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army vignettes

Our lieutenants were promoted last week. They all graduated from the class of 2007 at around the same time, and this marked their 18-month promotion cycle updating. They were joking around with each other about just coloring in their rank insignia with Sharpies, instead of buying new ones.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” one mentioned. “I kept hearing during training about how much fun my officers had back when they were lieutenants. Now it’s halfway over, and I’ve spent the entire time here.”

Another chimed in: “You have to admit that it’s not always so bad here. You really can’t beat SERE detail.”

“Yeah, no, you’re right; I just expected to come out of training and have fun doing Army things.”

*  *  *

The only appropriate word for last Monday’s checkride is ‘terrible.’ A bunch of extraneous factors combined to provide the worst possible conditions, but in the end, I just flew badly. In light of that, it really doesn’t make sense to go into the other stuff. Still, it is a new and uncomfortable feeling when during the debrief, the two major statements from the check officer are “The main reason I didn’t fail you was that I never got the impression that you had lost control of the helicopter,” and “You know, if you study hard and really work, maybe for your next checkride you could get into the high B range.”

I honestly think the low expectations for my next ride hurt more than the score I got on this one.

*  *  *

The army uses for flight planning a baffling collection of software components, mostly developed independently, some designed to work together. We have had no less than four different introductory classes on the basics of how to install and use certain of the features of this software suite. That would be ok were it not for the fact that each of these four classes have been identical.

I feel kind of bad for the instructors of these classes. It’s not their fault that they’re required to teach a random set of features in mind-numbing detail (“To change the color of the ellipse we just drew, right click on it, choose the ‘Edit Ellipse’ option, then choose the ‘Color and Position’ tab, then click the ‘Color’ button to open the color chooser…”). It’s very difficult for me to pay any real attention; there are few aspects of anything they teach that aren’t already intuitive for any skilled user of Windows programs, and we’ve already covered the rest of it in previous iterations of the same class.

I can wish all I want for a proper teaching staff, composed not of ex-pilots who want a cushy civilian DA (Department of the Army) job after having retired, but of proper subject matter experts. It still won’t happen until I get out of this and back into some sort of normal academia. Even so, I can’t help contrasting my experiences at WPI to those here as “higher education done right, and done wrong.” It makes me think that I’d really enjoy getting some sort of postgraduate degree once I have the freedom to, after the Army.

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1 Comment

Comment by Stephen Windows XP Mozilla Firefox 3.0.4
2008-12-09 09:40:59

Just like everything else in life, it just takes practice. I bet you barely have a couple hundred hours, that’s not enough. Demand more hours! You know Budis is flying Black Hawks, I’d say for about 6 months longer than you (if that is what you are flying), perhaps you can ask him for pointers?


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