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.
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.
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.
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.'”
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.
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.)
*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.