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.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fun and Games

     I tend to feel that the rigors of war are a bit unseemly.  Maybe you agree and maybe you dont but lets face it, its not such a big party for those involved.  Shocking, I know.  But its not all bad, there are clean, cool, and fun for those that know how to enjoy it.  Why just the other day, I was strapped into a glorified video game, shooting away at targets in the name of efficient military training.  Thats right, I was training in a digital setting.  Ill tell you all about it, I swear.
     Essentially the premise is simple.  Some people can shoot and some cant.  Anyone with any talent behind the trigger will tell you that its more than just aiming down a barrel and flexing that index finger of yours.  There are mechanics involved, breathing to consider, you need to be stable, ready and clear minded.  Ok, it also involves a bit of an index finger squeeze but even that has to be modified for that perfect shot.  Lucky for me, somebody smarter than I am, descovered that teaching these methods in a practical setting was getting a little expensive.
     I dont know if you watch the news, but bullets are not cheap and war requires a few of them, so what about the soldiers that need to train?  Well, its time we got 21st century about all this business and played some video games.  I was at a driving range once that was located inside a shopping center.  It involved a large screen that would calculate the speed and angle of your hit and show you where your shot landed.  Picture this with an M4 Carbine.  A laser attached to the front would spit out a little light when your, artificially gas powered, shots would go off.  This way you could learn a few things about your shot in a safe, effective, and cheap manner.
     A few trigger pulls later and a computer, which is also smarter than I am, spits out a list of data telling you whether you are fit to serve or in need of some tweaking.  Its all very low stress, just mentally make a list of corrections and be conscious of your shot.  The results are awesome.  I wont say that this training will make a sniper out of your average joe, so dont think this makes you a marksman, instead it enforces the fundamentals.  After about 20 min, any soldier with basic rifle training will be able to put three shots into a space the size of a silver dollar.  Not too shabby for a video game.
     As a new generation is born having never known life without internet, it is fitting that we all make the digital jump.  I really dont want to compare this "amazing" technology to other branches or time periods, but I can think of worse training Ive done with less improvement.  In a world where it seems that war is just a push of a button, dont forget that a bullet can push alot harder than a hand and the army is making sure its soldiers are able to perform the task.  I wouldnt expect to see this next to your local driving range, but its a fun thing to think about.  Video games, anyone?