Friday, June 02, 2017
Oahu doesn't have a Krispy Kreme (gotta go to Maui for that), so what better place to spend Donut Day than on the Mainland? So I went to the nearby Tacoma Mall's store for my free donut. One look at the line, though, and I passed. Maybe I'm better off without it.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
I started my new job back in April, and the day has finally come for me to do the promised bit of traveling. Today, I flew out for Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The barracks building that we're staying in isn't the most luxurious place I've ever been, but they're really spacious. I was a little concerned when we pulled up and saw the overgrown grass, but that's pretty common at JBLM. Over the next few days, the initial tasks will be to pick up rental vehicles and lay out equipment for the training assistants to pick up.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Wells Fargo just released a 113-page report Monday on a board committee's inquiry into the company's sales practices. MarketWatch summarized some of the findings, several of which I can relate to. I used to be a bank teller for about 9 months back in 1997. I worked as a bank teller at Bank of Hawaii's downtown branch. The most difficult, and stressful, part of my job was the sales aspect. Even though I worked in the commercial section (the one with the high dollar amounts), I was still expected to promote financial products. So upon reading that managers "suggested to subordinates that they encourage customers to sign up for products regardless of need," I can totally see how a bank's corporate culture can foster that environment. I'm not a very good sales person, especially when I don't believe the product really meets the buyer's needs. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't have to work in that job any longer. I went back to university for the spring 1998 semester.
Monday, April 10, 2017
With the Warfighter exercise now over, I reported to my new job today. Interestingly, the new unit isn't divisionally aligned -- instead, it has a "training assistance" mission. That's not entirely clear, so here's a more in-depth explanation. Before brigades are deployed overseas, they normally go through a "crawl, walk, run" kind of training glide path. They start by training up on tasks (i.e. first aid, marksmanship, and driver licensing) at their home station, and finish with three weeks or so at a national training center (in either Fort Polk, Louisiana, or Fort Irwin, California). It's at the national training center that the brigade is "certified" as mission ready. But packing everything up and shipping out to an NTC is expensive -- how do you know that a brigade is even close to ready, and that they won't be wasting government time and money by going? It sure would be handy if there were some kind of unit that tested brigades before they made the trip. Enter my new unit. Before a brigade leaves there home station, we test brigades in the "walk" phase of their train-up. We bring some "Lazer Tag"-like equipment, work with the mock opposition force, and manage the game that tests the brigade. As a logistics planner, my role in all of this will be to make sure the equipment gets packed up and shipped on time, and -- once I'm on site -- that the allocated money is spent properly. It means that I'll have to do some travelling -- a few weeks at a time -- but compared with the two months I spent in the Philippines last year it won't be nearly as austere.
Monday, April 03, 2017
So this is it. We're finally here. This week kicks off the division's Warfighter Exercise. It's been a long time coming. Back in November, we did the Yama Sakura exercise. In January, we had Command Post Exercise 2 CPX2). And in early March, we did CPX3. All these exercises have been leading to this present moment, which will test the division headquarters' and commanding general's performance. Along with that, we've been testing the "three command post" idea, whereby we have a main command post, a "support area command post (SACP)," and a forward Division Tactical Operations Center (DTAC). There's a certain level of silliness to this idea. With the same number of people, each section has to meet not only its normal field exercise expectations, but also give people for the DTAC, all while *not* dropping its regular garrison mission. It's a stressful time, with a lot of long hours. As with all Army activities, every echelon has opinions on how things are supposed to work. We call this the work of "good idea fairies," magical beings who sprinkle their idea dust on those who think of themselves as "being proactive." For example, personnel in the DTAC have been issued camouflage face paint. Why? Because it's "tactical." Never mind the fact that we're all sitting inside a tent with camo netting on top of it -- we still have to wear it while we sit at our computer screens. For the same reason, we've also been issued Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), despite the fact that the only place we have any reason to walk to is the latrines. So here we are with all these sensitive items, and we only thing they're good for is as a flashlight replacement. But as we say in the Army (with only the tone expressing our true feelings), Hoo-ah.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The division headquarters is getting ready to start its culminating exercise -- the final phase in a series of four field exercises. It is also the big test of my section's efforts to determine how long it would take for the division to "uncoil." The concept is simple. As a division, we're all coiled up like a snake in a single area, with two major roadways leading out. How long would it take to get every vehicle on the roads heading toward the objective? The Army doesn't have any good models for this. There's no formula that can predict with any accuracy how long it takes to move a division from Point A to Point B in Country X because 1.) every division has different numbers and types of vehicles, 2.) every operation so many different terrain/roads/ways to get someplace that nothing's comparable, and 3.) we don't have enough trials to create the data required to do a statistical analysis. Nope! At best, we have a movement calculator. If we assume vehicles average 10m long, are spaced 50m apart, travel 32 kph, and have 5 minute gaps between each group of 20, then we know a column of 100 vehicles will stretch 34 km long. So if the destination's 32 km away, the first vehicle will reach it in one hour, and the last one will arrive about an hour later. But this all assumes everything works *perfectly*. There are no accidents, no variations, no breakdowns, no enemy interference, and no mistakes. In a real war, about the only time a movement calculator is useful is when planning logistical convoys in a secure rear area. It's certainly not meant for tactical operations. Nevertheless, our movement calculator is the only tool we have, so it's been my job to do the math and present the results. And let me tell you, it's a complete farce. For one, nobody likes the results. Things just take too long, which is completely the point. You can't pretend you're going to drive your tactical vehicles single file on a highway in the middle of a combat zone. Secondly, our simulation engines are designed only to move icons from point to point. They can't handle the concept of an inchworm stretching out a certain length and then bunching up again. But none of this matters anyway (or at least, not to the people to whom I owe the information). Over the past two weeks, I have spent countless hours correcting the assumptions and refining the predictions to the point where I really just don't care anymore. In the end, I think the commanding general's only interested in how long the *exercise* makes it take. And if it's anything like the previous exercise, it will only be a few hours. All my efforts will undoubtedly be reduced to mere wasted time. Yet I can at least get a chuckle at the thought of how the simulation's results could be achieved in real life: brigades would have had soldiers racing tanks down the highway at top speed, passing each other without regard for convoy discipline; trucks from different units recklessly cutting each other off to reach their particular exit; and mass chaos as vehicles miss turns in all the confusion and radio chatter. And all this without a single accident.