06 July 2009

Reach 364--Link of the Day

Posting will be light over the next few weeks--I have one submission for SWJ on the way, but you may not see much else from me aside from maybe a link of the day and that's about it. Sorry, guys, but there's too much to do on R&R leave to blog regularly. (Whereas in Iraq, there isn't, so you get two posts a day)

Anyway, today's link comes from an Air Force C-17 pilot who goes by the internet moniker of Reach 364, who is currently studying in Amman, Jordan. He runs an excellent blog over at Building Peace. Reach, as we'll call him, often notes that the Air Force (and, I will add, the aviation community at large) is not as well-read-in on the intracacies of COIN like our land-based bretheren.

Reach links to an article from Small Wars Journal which was posted last week. The article is basically a call to action from Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the current commander of the US Army's Combined Arms Center (and, I knew him previously, the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division). General Caldwell is letting the Army know that now, Army field manuals are available online on a secure website in Wikipedia-form. This means that Soldiers can now edit field manuals to ensure that they stay current and relevant to the fight--instead of commissioning a panel to write a doctrine review and spending years on publishing a new manual.

This is an extraordinary new way to do business, and it's only natural. If we can have Wikis dedicated to the flight planning software FalconView, Wikis dedicated to Internet memes, Star Wars Wikis (Wookieepedia), and, my favorite, Chickipedia (Megan Fox entry here) , we can certainly have a Wiki dedicated to Army doctrine.

Says Reach:

General Caldwell gets it. When another government agency creates a Facebook page or starts twittering, I'm not impressed; it only shows me how far behind the times these organizations are and that they don't fully understand the technology. Facebook and Twitter aren't about delivering the same old message in a new medium; they're about community. Their power is not in the technology, but in the people who use that technology to knit themselves into purposeful communities. General Caldwell appears to understand that social dynamic. He didn't merely start a blog for the Combined Arms Center; he has tried to create an organizational culture that encourages every soldier to engage with new media. Now, with the advent of wiki field manuals, Caldwell is harnessing crowdsourcing technology to achieve something extremely valuable: giving every soldier a voice, ensuring the best ideas rise to the top, and ensuring that every soldier enters the field with the most up-to-date tactics and procedures available.

Reach calls Lt. Gen. Caldwell his new hero due to Wiki. I agree, but not just for Wiki. You see, during then-Maj. General Caldwell's last day as the 82nd Airborne Division Commander, he took the entire division on a 4-mile run and then...

...wait for the awesome part...

...gave us all the day off.

Quite a memorable experience. (Lt. Gen. Caldwell also did a lot of other great things aside from giving us the day off, such as overseeing the deployment of tens of thousands of paratroopers, many of whom were making short-notice deployments to Iraq or New Orleans in the aftermath of the hurricannes. He later served in Iraq before becoming the head of the Combined Arms Center)

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