Wed – October 8, 2003
A day in the life of a staff officer (sigh)
Powerpoint. You may have heard of it, a Microsoft product. If you haven’t count yourself among the lucky…
Thirteen years ago I was an adversary instructor in Key West, Florida. A fleet lieutenant. It was a good life, flying three types of jets in a day’s work: F-16, F-5, A-4. All BFM (basic fighter maneuvers) and ACM (air combat maneuvers) – dogfighting. Also you taught tactics classes, with your peers. It was The Best Job Ever.
We had this program we used to craft our slideshows, Harvard Graphics. There was a tablet and pen tool, for the artistically inclined. It was pretty cool, you spent a month or so researching your topic (forward quarter missiles and tactics) and about three weeks putting the presento together, a murder board from the staff (comment: “you’re talking way too fast,” I know, I know, that’s just who I am), and you were pretty much done.
In my previous fleet tour we gave strike briefs to the masses on butcher block paper. Inelegant, perhaps, but effective. There would be strikeouts, and re-drawn attack overviews, but the message pretty much got across. If you wanted to be gucci, you’d maybe do some overheads with markers. Showed effort, effort was good. We like effort.
Next trip back to the fleet I discovered that Powerpoint, part of the MS Office suite, had won the battle field. There were to be no questions asked, none would be answered. Shut up and color. It was… OK, not bad really. Got a little cooler every year or so.
As a TOPGUN instructor, I discovered cool ways to line up bullets, learned the mysteries of shift F3. We were pretty anal about media, much blood was spilled in murder board reviews. I became a Powerpoint Ranger. There isn’t a shoulder tab or anything, but you can always tell a Ranger, right off. A certain nonchalance with the keyboard shortcuts, a twinkle in the eye at a particularly effective animation, rendered in 3D. Electric glances of mutual recognition.
But now… now I am a staff officer. If it can’t be captured on 12-15 slides with 40-60 drill-downs and back ups, it simply doesn’t exist. It runs my life. “Make me a brief,” the admiral will ask. “Send my your brief,” another Captain will say. “I’m sending you a brief,” writes still another restless authority. “I need your input, before we send this up.”
Untold hours at a keyboard. Acute agonies over just the right way to capture a sentence fragment for Maximum Impact.
Thank you, Bill Gates.
At least when I was flying fighters, there was the chance of maybe blowing something up after you’d made a brief. Could happen, you never knew.
No one has ever written (in the English language) so much, so well as William Shakespeare. No one may disagree.