This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans' PTSD - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

 


This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
(Photo: Molly Potter)

“Every kid has a dream to be an astronaut,” Air Force veteran Molly Potter said. “But by college, these dreams become less and less important for most. That was not so for me.”

Potter attended Embry-Riddle to major in Space Physics and Space Engineering. While there she tried to start a military career in Army ROTC, but soon found it was not for her. Many of her friends were in Air Force ROTC. She liked the mentality and decided it was the best way to get to where she wanted to be.

“I was a 13-Week Wonder,” Potter says. “I loved it and a quickly did my best to be come a stellar officer.”

She and her then-husband were “poster airmen” at Eglin Air Force Base. He was an AC-130 navigator who deployed all the time; she was a weapons specialist, awarded Company Grade Officer of the Year in her first year. By the time she was promoted to first lieutenant, she had caught SOCOM’s eye.

Going from her desk job to deploying to Southwest Asia with the US Special Operations Command was far from Potter’s comfort zone.

“They gave me a gun and a backpack and basically told me to go,” Potter recalls. “I was essentially a one-person band out there with the Army and Marines. I didn’t realize what I was experiencing.”

And she experienced a lot, even for a munitions specialist.

“Afghanistan was the place I felt most respected on all levels,” Potter says. “The men in JSOC and SOCOM were utmost professionals. They only cared that I did my job, and they needed me to save their asses on occasion. I had the same respect they had for me.”

One night, as the sun went down, a rocket attack knocked Potter out. A cement barrier saved her life, protecting her from the frag.

Like many veterans of recent conflicts, the blast caused her traumatic brain injury.  Little was known then about the effects of blasts on the brain, and she was sent home without a diagnosis.

After her deployment, she was assigned as a flight test engineer with test pilots, the next step in her path to becoming what she wanted since childhood. She attempted to numb herself from the emotional turmoil.

Her role was quick-turnaround acquisitions for special operations missions. Watching the munitions she procured from the airplanes or from monitors and how they killed combatants on the ground, even seeing what she calls ‘the Faces of Death,’ coupled with seeing her own life flash before her eyes changed the way she saw her role in the war. Her whole life was dedicated to becoming an astronaut, but here she was engineering ways to make killing more efficient.

“They were supposed to be getting this star officer,” Potter remembers. “Instead, they got a struggling officer, fresh from Afghanistan, who wasn’t sleeping or eating, and whose marriage was falling apart.” She refused to take leave yet struggled with this difficult program, full of the world’s best pilots.

Her memory started to fade, and she couldn’t even get through a day’s work. It hit her one day when she was driving home from after flying military aircraft on military orders, but suddenly couldn’t remember how to get home.

“I realized then I needed help,” Potter says. “But I didn’t want to lose my clearance, my career. But my commanding officers started to notice there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t really there.” It all came crashing down in 2013, when a motorcyclist ran into her car in Las Vegas and Potter suffered a total mental breakdown. Her leadership realized what was happening.

“I was lucky my command realized I had a problem,” Potter says. “Instead of disciplining me, they told me ‘the Air Force broke you and the Air Force is going to put you back together.'” Recovery soon became her full time job.

“I was a high suicide risk,” Potter admits. “Therapy was very tough for me. Halfway through, I started to stall. I was having nightmares. Even with my mom there, things were not going well. I was suppressing all this awful shit and having horrible nightmares. That’s when I got Bella.”

Bella is Potter’s “100 percent American Mutt.” When Potter experienced intense Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and refused to leave the house, it was Bella who forced her to go outside. She had to be walked, after all. Bella also had to be fed, watered, petted, and cleaned. She became Molly Potter’s reason to get out of bed, to get out of the house.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Molly with Bella. (Photo: Molly Potter)

“She slowly started bringing my life back,” Potter says. “I started realizing she was waking me up in the middle of the night when I was having nightmares. She prevented my panic attacks and my night terrors. I started progressing with my therapy and becoming myself again.” Bella’s effect on Potter was so strong, her therapist suggested she train Bella as a service dog, and that’s exactly what she did.

In the meantime, the Air Force began to wonder what to do with Potter. She did lose her clearance and could no longer fly, but she didn’t have disciplinary issues, so her command wanted to work with her to help her find a new Air Force role or help her transition to the civilian world.

In her preparation to leave the service, she started to work at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at Nellis Air Force Base, to help troubled Airmen and families or help those who were also transitioning. Bella would come with her, to keep her calm and bring her back in case of a panic attack or breakdown. The families visiting the AFRC loved her, but not everyone was a fan of Bella in the workplace.

“I got a lot of pushback for this service dog,” Potter says. “There was no regulation for service dogs and uniformed personnel.”

A potentially troubling situation took a turn for the best one evening, as Potter brought Bella to an Air Force Association Symposium in Washington, DC. She happened to run into Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and then-Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning.

She told the senior leaders how great her therapy was and how the Air Force PTSD therapy helped her. Then she told them about her concern for regulations regarding service dogs and that one should be written. They both agreed. Now active duty Airmen and Soldiers on PTSD therapy can use working dogs to help them cope as an accepted practice.

“Bella saved my life,” Potter says. “She changed the tide of my therapy and gave me the confidence to be Captain Potter again.”

The CSAF and the SECAF gave their full support and attention to this issue and Potter now uses her story with Bella as a way to help promote getting help while in the military.

“It’s not the only way, but it was my way,” Potter remarked. “I was anorexic, divorced, and suicidal. Five month changed my life. I had horrible experience in Afghanistan, but by the time I left the military, I was happy, sleeping and had a support network to start a new life.”

Potter now lives and works in Austin, Texas. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Air Force Association and works to match service dogs to other veterans facing the struggles she once faced.

“I still think women on the battlefields is a positive thing,” she said. “War isn’t in the trenches anymore and women bring a more creative, sometimes necessary softer tone to the fight. In the future, critical thinking could be crucial to winning and I think women in these roles bring new solutions to the problems surrounding war.”

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 31 edition)

Greetings from WATM HQ in Hollywood and TGIF. Here are the headlines:


Now: The most incredible sieges in military history

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army confirms development of ‘next-generation’ rifle by 2022

Despite some reports to the contrary, the Army is still looking for a new rifle that uses a 7.62mm cartridge.


“The chief [U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley] wanted an interim combat rifle, or he was only going to fulfill a requirement to have a squad-designated marksman in each squad, called a squad-designated marksman rifle,” said the Army’s top gear guyer, Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings. “So, there are two efforts going on to get a 7.62 inside the squad.”

What are those two efforts? Cummings said that course of action No. 1 is to have one Soldier in a squad carrying the Squad-Designated Marksman Rifle, or SDMR. Course of action No. 2, he said, is to have multiple Soldiers in a squad with the Interim Combat Service Rifle, or ICSR. Both are 7.62mm weapons.

The SDMR is already a program of record for the Army, Cummings said, and there is a weapon already identified to fill that role: the M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS. That weapon is undergoing testing now, Cumming said.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Who’s gonna get new boom sticks? You’re going to have to wait a bit longer to find out. (US Army photo)

But the ICSR and the SDMR do not represent the future for what weapons will be issued to most Soldiers.

“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR or SDMR,” Cummings said. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”

The Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, is actually two weapons, he said. It’ll include one rifle to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and then a carbine that replaces the M4. Both the M249 and the M4 use the 5.56mm cartridge. The NGSW will likely use a different caliber cartridge than 5.56mm.

“For the next-generation, we wanted to make one end-all solution,” Cummings said. “With the M4, when you look at it, it’s got all these things hanging on top of it. We keep evolving by putting on things. The next-generation is going to be kind of like what we did with the pistol, with the modular handgun system. It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”

The general said the U.S. Marine Corps is “on board” with development of the NGSW, and the British are interested as well.

Cummings said the Army can expect to start seeing the Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2022, in about five years. That’ll include the weapon, magazine and bullet. Later, by 2025, he said, Soldiers can expect to see a fully-developed fire-control system.

Until then, Cummings said, the Army is working on an interim solution to get a larger-caliber rifle into the hands of at least some Soldiers. It’ll either be the SDMR in the hands of one Soldier, or the ICSR in the hands of some Soldiers. But, he said, “the final decision has not been made.”

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
A slide from a 2016 briefing by the late Jim Schatz who argued the .264 USA round being used by the Army Marksmanship Unit could be the perfect caliber to replace the 5.56 and the 7.62. (Photo from DTIC.mil)

Fielding the M17 pistol

Come November, the XM17 handgun, also called the “Modular Handgun System,” or MHS, will drop the “X,” which designates it as “experimental” and will instead be called the M17.

At that time, the Army is expected to reach a conditional material release for the MHS, and will issue some 2,000 of the pistols to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The “Screaming Eagles” will be the first in a long line of units to receive the new 9mm pistol, which is meant as a replacement for the existing M9, which is quickly approaching the end of its useful service life.

Also among the first to receive the new pistol will be the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, as well as one of the Army’s new security force assistance brigades.

All three units will have the new M17 handgun issued to them by the end of the year, Cummings said, who serves as Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

While the XM17 pistol is manufactured by Sig Sauer and is based on Sig Sauer’s existing P320 pistol, Cummings brushed off comparisons between the two weapons.

“It’s a different weapons system,” Cummings said.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

As the Program Executive Officer Soldier, Cummings is responsible for managing those Army programs that provide most of the things Soldiers carry or wear. That includes, among other things, individual and crew-served weapons, protective gear, weapons sights and sensors, and uniform items.

The general said that both the M17, which is a full-sized version of the pistol, and the M18, which is a compact version, include different safety features than the P320 pistol, as well as different requirements for accuracy and reliability.

Cummings also said that the new pistol may see more action than its predecessor, the M9, which was primarily issued as a personal protection weapon.

“We’re looking at more than the traditional basis of issue, where we are doing a one-for-one replacement,” he said. The M17 and M18, he said, have also proven good for close-quarters combat, and so might be issued to some units and Soldiers to fill that role as well.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.

It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.


Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.

No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved?

There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.

These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

No. They were not told.

According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.

Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.

In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.

These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax

This is the call to action!

Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.

Here’s how to contact your Senator.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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Here are Gary Johnson’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
(Photo: Business Insider)


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

What key policy positions does your party hold that made you choose to be affiliated with it?

Fundamentally, Libertarians believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices, provided those choices do not harm others. And in foreign policy, we are very hesitant and skeptical when it comes to intervening in the affairs of other nations when there is no clear U.S. interest at stake. We are not isolationists, but we err on the side of nonintervention unless intervening is necessary to protect and defend the U.S. and its citizens.

In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

There are many issues facing today’s military men and women. First, they need and deserve a Commander-in-Chief who will not send them into harm’s way as part of a vague foreign policy that has too often involved intervening in conflicts with no clear outcome or U.S. interest. Our military must be second to none and invincible as a national DEFENSE. But it must be used judiciously with clear congressional authorization, rules of engagement that do not put our troops at unnecessary risk, clear objectives, and clear U.S. interests at stake.

Likewise, when we ask our military members to put their lives at risk for our freedoms, we must give them concrete assurances that their families will receive the support they need and deserve. And they must know that when they leave the military, our commitment does not end. The transition to civilian life is not easy and presents unique challenges. From the GI Bill to medical treatment to emotional support, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat the members of the military as we would our own families.

What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

I did not serve in the military. However, my father is a World War II veteran, and in his older years, has been a patient in the VA health care system. Also, as Governor of New Mexico, I had many opportunities to work with the veterans’ community — and it was an honor to do so.

In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

It is an inexcusable disgrace that the VA system has failed so many veterans. There can be no short-changing or equivocation in meeting our obligations to those who serve, and making them suffer at the hands of a failed bureaucracy must not happen. We all know there are many dedicated, caring health care professionals in the VA system. The failure is at the top and in the bureaucracy.

First, we must broaden the health care options through vouchers or a similar mechanism by which veterans can go outside the VA system to private providers if doing so will allow better and timely care. However, for the many for whom the VA system remains the most accessible and convenient care, and for whom the VA has unique capacities to serve the needs of veterans, we must also fix that system. As Governor, my greatest satisfaction came from applying common sense business practices to improve state services. It was amazing how many times simply asking the right questions and applying obvious solutions could easily resolve problems caused by the bureaucracy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the VA.

Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12 – 26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

The most important priority for improving employment opportunities for military spouses is to create an economic environment in which there is robust demand for whatever skills they have to offer. As long as job-seekers dramatically outnumber jobs, the realities of military life will present challenges in that competitive marketplace. Frequent relocation, “single parent” responsibilities and other factors common among spouses create obstacles, and we must face that fact.

At the same time, I believe there are a great many employers who are anxious to help support our military families. There is much government at all levels can do to simply help connect military spouses with those employers. The Presidency is a powerful voice and can be used to lead that effort.

Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Almost without exception, my speeches include my belief that entrepreneurship is the key to America’s future. I am an entrepreneur myself, having started in business as a one-man “handyman” and growing that business into a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. Thanks to technology, never before have entrepreneurial opportunities been greater — and military members enter the game with the right skills to succeed. My highest priority as President will be to create a level playing field, end crony capitalism and otherwise remove obstacles to small business ownership and success. I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and my policies will, across-the-board, be intended to maximize entrepreneurial opportunities.

Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

As Governor, and if elected President, removing the shackles from education innovation was and will remain one of my passions. I firmly believe that education entrepreneurs will revolutionize — for the better — the ways in which our kids learn, if only they are allowed to do so. Federal mandates, outdated public school restrictions and lack of flexibility have made it difficult, if not impossible, for educators to fashion educational opportunities that meet the needs of individual students.

Clearly, the children of military families do face unique circumstances. However, accommodating those circumstances should not be difficult if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has burdened U.S. schools for decades.

To me, the first step toward creating flexibility is to remove the Federal Department of Education as a stifling force. If allowed to do so, the states will become laboratories of innovation, and obviously, those states with significant military populations will adapt to the needs of that population.

There are few, if any, problems with credit transfers, varying curricula, etc., that cannot be readily addressed if teachers, local schools, and parents are allowed to do so — with common sense and creativity.

What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

In business, and even more so, as Governor, I succeeded by seeking the smartest and most qualified counsel I could find. I thoroughly enjoyed digging into problems and challenges, understanding them, and making informed decisions. I think my record speaks to my success in doing that. Perhaps even more important, I would bring to the job of Commander-in-Chief a clear vision of what our military should be asked to do — and what it should not be asked to do. I am a skeptic when it comes to deploying military force, meaning that I will do what it takes to defend this nation, but I will approach any such deployment by asking the tough questions and leaving no doubt in my mind that putting our military men and women in harm’s way is absolutely necessary. And I will never put those men and women in harm’s way simply to pursue a political agenda.

Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

I am a leader to whom the decision to use military force will be the most serious decision I will make. The members of our military will not be sent into war simply to replace a government we don’t like. They will not be asked to “rebuild” nations who have defied rebuilding for hundreds of years, and they will not be asked to somehow resolve conflicts in other nations that we simply cannot resolve. Members of the military take an oath to protect and defend this nation. That is precisely what they will be asked to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And if and when I do make that decision to send the military into harm’s way, I will ensure that they will go without the burdens and dangers of politically-correct restrictions, that they will have the resources and support they need, and that their mission will be clear.

Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces – an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

Joining Forces is precisely the type of public-private partnership that a White House can encourage and promote with great effect — provided the commitment is real and the effort maintained. When the initiative was announced, Ms. Obama and Dr. Biden made it clear that the intent is that it will continue beyond their husbands’ tenures. That is as it should be.

What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

Take the time to examine my record as Governor and my “record” as a person. I am an athlete, an adventurer who thrives on accepting and meeting challenges, an entrepreneur, and a public figure for whom hypocrisy is the cardinal sin. You can keep track of our campaign at JohnsonWeld.com, and on our various social media platforms.

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Updated: AWOL female engineer has turned herself in

Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:


According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Photo: Youtube/Election2016

Erika Lopez enlisted in July of 2015 to much fanfare as the Army was first opening the combat engineer military occupational specialty to women.

She went on convalescent leave from basic training and was scheduled to return Jan. 4. Once she failed to appear, she was listed as AWOL. After 30 days, an AWOL soldier’s status is changed to deserter unless there is evidence that something has happened to the soldier or that he or she is confined.

The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.

While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.

Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.

*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the person of leisure (POL):

~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.

Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.

Read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.

And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.

But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwT83EgpxL0
Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.

Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”

With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Articles

4 military fails so awful they’re actually hilarious

1. That one time the Australian Army fought a bunch of emus … and lost

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Pretty intimidating, no? Photo: Flickr


Australia’s known for being a pretty badass country — a worthy reputation when your nation is populated by a bunch of outlaws on one of the world’s harshest continents. What Australia doesn’t want you to know, however, is that in between all that crocodile-wrangling and kangaroo-eating, it got its butt kicked once by a bunch of flightless birds.

The year was 1932. Australian farmers were struggling to save their wheat crops from a fierce, egg-laying pack of scavengers that had migrated into the area. And we’re not talking a pesky flock of chickens, either. This was a battalion of 20,000 emus.

Being Australian, the farmers figured they could probably take out these birds themselves. That plan quickly failed, since there were simply too many birds to handle, though one does wonder how they attempted to solve the problem in the first place (maybe some vegemite traps?).

Regardless, the crops were failing and it was decided reinforcements were necessary. Enter the Royal Australian Artillery. Major G.P.W. Meredith led two regiments of machine-gun wielding Australian soldiers against the bird infestation, figuring the issue would be taken care of in a few days.

He was wrong.

The emus proved wilier than expected. They dodged bullets with shocking finesse, weaving in and out of troops and scattering into the brush before they could be herded together. Many of the birds that were hit still got away — whether because of their dense feathers or sheer force of will, they would not not bend to the Aussie military.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
These guys don’t mess around. Photo: unrealfacts.com

Meredith decided to up the ante, organizing a surprise ambush near a dam where 1,000 emus were gathered unawares. This failed as well. Ego bruised, Meredith decided that the only way to destroy an army of demon emus is to do it yourself. In what no doubt would have made a soul-stirring slow-motion montage, Meredith climbed in the back of a truck and manned its machine gun, firing at the birds as he sped beside them.

The emus outran the truck, leading it through terrain so uneven and wild that the vehicle ended up crashing through a fence in its pursuit. As the emus disappeared into the sunset, the AA had no choice but to accept defeat.

According to Scientific American, Dr. Murray Johnson’s entries in Journal of Australian Studies reflect Australia’s humorous response to the skirmish:

“On 8 November, it was reported that Major Meredith’s party had used 2,500 rounds of ammunition – twenty-five per cent of the allotted total – to destroy 200 emus,” says Johnson. “When one New South Wales state Labor politician inquired whether ‘a medal was to be struck for those taking part in this war’, his federal counterpart in Western Australia, responded that they should rightly go to the emus who ‘have won every round so far’.”

In the end, less than 1,000 of the 20,000 emus were killed, and the farmers were left to weep over their wheat and gather an army of wallabies to fight back. Totally kidding — the government decided to cut out the middleman and give the farmers the ammunition they needed to finally fry the birds, taking the lives of 57,034 emus and restoring peace once and for all.

2. The time Japan deployed a new battleship and flooded Nagasaki

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
There’s no flooding, just go about your business… Photo: Getty Images

The saying “bigger is better” is traditionally an American mantra, but the Japanese Navy tried it on for size in 1940, and the results were pretty hilarious.

Not yet at war with the United States, Japan still wanted to assert military dominance. The plan? Build the biggest battleship it had ever commissioned, and call it the Musashi.

Now, Japan understood that an incredibly large battleship would not be impressive unless it was also outfitted with incredibly large weapons. To remedy this, the Japanese Navy decked out the Musashi with the best of the best. Amongst the weapons on board were cannons that could fire 18-inch shells over 26 miles and 9×450 mm guns — stats that were impressive for any military at the time.

What Japan did not take into account, apparently, was how much this thing would weigh. When the Japanese Navy joyously deployed the ship into the sea, the mammoth watercraft displaced so much water (63,000 tons) it caused a four foot high tidal wave, flooding the riverbank homes of Nagasaki and totally killing the mood.

The Musashi‘s wake capsized nearly all of the ships in the surrounding harbor, and did some serious damage to the shops and houses closest to the water’s edge. Frightened citizens rushed into the streets as water poured through their doors, completely bewildered by the source of the flooding.

They were quickly urged back inside their water-sogged homes by the Imperial Navy, which was too embarrassed to tell the people of Nagasaki what had actually gone down. It makes you wonder what they did blame it on…

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Photo: Flickr

3. A pilot ejects from his plane and watches it fly itself

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Sometimes in life, things go incredibly wrong. And other times, they just go incredibly weird. 1st Lt. Gary Foust was preparing for the first scenario during a test flight in 1970, when his fighter jet began an uncontrollable flat spin. After struggling to regain control of the F-106 interceptor jet for a few moments, he did the smart thing and pressed the eject button 8,000 feet above the ground.

Or … he thought it was the smart thing. Once his chute deployed and buoyed him up in the air, Foust looked down towards the ground, expecting his plane to light up like the Fourth of July upon impact. What he saw instead was his plane cruising along, as if the spin had never happened and it was being piloted by a very casual, aircraft-savvy ghost.

One of Foust’s wingmen, Maj. Jim Lowe reportedly shouted over the radio “Gary, you better get back in it!” But Gary could not get back in. All he could do was watch with wonder as his plane flew itself in a straight line before landing gently in a snow-covered wheat field.

When police arrived on the scene, the F-106’s engine was still running. Wary of whatever had possessed this thing, the Air Force suggest the cops wait until the plane ran out of fuel, rather than attempt shutting it off. It took a while.

When the plane finally breathed its last it was collected and repaired by the Air Force, and eventually returned to active service. Freaky.

Check out the video below to hear Foust recount the events of that day:

4. Helicopter pilots nosedive into Lake Tahoe for a Facebook pic

Back in 2010, two presumably experienced and level-headed pilots from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41) were flying MH-6OR helicopters over Lake Tahoe. Everything appeared to be normal, when suddenly one of the aircrafts took a dip in the water, like a pelican trying to nab a fish.

Civilian witnesses caught the whole thing on video, and everyone wondered what the heck was going on. Had the engine failed? Were they trying to practice a mock search and rescue mission? The women in the video below seem to think its some sort of elaborate training exercise:

The answer is no. The pilots had the $33 million chopper surface-hover incredibly low over the water to try and get a cool profile picture for their squad’s Facebook page. And no, we’re not kidding.

The pilots allegedly took their hands off the controls to snap photos of one another flying the choppers. Then one helicopter began to plummet through the air, quickly losing altitude and skimming the water. The pilot was able to regain control and bring the chopper back up out of the water, but the stunt cost a cool half-a-million dollars worth in damages to the electronic flying antenna and other expensive equipment.

When they returned to base, the unnamed pair immediately lost flight status — shocker. Let it be a lesson to us all to not do it for the Vine, or the Facebook profile picture.

NOW: 4 amazing military stories that should totally be movies

OR: The 6 scariest military vehicles of WWI and WWII

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How the Marine Corps took money from this charitable gunny

Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.


Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.

Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Marine Staff Sgt. Jared C. Coons receives the 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Spirit of Hope Award during the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award Ceremony at the Pentagon Library, Nov. 19, 2013. (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.

But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.

Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.

Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.

Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.

“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”

Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”

But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.

Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.

The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.

“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”

Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.

He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.

“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”

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Here’s Osama bin Laden’s letter to the American people

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD


Osama bin Laden’s undated letter to the American people is one of 113 documents declassified by the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.

The letter, seized in the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout, begins: “To the American people, peace be upon those who follow the righteous track.”

The document is part of a second batch translated and released by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The first set of papers was declassified in May 2015.

In the four-page letter, bin Laden writes:

The way for change and freeing yourselves from the pressure of lobbyists is not through the Republican or the Democratic parties, but through undertaking a great revolution for freedom … It does not only include improvement of your economic situation and ensure your security, but more importantly, helps him in making a rational decision to save humanity from the harmful [greenhouse] gases that threaten its destiny.

Read the full document below:

To the American People

Intel

This Army veteran charged the Oregon college shooter to save others

During the shooting on Oregon’s Umpqua Community College campus, a 30-year-old Army veteran named Chris Mintz attempted to charge the gunman while trying to save others. The Daily Beast reported this was his fourth day back at school at UCC and is also his son’s sixth birthday.


He heard the gunshots and charged at the attacker to prevent him from entering the room. Mintz was shot at least five times and had two broken legs, but survived his wounds, undergoing surgery at a local hospital.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD
Facebook Photo

Mintz is a North Carolina native who joined the Army right after graduating from high school. He was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington and moved to Oregon after leaving the Army and wants to be a personal trainer.

His family members told Greensboro, NC FOX affiliate WGHC both of his legs are broken and he will have to re-learn to walk, but he is now recovering and expected to survive. No vital organs were hit.

The gunman killed ten people before first responders killed him.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photo captures F-35 transitioning from sub-sonic to supersonic

The photograph in this post shows a U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) “Salty Dogs” during a test flight. Released by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, the image was taken as the stealth aircraft, carrying external AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles), flies transonic: indeed, what makes the shot particularly interesting are the schlieren shock waves that flight test photographers captured as the JSF transitioned from sub-sonic to supersonic.

Schlieren imagery is a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique, used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena: a clear understanding of the location and strength of shock waves is essential for determining aerodynamic performance of aircraft flying at supersonic speed in different configurations, for improving performance as well as designing future jets.


“Schlieren imaging reveals shock waves due to air density gradient and the accompanying change in refractive index,” says the NASA website that published an extensive article about this particular kind of photography few years ago. “This typically requires the use of fairly complex optics and a bright light source, and until recently most of the available schlieren imagery of airplanes was obtained from scale model testing in wind tunnels. Acquiring schlieren images of an aircraft in flight is much more challenging. Ground-based systems, using the sun as a light source, have produced good results but because of the distances involved did not have the desired spatial resolution to resolve small-scale shock structures near the aircraft.”

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

This schlieren image of a VX-23 F-35C flying transonic shows the shock waves generated by the stealth aircraft.

(US Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

Noteworthy, while schlieren imaging dramatically displays the shock wave of a supersonic jet (image processing software removes the background then combines multiple frames to produce a clear picture of the shock waves) change in refractive index caused by shock waves can also become visible when aircraft move at speed much lowen than transonic, as shown in photographs taken in 2018.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

A T-38C passing in front of the sun at supersonic speed, generating shockwaves.

(NASA)

Here what I wrote last year about a crazy cool image of an F-35 flying through the famous Star Wars canyon taken by photographer Jim Mumaw:

At speed lower than the transonic region, air flows smoothly around the airframe; in the transonic region, airflow begins to reach the speed of sound in localized areas on the aircraft, including the upper surface of the wing and the fuselage: shock waves, generated by pressure gradient resulting from the formation of supersonic flow regions, represent the location where the air moving at supersonic speed transitions to subsonic. When the density of the air changes (in this case as a consequence of shock waves) there is a change in its refractive index, resulting in light distortion.

Generally speaking, shock waves are generated by the interaction of two bodies of gas at different pressure, with a shock wave propagating into the lower pressure gas and an expansion wave propagating into the higher pressure gas: while the pressure gradient is significant in the transonic region, an aircraft maneuvering at high-speed through the air also creates a pressure gradient that generates shock waves at speed much lower than the speed of sound.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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There are achievers and then there’s this Marine astronaut, surgeon, and mathematician

Story Musgrave has more than 18,000 hours in over 160 aircraft. He is a parachutist with over 800 freefalls. He has graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. He has been awarded 20 honorary doctorates. Oh, and he was a part-time trauma surgeon during his 30-year astronaut career.


It all started with his decision to become a United States Marine.

“My horizons started to expand when I went off to Korea in the Marine Corps. As the saying goes, you join the service to see the world. That’s when my horizons began to expand.” – Story Musgrave

Franklin Story Musgrave grew up on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. From an early age, he showed a remarkable intelligence and physical ability. At age 5, he was building homemade rafts and by age 10, he was driving trucks. By 13, he was fixing trucks. He attended a co-ed prep school which would have prepared him for a comfortable life in the post-World War II era, but instead of finishing high school, he decided to run off and enlist in the Marine Corps.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

“I was an airplane mechanic for the Marines in Korea at the age of 18, and that’s when I got introduced to things that don’t come home. Challenger was not an engineering accident. NASA was told about the problem [of the O-rings in low temperature]. So then the memory turns to solid anger.”Story Musgrave

He eventually did get a GED while serving. Musgrave spent his time in the Corps in Korea as an aviation electrician and instrument technician and later as an aircraft crew chief aboard the USS Wasp. After leaving the Marines, he almost averaged a new degree every year from 1958 until 1964, including his medical doctorate from Columbia University. He would earn another Master’s degree in Chemistry in 1966 and a degree in Literature in 1987 at age 52.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Any hand I’m dealt, I will play to the best of my ability.” – Story Musgrave

Musgrave is also an accomplished pilot, earning FAA ratings for instructor, instrument instructor, glider instructor, and airline transport pilot. He also earned his astronaut wings in 1967.

“Space is a calling of mine, it struck like an epiphany. That occurred when NASA expressed an interest in flying people who were other than military test pilots. And when I was off in the Marine Corps in Korea, I had not graduated from high school, yet and so I could not fly. And so, I was not a military test pilot, but as soon as NASA expressed an interest in flying scientists and people who were not military test pilots, that was an epiphany that just came like a stroke of lightning.” – Story Musgrave

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut and then worked on the design and development of the Skylab Program. He was also the backup science-pilot for the first Skylab mission.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

What’s really unique about Musgrave’s astronaut experience is that he flew on all five space shuttles, the dates below are for his first flight in these ships. He flew aboard Challenger twice:

  • Challenger, April 1983
  • Discovery, November 1989
  • Atlantis, November 1991
  • Endeavour, December 1993
  • Columbia, December 1996

Musgrave described the Space Shuttle as “very fragile” in an interview with Time Magazine, calling a “butterfly bolted on a bullet.”

His shuttle missions are extraordinary (among shuttle missions) as well. On board the Challenger‘s maiden voyage, he and Don Peterson conducted the first Space Shuttle Extra-Vehicular Activity (or EVA, a spacewalk, a mission outside the spacecraft) to test new space suits. On his Endeavour flight, he helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Still, despite all his accomplishments (this doesn’t even cover most of them), Musgrave’s ribbon rack is one of a true Marine.

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

“I’m massively privileged to be part of the space program, and I never forget to say that,” he told Huffington Post in a 2011 interview. He plans to return to space as a tourist.

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