Saturday, February 28, 2009

Are you a job seeker or a skill holder? New ebook will help everyone expand their job seeking skills

Brian Massey, a friend and a client, called me yesterday to get my first impression on his ebook "Crowd Career Management" that he is publishing soon. Next week, I'll meet with him and a software development on helping them publicize this effort.

Massey is a gifted writer, and his 86-page tome should resonate not only with those who lose their job but also with those who feel secure in their job. Most of us fit in his category of a job seeker. Here, people in this group expected to take a full salary and are expected to be grateful for their job and to their employers.

And, there's a second group he terms as "skill holders" who are always in the market, searching for new opportunities. Skill holders also expect to increase their skills and their value.

Having read the first 30 pages of the book, I clearly see myself as a skill holder. Yet, having served in the Air Force for 20 years, I also relate very well to the first group. Even 11 years after retiring from the Air Force, I still feel a little loyalty to this branch of service.

Yet, Massey's book is required reading for those in the military who will soon retire. It provides a detailed look at the skill sets that military people need to adjust from the first mindset to one that will reward them when they leave the military.

Clearly, most military noncoms and officers don't know how to value themselves or understand the scope of the skill sets given to them. Throughout my Air Force career, I always wanted to advance myself, yet I overlooked the opportunity to pursue off-duty education. Looking back, I wish I had gotten my business degree while in the Air Force, instead of waiting until retirement.

Having a degree in hand would have made me more of a "skill holder" after retirement from the Air Force.

 Had I read Brian's book, I may have had an easier transition

Postscript:   Just as I was finishing this blog while drinking an expresso at a Starbucks,
 I ran into a person named Caryl who is job hunting.  After telling her about this book,
 she wanted to get it to help her career transition.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How a Drumstick puts things into perspective

If you stop at your local convenience store to buy one of those "Drumstick ice cream cones, let me put that purchase into focus. To you, that chocolate covered ice cream sundry with the nuts is a pretty normal afternoon snack.

However, for the 25 or so teens in the San Antonio Ayers Halfway House, a Drumstick is a luxury item. As a member of the ACTS team that conducted a three-day retreat at the Mexican-American Catholic College, we held a reunion Tuesday with the 12 teens who participated in the three-day retreat.   Unlike other church retreat reunions where deserts and cookies are brought, we were limited by what we could bring to the event.

Thus, the Drumstick.

The food at the Ayers House is very basic.  Each kid gets his required calories, but that's it.   At a recent breakfast with them during the retreat, the morning meal was Coco Puffs, peanut butter on bread and bacon.  Juice and water were also available.

I know there's a reason why these kids get this, and I have been told that it's an improvement over prison fare.  The state of Texas is telling these kids that with such a basic diet that they're cutting back on the frills like Drumsticks.

So what will happen to these kids when they leave the program?  Will they overload on ice cream, candy and other treats, or will they slowly readapt their diet?   And that's just their diet which makes me wonder.

And, that's why I am going to pray for those kids.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thanking my friend Thom Singer for allowing me to share my perspective on his blog

When Thom Singer, the author, speaker and business consultant, asked for a few guest bloggers to write on networking, I offered to send him my thoughts. Today, my blog is appearing on Thom's blog, and I wanted to take the time to thank him for the kind words. Here's a link to it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How simple accounting processes can slow down the runaway costs of health benefits

President Barack Obama is now discussing the "runaway" costs of health care, but for most companies, a simple review of their claims to premium history could help drop their costs for medical coverage for their employees.

For years, the health insurance industry has been targeting their client's human resources department with marketing and the occasional visit for lunch or dinner.  By establishing a rapport with these decision makers, most insurance reps are able to generate a 1o-percent increase in their annual premiums.

According to my friend and client, Stephen Geri, the owner of Diversified Insurance Brokerage Services, most businesses average about a 30-percent to premium ratio on the cost of the actual medical claims paid.   Factor in the 21-percent for administrative costs, and that leaves the typical health insurance carrier with a 49-percent profit before they ask for an additional 10-percent increase.

Business leaders can change this trend right now by asking their human resources professionals to ask for their "claims to premium" ratio for several years.   Working with their chief financial officer or outside accountant, they should review these numbers 60 days before their renewal date on their policy.

And, if a company has the national norm of 30 cents to a dollar as a ratio for the last couple of years, they should tell their health insurance agent that a 10-percent increase is really unjustified.  Furthermore, businesses should establish as a practice that their annual review of benefits include someone from their financial team to help review the claims to premium ratio.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feeling the pain of my friend Kevin Koym's attack remotely through Twitter

My friend, Kevin Koym, was attacked by four street thugs near Austin's Sixth Street District.   And, while I spend most of my time in San Antonio, I am feeling Kevin's pain this morning, especially with police investigations.   By following Kevin's tweets, I know that the police released one of the thugs even after pictures documented his attack on my friend.

Kevin was smart enough to use his I-Phone to capture the picture of one of his assailants and he has offered them to the police.   Right now, he's also looking for video surveillance cameras located near the 5th and Brazos intersection.    He is also waiting for a detective to formally follow up with him.

With an Austin mayoral election coming up, one of the issues has to be on the quality of the city's police force and the expansion of video cameras in the Sixth Street District.   Having friends who serve in the local police, I know that the first responders to Kevin's case probably believed that there was a compelling case to arrest this guy.

However, Kevin's network of friends are now looking for the video surveillance resources to find the proof that he was attacked.   Without it, there is not much hope to arrest the four miscreants who attacked him.

What is really sad about this is that there were actual witnesses to this assault.   Over 12 years ago, I once bumped into a man's truck on an icy road in San Antonio.  He stomped out of his car, punched my rear bumper and me in the nose as four to five people drove around us.   None of the others who witnessed the event stepped forward to give me their name.   I am sure that there were others who saw this attack at the 5th and Brazos intersection.

Had there been a surveillance camera that could have documented my assault, I could have preferred charges against this thug in a civil court.  At best, the SA police detective said there wasn't any proof even though I offered them to take a DNA sample of his hand print on my car.

When you mention the use of a surveillance camera as a tool to provide security in open spaces, a lot of folks scream "Big Brother" at the thought of these devices.  However, both Kevin and my cases also show that when somebody wants to prove an open attack that surveillance cameras could prove a case against someone.

With a city election coming up in both San Antonio and Austin, voters should ask their candidates their thoughts about the expansion of security cameras especially among popular places like Austin's Sixth Street and the River Walk in San Antonio.    And, they should ask for their mayoral candidates to do everything possible to add to the rank and file of their police forces so that attacks like Kevin's don't go unpunished.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Access Camp San Antonio 2009 discusses accessability

Is the web accessible to the handicapped?  That's the topic being discussed at Access Camp San Antonio 2009 today at the San Antonio Community College.

Right now, I am listening to Donald Wilcox, an advocate for web access and the handicapped.   From listening to his talk, I found it interesting that he has problem with font discernment.  For some people who simple color blind issues, certain colors make its hard for people to read a web site.

The problem with most web site developers is that they don't take a proactive approach to this topic.  That's because most people who work on web sites aren't vision or hearing impaired.

  One would think that the "gov" would make sure that their web site would address this.   Naturally, I asked him and other people at the Access Camp San Antonio about the or, thinking that this web site would be friendly to the vision impaired.

Here, Donald notes that the fonts and the color contrast overrule the requirements of those small percentage of the vision impaired.   The video of Obama doesn't have a caption or a text of his message for the hearing impaired.   Donald said that if you use the Firefox web development tools and  the World Wide Web Consortium can provide everyone with the basics for disability web site accessibility.   

I am hoping that if you read this that you will retransmit it to others.   I am lucky now.  I don't have the disabilities of others, so it's easy for me to surf the web.   Yet, every American should have full access to information, especially in the government web sector.

Lack of KBR investigation has Truman rolling in his grave

So I am sitting at my favorite breakfast bistro when I read today's Associated Press story about the ongoing Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) investigation by a Congressional subcommittee about the electrocution deaths of 18 military and contractors.   At the same time, the Defense Department has authorized $35 million in funding for the Houston firm.

As I have noted in this blog before, it's time for Defense Secretary Dr. Robert Gates to shake things up among the contracting community not to mention the military leadership who manages what we former military troops call base management.

In a letter sent to Secretary Gates, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter noted: "Threats to the safety and lives of soldiers or others because of known hazards and negligent performance of work are not acceptable."


However, the Texas Bovine Scat of the Month award has to go to Heather Brown, a KBR spokesperson, who responded to the AP that the "company denies wrong doing in any of the deaths."

Congress has formed the Commission on Wartime Contracting, and it held its first meeting in the same room where President Harry S. Truman conducted similar investigations into fraudulent military profiteering during World War II.

Noted Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill: "Harry Truman has been rolling in his grave for the last five years. He, in fact, has been in constant motion in his grave. He is astounded that we allowed this problem to get this far out of control. This has been a massive failure. We have failed our military, and we have failed the American people."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Take time to thank a teacher for going that extra distance to help you learn

If former teachers like Wilma K. Dedman or Sister Mary Regina were around today, I would want to hug them and thank them for helping me see the skill sets I had as a child.   And, that brings me to my wife, Jackie.  Like those two teachers, she's not a clock puncher in her classroom.  She goes, to borrow an overused pun, the extra mile.

As I blog this, my wife is down in Corpus Christi with her students from San Antonio Madison for the National Oceanic Science Bowl.   For the past school year, she's been prepping her students twice a weekfor this event that is similar to Jeapoardy or for those who are truly ancient (like me), the College Bowl.

What amazes me is that my wife does this without extra compensation.  Since the NOSB is not a UIL sanctioned event, her district doesn't give her an extra stipend.  For the last 10 to 15 years, she's been the NOSB advisor without additional pay.

To Jackie, her true reward is the advancement of her students who go to college and pursue scientific studies in college and post graduate work.  The payoff is the couple of times when she runs into her former students in public every year, and they come up to hug and thank her for helping them as high school students.

So, if you see a former high school teacher that make an impact, make sure to tell them how they helped your career or life.   It makes them feel that their effort is worth it.

Hoping that San Antonio police catch the crook who stole $250 from two girl scouts

Even when you're trying to lose pounds, there's always room for a Girl Scout cookie (or two or three).  So, when I saw on my local news that a man robbed two Girl Scouts of $250 in sales, I was pretty disgusted.  However, there's hope.  The Walgreens  Drug Store has a surveillance camera of the robber, and you can bet that with the local news help that San Antonio will be calling in with tips on how police can catch this miscreant.

This theft is a sad commentary of our times.    Here, we have two third graders who are trying to learn about the world of business and fund raising.   Instead of relying on sales for their family of friends, they took the effort to try to sell their cookies in front of a public place.

Knowing San Antonio as I do, I bet there are some business leaders who are quietly contacting the Girl Scouts to make up the loss of the money.  Yet, the tragedy is that someone was desperate enough to want to take money from two eight-year-olds.  

It's bad enough that Girl Scouts can sell cookies door to door like they did when I was a kid.   However, if you see one of these young merchants selling their wares, drop off an extra five or ten spot to tell them that you appreciate their willingness to learn how to become a sales person.

Despite what some people believe, everyone is sales professional.  The Girl Scouts has always done a good job of teaching their members how to sell successfully. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Laura Lorek's presentation shows her understanding of the changes in media.....

After her talk about the changes in print journalism at the San Antonio Media Club, I have to admire Laura Lorek's presentation about her adaption to the new rules of reporting the news.   Laura is smart enough to admit that she had to make changes in her approach to covering the business sector in south Texas.   She knows that most people under the age of 40 are not reading the paper copy of her paper, but they are turning to her blog, her Twitter account and other forms of social media.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Public relations professionals have accreditation to certify their professionalism

I only read the USA Today when I am sitting in the sauna and steam room after playing racquetball and lifting weights. Usually, the editing and coverage is pretty straight forward, but the editor of this paper might want to check his facts from Seth Brown's freelance piece "How public relations helps steer opinion and the news" This story, published today, has a major error in fact.

Brown wrote: "Perhaps the most alluring thing about being a PR consultant is that no formal training is required: no certification, no universally acknowledged test, no courses offered at many prestigious universities (although some colleges offer PR studies). Essentially, there are no barriers to entry. Acknowledging the general bad reputation of public relations, the authors feel the need to offer a defense, calling PR "a wholly legitimate aid to the exchange of information and ideas in society.' "

Obviously Brown has never heard of the Public Relations Society of America and their APR designation. This certificate does require expertise and certification. It's because of PRSA and this designation that businesses can feel that they are dealing with a true professional.

And, I know that I should join my local PRSA chapter and get this certification. As someone who has spent 30 years in the business, it would enhance my reputation on first-time meetings with clients.

Yes, Brown is right that PR is glamorous to those students who want to join this field. However, most of the graduates from my local university can't write a declarative sentence and are in love with all forms of the verb "to be" in their release. With some training and a little patience, public relations professional can develop novices into successful professionals.

And, Brown is also right in that a lot of public relations professionals take on projects that make their firms look stupid.  Case in point -- the Wells Fargo or event planner going on MSNBC to make the point that bank employees deserve their 10-day seminar and vacation in Las Vegas. Or, the major insurance press guy who appeared in an interview Sunday who said that a local reporter from the Express News got the story right.

However, despite these perceptions about the industry, public relations professionals like me want to develop a future base of competent communicators who can help their clients tell their story to the growing array of media outlets. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why my wife doesn't like social media outlets.....

Social media opposites attract.

Yesterday, I spent Valentine's Day with my wife, doing everything from breakfast to coffee at Starbucks to the movies. While we were at Starbucks, I showed my wife my blog and my Twitter account.

After showing her the number of people who follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn, my wife still doesn't get it. Much is due to the fact that she's a high school science teacher at James Madison High School in San Antonio, and she deals with kids who write essays in "text" format.

In one of her classes, her students responded to a science essay question. One senior wrote: "It's bad for the environment" on a question concerning coal mines. There was nothing else about air quality or other scientific data. In the world of social media, the sentence would have been well under the 140 character limit of a cell phone or a Twitter haiku.

So my wife has issues with social media and texting. In many ways I agree. Today's typical kid can not write a full paragraph of cohesive thoughts, let alone an essay. English teachers are teaching children to express themselves, but they are not teaching them how to pull it all together into an essay.

Now I am going to age myself with "When I was a kid...." but my parochial Catholic and my high school teachers helped me learn how to outline a topic and then write a 500-word essay. Today, kids can't spell and their grammar is poor. Today, they all communicate with their cell phones on in online chat forums.

Has spelling died? Will good grammar die out? Are we left with phrases such as "CU at the mtg today?" as a way to communicate in business? Will future leaders communicate with the context of 140 characters? These are the kinds of things I am asking myself after a long and spirited talk with my wife.

Now, I understand why she hates social media. She deals with it when she grades their essays and lab reports for her five physics sections. Here's hoping that public school English teachers go back to teaching their students the basics of effective writing even when faced with the challenge of dealing with the 140-character mentality.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Peanut farmers must step up to a higher standard of self inspection so that the public will regain trust in its product

If you're a peanut farmer, you should be angry with what's happening to the public perception about your product and its tie back to the Peanut Corp of America.  As a longtime goober lover, I am seriously thinking about alternatives to this basic male food group.

What bothers me the most is the laxity of our government inspection system.  In a story published today in the Express News,  the article noted that there are 340 state health inspectors for 17,000 food processing units.   That 500 to one ration kind of concerns me, and it should concern others as well.

However, the peanut growers of America should take action now.  They should look at a better form of internal auditing for food safety.    Like the property and casualty or the hospital industry, they should look at forming a group of  inspectors who will come in to peanut processing plants and warehouses to inspect their processes.  As well, a standard form of self-evaluation must be developed for the industry.

Those firms that adhere to the stronger standard should have it clearly identified on its packaging with something akin to the "Good Housekeeping" seal for their products.  By stating that they are operating at a higher standard of food safety, they can slowly restore America's faith in everything from their peanut butter and jelly sandwich to those great packages of nuts sold at baseball games.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chatting with Jennifer Navaretteabout her March 5 Innotech talk

 As the publicity manager for the Innotech San Antonio trade show, I get to work and meet some great technical leaders.  When I heard that Jennifer Navarette, one of the founders of the San Antonio Media Club, was speaking, I had to set aside a few minutes to discuss her upcoming speech on March 5.

Why should businesses of all sizes have a "social media" strategy?
People are doing two things.  Either they're either talking about your company/brand/product (good or bad) and you are not there to engage in the conversation or, they are NOT talking about your company/brand/product and they should be.

 What are some best practices for businesses who want to start working on a social media strategy?

I would find out who the  early tech adopters are in your company. They should discover the tools they are using and why because they have already taken the time to navigate the social media landscape .  As well, they could also be your best source to help develop a campaign and make the initial introductions for your company on the social networking sites.

Once on the sites, participate in the conversations. There is a natural tendency to think of social networking as another numbers game. The person with the most followers wins. Not so. The best road to success is to take the time to get to know the folks in each particular space and engaging them in conversation. The social networks are not the place to broadcast but to converse.  

As one of the founders of the San Antonio Social Media Club, what has been the response within south Texas?

The response from the local community is amazing. They are supportive by attending events, volunteering their time and doing what they can to help spread the word about these groups and events.

Since May 2007, we've been holding UnConference events: Podcamp, Startup Weekend, Barcamp, Freelance Camp and AccessCamp to name a few. At each one of these events we see folks who are discovering the local tech/creative/social/media community for the first time. Watching them look around in awe at a gathering of folks who are just as passionate as they are and seeing the light bulbs go off as they participate in sessions is priceless.

Now, almost two years later we have thriving community in San Antonio.  A community that is full of generous individuals who have come together to bring San Antonio to not only a level on par with our sister cities in Texas, but the global community at large.

By bringing the Social Media Club and Social Media Breakfast to San Antonio, the hope was to have more opportunities to connect than the once a year "Camp" events. From what I've seen so far, we've succeeded.

What will Innotech attendees get from your presentation at Innotech?

I will speak on Twitter and how companies like Dell and Comcast have used Twitter to redefine their brand. By showing the human side of big business, they have gone a long way towards turning around what had been considered a less than stellar customer service reputation. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappo's have used Twitter as an extension of their brand. It has become another tool to communicate their unique business style. The Twitter session will show how business and enterprise can utilize a small and seemingly simple tool to engage their fans and critics, 140 characters at a time.

My talk will also focus on building community.  There are online communities. There are offline communities. One of the best ways to cultivate an active community is to merge them together. By using both the online and offline platforms, you stand a better chance at cultivating a community of folks who are passionate about your brand, product, service or business.  Empowering them to take action, use the online tools and offline opportunities creatively you might be surprised at how your community can grow.

Happy Belated birthday Abe

With the San Antonio Innotech Beta Summit underway, I didn't have time to wish Abraham Lincoln a happy birthday in this blog. Yes, I am a day late and a dollar short, but as a child who lived in the "Land of Lincoln," I have always understood his legacy and his humility.

Midwestern folks like me are humble folks. Our teachers reminded of Lincoln and his great capability to overachieve every February on his birthday. Of course, we always had his day off from school.

Here's what Americans can learn from Abe.

First, when life gives you an obstacle, you can overcome it.

Second, embrace your enemies. In my senior year at Stephen Decatur High School (home of the Running Reds), I once submitted an essay on how Lincoln would have rapidly restored America's regrowth after the Civil War had he not been killed. Sadly, another person in my class won the award for perhaps talking about his humble roots and his willingness to learn. The high school English teacher who monitored the contest that awarded a $50 bond upon graduation said that the little old ladies who chaired the contest wanted less about "what if" instead of what he did.

Oh well.

In these troubled times, the life story of people like Lincoln should resonate that when trouble comes that those who face up to it will always persevere.  Just as importantly, the willingness to forgive someone is also just as important.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Barack Obama's policy on educational training is sound but who will execute it for him??????

So, I am driving around town between appointments when I heard Barack Obama's comments on the need for education and training.   As a disabled veteran, I can attest to the power of education through the University of Texas at San Antonio.  However, the conversion time was 2.5 years of my life which included working full time.

Going back to the college to relearn skills is not for the weak at heart.

And, the problem with most traditional colleges is that they want to make sure you have the required extras such as English Lit or History of the World Part III.  As a retired Air Force noncommissioned officer at Lowry AFB, Colo., I believe what our government is to call upon some of the retired training military cadre who taught everything from avionics to basic food services at this former technical training center.  Having worked with them as the chief of media relations and community affairs, I know those guys can pare down the extras that aren't needed to make people productive workers in tomorrow's economy.

Instead, the funding for this will go to educrats, who will sit around and pontificate on training options.  If Mr. Obama wants to truly bring change, he can contract out some basic information systems courses that eliminate the frills and teach people how to fix a computer or wire a building.   Of course, the educrats will fight this, so let's set up a beta test between both groups and look at the qualifications of the students who leave a military short course or one that involves getting the extra frills such as English or foreign language.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saluting an unsung hero after this weekend's ACTS retreat

There's a "river rule" involving all ACTS retreats that states what happens during this three-day event is not disclosed. However, I have to share the story of one of my fellow team members, Ovidio. After the last retreat was over, Ovidio went the extra mile by becoming a mentor of one of our former retreat participants from the Texas Youth Commission Ayers House. For personal protection reasons, let's call him Antonio.

Every Sunday, Ovidio went to church with Antonio. After he graduated from the program, Ovidio stayed in touch and he helped Antonio with readjusting to work and to his family. When the Ministry of the Third Cross formed its new team, Ovidio recruited him to serve on team.

The fact that Antonio was on the team made this last retreat more successful, because the 13 participants could see that if he could change, so could they as well.

Ovidio is busy with a career, a family and other concerns. Yet, he found time to spend at least an hour or two every week to drive Antonio to his weekly Catholic services. To me, he's one of those unsung heroes who is doing something to make it better for someone in need.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Real men pray.........

Real men pray and they hug.   

I am at the start of my second Texas Youth Commission retreat for the Ministry of Third Cross today until Sunday.

What is an answer to my prayer is to see three of the retreatants  from the first retreat come back as team members.     While I know older guys like me can reach out to these teens, I know that those in their age group will have greater impact.

So, I am asking my friends in the blogosphere to say a prayer for the 11 retreatants who are with us at the Mexican American Cultural Center.  I know from the work of the first retreat that it had a positive impact.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

$500,000 is the right form of executive compensation if your business is asking for a government handout....

President Barack Obama's announcement today that executives in corporations who accept federal bailout money will have to limit their salary to $500,000 shows tremendous leadership in these troubled times.

Despite what some of my friends may think about me, I was not an Obama supporter and I truly waffled in the ballot box. However, Obama's decision today convinces me that I made the right choice when it comes to the issue of straightening out the economy.

As a communications consultant, I am amazed too how the Bank of America, one of the beneficiaries of the bailout program, still scheduled an executive 10-day summit in Las Vegas. And, I truly feel sympathy for the communications professionals who have to deal with the outraged press types who questioned this as a valid business expense.

Don't get me wrong. Businesses have to spent money on trade shows and advertising to jump start their sales processes. Anyone with a bachelor's degree in business gets this concept. However, when you take money from the tax payers to restore your business, a 10-day junket in Vegas is not a smart business decision.

Obama's decision, as well, to make sure that bailout beneficiaries can get bonuses above $500K in stock shows intelligence. If you are truly willing to make something work, the incentive of restoring a company to the point that investors will make it worth an executive officer's time and trouble can only be the blue print to help our troubled economy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Military enlisted leadership needs to pursue the issue of troop support in Iraq

This week, I saw that Barack Obama met with the five senior enlisted advisers for the military on Jan. 30.   An official Air Force News Service release noted that our new president wanted to "get gain insight and perspective about the enlisted force through the accumulated experience of the military's most senior enlisted leaders."

And, that's great.  However, I am wondering if Mr. Obama got down to some real issues of leadership with them.  Case in point is the ongoing sloppy contracting work of KBR with the installation of showers.

Had Mr. Obama's staff told him about the 18 deaths of soldiers and contractors due to electrocution, not to mention the other injuries, I think he should have asked these senior enlisted advisers about what they think the Department of Defense can do to mitigate the problem.

Having spent 20 years in the Air Force, I know that the Air Force chief master sergeant of the air force travels throughout the world to hear about issues.  Surely, in Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley, he has probably heard from one or two of the troops he visited in Iraq about the showers.

The problem with Mr. Obama is lack of military experience.  He has never served in the military, and we haven't had a president with significant military experience since Jimmy Carter.  Without time in uniform, he would not know that it's the role of these senior enlisted advisers to report back to their boss, the senior military officer, about these kind of issues.

The problem too is the lack of military contracting supervision.  Dina Rasor, the author of the book Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, noted in a 2007 blog that "the contractors have made life nice for troops at the large bases but the troops who are outside the safe perimeters have trouble getting even the basics of support, including decent food and water. The contractor billings are also threatening the money for basic fighting equipment such as night vision goggles and up armored vehicles."

What's missing is someone like Harry Truman, who took on defense contractors as a senator from Missouri.   It's time as well for our elected leadership to step up and deal with the issues of troop support.  As well, it's time for the Defense Department to pick an independent contracting team to go in country and do an audit of the money spent on troop support.

It's bad enough that our troops have deployed two to three times to the region away from their families and loved ones.  However, when they do support the operations in country, they should have the comfort of a shower that won't jolt them because an Iraqi, unlicensed plumber placed the water pipes next to an electrical line.

Our enlisted leadership, people like CMSAF McKinley, have to really address the issue with the people who can fix the problem.  As a retired Air Force noncom, I am outraged that someone like Chief McKinley hasn't shown the chutzpah to pursue this.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Will Barack Obama's social media success lead to other politicians using social media?

When historians look back on the success of Barrack Obama's election, they will note his use of social media tools to communicate to his electorate. Gylon Jackson, the founder of the San Antonio Blog Training Academy, said he believes more politicians will embrace the use of social media tools.

"One of the biggest reasons that Barack was elected was because he understood social media, while John McCain couldn't even use his email," he said during the San Antonio Freelance camp.

Still, there are those who have issues with a local politician who is actively blogging. Uberblogger and writer Ron Miller noted in his last blog post the furor over one Massachusetts school board member who was using a blog to share her views on a pending school closure in her district. Catherine A. Sanderson, an Amherst school board member, has a very clean looking blog which tells her constituents her views on how her district must manage the financial resources to keep schools open.

Still, not everyone believes their school board member should blog about her views. John Keins, a teacher in Sanderson's district terms her blog as "bully pulpit to further the agenda of those associated with it."

Sanderson's blog clearly details her positions on school closure and other issues involving her school district. Her constituents get her views in real time instead of waiting to get a quip from the local newspaper or a 10-second sound bite on the local TV station.

As a communications professional of over 30 years, I have to think that more politicians and community leaders will want to embrace blogging as a way to reach out to their voters. Barrack Obama's victory in the last presidential election showed how a candidate could effectively use social media tools. Now, others like Sanderson are starting to embrace social media as an effective way to communicate to others.

Sanderson's blog shows a trend that other politicians should follow while in office.  By clearly stating her views on issues, her constituents clearly see the decision making process and issues confronting her.   And, more impotantly, her blog allows voters like Keins to share their perspective on them as well.