TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” The concept behind the small nonprofit is the proliferation of “ideas worth spreading.” Combining this mantra with a time limit of 18 minutes maximum, the result has been a compelling series of readily-available videos throughout their website. Available in numerous languages, and covering topics ranging from global labor to the power of the performing arts.
Through this, the TEDx program was established. TEDx events are independently-organized but provide the same inspiring ideas and adhere to the time constraints and guidelines as other TED talks. On Friday eleven speakers from various branches of the armed forces and the Department of Defense gathered together at the Navy Memorial Heritage Center in Washington, D.C., and shared their experiences, each one sharing a common theme: while the American military does possess advanced technology, what makes it a superior force is its people.
“The Human Stories” featured lectures by Lt. John Pucillo, an explosive ordinance detection technician from the Navy, who spoke of how dealing with the loss of his left leg in Baghdad is an ongoing struggle, yet also a daily source of inspiration. He was followed by Col. Geoffrey Ling, DARPA Program Manager, on continuing breakthroughs in upper extremity prosthetic technology. Rear Adm. David Titley described how his childhood passion for meterology still drives him today as oceanographer and navigator for the Navy, then Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley explained how the Land Warrior program increased combat effectiveness through its integrated communication systems. The first session concluded with Tech. Sgt. Stuart Wilson, who shed some light on his responsiblities as an Air Force Cyber Operator and the Air Force’s ongoing cybersecurity mission, followed by proud Army wife Sarah Hertig, who read a letter addressed to her young daughter about the perils she would have to face as an Army wife, should she choose to be one.
The second half of the event kicked off with Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schmidt, certified Joint Terminal Attack Controller and member of the Tactical Air Command and Control Party (TACP), who noted the similarities between his job responsibilities and the portrayal of UAV Predator drones in the “Call of Duty” video game franchise. Afterward, Capt. William Todd showed a more human side of the Navy as he recounted his experiences aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, Master Sgt. Julia Watson also shared a humanitarian side of the Marine Corps, talking about how she developed the Iraqi Women’s Engagement program. Cmdr. James Edwards brought the topic back to technology, speaking about the creation of Littoral Combat Ships, and how their technological prowess is matched by the small yet multi-talented crewmembers. Gen. William E. Ward, combatant commander for AFRICOM, gave the keynote speech for the event, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and doing your best at all levels. He stressed that individuals should always feel like they’re working for the good of the team, and not themselves.
Emceed by Sumit Agarwal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Outreach and Social Media, TEDxPentagon accomplished its mission of bridging the gap between servicemembers and civilians, putting a human face on what is often an anonymous force, and connecting them with a greater, worldwide audience. You can view a slideshow from the TEDxPentagon event below.