Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Real World Application

     How many tests have you taken where you stare at the question, the unreal scenario, the math problem that you are pretty sure was made up in english class due to its vast use of letter, and thought to yourself, "When am I ever going to use this"?  We surround ourselves with facts and knowledge that while legitimate, might not be pertinent to our lives all in the name of a higher understanding of the world.  Its commendable, really, but what if one day you were told that you needed to learn something, that this particular something would be used for real, and people could die if you dont learn it well?  Id say its time to pay attention.
    This is what happened to me when I began to refresh myself in the matters of manual field artillery safety.  Basically, you are given a set of information and asked to calculate and construct the boundaries and angles a cannon can lob a 100lb round over the horizon where you are sure it will land without incident.  Yeah, no big deal.  For those not familiar, the effects of field artillery have been referred to as the wrath of god.  The projectiles used have a kill radius of 50 meters.  Its no joke and needs to be taken seriously.  Its so important that the military would only trust their officers with this responsibility.  Well, officers and the occasional soldier like myself who wants to learn something new.
     The parameters are set: spend two weeks learning things that officers get six to learn, then sit down and take a four hour test. Easy... wait, did you just say four hour test?  It gets better than that!  Turns out, safety is kind of a big deal in the Army, so only grades of 90% or higher will be considered passing.  Alright, those are some steep needs, but I felt confident in myself, and why not?  Just a year ago, I passed this same test and I might not have seen this material since then, but how hard could it be?
     This is where I will give credit to my LT, who spent a great deal of his personal time teaching me what he knew.  I began to do scenarios, work with stock data, my workspace was a pile of papers, notes and books filled with data for the sole purpose of filling out the required information.  I was packing alot of info into a short time but it was worth it.  I was ready for the test.  Fast forward to the afternoon post-examination where Im cursing up a storm.  60%!?  You have got to be kidding me!
     I wasnt raised to be a wuss, and my mom taught me something that I took to heart, Whitworths are not sheep.  I made my appointment and I sat down to review this sucker.  Keep in mind that grades are recorded, so I would have to take the test again two days later (two days, no big deal, officers got a week to retrain) this was just for my sanity.  I began to scour my test, line by line, I even proved an answer of mine right, then another, and then another.  The man in charge looked at my test, then the answer sheet, checked the reference book, and threw away the answer sheet.  JUSTICE.  Im not going to lie, I didnt make 90%, but believe me when I say that I was no 60.
     The results speak for themselves, I went back the next day, dropped another chunk of my life into a test that demanded your utmost attention with the most deadly real world application, and I walked out of there with my head held high.  This test means nothing to my career.  Soldiers dont need it.  If I fail again, I go back to work and my life goes on, pass and Ill get a pat on the back, but thats no reason not to push yourself for something you know you are capable of doing.  I may not love this job enough to stay for 20 years, but I am really happy that I am the one doing my job.  I wont have to do this for another year, but at least I can say I gave it my all.

By the way, I passed.

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