Monday, August 31, 2009
Today's Top News - 08.31
Online Town Hall
Hawaii CPO Selects Special Olympics
Sasebo Women's Day Celebration
Rota Sailors Rebuild Monastery
SECNAV Visits USS Nimitz
SECNAV Visits USS Blue Ridge
Headlines for Monday, August 31, 2009
Protecting Troops from IEDs
Gates in Texas
Coast Guard Rescues
McChrystal on Afghanistan
DOD Prepares For Outbreak
Alabama Guard Recognized
Jobs for Military Spouses
Korean War Vet Buried
Recon: Bringing Them All Back Home
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Olivia Newton John: Magic
Recon: Not Home for the Holidays
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Bryan Adams: Everything I Do
Command Performance: Stephen Cochran
Recon: Let the Generations Know
Friday, August 28, 2009
Today's Top News - 08.28
NNMC Phase 2
Mullen Town Hall
Bombing in Afghanistan
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology
USS Missouri CPO Academy
MQ-8B Fire Scout
Chilean Navy Visits USS Makin Island
Headlines for Friday, August 28, 2009
Mullen on Brain Injury
My Lai Haunts the Lieutenant
The nation has finally heard a note of personal regret from William Calley 38 years after he became the sole American soldier convicted in the My Lai massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Mr. Calley, a former lieutenant who now is a 66-year-old graybeard, told the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Ga. His appearance this month came after decades of no comment. “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families,” said Mr. Calley, who was defended as a dutiful soldier by many when the slaughter was disclosed.
His remarks are an important reminder for a nation again at war of the considerable risks to honor and truth that can undermine troops caught in the frustrations and fears of the battlefront. The slaughter was conducted in March 1968 by platoons of American soldiers who shot and abused more than 300 victims — mainly women, children and elderly peasants — in a murderous frenzy.
After an 18-month cover-up, the story was broken by Seymour Hersh, the relentless reporter who pried truth firsthand from Mr. Calley and other perpetrators. The massacre sparked world outrage and helped unravel support for the Vietnam War, but it left still-gaping holes in the need for full justice up the military chain of command.
“I gave them a good boy, and they sent me back a murderer,” an American mother told Mr. Hersh of the guilt haunting My Lai veterans. There was small comfort in pleading they had to follow orders and shoot victims fleeing for their lives and cowering in an irrigation pit. Twenty-six soldiers eventually were charged, but only Mr. Calley was convicted. Ranking brass separately accused in the cover-up were acquitted.
Mr. Calley endures as a classic scapegoat. He was sentenced to life in prison. But as the nation polarized and he was lionized in a jingoistic pop song, he was ordered transferred by President Richard Nixon to house arrest at a comfortable apartment. His sentence was eventually reduced, and he served three years. “I am very sorry,” Mr. Calley told the Kiwanis, stirring the ghosts of a horrific episode the nation dare not forget.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
New head of Army (UK Army) begins his job
As well as fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan, Gen Richards will have to battle for resources for the Army at a time of increasing financial strain.
BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said Gen Richards is seen as "astute" and a "good communicator".
As former head of the International Security and Assistance Force, he has first-hand experience of Afghanistan.
Our correspondent said: "General Sir David Richards is seen as a good communicator who is also politically astute, and perhaps more likely to fight his battles behind closed doors."
Gen Sir David Richards
Gen Richards has extensive operational experience in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and first-hand knowledge of the challenges in Afghanistan, gained as commander of Nato coalition forces there between 2006 and 2007.
Asked earlier this month if he would be presenting a "shopping list" for military equipment on his first day in office, Gen Richards answered: "I will not.
"It is impossible to say whether having more equipment of a particular kind would lead to less casualties, and pretty fruitless speculating about it," he said in an interview with the Times newspaper.
"The enemy's tactics will always reflect, and try to exploit, how we operate - my American comrades first taught me the adage, 'the enemy has a vote' - and our own tactics must reflect the equipment and troop numbers we have.
"It is a truism to state that the more we have, the more we can do."
Published: 2009/08/28 01:18:49 GMT
© BBC MMIX
The Beatles: I am the Walrus
Today's Top News - 08.27
Military Social Media
Sasebo CPO Selectee Uniform Night
NSA Bahrain CPO Selectee Training
USS Makin Island Hybrid Engine
Yokosuka Improved Galley
Parris Island Insect Control
Headlines for Thursday August 27, 2009
Pirates Attack U.S. Chopper
Virtual Flag Exercise
GEN Petraeus Remarks
Navy Removes Top Nuke Weapons Officer
Seen at Military.com
BANGOR, Wash. - The Navy dismissed the commanding officer of a Washington state-based nuclear weapons facility Friday, citing a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, the Pentagon said.
Capt. Timothy J. Block, who headed the Navy's Bangor operation arming Trident submarines with nuclear warheads, was relieved of duty on by Rear Adm. Stephen E. Johnson, the Navy's director of strategic systems programs, according to the Kitsap Sun.
A Navy spokesman told The Associated Press that no single incident led to Block's removal. The spokesman would only comment anonymously because he felt he should not pre-empt his supervisor.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. J.A. "Cappy" Surette told the newspaper that public safety was not jeopardized and that no "specific issue" was involved.
Washington state's Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is home to nuclear submarines, ships and laboratories. The facility also assembles and stores nuclear weapons before outfitting the subs.
Block was about a year into a three-year stint. Surette says the captain has been reassigned but his next station has not been determined.
Navy Capt. Kevin Zumbar, deputy director of strategic systems programs based in the Washington, D.C., area, will take over command until a replacement is found.
Block is the second facility commander in recent years to be relieved of duty for "a loss of confidence." Capt. Keith Lyles was dismissed after failing a nuclear weapons inspection om 2003.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Shinseki on Homeless Vets
BG Tremblay on Afghanistan
Today in Naval History
Air Show Attendance
New DOD Website 08.26
Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall
Hawaii CPO Selects Comrel
Diego Garcia Culinary Specialists
USS George Washington In Indonesia
CNO Visits Bahrain
Headlines for Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Citizen Soldiers Return 08.26
GEN Petraeus at Legion Convention
Stryker Brigade Deploys
The Fourth Stryker Brigade Combat Team is deploying.
ADM Mullen at Legion Convention
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Proposal to Ease Aid for G.I.’s With Stress Disorder
August 25, 2009
Under fire from veterans groups and Congress for its handling of disability claims, the Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing new regulations that it says will make it easier for veterans to seek compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The proposal is intended to lower the burden on noncombat veterans who claim they developed PTSD in the service and to speed processing of those claims, which represent a significant part of the 82,000 disability claims the department receives each month.
Current rules require veterans who have received diagnoses of PTSD to document that they experienced traumatic events during service that triggered the disorder. For veterans who did not serve in combat units, such proof can be difficult to find given the unevenness of military record keeping.
But veterans’ advocates have argued that many noncombat troops, including truck drivers and supply clerks, have experienced such events, which include roadside bombs, firefights, mortar attacks or the deaths of friends. Despite receiving diagnoses of PTSD, many of those troops struggle to receive disability compensation.
The proposed rule would eliminate the requirement to document triggering events, provided veterans with PTSD could show that they were in places and performed duties where such events might have occurred. Their symptoms must also be consistent with the trauma they claim to have experienced.
By some estimates, 20 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD.
In a news release on Monday, the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said, “The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and comprehensively by this administration as we move V.A. forward in its transformation to the 21st century.”
Dennis M. Cullinan, national legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the proposed change “a big plus” for veterans. Mr. Cullinan cited the example of a truck driver in Iraq who might have experienced repeated roadside bomb attacks but whose military record would not have shown combat duty.
Mr. Cullinan also said that changing the policy administratively was faster than waiting for legislation. A bill in Congress that would make similar changes, sponsored by Representative John Hall, Democrat of New York, faces opposition because of the projected cost, nearly $5 billion.
But some veterans’ advocates responded skeptically to the proposed regulation, which now must undergo a 60-day review period.
“Whenever the V.A. touts a proposed compensation rule change that it says will ‘make it easier for a veteran to claim service connection,’ red flags go up all over the place,” a veterans’ advocate, Larry Scott, wrote on his Web site, vawatchdog.org.
Critics said the proposed rule would still require veterans to prove a connection between a traumatizing event and their PTSD, even when that connection was not clear cut. Strict application of that requirement could lead to many rejected claims, they say.
Katrina J. Eagle, a veterans’ lawyer in California, said the proposed rule would also require veterans to receive diagnoses from department-employed or approved psychiatrists and psychologists. Currently, veterans can receive diagnoses from their own psychiatrists.
“This is their way of being able to control the diagnosis,” Ms. Eagle said. “I don’t see how this is going to make it easier.”
But other veterans’ advocates said the proposed requirement on using department psychiatrists seemed like a reasonable means to reduce fraud and standardize diagnoses.
Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Hall, said that he thought the proposed rule change was “pretty significant” but that he would study it closer to make sure it was “as inclusive” as his bill.
Aqua: Around The World
Today's Top News - 08.25
Cross Cultural Competence
Cost of Living Increase
Sharana Health Fair
Today in Naval History
USMC Suicide Prevention
USS Oak Hill Homecoming
USS Essex Returns to CFAS
Surface Line Week Sports Wrap Up
CNO Visits USS George Washington
Headlines for Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Book for Military Kids
Coast Guard Rescue Stories
Monday, August 24, 2009
Supertramp: Dreamer (1974)
Today's Top News - 08.24
Chairman Town Hall
United We Serve
VA Simplifies Compensation Rules for Post-traumatic Stress
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 - The Veterans Affairs Department is taking steps to help veterans seeking compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced today.
"The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and comprehensively by this administration as we move VA forward in its transformation to the 21st century," Shinseki said.
VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register to make it easier for a veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days, and a final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received, VA officials said.
Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.
Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a noncombat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This rule would simplify the development that is required for these cases, officials explained.
PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder that can follow seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon in war. Feelings of fear, confusion or anger often subside, officials noted, but if the feelings don't go away or get worse, a veteran may have PTSD.
VA is bolstering its mental health capacity to serve combat veterans, adding thousands of new professionals in the last four years. The department also has established a toll-free suicide prevention helpline -- 1-800-273-TALK -- and has a Web site available for online chat in the evenings at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/.
(From a Department of Veterans Affairs news release.)
Related Sites: Department of Veterans Affairs
Today in Naval History
1912 - Launching of USS Jupiter (AC 3), first electrically-propelled Navy ship.
Shinseki on PTSD
Eikenberry on Afghanistan
Adm Mullen on Afghanistan
Veterans Groups Urge Court to Force the VA to Speed Up Handling of Disability Claims and Appeals
One judge has said the problem is beyond the court's power to correct, while another has given the two sides until Sept. 1 to mediate the issue.
By Carol J. Williams
August 24, 2009
With a massive military drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan potentially on the horizon, lawyers for the veterans want a federal appeals court to order the Department of Veterans Affairs to make good on the nation's commitment to take care of those wounded in mind as well as body.
It is an onerous task that a lower court has already deemed beyond the power of the judiciary to correct. And the latest appeal, to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has also been met with reluctance by the judges to tell a government bureaucracy how it should conduct its affairs.
"Go and get a sandwich together," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski suggested recently, urging the lawyers to work on a settlement. He said he could see goodwill on both sides "to do the right thing for our veterans who fought and bled for our country."
Kozinski's Solomon-like departure from the three-judge panel's usual role of hearing arguments and issuing a decision has given the lawyers until Sept. 1 to try to work out a solution through the 9th Circuit's mediation services.
The suggestion prompted deep skepticism on both sides.
"This case has already been determined to be not susceptible to mediation," Charles Scarborough of the Department of Justice told the court, which heard arguments on Aug. 12. Government policy prohibits Scarborough from saying more than what was put on the record at the hearing, said Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller.
Gordon Erspamer, a San Francisco lawyer with Morrison & Foerster who is representing the veterans pro bono, also said he couldn't comment on the likelihood of a negotiated settlement, but said that any such agreement would involve time-consuming consultations within the federal executive hierarchy.
"The government is always very difficult to deal with in cases that involve constitutional issues," Erspamer said. "I don't mean that they're mean-spirited or rude, it's just that the issues are difficult for them to ever agree upon in a solution out of court."
Scarborough and Erspamer faced off before Kozinski and two other 9th Circuit judges, Stephen Reinhardt and Procter Hug Jr. All three judges questioned the lawyers about the long delays and tragic consequences of unaddressed mental health problems. Erspamer said it's a crisis that will escalate in the next year or two when the U.S. military draws down hundreds of thousands of troops from the war zones.
Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth brought the suit two years ago, alleging systemic failures in the government's processing of disability claims and appeals of denied coverage.
Erspamer told the panel that 3,000 veterans die each year while their appeals are pending, a process that takes almost two years on average. An internal e-mail from the veterans department introduced in last year's trial also disclosed the staggering suicide figures, an annual rate of more than 6,500 from a variety of causes but many suspected to be acts of despair by veterans with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scarborough said that only about 4% of department decisions about care or coverage are subject to "significant delays," and that pilot programs to improve on the timely delivery of services were underway.
Kozinski asked whether the other 96% were satisfied customers or if many might have gotten frustrated and abandoned their claims.
Erspamer said that was precisely what was happening, with even those with the most severe mental illnesses being turned away from veterans hospital emergency rooms and told to get on the waiting list for appointments.
"Then they go home and kill themselves," Erspamer told the court.
The judges appeared perplexed, though, as to how they could effect change with a court order.
"How do we go about telling an agency 'You've got to work faster?' How do you implement something like that?" Kozinski asked Erspamer. "If we find in your favor, what's to keep the federal courts from taking over and running any agency of government? We've got lots of agencies that are slow."
That was the view of U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, who agreed after an April 2008 trial that veterans suffered unjust claim denials and unacceptable delay in treatment but said the problem was beyond the court's ability.
Veterans following the legal challenge said they were encouraged by the judges' apparent sympathy for them but frustrated by what looks to be months, if not years, more legal and procedural wrangling.
"As a veteran, I think veterans deserve much better than what they're getting. As a private citizen, I'm ashamed that we have to sue the Veterans Administration to get what veterans deserve," said Bob Handy, a Korean and Vietnam War-era Navy veteran and chairman of Santa Barbara-based Veterans United for Truth. "They take these kids out of high school at 17, 18, 19 years old, send them off to boot camp to learn how to kill, send them off to kill, then when they come back they just throw them away like trash."
If no compromise can be reached by the lawyers by Sept. 1, the judges will then deliberate over the two sides' arguments and eventually issue an opinion and possible order.
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
'Truth' vs. 'Facts' from America's Media
Americans need the media to give us the truth in the healthcare debate.By Neal Gabler
August 23, 2009
Of course, none of this is even remotely true. These are all canards peddled by insurance companies terrified of losing their power and profits, by right-wing militants terrified of a victory for the president they hate and by the Republican Party, which has been commandeered by the insurance industry and the militants. But the lies have obviously had their effect. Recent polls show that support for healthcare reform -- reform that would insure more Americans, would force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions and prevent them from capriciously terminating coverage, and would provide competition to drive down costs -- is rapidly eroding.
Maybe Americans should know better. Maybe they shouldn't fall for the latest imbecilic propaganda and scare tactics. Maybe. But a citizenry is only as well-informed as the quality of information it receives. One can't expect Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or the Republican Party or even the Democrats to provide serious, truthful assessments of a complex health plan. Truth has to come from somewhere else -- from a reliable, objective, trustworthy source.
That source should be the media, and there has been, in fact, some excellent coverage of healthcare, especially by our better newspapers and especially lately when the untruths have become a torrent, rousing reporters to provide a corrective. But overall, the coverage has not been exactly edifying. According to the Pew Research Center, 16% of the stories in its media sample last week were devoted to healthcare, but three-quarters of that coverage was either about legislative politics or the town halls. Tom Rosenstiel, who heads Pew's Center for Excellence in Journalism, said that if the healthcare debate is a potential teaching moment, that "moment is passing us by."
Television particularly has been remiss, even without mentioning cable news, which may be the greatest source of disinformation. ABC took some heat from Republicans for giving President Obama a prime-time forum to answer questions about healthcare in June. But as far as I can tell, it is the only prime-time special that any broadcast network has devoted to the healthcare debate. Even so, rather than merely host the president, ABC should have had a variety of experts and qualified reporters assessing exactly what the proposed bills will and will not do and who is and is not telling the truth -- a difficult but not impossible task.
To look at this in a larger context, journalists would no doubt say that it isn't really their job to ferret out the "truth." It is their job to report "facts." If Palin says that Obama intends to euthanize her child, they report it. If Limbaugh says that Obama's healthcare plan smacks of Nazism, they report it. And if riled citizens begin shouting down their representatives, they report it, and report it, and report it. The more noise and the bigger the controversy, the greater the coverage. This creates a situation in which not only is the truth subordinate to lies, but one in which shameless lies are actually privileged over reasoned debate.
Don't think the militants don't know this and take full advantage of it. They know that the media, especially the so-called liberal mainstream media -- which are hardly liberal if assessed honestly -- refrain from attempting to referee arguments for fear that they will be accused by the right of taking sides. So rather than be battered, the media -- and I am talking about the respectable media, not the carnival barkers on cable -- increasingly strive for the simplest sort of balance rather than real objectivity. They marshal facts, but they don't seek truth. They behave as if every argument must be heard and has equal merit, when some are simply specious. That is how global warming, WMD and "end of life" counseling have become part of silly reportorial ping-pong at best and badly misleading information at worst.
All of this is even more relevant given the death of media oracle Walter Cronkite several weeks ago. He achieved his legendary status, as many have observed, not because he was the reassuring avuncular voice of America, blandly reading the news, but because he was often its truth teller, upsetting our complacency. It was Cronkite who visited Vietnam and declared it a stalemate when nearly everyone else in the news media was gung-ho. And it was Cronkite who decided to take the Washington Post's reporting on Watergate and devote 14 minutes of his broadcast to it, thus dragging it from the sidelines into the national conversation. The truth is also relevant in light of a recent online poll that showed Jon Stewart as the nation's most trusted newsman. Stewart is, of course, a comedian, and the news media's incapacity to tell the truth, along with the idiocies and hypocrisies of our political leadership, are his running joke. What he does to politicians and to the media is exactly what the media should be doing to politicians and to one another.
It was because we didn't have a committed, truth-telling media that the country marched happily into Iraq, with tragic consequences that should have been foreseen. As media analyst Michael Massing discovered in his study of the prewar coverage, virtually the entire media, except for the McClatchy papers, reported the administration's rationale without devoting more than a few sentences or minutes to dissenting voices, much less doing their own analysis. It was because we didn't have a committed, truth-telling media that the country plunged off the economic cliff with so little warning. And it may very well be because we don't have a committed, truth-telling media that we will fail to get the healthcare reform we so desperately need.
Why don't we get the truth? Part of it, as I've said, is fear -- fear that if journalists dispel the rumors they will be bashed by the right, which is implacably against the president's reforms no matter how much sense they make. Part of it is a lack of expertise. Most reporters are not equipped to quickly and authoritatively tell truth from spin on an issue such as healthcare. And part of it, frankly, is sheer laziness.
Telling the truth requires shoe leather. It requires digging up facts that aren't being handed to you, talking to experts, thinking hard about what you find. This isn't easy. It takes time and energy as well as guts, especially when there are conflicting studies, as there are on healthcare. But finally, we may not have a journalism of truth because we haven't demanded one. Many of us are invested in one side of the story; we are for Obama or against him, for healthcare reform or against it. These are a priori positions. Truth won't change them.
Yet the danger of not insisting on the truth in a brave new world of constant lies is that it subjects our policies to whichever side shouts the loudest or has the most money to spend to mislead us. That is likely to lead to disastrous governance: a needless war, a great recession, a continuation of a failing healthcare system.
What it comes down to is that sometimes the media have to tell the truth not because anyone really wants them to but because it is the right thing to do -- the essential thing to do -- for the sake of our democracy.
Neal Gabler is the author, most recently, of "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination."
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, August 23, 2009
For Veterans, a Gift from the Sea
It may seem counterintuitive, but surfing can replace a bit of what war has taken away.Steve Lopez - August 23, 2009
If you had seen a smiling Richard Pineda stand up cleanly on wave after wave, with confidence and uncanny balance, you couldn't have imagined he needs a GPS device to remember how to get back home after an outing.
The concept sounds counterintuitive at first: You take veterans recovering from brain trauma and other injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan and, for therapy, you put them on surfboards for the first time in their lives, lead them into the chilly, crashing surf and wish them luck.
But this is what the medical staff at the VA hospital in West L.A. is trying, and Pineda is among dozens of veterans who say the prescription is helping.
"Being out there, I have freedom," said Pineda, 32, a Marine who lives in Los Feliz.
Pineda was too close to far too many explosions and mortar attacks while serving in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Like a lot of vets, he kept his struggles to himself after returning home. He didn't talk about the memory lapses or the noises and smells that triggered flashbacks, but friends knew he needed help when they saw him cowering at a fireworks show in 2005. It turned out that on top of his emotional issues, Pineda was having small cerebral aneurysms. He was referred to a polytrauma unit at the VA.
The chief of physical therapy there, Randi Woodrow, had been to a Camp Pendleton surf clinic run by a friend.
"It was absolutely one of those life-changing events," said Woodrow, who saw smiles on the faces of injured vets and knew she had to make surfing a regular part of her program in Los Angeles.
The guy who helped make it happen was Tom Tapp, a Los Angeles entertainment journalist who had been inspired by meeting an amputee while surfing. He then saw a news story about men and women with missing limbs coming home from the war and immediately started Operation Amped, getting support from the William Morris Agency and Billabong, among other companies.
Tapp and Woodrow have staged several of the surf clinics each year since 2007, and one of Woodrow's first patients to put on a wetsuit was Richard Pineda.
"I was pretty excited about it," said Pineda, but that's not how Woodrow remembers it.
"Tatiana and Richard were both very timid," she recalled. "It was a lot of sensory overload."
Not only had neither of them ever surfed; their disabilities made the prospect of getting thrashed by waves all the more intimidating. They had one thing going for them, though, Woodrow said. They were trained to follow orders, and she and Tapp had recruited a battalion of volunteer surf instructors -- including physicians and therapists -- to lead the mission.
On his very first day as a surfer, Pineda stood up on a board. Now that he's been back several times, he rides everything. Small rollers. Right breaks. Even waves that are probably too big, but no instructor is inclined to hold him back.
"Yeah, Richard!" is heard over and over at Zuma, as a smiling Pineda comes barreling toward the shore in a spray of white foam.
"He's a horse," VA psychiatrist and longtime surfer Jon Sherin told me as we bobbed in the waves and watched Pineda ride to shore time after time in his low stance, arms extended like wings.
Sherin, associate chief of psychiatry and mental health, has given surfing pointers to vets battling post-traumatic stress disorder, and he's also helped paraplegics and a quadriplegic ride waves.
"Whether you agree with the war or not," Sherin said, "we have a duty to help look after them and re-integrate them."
Surfer that he is, Sherin said there's something Zen about riding waves and being present in the moment, rather than in a constant reflection of lingering pain and stress. For vets, in particular, he thinks standing up on a board with a tidal force at your back helps to "de-mysticize and de-energize fear."
There was a time when Reyes, 24, could not have imagined trying to surf. The Gardena woman had enlisted in the Army at 21 and soon found herself driving a truck through Iraq.
"You saw things blow up and you got shot at," she said.
Danger became so routine, she didn't give it much thought. But on March 9, 2007, an explosive device hit her truck.
"I don't remember much," she said. "I was in and out of consciousness."
Her left leg was nearly destroyed, her lungs had collapsed, her colon was damaged, she had a brain injury and flesh had burned off her withered left leg. Doctors patched her together and she was flown to Germany for treatment, but she has no recollection of any of that. Next she was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for months of treatment and too many surgeries to count.
"They told my family, like, 'I don't think she's going to make it.' "
But Reyes fought through the physical injuries and then the psychological ones as well. She found herself conflicted about the war itself, troubled by all the death and suffering and crushed by the thought of being disabled for life. Once she returned to California, she was deeply depressed, had trouble sleeping and weighed only 80 pounds.
And they wanted her to go surfing?
All right, she said.
"I was so scared the first time. I was so weak."
Reyes had to be helped into the water, but there she was on a board, confronting her fears, wiping out and trying again. In her third outing last week, she was standing up with help from instructors and riding waves. Before I knew her story, I was in the water and saw Reyes paddling by me with a smile on her face. The wetsuit covered her scars, which was why I assumed she was one of the instructors.
Later, as she told me her tale on the beach, she was charming and self-possessed, and funny too.
"I did some cool things in the Army," she said, "but blowing up was a negative."
At an awards ceremony after the surfing, Dirk Ortega, who was badly injured in training before he shipped out with his army unit, was named the most inspirational vet on a board.
Pineda got an award for riding the longest wave.
And Reyes was named
the hardest charger, a reference to more than the way she surfs.
Today in Naval History
Recon: Inside the Wire
Saturday, August 22, 2009
The Final Fate of the HMS Vengeance / Minas Gerais
The ship was loaned to Australia from 1953 to late 1955, serving first as a training carrier and then as a fleet carrier in the Korean conflict as the HMAS Vengeance. Returned to the Royal Navy, she was sold to Brazil in late 1956. Named Minas Gerais, she was rebuilt at Rotterdam and served with the Brazilian Navy until October, 2001.
Several groups expressed interest in purchasing the ship and towing her to the UK as a museum, based on her historical significance as the last of the Colossus Class fleet carriers, and being the last surviving British WWII capital ship.
Supporters failed to raise enough money, and the ship was offered for sale. A scrap company from China bought her, but failed to follow through on their bid, so a private British citizen, shipping tycoon Philip Bush, purchased the vessel to buy the preservation groups more time. The ship sat rusting in Rio, costing thousands of dollars a month in mooring fees, while plans fell through to set the ship up as a museum due to lack of financial support. Time ran out, and Mr. Bush cut his losses and sold the vessel to a scrap merchant from Alang, India. A final auction in Rio afforded a final chance for a preservation group to purchase her, but all were well short of the $6.5 million dollar price tag.
The carrier was towed from Rio in February, 2004, and arrived at Alang in April. She was dragged up on the beach at high tide, and was being slowly cut up. By September the job was well advanced, and by February, 2005, no trace of her remained.
Today in Naval History
Clinic Traffic Downrange Shows Need for Hearing Protection
Special to American Forces Press Service
Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Adams, an ear, nose and throat technician here, said more than half of the patients seen in the ENT walk-in clinics are there for hearing related issues.
"The first question I ask a patient who comes in with a hearing complaint is 'Were you wearing hearing protection?'" said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Joseph A. Brennan, the ENT doctor here. "Since I arrived here in May, I have not had one servicemember answer yes to that question."
Many troops say they don't use hearing protection on missions because they feel it affects their ability to do their jobs and complete their missions, Brennan said.
"I was in Iraq in '04 and '05 -- in Fallujah with the Marines and the Army's 1st Infantry Division -- and we just couldn't get folks to wear their hearing protection," Brennan said. "We understand. It is like the old Army helmets --soldiers were complaining they couldn't shoot with them. So even though they offered better protection, which as a doctor is what I care about, the fight is most important."
While in Iraq, Brennan said, he saw more than 600 outpatients in an ENT clinic, and hearing loss was the No. 1 diagnosis there, just as it is today in Afghanistan.
Loud noises such as those from improvised explosive devices -- the top cause for hearing loss in Iraq and Afghanistan – can cause conductive hearing loss, sensory neuro hearing loss or tinnitus, Brennan said.
Surgery usually can correct conductive hearing loss from damaged ear bones or wax in the external ear canal of the ear, the doctor said. Sensory neuro hearing loss, he added, means the nerve in the inner ear has been damaged. Surgery can't correct it; the only treatment is hearing aids.
Tinnitus -- a ringing or whining inside a person's ear -- can result from nerve damage. A doctor can measure the sound in the ear when the patient has objective tinnitus, Brennan said, but a person with subjective tinnitus is the only one who can hear the sound.
Tinnitus has no cure, but a device called a "masker" -- a type of hearing aid – can replace the noise with a less annoying, more natural sound inside the ear, Brennan said.
The most common problem, the doctor said, is a blown-out ear drum, which is considered a conductive form of hearing loss. This means that sound is not reaching the nerve in the ear that allows people to hear, Brennan explained, adding that it can heal on its own.
Though he understands some servicemembers' objections to wearing hearing protection on missions, Brennan said, an event he remembers from his time in Iraq makes the opposite case.
"In Iraq in 2004, there was a soldier who was in two IED blasts," he said. "The second explosion really blew out his ear drums, and he could not hear a thing. The soldier's sergeant and his fellow soldiers were on a rooftop in a firefight. The bullets were buzzing by his head. His sergeant had to tackle him to get him out of the line of fire, because the soldier could not hear his comrades yelling for him to take cover."
The incident shows that a hearing-impaired soldier in combat puts himself and his fellow soldiers in danger, the doctor said.
That danger is present even in people who suffer hearing loss in only one ear, he added, because they will not be able to tell which direction a sound -- such as gunfire -- is coming from.
Because hearing damage affects the safety of military personnel and others around them, troops with hearing loss can be discharged from the military or forced to reclassify into a different job specialty.
New technology always is being developed to help in the fight against hearing loss, Brennan said, citing research into a concept called "active hearing protection" that's going on at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
"A person would wear this device on the inside or outside of their ear," he explained. "For instance, if you were walking through the woods, this ear plug would amplify the sounds around you, but the moment the noise level reached a harmful level, the ear plug would protect your ear and eliminate the sound, essentially plugging your ears."
This new form of ear plug is ideal, he said, because it increases awareness, but also protects the ears. Conventional ear plugs have the same effect as plugging your ears with your fingers, regardless of the ambient sound, he added.
Servicemembers should listen to their leadership about wearing proper hearing protection while they can still hear the warnings, the doctor said.
(Army Spc. Opal Hood serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)
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South Korean kids get a taste of boot camp
These youths aren't delinquents -- most are sent by parents who realize that their pampered offspring need more discipline to become better students and grow into conscientious adults.
August 22, 2009 LA Times
Reporting from Daebu Island, South Korea
Teeth clenched, lenses steamed, water streaming down his face, he looks ready to cry. His sneaker comes off in the muck and he reaches down to pick it up, losing step with the 70 other youths performing drills in rigid military formation.
"Are you feeling cold?" the drill instructor yells.
"No!" the boys respond.
"Are you sure you're not cold?"
"No, not at all!"
"Well, you sure look cold, let me make you sweat."
Their hair stringy, eyes downcast, they drag themselves zombie-like in pursuit of their instructor, the boy in the glasses last of all.
It's the summer camp from hell.
The Blue Dragon Marine Corps Training Camp is the brainchild of Park Kyung-hoon, a rock-hard 52-year-old former drill sergeant who sees the younger generation as a sorry lot: physically fragile, undisciplined and weak-minded, hunched over their computers playing video games, talking trash to their overworked parents.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Whitesnake: Sailing Ships
'Full Metal Jacket' Actor Discusses Career, Technology
By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 - Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey -- a Vietnam veteran, film actor and TV host -- shared observations about modern military technology and his visits with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable today.
"They're just as ready to eat their own guts out today as they ever were back in my time," he said. "The only difference is we've got better equipment, better gear, better toys, and I spend as much time as I can with them."
Ermey said he's surprised by the enduring popularity of his 1987 acting role as a quintessential drill sergeant in the film "Full Metal Jacket."
"When I go to the military bases and make an appearance, I just go hang out with the guys and give them a good talking-to and tell them my corny jokes, and then I'll sit down and sign autographs," he said. "And every time, thousands of copies of "Full Metal Jacket" pop up from somewhere – they're still selling these damned things."
Though Ermey retired from the military in 1971, he's continued to work with fighting forces as a member of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor's Association. He also appears in films, and is widely known as the exuberant host of cable television's 'Lock N Load,' a documentary about robotic equipment, and the former host of 'Mail Call.'
"I have some of these future weapons on the show 'Lock N Load,'" he said. "We just did a non-line-of-sight canon; it's a 155 mm howitzer, and you can push a button and 27 miles away an enemy tank disappears," Ermey said.
Another show features a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle that has the potential to stop pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. "We highlight this helicopter, and we talk about the fact that it doesn't require a pilot to put his life on the line and take risks," he said. "It can go out 100 miles from a ship and land on a bow of a ship."
But so far, technology hasn't made war casualty-free, Ermey acknowledged. "It's always going to be dangerous; there's no question about it," he said. "But the objective is to make it as safe as we possibly can for the young people."
Ermey said his television shows aim to build public appreciation for the military.
"It kind of wakes people up as to who the military is," he said. "They are very honorable, upstanding young American citizens out there, doing the dirty job that nobody else seems like they want to do in America."
The actor adopted his drill sergeant-style movie persona to make another point. "People need to wake up, pull their heads out of their posteriors and get with the program!" he barked. "Support the troops!"
Ermey has been to Iraq four times and to Afghanistan twice, and said he plans to return to Afghanistan in December. His television program, "Lock N' Load With R. Lee Ermey," airs on the History Channel.
(Judith Snyderman works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)
Related Sites: "DoDLive" Bloggers Roundtable
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Today's Top News - 08.21
Preventive Medicine Chief Cites Importance of Vaccinations
By Christen N. McCluney | Defense Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate
August is National Immunization Month, and a senior Navy medical official encouraged service members to be up to date on flu vaccines during a "Dot Mil Docs" interview yesterday on Pentagon Web Radio.
“Anyone that is active duty should receive a vaccine,” said Navy Capt. Neal A. Naito, director of clinical care and public health at the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. “We need to protect our service members as they go about protecting our country.”
As early as next week, military treatment facilities will start receiving the flu vaccine and will start rolling out their campaigns to encourage people to be vaccinated. Not all facilities will receive their vaccines at the same time, Naito noted, so beneficiaries should watch for local information.
The flu vaccines come in two types of formulations, Naito said: a nasal-spray vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu, and the so-called "flu shot," an inactivated vaccine containing killed virus that is given with a needle.
“There is no reason to avoid the [vaccinations] because of the two different formulations,” Naito said. “The needle technology these days is so great that it is almost pain-free getting these injections.”
Naito added that the seasonal flu vaccines may provide some slight protection against other influenza viruses such as H1N1, but he encouraged beneficiaries to get the individual shots for other strains as well. Vaccinations for H1NI and other infections can be received at the same time, he noted.
Navy Medicine has been in the forefront of flu surveillance activity for many years, Naito said. The Naval Health Research Center, part of the Defense Department’s Global Emerging Infections System, picked up the initial presence of H1N1 flu in the United States in April and continues to monitor areas where influenza viruses typically show up first to protect the health of service members and their families, he said.
“The reason why we are starting this seasonal influenza vaccine campaign early is because of the national strategy,” Naito said. “The government asked manufacturers to make the seasonal vaccines early so that they then could also manufacture adequate stocks of the H1NI vaccines. So it’s key to get the seasonal vaccine as early as possible, which allows us to roll out the H1N1 vaccines more efficiently.”
Getting your vaccinated early helps not only the individual, but also the community, Naito said. “Immunization remains the primary method of reducing seasonal flu illness and its complications,” he explained. “Seasonal influenza can be a disease that is problematic for people and can be severe.”
Navy Medicine will monitor the seasonal influenza virus carefully over the coming weeks and months and will be proactive in developing contingency plans to address any public health issues, the captain said.
“The health and well-being of all our beneficiaries is our highest priority in Navy medicine,” he said.
Related Item: Dot Mil Docs 72: Seasonal Flu Vaccines
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