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Army Asks Its Personnel to Wikify Field Manuals 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-adding-wikify-to-the-spellchecker-and-sighing dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that the Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life, using the same software behind Wikipedia. The goal, say the officers behind the effort, is to tap more experience and advice from battle-tested soldiers rather than relying on the specialists within the Army's array of colleges and research centers, who have traditionally written the manuals. 'For a couple hundred years, the Army has been writing doctrine in a particular way, and for a couple months, we have been doing it online in this wiki,' said Col. Charles J. Burnett, the director of the Army's Battle Command Knowledge System. 'The only ones who could write doctrine were the select few. Now, imagine the challenge in accepting that anybody can go on the wiki and make a change — that is a big challenge, culturally.' Under the three-month pilot program, the current version of each guide can be edited by anyone around the world who has been issued an ID card that allows access to the Army Internet system. Reaction so far from the rank and file has been tepid, but the brass is optimistic; even in an open-source world, soldiers still know how to take an order."
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Army Asks Its Personnel to Wikify Field Manuals

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  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:12PM (#29072615)
    This is a good idea. Even though I haven't read any field manuals I have read numerous instruction booklets, documentation and books about programs and often times what the official documentation says and what you need to do are totally different. Many times even though the "official" way to do something is doable, it might be awkward or slow, and you can do an "unofficial" way and save time and get 95% or more of the same results. I expect that army field manuals are no different.
    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:25PM (#29072695)

      Yeah but there may be compelling reasons why they want it done the official way that your common foot soldier doesn't know about. The trick is to make the more-efficient unofficial policy official wherever possible, not to encourage everyone to do their own thing and get it done faster.

      If grunts serendipitously discover that moist towelettes are great for cleaning guns, then the right people should be informed. They should not just use tons of moist towelettes at the cost of hygiene and the unit's general health.

      • by martas (1439879)
        next step: open source warfare. now everyone can be a strategist!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by imamac (1083405)
        The "right" people are 40 links up and around and back down the chain of command. The chances of suggestions actually making it to those people is slim. This just cuts out a few steps. I would be seriously surprised if the technical experts did not review the material just like moderators at wikipedia.
      • Yeah but there may be compelling reasons why they want it done the official way that your common foot soldier doesn't know about.

        Then it will sure be great that the people writing the stuff will see the entry on how soldiers do something in real life, so the material can be compiled in a way that infuses practice with theory...

      • by Carrion Creeper (673888) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:15PM (#29073025)
        As a former soldier, the most successful part of this program will probably be getting new ideas into the hands of the people who write field manuals. Decisions about official policy still must be researched to find out if particular circumstances the soldiers mention are as frequent as they claim, and checked against reality, reason, and military law. Cleaning your weapon with moist towelettes may be great, but it may also corrode the weapon over time. On the other hand, it will help get a wider variety of information in the hands of someone who can put that out to everyone else, because maybe moist towelettes do a great job and nobody was willing to mention it in any official capacity.

        The other great thing about this is that it will tell the policy makers all the brain dead stupid shit people are doing, so they can mention a few extra pertinent negatives in the next version of the manual.

        • by belmolis (702863)

          Just wait till they discover that the best material for cleaning your weapon isn't moist towlettes but "feminine hygiene products".

          • I actually found that new kitchen cling wrap stuff quite useful for keeping sand out of my grenade launcher. Perfect wiki material.
        • by Tiger4 (840741)

          I worked alongside a Logistics Test squadron once. These are the guys that write Technical Orders for maintenance and repair. They take the recommendations from the engineers and turn them into repair manuals. The hardest part of the job is two fold: first, you make sure the necessary stuff gets said the right way and clearly, and second you take good ideas from the field and get them implemented. AND you make sure bad ideas get stopped cold (e.g. don't substitute Vaseline for high temp silicone grease

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or use Simple Green to Clean Helicopters. It corrodes the Aluminum.
        For certain Maintainance tasks there is no unofficial way. There is only the way listed in the manual.
        with a form to fix the typos in the back.

      • The added benefit should be, that doctrine is more understandable. Back in my day, I read a LOT of manuals, and completed the correspondence courses associated with many of them. There were times that I questioned my own understanding of the English language! Worse, sometimes the questions in the course were apparently targeted at an earlier revision, because NONE of the multiple choice answers agreed with the current revision!

        Given even 10,000 soldiers (or sailors, or airmen) are willing to participate

      • by hab136 (30884)

        Yeah but there may be compelling reasons why they want it done the official way that your common foot soldier doesn't know about

        If that's so, then the manual needs to state why it should be done the official way and not the unofficial way.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      This is a good idea.

      Says you. I suggest you ponder the following phrase:

      Global Thermonuclear Edit War

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:41PM (#29072821)

      I would have prefered not to write this anonymously, but because what I have to say is not very "pro soldiers". Its not anti-soldier either, its an observation from having been in the armed forces myself.

      I have worked on a deployment as an intelligence analyst in the Balkans. My job was to read "patrol reports" squad leaders / platoon leaders would write up after their patrols. I can say this with experience that most of the grunts I have worked with have a reading / writing level of less an 8th grade student. Their ability to translate experience into the written word is often very poor, and hard to translate. A lot of the work was shoddy at best, and required additional "questioning" of the patrol leader and its members in order to find out any information of value. Probably 20% of the time, the additional questioning yielded actual useful information.

      This lack of literacy does not entail that these individuals are stupid or incapable. That is a very dangerous assumption to make, and is often not true at all. Its very simple, most of the infantrymen learn by doing, and not by reading. They are experts at executing breaches and urban combat operations once instructed, and can adapt very well. But I wouldnt trust them to write a document I'm going to hand to fresh recruits. Thats work best left for the officers.

      For some of the listed field manuals (in particular Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations) this will probably work, for others, it will probably end up being white washed by field experienced officers. I expect most soldiers will also expect the white wash to occur, but I think this is a very good compromise and positive adaptation of technology to shape doctrine and benefit from collective experiences.

      My question for the slashdot crowd is this: Is there better technology than a wiki to organize collective experience?

      • by imamac (1083405)
        Perhaps still using a wiki article for any given topic. Then Allow a time period for edits--say 3-6 months or so. Finally the article is locked and the technical experts review it and publish an official manual.
        • That'd be nice, but things change so fast there's no way that would work alone. Imagine if a particular maneuver were compromised by the enemy, and the soldiers were baited into executing it. If they can change it, that happens once, or for a short period of time. If it's locked, it happens over and over until the article gets through a review team, unlocked, etc.

          Maybe have a locked version at the top and notes at the bottom that were still editable.

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            Misinformation is the best compromised information. It wouldn't take long to see that something was compromised, especially if they were monitoring access well enough to know it happened. Issuing new orders in the field and changing battle plans is something the military is relatively good at. Compromised information may actually be an objective here.

            Also, an objective could be a new types of field reediness evaluation. I can't imagine this not being followed up with strict access controls and knowing who i

      • Oh yeah, bash soldiers for not being good writers. You know, if they could write, they probably wouldn't have taken up soldiering. But I forget, this is the year 2009, and we all need to be warned not to hire ex-soldiers.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I think he was very careful in his wording not to bash them, but it's just a fact of life that serving in the lower ranks of the military requires the lowest standards of education out of almost any job. (the police are the same here too) Although i would say that most of the soldiers here (NZ) would have a standard of literacy high enough to provide each other with useful written intelligence.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by haystor (102186)

          He went and said that useful information came out of the poorly written patrol reports and then says a wiki won't work. Someone doesn't understand how wiki does work. It's not like someone comes along and writes a pristine document. It's a give and take.

          If a soldier comes in and writes that a lubricant used in maintenance, "fucking freezes when it's cold", they can ask him when and where and find out of if that corresponds with doctrine.

          A soldier with a beef about how the manual is wrong will quite likel

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday August 14, 2009 @11:46PM (#29073703) Homepage Journal

          You know, if they could write, they probably wouldn't have taken up soldiering.

          I don't think you realize how many great writers were once soldiers. Norman Mailer and Tim O'Brien come to mind, but there are many many more. Joe Haldeman was a grunt in Viet Nam. John Steinbeck was in the Army in WWII with a commando unit but was denied a commission because of his left-wing politics. If I wasn't half-drunk, I'd go look in my literary biographies and list a bunch more. When I was fresh out of grad school, I taught a writing class at a land-grant college not far from a very large military base. I remember one retired staff sergeant who'd been in Saigon around the time of the fall and he could write the birds out of the trees. He was writing a novel when I got an appointment to a tonier school and I heard he died before it was finished, from illnesses probably related to Agent Orange.

          All kinds of people enlist in the service, for lots of different reasons. There was a time in this country when most young men faced the possibility of wearing a uniform, including yours truly. It was only a lucky pick in a lottery that kept me over here smoking weed and playing student. Don't ever make the mistake of thinking that they're all stupid just because they might have fought in a stupid war.

      • by ParticleGirl (197721) <SlashdotParticleGirl AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:03PM (#29072963) Journal

        I can say this with experience that most of the grunts I have worked with have a reading / writing level of less an 8th grade student. Their ability to translate experience into the written word is often very poor, and hard to translate. (...) I wouldnt trust them to write a document I'm going to hand to fresh recruits. Thats work best left for the.

        I am sure you know what you are talking about, and I have no military experience... but it appears that the reports you were reading were required of the squad and patrol readers.

        One thing that wikis in general have going for them (and I would assume that the same principle applies here) is that contributors are self-selected. People tend to write if/when they have something they feel needs to be said, and people who choose to write often (not always, of course!) tend to be better equipped to do so than those who would rather not. Sometimes they're even concise. Hopefully this applies here, to the benefit of the military. Maybe people with something useful to say will have an easy way to make it heard.

        • Well, it's no surprise that there are lots of people in the Army who didn't like education much and wanted out after highschool.
          I don't condemn them, I'm glad they are willing to serve, and I'm glad they're doing something instead of sitting around collecting welfare.

          Anyways, a solution would be to have a field engineer tagging along at all times, and task him with the documentation. Pay better and I'll sign up; touring the world would be fun.

      • by tcopeland (32225) <{moc.dnalepoceelsamoht} {ta} {mot}> on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:06PM (#29072979) Homepage

        > most of the grunts I have worked with have a
        > reading / writing level of less an 8th grade student.

        Check out the Army reading list [militarypr...glists.com] section for cadets, soldiers, and NCOs. Some good stuff there... especially Keegan's "Face of Battle". On the other hand, I have no idea how many folks in those ranks have read any of those.

        • by SeaFox (739806)

          Don't you find it amusing that web page is headed with this quote:

          "The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of distinction between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards" -- Sir William Francis Butler

          Then goes on to divide the reading list based on the rank of the reader?

          • by tcopeland (32225)

            > Then goes on to divide the reading list based on the rank of the reader?

            Some truth to that... but I don't know. Seems to me that the senior officer books are more around strategy (see the Navy reading list 'Senior Leaders' section [militarypr...glists.com]) while the junior folks' books are more general stuff and easy reads. For example, look where Ender's Game [militarypr...glists.com] shows up on several lists...

          • by Nathrael (1251426)
            People of different ranks in the military need to know different stuff. A grunt or junior NCO should mainly know about combat and to some degree tactical leadership. A Special Forces NCO or officer needs to know more about how his enemy operates, a soldier in a senior leadership position should focus on strategic leadership. I think the lists are based on what a soldier of a certain rank would find most useful, not what is easy to read and what not (or do you really think having read The Clash of Civilizati
      • by mordors9 (665662) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:38PM (#29073137)
        I would point out that when Charlie Rangel and some other politicians started denigrating the volunteer soldiers as a bunch of lower class, uneducated people with no prospects, as study found that they were generally middle class and better educated than the citizenry as a whole. http://www.heritage.org/research/nationalsecurity/cda05-08.cfm [heritage.org]
        • by Marcika (1003625)

          I would point out that when Charlie Rangel and some other politicians started denigrating the volunteer soldiers as a bunch of lower class, uneducated people with no prospects, as study found that they were generally middle class and better educated than the citizenry as a whole. http://www.heritage.org/research/nationalsecurity/cda05-08.cfm [heritage.org]

          Yes, but if you actually look at the study, you see how Heritage distorts the results. 98% of military recruits have High School diplomas -- because the military enlists very few people without. So the study is disingenuous in that it doesn't compare populations _with the actual opportunity_ to enlist.... And even then, they find that the top quintile (the smart kids) are underrepresented, and they find that Asian kids are underrepresented, while there is a higher fraction of black and latino kids.

      • by tacarat (696339)
        A wiki has it's advantages for certain jobs and personality types, but so does the X-Prize foundation's approach. I can see the X-Prize method being great for not only improving various practices, but also being good for troop morale. The main thing is they keep trying different techniques rather than just throwing money at a situation. A little bit of fun and well placed change can be the best way to improve things.
      • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday August 14, 2009 @10:29PM (#29073407) Journal
        "I can say this with experience that most of the grunts I have worked with have a reading / writing level of less an 8th grade student. "

        I served, and I think you're full of it. "Most" is a rather definite word, that's a majority, more than half, and from my experience I would strongly disagree with that assessment. They weren't all wonderful writers like your average programmer (lol) but they could write up a patrol report that made sense.

        And what was the point of your little soldier bashing post? That they shouldn't have a wiki because they suck at writing? That those that want to write shouldn't be allowed, that only the technical writers should have the ability and the grunts should just shut up and get shot at? I'm even more pissed mods marked it Score:5, Insightful. Shame I used all my mod points up yesterday, I had mod points good until tomorrow.

        I think a wiki is a fantastic idea and I'm shocked the Army would even consider it, very un-Army like, to give the grunts a voice. This is not the Army I remember, only good can come of this, and developing the wiki and similar programs should be encouraged.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ahabswhale (1189519)
          Ordinarily I would agree that this would be a good idea (since I'm pro-wiki for this kind of thing) but I think this will fail due to culture. Lower ranks will be very reluctant to change something written by someone higher rank especially in cases where the lower rank is enlisted and the higher rank is an officer. You could even argue that it's a sign of disrespect and the enlisted could end up on charges of insubordination.
        • by Kirijini (214824)

          If you actually read GP's post, at no point does the coward actually say that soldiers shouldn't write a wiki. What he(?) actually says is:

          I wouldnt trust them [soldiers] to write a document I'm going to hand to fresh recruits... [some wikis] will probably end up being white washed by field experienced officers."

          The GP's point is not...

          That those that want to write shouldn't be allowed, that only the technical writers should have the ability and the grunts should just shut up and get shot at

          ...but:

          I expect most soldiers will also expect the white wash to occur, but I think this is a very good compromise and positive adaptation of technology to shape doctrine and benefit from collective experiences.

          You know, when you said...

          I think a wiki is a fantastic idea... developing the wiki and similar programs should be encouraged.

          ...it sounds a lot like the GP's

          I think this is a very good compromise and positive adaptation of technology to shape doctrine and benefit from collective experiences.

          hmmmm.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          ... I would mod you down but I'm out of points, so here's my own contradicting experience.... (end paraphrase)

          Did it ever occur to you that the debate benefits from you contributing a post instead of a down-modding? I certainly think this post did way more for your cause and the general information level.

      • by hcdejong (561314)

        But I wouldnt trust them to write a document I'm going to hand to fresh recruits. Thats work best left for the officers.

        Um, no. Officers aren't much better equipped to write a comprehensible manual than are enlisted men. Writing a manual is best left to a technical writer, someone trained to extricate information from the experts and convert this into a format readable by a novice.

        That said, the second most valuable resource for a technical writer is feedback from the field (the most valuable is actual field experience, but that's not always feasible). This wiki would be a real boon in that area.

        hdj
        (technical writer)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adamchou (993073)

      I see two major issues with this

      1. A lot of people in the military are not that well educated and the idea of them trying to write manuals sounds horrendous.
      2. With Wikipedia, items posted by random people usually require a source. What source is there going to be here? This is mostly going to be mostly opinion, not tried, tested, and true facts.
      • A lot of people in the military are not that well educated and the idea of them trying to write manuals sounds horrendous.

        No one is forcing anyone to edit anything... as someone noted above, wiki editors are self selecting, my bet is the more educated would contribute>

        With Wikipedia, items posted by random people usually require a source. What source is there going to be here? This is mostly going to be mostly opinion, not tried, tested, and true facts.

        Ah, the mantra of /. ... RTFA.

        Under the three-month pilot program, the current version of each guide can be edited by anyone around the world who has been issued the ID card that allows access to the Army Internet system. About 200 other highly practical field manuals that will be renamed Army Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, or A.T.T.P., will be candidates for wikification.

        • by adamchou (993073)

          The problem is precisely that the editors are self selecting! I'm certain you've met numerous ignorant people that think they know everything. Those people that think they're smart that aren't really are the ones that worry me

          I didn't read the article but I did at least read the summary which does mention that. Regardless, there's no way they can do something to verify claims posted by soldiers. When i say "tried, tested, and true facts", that means it being tested by way more than just one person or even o

          • The problem is precisely that the editors are self selecting!

            No, no it's not.
            Pick any really popular wikipedia article. Invariably morons or kids will add stupid edits, but they never stay long. The more intelligent entries always win out because enough people care to fix them.

            • by adamchou (993073)
              Ok, you're right about the other wiki's. But what happens when you couple problem 1 i mentioned with problem 2? If you have someone posting stuff that can't be verified and the guy posting is a complete bonehead, how do you know what to keep and what not to keep?
            • by adamchou (993073)
              Sorry, I should probably clarify that what this bonehead is posting sounds very correct when in fact its completely utterly wrong once you go out in the field and apply what he says.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      This is a good idea.

      I'm surprised that there's not an outcry that "Wiki's are Socialism". After all, it's the opposite of privatized, profit-driven approach that America is supposed to be about.

      Next thing, we'll hear that Obama wants to kill our excellent free-market military by making it government-run and use our taxes to pay for it.

      It's time to get the government out of our fine US military. Or something.

  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:13PM (#29072621) Journal

    Wiki entry:

    In case you come under attack, shoot back. [clarification needed]

    • Don't you mean [citation needed]? Seems pretty clear to me already... :)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:24PM (#29072685)

        Don't you mean [citation needed]? Seems pretty clear to me already... :)

        Wiki entry:

        In case you come under attack, shoot back. [clarification needed]

        I read those instructions as a free pass to be a team-killing bastard.

    • Re:Check please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frosty_tsm (933163) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:25PM (#29072691)
      If you check back later, you'll find the following edit:

      "... unless in a peace keeping mission where you were ordered to walk around with your weapon unloaded and ammo stored back at base."

      with the history showing the name of some bureaucrat who's never served in the military.
    • ...Not at all a good idea if you're vastly outnumbered and opening fire just draws attention to your retreating team.

  • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by wb8wsf (106309) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:19PM (#29072659)

    That is absolutely one of the most intelligent things I have ever heard
    of the US armed forces doing.

    Well, that and letting Haynes design T-shirts, and letting go of the 20+
    page specifications for fruitcakes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is an incredibly good idea. This may sound weird, but I'm going to compare this to my experience with Internet spaceships.

      My corporation in EVE has a wiki where we dump ship fittings and tactics. That alone is a huge benefit, but what really makes it shine is that combined with a killboard, which tracks all of our combat statistics, and a forum where we can discuss the entries there. Everybody can see who is actually successful, and obviously when the highly successful people speak, others listen. The

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by More_Cowbell (957742) *

        Queue nerds flaming about how real war isn't a videogame.

        I would say modern warfare is quite often exactly like a video game... (e.g. drones that can be piloted from thousands of miles away.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bogjobber (880402)

        That exact setup is fully within the Army's grasp, and they should pursue it wholeheartedly. What seems intuitive in battle is rarely the most effective choice, and resources like this can drastically reduce the time it takes to becoming a veteran, as well as increase odds of survival until they reach that level of expertise.

        It's a good idea, but you are wrong. First of all, it is significantly harder to perform statistical analysis on combat procedures in real life. It's easy to record data off a compu

      • If you don't mind, what corporation are you a member of?

        I play EVE, and am currently a member of one of the default corporations and I mostly just run missions right now. Anyway, I'd like to get into some moderately serious PvP.

        All my mission running has left me with a decent wallet, and I'd really enjoy getting a cheap ship blown up in a massive PvP battle.

        Of course, I don't know if you guys are recruiting or what the situation is, but I'm interested, mostly because it sounds like you have your stuff toge

  • by cenobyte40k (831687) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:23PM (#29072683)
    The problem with american military doctrine is that the American military does not read it's field manuals, and even when it does it doesn't follow them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cpghost (719344)

      and even when it does it doesn't follow them.

      and even when it does it doesn't understand them. There, fixed for you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dravik (699631)
        No, they understand them perfectly. They just happen to be years out of date and not applicable to the current equipment and/or enemy.
    • You mean army. The *army* might not read their FM's.

      The Air Force has T.O.'s and I assure slashdot that we do in fact read them. There is work out there that is running/jumping/bang bang-stuff, and there is work out there that is "putting all 10,000 pieces of this engine back together within 0.0005" tolerances'.

      So as an airman, I'd appreciate it if I didn't get lumped in with all of the army anecdotes. I respect the army but comparing the army to the marines to air force etc. would be like comparing soccer

      • by bhiestand (157373)

        You mean army. The *army* might not read their FM's.

        The Air Force has T.O.'s and I assure slashdot that we do in fact read them. There is work out there that is running/jumping/bang bang-stuff, and there is work out there that is "putting all 10,000 pieces of this engine back together within 0.0005" tolerances'.

        So as an airman, I'd appreciate it if I didn't get lumped in with all of the army anecdotes. I respect the army but comparing the army to the marines to air force etc. would be like comparing soccer to baseball to football.

        -b

        You really think mechanics in the Army, Navy, and Marines don't have TOs? Let's take this one another step further... you think aviation mechanics outside of the military, or in foreign militaries, don't have TOs? You need to lay off the Kool-Aid, Airman.

  • by kevinatilusa (620125) <kcostell.gmail@com> on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:24PM (#29072689)

    between this and Wikipedia is that each edit will be linked to an ID which in turn is linked to a known service(wo)man.

    Combine this with the way that the final manual will be the product of review teams rather than the wiki-style entries themselves, and this seems as much a very efficient public feedback/comment system (using wiki software and formatting) as a true wiki.

    • by cybrpnk2 (579066)
      Actually, the edits are not limted to just soldiers. There are lots of civilian contractors (like me) who have CACs. Guess I need to go over to Army Knowledge Online and check this out - they've been hassling me to change my password there anyway....
  • tap more experience and advice from battle-tested soldiers rather than relying on the specialists within the Army's array of colleges and research centers

    Forgive my ignorance, but by definition a field manual should be exactly that - a tool relevant to experience in the field of combat.

    I fail to see how some "researcher" no doubt with a worthless degree in "Ancient Medievil History" or the like is more qualified that some who's, gasp, actually been in the field?

    By open-sourcing information, they have basically allowed for a large influx of new, refreshing and indeed relevant ideas and ideology.

    • [quote]I fail to see how some "researcher" no doubt with a worthless degree in "Ancient Medievil History" or the like is more qualified that some who's, gasp, actually been in the field? [/quote] Large battles have been won by officer who know that kind of history, because of that history, even from accounts recorded in the Hebrew Bible. I wouldn't be so brash as to discount battle history: often much is very applicable; oftentimes such knowledge is a harbor of tactics which, if recalled, are redeployable
    • by westlake (615356)

      I fail to see how some "researcher" no doubt with a worthless degree in "Ancient Medievil History" or the like is more qualified that some who's, gasp, actually been in the field?

      To view the active list of Army Field Manuals - excluding engineering and medical: Doctrine and Training Publications [army.mil]

      You won't be able to access the files.

      But it might just buy you a clue to what an Army college is all about.

      Here is a sampling of Army field manuals in the public domain: Army Field Manuals [globalsecurity.org]

    • by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Friday August 14, 2009 @10:20PM (#29073345) Homepage

      Because in many cases the person experienced in the field has only his or her own limited, personal experience to go by, whereas the researcher is able to draw on a large number of examples in a wide variety of situations, which gives him or her a better picture of what is really going on. The person experienced in the field may indeed have valuable information and insights, but at the same time, he or she may have a narrow perspective or limited information. And of course researchers are usually people with special aptitude, training, skills, and resources for doing research, which is not true of the person in the field.

    • In the past... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Friday August 14, 2009 @11:24PM (#29073637) Homepage Journal

      In the past, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) looked at the threat, defined and acquired the means of dealing with the threat and then trained the people at the sharp end how to use what TRADOC or the other commands had acquired to dispatch the threat. Since everything but the threat was theoretical, the only way to do things was to have the FM written by TRADOC. No one had any real experience on which to base a FM. This made a lot of sense when the overall threat was assumed to be the Warsaw Pact armies rolling through the Fulda Gap with their latest collection of toys.

      Fast forward to the 21st century and both the overall threat and the specific means of implementing the threat aren't as clearly defined. On the other hand, we have people in the field getting real experience dealing with the current threat. It just makes sense to get the people with the experience to data dump into a FM that represents how things really work. Conversely, no one but the analysts and people at TRADOC had any idea of how to deal with the cold war threats. Asking the people at the sharp end back then to write the FM wouldn't have made any sense either.

      Cheers,
      Dave

  • CAC Card (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Common Access Card (CAC Card. yes, it's redundant) is not unique to the Army, the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces uses them to varying degrees because it's integrated into the Military ID (which is a Smart Card)

  • by ring-eldest (866342) <ring_eldest@hotmaTIGERil.com minus cat> on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:32PM (#29072749)
    This just in: the military command structure has decided to put ARPANET to use as originally intended a scant 40 years after development!

    On a (slightly) more serious note, the rank and file and upper brass have differing views on how their opinions are going to be received by the other side. Of course they do! The higher level officers have always expected their suggestions to be taken seriously and responded to with a prompt, "Yes, sir!" They see no problem here. The grunts have a long history of learning exactly how much their input is both required and appreciated by those men, especially when it comes unsolicited. This is one of those rare situations in the military where both sides' reactions are perfectly understandable and even... rational.
    • I'd like to point out that in the air force I know of at least two programs that serve this niche, albeit more slowly.

      There's the air force idea program, where you can be paid money for your ideas. Any ideas, really, as long as they are safe and save the air force money. Examples might include "training one person to repair part X on location would save $X per unit compared to sending it to depot, thus saving this base on average $Y/year". Stuff like that that could only come from someone experienced in the

  • infotopia (Score:4, Informative)

    by martas (1439879) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:39PM (#29072807)
    there's a book called Infotopia (http://www.amazon.com/Infotopia-Many-Minds-Produce-Knowledge/dp/0195189280), about how information is generated and shared in an increasingly tech advanced society, and this is one of the things it mentions in its "vision for the future" in the intro. interesting book. quite optimistic.
    • The efficiency gained from the information age is the only thing that will save us from an increasingly inefficient and spend-happy bureaucracy.

      To be honest, Clinton did little to balance the budget. IMO, our GDP grew so fast as we replaced typewriters and recordbooks with MS Word and Excel that the government couldn't help but run a balanced book. They may not have caught up just yet, but as we saw, fear not, they certainly do not struggle with spending more than they take in...and I used to think Bush was

  • by Steauengeglase (512315) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:44PM (#29072839)

    Standard SOP for solid waste burning is SERGEANT MAJOR IS A COCK SUCKER!

  • This is a supremely excellent idea.

    Only problem is that it will provide a supremely excellent manual for OPFOR.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      If all it took to run an army was a decent book, anyone with The Art of War could have rolled over Western Europe by now.
  • Wikiality (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:50PM (#29072875)

    In other news, Stephen Colbert is now commander-in-chief of US forces in the middle east, and the number of elephant attacks has tripled in the last 6 months.

    • Nothing to be overly concerned about. But start worrying when the enemy is seen to keep and arm bears!

  • Who to believe? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:05PM (#29072975)

    This would seem to pose a problem when there are conflicting viewpoints - esspecially among higher ups. Wikipedia has this problem too, but wikipedia articles on controversial topics aren't really actionable (and you can't plead your case that oh, you read this on wikipedia it must have been true! when something is wrong that you did act on wikipedia from). Army doctrine is.

    If you take a look at the current US army and marine corps counterinsurgency field manual Chapter 2is titled "Unity of Effort: Integrating Civilian and Military Activities". I bet with 200k troops or so active at any given time on recolonization (I term I would prefer to counter insurgency), there are going to be at least a dozen different high level officers with different ideas on how to get things done, and some with contradictory ideas both seeing success (or failure). Figuring out which goes in the manual, which doesn't, and why is the sort of thing that requires people at the top to act as editors, pick sides and end up essentially censoring one group of people is likely to build dissent - and public dissent. It's different when they're silenced in a research lab, the only people who've know they've been shut up are immediate colleagues, but when you make opinions widely public (or in the case of an army wide wiki, mostly public), even wildly wrong ones, you're giving the people who dissent a voice to end up on faux news touting how their solution to 'counter insurgency' would have been to gas the lot of them! It even made it into the field manual before it was pulled! The government isn't supporting our commanders who want to use more/less/different whatever.

    Certainly a military wiki has its place, but I'm betting there are going to be some kinks to be worked out yet. One of the virtues of the military structure is deffering responsibility for being wrong. If I'm colonel A and General B tells me to do something I know to be wildly misguided (but not illegal), I go and do it, and when questioned about it, can say with honesty, and possibly with written orders to squarely place the blame on General B. On the other hand with the wiki system if Generals C, D, E and F all say things on a topic, not all of which is consistent, and the one I happened to see was General E's opinion which happens to be wrong who's fault is it now? Colonel A for not researching enough Gen. E for being wrong, or the Lt who was moderating the discussion for not blocking the wrongness of E that was agreed upon by C, D and F.

    • The bickering in the labs would have little impact on the grunts. The way that chain of command works means there is an almost straight line of responsibility from the lowest airman or private all the way to the president.

      Here is my own personal chain of command, from lowest-ranking to highest. No one outside of this chain has responsibility for anyone lower than their rank unless they are acting in the function or in the stead of someone in this chain.

      -My guys
      -Me
      -Shop supervisor (obvious)
      -Element superviso

  • by Speare (84249) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:34PM (#29073123) Homepage Journal

    1) define legal rules for prisoner treatment as "use only techniques listed in the Field Manual"

    2) wikify the Field Manual

    3) ...

    4) oppress it!

  • by sootman (158191) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:41PM (#29073153) Homepage Journal

    ... prepare for edit wars unlike any you've ever seen before.

  • too broad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TechnoVooDooDaddy (470187) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:59PM (#29073263) Homepage

    as a consultant that has such CAC card (no, it's not repetitive)

    I believe the access too broad for this to be effective.. Although there does exist STRONG accountability within the credentialed system, no anonymous access or anything allowed on the network. This will probably work ok, but there will be much more overhead in the moderation and administration than exists even in wikipedia out publicly.

  • ...then they started getting entries like this:

    "this is your gun dont point hat ur face lol"
    "ponies shoot the poniesll!LL!Lol"
    "oh gawd they took my liver"
    "dis is f'd up yo no one reads da stoopid books"
    "tak ur POGEY BAIT and ASRAAM it up ur HOOCH! lol"

    After they added the ID requirement they realized the person making all the edits was Dick Cheney.

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Friday August 14, 2009 @11:47PM (#29073705) Homepage

    A while back I was reading a survival page from a practicing guide and Park Ranger working in the Texas desert. He had made a point about the standard "suck out the poison" from a snakebite advice still being in the army field manual long after anyone in the medical community, or desert survival park ranger community had given up the practice.

    http://ridgerunnersurvival.tripod.com/da1.htm [tripod.com]

    Now the page is from 2000 and he's quoting the various field manuals up to 1992. There's also advice on why water rationing as described in the manuals is a bad idea. Digging a condensation trap will cost you more sweat than it will gather in drinking water, etc.

    So I wonder what other areas it might be better to enlist some subject matter experts in, the idea of opening it up to more voices outside the war colleges is good, maybe they should open it up even more.

    And like a good wiki-citizen he cites the books he references and his credentials.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 14, 2009 @11:58PM (#29073771) Homepage Journal

    This isn't really new, per se, but it is a reassertion of one of the best values of American soldiery - the guy on the ground should have some room to make some decisions for himself or herself. Good commanders have always encouraged their subordinates to lead, and given them tools to do so. Bad commanders don't.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:49AM (#29074005) Homepage

    ...but in practice, this could have potential for serious disaster.

    There are just some things that should NEVER be subject to change without extensive and careful review.

    Case in point: MRCs or Maintenance Requirement Cards.

    Basically, they're mini manuals on how to perform preventative maintenance on your gear, some of which can be outrageously deadly if you don't follow the instructions to the exact letter. You really wouldn't believe how much stuff on a ship gets the label "MANKILLER", and I've no doubt the Army is little different, quite probably much worse. MRC cards have, quite literally in many cases, been written with the blood of those who discovered the "wrong way" to perform maintenance or took a "shortcut".

    Army field manuals are much like MRC cards; they've been written either by those who've shed the blood, or by those who had to mop up the mess from those who didn't survive. They might look nice and boring in the way they read, but that dry tone of the manuals carries many, many lives behind it.

    I hope these edits are subject to extensive review, and won't just pop up for everyone to follow with a click of a mouse? Otherwise, someone might try to get their lulz [urbandictionary.com], and we might see subjects like...

    Maintenance Requirement for the M33A1/M59 High Explosive Fragmentation Grenade

    • There lies an opportunity for improvement. Whereas field manuals contain only the instructions, for example, "make sure that no sand gets into the barrel", the opportunity to add citations to e.g. real accident reports would improve the believability, that is, the same followed by [5], and [5] goes to "Soldier A sustained injuries including loss of head when sand got in to the barrel and was not removed before firing the weapon".

      There is also a lot of miscellaneous information about locations that soldiers

  • by amn108 (1231606) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @05:03AM (#29074913)

    Taking into account what happens on Wikipedia sometimes - vandalism - I gotta say it occured to me that the percent of vandals re-writing and thus spoiling good articles goes down in proportion to the size of the public for the amount of pages said Wiki would contain. Simpler put, Wikipedia being a Wiki for the broadest possible public - the general public, no restrictions - is substantially more suspectible to vandalism than say a Wiki shared, written and accessed by 10 individuals (an intranet Wiki, for example). Add to that a relatively simple fact that probably any soldier with his sanity in behold will refrain from mal-editing Wiki entries on semi-automatic rifles because he knows he may be shot in the head by one held by his comrade - this makes the Army somewhat more of a unity than the general public, which generally does not care much for one another - everyone being anonymous and all. In the army, they would think twice before resorting to Wiki vandalism, because they know they may have to fight side by side, in which case you need all experience you can get from your buddies. The two factors should make for a very useful implementation indeed.

    • Well that, and- We use a smart-card as our computer login these days. Everything we do on the network is logged and tied to our identity. Official websites sometimes even require that I login again with the card and password, meaning that if you make an edit on this wiki there will be no question about its authorship.

      -b

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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