Archive for the 'the logistics train' Category

Here We Go Again

Jun 13 2013

Published by under the logistics train

RearviewFireThis is like déjà vu all over again.

Almost a year to the day from last year’s fire, we have fires going on to the east of us. C-130s and Chinook helicopters flying over and dumping water. Areas in mandatory evacuation and pre-evacuation orders.

This time though, the fires are closer but are on the other side of the Interstate, so we’re pretty confident that the fire won’t jump the Interstate to our side.

Interestingly, we are hosting evacuees again this year. We have eight guests tonight – the extra bedroom is ready, as is the RV. We almost feel like Noah’s Ark: four dogs, seven chickens, three cats, three gerbils, and one gecko.

Coincidentally, one family coming over is the family we almost went to last year when we were in pre-evac. This is good though, because we can count on them to bring a good bottle of wine. So, we have a group of kids downstairs playing X-Box, animals running outside, and the adults upstairs drinking wine and keeping abreast of the fire from our deck and via the television.

Here’s hoping for the winds to die down and that the firefighters gain control of the fire. They are brave people – I hope the Washington Post doesn’t do an article on how their benefits are too generous.

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Military Sacrifice Vs. Military Benefits?

Jun 06 2013

deployed_servicememberOkay, I couldn’t let this issue go – I’ve got to follow up on the previous entry about Karen’s post at MOAA Spouse on inaccurate articles on military benefits.

When I hear about over-generous military benefits – be it news articles, or Senate policy wonk committee proposals, or suggestions from members (or should I say, donors?) of boards like the Defense Business Board – I usually find the information lacking a complete presentation of the issue. The discussions dwell on the benefits of a military job while missing information on the sacrifices of the job required to balance out the benefits and how these sacrifices make a military job unique from a civilian job.

For instance, in this Washington Post info graphic on military benefits, readers can read about what active duty and retired members “receive” – but absolutely nothing on what they are (or had been) required to do or give up as the tradeoff for receiving these benefits. Nor is there mention that the reason for these benefits (which, granted, are good) is to make the sacrifices salable in order to recruit and retain qualified military members.

Sacrifices such as:

  • Frequent moves (sometimes involuntary and sometimes to locations not of one’s choice)
  • The resulting uprooting of kids from friends and schools
  • Being on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Required higher education to get promoted
  • The requirement to be promoted or be separated
  •  The inability to say “I quit” at one’s choosing because one doesn’t like the job
  • Having to pass a strict physical fitness test each year
  • Drug testing
  • The possibility of being called to a war zone
  • The risk of death that comes with the job

I teach at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and we have many former active duty members in our student body – including ones like the Post’s writer’s example of the apparently undeserving retired 38 year-old making “at least half of their final-years salary.” I would love to have the author come and speak to these students about their generous military benefits, from the luxurious retirement pay to swinging commissary deals – but only if he would also ask about the elements of the job that balanced out the benefits, such as: multiple deployments; uprooting of families; the increased risks of mental illness in military kids; the stresses of maintaining physical standards, etc.

Discussion of big defense budgets is a good thing (of course I don’t see other budgets discussed as much) – but putting the bulk of blame for the benefits on individual servicemembers, without full disclosure of all circumstances, is shortchanging the members who agreed to make the sacrifices above in exchange for these benefits.

If you haven’t read Karen’s post yet, please do so – and take action TODAY!

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Something Righteous and Hopeful: MOAA Takes Action

Jun 05 2013

ketchup (3)I was going to write about the Washington Post article on commissaries. But I’m not. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a discussion on ways to trim the military budget, but lets do it with fairness and accurate research. The writer’s one-sided, inflammatory and inaccurate comments perturb me to no end – and I want to keep positive waves around me, kind of like Oddball in the classic WWII movie Kelly’s Heroes:

Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?  

Plus, seeing an article that includes input from the policy wonks of the Defense Business Board shows me the issues will be from a perspective unfamiliar with actual military life. This group is an advisory board providing advice on fiscal matters to the Secretary of Defense (they are made up of private-sector executives – there’s a group of people who understand issues like PCSing).

But the primary reason I am not writing about the article is that MOAA has it covered here: Put Down the Ketchup and Pick Up the Pen

Karen, the author, is MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations (Military Family Issues) and she lays out in a well-written (and humorous) piece the untruths as well as the issues the Washington Post columnist didn’t bring up.

She also tells us how we can help MOAA enlighten our representatives with the correct facts. Not to steal her thunder (you should read her post anyway for the other useful links she provides), but go to this MOAA link and use the message and tools provided (you can personalize the message) to send your elected officials the realities of this issue.

As a final suggestion, go the Post article, read it, and post your comment as a MOAA member and member of the military family.

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More Fun with Résumés for Servicemembers

Mar 27 2013

Published by under the logistics train

Like eating, I usually hate to write on the same topic two times in a row. But, with résumés (and Asian food), I am happy to visit the same thing over and over.

Last column I touched on some résumé and career tips and I am going to do the same thing here. The primary reason is that this topic coincides with MOAA’s Veteran-focused career fair on April 2 at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center. (Doors open at 10:00 a.m., with career transition seminars beginning at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and a female veteran-focused professional development panel discussion and mentoring session beginning at 12:30.)

cover_letterTip 1 – Try a Combination Resume
This is a resume style where you put your skills and experience first, and then your employment history in chronological manner. This style works for military members because so many of you have done so many different jobs in your career. Because of this, you have different areas of experience and skills. You also have a laundry list of assignments, so using a chronological resume style will look tedious and be harder for the employer to do their 30 to 60 second scan.

Remember though to put the skill description first that best fits the job you’re applying for. For example, if you are strolling the MOAA Career Fair, picking up the free pens and magnets, and come across a company looking for a manager – then have a resume handy where your management experience is listed first.

Then, when you come across the employer handing out Reese’s and looking for a trainer, hand them the resume that has your training experience first.

Tip 2 – Quantify the Context
Military members tend to assume everyone knows the context of your job – the size, budget, etc. Most civilians do not know this; so don’t rely on terms such as squadron, company, etc. Put some numbers in: how many people did you train or oversee, how many planes, the budget (and always use numerical figures – they stand out in a quick review more than spelled out numbers), how many patients, how many sorties, etc.

Tip 3 – Formatting
Stick to one font, typically Arial – it’s a nice, conservative business-used font. Stay away from Times Roman. Also, learn and use the formatting tools of Word. Bold your headings and italicize your job history. Oh, and please remember that the space bar is not a formatting tool! Use the tab and alignment tools to align your headings and bullets. Don’t tap, tap, tap the tool bar to make sure things line up on separate lines!

I hope that helps. And I strongly recommend the MOAA Career Fair. MOAA runs a great career fair, and these are good just to network, even if you have a job but might be thinking of looking elsewhere down the road.

Good luck!

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Military Job Hunters and MOAA

Mar 21 2013

Published by under the logistics train

linkedin_256Jim Carman of MOAA has a great article on titled “10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job.”

You’ll have to join Linkedin and the MOAA Career Networking group – but, if you are not a member already and you are looking for a job, you should join now:

I teach Business Writing at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, and we cover extensively the topic of resumes and finding a job. There are a lot of former military members at the school (there are a lot in Colorado Springs!), so I am able to help them and hear their experiences. What I wanted to do below is just add a couple of comments to the tips posted by Jim.

  • Watch how you dress! The first impression is vital – shine your shoes, spend a couple of extra dollars on a good suit and shoes. It is worth it and shows the employer that you are interested and ready.
  • Network when looking for a job! Go through Linkedin and look up old buddies and bosses. Ask them to review your resume for their industry. Ask them if they know of any leads. A job doesn’t come from the 1st contact – many times it comes to you because that person knows someone who knows someone.
  • Don’t talk too much! Let the interviewer talk. But do ask questions. Research the company and figure some good questions about the company, its’ growth, employees’ potential for growth, etc. Also, people like to hire others who they think they can get a long with. Therefore, look at your interviewer’s walls and desks – do you see photos or signs of similar interests? Scuba diving in Hawaii? Sport trophies? Camping? If so, ask about these items and let the interviewer know you have similar interests.

I hope this helps. I could go on – I usually do for a couple of classes at UCCS. And I didn’t even touch on how a resume should look.

One final tip for job hunting – utilize the tools and resources of MOAA, and attend a career fair or networking event if you can. Their LinkedIn group is also an excellent place to look, discuss, and network.

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Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little…

Jan 24 2013

Published by under the logistics train

No, I’m not rehearsing for the Music Man. I thought of the song as I was taking care of chickens this morning (Elvis was TCB, I’m TCC) – chickens really do pick then squawk.

In case you’ve forgotten from prior posts, and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, this summer we converted a stall in our old dilapidated barn into a chicken coop and built a chicken run next to the barn – then went out and got 10 chickens. So I thought I’d provide a chicken update.

eggsThe chicks are now grown and producing eggs (of different colors, even). It’s a lot fun. They are fascinating to watch. Chickens really do run in a group – when one goes somewhere, the rest follow (well, we do have a couple of gingers who are independent minded – much like my red-haired daughter).

And the eggs are different than store bought. The color of the yolk is more vivid and they are much better tasting.

At the start we were worried about foxes, raccoons, and other predators. But, we buried chicken wire around the perimeter of the coop and run to stop predators, and have had no problems. We were also assured by a fellow chicken rancher (I use that term loosely) who told us not to worry because our dog Marcus would be marking the area and that would keep away critters. That’s nice of Marcus. (I have to admit that at times I’ve felt like helping Marcus out as opposed to trekking back to the house.)

So now, after a few months of having chickens I have come to realize that there are signs that one has started raising chickens:

  • You are always on the lookout for empty egg cartons.
  • You start looking at food scraps differently – “hey, the chickens might like those, let me run them down.”
  • When you speak of “my girls” and you aren’t referring to your wife and daughter.


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The Rule of Reciprocity in Legislation

Dec 12 2012

Published by under the logistics train

As MOAA members know, we are in the midst of possible cuts to the military budget. Unfortunately, too many of these cuts seem directed straight at military members: The Washington Post wants to rein in TRICARE, or another think tank claims the retirement program is too generous (without understanding the differences between a civilian job and active duty).

Thankfully MOAA is fighting these items – you can read MOAA’s rebuttal to The Washington Post’s editorial on TRICARE online. However, I think I’ve discovered why members seem to be getting the short shrift in the budget cut discussions – they don’t give gifts to the politicians.

NPR had a segment called “Give and Take: How the Rule of Reciprocation Binds Us”. In the episode, it was explained how sociologists and psychologists found that people feel obligated to reciprocate when they are given gifts. One sociologist sent Christmas cards to complete strangers and ended up receiving a record number of Christmas cards in return (some over 3 pages long – and he’s still getting these 15 years after sending the first card).

On a broader level, the researchers found that waiters who brought mints to customers along with the dinner check saw their tips increase. And we all receive those free pre-printed address labels charities send us. These labels increase the number of givers to the charity from 18% to 35%. (I guess I must be cold to this rule of reciprocity because I toss the labels.)

Back to military budget cuts though, the reciprocity rule gives MOAA members a perfect strategy. Think of it – who gives to the politicians? Corporations, lobbyists, consultants, etc. Now, who will probably be least affected?

So, to counteract the largesse of these groups and take advantage of the reciprocity effect, I think all MOAA members need to start sending their politicians gifts: cookies, hand-made crafts, cards, etc. Then, when the politicians start considering budget cuts, they will feel obligated to reciprocate. I can picture the senators and representatives pondering cuts to the military budget: “I can’t cut pensions, I owe those retirees for the wonderful chocolate chip cookies I was sent.” It’s a long shot I admit, but it might work.

Sadly though, veterans have already given a few gifts to our politicians – the most extreme being their lives to protect our country. I guess the rule of reciprocity doesn’t extend to the battlefield though.

"Smiling Cookies" photo by aopsan

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Military Friendly States – Another Reason to Join MOAA

Nov 13 2012

If you haven’t joined MOAA, I highly recommend doing so – just go here:

Why? Well I’m glad you asked – there are lots of reasons, and you’ll find those at the link. Today’s top reason though is that members receive the monthly Military Officer magazine. The magazine is a great read – lots of interesting stories and an abundance of useful information compiled for members. (You can read or download the State Report Card online!)

This month, the staff has put together a wide-ranging summary of the most military-friendly states for both active duty and retired members. The section, Veteran and Retiree Benefits, includes information on a variety of issues relevant to the military community: including taxes, education benefits, spouse licensure, and even if unemployment benefits are available to spouses.

I know from when Mary Claire retired from Germany and we had so many questions about where to settle, that for soon-to-be retirees and your families this guide is a great resource to help you weigh the pluses and minuses of the locations you’re considering when retiring.

In addition though, here are two other resources to supplement MOAA’s guide. First, Kiplinger offers a state-by-state tax guide for retirees online!

So, for example, you can see in the MOAA guide that Colorado offers limited tax benefits for retired military. Following up at the Kiplinger site will provide the detail that veterans have to be over 55 to take advantage of the tax benefit.

The other resource is’s “State Veteran’s Benefits”.

Here for example, you can follow up on the MOAA guide’s item that California offers college tuition waivers to spouses and children and see that the veteran has to be either “totally service-connected disabled,…died of service-connected causes,” or be “the child of a veteran who has a permanent service-connected disability.”

In using MOAA’s comprehensive guide along with these links, you’re ready to design your road map to retirement. Hey, that was already written for you on page 62 in this Military Officer issue – that author is a great writer!

I do have to add though that there is one little teensy weensy item missing from the MOAA guide: the benefit of taking an RV trip after retirement in order to see these states up close and personal, as we did for almost 2 years. But, if you’re so inclined to RV the country, feel free to contact me if you need any info, such as the best military base RV camps, staying overnight for free at Walmart, using National Parks to road-school the kids, etc.

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Your Voice Matters

Oct 26 2012

Published by under the logistics train

As the election draws near, it is painfully obvious that we aren’t hearing too many specifics on military issues. I mean, I realize that the President has inferred he will be cutting back on bayonets and Romney will increase funding for horse riding crops for the cavalry. Okay, Romney has mentioned increasing the defense budget by $2 trillion, but he has given no details; and, the pessimist in me thinks that money would go to lobbying contractors and not to plans specific to military members – such as military retirement, active duty pay raises; TRICARE, etc.

Anyway, MOAA is there to look after issues relating to our military community. In fact they’ve posted 5 specific areas of concerns for the military community:

  1. Budgets calling for increases to health care benefit costs
  2. Changing the military retirement program
  3. Limiting future pay raises
  4. 300% increases to the cost of TRICARE Prime
  5. Items 1 through 4 are just the beginning

You can find these items at On top of that, you’ll also find a link at the bottom of that page that will let you take action now. MOAA has set up an easy and quick way (my kids would say a “no-brainer”) for you to contact your elected representatives and let them know your thoughts and concerns. By following the links and inserting your zip code, MOAA will provide your legislators’ names and create a pre-written (and editable – no curse words please) statement you can sign and email to your legislators.

How easy can this be?

MOAA is out there on the Hill talking to our elected officials, but your input to these people in support of MOAA will help. So follow the link and take action. As MOAA says: “Your voice matters!”

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Top 2 Military Misconceptions

Oct 17 2012

Published by under the logistics train

I’m sure readers can relate to the topic of misconceptions held by civilians and politicians toward the military community. We hear these at when visiting family and friends, or at the coffee shop or classroom. Or maybe read them in an op-ed column. There are quite a few out there, and some are service specific. But lets look at two, including an especially timely one.

Misconception #1: Military medical providers can’t make it in the private sector

Coincidentally enough, I actually heard this from a good friend who knew both MC and me. Admittedly, I might be sensitive to this irksome misconception (say that out loud 5 times fast) because my wife Mary Claire is a retired Air Force Certified Nurse-Midwife and we have many friends who are medical professionals in the military.

However, anyone looking into the topic will find that people like my friend are incorrect – quality of healthcare in the military system is as good if not better than on the outside. In fact, the civilian healthcare system could learn a lot about affordable quality care from the military: from computerized records to utilizing nurse practitioners as primary care managers.

I don’t get too upset though with this line of thinking. I think the U.S. culture of “living to work” (versus “working to live”) leads many to this misguided belief – apparently these individuals haven’t considered that things like the opportunity to travel, good benefits, or serving one’s country might outweigh making as much money as one can.

Misconception #2: We’re all alike

This misconception is timely – it usually comes up every 4-years about this time of year. It theorizes that the military community is cut of the same ideological cloth: conservatives who vote Republican (it sometimes includes the belief that the community also likes to shoot and go to war).

As readers know, this isn’t always the case. And now, there is a study from Duke University confirming that military voters shouldn’t be stereotyped. In fact, it appears that military endorsements this election cycle actually lean toward Democrats: Military Endorsements Hold Greater Benefits for Democrats, Study Finds.

As a parent who makes sure our kids are open-minded and well rounded, I’ve always been bothered when people assumed MC or I were voting for specific candidates simply because we were a military family. Ironically, these assumptions typically came from people who prided themselves on not stereotyping people. Go figure.

But I’m happy to see that society is starting to realize that military community members actually do think independently (Duke University and The New York Times are a good start). It might just surprise people that the military community can actually have lively discussions over a beer where we aren’t just reaffirming each others’ ideas.

We’ll leave it at 2 misconceptions. Although, I’d be curious to see readers post the misconceptions they’ve come across.

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