I'm on the plane right now, pretty sweet to have WiFi and just downloaded the TypePad iPhone app so I can blog away whilst on the plane. I'm sure to have a few misspellings so all you Correcty Correctersons can have something to comment on...[grin]
I'm on my way to speak to the Engineering Cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point. I couldn't possibly explain how pumped I am for this trip. I spent 9 1/2 years in the Army Reserves with the last year and a half deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2004 until April 2005. While I was there I served with some of the most incredible people I've ever met and together we accomplished our mission with, looking back anyway, amazing efficientcy and an unreal safety record. We did 220 missions all of them multiple day convoy operations.
There isn't a day that goes by since that I don't recall something about that experience. It was probabably the greatest year and a half of my life. Sounds nuts right? Life was never so easy for me. I had one job. Keep myself and my troops alive. There is no more black and white than that. I didn't and still don't care about the politics behind should we even have been there or not. Like the Cadets I will meet tonight, I had a desire for most of my life to serve, and I was callled to do just that.
So why did I get asked to speak at West Point? It's a long story, and I have plenty of time to kill right now (5 hr flight). Before I left I worked for an Autodesk Reseller called Avatech Solutions as a Technical Sales guy, may have even sold Inventor to a few of you, who knows. Once in country we started running missions right away. My first convoy the HMMV that I drove had canvas doors that we took off. Armor was a "nice to have" and if you can find steel go ahead and make yourself a little mad max creation if it makes you feel better. As you can imagine I had to pry the seat out of my ass after each mission. But it was just what we did, that was life and we dealt with it.
After a while things heated up. Armor was no longer a nice to have, but something we had to have. Like I said there were a lot of units digging up steel and slapping it on the sides of trucks, but there was no consistentcy to the design, material, and time to install. So after I returned from leave the guys in our maintenance platoon had mocked up a prototype armor kit. Believe it or not, I took a copy of Inventor with me and went about modeling up the prototype. I made a couple of changes, worked up a drawing set, and assembly instructions so other units could use our kit for their trucks.
We ended up showing our design to the commander of the 7th Group and not long after was given all re Hardox steel we needed, a production facility in Doha, Kuwait and two months (or so) to up armor what ended up being somewhere around 3,000 M915 trucks. The time frame and actual number of trucks up armored are estimates, I never thought to keep track. As a matter of fact, I didn't even keep the Inventor files. I never imagined that I would need or want them. I was just doing my part to solve a field problem.
That's going to be the bulk of my talk with the Cadets tomorrow, using technology to solve field related challenges. By standardizing on a design and having clear documentation of it, we were able to get a lot of trucks up armored in a short period of time. That was the difference, it wasn't like we were the only ones that thought about it, it's that we had the right tools to effectively communicate it. Just like with all things military related, too few people get credit for the efforts of many.
For my part in this I was issued the Bronze Star. And largely because of that, I feel it to be my responsibility to share the story of what the 172nd Transportation Company did to contribute to troop safety. Today and tomorrow carry special meaning to me and again I'm proud to represent the one seven duece, doing what ever I can to share our story, and hopefully make an impact on our future military leaders.
Thanks for letting me share, Rob