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May 15, 2003

It's a Scourge

Posted by Mike on May 15, 2003 11:20 PM

The Gettysburg Address as Powerpoint presentation. (link via Scott Rosenberg)

During my two years at Fort Bragg, I was frequently tasked to crank out the Powerpoint slides for the Quarterly Training Briefing (QTB), a fairly straightforward rundown of how trained a given unit is. It was a big deal for the unit commanders presenting it because it was supposed to be reflective of how well they were training their soldiers during peacetime.

The hell of QTB came from the way commanders, suddenly aware all too late that they had less than 95% training rates in given tasks, would run their units into the ground rushing them through physical fitness tests, rifle ranges, 12 mile ruck marches and four mile runs in the month leading up to presenting their briefing. Since numbers were coming in right up to the hour before the briefing, getting the slides together was a nightmare of everything from accidental deletions to bonehead ROTC cadets loading the laser printer up with inkject transparencies and squealing with dismay as the slides fused to the printer's innards.

The other part of the hell came from PowerPoint, which provides a focus for the unholy powers of anal retentiveness possessed by bored garrison commanders. One QTB involved waiting, poised over the keyboard, for a call from the battalion geek to tell us whether the slides should fade or wipe during transitions. Another involved stark terror at the prospect that the headings were actually supposed to be 20 point instead of 18 point. And far from solving the problem of paper glut, the slides made for more, because it wasn't enough to project them on the screen: the entire battalion command team needed individual copies of the 30 page presentations.