April 19, 2021

While I was on the way to work on Sunday, I passed a convoy of trucks out on maneuvers for the National Guard. This is not unusual as Fort Chaffee is a Regional training site for the guard and they are seen driving the local roads as part of their training.  This gives them the opportunity to practice formation driving.  They must figure it is safer to drive the four-lane highways that abound in our area rather than fighting traffic on the smaller two-lane roads, although they drive these as well.  I see bus drivers doing the same thing during the summer when they hire a new crop of drivers for the coming fall.  You need to practice and get a feel for how the trucks or busses handle before you put troops or students in them in real situations.  You need to get a feel for the technology.

For several years we lived close to Fort Riley which was the home for the US 7th Cavalry Division (yes, Armstrong Custer’s division), and the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One).  The 1st Infantry became the most recognized US Army formation of World War II, and was deployed in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  As the technology changed both Divisions advanced beyond “horse soldiers” and “foot soldiers”.  Brigades and Divisions attached to the 1st Infantry Division have grown to include combat teams, aviation teams, weather, supply, artillery, and military police, to name a few.  Technology has made it critical to ensure you control all aspects of your operation.

I was in High School during the Vietnam War and the 1st Infantry Division Artillery (DIVARTY) would occasionally hold PR and recruiting displays in our college town to gain public support for the military.  I went to one of these showcases and was amazed by the technology that went into military firepower.  I spoke with a soldier in charge of operating a 105-mm mobile canon and he invited me to take a tour of the interior.  As I looked at the compartment, I asked the soldier how it worked.  He told me, “Command calls and provides the firing coordinates.  I dial them up on the digital displays and then push the fire button.”  The canon is accurate for up to 7.5 miles (11,500meters).  From his response it was clear he did not know how to find a target on his own.  The technology did all the work for him.

Thoughts:  When I first heard the man’s explanation of how the firing system worked, I was appalled.  How could you be in charge of such an expensive and lethal piece of equipment and not understand how to make it work?  Later I attended a computer repair class to understand how my computer worked.  While I did learn how to test and replace components, my greatest take away was this.  “If your computer freezes, shut it down, wait ten seconds for the processor to fully clear, and turn it back on.  If it now works, do not worry about what made it stop.”  That did not seem far from the explanation I was given by the soldier.  While technology provides wonderful advantages, there are few who understand the intricacies of how it works.  This can make some fearful they may cause an error, so they do nothing.  The same is true in life.  As we navigate the intricacies of social interaction and anti-racism, we can become fearful that we may error and then choose to do nothing.  We need to realize we have the option of turning the system off (sincere apology) and resetting.  If we do not try, we will never achieve.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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