Friday, February 06, 2015

A Bit of My History

Some decades ago the Army gathered an elite band of scientists and mathematicians in the mountains of the southwestern desert to work on crucial problems of national defense, and I was a cog in that machine.

Oops, I was having a Brian Williams moment there - let me rephrase that slightly.

Some decades ago, the Army gathered a ragtag band of soldiers determined to be unfit for combat by reason of degrees in math, physics, or engineering in those mountains of the southwestern desert to work on stuff some of which might turn out to be useful. No, this wasn't Los Alamos - those guys really were geniuses - but the program that enrolled us had originated at Los Alamos. We were the S&Es, the Science and Engineering assistants, draftee enlisted men whose role was to work with the civil servants manning various Army laboratories.

Our roles were diverse and often vague, ranging from programming and systems development to lining ditches with rocks - the general's wife thought they looked ugly - of course the rocks all washed away in the first rainstorm. My initial job was listening to the lifestory of a civilian engineer who recounted it daily - until a kindly Captain with a PhD in Chemistry took pity on me and gave me some mathematical calculations that nobody else was willing (or maybe able) to do.

At least, I thought, it beat the hell out of slogging through the jungles of southeast Asia and getting shot.