Cool Pictures That I’m In or That I Took: Facebook Cover Photo Edition

I’ve used this photo collage around Veterans Day both as a header for this here blog and for my Facebook cover photo as well.  I call it my “Career at a Glance.”

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I’ve received a lot of kind feedback from people on this collage.  I even made similar ones for other people.*  I chose these photos of me as I passed through the officer ranks of the U.S. Army during my nearly 29-year career.  There’s two of me as a captain because I spent an unusually long time as a captain before getting promoted to major.  Here are the original photos and the brief story behind each.  Click on any one of ’em to see it full sized.

 

Army ROTC Cadet, 1977:

AdvCamp77-editedThis was taken at Fort Lewis, Washington at graduation from ROTC Advanced Camp.  I’m third from the right on the next to the top row.  We had great weather that summer.  It only rained one day and it was the one day we had leave around July 4th.  Our platoon produced one general officer that I know of, Maj. Gen. Megan Tatu, who as a cadet is standing in the front row second from the left.

 

Lieutenant,1980, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon:

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I’m not certain the occasion during which this photo was taken.  But here’s a semi-educated guess.  It may have been at the promotion to lieutenant general of the post commander at the time, Maj. Gen. William J. Hilsman.

 

Brand-New Captain, 1984, AFN-SHAPE, Belgium:

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This is me and my dog, Esme.  I’m sitting outside our apartment in the Belgian countryside about 20 miles or so from the office.  My oldest son, Jonathon was born in Belgium some months after this photo was taken.

 

Captain, USAR, 1992, Camp Pendleton, CA:

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This was taken during WOUNDED WARRIOR 92, an Army Reserve medical exercise conducted at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Southern California. That’s Captain Me and Master Sgt. Jeanie West. We both worked for the public affairs office at the 63rd Regional Support Command at Los Alamitos, CA.  Army Staff Sgt. Jim McGehee took this photo of us as we were sharpshooting Lt. Col. Stan Kensic’s rehearsal press briefing or some such thing.  I remember laughing uproariously during the rehearsal with all of these folks plus Ted Bartimus, who was 63rd’s full-time civilian PAO. I’m pretty sure this is the first digital photograph I ever saw.

 

Major, 1997, AFN-Balkans, Bosnia:

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This was taken outside the Armed Forces Network station in Tuzla, Bosnia.  This was relatively early in the deployment, as I recall.  In the photo with me from left is Capt. Shawn Jirik (now Colonel Shawn Woodbridge), Spec. Darius Sims, Spec. Jennifer Lopez (now Jennifer Lamb O’Cuinneagain, according to Facebook), and Sgt. Jennifer Braden.  Shawn, Darius and I were Reserve Soldiers and the two Jennifers were active component broadcasters on loan to us for a few months from AFN Europe.

 

Lieutenant Colonel, 2001, Army Forces Central Command – Saudi Arabia:

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This may have been taken in 2000.  Hard to tell – it’s always summer in Saudi Arabia.  Anyway, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command at the time, paid us a visit. As a one-man PAO shop, I was doing all the photography for the event.  By the time this photo was taken, I think I had room for just one or two more photos in the digital camera’s storage.  Maj. Mike Downs, who went on to retire as a lieutenant colonel, took the camera from my hands and said “Let me take this.  PAO’s never get their photo taken.”  So Gen. Franks and I assumed the “grip and grin” position and Mike took the photo.  That was a terrific assignment and people like Mike made it memorable and fun.

 

Colonel, 2003, Fort Benning, GA:

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This one was a truly special occasion. My nephew, Andrew Kimes, went to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Benning as an ROTC cadet. When he was ready to graduate from the Basic Parachutist Course, my sister and Andy’s mom, Bobbi Jo, invited me to come down to his graduation and pin his jump wings on him. So she and I flew to Columbus, GA where we had both lived for a few months as REALLY little kids while my Dad was in his branch advanced course. I carried an extra set of airborne wings in my pocket so that I could remove mine from my uniform, pin my wings to his uniform, and then replace mine with a different set so I wouldn’t be out of uniform. This photo was taken after the graduation ceremony. Andy went on to have a great career and is currently a major and the acting battalion commander of a unit in Ohio. My sister was recently award a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Otterbein University. I’m crazy proud of how they both turned out.

 

* The first one of these I did for my Dad:

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Then I did one for Shawn Woodbridge:

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And one for my younger brother, Jefferson Wolfe.  Jeff is now serving somewhere in Africa in support of the Army’s Ebola eradication efforts there.

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What a Difference a Year Makes!

One year ago:  Nate dressed up for school in celebration of my first day on the job.

One year ago: Nate dressed up for school in celebration of my first day on the job.

Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of employment with the federal government. (Yes, of the United States.)   I guess I must be doing OK because they’ve not yet asked me to go home and leave the parking pass behind.

This job has been an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. After nearly two years of being unemployed, you’d think that any job would come as an unexpected surprise and this one was no exception at the time. That it’s remained unexpectedly pleasant for a year is really quite amazing.

The day I was hired, before driving out here to the research center where I work, I in-processed downtown at the DC offices near the Navy Yard. Without exception, everyone I encountered there told me how fortunate I was to have landed a job out here at the research center. Once I arrived on site, everyone here made me feel welcome and necessary to everything that was going on out here. It’s remarkable that such an attitude persists for very long at all but the truth is that everyone here still makes me feel that way. The real beauty of it? It seems that everyone out here gets the same treatment.

This place is overloaded with Ph.D.’s and engineers and smart people the likes of which I’ve not seen outside of academia. I am totally outclassed by pretty much everyone with whom I interact but no one has even once made me feel less than important even though I am less accomplished academically.

Sciency stuff:  The RABIT bridge deck assessment tool collects comprehensive data on surface and subsurface conditions automatically and simultaneously.

Sciency stuff: The RABIT bridge deck assessment tool collects comprehensive data on surface and subsurface conditions automatically and simultaneously.

I experienced a lot this past year. I got to photograph and briefly meet the President of the United States. I observed a small robot inspect an entire bridge structure. I watched a bunch of engineers and scientists break a bridge structure with over 300,000 lbs. of force. And a couple of spectacular car crashes NOT involving my Prius.

Anyway, why am I telling you all this? I’m grateful for having survived a year as a federal government employee. But more importantly, no one should ever disparage the entire federal workforce. There’s some serious — and I mean serious talent out here at Turner-Fairbank just as there was among my civilian colleagues within the Department of Defense.

But probably the most important and lasting thing that I’ve learned is because of my colleagues: dedicated service to your nation doesn’t have to come with a uniform.

Thanks for a great year!

Why I Support Net Neutrality

Netneutralitycopy1Stay with me here, this is liable to get complicated.

My first instinct when it came to this subject was to pooh-pooh government regulation of what amounts to a private pipeline. The Internet, after all, is an electronic pipe that delivers information on demand and unbiased by location. In other words, you have access to the same information regardless of where you are on the network. (That’s the beauty of TCP/IP.)

Since an Internet service provider owns the broadband network infrastructure, they should be allowed to manage it and charge what the market will bear. Consumers will regulate the value and price of delivery through the usual dynamics of supply and demand.

Makes sense, right? Let’s look a little more closely.

Enter Comcast, for example. (And there are other examples. I’m picking on Comcast because I’m a former Comcast employee, sorta.)

Comcast and others have decided that they will prioritize the delivery of Internet traffic based on the information provider’s ability to pay. This means that an information provider can pay Comcast to move its information faster than a competitor. Plus, if I’m a high-volume information provider, I’m using up a whole lot more of Comcast’s bandwidth to deliver my information. Therefore, if I’m using more of Comcast’s resources to move my information, it should cost me more, right?

While this sorta makes sense in the context of a Netflix streaming service, or iTunes Movie delivery, when you consider the second and third order effects, this concerns me.

Comcast owns the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC and all of its entertainment and news operations. Let’s suppose hypothetically that Comcast decides that it will give top priority to Internet delivery of its NBC News products and relegate other news organizations to a lower priority.   Comcast understandably wants to you to see their advertisements in their news products instead of those of their competition. That means that if you’re a Comcast subscriber, online access to NBC News products would be easier to find, more readily available, faster to download, featured in ads and otherwise presented to the consumer IN LIEU OF products from other news outlets.

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Taken to the extreme, since Comcast owns NBC, they may make an economic decision to offer ONLY NBC News products on their network by routing all Internet searches for news and current events to NBC resources.  This would have the effect of censoring all news and information from any other source but Comcast’s NBC News.

And Comcast isn’t the only one who would likely engage in such a scenario.

Time Warner, Cox, Verizon all would likely strike similar deals with information providers who would collectively decide what information gets priority on their networks and what gets relegated to the basement of Internet transfer speeds, ultimately limiting what your eyeballs can see.

Do you want your access to information limited in any way just because of the company you’ve chosen to deliver your Internet service? Do you want your Internet provider deciding what news source you’re likely to see?

I don’t.

I have no objections to the CONSUMER paying higher prices for using greater capacity. I have a problem with Internet service providers deciding for me whose information is more valuable. The value of any given piece of information is a decision that individuals should make for themselves.

If there were multiple broadband Internet service providers available nationwide, I’d not be too awfully worried about the issue as the marketplace would have multiple choices from which to choose information they want. But in most cases, there exists a duopoly or, as it is in my hometown, only a monopoly on broadband Internet service.  In these communities, market forces can’t apply and if the ISP limits the delivery of certain kinds of information, what’s a consumer to do?

Since broadband Internet service in a given community is more often than not limited to one or two companies, it becomes more like a utility than not and should be regulated appropriately. No single company should have the power to limit news and information provided through their networks given the public’s reliance on it.

Internet service is no longer a luxury. It’s a must-have. Schools rely on it. We voters rely on it for the delivery of facts and opinion. In fact, broadband Internet service has become so important that it serves the public, and therefore the public interest.

Keep the information flowing to the public without bias, without limiting choices and ideas and without commercial interest censoring it.