I was a US Army officer from 2002 through 2007.  I served two yearlong tours in Baghdad.  I was in the regular Army (1st Armored Division), but I served alongside several reserve and National Guard units.

Weekend warriors

We regular Army folks often looked down our noses at these "weekend warriors."  We trained for combat year-round; they trained two days a month, plus an annual two-week training exercise.  We thought we were better than them when it came to warfighting.  And, frankly, we were.  It was our full-time jobs.  If we weren't better than them at that, then we were doing something seriously wrong.

But here's the thing.  Operation Iraqi Freedom was more than just warfighting.  A large part of the mission was also about nation-building.  That meant fixing infrastructure, settling political disputes, and restoring utilities, like power and water.  A big part of the mission had nothing at all to do with combat.

The US Army is an adaptable fighting force.  But, first and foremost, it is a fighting force.  We simply didn't train for these types of tasks in the regular Army, especially at the outset of the conflict.  To capably perform these myriad tasks would have required a wide variety of skills, from plumbing and carpentry to social services and political science.  Meeting this type of demand would have required a cross-section of civilian occupational specialties.  

Where might such a cross-section exist?  If only there were some group of civilians with varied talents who could fill such a role.  Not just any civilians, though.  No, this group would be putting their skills to use in an active combat zone.  They would need to be proficient enough to defend themselves and others as they set about these tasks.  Yes, the reserve forces and National Guard played a critical role during OIF.

I thought this blog was about programming

Why am I writing about this on a software blog?  Is it because, just once, I'd like a comment section flame war on a programming blog to be about an actual war?  Of course not.  There are lots of other places on the internet you can go yell at each other about politics.

The point of my story is that I see a lot of parallels between the Army and  programming world "class systems."  In my story, the regular Army folks are like the computer science majors lurking about on stackoverflow and reddit throwing shade at the self-taught Access programmers (the "weekend warriors" of the software development world).

These sneering snobs of the software world are too distracted by the fragrance of their own defecation to appreciate the tremendous value their well-rounded counterparts bring to the table.

What many self-taught Access programmers lack in programming expertise, they make up for in their understanding of the problem they are trying to solve.  They know what the solution should look like, they just have to figure out how to write it.

The computer science types are the opposite.  They can build it...if only they could figure out what "it" is supposed to be.  To put it another way, they may not know where they're going, but they can sure get there fast!

Weekend Warriors

I hope if you are one of those self-taught Access programmers--especially if you are just starting out--that you stick with it and block out the voices that are trying to cut you down.  Understand that you bring tremendous value to the table, even when you are just starting to write code.

Lean into your strengths, build your programming expertise over time, and when you finally make it to the top of your mountain, remember how you felt when you were just starting out.  

Don't look down your nose, reach down your hand.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay