Bee All You Can Bee
With respect to all my friends who are or were in uniform, here's a story about my favorite veteran, in honor of Veteran's Day. This photo was given to me by my cousin Doris, sent to her by Uncle Tony (my Dad) sometime back in 1943.
My Dad was born in 1913, a child of the Depression, figuratively and literally. He knew poverty, hunger, homelessness, and struggle. It's a tribute to his character that those experiences left him grateful and compassionate, rather than scarred and bitter. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942, reporting for duty in January of 1943. One of my most treasured keepsakes of the old man is his handwritten military service record, documenting every assignment. He was a Navy Seabee in the Aleutian Islands during the war. He once described it as days of boredom and hard work, occasionally interrupted by nights of terror loading and unloading ships in the worst weather imaginable.
After his discharge in 1945, he made his living as a carpenter but went into the Army in 1950 to serve in Korea. The locations on his total service record are familiar to many of you who served: Ft Eustis (Virginia), Port Hueneme (California), Dutch Harbor (Alaska), Adak, Okinawa, Bainbridge Naval Air Station, Fort Campbell (Kentucky), Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Fort Chaffee (Arkansas), Fort Hood (Texas), back to Korea, and finally, his last duty station and retirement at Aberdeen Proving Ground MD.
Despite never having actually met an Asian person until he was stationed in Japan after the end of World War II, Dad fell in love with my Mother, who was raised in a successful Japanese business family that lost everything except the clothes they were wearing at the end of World War II. And conversely, she had never seen an American until after the War. (Reminder to self: share the story of Mom's response when I asked her what the caricature version of an American was on their equivalent of US war posters mocking the Japanese....)
I came into the picture soon after, born in Japan, and we were a military family transferring back to the States when I was about 18 months old. My brother and sister were later born in Fort Smith, Arkansas. We lived the enlisted military life, on-base and off-base housing, a couple of years in each school. One of the shaping events of my youth: Dad had a 14-month unaccompanied tour in Korea while I was in 1st and 2nd grade, living off-base in Killeen, Texas. My Mom's English was rudimentary but adequate. Looking back, I can't imagine how she kept everything going alone. But she was an extraordinary person in her own right, smart, strong, and a natural leader. My most striking memory of that time was being awakened in the middle of the night, greeted by a vaguely familiar man in uniform who had just arrived on the train from California, finally back from his extended tour.
That's what I remember about our life as a military family. Moving, changing schools and friends, long separations, getting by with very modest resources, living in a melting pot of cultures and chaos. I'm not complaining. It was the life we knew, blessed by wonderful parents who just made it work. And while it wasn't part of a grand plan, how lucky I was to meet and marry my own extraordinary someone, who also grew up in an enlisted military family. (and who actually lived in Japan longer than I did, while her Dad was stationed there in the Air Force.)
And so, to all of my friends who serve and have served, thank you. Not all who serve their country wear the uniform, but those who do have taken on a responsibility that affects every aspect of their lives, and every member of their family. And by doing so, you make our way of life, and our freedoms, possible.
And since this is supposed to be a "cyber" blog, here's a short Bonus Story with an Army twist!
In cyber defense, I am convinced that we often fall into the classic trap of allowing "perfection to be the enemy of the good". For example, one of the most vexing problems of cyber defense - not theoretically, but operationally - is the challenge of "inventory of hardware and software assets". It's the cornerstone of every security framework or list of recommendations, but it's also a massive struggle for many enterprises.
My Dad was a long-time US Army Supply Sergeant, and he once told me this story, which I occasionally share with a cyber audience.
The inspector is coming tomorrow, so I need to load up the deuce-and-a-half (truck) with all the stuff I have that's not "on the books" and send it for a drive thru the ranges. Otherwise, I won't have anything to trade with the other Supply Sergeants for the stuff they're missing before the inspector comes for them.
The primary cyber lesson: even in "kinetic" or physical space, we don't have 100% of our inventory under complete control = there's always a "fog" of incomplete information, delay, and uncertainty. But over time we have developed enough experience to have "decision intuition" - our knowledge of physical things and their state of readiness is sufficient to allow meaningful assessment up to decision-makers who are trying to determine if we are ready to "project force" (or whatever their goal). While in cyberspace, we often focus on countable things, like infinite lists of vulnerabilities, patches, and compliance - and lose sight of the purpose of IT - to enable and support operations (military, mission, or business).
So no matter how much you do or spend or control to get 95% of the way there, there will always be a Cyber Wizard that will criticize and point out a few more things you COULD do or that a Bad Guy MIGHT do. Interesting, but often not helpful Inventory is the function we implement and require, but its purpose is the visibility of potential adversary action. What would be the mission impact? That's the question that Wizards need to help answer.
The second lesson of the story? People are clever and resilient, and they will make things work. Even if they bend the rules a bit. Our goal should be to equip and empower them to do so.