Re: Military Documentation Today

Subject: Re: Military Documentation Today
From: "Roth, Lesley, Ms., GATQ" <rothle -at- COMM -dot- HQ -dot- AF -dot- MIL>
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 08:30:00 PST

This is Lesley Roth here. I suspect this message was sent from Smokey
but I didn't see a name mentioned or an off-line email address given with
the request for names of folks that have worked on military writing
projects...though the message directed me to look at the end of the
message. Maybe I just missed something.
I am currently employed with the USAF as a tech writer and am helping
the Air Systems (a s/w development agency) with documents related to
achieving CMM level 3. I also work on online help systems and user
manuals for individual projects.
Anyway, I agree with the sentiment that writing military docs is a good
way to learn the field. Most of the time, I must write to standards but
there is also a desire here to know what the commercial world is doing.
Often, there is the freedom to be as "commercial-like" as we want to be
while remaining within compliance to the standards.
For your list--my email address is rothle -at- comm -dot- hq -dot- af -dot- mil -dot- I am working
at the Pentagon. What will you be doing with this list? It might be
nice to make it available to the group, if the people who give you
feedback are receptive to being contacted.
Sent: Monday, December 21, 1998 6:16 PM
Subject: Fw: Military Documentation Today

I, too, have been watching the military thread as well....and so....
(plus I am trying to compile a list of us who have written for various
military projects). If you have ever done any military project writing,
please contact me at the address below ONLY with your name, e-mail
address, what you did, and where you were based. Thanks.....

> From: Steve Davis <>
> I work at the Redstone Technical Test Center, writing and editing test
> documentation. We have a very strict format that we must follow (TECOM
> PAM 73-1). Not only are the font, margins, graphics, and everything
> else prescribed, but we only 45 days after the completion of the test
> publish the report. I don't have "free reign" over anything. Working
> in Huntsville, Al might keep me sheltered from the real world, but I
> have never felt out of place at a STC meeting. I feel like a regular
> Tech Writer, what ever that is.

I think Steve really has a true perspective of military writing for
Over the years I have done bits and pieces (Wright-Pat - F16 pilot
for government writing. Granted most of the older material has poor
usability issues, but it was a format that was consistent. It taught
writers how to work within a structured framework.

But today, the Gov. has moved on to embracing the new ISO 12207 standards
that are replacing all of the 498 MIL STDs. It has moved from a
mainframe-based documentation (SGML) into the modern world of
doc-on-demand publishing. Those environments can not handle all the
'extras' found in the old fashioned format, without the lengthy
process. Minimalist writing is coming forward to replace the redundancy
found in the older MIL STDs.

This forced modernization has really opened doors for technical
communicators' roles to finally come to light, and their ability to
educating their Gov. clients on how usability and modern standards
produce a
higher grade of material for the end user.

The base I am assigned to is primarily (for those of you unfamiliar with
mil. org.) a Sears catalogue ordering center (online) for military parts
supplies (my team members - please close your eyes to this descript). I
have been tasked to develop online documentation standardization
for producing manuals online, and the documentation that covers software
life cycle development and deployment (web and in-house server). This
done through the intermingling of a methodology based on an ISO premise
the 12207 standards.

I've followed this military thread on our techwhirler listserv for
weeks now, and to both, from those who wrote that they used to do this
earlier in their careers (most x-military and probably my seniors), and
those just starting in this field.... I say that being a military
writer/technical information architect/editor is no different than when I
ran a tech pubs department for the IS division for a major banc

You have a prescribed style guide, you gather information from SMEs or
related materials, you compose and publish it according to those
and you distribute it according to a determined mailing list. The only
process difference is the style guide requirements. As Steve mentioned
his e-mail, military writers normally do not feel out of place at ANY
of conference. Writing and publishing issues are common to all
specificities of any workplace. The general (pardon the pun) difference
that there is just a uniformed person who has brass buttons, who signs
on the projects when it is completed.

The only difference I noticed was that Gov. client needed some updated
information and education as to what is happening in the TC field, as
usually are not SMEs in this area. More often than not, I have also
if you take the extra time to educate them as to why a TCs or TWs methods
are better, you do not have the problem of getting your project approved.

The only other difference I noticed was that they are not generally
to documentation process management. This is where a TC comes in and
explains it is a process methodology vs a project methodology. With the
ISO 12207 being accept by DOD, the field is wide open to those who have
written software life cycle documentation.....but most
who take the time to educate their client.

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