Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee - We Are The Mighty
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Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

The Navy won’t file criminal charges stemming from the drowning death of Seaman James Derek Lovelace in SEAL training.


The San Diego County medical examiner had ruled the 21-year-old sailor’s May 6, 2016, death in a swim tank in Coronado a homicide, saying in a July 2016 autopsy report that the “actions, or inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death.”

Navy Cdr. Liam Hulin, director of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, reviewed the findings of a Naval Criminal Investigative Services probe and determined that Lovelace’s drowning “was not the result of a crime and will not pursue criminal charges against any personnel in connection with the death,” according to a statement issued on April 10 to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Lovelace family,” said Hulin in the statement. “No loss of life in training is an acceptable loss.”

A safety review into the incident that had been put on pause by the criminal investigation will now begin, according to the Navy.

The 21-year-old Lovelace died during Combat Swimmer Orientation, a test that takes place in the first week of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to assess a SEAL candidate’s swimming abilities.

Students tread water and perform what the Navy says are survival skills that include removing a swim mask, uniform, and their boots.

The county medical examiner’s autopsy report revealed that a SEAL instructor repeatedly dunked Lovelace and that the student’s drowning was exacerbated by a heart condition.

“To honor those who have fallen in combat we must provide the most realistic and operationally relevant training possible. To honor those who have fallen in training we must effectively mitigate the risks of that training,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Training Center.

[Naval Special Warfare] training has been refined over more than 50 years, informed throughout by lessons learned in combat overseas as well as in training at home. We learn not only from our successes, but also from operational and training failures, mistakes and accidents. While these tragic occasions are infrequent, they greatly impact our small close-knit force and magnify the responsibility we feel to our teammates who have paid the ultimate price.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull inflatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)

The medical examiner’s probe indicated that Lovelace suffered from an anomalous coronary artery, which might have contributed to sudden cardiac death during the intensive training exercise. Although Lovelace appeared conscious when pulled out of the pool, witnesses said his [skin] had turned purple, his lips blue.

Navy officials have long contended that the medical examiner’s homicide ruling meant only that Lovelace died “at the hands of another” and did not necessarily suggest a crime had been committed.

Lovelace was from Crestview, Florida. Navy officials briefed his father in Florida on April 8.

“We have maintained contact with the Lovelace family,” said Naval Special Warfare spokesman Capt. Jason Salata. “Our primary point of contact, is Seaman Lovelace’s father. He is designated as his official next of kin, as a courtesy the Navy has also reached out to Seaman Lovelace’s siblings and offered counseling and other services. As part of the prosecutorial review of this case, the father’s input was carefully considered.”

In an email to the Union-Tribune, Salata said that the criminal probe followed Pentagon protocols standard to any death that occurs in training. Led by the Navy Region Southwest’s chief trial counsel, a team of prosecutors with no ties to the SEALs reviewed the probe’s findings before they were forwarded to Naval Special Warfare’s commanders.

When asked by the Union-Tribune if any SEAL instructors would receive letters of reprimand or counseling statements for their role in the incident, Salata wrote that no other action “is being taken on anyone in connection with the case.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Students in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 279 participate in a surf passage exercise during the first phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf passage is one of many physically strenuous exercises that BUD/S class 279 will take part in during the seven weeks of first phase. (U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

Salata said that the Navy intends to make the probe’s findings public once criminal investigators close their case.

Lovelace was only in the first week of a student’s six-month odyssey to become a SEAL. A notoriously difficult course, only about a quarter of the candidates make it through without dropping out.

In the wake of his drowning, Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command paused the program to review and reinforce protocols for pre-training briefs, emergency action, and all in-water instruction procedures, Navy officials told the Union-Tribune.

The Navy added instruction on the signs and symptoms of water training injures and lifesaving procedures.

Today, two additional safety observers are in the water with the class, plus two safety swimmers at the water’s edge to remove struggling students quickly. The instructor-student ratio now is one to seven; it was one to 10.

In 2016, 75 students could be in the water at one time. Now, no more than 49 can enter the pool.

He was at least the fifth SEAL student to die during training over the past three decades.

In 1988, John Joseph Tomlinson, 22, from Altoona, Pa., died of hypothermia near the end of a 5 1/2 -mile ocean swim off Coronado in the 17th week of the 25-week course.

Ten years later, Gordon Racine Jr., 25, of Houston died during a pool exercise in his first month of training.

In 2001, Lt. John Anthony Skop Jr., 29, of Buffalo, N.Y., died during a “Hell Week” swim.

Three years later, Boatswain Mate 1st Class Rob Vetter, 30, died at a Coronado hospital days after he collapsed during a conditioning run in the second week of the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 90-year-old vet got an honorable discharge after 60 years

After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.


In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.

After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.

Also read: The first openly-gay service member fought the Air Force to a standstill

 

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Indicative of the changing times, a rainbow flag is placed in the ground for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month during the Picnic in the Park at Nussbaumer Park, June 27, 2015, in Fairbanks, Alaska. More than 200 flags were handed out to members of the 354th Fighter Wing and members of the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

She was discharged as “undesirable” and was denied any benefits, insurance, or severance.

Unable to face her family and without any assistance from the GI Bill, James moved to California and worked to pay for her own education, advancing her way through degrees in Physical Therapy.

Related: This Holocaust survivor recounts his daring escape from Auschwitz

In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.

And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
U.S. Air Force veteran Helen James with her military memorabilia. (Photo courtesy of Helen James)

For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.

“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”

Articles

F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

Articles

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Taliban have special forces and the tech to match it

In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.


Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.

Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.

The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.

No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?

“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”

Videos released by the Taliban depict their fighters training with even more advanced American weapons technology, including the FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle, AN/PEQ 5 visible lasers, and more. The SCAR is only used by the U.S. Special Operations Command, so seeing a Taliban insurgent carrying one came as a surprise to those in the know.

Articles

This company can ‘hack’ enemy drones for the US military

A Maryland-based company claims it can take control over an enemy drone while in flight without the use of jamming, a potential game-changer for the US military, prisons, and airports.


Started in 2010, Department 13 came out of DARPA-funded research into radio frequencies and Bluetooth technology. That was when CEO Jonathan Hunter realized his work could have real effects in mitigating radio-controlled drone aircraft — a frequent, and growing nuisance to militaries as well as the private sector.

“We’ve learned how to speak drone talk,” Hunter told Business Insider. Though D13’s technology has often been described as “hacking” a drone, he likes to describe it differently. Instead, his black box of antennas and sensors, called Mesmer, is able to take over a drone by manipulating the protocols being used by its original operator.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Drone technology. (Photo: DARPA)

Let’s say someone is trying to fly a commercial drone over the walls of a prison complex to drop off some goodies for inmates — a problem that is increasing as off-the-shelf drones get better and less expensive. The prison can use Mesmer to set up an invisible geofence around its physical walls that stops a drone in its tracks, or takes complete control and brings it into the prison and lands it.

“If I can speak the same language as the drone, I don’t need to scream louder, i.e. jamming” Hunter said.

D13 was one of eight finalists last year in a counter-drone challenge at Quantico, Va., where it stopped a drone out to one kilometer away, though the company didn’t win first place (the winner, Skywall 100, uses a human-fired launcher to shoot a projectile at a drone to capture it in a net). D13 also demonstrated the ability to safely land a hostile drone with its technology at a security conference in October.

Besides setting up an invisible wall for drones, Mesmer can sometimes tap into telemetry data the drone would normally send back to the operator, or tap into its video feed. In some cases, Hunter said, it could even track down the person flying it.

The system does have its drawbacks: It only works on “known” commercial drones, so the library of drones it’s effective against only covers about 75% of the marketplace, according to Scout. That number is also likely much less for non-commercial drones made for foreign militaries.

Also read: New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Still, once a commercial drone makes it into Mesmer’s library, it’s unlikely that a future software update would help it overcome D13’s solution. That’s because Mesmer focuses on the radio signals, not the software.

“There is not a single drone that we haven’t been able to crack,” Hunter said. “We’re working our way through the drone families.”

The company plans to have the system on the market this month.

Articles

A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.


The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.

Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.

“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
George Ybarra during his time as a US Marine. Photo from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.

Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.

An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.

The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Attorney Luis Parra. Image from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.

Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.

His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Photo courtesy of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”

Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”

A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”

When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Image from Department of Homeland Security.

“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.

A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.

Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.

“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Obesity is not only a health crisis for this country as a whole – it’s also deeply affecting the military’s mission readiness. The majority of young America is unfit to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Major General Michael Hall (ret.) has watched in alarm as the negative impacts from the rise in obesity overtook the country as he served in the Air Force from 1968-1995. As rates continued to climb, he saw how simultaneously the military itself became less fit and there began to be less viable candidates for a critically important service.


“I think if you go to the overarching issue, 71 percent of our young people are not qualified to serve in the military. That begs the question, ‘If you aren’t qualified to serve in the military, why? And what else does that keep you from doing because the military is a very broad based workforce,”‘ Hall said. “Obesity is a significant part of the failure to qualify.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

Although finding people able to serve is a struggle for the military, maintaining a fit and ready service is also becoming much more difficult. “Around a sixth of the military itself is obese so this problem doesn’t go away even if they were able to get into the military and then the epidemic continues to affect military readiness,” Hall explained.

In America’s military, obesity in its service members rose 73 percent from 2011 to 2015.

Quite literally, obesity is affecting our national security. When service members are unfit to deploy, there’s either a shortage in a unit causing safety concerns or it leads to continuous redeployments for others. Both outcomes impact the health and wellness of service members but also severely impact mission readiness as a whole.

It starts all the way at the beginning. Hall didn’t hold back as he addressed the true elephant in the room; the inability for a large portion of America’s children to get nutritious meals. “The bottom line is that there are many people in our society that don’t have ready access to nutritious meals,” he said.

In the 1960s and 1970s, only around 5 to 7 percent of children qualified as obese. Now, that number is around 17 percent, according to the American Psychological Association. Research has demonstrated that socioeconomic status plays a significant part in the rising rates of obesity in America. The CDC found that children within a household that had a higher education level and income had lower rates of obesity.

“It starts with awareness,” Hall said. “I think where we are right now is to help the broader population understand that there is a problem and that problem is being exacerbated.” It is his hope that communities will begin asking what they can do to tackle this issue and help young people not only develop good nutrition habits, but receive access to it as well – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

“I think we were in crisis before, that crisis has been a battle that over the past few years has stayed static… now we’ve got significant more challenge facing us,” Hall said. “We have to remember that there is a very fundamental societal health and service value associated with nutrition. All the programs put together to improve nutrition are stressed right now and unable to function as they were originally intended.”

With COVID-19 causing widespread quarantine-like policies to be put in place, it also means many children are losing their access to more nutritious food. Although states and communities have rallied to develop programs to get food to families in need, more needs to be done.

“I think a big part of this is that this message gets back to Congress, saying, look we are making a lot of choices now about what we support, but let’s not forget early childhood nutrition when we make these decisions,” Hall explained. “The lifecycle of the cost of obesity in America is huge.”

Obesity-related costs in this country skyrocketed to 7 billion in 2008. The Department of Defense spends id=”listicle-2647430404″.5 billion a year alone. Those who are active duty and obese are more likely to sustain injuries as well. In many cases, obesity starts with poor nutrition in childhood, leading to habits in adulthood that causes a catastrophic health domino effect. This epidemic is severely impacting the country’s health outcomes and its national security.

“I think that helps crystalize people’s thinking and understanding that this is a national challenge that also affects military readiness, but is far more than that,” Hall implored. “It’s important that people step back and look at this as a pandemic, a pandemic of obesity.”


Articles

This expert on the military mind effectively bridges the civilian-military divide – for free

Marjorie Morrison isn’t a veteran, and she’s not from a military family. She is, however, a psychologist who cares deeply about veterans and members of the military community.


Just over a decade ago, Morrison was a Tricare provider working in the San Diego area. In her time practicing mental health, although she treated many veterans and active duty personnel she had no real familiarity with the military or specific training for dealing with military patients.

“I didn’t know anything,” Morrison says. “In 2006, I started doing some short term assignments with active duty, and then in 2007 I went over to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. I was able to see recruits go from boys to men and to see the differences in the culture.”

One patient after the next, she noticed the significant circumstances and experiences that define life in the military as distinct from the civilian world.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Sgt. Stephen Wills, a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, instructs Marine enlistees to clean up their gear during a Recruiting Station Seattle pool function at the Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Wash., July 17, 2015. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder)

Morrison realized the military was facing a mental health crisis and that the system designed to provided services was broken. She was determined to change that. That’s what inspired her acclaimed 2012 book, The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis.

“I was invited over to Camp Pendleton to work with the 1st Marines,” she recalls. “They gave me 1,600 Marines to interview and get to know. I was working with a lot of transitioning Marines that were leaving the service, transitioning into civilian life. I saw how difficult that process was for them.”

Morrison began to train providers to work with the military — to give them the training she lacked when she first started. She wanted to ensure mental health providers didn’t have to go through the same struggles she did, and she was committed to seeing them get it right for their patients.

“I felt like I knew what they needed to know or could at least give them some foundation,” Morrison says. “When I did that, companies started calling me and asking to help train and educate them on veteran employees and PTSD issues.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
A psychologist evaluates a survival school student. Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape psychologists have more than a year of training and work independently in the field, supporting SERE training. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That’s how PsychArmor, a fast-growing and highly-respected nonprofit that Morrison established and now leads got its start. PsychArmor’s mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by providing free education and resources to help civilian individuals and businesses engage with veterans.

“I was given a million dollar gift to build it,” she says with a humble smile.

Not surprisingly, a lot of thoughtful contemplation went into the design and structure of PsychArmor.

“I knew that it wasn’t going to work live and in-person,” Morrison explains, acknowledging that in the 21st-century workplace, programs and services need to be delivered efficiently, using 21st-century technology. “It started out with training healthcare providers and employers. We now train caregivers and families, educators, and volunteers as well.”

PsychArmor recruits nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses about issues relevant to the military and veteran communities. The courses are self-paced and designed for anyone who works with, lives with, or cares about veterans. Even veterans in special circumstances take PsychArmor classes.

“People need to know what they need to know,” she says. “But if you have to travel to take a two-day course that covers everything, you might never do it. With PsychArmor, if you have an employee with PTSD-related sleep issues, you can come and learn about that on your own time.”

Morrison adds that other subjects can likewise be explored at any time, simply by logging on to PsychArmor’s platform “so we serve people where they live while allowing people to learn what they need.”

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Morrison (courtesy photo)

In its first year alone, the PsychArmor training center has seen such success and acquired such substantial expertise that it’s attracted enough funding to offer these courses for free.

“The response to PsychArmor’s work tells me the need is there,” Morrison says. “I think the general American really wants to help and do something. You can’t just throw money at it. What we offer are real solutions.”

What Morrison loves most about her work and her organization is its collaborative nature. She acknowledges she doesn’t know everything about the military mental health space and relies on partners to help develop PsychArmor curriculum. In addition to meaningful cooperation from the military service branches and the VA, a visit to PsychArmor’s website reveals an extensive array of partners from the nonprofit, philanthropic, corporate, and academic sectors.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
SAN DIEGO – Raul Romero salutes the national colors during a Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration in San Diego March 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)

In the end, it will take a lot more than PsychArmor to bridge the civilian-military divide, but Morrison’s leadership — along with the contributions of so many partners who believe in her vision — is having a notable and impressive impact.

“I know enough to know that I’m not going to be able to do it alone. It’s going to take all of us to rewrite that narrative,” she says. “For now, I feel like we are giving people an action item. PsychArmor is proof there is a need for that and there is so much more work that we have to do.”  

Thanks to Marjorie Morrison, bridging the gap together just got a bit easier.

Get started with PsychArmor’s 1-5-15 Course – three steps to help eliminate the civilian-military divide:

  • 1 Mission: Military Cultural Competency
  • 5 Questions You Should Ask a Veteran
  • 15 Things a Veteran Wants You to Know

Find many more courses on the PsychArmor website.

Articles

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Articles

Here Are The Best Military Photos Of The Week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


An Arizona Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Phoenix soars over a low layer of clouds during a flight to the Western Army Aviation Training site in Marana, Arizona.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

Decommissioned Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV 61) is towed away from Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. The Ranger is being towed to Brownsville, Texas, for dismantling.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Frost)

Army Pfc. Ryein Weber assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, qualifies with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Two Marines from Silent Drill Platoon practice spinning their rifles through the air to each other.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV)

Marines with Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division stand behind a blast blanket as detonation cord ignites, blowing the door in and giving them a clear passage to breach the building during an urban breaching course, aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff)

Dragoons assigned to Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment participated in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(Photo by Sgt. William Tanner, 2nd Cav Regiment)

Crews from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod conduct helicopter operations with Station Provincetown to remain proficient.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Enrique Ferrer)

NASA astronauts U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Virts and U.S. Navy Capt. Barry “Butch” Wilmore successfully completed their tasks on their third spacewalk in eight days, installing 400 feet of cable and several antennas.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(Photo: NASA)

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), floats to the drop zone during the annual African-led training event Exercise Flintlock 2015 held in Mao, Chad.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Clegg)

U.S. Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire their M777 towed howitzer at high angle as part of Table VI Section Qualifications on Fort Bragg, N.C.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joe Bush)

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 274, are exposed to M7 A3 riot control CS gas by aggressors during a field gas event conducted part of the Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) Field Exercise held at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Orlando Perez)

Army Pfc. Aaron Hadley assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, qualifies at night with the M240 machine gun on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

A soldier assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 15-05 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard W. Jones Jr.)

U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, Right Wing pilot Lt. Matt Suyderhoud flies in formation with the Diamond pilots over Naval Air Facility El Centro during a practice demonstration.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

NOW: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator 

AND: 13 Signs You’re An Infantryman

Articles

ISIS is so worried about the coming Mosul invasion they’re cutting off the Internet

A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.


Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.

“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.

It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”

The crumbling situation for rebel forces inside Mosul comes as U.S., Iraqi and Syrian Democratic forces continue to squeeze ISIS in the east of Iraq and to the north in Syria, with nearly half of the critical junction town of Manjib, Syria, taken from ISIS and troops flowing into the newly recaptured Q-West airfield near Mosul.

Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.

“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”

Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.

“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”

As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.

 

Articles

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.