Archive for September, 2011

Once upon a time there were physical viewgraphs that sat on a projector located some distance from the speaker. To change viewgraphs, the speaker used a Voice Activated Slide Changer (VASC) (also know as a person who responded to the phrase “next slide please”).

As we shifted from viewgraphs to slide carousels to digital presentation the concept of someone else turning the page remained. Yet the technology evolved over time so that a remote presentation mouse is available, cheap, user friendly, but also rarely used in military settings. Instead, presentations tend to fall back on the cheapest commodity we have – people.

Well, they aren’t actually the cheapest commodity but it sure does come across as cheaper and easier for senior, and in some cases junior, personnel to have someone at the computer to respond to “next slide please”. But there’s a flip side to this problem.

Outside the military the concept of the VASC has fallen by the wayside. Look at any major presentation given today. The two most common methods are either self-flipping with a remote – or careful rehearsal and timing. In some rare cases there is someone flipping slides, but it is so seamless as to not be noticed – and the words “next slide please” are never used.

Why do military personnel rely on the concept of “next slide please”? Because some leaders maintain that sense of entitlement that they need mundane tasks performed by someone else. Others just simply can’t be bothered with the task of learning how to control a remote, or even worse, don’t have the capacity.

Now, I’m certain some of the pushback will be “why does it matter?” How can something as simple and mundane as “next slide please” be worthy of time and discussion? Because I believe, as we see a generational change, that the idea of using a VASC is becoming equated with unprofessional or lazy presentation. And that in turn colors the manner in which the presentation is received. Unprepared, lazy, unprofessional presentations lose the audience and in doing so lose the message. Which is the point of making the presentation anyway, right?



After an early morning workout with the plebes, forty midshipmen from my company and I journeyed to Alumni Hall at the Naval Academy to attend the 2011 USNI Naval History Conference.

Although I required those forty midshipmen to attend, we all found the conference relevant to our future career choices. Every Saturday, the underclass midshipmen complete Saturday Morning Training (SMT). My job is to organize the SMT each week. The conference was probably the best SMT thus far- providing a unique opportunity for the plebes to hear from the extremely distinguished speakers.

The first panel discussed a topic aspiring aviators at the Academy dread- unmanned airplanes replacing pilots. I have no idea when or if UAVs will completely overtake manned planes, but the Economist recently labeled the F-35 the “last manned fighter.” Even so, I predict that unmanned aerial technology will not significantly affect aviation billets when my plebes graduate in 2015.

With three former astronauts, the second panel discussion inspired us all to reach new heights. CAPT James Lovell discussed his involvement in the Gemini and Apollo space programs. I found it interesting that he originally saw service in the space program as a sidetrack in the naval aviation career path. CAPT Wendy Lawrence explained how she worked for over two decades to achieve her goal of becoming an astronaut. MajGen Bolden, Administrator of NASA, told us how one statement from a friend encouraging him to apply for the astronaut program changed his life forever. On a separate note, he argued that China’s rise in the space program will be good for the NASA as Americans need someone to compete against. All three worried that money for the space program would be slashed even though NASA spends half of one percent of the U.S. budget.

I am glad that we all attended; I think events like this conference will inspire future junior officers to read and write for the Naval Institute.



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Midrats on BlogTalkRadio, Sunday, 5pm Eastern Episode 89 2049 China and All That:

More and more the 21st Century looks to be not the American Century, not the Chinese Century – but a century that will be defined by how China and American grow to see each other from their side of the Pacific from each other from both a security and economic perspective.

Two linchpins will be how each nation decides to place their cards on the Taiwan question, and the growing aliance between China’s neighbors who are uncomfortable with the dragon waking after a few centuries rest.

Join Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “EagleSpeak” as they discuss this for the full hour with one of the authors from The Project 2049 Institute’s latest, Asian Alliances in the 21st Century.

Our guest will be Mark Stokes, the Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute.

Previously, he was the founder and president of Quantum Pacific Enterprises, an international consulting firm, and vice president and Taiwan country manager for Raytheon International. He has served as executive vice president of Laifu Trading Company, a subsidiary of the Rehfeldt Group; a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and member of the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan. A 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, Stokes also served as team chief and senior country director for the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He holds a B.A. from Texas A&M University, and graduate degrees in International Relations and Asian Studies from Boston University and the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a fluent Mandarin speaker.

You can join us by clicking right here.



14th

Uniforms

September 2011

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Sal and others have covered this…but just for example’s sake.

The major military house of education that I attend recently had a “uniform day”. Here’s what people wore:

But they also wore

and  and

And being joint there were also those who wore and and and

Civilians wore this:

“Uniform” day.



13th

Egypt: Meet the New Boss

September 2011

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Same as the old boss. At least for now.

As London’s Financial Times reports today, Egypt’s Army is clamping down on the embryonic civil liberties which many of those who took to the streets in the “Arab Spring” thought they had won when the Mubarak regime dissolved.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power during a promised transition to elected rule, said on Sunday night that it was widening emergency legislation to cover a range of “threats to public order” including “attacks on the freedom to work” – code for strikes – and the deliberate dissemination of rumours and false information.“The most dangerous thing is that they have amended the emergency law to cover what they consider crimes committed by journalists,” said Gamal Fahmy, a board member of the journalists union. “The text is vague and can stretch to cover all sorts of criticism of the authorities.”

Putting the lid back on the pot in Egypt will be a task of considerable difficulty, if it can be accomplished at all. The competing interests, most of which are mutually exclusive to the others, are summed up nicely by FT:

Liberal and Islamist groups are clamouring to influence the political arrangements of the transition; young activists have been mobilising rallies to call for radical changes to break with repressive practises of the past; labour strikes have multiplied; and the country is in the grip of a crime wave.

“It is an attempt to regain control of the situation using the same security methods for which President Mubarak was criticised. In my view this reflects a state of confusion.” said Nasser Amin, who heads the Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, a legal civil society group.

Amin’s assertion that “a state of confusion” exists, is indicative of the power vacuum inside Egypt in the months following Mubarak’s ouster. Nature, and revolution, abhor a vacuum. That power void will be filled by the group most able to impose its will upon the situation and understands how to most quickly and securely seize the levers of power and authority. Not surprisingly, the group in Egypt whose goal has been just that for eight decades, Islamism in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, is rearing its head once more. They, as former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently said, “may be by far the best-organized political organization and the most disciplined, and very likely the most vicious”.

The Muslim Brotherhood has created its own political party, Freedom and Justice, in order to position itself to make inroads into Egypt’s Parliament as well as in the tide of demonstrations in the streets of Egypt’s cities. If they are successful, then the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood will be felt on both sides of the revolutionary barricades.

Hijacking popular sentiment and steering them toward one’s own purposes, the “Popular Front” tactic, is as old as revolution in modern government itself. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has eyed that strategy for its entire existence. The playing on the fears and prejudices of a long-oppressed people tends to be far more effective than appeals to such fragile and uncertain concepts as personal liberties. The history of the last century has taught us time and again that, in the contest between radicals (left or right) and liberals, the radicals tend to hold the winning hand. When those holding power, in this case the Egyptian Army, see a threat from both parties, their reaction is predictably repression. In this case, “the methods of Mubarak”.

The Army, whom some question is really willing to give up power, finds itself in a lose-lose situation. The storming of the Israeli Embassy last week was an international embarrassment to the Military Council, and a signal that their hold onto power may be tenuous. The reassertion of that hold by means of restriction of civil liberties and repression of liberal and radical alike will also draw the criticism of the international community. MB is likely to use such to erode the perceived legitimacy of the Council (or anything else which replaces it), and look to assume power once that entity is destabilized and overthrown.

Should the Islamists, in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, succeed in seizing the reins of power in Egypt, legitimacy will be at the very bottom of the list of considerations. Perhaps right below civil liberties. Even if they don’t succeed, it is clear that the bloom is off the rose of the Arab Spring. What is left to be played out is the uglier and less hopeful aspects of popular uprising.




12th

USNI Naval History Conference

September 2011

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This Saturday, I am having all the plebes in my USNA company attend this conference- considering it’s about a ten minute walk from our living spaces. With numerous admirals, a former Secretary of the Navy, and CAPT Lovell in attendance, I’d hate for my plebes to miss out on this great opportunity!



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There’s Diversity Thursday, Full Bore and Flightdeck Friday. Typically exciting or insightfull posts and commentary. This week I am inaugurating something new and different: “Mundane Monday”, a series of tips and ideas on the mundane things that can be banes of our existence. Administrivia (or administerrorism), use of data processing and presentation programs, the side of information assurance that the dear mongering annual training won’t cover, and a host of other normally boring things that yet cause people to say “WTF” on a regular basis. This week I’m commenting on the venerable and universal PDF file.

The Adobe Acrobat Portable Document File has been around for two decades, and been the de-facto standard for distribution of text files for half of that. One would think that after a decade of common use, both in the hallowed halls of government and without, that there’d be a bit more knowledge of it’s usage. Sadly, like most data processing tools there are few educational tools for producers, and even fewer for consumers.

The PDF format allows you to do many things – all of which universalize the document as well as reduce the file size.
- Have a PowerPoint document that runs at too many slides and too many pictures but need to email it? Try printing to a PDF (look under the “Print” option in PowerPoint) and emailing the reduced and unalterable file.
- Have a form that needs to be filled in? Create it in MSWord, then print to a PDF. If you have a full version of Acrobat (not just the reader) you can add fillable blocks on the form.
- Distributing an instruction? Rather than scan in a bunch of images and sending out unsearchable files in either PDF, TIFF, or JPG files, PDF the original MSWord document (yes, you can create a fancy government seal header in MSWord, and embed a signature as well). That makes the document searchable – and if you are really daring you can go so far as to build hyperlinks into the Table of Contents – something I believe MSWord will do if you use the Table of Contents form fields.

So, mundane. On Monday. Any good stories on improper use of PDFs? Good stories on excellent use of this common tool? Places someone should have used a PDF and went with some gucci-proprietary over-costed solution? Or other ideas to talk about on a Mundane Monday.



Much like our parents’ generation, whose memories are indelibly stamped with the dates of December 7th, 1941, and November 22nd, 1963, the terrible and tragic events of that beautiful, sunny Tuesday ten years ago have frozen in our recollections just where we were and what we were doing when we first heard and watched the events of September 11th, 2001 unfold.

Mine is otherwise unremarkable, walking onto the editing floor of a now-defunct mapping company, and hearing someone ask for a radio to be turned on, as there had been a plane crash in New York. Just a few minutes later, the newscaster reported that a second plane had struck another building next to the first. Those words were followed by several moments of absolute silence, as all 150+ editors, several supervisors, and other managers, myself included, stood wordlessly comprehending that this was an intentional act, an attack upon the United States.

However, what has stayed with me most, what I have thought about ten thousand times in the intervening ten years, was a very brief but prognostic event that took place a few days before the September 11th attack.

The weekend prior, I had been at the Worcester, MA, Headquarters of 25th Marines, participating in a planning conference for an upcoming Command Post Exercise to be held in late-October at Camp Lejeune NC. I had spent a tour at 25th Marines as the Fire Support Coordinator, and had recently transferred to 3rd Bn 14th Marines out of North Philly, but was attending the conference as 3/14 would be in Direct Support of 25th Marines for the exercise. As fate would have it, the New York-based 2nd Bn, 25th Marines would be major participants in the October event.

That Sunday morning (September 9th, 2001), after attending Father Rocheford’s Mass, I was glancing at the Intel board while we waited for the conference to resume. The page on the top of the clipboard was an image we have all since come to instantly recognize. Across the top of the page were the words “Osama/Usama bin Ladin (sic)”, and a summary of his role as the leader of a little-known group of Muslim terrorists known as Al Qaeda. One of my comrades saw me reading the paper, and looked down at the picture. His comment is forever etched in my mind. “I wonder what HE’s up to,” he said. “That’s one dangerous son of a bitch. It’s only a matter of time until we hear from him again.”



We have a panel discussion about more than the losses of 9-11-01 on Episode 88 “The 911 Decade” by Midrats, Sunday 9-11-11, 5pm-6:30pm (1700 to 1830) (Eastern U.S.):

There are certain points in a nation’s history that define a transition from one era to another. These moments are so clear that you don’t realize it in retrospect – you know it the moment it happens. No one argues the fact that everything has changed; from all sides, everyone sees it. September 11th, 2001 was one of those times.

911 was not just a national moment, but a global moment.

Our military has changed, our national strategy has changed, the way we perceive the tradeoff between liberty and freedom has changed – the international order has changed.

Where was our nation and the world on September 10th 2001, and how did the events the following day bring us to where our nation is a decade later?

This Sunday join co-hosts Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “Eaglespeak” as they lead a panel discussion on the 911 Decade.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton

Panel members will include:

J. Michael Barrett, Partner at Diligent Innovations, Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and former Director, Strategy & Resources at the White House Homeland Security Council.

L. Thomas Bortmes, CAPT USN (Ret), research staff member at IDA, and former Executive Director, Office of Intelligence, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security.

James S. Robbins, Senior Editorial Writer for Foreign Affairs at the Washington Times, author, and contributing editor for National Review Online.

Claude Berube, LCDR USNR, instructor of Political Science at the United States Naval Academy, Intelligence Officer in the Navy Reserve, author, and former Senate Staff member.

Please join us.

Link to Episode 88.



“Geography matters.” Frank Gamboa, a retired Navy captain and a first generation Mexican-American, knows this instinctively. In the opening chapter of his newly-published memoir, ¡El Capitan!: The Making of an American Naval Officer, he describes how his childhood in the small, bucolic town of Lone Pine, California, indelibly influenced his character and the trajectory of his life. His parents, his culture and his education played a pivotal role in his upbringing, but location, location, location was one of the most defining factors. 

Situated 200 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and in the shadow of the 14,000-foot Sierra Nevada peaks, the rugged village of Lone Pine is in the middle of the high desert town of Owens Valley. Nicknamed the Land of Little Rain, Lone Pine is thirsty for water from the Pacific. But it does not thirst for community. Frank and his siblings were raised in an enclave of caring, supportive and inclusive neighbors. Surprisingly, during an era of segregation and as a child of immigrants, he claims he didn’t experience racism or exclusion. Although his family was poor, his mother and father were respected as responsible parents and were active participants in community and civic activities. This family involvement bridged the language and cultural differences. 

So, when Frank expressed interest in attending the Naval Academy, he was not discouraged. It started with a teacher who had served in the Navy in World War II, Emil Neeme, who enticed him to pursue an appointment to the Naval Academy, which provided a free college education. An older Lone Pine kid had obtained an appointment and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1952, and that community precedent encouraged Frank. He was curious if he had the skills and the drive to attend, but he was a bit self-conscious about his family’s and immigrant community’s lack of education. He wondered if it marked him in some way. But, with the help, advice and encouragement from teachers, his coach, his principal and friends, he organized and galvanized his community’s support, secured the appointment of his elected representative and was selected to attend.

With that decision, Frank Gamboa entered a different world – far removed from Lone Pine, California, and his tight-knit, Mexican-American community. But he thrived and set out on a career and life course very different from his family’s. He successfully graduated from the Naval Academy in the class of 1958, collecting a number of cherished friendships along the way – including that of Sen. John McCain, one of his Academy roommates and still a close friend. He became a surface warfare officer (SWO) and set out on a career of driving ships and leading large crews of men.

Gamboa distinguished himself at sea and attained high ranks in the military throughout his career. During his 30 years on active duty (1958-1988), Captain Gamboa became the first Mexican-American surface warfare officer to command a major warship and the first to command a squadron of amphibious warships. 

His book, ¡El Capitan!: The Making of an American Naval Officer, portrays the leadership, management, technical and seamanship skills required to succeed in shipboard billets ranging from division officer to commanding officer and squadron commander, in ranks from ensign to captain. He delves into his professional development as a naval officer and highlights his duties, challenges and opportunities over the course of 17 years of sea duty aboard a variety of ships: destroyers, a cruiser and six amphibious warships operating in the eastern and western Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. Captain Gamboa covered most of the world’s oceans – a long way from Lone Pine, California. 

“Effective organizational performance requires two functional components: leadership and teamwork—neither can exist without the other,” according to Captain Gamboa. “Like the two sides of a coin. How leadership is employed and how teamwork is developed depend heavily on the leader’s core values. Mine include treating people with courtesy and respect. I’ve seen leaders treat their people differently, and some use anger and intimidation to get results. That was not my style…I was taught that leadership begins with an individual’s willingness to accept total responsibility, authority and accountability for the performance of duty, the conduct and the well-being of a team.”

Read more about ¡El Capitan! at www.frankgamboa.com. Captain Gamboa and his wife, the former Linda Marie Lehtio, reside in Fairfax, Virginia. He will be reading from and signing his memoir at the Navy Memorial in Washington, DC, on September 15 at noon.

 



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