Memories Stirred By Another Memorial Day Approaching

In praise of service men and women everywhere fighting for freedom.

And in praise of Advanced Organizers.

Let me digress…

I entered boot camp 2 days after Christmas 1972. 16 weeks later I graduated to another 2.5 weeks of schooling for deckhands…on the deck force…to learn how to chip and repaint ship hulls, decks, bulkheads, ladders and overheads…

(Landlubbers – see Wikipedia for definitions)

…and tie knots. And many other FORMAL LEARNINGs. Almost always performance-based and practical. Just like boot camp.

All 3 of my “A” Schools were booked and I was unable to graduate from 16 weeks in boot camp in sunny southern California to the “A” School of my choice, despite my test scores and my recruiter’s reassurance – just as the same darn thing happened in “his office” the day after my receipt of the letter informing me when and where to report to the Army.

I was on a short break from 1.5 years in college to earn money to go back – when my low draft number (82) caught up with me. I called my father and he was at my door in less than 60 minutes with a recruiter from HIS branch of the service after HS, during the end of WWII. The war ended for him in boot camp, just as the Viet Nam war “ended” for me while in boot camp.

Lies – or just positive thinking in overdrive – is what my recruiter told me the first of my two days of knowing him – that I wouldn’t have any problems getting the school of my choice in boot camp – the first of several critical learnings – that I wasn’t, at first, planning on having. Totally INFORMAL LEARNING.

Until I wised up…due exclusively to my girl friend’s older brother, Gary, who had recently ended his 10-year tour in the Nuclear Navy, and had taken it upon himself to take me aside at Christmas dinner and GIVE ME A LESSON OR TWO ON MY NEAR TERM FUTURE. Or maybe it was a dozen.

He talked AT ME for a couple of hours, displeasing the girl friend more than a bit. But I was polite and listened. Don’t remember if I asked any clarifying questions. He didn’t ask me anything to see if I’d learned a darn thing.

But I did learn – I know for sure.

Because as my near term future began to unfold a couple of days later – starting at the AFEES building in Kansas City Missouri and at the old downtown KC airport and the Las Vegas airport and then the drive from the final airport to the boot camp in San Diego…I began to see that the INFORMAL LEARNING, totally un-directed, un-guided – except by Gary who had a performance perspective in mind as he warned/taught me in his “advanced organizers” – it was all real, true and important.

That’s what they were: Advanced Organizers for all of the formal and informal learning that was about to come at me. Like being run over by a tank…but then…this is a nautical story…so, like a ship rolling over a row boat. The ship doesn’t even feel the bump and the row boat that didn’t get out of the way – was at the bottom.

Sometimes that may be all that’s really missing for the learner/Performers – good Advanced Organizers, providing them with enough mental models to better anticipate the performance requirements, the Performance Competence requirements…

performing tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements.

A lot of new stakeholders in a new performance system. Somehow Gary got across to that young 20 year old “about-to-be-a-recruit” enough of a “heads up” to move me from an Informal Learner to a more directed and appreciative Formal Learner. Who now had a better appreciation of the new stakeholders in my life for the next three years. And something about THEIR expectations.

There was much more than just learning at stake. There was peak performance. Or the consequences for less than peak performance. Which became important during the ships involvement in the evacuations first of first Phnom Penh and then again for Saigon later in April of 1975. I ran my CCTV system on the USS Okinawa 24/7 for many weeks with the help of my buddies on their off time, as we transported thousands and thousands of refugees away from their war torn homelands. I didn’t get to use my bunk for all those weeks.

The XO asked me what I had to show on the 75 TVs around the ship for our guests, and after I gave him my mental list of all of my AFRTS programming, he told me: play the cartoons!

Cartoons. The universal language.

My best wishes to all US veterans, service men and women, and to those of all of our allies, for your safety and well being! And especially to those troops who have come home wounded in either body and/or spirit.

Bless you.

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