Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

I have Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). There, I said it. Now I must be one of America’s “poor, broken warriors” that just doesn’t belong at home or in the workplace. I guess I should now explain how debilitating this injury can be or how no one is helping me. Maybe it was the time in the service that broke me. Yet, all those assumptions are untrue. In reality, I have never felt better.


Since my diagnosis, I’ve married, become a father and not only held a job but risen to a leadership role. I am far from broken and so are the rest of my military brothers and sisters. There is no doubt my path had ups and downs. There may have even been a few rock bottoms, but nothing was actually ever as bad as it seemed at the time. The bottom line is that PTS is scary. It’s terrifying, that for the first time in your life, you don’t have a say in what is happening within your own mind. As many of my fellow veterans already know, courage is rising above fear. In our own minds, we have to find courage every day.

My first panic attack was the most embarrassing. I was driving home a few months after my third deployment to Iraq. My little brother was in the passenger seat when the phone rang. I answered it and the impersonal voice told me, “you have duty on Monday.” It was Saturday. I hung up the phone and grabbed the steering wheel with a death grip. I just could not comprehend how my schedule two days in the future had changed. Slowly my vision narrowed. My breathing became labored. My eyes teared up. The look on my brother’s face turned pale white with terror. I slammed on the brakes and broke down. The years of deployments came flowing out. The phone call was just the tipping point for me. Duty didn’t matter. As veterans will attest, schedules change all the time. It was such an innocent call. Yet, this time was different. The circuits in my brain had reached capacity. There was just no more room left for even a minor change. I stared at my younger brother as he sat in silence. I knew I was not okay.

It took another two years before I did anything about my fractured mind. Frankly, I avoided my thoughts. I tried to hide my injury. I was convinced that I could fix myself just as I had done with every other challenge in my life. First, I tried working out. It helped a little. Then, I tried booze. It helped too much. Lastly, I tried writing. It was too painful. Not surprisingly, nothing actually worked until I went to see a doctor.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

I avoided seeking help for years because I was scared of what would happen to my body and career. Let me dispel any rumors right now. PTS treatment is designed to fix you. Not give you a scarlet letter for life. My family and the men with whom I served were nothing but supportive throughout the entire process. Despite my own fears, I was never pulled from a deployment or seen as weak. Once again, I learned that PTS was all about fear. My own fear of something that wasn’t real.

For six weeks, I went through Cognitive Processing Therapy. I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think that discussing old memories would help. It seemed like a lot of useless talk. I was wrong. I analyzed my memories over and over again. My doctor asked me to write about them even though they were painful. In the end, I came to realize the things I remembered had become like a bad game of telephone etched into my brain. These memories had changed over the years and my brain had rebuilt itself to survive them.

Over 10 years of service, my brain had changed. It had become a truly lethal muscle. I could sense danger and act faster than most, but I could barely process an email, endure a traffic jam or sit through a phone call. Only after seeking help, I learned that I could retrain my mind. I just needed to break down old nerve endings and create new ones. After many days and too many sleepless nights, I learned some truly important things about living with PTS.

First, invest in yourself. There was no one who could make me a Marine and a Green Beret. I had to do that myself. There is no one who could fix my brain but me. I had to commit myself to the task. Rebuilding your brain is like remodeling your house. You keep the stuff you like and knock down the stuff you don’t. I kept honor, sacrifice and pride. I threw out guilt, sorrow and anger. At first, my transformation moved slowly. But when I truly invested in me, my brain changed. I became a better soldier, husband and friend.

Second, it’s all about control. I gained a control complex in the military. Like most 20 year olds, I thought I could control the world. But in my reality, I actually did. People lived and some even died by the decisions I made. My brain thrived off of control. I craved it, demanded it and needed it. But true control is never possible. The only thing in this world we can control is ourselves. For almost a decade, I had it wrong. I thought I could control the world without concern for myself. The switch happened gradually, but became evident when I let my wife drive me to work on a Tuesday. For the first time in almost a decade, I let someone else take control. It felt amazing.

Lastly, and most importantly, you have to know your limits. There are some things that your brain can handle well and others it won’t. Everyone’s limits are different. For me, I don’t go into overcrowded places at night. Why? Am I afraid that I will have panic attack? No. I just know that my brain goes into mental overdrive in places like that and I won’t have fun. I did reteach myself patience. In war, patience can be lethal. At home, it is expected. I don’t get angry when I have to wait for things. Veterans, this one is the most important, especially for any of you who have just entered the daunting VA process. Waiting is just time and none of us can control it. There will also be some things that are difficult to get back and age doesn’t help. Sure, it is much harder to remember minor details or focus like I used to be able to, but I also don’t run six minute miles anymore. You learn to live with it.

I do know for certain that by committing to PTS treatment, I have explored places in my mind that I didn’t even know existed. You get to re-write your own personal story and you may find that the plot has changed. I am a Green Beret that likes poetry, statistics and even watching The Voice. Yeah, I am part nerd but I am also part warrior. I would have never been able to know both parts of me without PTS. I am thankful I lost my mind for America. For those of you who are suffering or lost today, I am confident you will find the way as well. Good luck with the journey my brothers and sisters. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Articles

World War II Combat Cameraman and Hollywood animation legend dies

He is widely known as a Hollywood animation legend who worked at the studios that created Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But Hal Geer also flew 86 combat missions as a combat cameraman in World War II.


Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Geer died Jan. 26 at the age of 100. According to IMDB, his credits included the movies “Daffy Duck: Fantastic Island,” “Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero,” and “The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special” as well as over twenty short cartoons.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Nose art Hal Geer would have loved. Bugs Bunny nose art from an FB-111 with the 380th Bombardment Wing. In World War II, the 380th used B-24 Liberators, and Geer worked on a number of cartoons featuring the wascally wabbit. (USAF photo)

Geer’s World War II service took him over the China-Burma-India Theater, flying in Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and North American B-25 medium bombers assigned to the 14th Air Force under Major General Claire Chennault, who founded the legendary Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group.

According to a 2007 report in the Ventura County Recorder, Geer made the documentary film “China Crisis” while serving. Geer told the Recorder that this World War II film was the one he was the most proud of.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

In a 2005 interview with China Youth Daily, Geer discussed more about his time with the 14th Air Force. “China Crisis” discussed how the United States supported the 14th Air Force, getting supplies over what was called “The Hump.”

Today, it’s better known as the Himalaya Mountains. The film also covered the Japanese Army’s 1944 offensive in China (which doesn’t get as much press when compared to how America advanced in the Pacific that year). Thirteen combat cameramen shot over 300 hours of footage to make a film that was less than an hour long. Five cameramen were killed in action.

“China Crisis” had been slated to be shown along as part of a 1946 War Bonds drive. That drive would not take place, as Japan surrendered in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps, someday, DOD will find a way to make that film, and many others, available online for Americans to view.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From military might to misery: The failing fortunes around an abandoned Russian base

A decade ago, Russia’s Defense Ministry closed down a military base in Pskov Oblast, leaving hundreds of people unemployed. Without income or investment in infrastructure, the town began to collapse around its residents. (Current Time)


MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force has more pilots but struggles to train them

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.


Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.

Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.

A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”

Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.

Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.

‘A leap into the unknown’

The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.

Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”

Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)

At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.

“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.

But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.

“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 veteran non-profit organizations you need to check out for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is the global day of giving following Thanksgiving and the increasingly popular shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the time of year when individuals and companies focus on giving.


This year, it falls on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation is taking things up a notch by matching up to $2 million in donations raised on Facebook for U.S. nonprofits (the matching starts at 8AM Eastern — so set your alarms and hit donate early!). Facebook is joining in by waiving its fees for donations made to nonprofits on Facebook this #GivingTuesday.

(Also, the hashtag is a thing, in case you can’t tell; the whole point is to spread the word — and the charitable giving.)

For details on how to donate to your favorite organizations, click here.

Want to know some of our favorite organizations? We thought so. In no particular order:

8. GWOT Memorial Foundation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPv0wM63PoM
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is THE Congressionally designated nonprofit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, U.S. service members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.

Here’s their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/gwotmf/

7. Semper Fi Fund

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Former Lance Cpl. Ben Maenza smiles as he and his team blaze down a Camp Pendleton road during the Ride for Hereos t fundraising cycling trip for the Semper Fi Fund, Aug. 9. The trip from Florida to California took nearly 3,000 miles to accomplish. The cyclists have earned more than $75,000 for the Semper Fi Fund. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Damien Gutierrez)

Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. They deliver the resources they need during recovery and transition back to their communities, working to ensure no one is left behind.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/semperfifund/

6. The Mission Continues

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Volunteers rehabilitate a donated church building into a technology training and resource center for veterans allowing them a place to transition from military into civilian life. The new facility will provide veterans with instruction and skills training to preparing them for employment. The campaign launched by Home Depot and the Mission Continues, was created to enhance the lives of U.S. military veterans and to highlight the needs and opportunities they face. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. They deploy veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themissioncontinues/

5. Team Rubicon

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok.(Team Rubicon photo)

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/teamrubicon/

4. Pin-Ups for Vets

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
2nd Lt. Paganetti and Allison Paganetti in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising Calendar.

Pin-Ups For Vets raises funds to improve Veterans’ healthcare, donates funds to VA hospitals for medical equipment and program expansion, improves quality of life for ill Veterans across the United States through personal bedside visits to deliver gifts, promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans with clothing and calendar gifts delivered to shelters, boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing, and boosts morale for deployed troops through delivery of care packages.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pinupsforvets/

3. The Sam Simon Foundation

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
The Sam Simon Foundation launched its Service Dog program in response to the growing need of veterans coping with PTSD as a result of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. A Service Dog is not a cure for PTSD, but whose skills and companionship can be an aid for managing the symptoms and promoting well-being.

The Sam Simon Foundation provides Service Dogs trained for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Other tasks they may train for include assistance with hearing loss, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and moderate physical limitations due to injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SamSimonFoundationAssistanceDogs/

2. Operation Supply Drop

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Operation Supply Drop presented donated video games for Marines at the Central Area Recreation Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mark Watola)

Operation Supply Drop addresses Mental Health, Homelessness, and Employment for Veterans and their families accompanied by a global structure encouraging community service and commitment towards one another.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreOSD/

1. Fisher House

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress
Mike Helle and Chris Cannedy, local Biloxi business employees, decorate the Fisher House for Christmas Dec. 12, 2013, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Every year a local business volunteers to decorate the house. The Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Fisher Houses provide military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FisherHouse/ 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children with educational needs

Folds of Honor honors the sacrifice of military members by providing their loved ones with access to education.

Kelli Campbell lost her husband, Marine Maj. Shawn Campbell, in a military helicopter crash in 2016. At the time, their children were 11, 9, 6, and 2. The family had to move out of their base home in Hawaii, losing connections built within the military community that Campbell was a part of for 15 years. Their lives changed overnight.


When the family temporarily moved into her parents’ house, Campbell says she felt “set adrift, no longer able to make decisions for herself.” She had always homeschooled their children in the Classical Christian method, but she was unable to continue without her husband as her homeschool partner.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

(Military Families Magazine)

Placing her children in public school would require them to attend schools at several different locations. They would be thrown into new classes in the middle of the year when they had no prior experience attending school in a classroom. Then Campbell heard about Folds of Honor.

Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children like, the Campbells, find the education they need

“I was sitting on my parents’ floor, surrounded by library books and all the kids. I was panicking about school and their future and wondering how to move forward. My mom walked in and had gotten a phone call from a Classical Christian school who was giving my children an opportunity to attend and just be in class. My friend who had connected us to the school found Folds of Honor, called them that day and made it possible for my kids to enroll. That was our first step into this new life. I was handed not just education, but a community,” she said.

Folds of Honor was established in 2007 to support the education of children who lost a parent in military service. Lt. Col. Daniel Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA golf pro, was traveling on a commercial flight when he observed the body of Army Cpl. Brock Bucklin being returned to his widow and son. Rooney and his wife Jackie were moved to help the Bucklin family, so they organized a golf tournament and raised ,000. He then asked the PGA to invite golfers to contribute id=”listicle-2647631995″ on a round of golf during Labor Day weekend. In one weekend, they raised id=”listicle-2647631995″ million.

Last year, Folds of Honor awarded 4,500 scholarships to military families, providing million in educational support.

Ben Leslie, Executive Vice President at Folds of Honor, says the organization has always remained focused on its mission of educational assistance.

“We believe it is our duty and honor to provide generational assistance for Gold Star children to go to private schools. A lot of families may struggle to find employment, or they may be stuck living in neighborhoods with lousy public schools. We believe in teaching people how to fish: If you give them an opportunity to learn, they will be able to teach their own kids and have new opportunities,” Leslie said.

For the Campbell kids, Folds of Honor filled an important gap. Campbell says Folds of Honor gave her a piece of freedom after her husband’s death.

“There is very little federal assistance for young children’s education. As soon as my husband died, everyone talked to me about college scholarships for the kids. It was a great blessing, but I didn’t need that yet, because I had a two-year-old in diapers,” she said.

“Honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy”

Campbell, who now works for Folds of Honor, says it is equally important that the organization shares the names and stories of fallen service members.

“Their motto is, ‘honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy.’ They honor them by sharing their stories and saying their names. That is huge for these kids. It isn’t easy to share, but I do it to help other families,” she explained.

Campbell choked up as she shared her husband’s legacy.

“Shawn loved people so well. The day he said goodbye to us, he prayed for our family, that we would love each other well. His favorite days were the ones when he interacted with younger Marines and was a leader to them,” she said.

A portion of Red Gold ketchup sales to be given to Folds of Honor

Folds of Honor has partnered with the company Red Gold to support military families in a creative way. This year, a new red, white and blue ketchup bottle from Red Gold is on store shelves. Not only does this increase awareness of the Folds of Honor mission, but a portion of proceeds will be donated to the military family scholarship funds.

Leslie explains that it is a natural fit for both organizations.

“Red Gold is grown and made in America, as a 4th generation American company. Red Gold’s commitment to helping and honoring our military is apparent. The bottle stands out on the shelves, and you can buy something that was made in America and supports military families.”

Campbell hopes that the partnership will drive attention to the Folds of Honor mission and the service member stories they highlight. Even though the bottles and single-use packets will be sold nationwide in chains like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Albertson’s, Campbell is most excited that it will be stocked in commissaries, because military families know what the folded flag means.

“That folded flag has so much weight to it: they say it only weighs 2 pounds, but it feels like much more to carry. Red Gold is coming along and helping families carry that weight.”

Visit https://www.foldsofhonor.org to learn more about Folds of Honor and how you can support its programs.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Retired Navy pilot looks to continue his service in Congress

Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan outlet and does not officially endorse any candidate for office. However, we’re always happy to report and celebrate veterans doing important things.

Retired Navy Commander Todd Chase has a deep rooted belief in service. Raised by a single mother who was a social worker, she instilled in him the vital importance of serving others. He took those lessons from her with him as he raised his right hand to defend this country. Chase hopes to now continue that legacy of service to the halls of the United States Congress.


Chase was commissioned into the Navy in 1988 and went to flight school, becoming a pilot. He went on to fly the P-3 for hundreds of different missions. He served during the Cold War, tracking Russian nuclear submarines. He vividly remembers when the Soviet Union collapsed and watching those Russian submarines came up to the surface to head home. Chase decided to go into the reserves after eight years serving actively so that he could raise his children.

He was then accepted into Harvard Business School and there earned his Master of Business Administration degree.

Despite having his Ivy League education backing him, he wanted to continue serving in the Navy reserves. When he was home he was investing and building businesses. But when he wasn’t, he was flying to serve the needs of the country. He flew missions across the Libyan coast to combat terrorist activity and completed drug interdictions in South America. While doing all of this, he began to see things in his own town that he didn’t like. Rather than complaining about it, he said he decided to change it by running for office on the Gainesville City Commission.

He won.

He held that position for six years. When he left office, he went on to retire from the Navy in 2016 after 26 years of serving actively and in the reserves. He shared that he feels he is ready to bring his life experience and military service into Congress to continue serving.

“That sense of service when you serve in the military, the longer you do it – the more it grows in you…. we are at a point in this country where I believe that it is critically important that we have members of Congress who are experienced military veterans,” he explained. Chase shared that he felt service to this country is essentially a vital ingredient needed for successful leadership.

Following the Vietnam War, around 75% of Congressional members were veterans. That number has steadily been on the decline ever since then. In the 116th Congress, less than 20% of Congressional members have served in the military. He’s hoping to change that.
Republican Todd Chase For Congress

www.youtube.com

“It should give the entire country comfort to know that we have people [in Congress] who have served collectively together to fight for this country and then go on to serve for the good of the country as they set policy and govern it,” said Chase. He went on to explain that he feels it’s important that this country have people who believe in this country enough that they’ll volunteer to serve and possibly die for her.

Chase hopes that more veterans will consider running for government positions, bringing their sense of service and devotion with them. As the country just celebrated Memorial Day, it’s never been more important that we remember the cost of freedom and the importance of maintaining it.

It is with that in mind that Chase held a virtual Memorial Day event on Facebook Live attended by Gold Star family James and Donna Islam, Gold Star Mom Ronna Jackson, Gold Star Spouse Krista Simpson Anderson and Retired U.S. Army Major General David Kratzer. All of the families shared stories of their loved ones lost in service to this country. Throughout the discussion, one point was very clear. Each person remains devoted to ensuring that they are remembered. It’s not only about how they died, but that they lived.

Memorial Day is a somber reminder of loss but also a meaningful day to the families of the fallen. They know that on this day, the entire country stands in gratitude and love. Although the weight of their loss will always be heavy, the burden is lightened for them every time someone says their name. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Chase shared his own story of losing a fellow pilot and the impact that it has had on his life. It’s been 30 years but he still struggles with survivor’s guilt saying, “It could have been me.” That loss stays fresh in his mind as a reminder of how fragile life can be and how important it is to get it right. Chase shared that he’s spent his life trying to make the world better in any way he can. He’ll take this vision, purpose, and commitment to continued service with him to his next fight; a seat in the United States Congress.

To learn more about Todd Chase and his campaign for the United States Congress, head over to his website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The “Shark Attack” was part of an outdated and costly training doctrine

Earlier this month, Fort Benning’s United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) announced its plan to retire the “shark attack”, an approach unleashed on fresh recruits during their first moments at basic combat training. Headlines and critics would have you believe that the Army’s decision to eliminate this tactic from the basic training experience represents a move to make the training ‘nicer,’ ‘easier’ or ‘softer’ on recruits. But the truth is that the “shark attack” is outdated, ineffective and likely does more harm than good in the long run; Its retirement is long overdue.

The “shark attack” is a purposeful stress-inducing attack on a single recruit that is carried out by several drill sergeants. It is typically marked by intense yelling, the issuing of contradicting commands and verbal denigration and is designed to assess the trainee’s ability to handle stress. According to Command Sergeant Major Robert K. Fortenberry, Command Sergeant Major for USAIS, the “shark attack” was designed to create a “chaotic environment that centered around applying physical exertion under stress.”


Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Sgts. 1st Class Alec Donahoe and Todd Owen, drill sergeants with the Mississippi National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, motivate a warrior in the Recruit Sustainment Program during a “shark attack” Oct. 7, 2017, in Senatobia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes)

In a video articulating the new USAIS approach, CSM Fortenberry explains that this weeding-out technique is outmoded due in large part to the fact that we have an all-volunteer force. In other words, volunteer recruits likely already have attributes favorable for military service and don’t need to be thinned by the extreme technique which was used to “establish dominance and authority using intimidation and fear to weed out the weak of heart.”

In truth, Army basic training techniques haven’t evolved much since the 1970s and in some cases since the early 20th century. The majority of the core training techniques are designed to reinforce blind obedience and reactiveness to commands. While making sure soldiers are able to follow orders is critical, modern warfare requires soldiers who are adept at, say, reading the mood of a marketplace in a foreign city versus going “over the top” or charging machine gun emplacements.

The Army Vision for 2028, which was announced in June of this year and is co-authored by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, then Secretary of the Army, outlines a stark evolution of the U.S. Army’s battle stance. In addition to increasing the Army to 500,000 soldiers, the memo outlines the increased use of “autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and robotics” on a battle stage of “high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain, electronically degraded environments, and under constant surveillance.”

Getting rid of the “shark attack” is, in fact, just one way the Army is modernizing its approach to preparing a modern fighting force. The retooling of infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, also serves as the introduction of a new program dubbed ‘The First 100 Yards.’ According to CSM Fortenberry, the program builds a “critical foundation” by “professionally introducing the soldiers to the spirit of our great branch” and introducing drill sergeants as “leaders willing to share in the hardship.” The goal of The First 100 Yards is to “develop teamwork, identify informal leadership, establish trust, and build esprit de corps,” explained Fortenberry.

But removing the “shark attack” isn’t just about modernizing training, but removing the vestiges of the hand-me-down era of training that was preoccupied with spitting out bonafide soldiers as quickly as possible. Late last year, USAIS announced its plans to extend OSUT from 14 to 22 weeks. The extension is intended to give recruits more exposure to weapons systems and small-unit and individual skills in a less pressurized, hurried training environment.

But the OSUT extension is also a nod to how the military has had to evolve to accommodate the level of preparedness of incoming would-be soldiers. In a press release around the announcement of the new 22-week OSUT program, Colonel Dave Voorhies, 198th Infantry Brigade commander said the extension is geared toward establishing “firmer training fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, Soldier discipline, and more.” The extended OSUT allows for more time for soldiers to get up to Army standards while adequately preparing them for a faced-paced, technologically advanced battlefield.

Attrition among recruits is a perennial problem for initial training facilities like USAIS. According to recent reports, attrition rates across the Army training centers fall somewhere around 12-15%, a number that comes at a huge price tag. A study of Army retention published in 2020 by the Rand Corporation, suggests that the total sunk cost for a single enlistment — including outlays for training, wages, and other benefits given to recruits — is roughly ,000. This equates to a loss of roughly 0 million dollars annually.

According to a January report from Stars and Stripes, attrition rates of extended OSUT courses have fallen to below 6%, and on average, posted higher fitness scores than those from the 14-week course.

Training centers like USAIS also have to contend with new reports that link post-traumatic stress and anxiety to the heavy-handed methods often used in basic training, especially tactics like the “shark attack.” And while the induction of stress and anxiety into training scenarios has always been seen as a crucial element to preparedness, methods like the “shark attack” may not have that effect, especially on a green volunteer looking to serve their country. In fact, it “betrays the innate trust between teammates,” said CSM Fortenberry. “And worse — betrays the crucial bond of trust with our leaders.”

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Sgt 1st Class. Aleman assigned to Foxtrot 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment participates in the “Shark Attack” or fear stage of the discipline process, as trainees arrive to the First day of Basic Combat Training on 12 June 2017 at Fort Jackson, SC. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darius Davis/Released).

That breakdown of trust may prove to stick with soldiers long after they have left the training world. According to the American Institute of Stress, basic training environments which teach soldiers ’emotional numbing’ may in fact be unknowingly laying the foundation for PTSD. “Emotional numbing,” it states, “allows for the person to put aside feelings and do whatever it takes to survive or help others survive.” While this is, at face value, a positive trait for a soldier to have on the battlefield, it’s often that it remains as the mode of dealing with any stressors.

“Later such numbing may include a sense of not really being a person, feelings of not fitting in, that no one can understand, feeling or being told that one has no emotions, and not being able to feel emotions in situations calling for intimacy, tenderness, sexuality or grief. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma may include isolating, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes), and other compulsive behaviors,” the report states.

Essentially, the “shark attack” may be a cornerstone of a training approach that has been pre-conditioning soldiers to manage their military-related stress through ‘mental numbing.’ This ‘mental numbing’ may then lead soldiers to suppress subsequent feelings of stress that arise from combat scenarios which could exacerbate the effects of COS — Combat Operational Stress — and lead to permanent patterns of PTSD. In short, there is no basic ‘un-training.’

Interestingly, the rate of PTSD among veterans since Vietnam has been fairly consistent. According to information from the Veterans Administration, roughly 15% of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD resulting from combat service. That number was slightly lower in the Gulf War at 12%. For OIF and OEF, the amount of service-connected PTSD ranges from 11-20% year to year. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to PTSD. Further, the three aforementioned wars were markedly different in just about every aspect. That said, they all shared a common trait: the basic training doctrine.

Without further study into the relationship of the “shark attack” style training in basic training units and its long term effects on PTSD, it’s impossible to know if the two are connected. What is certain, however, is that the new approach ushered in by USAIS is a positive one, if only because it does away with the outdated training modules of a long-extinct type of warfare and refocuses on the needs of today’s soldiers to fight today’s battles.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


Articles

These vets opened a coffee cafe — and found community

If you’ve ever worked a job that you hate, you know how unfulfilling it can be spending hour after hour trying to stop day-dreaming scenarios in which your life hadn’t led you to this point.


A couple of years ago, Ben Owen and Brolen Jourdan found themselves in just this situation. Both veterans with history in the food service and hospitality industries, the office job life just wasn’t providing the stimulation or reward they were used to. Together, they decided to do something about it, and in July 2016, they opened the doors to their cafe, Liberation Coffee Co. in Coppell, Texas.

“We liberated ourselves from lives we were unhappy with and followed our dreams to open a shop,” says Owen, who in addition to needing a career change, saw a need within his community as well. “I live in the area and was always on the hunt for a craft shop that was convenient. It was a tough ticket to fill, so we built one.”

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.

Like many veterans, Owen’s experiences in the armed forces — he served both in the Army and the Air Force — have informed much of his worldview, including his philosophies on running a business.

“I think that my years in the service come through in our model quite a bit,” he says. “Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.”

The craft coffee industry can feel a little over-the-top, Owen says, sometimes sacrificing form for fashion. While latte art and trendy aprons can do plenty to garner the attention of consumers, they can act as a deterrent to people seeking a plain cup of coffee. He hopes he can bridge the disconnect he perceives between craft coffee and vets.

“I can’t speak for all vets, but I think there is definitely a disconnect between the veteran community and craft coffee shops,” Owen says. “We’re used to function over form, so a lot of folks don’t know what they’re missing. Using my veteran status, I hope to alleviate that disconnect and bring other vets some quality coffee they might not otherwise seek out. We offer a military discount, and I’m always up for talking shop with my fellow servicemen and women.”

This philosophy of function over form is evident upon entering the space. Absent are the forests-worth of wood, exposed brick walls, and upcycled furniture composing the aesthetics of many DFW specialty cafes. In their place are comfy armchairs, tasteful light fixtures and Ed Sheeran on the sound-system.

Despite these “second-wave” aesthetics, the underlying care for the craft of coffee is apparent from the Kalita Wave pour-over drippers on the shelves to the coffee taster’s flavor wheel poster displayed prominently on the wall.

Also read: A brief history of coffee in the US military

Liberation’s coffee is courtesy of Eiland Coffee Roaster’s, which, as one of DFW’s oldest specialty roasting companies, has been producing traditionally roasted coffees in Richardson since 1998. A variety of blends and single-origin offerings are available as both drip and pour-over, and while the espresso is dialed in, the milk could use some work.

In addition to coffee, a variety of pastries like a rosemary-provolone scone ($3.50) and blueberry bread ($2.59) are available from Zenzero Kitchen Bakery, as well as macarons in flavors like espresso, strawberry and honey (all $2) from Joe the Baker.

The food and coffee menus cover all the necessary bases for coffee-house expectations without complicating things too much, making decisions quick and easy. Drinks come out quickly as well, so if you’re in need of a commuter-cup in the morning, don’t let the absence of a drive-thru fool you into thinking you don’t have time to pop in and out.

Establishing a specialty coffee presence in an area like Coppell can be challenging, but Liberation Coffee’s lack of pretension, cozy and casual environment and friendly staff all bode well for their success in the area.

“We want to make coffee accessible,” Owen says. “The community here is very locally focused, so for us, it’s important to do right by these folks. We try to offer the very best we can to continue to support that local mentality.”

The brand has plans for a small expansion within Coppell, in addition to simply growing their business in their current space. They may have forgotten about Zenzero when writing their Facebook bio claiming the title of “first specialty shop in Coppell,” but it’s great to see the coffee community growing in the area all the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This C-17 crew broke diplomatic protocol to save a life

Air Force Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela was about to put the aircraft landing gear down in Shannon, Ireland, eight hours into a flight. If all had gone according to plan, he and his C-17 Globemaster III crew should have been more than halfway over the Atlantic.

He couldn’t see the runway because of dense fog, catching a glimpse of it from only 100 feet above the ground — the absolute minimum altitude to which the large transport aircraft can descend before its pilot must either call for a landing or to abort approach.

Somewhere below, an ambulance stood by, waiting to pick up a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.


“I was a little bit afraid of where the ambulance was going to be because I didn’t want him to try to run up on the jet while we still had engines running, because the fog was that bad,” Lampela said.

He recalls it as “the most challenging landing that I’ve ever done.” But on top of dangerous, foggy conditions, Lampela and the crew, call sign Reach 445, had just entered a country where they had not received diplomatic clearance before touching down.

“I wouldn’t do that unless it was an emergency,” Lampela said in a recent interview with Military.com, recounting the April aeromedical mission to transport the sailor. He and his team belong to the 14th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Senior Airman Kyle Bowers, left, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Cal Lampela, a C-17 pilot, are instructors assigned to the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Joshua R. Maund)

“If I’m going to fly into a country without diplomatic clearance, it’s going to be [over a potential] loss of life or [loss of] your craft or safety of flight,” he said. “We were … essentially a flying ambulance.”

The flight included Lampela, the aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Chris Puckett, a C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Ken Dickenscheidt, a C-17 pilot; Senior Airman Chris Kyle Bowers, a C-17 instructor loadmaster; Airman 1st Class Timothy Henn, a C-17 loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Scarmeas, flying crew chief of the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The decision they made to turn back from the U.S. and head to Ireland to save the sailor’s life got the Air Force’s attention: The six airmen are now under consideration for the Air Medal for making the right call under difficult circumstances. The sailor remains unidentified for privacy reasons.

“For their act of heroism and success in operating beyond what is expected and routine, Capt. Lampela and his crew were submitted to be awarded single-event Air Medals,” Lt. Col. Kari Fleming, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, told Military.com on June 10, 2019. “It is my honor to recognize this deserving crew with such a rare decoration.”

The medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight … in actual combat in support of operations,” according to the service. It can also be awarded to foreign military personnel.

“Our airmen dedicate their lives to serve this great nation to deliver lifesaving capabilities, so our wounded may return to their loved ones,” Gen. Maryanne Miller, head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), said in a separate statement. “The crews of Reach 445 highlight that our incredible airmen are our greatest advantage.

“Sound decision-making and superior care once again bring a hero home to his family,” she added.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on a flightline at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Jan. 9, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi)

Diverting the flight

The crew had begun their transit at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, reaching Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. But they had to delay the second leg of their journey because of bad storms on the U.S. East Coast. Their home base, Joint Base Charleston, had lost power; some squadrons there had been sent home early.

“We [were] just bringing some stuff from Al Udeid back home to Charleston, [and] we were in Germany for the crew to rest up,” Lampela said.

But “it looked like pretty terrible storms all the way across the East Coast,” he added.

Their delay meant they were the only C-17 in theater with the tools and space required to transport the patient to Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. They headed to Ramstein Air Base, approximately 70 miles away, to pick up medical teams from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“We were told that he was in such a state that Germany couldn’t care for him anymore, and Walter Reed [is] the best trauma center,” Lampela said.

With the six members of the crew, the patient and the Critical Care Air Transport Team, known as a CCATT, there were 17 people bound for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, said Bowers, the instructor loadmaster. The CCATT is known throughout the Air Force as a “flying intensive care unit.”

Col. Allison Cogar of the 313th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron, currently deployed to Ramstein, gave general background information on CCATTs. More specific information on the Reach 445 flight was unavailable for confidentiality reasons.

CCATTs typically transport a ventilator and monitors, along with other gear, she said.

“We have IV pumps, we have suction equipment — that’s kind of the standard equipment,” Cogar said. “We can augment that with other things that are specific to the patient.”

Teams can perform surgical tasks, she said, but “it’s pretty uncommon.”

“If I’m having a patient who’s having issues, I try and alert the crew early on so they can communicate with [air operations and command centers],” Cogar said of reasons why a flight would be diverted. “It’s much safer and better for the patient to do on the ground, where you have a lot more resources available to you. So we try and kind of pre-emptively fend off any of those things that we think we may need to do.”

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

A C-17 Globemaster.

Making the call

The sailor took a turn for the worse and needed immediate surgery. The medical professionals knew they’d have to divert or face a grim outcome.

“We were approximately halfway over the ocean when the patient started to destabilize,” Lampela said. The crew contacted the air operations center at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to strategize.

“They couldn’t get his blood levels under control,” Lampela said. “They brought enough blood for the flight, but he was bleeding out in one and, they thought possibly, two wounds. So they didn’t have enough blood to keep him stabilized. Secondly, we needed dialysis because his kidneys had failed, so they needed a hospital.”

The crew looked at the available options.

“I was probably four hours from the tip of Canada, which even making it to Canada, there was nothing until I hit probably stateside, and I was probably six hours from Boston. I was approximately two hours from Ireland, probably three to England, and [roughly] five hours to Iceland,” Lampela said.

University Hospital Limerick, about 30 minutes from Shannon airport, had the necessary equipment. They made the decision to turn around and head to Ireland.

In the back of the C-17, Bowers, the loadmaster, was trying to ease the stress, communicating back and forth with the cockpit and the cargo hold. He had already reconfigured the cargo hold to fit the sailor and the CCATT before they boarded.

Around 2 a.m., 60 miles from their approach to Ireland, Lampela got a call from air traffic control that fog had unexpectedly rolled in.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Air Force pilots in a C-17 Globemaster III during takeoff at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Wheels down in Ireland

Lampela had asked the pilots, Puckett and Dickenscheidt, to take turns in the co-pilot seat assisting, since they were about to do a Cat II minimum approach — meaning the pilot must make a decision whether to land at only 200 to 100 feet altitude.

“Keep in mind: During this time, I also have a patient who’s bleeding, and I don’t know how much time and I don’t know where else I can go,” Lampela said.

He added, “The landing itself was not eventful. But I will tell you, with a patient you have in the back, and going through 200 feet above the ground, and you still don’t see anything … you start to get really [anxious and hope] that you see the runway real quick.”

The sailor was taken off the C-17 five minutes after the aircraft landed. Soon after, Lampela was answering calls from both the Irish and U.S. embassies.

“They wanted to know several things, such as were we there to spy, or if we had anything that was not allowed in the country, such as guns or something like that,” he said.

Lampela called his chain of command in Charleston to say they would be delayed.

“I said, ‘All right, uh, don’t get mad. I declared an emergency. I’m in Ireland without diplomatic clearance or, if you hear something about me, it was warranted,'” he recalled.

After receiving clearance, the crew stayed in Ireland for 24 hours, waiting for the sailor to undergo surgery before flying him to Joint Base Andrews. He was transported in stable condition.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Soldiers and equipment disembark from a C-17 Globemaster III in southern Arizona.

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

Being versatile

“Essentially, you wake up in the morning, and there’s been many times where we’ve been picked off for different missions,” Lampela said. “So you’re actually going here, you’re going to this country, or a humanitarian issue pops up. So you’re never really sure of … what you think you’re going to do. But until you actually go do it, nothing’s really guaranteed.”

Air Mobility Command has logged 245 aeromedical evacuations in the first quarter of this year, moving 1,183 patients. Last year, airmen moved 5,409 patients in 866 aeromedical events, according to statistics provided to Military.com.

While some Reach 445 members had been on aeromedical tasking before, the critical level made it rare.

“Every situation is different,” Bowers said. “We’re constantly learning on a daily basis. There’s never going to be a similar incident. But as far as, are we going to do better, get better and are we going to be more prepared? Absolutely.”

“In AMC and in the flying world, we preach this attitude of readiness,” Lampela said. “I’m humbled to have been a part of this opportunity.

“We woke up; we weren’t expecting this. But because of our training, we were prepared to go out and do this. We were ready to go. And I’m glad it [turned out] OK,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Working with the Army helped this intern earn scholarship in STEM

An Army intern has received the nation’s premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering.

Nikita Kozak, an intern with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, is an Iowa State junior pursuing a mechanical engineering major. Kozak is now a recipient of a scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in STEM research.

Kozak is spending this summer working as an ARL High Performance Computing intern. He was one of 5,000 Goldwater Scholarship applicants from 443 institutes. Only 493 students were selected.

Kozak’s work at the Army lab is in optimizing gas turbine engines for variable speed operation. His experience working for the Army made him more competitive, he said.


“My time as an Army intern allowed me to develop into a better researcher and problem solver as well as providing me with real world research experience,” Kozak said.

The one-year scholarship is available to juniors and two-year scholarships are available to sophomores. It covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of ,500 per year.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Pictured left to right are ARL Sgt. Maj. Keith N. Taylor, undergraduate gold medalist Nikita Kozak, and ARL Outreach Coordinator Dr. Patrice Collins.

(U.S. Army Photo by Jhi Scott)

“This is quite a significant accomplishment,” said Dr. Simon M. Su, DOD Supercomputing Resource Center.

After graduating from Iowa State, Kozak plans to pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He hopes to one day establish his own multidisciplinary research group focused on engine design and computational modeling approaches at a national laboratory.

Kozak, who is serving on his second summer internship at the laboratory, is co-mentored by Army researchers Drs. Anindya Ghoshal, Muthuvel Murugan and Luis Bravo, from ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

“Nikita Kozak is an exceptional student who has demonstrated a superior ability to understand scientific concepts, communicate complex topics with ease, and values working in a military ST environment,” Bravo said. “He has an impressive drive to reach the highest academic levels and has reached important research milestones using High Performance Computing in support of Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. I am very glad to see him a recipient of the Goldwater fellowship.”

Kozak said plans to keep his options open and continue working with his Army research mentors as his pursues his doctorate in mechanical engineering.

“My Army mentors treat as a collaborator, allowing me to explore and learn with freedom and receive expertise when needed,” Kozak said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Once a Warrior by Team Rubicon’s CEO Jake Wood is more than a memoir; it’s a deep look inside the heart and mind of a modern American combat veteran. It’s also an extraordinary story of courage, loss and finding a beacon of hope within purpose. 

Wood’s journey to putting on a uniform and serving his country began in the most unlikely of places: Mauthausen. He was only seven years old when he toured the concentration camp in Austria responsible for murdering untold numbers of Jewish people. Wood was horrified by the evil that took place but also awed by the photos of the American soldiers responsible for liberating the prisoners. He wanted to be them. Although his father hoped there would never be anything for him to liberate when he grew up, 9/11 changed everything. 

When the towers fell during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 Wood was a freshman on a football scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. He felt a sense of guilt for choosing football over exploring West Point, knowing the country would be going to war. A few years later he watched the news as they announced the death of former NFL player turned soldier Pat Tillman. It shook him. Wood knew what he had to do. After he finished his last football game during his senior year, he announced he was going to the Marine Corps. 

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Wood served four years as a Marine with two combat tours, one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. His memoir will bring you in and out of his experiences at war and the life he tried to rebuild when he got home. Although he is best known now for being the CEO of Team Rubicon, the story of getting there wasn’t without hardship or loss. It was the culmination of so much that made him want to write his story. Ultimately, it was the birth of his first child that solidified his commitment to tell it. 

“My daughter was born two years ago and it made me want to try to put my life in perspective. That started a soul searching journey for me. Part of it was because I knew my daughter would ask me about my time at war. I felt like I owed her a better response,” Wood explained. He began writing some of the book over 10 years ago by chronicling the events of Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared that re-reading those words over a decade later not only caused a new reflection, but it forced him to come to terms with his experiences in combat. He was ready to put it all out there.  

As much as it was difficult for Wood to put his life in the pages of Once a Warrior, it was a relief at the same time. Ultimately, he hopes his story will inspire veterans to know their worth. “I think we have an entire generation of veterans who are hanging in the balance. Who they are going to become is whatever we tell them they are. If the broken veteran narrative prevails, we’ll have a generation of men and women lost to that. But if we reframe it and say, ‘You have so much more to give and you are stronger. America needs you, the battle isn’t over there it’s here,’” he explained. 

The chain of events that led to him finding purpose again was remarkable in that, had they happened any differently, the Team Rubicon and Jake Wood the world knows – wouldn’t exist. “The universe has this weird way of presenting us with these moments where decisions become really consequential,” he said. 

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

A year into building Team Rubicon, Clay Hunt – fellow Marine veteran and one of Wood’s closest friends – committed suicide. Although Hunt’s story has been told, Once a Warrior opens a curtain into the devastation and other myriad emotions Wood experienced in the days after. It’s a stark reminder of the cost of war that even having purpose couldn’t stop. “I just felt like people should hear his story. It’s played out 20 times a day in this country. I felt like if I could humanize that for people…when you hear Clay’s story, it makes it real,” he shared. Hunt wasn’t the only Marine that Wood lost. He wears the names and lives of four Marines on his wrist, a constant reminder for him to pay it forward because as he says, he survived and they didn’t. 

Too many people within the American public utter, ‘Thank you for your service,’ with a sense of rote memorization – a reaction when they don’t know what else to say. Wood wants them to take it deeper. “Most veterans want to share their stories, it’s a literal moral burden and by sharing it they are sharing the weight of those actions or experiences,” he said. “It’s important for the public to hear these stories, as democracy we send our sons and daughters off to war. It’s less than 1 percent of an all volunteer force and we owe it to them to understand what that actually means when we make the decision to use force overseas.” 

Once a Warrior pulls the reader in and out of the moments that changed the trajectory of Wood’s life and built the foundation of who he is today. It’s also a deep look into the raw reality of an American combat veteran’s life after war. The pages of this book offer a compelling account of courage and resiliency through devastating loss, but also…hope. Despite witnessing the horrors of war and disaster, Wood remains inherently hopeful for the future. When asked what he would say to those reading his story, he was direct. “My call to action for Americans would be… be worth fighting for. Live your life like you are worth fighting for.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How U.S. and allied firefighters practice for the worst-case

U.S. Air Forces in Europe Fire Academy members, assigned to the 435th Construction and Training Squadron, hosted a burn training during a USAFE NATO Firefighter Partnership course, Oct. 5, 2018, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“The participants did extremely well,” said 1st Lt. Justin Domingo, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron air advisor. “Most participants are already experienced firefighters so they generally have no issues.”


This training enhances interoperability with Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters and ensures all forces are qualified, trained, and knowledgeable rescue personnel.

“This is the third firefighting training course this year that we’ve hosted,” Domingo said. “We look forward to continuing these events in order to maintain the relationships we’ve built while developing our goal of NATO interoperability.”

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

Latvian and Lithuanian air forces firefighters extinguish mock fires during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Approximately 20 NATO ally firefighters participated in the five-day course focused on crash and fire procedure familiarization, enabling partner nations to work together in any situation.

“The NATO allies are always ready for a challenge and bring a lot of motivation and energy to every situation whether it’s just a classroom discussion or hands-on training,” said Staff Sgt. Germane White, 435th CTS fire rescue and contingency training instructor.

Losing my mind for America: A Veteran’s Thank You to Post Traumatic Stress

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Frank Butler, 435th Construction and Training Squadron fire rescue and contingency training instructor, waits for a simulation to begin during a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NATO Firefighter Partnership course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Students learned firefighting tactics such as nozzle operations, hose advancement, forcible entry, search and rescue operations, and confined space rescue.

“I feel honored to be an instructor for our NATO allies. They bring so much to the table and its monumental being able to instruct and help them with certain tactics they may not be familiar with.”

U.S. aircraft are present throughout Europe and at any given time an emergency can arise. By conducting this training, the instructors are prepping NATO allies for contingency operations and humanitarian missions.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information