What Businesses Should Learn from the Military – Part IV, Annual Training Schedules

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Create an Annual Training Schedule

Remember those several dozen training events that we all had to go to each year. It was all maintained by the Platoon Sergeant. A major element of someone’s whole job was making sure that everyone in the platoon (30 people or so) was in the right place to hear the right thing. He even had an assistant, the Training NCO who that was their whole job. It’s a juggle, but it is worth it. For us, we had a massive dry erase board that held the status of every Marine in every training event he needed. This status board didn’t need to be seen by any one of us, but it was information readily readable by anyone in a command to see how competent a unit was at any given moment. In a way, it was a really efficient way to monitor the health of the organization.

Since my time, most of the status boards have moved into Excel spreadsheets, but their purpose doesn’t change. It helps navigate the mess of who needs what. If you don’t think it’s a mess, then you probably either need to have a conversation with HR and Legal, or give both divisions a raise. There should be a lot to do at a standard company of any size.

Create a matrix that should have every employ with all the training they must attend throughout the year. Look at all the gaps on the axis of events. Think about things you would like to see there. Maybe “Culture Meeting” would fit in there somewhere. Perhaps, a lot of those obligatory meetings could be put to good purpose by sending someone to as many at once and creating classes on your own to augment and make better use of the time they are gone.

However you do it, whether you create a position within HR, or within ever major working group, or if you just have a single Excel file that has everybody on big series of checklists, do something as far as getting organized in your training methods.

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This has been an independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

What Businesses Should Learn from the Military – Part III, Regular Training

 

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Follow up with Regular Job Specific Training

Periodically, Marines would get pulled from the unit for all sorts of different trainings. You might have a week’s training on crew served weapons with a couple guys from the shop, or a two week class session where a few dozen Marines from the squadron learn crash course conversational Arabic and Middle Eastern customs, or even a three day “camping trip” to learn field survival. These trainings are great at improving the knowledge, survivability and mission accomplishment of the Marines in a unit. It also builds lasting relationships with the members within it, sometimes, even with members not even of the same working group.

Seminars, grouped with employees of different work groups so that everyone learns from each other and builds new valuable skills, are invaluable. I don’t mean those “teamwork workshops” by the way, where everyone shares feelings and falls down so that other people can catch them. That’s moronic and tells your employees that you think they are third graders. Did they say they loved the training? Of course they did. People lie to you, partly because you fired Sarah after three months, partly because they may not know what a good seminar is supposed to look like. Send your people to real training so that they feel you value them enough to actually invest in them as a part of the future of your company.

Ask your employees and the supervisors underneath you to suggest training that they would want to go to in the hopes of progressing their own career. Weed out those that you think may be an opportunity for shenanigans and little else, but create a list of the best external training courses within your budgetary and operational scope and send them as often as is possible.

 

Make Use of Obligatory Training Situations

Every Marine is a riflemen. It isn’t just a neat saying. It is a verifiable fact that the Marines invest millions to ensure. To make sure that every Marine is, in fact, a riflemen, it means we have to train for two weeks and qualify to prove it. That is a major investment on the part of the United States Marines, especially considering only about 1% will ever fire a weapon in combat. Think about that. There is also dozens of annual trainings that must be met; gas mask certification, MOS certification, HUMVEE license renewals along with dozens of others.

You do this already with the federally mandated sexual harassment, HIPAA law briefs for you in healthcare, and dozens of other industry specific seminars you must do every year depending on who you are. Well, you’re probably treating these as obligations because they don’t make you money. You shouldn’t. Good events that bring the company together for training allow you to spread your culture and vision while reinforcing company values of excellence and learning. You need to do them as often as you can because, for the few hours of time you give up, you increase individual and group efficiency from that point on throughout your area of responsibility for the life of the company.

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This has been independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

How do we destroy ISIS?

Wait.

This may seem like an utterly barbaric thing to say, but ISIL is progressing itself down a course which it cannot survive. If this course is allowed to progress, I believe, it will force actions in others to a point that the Islamic State’s true source of power will be broken and take with it the seeds of fanaticism in much of the Middle East, as well. If, however, this course is interrupted by too much outside interference, it will only  feed the mentalities that birthed ISIL and exacerbate the turmoil for perhaps another generation entirely along with spreading fundamentalism further.

Here are the reasons I believe this.

1) ISIL isn’t well accepted by the broader population muslims. One might be surprised to find out that almost all other Islamic bodies have completely disavowed the Islamic State. Be it an Islamic nation or even, other groups which have been labeled as terrorist organizations, the Islamic State has no noteworthy allies. They are an extremists branch. Yes, they do have many adherents, but within the entirety of Islam, they are still a minority.

2) Their main source of recruiting is among the young, undirected, and not very theologically grounded youth of world wide muslims. This means that they have a young culture, prone to fits of irrationality and capable of extreme violence with less regard for life than militant groups with an older average age. This means that as more young people join in with ISIL, we should expect to see these young people committing more and more violent acts as mob mentality takes over the loose military structure of the Islamic State’s army.

3) Point two is illustrated by their recruiting methods, hyper violent shows of force and subjugation of individuals who do not adhere to a particular brand of Islam. This type of sensationalist recruiting is directed at exactly the type of individual pointed out in point two and further leads the culture of barbarity by potently pulling out those fanatics within the broader population of point one from international sources.

4) They have grown in regional influence much faster than they have gained the logistical support and structure to adequately govern it. This means that they are spread thin, less so since so many have joined in more recently, but there is very little experience available to govern a logistical area of operations about the size of the state of Pennsylvania or the nation of Portugal. With such a small and randomly assorted officer corps, leadership in ISIL will be lacking and strategic weaknesses are going to form, if they haven’t already.

Considering these points a few things will probably happen. The IS will continue to get worse, as time goes on. This will force some sort of reaction by the world community. A coalition of 10 different Islamic States in the region has already been formed to help combat ISIL. What this coalition will look like and what actual counter-offensive they pose is yet to be determined, but some of the faces now sitting at the same table would have floored many a political expert even just one year ago. With hopes, they will at least increase security to prevent new recruits from joining with ISIL, closing up holes for their funding, and perhaps even coordinating attacks and direct action. If nothing else, they have already made a token effort and sent a message to more than 300,000,000 muslims that this brand of Islamic fundamentalism is not acceptable. Further actions will only make the the Islamic State more desperate as they no longer will be able to take advantage of many of the tactics which have served them over the last few years.

Once they become desperate, we should expect to see a few things. They will be ugly, probably worse than what we have seen, so far. Something important to remember, though, is that ISIL insurgents are outnumbered by the local population in the regions they control by, in some places, 10,000 to 1. Many of these people are absolutely not happy about Sunni Arab fundamentalist rule by force. Many currently only remain subjugated by fear. Under these conditions, and with a few key losses to remind the oppressed of ISIS’s very real vulnerabilities, I can’t reasonably see the populations like the Kurds, Yazidi, and citizenry of Mosul not rising up. There has already been articles of Yazidi militia forces forming, getting trained, organized and armed, to combat alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Frankly, ISIL’s extremely barbaric methods, along with their overzealous sudden expansions have left them with many enemies and spread incredibly thin. If anything, their barbarity has acted as a recruiting device and rallying cry for the enemies they wish to conquer.

(This image is actually a parade of Shia militia, raised from Iraqi citizens to fight ISIL, marching in Baghdad.)

Add to this recent losses on three fronts. In Syria, their actual base of operations, Assad, the dictator Western media outlets were busy painting as the worst thing in the Middle East eight months ago, has made several concessions including the promise that he is willing to make further compromises in the hopes to receive help from abroad against the Islamic State threat. What that means, we can’t be certain. The Iraqi army has had a few important victories in regions of significant importance to ISIL in Iraq, namely near Falluja, a very potent center of Iraqi fundamentalism going back to 2004. The Kurdish Peshmerga has also done marvelously in the North by taking control of several strategic assets in coordination with American bombing. While, in reality, these events alone don’t win a war, the broader picture is that it does do something very important. If ISIL’s main source of growth is through the promotion of a nation for Allah, how could Allah possibly allow them to lose? I’m not making a personal religious statement, but echoing a point I have heard said by others. It is a logical fallacy that must be overcome by anyone who seeks to join, and many, are now simply unable to.

That said, it is my belief that, with even minimal support by the Americans, ISIL’s days are numbered. What’s more, at the end of this process, we would have an Islamic ran cultural restoration to promote, project and protect a much less fanatical and barbaric form of the religion. Perhaps most importantly, the Middle East will, together show that they don’t want fundamentalism to rule, which will be a cultural message with much deeper lasting effects. If you want fundamentalism to die out, you have to have it hated by the community.

What we shouldn’t do, and this is just my opinion, is go in full steam and guns blazing as the American victory over terrorism. It isn’t that I don’t think we have skin in this. I was an American Marine deployed to the region currently owned by ISIL in 2005 and 2007. Trust me that I know what our responsibilities to the region are, the sacrifices we’ve made, and the risks that we face if the Islamic State isn’t destroyed. Simply put, though, seeing our failures first hand has made me very reluctant to believe in another American led coalition to solve all of the problems of the Middle East. I don’t really think that the Americans micromanaging this one is going to get very much done. It didn’t ten years ago. I feel that, if anything, it will do more to send the message that maybe ISIL is right, at least to those who are vulnerable to their propaganda. “Maybe the Westerners really are trying to take over the Islamic world.” The last thing we should do is make over a billion people sympathetic to the terrorists by our continued over involvement in their affairs. What we need to do is, from a distance, bide our time and provide support, not a grandstanding leadership role, to the Islamic nations so that they along with the oppressed minorities in Iraq and Syria can come together and break the back of fundamentalism. Only then when the source of this fanaticism truly be cut off by a profound cultural change rather than outside interference.


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This has been an independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

What Businesses Should Learn from the Military – Part II, Onboarding

 

 Final Drill

There needs to be a very detailed process to track progress and development and know how well a person is being integrated into the company.

In the military, this is boot camp and the next six months of training that usually follows before you ever even join your real team. In business, we call this is onboarding. In the military there is also unit onboarding. Along with basic training and job training, it’s the first few months after entering a unit. That means that Marines spend more than a full year in training before they ever actually do their job.

I know, you’re thinking that isn’t feasible for you company. “We can’t exactly send everyone to boot camp.” I know, I know, but your onboarding sucks, regardless. What’s your excuse now Stanford dropout CEO? A few of you who know less than you think, are saying that you would just love to waste the military’s limitless funds on infinite training. The military would also love to live by that fantasy. What Marines do, however, can be done at any company with competent management. Marines utilize a combination of formal and informal classes to train for every problem they may come across. While formal schooling is costly and time consuming from an owner’s perspective, most of the other training is directed at the manager’s level and relevent to the small group unit. If a manager can’t really set goals that are achievable and teach the path to reach those goals, he isn’t that integrated himself. He’s just winging it, which means that that new employee is swimming in the open ocean without even a lighthouse.

Literally, onboarding is the most important part of the hiring process after vetting. And that thing you have your receptionist or office manager do to get their paperwork in the system, walk them around the office and show them their desk? You think that is onboarding? Of course you don’t, but that is all you do. I was at one company where the onboarding was made up of what basically was just a club of concerned employees, junior employees at that, who wanted to make it easier for new people based on the problems they had coming in. There was no leadership involvement, whatsoever. It obviously wasn’t a concern, and I bet it isn’t a concern for your company either.

You can have great talent show up, but feel completely overwhelmed, lost, confused, without any idea how to navigate your systems (or even your office) and in fear of not knowing who to ask. What ends up happening a month later? You label him a failure and show him the door. You recite that tired trope about how you as a manager failed, but really you just blame him, when really, surprise, surprise… it was your fault. You dropped him in the deep end and you both sank together. Hope you’re happy.

One thing that many people don’t seem to understand is that, in most places, an employee doesn’t truly pull his weight until after his first year at a job. This is even more true if your company is highly integrated, complex and if there are many systems in place. Those who have been in for a long time know exactly where to find what, but the new person must build those mental networks and learn while doing to navigate the backend efficiently. They might surprise you with bits of awesome from time to time if they are allowed to work on their own and use resources intuitively available when arrived or that they brought with them. That doesn’t mean that they are integrated, though. Given time, everyone who doesn’t integrate will show themselves to be the failure you made them. The smart ones are just geniuses of misdirection, but they are all still mostly just helping out while others do the heavy lifting. If you fire a person before that one year anniversery, you honestly never really gave him a chance to begin with. More importantly, depending on your priorities, you just wasted a lot of money, lots of your time and possibly ruined someone’s life.

Have an onboarding plan that extends throughout the year. Make every part of the process a routine, practically a religious routine. Make it applicable to every teir of the company. Make all new company hires go through a part of the process, different divisions another, all the way down to work groups. Make the managers responsible for coming up with integration plans for their teams and measure that effectiveness against other rational expectations. They are interruptions to the work needing to be done, but they are investments in the individuals ability to do it, which is much more valuable moving forward.

In this line of thought, in the event that you see that one of your managers has fired someone with less than one year on the books, you need to seriously question that manager’s capabilities in guidance. Perhaps they were once marvelous workers, but doing and leading are two very different skillsets. It may not have been an appropriate choice to promote someone to a role requiring a completely different series of abilities on the premise that they showed a great deal of other abilities in their last job. If the problem continues, you may not even realize that you have a detrimental cancer to your company’s ability to grow in the future because your manager, not the people he is hiring, is the problem.

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This has been independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East?

A question was asked on the social media website Quora. Another veteran expressed his frustration over trying to rejoin society after his combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I deeply sympathized with his frustrations and felt the need to reach out.

The Question:

How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East? How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of? How will I ever fit back in to our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment? How do I deal with being so lost? How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay thier taxes while carrying so much debt? All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” Tshirt, what does that even mean anyway?

The Answer:

Welcome to the club.

I’ve been where you are now and there are many of us who are frustrated. After four years in the Marines and two tours in Iraq followed by my biggest challenge, going to college with my 18 year old counterparts, I decided something: I hate Americans. That feeling isn’t really as severe anymore because I eventually mellowed out, but I do feel for you.

During this period I wrote these answers that might help you see that you’re not alone. Read them, see if they make you feel better.

In them you’ll see a unique amalgam of intense pride, disillusionment, patriotism, shame, self-sacrifice, self-righteousness, arrogance, entitlement, and an ounce of old fashioned chivalry. Sound familiar?

Warning: People who have never served in the United States Military will notappreciate the rest of this answer. Don’t get pissy. I warned you. Having said that, there are a few things the person asking the question should let go of if you want to move on.

1) How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of?

Did you ever have that one E-3 in your unit who just thought he was really smart? So smart in fact that he tried to recreate a scenario he read in The Darwin Awards because he just knew that he could make it work? These are called idiots. You remember, the ID-10T’s. They are morons on a good day and in their best day all they do is talk. The political ones you will run into on the outside are no different. Most of them are just self-righteous know-it-alls who really love their country. Maybe, or maybe they just hate all the people who see the world in a different way. Fundamentalists don’t just wear turbans and the sooner you realize that the better. They all say the same thing, “I really wanted to serve, but my [ random pissant disability ] wouldn’t let me in.” And for some reason, seem to think that entitles them to some sort of glorified status among veterans. I don’t get it either. Stop trying. Just avoid eye contact. Smile and nod. Walk away.

2) How will I ever fit back into our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment?

You won’t. Society isn’t all that great anyway. I went through a recluse phase, too. It isn’t productive. The best advice I have is to try to find a veterans group where you can vent your frustrations with an equally annoyed bunch of old farts, so that you heal in safe way among a fraternity of people who understand you. It really does help to talk it out with people who have been there. Even if they didn’t exactly go through what you did, they have experienced stuff like it or at least have thought about it far more than a healthy person should. You’ll need their experience and their wisdom. Your friends won’t get you. Your family won’t even get you. All they can offer are cliches and Dr. Phil nonsense advice. I wish I had done it sooner. I stayed angry for way too long and it cost dearly in the relationships I could have made as well as in my career.

Besides that, what you need to do is realize that you aren’t supposed to “fit back in”. You’re special and not in that Barney the Dinosaur sort of way. People respect you because you have done stuff that blows their minds, or at least their stereotypes of you blows their freaking minds. In some circles, you can walk in and command a room just with your presence alone. Warning though, eventually they get to know you and you don’t live up to their stereotypes, so they get bored and will want to throw you away because you somehow failed to live up to their impossible expectations. Sorry about that. This paragraph was supposed to be uplifting.

That said, you do have a lot of skills that most people don’t. You have a lot of character traits that others don’t. Values, ethics, ideals and expectations; the whole shabang. Your problem is that you suck at dealing with people, certain kinds of people anyway, and I am sorry to say, those certain kinds of people are everywhere. You are going to need at least, in my experience, two years to learn how to fill in the personality gaps between you now and normal for the rest of humanity before you can fake it well enough to happily work at a job with people.

3) How do I deal with being so lost?

Veterans of Foreign Wars – They have a waiting list that’s a year shorter than seeking counseling through the VA. It is a sad joke, because it is true. You should try to talk to people. Old vets are cool because you just hang out and they don’t mind being there when stuff gets real. If you start crying, civilians want to label you and run for the door. Old vets, just remembered when they cried. Sometimes they give you a hug. Sometimes they tell you to suck it up. They also know how you feel and can relate in a way that reminds you, “That’s right, I’m normal. I just went through a really crappy time in my life.” At the point where you seem to be, you might need to get started on the process to talk to a professional. I had a friend who was really messed-up after Iraq and it really helped him. It just takes dropping the macho, “I’m too tough to speak to anyone about my head problems.” or “There are people worse off than me,” or “I didn’t really experience anything actually traumatic.” It’s only your life you’re wasting if you don’t.

4) How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?

There is something that I really want you to realize and it will help you get through a lot. Your countrymen never sent you to Iraq or Afghanistan. You did. The United States is an all volunteer service. There is no draft. There is no obligatory service and there is no conscription. No one forced you to go to MEPS and no one held your hand up while you swore the Oath. Judging by the time frame, you also probably knew there was a war going on already. From that point until your DD-214 you gave your word that whatever happened, you would fulfill your promise to serve the Commander-in-Chief, the chosen representative of the combined will of these fifty states according the Constitution of the United States.  If war was going to happen, it wasn’t the fault of any one of them, not even all of them. If you feel that you suffered from war, you have to remember that it was because you chose to go. I’m sorry to be real like that, but you have be responsible for that part or you are just going to get more and more bitter about what others did to you, when really, it wasn’t “others'” fault.

As for the “and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?” have you ever read the book Starship Troopers? It’s a really great military sci-fi for military folk. It was written by a former Naval officer who really seemed to capture the feel of people in the service… four hundred years from now, anyway. One part I remember most is that, in that world, the only people who can vote are the veterans. It isn’t that they are the smartest or even the most qualified. The reason they are the only group allowed to vote is that they, alone, have proven the one trait that should be a requirement of citizenship, the willingness to sacrifice for their society. They don’t make poor choices which are self serving because they, alone, have actually invested real skin and blood into their society and they won’t break it with a black hole entitlement programs, an unproductive criminal corrections system, forgiveness for the chronically ineffective, and enabling hand out programs.  No other group, by virtue of their existence, has proven they have a vested interest in the future of their society, which they are willing to defend, besides the veterans. We don’t live in that world, but I understand what Heinlein was trying to say. You’re going to have to accept that there are just so, so very many people out there who are complete and utter leeches on society who have a vote no less powerful than yours. That is because we live in a democracy where merit, ability, education, and social mobility are traits that don’t really matter, just how many friends you have. Perhaps I should have said that democracy was based off of the belief of the fundamental equality inherent to all God’s children. Alas, I didn’t and I am sure your know why. Until the day when Heinlein’s fascist utopia/draconian nightmare (depending on your point view) becomes real, we are just going to have to accept this fact, too; worthless people matter just as much as the greatest in a democracy. For better or worse, this is how it will be in any sort of perceivable future. As yet though, this has been the most successful setup for self governance, so far, so it can’t be that bad. As I have already said, you also volunteered because, at one point, either because you were naive or really, really idealistic, you believed that that democracy was worth defending. If you still value it, you have to let go of the anger toward the idiots that also get to vote even though the have never and likely will never contribute anything but deficit to our society.

5) All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” T-shirt, what does that even mean anyway?

Americans, in general, are pretty self-centered creatures happy to sit on a couch and wait for, or even demand, whatever in the world there is to entertain them. Many will live their whole lives without progressing the human race forward one inch. That really terrifies me, but they have different values than you do. That’s why you joined the military; to do something heroic, or something important, something adventurous or just something different, or whatever, but they didn’t. Many of them are just worthless blobs demanding more intake of whatever gives them their individual fix. Call it American Idol, heroin, weed, sex, politics, money, work, or whatever. They just need whatever it is that makes them happy and that is all they will ever know.

That’s why when they faced the risk of their blissful happiness and their precious ability to consume entertainment at a breakneck pace was blown out of the water for the first time in sixty years, all anyone could do was thank a Marine for going out and doing the nasty stuff that kept their right to a 50″ surround sound maintained. That is seriously the only reason that many of them do it. They got scared of living in a world not as blissful as America in the 1990’s and the military suddenly seemed like the only group of people who would make that happen again.

And then what happens? They watch the news and hear that we are at war. They know a guy who went to war. Well, they know someone whose brother is in the war. Or maybe he is just in the Air Force. They don’t really remember, but they sure do feel like they are at war. No they aren’t rationing. No they aren’t planting victory gardens. No they aren’t recycling pig fat, panty hose, or iron shaving. No they aren’t buying war bonds or even enduring any sort of increased taxation to pay for this war, but they sure do feel the effects of that war, goshdarnit.

The fact is that many are simply saying “We support our troops” because you went to war and they didn’t have to. Others are simply just saying it because of social obligation. Nobody wants to be that guy who doesn’t support the troops, you know, like the entire country after Vietnam. They sure didn’t in that war, when absolutely no one thought it was important. Then veterans were spit upon when they came home. At least my generation still gets handshakes, social prestige and from time to time a real, true to life thankful person will buy me a coke after they find out what I did.

I do want to go on record to say that most people aren’t really the problem. The problem is a minority. There are about 10% of the people, of no particular race, religion, creed, or color, who come together as individuals to form a collection of the most loathsome, despicable, and worthless human beings imaginable. Not to themselves, of course. To themselves, they are the most magnanimous human beings on the face of the planet and worthy of all that was given to them, and so much more. It is only people who see things through your point of view that they are so horrible. (Me too, by the way.) You have to realize though, that they are a minority, a small number of people who command a massive amount of your attention because you feel very passionately about certain things which you have given so much for and have a certain set of values which many do not truly appreciate or even fathom. Once you learn to adjust your blinders during times when you don’t want to deal with those kinds of people which bug the crap out of you, you’ll start appreciating a lot of other people around that aren’t such oxygen thieves.

Summary

Wars are going to happen. Sometimes they will happen for reasons we say are good because the alternatives are probably worse. Other times, incompetent officials elected by incompetent voters will start them. At those times men and women who are willing to do whatever their leaders ask of them, in service of a country they are really proud of, will have to carry out the acted will of the United States. You already did that. As someone else who did, I am sincerely thankful for you doing that and I am very sorry that you are going through “the suck” right now. But you owe it to yourself, and to the rest of us veterans, to get better. There is a festering horde of worthless no-goods out there becoming more and more dependent upon the almighty “They” for absolutely everything in their world. You really are one of the few people out there with unique skill and value set, buried underneath all that pent up frustration and angst which we all share. Get some help and go talk to someone. You really are blowing the best years of your life being pissed off and it isn’t doing anyone any good, at all. Once you correct yourself, you’ll be happy you did. I promise.

-Semper Fi
Sgt Jon Davis (inactive since 2008)

Blues


An independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

What do troops keep in all those pockets they have?

Most of those pockets are not really pockets as much as well-designed accessories, each with its own designed role, which are to be arranged by the individual troops’ need, specialty, designation, and mission to fit onto the Interceptor and MOLLE systems.

main-qimg-711d2d920c761a43c0b4f2a421586355
All that to say that when you see pockets, I see magazine pouches. Each item you see was engineered for a purpose. Those long ones in the front, for example, are for holding extra ammunition in the form of fully loaded magazines. Look at the Marine below and note the fact that those pouches are about the same size as the magazine inside his weapon. Each pouch holds about two magazine; some can hold three. They are meant to be worn as near to weapon as is functional to keep the momentary time when a warfighter is out of action because of gear to a minimum.

main-qimg-757ff64df8b85da4704b345fc440d12bOther items which are usually visible on a deployed Marine or soldier’s gear is a larger square pouch which carries a whole medical trauma kit, hanging bag to retain spent magazines and a much smaller pouch for carrying grenades, (or candy). Other attachments can be used which are useful for carrying radio equipment, or virtually any other piece of gear. Most anything can be converted to capable of being carried on the armor, depending upon the Marines mechanical creativity. If you look above again, you can see the first aid kit and the drop pouch worn on the Marine in the rear.

main-qimg-277b93c7ea58505066af1f048e5e2cd6The system is actually pretty remarkable in that it was created to provide such a secure, but customizable platform for any number of tactical needs. The basic armor is lined on the outside with many, many bands of material that a Marine or soldier will lace whatever accessories they are issued or buy in whatever arrangement and configuration best suits them. They may arrange them according their NCO’s instructions or on their own. There is always a minimum of expectancy, as in, you will have at least these pieces of gear on your equipment at all times. These pieces are always issued, but, as I said, the individual can buy better versions if they within military limits of acceptability. Take my gleaming example for a moment. In the image below, you’ll see me with my IFAK (first aid kit) in the front, and three magazine pouches which I bought because they were better than the standard issued magazine pouches of the time (2005).

imagesprotective_20custody

As of when I was in, there really weren’t set rules on where what went. As I said, it was more or less up to the individual on how they arranged their gear. There are, however, many guidelines and armament philosophies or rules of thumb. For example, some combat marksmanship philosophies said that a shooter should never remove their firing hand from the weapon. For that reason, the non-firing hand is needed to be the one reloading the weapon in the event that the magazine begins to run low. A smart Marine would be wise, then, to keep their magazine pouches within ready reach of their non-firing hand so that they do not have to reach across their body and the weapon to grab a fresh magazine. Such actions take precious seconds, which are a commodity highly valued in tense situation. It would also be wise if that dump pouch was then also behind the magazines so that in one smooth set of motions, the magazine can be changed out and the spent one dropped in the dump pouch.

MeMany different people will arrange their gear in many different ways. Some arrangements focus on arranging gear around a particular weapons system. Some focus on left or right handed shooters. Some focus on additional mission requirements and all try to maximize comfort. All of these can also be changed out completely in about an hour. Yeah, there is actually quite a lot of thought that goes into it. In addition, not everything we carry might be tactical. Now besides that, we might carry anything. Pocket utility knives, pens, note-taking material, covers. Below, you will find the contents of my cargo pocket during most every deployment, training mission, field op, or act of unpleasantness I experienced in the United States Marine Corps ever since I went on my first Iraq tour starting in 2005.
main-qimg-ef6a7b1514e8ee4f5669adc49a1a0dcaBesides the knife and the boonie cover (hat) there was Froggy. Froggy joined me during the first half of my first combat deployment to Iraq. He came in a flat rate US Postal Service shipping container with assorted letters, cards, sweet treats, and nice sox, addressed from my wife, safe at home. Inside the package was a small stuffed frog with a tiny crown and and a little red heart in his hands that read “Kiss Me”. When you pressed the heart it made a loud “smooching” sound. I think it was Jennie’s way of being there for me when she simply could not be. Maybe she just liked him because he was cute and different. From then on, I carried him everywhere I went inside my cargo pocket, nice and safe, but hidden away, because we were all big, strong, manly men back then.

One day, while in formation within our hanger, I popped to attention with the rest of the platoon. My fist struck my pants leg as the platoon went silent and the Gunny took his place at the head of the evening muster. As my fist contacted with my leg, a loud, long, “smooching” sound emanated from my pocket. Half the platoon heard it and half of them knew it came from me, though none of them could have guessed what exactly it was that they had heard. I wasn’t going to stop carrying Froggy for that. I had become too attached to him. Something had to be done though. That afternoon, in the a dark corner of a dusty bunker, deep within the sands of Iraq, I cut out Froggy’s heart, a symbolic act I am often reminded of when I think about him. From that point on, though, he was ready as my silent companion.

For the next three years, in fact, Froggy was with me. Throughout the rest of Iraq in 2005 he rode in that cargo pocket. On every long day and even longer nights, there he was. When I came home, he was there when my wife and mom greeted me. When I was promoted to Corporal and immediately sent on a ten-mile hump to celebrate, he was there too. In the training missions for months in Yuma, you could still find him. Finally, for my second tour in Iraq, the longest and some of the hardest months of my life, every time I needed to be reminded of the existence that somewhere there was something far greater than this miserable existence, all I had to do was reach down in my cargo pocket and feel his soft, velvety gesture. For three years of the United States Marine Corps after he joined me, beneath whatever facade I had to project, he was with me, for every step of every hike, every rifle range, every hole that was dug, every fearful moment, sandstorm, nightwatch, and all the tears shed both in remorse and in homecoming. We was present for all of them, hidden away peacefully in my cargo pocket.

main-qimg-fd00d740c824c768bee260f45870ffe8It’s been many years now since Froggy has seen action. Now, he is retired. In this new life he peacefully rests on the shelf above my desk. Sometimes when I write I look up at him staring off into the distance and think about all the adventures we shared. Now he’s a bit dustier and not quite so soft to the touch, and even going bald in a few places. Regardless of this, I can honestly say that at any given point, if anyone were to ask me, “Hey Marine, what’s in your pockets?” I’d reach down and pull out a little stuffed frog, because at any given moment, no matter where I happened to be, he was always there when I needed him, a task he remains true to, even today.

 


 

Blues

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Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

Training, the Number One thing Businesses Should Learn from the Military

Enduring Freedom/Operation Marjah/Operation Moshtarak


 

I’ve worked in the tech startup scene, retail sales, and real estate, mostly in operational roles, either as an owner or in a manager’s role. I was also a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps with two tours in Iraq. I feel qualified to answer the question of what could businesses learn most from the military. More specifically, what shortfalls are prevalent in the business world, have a solution which the military has overcome?

To me, the answer to that question comes down to training. What I have noticed most outside of the Marines was that the rest of the world doesn’t actually put any investment into training. Sure, they might get convinced to allow their associates to go to a conference a few times a year, mostly to get drunk on the company dime and three days away from their tool of a boss, but they have no clue what the real value of training is. I’m not even sure if most businesses would know how.

Consider this, a new employee is going to be hired. You know that every report you read talks about the importance of the search for new talent, because it is so impossibly expensive. Add to this is that the search could take four or five months to find a right fit for some jobs. That’s opportunity costs of an employee not being productive. I’ve seen companies spend tens of thousands in this process.

Now, a new employee is hired. Woohoo! A lot of companies welcome you aboard for a two week honeymoon phase, then you better knock down walls in the next month or you just aren’t good enough. You failed, better cut our losses. They will then spend the next six months giving impossible tasks to build a case for the failure’s dismissal and then out the door you go with a modest severance package so that you won’t blab company secrets or bad mouth it to the outside. In the civilian world, most people, at least most people I’ve dealt with, think they did a good job by giving you a chance and then sink or swim. This sounds brilliant and hardcore, so it has to be good strategy. Keep only the strong and we will be strong. Kill the weak! Rawr! Yeah, tell that to the Marines. That isn’t how they work so you should stop that nonsense, too.

So you think your startup that created a social network for dog lovers is really hardcore because you just fired your sixth receptionist in 12 months. Well bravo, you just blew maybe two hundred thousand on a series of failed investments, for a position only paying, maybe, $35,000 annually, have lost a year of productivity and are nowhere closer to the finish than you were when you started. Don’t forget that you have also lost countless hours yourself, replacing said employees and “training” them. How in the world is a receptionist worth what amounts to hundreds of thousands in straight loss and absolutely no progress over the course of a single year? All of a sudden, sink or swim is starting to look pretty stupid, huh?

Would you like a better solution? Now consider this, the United States military has to work, obviously, one of the most difficult jobs in the world. They have world wide responsibility over trillions of dollars worth of equipment and oversee what amounts to one of the world’s largest logistical support networks. The average age of the Marine Corps is 20 and you know what? Every one of them is a master in their specified field by year two and are responsible for some of the most advanced technological systems on the planet. And management? By the time many are twenty three years of age they have already been promoted to a leadership role, responsible for a team of trade veterans. I haven’t even mentioned anyone shooting at you. What’s most surprising? Almost none of them are degreed. Virtually all the labor force is made of only fresh high school grads and not even the best and brightest of them. They possess almost no formal educations in their fields that most people work for years just to get on their resume before even starting their job. Still, they are somehow made ready to do the missions that are world scale and never lose. Wars may be lost, but that is mainly due to political decisions, yet you have never heard in the last 30 years, “The Marines were pushed out of X.” How do you explain that?

Training. Look, in the military, people aren’t expendable. It’s a contradiction of the stereotype we get from movies and such, but a front line troop is a valued and irreplaceable asset. They are viewed, quite literally, as an investment to the United States military. It’s odd to think that the military places a higher value on a low performing high school graduate than you would treat an Ivy League Summa Cum Laude in Computer Science, but business views everyone as temporary, and only worth a certain economic value. The military doesn’t. In the military, you have this person and that is all you get. You can’t hire another. You can’t replace them with someone else. You can’t fire him. You’re stuck, and so is he. If he is lost, for any reason, the job of the rest of the unit suddenly because exponentially harder. He has to make the grade. The training, the discipline, the yelling and the constant rehearsals are all part of making sure that that Marine or soldier succeeds in his mission and returns home. More so than that, it is a known truth that his success will also be bringing back others as well.

In business, the attitudes are much “nicer”. Everyone is polite. No one can be offended or HR has to be involved. It certainly feels like everyone is getting the respect they feel they are entitled to, but motivations are much more selfish. An employee is only as valuable to you as the money he can make for you.

Return on Investment

Didn’t realize how shallow the business world really is, did you? So here is my advice. Over the next few weeks, I am going to break down how the military utilizes focuses on the art of training to progress the arts of warfare and passing that knowledge on to future generations. I will also provide some advice on steps your company can take to be a more evolutionary company by utilizing them. Everything that follows will are parts of the training culture that are all taken very seriously in the military. When you are in your quiet time as a leader, you need to think about how to implement them in your company or area of responsibility if you wish to focus not only on growing, but on growing your people.  Make to sure to follow this blog for updates for more.

Blues


An independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life