In every meeting--whether by chance or by invitation--there is something to be gleaned. We learn something that we did not know before. Perhaps we learn just a name and title of a person. Or we may find that meeting has changed our perception and understanding in some fundamental way.

Certainly, the SWVBRC Orientation leaves a veteran with a sense of transformation. But, like the caterpillar's building of a cocoon, the change is only in preparation for some greater transformation.

In this manner I, the caterpillar, have been wrapped in the title of Learner--my cocoon--so that I may continue to develop my awareness of my role, rights, and responsibilities as a veteran and a contributor to the United States economy. I feel swaddled in the sense that there is something to look forward to--not only for myself, but for all veterans in all levels of need. Moreover, I have been reminded that I am not alone and am a member of a very special race: American Veterans.

NOTE: This is a repost from www.wherecommunitiesserveveterans.org/EbersBlog. Please leave all comments on that original post. Thanks.
 
At boot camp, every Marine learns the 14 leadership traits of the Marine Corps. Although these are typically interpreted in military contexts, they still apply as a civilian--and as a professional.

In honor of Veterans Day, here's how these traits make for a better technical communicator.

Justice
In order to honestly and fairly portray facts, technical communicators must have a strong sense of justice. Using embellishments or misconstruing information does no good for the audience or user. Good Tech Comm portrays a balanced, honest representation of the facts, products, and processes.

Judgment
Where would Tech Comm be without judgment? Every sentence structure and word choice is a judgment call. Great technical communicators can judge what their audience needs and carefully select the best of all available options.

Dependability
Even the most laid-back work environment has deadlines. Successful technical communicators know how to budget time and other resources to dependably deliver documentation.

Initiative
Waiting on the SME, reviewer, editor, manager or whomever for every little decision and change is begging to miss a deadline. Technical communicators must know when and how to take initiative on projects.

Decisiveness
Similar to initiative, Tech Comm requires gathering facts and weighing them without unnecessary intervention from those around and above. Finding the appropriate information and knowing how to make decisions help ensure success.

Tact
One thing many technical communicators have in common with the military is a reputation for "just the facts" that can sometimes appear tactless. However, sticking to the truth has its place and must be balanced with quality interpersonal skills such as tact--especially when dealing with in-person communications. But even electronic communications need to convey respect for the recipients.

Integrity
One of the elements of being a professional in any field is integrity. Without honesty and morals, people cannot extend trust in your words--let alone actions. As a technical communicator this means coworkers and supervisors will not give you room to grow or take on greater duties without proven integrity.

Enthusiasm
Peers tend to enjoy working with people who show honest enthusiasm for a project, job, concept, or task. That doesn't mean you have to like everything about it--just don't complain too much or to the wrong people.

Bearing
Subject matter experts feel better about talking to someone who appears confident and comfortable discussing technical matters. CEOs prefer to convey vital company info to competent, alert employees. And bosses always prefer a professional demeanor.

Unselfishness
The work place is no place to be self-centered. Quality Tech Comm focuses on what the user or reader wants and needs. Quality writers relinquish their ego for editing tips. And quality editors place style guides before personal opinions on grammar.

Courage
Facing down a SME wielding a vocabulary in one hand and contempt for "lesser beings" in the other is frightening. Confronting a supervisor who forgot a vital part of a project is daunting. Even challenging day-to-day decisions can be scary. But great technical communicators courageously take on these challenges all the time.

Knowledge
Whether natural talent, learned skill, or formal education, what you know reflects in what you write--and how.

Loyalty
Loyalty is undervalued and misunderstood in today's corporate world. Most people feel no need for this trait when companies are impersonally hiring and firing on a whim. But loyalty isn't about blind devotion to your company. It's about a commitment to your peers, supervisors, subordinates, and customers. When you work somewhere, you inherently accept responsibility for supporting those around you.

Endurance
Some people enthusiastically attack a project at the start and then taper off into ho-hum acceptance. Others sit back and wait for things to get rolling, only really kicking into high gear as the deadline approaches. The best technical communicators maintain their progress from start to finish throughout the ups and downs of any project.

Semper Fi
Of all the traits associated with the Marine Corps, "Semper Fidelis" is the most commonly known and referenced. Perhaps "always faithful" seems like a strange approach to Tech Comm. In reality, technical communicators could not do their jobs without being reliable. When you turn your back on a job or company, you disrespect not only yourself but the entire field of Technical Communication.

Each of the above traits takes root at an early age. Some traits are nurtured more than others as we grow up. Service in the Marine Corps provides the opportunity for the weaker traits to bloom. Once a part of your life, these traits remain in your garden no matter what profession you choose. As technical communicators, it is our duty to lead by example: apply these leadership traits to our profession and share them with our peers.

Happy Veterans Day!
 

As a supporter of space R&D and member of the National Space Society, I worry when any space program--government or commercial--gets a bad rap. Certainly when the Government Accountability Office indicates an entire orbital system has a possible 20% chance of failure, it's even more worrisome.
The GAO report released earlier this year raised concerns about the reliability of the government and its contractors. The inquiry brought attention to the vast overbudgeting and delays affecting replacement of aging GPS satellites. Amid rampant job loss and troubling economy, Americans don't want to hear about technical problems with a government program that costs millions extra and is three years late. It's enough to make even the strongest R&D supporters balk. The cynical reaction and desire to pull the plug on funding for these programs is exacerbated when it's a space program.
Although the majority of space projects do not directly effect our everyday lives, the one type of space vehicle that does is the satellite--especially GPS satellites. GPS is used, aside from personal navigational devices, for various military and civil purposes from pizza delivery to geocaching. The loss of service or reliability of GPS devices could drive an already face-down economy into the ground, bankrupting logistics companies and tying the hands of rescue workers. The consequences resulting from loss of services provided by the satellites would be disastrous.
Despite the hype and fears surrounding the GAO's report on the condition of the GPS satellite network and reports of GPS device problems, concerns about the latest GPS satellite were laid to rest in a teleconference hosted by Col. Dave Madden, Commander of the Global Positioning Systems Wing of the Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center. The teleconference fielded questions regarding extension of the GPS IIR-20(M) early orbit checkout. The Air Force Colonel and his staff discussed the technical condition of the satellite, but also briefly addressed the GAO report.
The technical questions primarily pertained to the more recent reports of GPS inaccuracy at high elevations which appear to be due to inclusion of the first L5 frequency equipment. The L5 technology paves the way for the next generation of GPS satellites scheduled to launch later this year and early 2010. Because these future satellites do not use the same configuration, there is little chance that the same issue will occur. In the mean time, the slight variation is being negated by commands sent from the ground. Of course, this new satellite is not yet connected to the constellation, so the variations cannot be linked with recently reported GPS problems and failures.
In his closing statement, the Colonel asserted that the GAO report has "caused worry and could damage confidence" in the satellite program. He indicated that there remain 30 satellites in the constellation and the Air Force expects reliable function through at least 2015. He pointed out that the GAO report failed to take into account standard operating procedures such as powering down auxiliary functions of older satellites to prolong the satellite's lifespan. Finally, Colonel Madden said that the Air Force is "making steady progress to ensure users are able to take advantage in orbit and on the ground" of the "greatest GPS capability, accuracy and performance."
Ultimately, success or failure of space missions affects the future of human space travel in a variety of ways. First, the technologies used in scientific and military space vehicles are the foundation for human exploration and commercial ventures. Second, failure in any space mission is guaranteed to cause delays in other space R&D. Third, budgeting for space programs is more difficult when things go wrong. And finally, the national opinion of such programs becomes discouraging and space programs lose tax-payer support. 
For more about the GPS IIR-20(M) and its new L5 funcationality, read these articles:
Modernization Milestone: Observing the First GPS Satellite with an L5 Payload
Spirent GPS/GNSS Newsletter
United States Air Force Successfully Transmits L5 Signal from GPS IIR-20(M) Satellite