Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Google has long been on the forefront of new advancements in technology and products. Now, they are using their massive platform to support veterans in need.

With America quickly approaching 20 years at war, the needs of her veterans continue to rise. With the added stress of the pandemic, things are at a critical point. Post-traumatic stress diagnosis’ are rising and veteran suicides continue to dominate headlines. Google wanted to do something to combat those numbers and give back to those who served. The company began working with veteran employees as well as outside stakeholders and nonprofits to create a site dedicated to veteran resources.


“Men and women who served should be able to find help when they need it. We hope this website will provide helpful, authoritative information on mental health for veterans and their families,” Jose Castaneda, Google Spokesperson, said. It is with this in mind that the “Serving Veterans” initiative was created.

The site itself will be specifically geared toward veterans and their families. With minimal clicks, the search engine will bring them to the resources that they so desperately need. Google also formatted the site to include personal stories and videos from a broad and diverse group of veterans, which include well-known military leaders. The aim is to demonstrate that seeking help shouldn’t cause hesitation and that recovery through support can happen.

Code of Support Foundation CEO Kristina Kaufmann was thrilled with the program Google created. “The Code of Support Foundation is thrilled to see a global leader in technology like Google prioritize the needs of our nation’s veterans, their caregivers and their families with the launch of the Google for Veterans program,” she said.

The Wounded Warrior Project recently released a survey reporting that COVID-19 has significantly impacted veterans specifically, causing 52 percent to report that their mental health is even worse with the pandemic. The military itself has also stated that suicides have risen by 20 percent in 2020, which can most likely be attributed to the pandemic. All of this was fuel for Google to quickly assemble support for America’s veterans.

Recently, The Bob Woodruff Foundation shared that, “The COVID-19 pandemic creates at least three conditions: emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation and unplanned job or wage loss that could culminate in a “perfect storm,” threatening the mental health of many veterans.”

“We are proud partners in this effect to reach and serve more of those who served our country. This launch represents a shared commitment by Google and Code of Support to ensure veterans and their families can easily find and connect with local community-based resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention at a time when these numbers are rising tragically,” Kaufmann said.

Google has put much of their focus in recent years in serving the military community with tools for transitioning and employment. This appears to be one more way for them to continue its commitment to give back to the 1 percent of America’s population that swears to defend and protect us all. By creating an easily accessible site to help veterans and their families find the support they continue to honor that commitment. One veteran at a time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 28th

It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.

To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.

Let these memes help soothe the pain.


Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Lock Load)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Shammers United)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via PNN)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via WWII Pattonposting)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Meme by Ranger Up)

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13 US Coast Guard Legends

In a service whose mission includes rescuing lives in peril, it’s hard to pick and choose legends among so many heroes. The Coast Guard’s history is filled with ordinary men who rose to the challenges presented by extraordinary circumstances. Here is a list of 13 folks who embodied the Coast Guard ethos:


1. Douglas Munro

 

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The ultimate hero of the Coast Guard is arguably Douglas Munro. As he commanded a group of Higgins boats at the Battle of Guadalcanal, Munro coordinated the evacuation of more than 500 Marines who came under heavy fire, using his boat as a shield to draw fire. During the evacuation, he was fatally wounded, but his last words were, “Did they get off?”

2. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Lt. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty was the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812 and served at the front lines of the Battle of Corregidor as the Japanese took the Philippines. A 1934 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy where he was an accomplished athlete, Crotty served as an skilled cutterman before being attached to a Navy mine warfare unit. After several different positions in the Pacific Theater, Crotty found himself attached the Marine Corps Fourth Regiment, First Battalion, as the Japanese forces attacked the last American stronghold. One eyewitness report says that Crotty supervised army personnel manning a howitzer dug-in until the American surrender on May 6, 1942. Crotty was captured by the Japanese and taken to Cabanatuan Prison, where he died of diphtheria.

3. William Flores

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On January 28, 1980, the USCGC Blackthorn collided with a tanker in Tampa Bay, Florida. Seaman Apprentice William Flores, just eighteen years old and a year out of boot camp, stayed on board as the cutter sank, strapping the life jacket locker open with his belt, giving his own life jacket to those struggling in the water, and giving aid to those wounded on board. He was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard’s highest non-combat award, the Coast Guard Medal.

4. Ida Lewis

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After her father had a stroke, Ida Lewis took over as the keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse, Rhode Island. Over her 39 year career, Lewis saved 18 lives. She was one of the earliest women in the Lighthouse Service, which later was combined with four other services to become the Coast Guard. Lime Rock Light has since been renamed Ida Lewis Light, and a coastal buoy tender was named in her honor.

5-8. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton in the icy waters offshore of Chatham, Cape Cod, Mass. had been a legend told by generations of Coasties. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey climbed aboard a 36-foot-long motor lifeboat and saved the lives of 32 sailors after their tanker split in half during a storm in February 1952. For their heroism, the crew received the Gold Lifesaving Medal and their heroic efforts were immortalized in the Disney movie, The Finest Hours.

9. Nathan Bruckenthal

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal is one of the modern Coast Guard heroes. In April 2004, Bruckenthal and a team including Navy and Coast Guard personnel intercepted a small dhow in the North Arabian Gulf. As they attempted to board, one of the terrorists aboard detonated a bomb that was powerful enough to overturn the American vessel alongside, wounding several of the men. Bruckenthal later died from his injuries, the first Coast Guard war casualty since the Vietnam War. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

10-12. David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call snowshoed more than 1,500 miles to Point Barrow, Alaska to rescue hundreds of fishermen who were trapped in ice after winter came early in 1897. During the three months it took them to reach their destination they engaged with native communities along their route, healing illnesses, teaching more effective hunting techniques, and arbitrating legal disputes. For their heroism, the trio received Congressional Gold Medals. All three have Coast Guard cutters named in their honor.

13. Miles Imlay

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Coast Guard Captains Edward Fritzche (left) and Miles Imlay (right) discuss the invasion of Omaha Beach on a relief map laid out in the hold of the Samuel Chase. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Captain Miles Imlay commanded a group of Coast Guard landing craft at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, as well as during all other major amphibious landings across the shores of Europe in World War II. Imlay was the second in command of one of the groups that landed at Omaha Beach and under constant, heavy fire, commanded a vessel off the beaches during the entire invasion to make sure that the landing craft went to the correct location. He received a Silver Star for his actions on D-Day, and the Legion of Merit for invasions in Italy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Vietnamese and U.S. Navy SEALs worked together in this famous rescue

During the famous rescue of navigator “Bat 21 Bravo,” a U.S. and a Vietnamese Navy SEAL took the lead role in a dangerous operation behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, rescuing two aviators with no friendly losses despite running into enemy patrols and positions during the 11-day ordeal.


Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Numerous attempts to destroy North Vietnamese resistance from the air and rescue the downed aviators by helicopter failed, causing 14 American deaths and additional casualties before air rescue was outlawed for the men.

(U.S. Air Force)

While the rescue was widely popularized in a movie and book, both named Bat 21, the stories told were written before the events were declassified, so they were highly fictionalized to ensure that no sensitive information was inadvertently released.

But the true story is more amazing. Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was forced to eject over Vietnam on April 2, 1972, triggering a mad dash by the U.S. to recover him before he was captured. Then, multiple rescue attempts went sideways in the first week. Seven more aircraft were lost, 14 Americans were killed, two were captured, and a new aviator was missing behind enemy lines. The theater commander forbid more helicopter extractions and the SEALs were ordered up.

A U.S. Navy SEAL, Lt. j.g. Tom Norris, led the mission alongside a Vietnamese Sea Commando team with its own lieutenant team leader.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

An Air Force composite photo shows the tough terrain that the downed aviators had to cross to reach the river in hopes of rescue in April 1972.

(U.S. Air Force)

The men started by swimming their way up the river as the two targets of their rescue were directed to move to the river and start floating down. The aviators were given coded directions that combined landmarks from their home states and their hobbies. Clark was rescued on April 10, but Hambleton had trouble reaching the river.

Hambleton finally reached the river on the night of April 11, but the SEAL command post, meanwhile, had come under artillery barrage and two of the Vietnamese commandos had to be evacuated. The rest of the team was increasingly hesitant to risk their necks for American service members.

An April 11 rescue attempt with four members failed, and two of the Vietnamese commandos were obviously too frightened to continue.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Viet Cong irregulars move through a river in shallow boats like the one used by U.S. and Vietnamese commandos during the rescue of Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton in April 1972.

(U.S. Army)

So, Norris asked for volunteers to make another, even deeper penetration into NVA territory. Nguyen was the only volunteer. The two men stole a sampan from a bombed-out village, disguised themselves as fisherman, and started making their way back upriver during the night of April 13.

The two commandos nearly ran into enemy troops multiple times despite the dark, but managed to get their hands on Hambleton, weak and confused from his ordeal in the jungle. They started back towards friendly lines, but were spotted and had to fight a running gun battle down the river.

They were forced to pass NVA position after position, taking fire at each point and trying to keep their wounded, sick, and delirious package alive. Norris was forced to call in multiple airstrikes, and the Air Force dropped smoke bombs after their explosives to create a screen for the SEALs to maneuver behind.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton after his rescue.

(U.S. Air Force)

Finally, the three men made it back to friendly lines and were able to get Hambleton to medical care. For their efforts, both the Vietnamese and the U.S. SEAL would be awarded medals for valor.

Nguyen received the Navy Cross while Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor for his days of risky search and rescue.

Nguyen was ineligible for the Medal of Honor because he was not an American service member. He was admitted to U.S. SEAL schools following the ordeal, though, and graduated the underwater demolition team course and the SEAL advanced course. He later became an American citizen.

MIGHTY GAMING

Holy sh*t – the new ‘Battlefield V’ trailer is as brutal as the War in the Pacific

You can forget about video games glorifying violence. All that went out the window with the latest iteration of the Battlefield franchise. The new trailer for Battlefield V brings us to World War II in the Pacific Theater and the epic throwdown between the United States Marines and Imperial Japan. The game appears to depict the actual desperate tactics and explosive fighting when East met West in the 1940s.

Get ready for a game that shows the bloody aftermath of banzai charges, flamethrowers, and what happened when two of the world’s most storied, dedicated, and effective fighting forces went head-on.


The Battlefield series is getting back to its World War II roots as DICE brings players back to the Pacific War for the first time in ten years. If you loved Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 1943, then Battlefield V Chapter 5: War in the Pacific needs to be on your “must list” this October. The new Battlefield features the amphibious assaults we’ve come to expect and the all-out war that only this series can muster.

Prepare to land United States Marines on the beaches of Iwo Jima in one of the first two new Battlefield maps with authentic, iconic weapons of the era, including the M1 Garand Rifle and the M1919A6 Browning Machine Gun. True to the history of engagements between the Japanese and American Marines, the game also features the use of the traditional katana carried by Japanese troops, and the flamethrower used by the Marines in the Pacific, both of which are featured heavily in the trailer above. The Iwo Jima map will be released at the end of October, and you’ll be able to defend Wake Island in December – just like the Marines did in 1941.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Not sure if the flamethrower tank is available for in-game use, but it should be, amirite?

(EA)

Also coming is a new “Pacific Storm” map, where players will fight the elements along with the enemy while securing points of control using ships, planes, and tanks in an island-hopping campaign of their own design. Among those planes is the Marine Corps’ legendary F4U Corsair and the Sherman tank, weapons that are now synonymous with American forces in the Second World War.

If you need a Battlefield refresher on Xbox One, PC, or PlayStation 4, there are free Grand Operations trials happening now through Monday, Oct. 28, and another free trial weekend on Friday, Nov. 1 through Monday, Nov. 4. Trials can be played once per EA account and per computer.

Battlefield V is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Follow Battlefield on Twitter and Instagram, like on Facebook, and subscribe to the YouTube channel. Hop in and join the Battlefield Community on the Battlefield Forums, Reddit, and Discord.

For more about Battlefield V Chapter 5: War in the Pacific, check out the official web page here.

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How these combat vets are getting back to their American roots

For many of us, one of the hardest parts of service is hanging up the uniform for the last time. After spending an entire career learning the ins-and-outs of war, you’re being thrown into the lion’s den that is the civilian workforce and, for once, you feel unprepared.

But veterans have tools that civilian employers are beginning to recognize: Our undying drive for success, a willingness to get our hands dirty, and a natural ability to lead.

And there’s no better place to apply these skills than in the agricultural industry.


Watch the documentary below to see this group of veterans apply what they’ve learned in the military to the farming world, and see how this course can help change lives.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(Tribeca Studios)

Tribeca Studios and Prudential Financial teamed up to create a documentary about a class of veterans who attend a six-week hydroponics training course through Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, or “Archi’s Acres,” a program accredited by the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

In it, veterans from all corners of the country bond over their shared experiences, using what they’ve learned in service to create something from seemingly nothing.

“The journey back into civilian life can be incredibly challenging for many reasons,” says Chuck Sevola, head of Veterans Initiatives at Prudential. “Innovative programs like this one provide consistent and focused support from people who understand the challenges that veterans face, which is critical to helping our servicemen and women find quality, purposeful work and peace of mind after their military service.”

Spending time sowing, growing, and cultivating a harvest isn’t just about learning a new skill, it can also help veterans who are going through post-traumatic stress.

“Archi’s Acres is a path into becoming someone else, and something else, involved in something bigger and better than the combat we may have experienced. Being able to communicate that to other veterans that I see, who are maybe in a place of hurt, and showing them that there is another option — that can be life-changing. That’s been instrumental in giving me a healthier outlook.” says Jon Chandler, one of the course’s beneficiaries.
Articles

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, crawl through a simulated battlefield J on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink


The March 18 suicide of Muslim-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui days after he began boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, highlighted allegations of hazing and resulted in the firings of several senior officers and leaders at the depot.

But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.

In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.

The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.

That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.

Punitive action

In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.

The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.

Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.

“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”

A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.

Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.

Singled out

In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.

Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.

In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.

Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.

On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.

He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.

Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.

The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.

“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.

Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.

In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.

Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.

The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.

Leaders relieved

In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.

Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.

On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.

Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.

Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.

Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.

These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.

“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran found his lifeline at the end of a leash

After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.

Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.

“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.

Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.

After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes his service dog Romeo for a walk around the building.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.

After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.

“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”

Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.

“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.

Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.


“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.

It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.

This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.

“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.

“That’s just way too many,” he said.

During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.

After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.

“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.

“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.

He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.

“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.

That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes his service dog Romeo for a walk around his work center.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.

“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.

“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.

When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.

Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.

He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.

For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.

These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.

“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”

Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.

“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.

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The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.

“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”

Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.

“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.

“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”

When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Elon Musk is wrong about fighter jets (but right about drones)

Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.


“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
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Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.

(Senior Airman Christian Conrad/U.S. Air Force)

Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.

When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.

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An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)

But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.

In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.

“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
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U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)

The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.

“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jesenia Landaverde)

The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.

Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.

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This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.

(USAF Photo)

A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.

At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
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(DARPA)

In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.

“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”

So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.

To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.

In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.

Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”

Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis: For the first time in 70 years, Pentagon will audit defense spending

The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.


Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.

DoD funding process

He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.

“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.

And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”

This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.

“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”

More lethal military

Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”

Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.

“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.

Pentagon reform

After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”

New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.

“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.

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

Articles

Report finds VA suicide hotline lets many crisis calls go to voicemail

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General found calls at the main VA suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, New York allowed calls to go to voicemail, and that some are never returned due to inadequate training and an overloaded staff.


The hotline was the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which profiles several Veterans’ Crisis Line counselors who work the 24-hour service to provide support and guidance to active and retired servicemen dealing with emotional, physical and financial troubles.

“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said a VA report filed in February 2016.

The VA estimates every sixth call is going to the backup center, where callers listen to Muzak while they wait for an operator. The VA has no information on how long the callers wait or how many give up because the backup centers are not monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since the suicide hotline was created in 2007, it has received more than two million calls and intervened on 53,000 separate occasions. The new report recommends obtaining and analyzing data on hold times, implementing call monitoring for the crisis line staff, more rigorous training with a rigorous quality assurance process.

 

Articles

The Navy is now creating its own version of ‘Waterworld’

The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.


No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.

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Artist’s impression of USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3). (USMC image)

The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.

It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.

According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.

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USS Ponce. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Kummer)

“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”

The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.

MIGHTY FIT

6 exercises you can only do with a battle buddy

Not every service member has access to a fitness center where he or she can get their daily pump. Whether you’re deployed on a small patrol base or out in the field training, not having access to workout facilities means troops have to get pretty clever in making up new exercises.

Many workouts are designed around using free weights, but, in their absence, you can to turn to an asset that you’ll never be without: your battle buddy.


Using a battle buddy during PT will help boost morale, pump up your muscles, and get you ready to take the fight to the bad guys. Try these:

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1. Battle-buddy push-ups

We can all do push-ups on our own when we want to. However, to make the exercise more difficult, call for the services of one of your brothers or sisters. They can add more weight to the push-up load.

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2. The human wheelbarrow

This exercise works out the same body parts as the push-up. One member of the team lifts up another (who is in the push-up position) by their legs and, in unison, they both begin walking forward.

One troop is simply walking as the other has to keep pace by quickly pumping their arms. After a while, this movement builds up those pectoral and shoulder muscles big-time.

This maneuver will also improve communication skills by helping troops practice relaying information during strenuous activity.

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3. Fireman squats

The military teaches us how to properly carry a wounded service member to safety on our backs. This process works your entire body hard as the wounded person’s weight bears down on your shoulders.

To best prepare for this type of movement, we do fireman squats. If the time comes where you actually need to carry the wounded, it’s best to be prepared.

This exercise is similar to the deadlifts and squats you do at the gym — except now have a person on your back.

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4. Buddy drags

Every Marine in the Corps performs this exercise several times a year with a buddy. The idea is to simulate dragging your wounded brother or sister to safety when a fireman carry isn’t an option. It’s also a great all-around bodybuilding exercise.

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5. Towel bicep curls

This is the same exercise you’ve done once or twice a week in the gym to buff out your arms. This time, however, involve a towel and your battle buddy.

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

6. Buddy crunches

When a troop has no other option for keeping his feet static during a crunch, he calls upon a buddy to sit on them. The military is notorious for having sit-ups as a part of a regular fitness routine.

During our PFTs, it’s great to have a battle buddy who can only count in fours.

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