Reflections on Retirement: You Can Take Me Out of the Army, But Can You Take the Army Out of Me?

July 11th, 2016

I am closing my fifty-two years of military service. When I joined the army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams.

The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-by.

                                                                                                                                                                                   — General Douglas MacArthur Speech before a
Joint Meeting of Congress (April 19, 1951)

 

In no meaningful way could it ever be said that my military career resembled that of General MacArthur’s:

  • I was commissioned through ROTC rather than having attended West Point;
  • I served only a fraction of the time he did (28 years rather than 52 years) during an era when weapons, tactics, and society have completely changed;
  • Except for two mobilizations and an initial four-month training in my basic branch (Quartermaster) I was exclusively a reservist, serving part-time while simultaneously being engaged in a completely different, and non-military, career; and,
  • My retirement occurred by an orderly operation of law, coming as scheduled upon my reaching maximum time in grade rather than as the result of an abrupt relief by the Commander-in-Chief aiming to re-assert civilian control over the Armed Forces during a shooting war

Nonetheless, I feel I understand the sentiment so famously expressed by the General to such a wide and influential audience some 65 years ago this spring. After 28 years of service, I retired from the US Army Reserve on June 1st, drawing to a close something that was part of my life for a longer period of time than it was not.

Much like my year-long mobilizations in 2003-04 and 2013-14, the end of my time in the Army left me with a somewhat bewildering, but not at all uncommon, sense of doing one’s job to the very end, going full steam ahead, until suddenly, one day, the activity just stops. After completing my last annual training this past spring, a somewhat intense two-week stint during which I supported an multi-national command post exercise in Stockholm, Sweden toward the end of April, I flew back to the states on a Friday afternoon and promptly boarded another flight to my final weekend drill in Virginia the very same evening. Naturally, the Army being the Army, they saw fit to have me take a physical fitness test (situps/push-ups/2-mile run) and a random drug test on the Saturday, well, just because. (Actually, that was the month that unit does such things and the PT Test and weigh-in were in fact scheduled well in advance. The random drug test, for obvious reasons, however was not.) “Up in the morning with the rising sun ..” and “we do more before 9AM than some folks do all day”, and all those fine platitudes we soldiers like to spout about ourselves; it was an Army weekend much lake any other I have had through the years. Admittedly, it did take some restraint on my part to resist the temptation to think – “well, what are they going to do if I flunk, kick me out?” – as I grunted out those sit-ups and ran through the light rain, attempting to beat a clock and meet a standard. And so I did, passing my last fitness test. (I will admit to being one of those slugs whose reaction to the idea of exercise is to lie down until the feeling passes.) In its infinite wisdom, the Army also saw fit that weekend to run me (along with my fellow members of the unit) through soldier medical processing and pre-deployment readiness assessment, including a HIV test, cholesterol blood draw, and EKG, the latter two being for soldiers over 40. It was almost the reverse of my entry physical before basic training and in a weird way seemed like a fitting bookend to my career.

That last drill weekend, probably the 300th or so during my time in service, went by extremely quickly as we accomplished our myriad training objectives and I was dismissed from a formation for the last time. And then, poof, it was time to fly back to Boston and go to work the next day, a Monday like any other. No more flights down to Virginia for drill weekends, no emails, phone calls, and staff meetings between drill to coordinate and plan for an upcoming duty weekend, no more slightly nagging but justified concern of an unplanned (and at this point in my life probably unwelcome) recall to active duty with a year-long deployment over yonder. Just poof, soldier no more, thanks for your service LTC (ret) Hellauer. Best wishes and good luck.

For a variety of reasons, including the fact that the unit with which I drilled is 450 miles from where I work and live, and the fact that the person who most would care to have been there after my wife is my father, a retired US Air Force Reserve Colonel, who unfortunately happens to be in somewhat poor health and less able to travel as easily as he might like, I opted to not have a retirement ceremony during my last drill. While my brothers- and sisters-in-arms certainly wished me well and we said our goodbyes during that last drill weekend, my take is that a retirement ceremony (especially for a Reservist) is more a chance to thank those who have supported you along the way, primarily your family but also your employers and co-workers, and your friends. It is an appropriate time and place to recognize those to whom a soldier is indebted, those on whose shoulders (s)he stood and those whose hands provided a lift up; that is, it is a time to thank those without whom career success in the military is simply not possible. Not having Dad, or my wife and kids, or my work colleagues there really did not make having a ceremony in Virginia seem terribly worthwhile. So I didn’t, preferring instead to take solace in MacArthur’s quote and being somewhat content to simply fade from the scene.

However, and rather unexpectedly, my wife Amie and HMMH co-workers conspired so as to not let me completely fade away like the old soldier I have become and now am. Last month they arranged for a surprise ceremony at HMMH’s Burlington office where Amie, one of my daughters (Erin), and my local colleagues gathered one Thursday at the end of the day and presented me with a framed montage of pictures from my military career over the years while we enjoyed cake and adult beverages. Below are some excerpts of a note I sent them out the following day.

Thank you so much for the unexpected and very kind recognition of my retirement from the US Army Reserve.  It really is a milestone in my life and I still am somewhat in disbelief that something I have done for so long and which has at times been source of many varied and intense emotions – excitement, joy, fear, frustration, boredom but ultimately, satisfaction from being a part of something worthwhile that is also bigger than myself – has simply ended, much like flipping a switch.

Membership in the reserves does not work without the ongoing support of families, employers, and co-workers.  Twice in my 28-year career I have been mobilized (called to active duty) and taken a leave of absence from by civilian employer, once for 18 months with a previous employer and in 2013-2014 (a little under a year) with HMMH.  Both times were quite unexpected, disruptive to employers, and came on relatively short notice of around 30 days or so.  I am quite mindful that such time away from work, along with the more mundane (and frequent!) occurrences for drill weekends and annual military training for a couple of weeks at a time, often resulted in additional work for my colleagues to cover my absences and pick up the slack I temporarily left behind.   After all, whether I’m here or not the show must go on, clients must be served, and commitments made – not only to our external customers but also to ourselves, our firm and its stakeholders – must be honored.

 So since that page has turned and I’m not liable to be recalled into military service, I would be remiss if I did not take the occasion to thank my co-workers here and in the past and recognize the support they gave to me, without complaint.  The Pro Patria award HMMH won last year recognizes employers and supervisors.  But I also wanted to give a shout-out to my colleagues.  I vividly recall the an AICUZ project team working long hours on short deadlines during a time that Uncle Sam inconveniently decided that I should have a four-day drill during a workweek.  On another occasion, I also recall several of you helping HMMH respond to a sources-sought for a potential Federal client that happened to be released the night before I flew to Tajikistan last fall and was due the day I flew home two weeks later.  Over the course of my career there have been many such instances, more than I probably can remember, where my co-workers past and present stepped into the breach, held the line, and by strapping on additional duties that otherwise would have been mine, supported my career in the Army.  And for that I thank you.

After retiring and converting my health and life insurance from Tricare and SGLI to retiree equivalents, after having turned in my active Reservist ID card and gotten a Retiree one instead, and after letting my hair grow out a bit more (but not too long yet since I have less of it to work with than I did 28 years ago), I do find myself wondering how much of the Army will remain in me a year from now or when I turn 60 a decade from now. On the plus side, I am flying more and beginning work on my Flight Instructor certificate and having a great time exploring New England by air. I do still find myself wondering my fellow servicemen and women are up to, especially when the weekend rolls around although that too is starting to fade. In the end, soldiering is a young person’s vocation and those who follow in my footsteps are more than up to the task and frankly better in many respects. Looking back and reflecting upon my career taken as a whole, I still can maintain that I got more out of Uncle Sam than I gave in my time and toil.

I do promise, however, that my next blog post will not be about the Army. Like a commencement such as that my other daughter Mary just experienced when finishing her high school career, there is a world of wonder still yet to be experienced, a life after the Army. Being a (part-time) Soldier is something I did, not who I am or what defines me. Retirement from the Army Reserve opens up doors, particularly in my abiding passion of aviation, to opportunities that over the years I typically was too busy to engage in with any depth, despite my having been a pilot for nearly 30 years. To name but one, learning the nuances of IFR operations and the micro-climates found in the vicinity of the airports one finds in the Cape Approach, Boston TRACON, and Boston Center airspace is proving to be quite invigorating and led to a serendipitous discover of a wonderful restaurant in Worcester. Making new friends with the instructors, aircraft owners, fixed-base operator staffs, and controllers, the latter of whose acquaintance is more of a virtual one, gained and pieced together from aural snippets heard over my aircraft headsets while they issue clearances in typical, New England rapid-fire cadences and accents, helps replace in its own way the lost comradery I had with my fellow soldiers.

 

So why are you complaining?

June 15th, 2016

by Nick Miller

S'Martin- S'Mararten

Maybe one person’s noise is another person’s music. Train horns in the distance can have a kind of nostalgic sound, but people who live near a grade crossing may not think so. (Try a room on the back side of the Hampton Inn San Diego – Downtown. You might take your earplugs.) Find any newspaper article on the Internet about aircraft noise complaints, check the comments and you’ll find things like “These folks should have known they are buying near an airport,” or considerably snarkier. Which might be a reasonable remark except even knowing doesn’t translate to a real awareness of what living with loud aircraft overflights day-after-day is really like. Of course, what realtor or home owner is going to try to alert the prospective buyer to the reality of life near an airport?

Quite a few airports require that home buyers receive some sort of disclosure statement, but all the ones I know about are presented at the closing. A little late, don’t you think? The only possibly effective method I know of is attempted by DFW airport. They try to get realtors to send in home buyers, and DFW shows them large displays of where aircraft fly. Much better, I think, than telling the buyer their house is in a noise zone or is within some decibel value of a noise contour. Who’s going to understand that?

I feel quite certain that most people who buy a home in the near vicinity of a commercial air carrier airport (say within 1 to 5 miles, depending on specific location and the level of operations at the airport) are unaware of what it can be like to live there day-after-day, night-after-night. I find it quite interesting, however, that there is a predominant meme that posits house prices reflect the acceptability of aircraft noise (hedonic pricing method). In other words, people pay less for such homes because they discount the price since they will have to live with the noise. Using hedonic pricing assumes that the buyer decides what to pay because he knows what he’s buying. That’s fine for buying a 60-inch flat screen TV to replace a 20-inch flat screen. But I think it’s an inaccurate means of assigning a cost to noise, or “monetizing” aircraft noise so that it can be compared with other costs (e.g. air quality health effects) or benefits (e.g. accessibility to transportation) of living near an airport. Studies seem generally to show a reduction in house price of 10% to 12% per 10 dB increase in aircraft noise, beginning at some identified lower level where there is an assumed no effect of aircraft noise.

But does this method really reflect the “cost” of noise? Some argue that noise is a quality of life issue upon which no price can be placed – a problem common to many amenities, such as low crime rates, clean streets or green spaces. Another way of thinking about the cost of noise, if we must, is how community dislike of noise affects decision-making about airports. Think about the many years (decades even) that it takes to propose, approve, design and build a new runway or a runway lengthening. What are the costs of the many studies reported as drafts, revisions, and revisions of revisions and associated public meetings, to say nothing of the costs of delayed construction and travel delays due to insufficient air travel capacity?

Finally, here’s an incident I recall reading about, but can’t verify for certain. Someone living in Northeast Harbor, ME, didn’t like the sound he could hear of the local sewage treatment plant. He asked the town if they could quiet it, getting the reply that they didn’t have the money to modernize it. So he donated, I believe, $60,000 to help the town pay for the quieting. Whether accurately remembered or not, I believe the substance is correct, and this story suggests to me a possible short-coming of asking people how much they would be willing to pay for less noise. The answer probably depends on what resources they have available.

HMMH Assists FAA and Airports in Standardizing the Process for Determining Sound Insulation Program Eligibility

June 7th, 2016

by J. Eric Cox

HMMH has provided acoustical testing, design, and other consulting services to airports throughout the country that have implemented sound insulation programs in accordance with FAA Order 5100.38D Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Handbook. HMMH has most recently been conducting sound insulation measurements around several airports including:

  • T. F. Green State Airport (PVD) in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Tweed – New Haven Airport (HVN) in New Haven, Connecticut
  • Louisville International Airport (SDF) in Louisville, Kentucky (shown below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Over the last several months, HMMH has also assisted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airport sponsors in standardizing the process for determining sound insulation program eligibility per current FAA requirements and criteria, which include that the average interior noise level for a residential building or educational facility must be 45 dB or greater.This work has included a recently completed Policy, Engineering, Analysis and Research Support (PEARS) study for the FAA Office of Environment and Energy regarding selection of appropriate aircraft noise spectra for use in determining outdoor-to-indoor building noise level reduction (NLR).

In addition, we have assisted several airport authorities (including Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Seattle) in developing sound insulation program acoustical testing plans (ATP) for FAA review. This work has included providing additional information and supporting details related to the various methods that may be used to measure the exterior building façade sound level in the determination of NLR, each of which require a different adjustment to the measured level to account for the reflection of sound energy from the façade under test that is not transmitted through the exterior wall and instead travels back to the measurement microphone.

And as part of our on-going sound insulation testing work at Louisville International Airport, we have recently been evaluating noise mitigation program eligibility for several educational buildings and residential dormitories at the nearby University of Louisville Belknap Campus. This has required us to evaluate methods to compute daytime average sound levels (as required for educational facilities by FAA) that are consistent with the noise study, aircraft operations data, and analysis methods previously utilized to generate the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise contours for the Noise Exposure Map (NEM).

Finally, I will be presenting a paper at the New England Noise-Con Revolution in Noise Control conference to be held in Providence, Rhode Island during June 13 – 15, 2016. This paper investigates the correlation between aircraft interior noise levels and various residential building construction features. The results of this analysis are then considered in the context of the current guidance provided in Appendix R of the FAA AIP handbook, which specifics a procedure to determine the eligibility of residences for sound insulation programs based on interior noise levels for categories of homes. Ultimately, we were unable to identify any specific building construction details which might result in truly effective categorizations of residential structures for this purpose since even the best possible approaches resulted in ranges of interior DNL noise levels that directly overlap and all of which span the 45 dB FAA criteria. An example presentation graphic is provided below comparing average interior DNL values for single family homes with total window assembly glazing thickness.

graph
If you are interested and would like to learn more, please attend my Noise-Con presentation entitled “Investigation of Correlation between Aircraft Interior Noise Levels and Residential Building Construction Details” on Tuesday June 14, 2016 from 1:20 PM – 1:40 PM in Room 550 A/B of the Omni Providence Hotel during the “Building Acoustics Measurement and Modeling” conference session. Hope to see you there!

 

 

Some Stuff I Like to Think I’ve Learned

April 21st, 2016

by Nick Miller

founders 2a

HMMH Founders (from left to right) Nick Miller, Andy Harris, Carl Hanson, and Bob Miller.

I began my career in acoustics, noise, and how people react to noise in 1973 after quitting the Air Force. Not that USAF was a bad experience – it taught me a lot.  After living with pretty liberal parents, and going to liberal universities and colleges for about 8 ½ years, I found I actually could like politically conservative people and shoot an S&W Combat Masterpiece with reasonable precision without really aiming.  But never mind that; it’s just that lessons for life are everywhere.

Anyway, I began at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge Mass, (BBN) and found myself in a liberal, open-minded organization where my group in environmental noise analysis and control was struggling to find the best ways to resolve or attempt to resolve the relatively new political issue of the public’s dislike of all sorts of noise – from factories to construction to race tracks to new parking garages to planes, trains and automobiles. We worked with and for the likes of Ted Schultz, Ken Eldred, Dick Bolt (testimony about the 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes fame), Bob Newman, and other brilliant people of whom you may not have heard like Chuck Dietrich, John Shadley, Warren Blazier and other good guys.  Truly a great place to start a career and learn.

As BBN turned away from acoustics to computer workings like design of the internet, Andy, Bob, Carl and I founded HMMH in 1981 (guess what the initials stand for). It was, and continues to be, another great experience, if you can get past the initial stress of putting your house up as collateral.  I remember vividly the day we four with our spouses met with bank representatives and all signed papers tying the future of our homes to our future success (or failure).  Well, we actually succeeded beyond our dreams, had a heck of a good time working together, bringing compatriots in noise into the company, sharing ups and downs, and building a company of more than 40 people.  That may not seem large to most people, but for a boutique business, we thought – “Not bad.”

Andy was president until 1989, and then I was until 2004 when we handed leadership to Mary Ellen. Andy, Bob and Carl have all retired and I will be within a year’s time.  I’ve naturally started wondering what to do next, and what about my 40 plus years of experience?  Do I walk away and leave the battle field of political acoustics or not?  I’m leaning toward going cold turkey.  However, my son-in-law’s father pointed out how much experience, ideas and insights I would be taking away from the industry.

To get to the point, I have decided to at least write a series of blogs describing some of the things I’ve learned about noise and people, leadership and mentoring. This is perhaps a common human desire to pass on something of what one has learned in a lifetime career.  I’ve noticed that a number of old folks like to write books about their accomplishments.  I certainly won’t be doing that.  I’m not sure what I’ve accomplished, but I do know I’ve learned some things.  Also these things are not worth a book; I’m not going to do what I notice some authors do and take a few basic pieces of wisdom and use up 200 to 300 pages talking about them in different ways.

So, I intend to write a series of blogs over the next months. That is my intent, anyway.  I will start with issues of the discipline: noise and people’s reactions thereto in different contexts and to different sources.  This will be fun for me, anyway.

TRB Releases HMMH-Authored Report on Renewable Energy at Airports

April 7th, 2016

ACRP_Report_151_Coverx500-2

HMMH is pleased to announce the release of  ACRP Report 151 “Developing a Business Case for Renewable Energy at Airports” by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The report, authored by Stephen Barrett, Director of Climate and Energy, and Philip DeVita, Director of Air Quality, focuses on identifying and communicating the inherent benefits of renewable energy as part of the business case analysis. To reinforce its practical application, the Guidebook presents direct experience in renewable energy business case development to show both how those attributes are valued differently by different organizations with different missions, and how this broader renewable energy business experience translates to the airport business. The Guidebook reviews the criteria used to evaluate a renewable energy project and presents a system for weighting evaluation factors, including long-term self-sustainability and environmental/social considerations, based on the airport’s particular objectives. It walks through a model business case and evaluates the key factors fundamental in the renewable energy business case. The Guidebook also provides examples of similar renewable energy business cases from both an airport’s perspective as well as other organizations, including an airline, a university, and a hospital, and the lessons learned for airports.

This report was the first ever released by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) in a “pre-publication” format (in November 2015) as part of its interest in accelerating the presentation of its research products to the industry, and demonstrates the high-level of confidence in the draft product.

HMMH has also prepared several other reports under this program including ACRP Report 141 “Renewable Energy as an Airport Revenue Source,” which provides the industry with business models and financial information to show how airports have gained financial benefits from renewable energy projects, ACRP Report 108 “Energy Facilities Compatibility with Airports and Airspace,” which reviews the aviation industry’s experience with a variety of energy technologies, and ACRP Synthesis 28 “Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation,” which was the precursor study to ACRP Report 108.