were denied.

So Veterans’ Day sort of embarrasses me. Honor the guys who really sacrificed, please. Honor those with whom I served, but not me.

That’s why I’m glad to promote the National Veterans Freedom Park, which is going to be built right here in Cary, North Carolina. Its theme is “The Story of Freedom as told by the Veteran,” and it will feature some striking artwork and an education center. It’s also working with the Library of Congress in the Veterans History Project, to “collect and archive the personal recollections of U.S. wartime veterans to honor their service and share their stories with current and future generations.”

In other words, the National Veterans Freedom Park will honor not just veterans, but real heroes. I’m all for that.

And for those served honorably — no matter where or when — and who are still serving today, on the front lines and behind the scenes, I salute you all.

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Fifty Years Ago in Space and Military History

On October 4th, 1958, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, was dedicated — and a few years later we were stationed there. For those who don’t know, Vandenberg is also known as the Western Space and Missile Center, and we spent two years there (1993-95) managing launch facility refurbishment projects as part of the Titan System Program Office.

Congrats, Vandenberg, on 50 years of service to the nation!

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Thanks to Bloggers for Veteran-Related Posts

If you’re interested in blogs about leadership and management, I recommend Wally Bock’s “Three Star Leadership” blog. One of his recent posts linked to Julie Ferguson’s entry on the “HR Web Cafe” blog about hiring veterans. As an Air Force retiree, I appreciate them calling attention to the subject and just wanted to say, Thanks, y’all!

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Patriot Day

I was supposed to be in the Pentagon seven years ago today — I’d been in the SecDef’s Executive Support Center the day before, with some old colleagues — but an appointment with the senior military officer in my new office kept me in Alexandria. (My wife seemed very relieved to hear my voice on the phone in the afternoon.) I wouldn’t have been in the impact zone, and doubtless would’ve evacuated with everyone else had I been there. I can’t say that my Air Force career would’ve ended up much differently either way.

My retirement ceremony was in the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Chapel, right near where the plane hit the building. It was difficult to choose to retire during the war, and I still second-guess myself sometimes; but I wasn’t in a position to fight, and I chose to go out while I was as close to the top as I’d ever get.

To those still in the fight, and those who have lost loved ones in the fight — military or civilian, combatant or bystander — I salute you.

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LATE ADDITION: Haunting NASA image of the burning World Trade Center as seen from the International Space Station, with commentary.

And I have to wonder why Google didn’t have a 9/11-related image on their site today.

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ASPJ Article Available

My short article, “The Mission Matters Most,” is out in the latest issue of Air & Space Power Journal. It’s a short critique of a short critique of my 2006 article, “How the Air Force Embraced ‘Partial Quality.'”

Link

The main point I wanted to make was that industrial and commercial quality improvement methods didn’t work well in the military setting because they were usually applied to support functions instead of warfighting functions.

Obviously I did not make that point clear enough in my original article, so let me reiterate that, in order for members of the rank and file to see Lean or any other improvement effort as vital to their service’s continued success, these efforts must be adapted to the core military mission as much as (if not more than) they are adapted to ancillary functions.

Statistical techniques designed to ensure that repetitive processes produce uniform results; continuous quality-improvement efforts that seek to improve “form, fit, and function” and customer satisfaction; and Lean initiatives that eliminate non-value-added effort and other waste are all highly effective, time-proven ways to make organizations better. But all too often they do not touch the military mission, and therefore they do not reach the military mind.

We’ll see if the point gets across any better this time.

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LOLcats Repudiated

I’m not a LOLcat fan, although I admit some of them are funny. And if you’re not familiar with the LOLcat phenomenon, the great anti-LOLcat on the Fabianspace Blog won’t make any sense to you. But I liked it. 😀

Fabianspace is run by Karina Fabian, a talented writer whose husband Rob was a speechwriter with me on the Air Staff and is now a Squadron Commander at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Karina agreed to be the Anti-Running-Mate in the Anti-Campaign, and posted a fake news story about the Anti-Candidate on the same “Labor Day Funnies” page of her blog. I suspect Rob had a hand in producing that segment.

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Oh, To Be At Thule Today

I look back with fondness at the year I spent at Thule Air Base, Greenland — in fact, today I wore my “Thule Tracking Station” hat* — but it looks as if the path of this morning’s total solar eclipse went very close to Thule. I hope the weather was clear enough for the folks to get a (safe) glimpse of the event.

This Wikipedia link has a neat animation of the eclipse path. The little black spot is the area of totality; the larger grey area would see a partial eclipse.

Ultra cool for Ultima Thule. (And no, if you pronounce it correctly that doesn’t rhyme.)

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*Our tracking station had an awesome logo: a polar bear coming out of a radome. I need to get a new hat and a couple new shirts, because mine are getting worn out.

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US Air Force Memorial

Visited the Air Force Memorial yesterday, just before getting ready to attend a wedding in Springfield, VA. I remember when some of my office mates on the Air Staff were helping to plan the opening ceremonies for the memorial, and I remember seeing the spires under construction, so it was good to see it now that it’s done.

The three spires really draw the eye upward, which is the whole point, and even as a non-flyer I found it inspiring. The Medal of Honor wall was a good touch; I found the name of the recipient (William Lawley) who swore me in as a Regular officer back when I was at Squadron Officer School. And the view of the Pentagon and across the river into DC was also very nice.

In many ways it made me miss the service and regret that my attempts to go to Kuwait and Iraq never came to fruition. And in other, morbid ways I don’t fully understand it made me somewhat sad that I missed my opportunity to be memorialized — though if I had been, I wouldn’t be typing this. C’est la vie … literally.

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Happy Independence Day

I hope you have a splendid 4th of July, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

A special “thank you” to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen who keep us safe, secure, and free every day. I salute you all.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident ….” Yes, we do.

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