KUTGW! Text-savvy Airmen bring new communication skills

  • Published
  • By Ed White
  • Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
Txtg is a phenom dat is growng lrgr att and we can't say we DKDC cos we will lz a hol gen of Airmen if we do.

If you can understand the sentence above, you have a leg up on communicating with the generation of young men and women currently joining the Air Force.

Text-message lingo is confusing at first. The lead sentence of this story can be translated as; Text-messaging is a phenomenon that is growing larger all the time, and we can't say we don't know, don't care because we will lose a whole generation of Airmen if we do.

Communicating well is an art that requires practice. Military communication is an even more precise art and therefore requires an even greater effort to become skillful. It is also a two way effort and is a basic skill required of every leader in the service.

To begin with, a definition of communication is required. The dictionary definition is; "the exchange of information between people by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs."

Each year, as more and more young people enter the Air Force, the corporate communications can be expected to evolve as the phenomenon of text-messaging, also called short message service, or SMS, a form of linguistic shorthand, enters the official lexicon.

KUTGW is a perfect example. It means "keep up the good work" and is an example of the new wave in personal expression that has swept the younger generation and is now finding its way into corporate and official channels. There are even on-line dictionaries for texting, and books have been written completely in text. One hint, when done all in capital letters the word or phrase is amplified, like an exclamation or a shout.

According to New York Times reporter Laura Holson, in an article from March 9, "Business analysts and other researchers expect the popularity of the cell phone -- along with the mobility and intimacy it affords -- to further exploit and accelerate these trends. By 2010, 81 percent of Americans ages 5 to 24 will own a cell phone, up from 53 percent in 2005, according to IDC, a research company in Framingham, Mass., that tracks technology and consumer research.

Social psychologists like Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied the social impact of mobile communications, say these trends are likely to continue as cell phones morph into mini hand-held computers, social networking devices and pint-size movie screens.

"For kids it has become an identity-shaping and psyche-changing object," Ms. Turkle said. "No one creates a new technology really understanding how it will be used or how it can change a society."

This does not mean the language of the Air Force will change overnight. However, as young, text-savvy Airmen move through the ranks, they will carry this evolutionary communication skill with them and it will filter into the Air Force culture more and more.
Psychologists say communication is 30 percent what you say and 70 percent what you do. Reaching out to understand this new capability is much better than shutting it out. By reaching out, one communicates not just the words but a personal attitude of willingness to embrace change and understand the way these young people communicate among themselves. Understanding how they communicate says you understand them. This is just good leadership.

Communication is a two way street. Airmen new to the service will learn the corporate communication skills required for their jobs, however, they will also bring the pragmatic language of text-messaging with them and it will seep into the official lexicon as time goes by.

Text-messaging has a much broader range of use than for social growth. It is also being used to good effect in developing countries. Matt Ransford, writing for the March issue of Popular Science describes positive social uses for text-messaging. "Kenya will be using SMS with local communities to protect environmental resources. People in the field will act as early alerts to poaching and illegal logging in Uganda.

"The Equilibrium Fund in Mexico will send reminders to farmers via SMS to let them know when the best times are to plant, water, and harvest, in the hopes of increasing their yields on the land already in use."

It does not matter whether you are contacting friends or using SMS for
larger issues, nor does it matter on which side of the generational divide you
stand, text-messaging, by all indications, is here to stay and will become more
and more commonplace in the workforce. Tnx 4 lstnin.

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