Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal


Imagine that you’re out playing a game of afternoon football and you fully tear your ACL. No doctor would simply give you a diagnosis and some medications then send you on your way. Instead, you’d likely have surgery followed by regular physical therapy. You’d also learn more effective warm ups and conditioning and use them on a regular basis to stay injury-free in the future.

The same principles apply for recovery from post-traumatic stress injuries, sometimes called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS/PTSD). With the right behavioral health practices, it is possible to experience either total healing or marked improvement for mild to moderate stress injuries.

The idea that PTSD is an unalterable lifetime sentence is neurologically untrue.

Stress Injuries vs. PTSD

Stress injuries are very natural responses to unusual situations and exist along a spectrum. Whether you’ve experienced a single traumatic event or multiple stressors over a long period of time, your body likely responded in a totally appropriate way by adapting to the threat. Your nervous system kicked into high gear – your body and brain woke up and went into overdrive.

Your response was vital to navigating a stressful or dangerous situation well. However, now that imminent danger is past, your stress response may still activate out of context. When this happens, empathy may disappear, your focus may degrade, and you may struggle to make logical decisions.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
(Photo: Army.mil)

It’s true that severe stress injury (also known as PTSD) is a complicated disorder. However, healthcare practitioners often apply the “chronic” label to mild or moderate stress injuries – which are 100% recoverable. This label can be psychologically deadly – sapping resilient people of the agency they need to learn and apply tools to quickly de-escalate the body and brain’s response to perceived threats.

The truth is that PTSD is not everyone’s stress injury. A misdiagnosis suggests irrecoverable brokenness, and can layer on a host of additional anxieties and worries.

Road to Recovery

One of the most empowering first steps you can take toward recovery is to seek out information about stress physiology – work to understand what is happening in your body.

Self education is an incredibly empowering step. You’ll discover that your out-of-context responses are natural, and you’ll simultaneously find ways to calm your body and mind through a variety of self care practices.

When you put these tools into practice on a daily basis, your body and brain will respond in some really interesting ways. Your neurons will fire differently, you’ll shrink the amygdala (the part of your brain that activates the fight or flight response) – your brain will literally start to look different. Stress hormones will drop, too.

Not only will your body and mind change, but so will your behavior. You’ll find that you’re better able to handle a fight with your partner. You’ll be able to focus better and exist with more empathy. Of course, you’re still human. Your stress response will still fire. But by practicing effective self care, you can begin to respond to others in a more deliberate way.

But what if my stress injury is severe?

Some people experience permanent changes to their brains. If your injury co-occurs with a Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, or an anxiety disorder, that is totally normal, but incredibly challenging. When you have a major stress injury and you’re dealing with a chronic condition, the symptoms can be extremely debilitating.

The symptoms of severe stress injuries can be improved upon, but – much like a bad back injury – you may need to accept that your condition will need to be managed for many years to come.

* For severe stress injury, you will need highly individualized clinical help. Seek medical guidance and talk to your clinician about your specific stress injury and wellness techniques.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

About the Author

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is just now feeling the sting of global terror

Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.

All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.


Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.

(Press TV)

A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.

Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.

In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.

Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.

Also: This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.

The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.

MIGHTY CULTURE

To DITY or not to DITY?

With each set of PCS orders, I wonder whether we should consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM), which is the official name of what most of us call a DITY, or Do It Yourself move. It’s tempting — you hear stories of military families making tons of money, and it seems like there is less chance of damaged goods. If you’re considering a DITY move this PCS season, here are six questions you need to ask yourself:

How much reimbursement will you get?

For most people, the main reason to consider doing a DITY move is to make a little money. Before you get started, be sure you understand exactly what you will and will not receive, whether you do a DITY, a full government move, or something in between.

All service members who are executing PCS orders are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements, including:

  • temporary lodging,
  • monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage),
  • per diem for travel days,
  • dislocation allowance.

When you do a DITY move or a partial DITY move, you’ll also get an allowance for moving your belongings, based upon the distance and weight moved. From that allowance, you pay all the expenses of the move: packing materials, hired help, the actual transportation of your goods, and unpacking. Any excess reimbursement beyond your actual expenses is taxable income.

Contact your personal property office to be sure you understand your entitlements and the reimbursement requirements for your branch, including when you need to have your vehicle weighed (empty/full/both? start/finish/both?).

Can you manage an upfront cost?

All branches have a process for getting an advance of a portion of your anticipated move reimbursement, but it doesn’t always work out as expected. If you decide to do a DITY move, you should plan to pay for all expenses out-of-pocket and expect that it may take months to be reimbursed.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Is moving yourself realistic?

Doing a DITY move is work, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things like a piano or old-school entertainment center. Do you realistically have the time, mental energy and physical strength to pack up everything you own, load it safely onto a truck — or into a moving container — and unload it all on the other end?

Do you have a lot of professional gear?

One major limitation of a full DITY move is there is no way to separate out professional gear weight. Service members and their spouses are permitted to deduct the weight of certain specified work-related items from the overall weight of goods. Separating professional gear is a big help if you are close to your weight allowance.

Will you be able to keep track of the paperwork?

DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military — requirements may vary by branch. Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income.

TIP: Experienced DITY movers recommend a designated folder or envelope for receipts, but also taking a photograph of every single receipt when you get it. Upload the picture to the cloud to ensure you’ll always have access to a copy.

Have you considered a partial DITY?

One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of a DITY move without the work is to do a partial DITY, which separates your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion you do move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure you want to do a full DITY, or if you have certain items you want to move yourself.

DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if it is the right option for you.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Benefits breakdown

In episode 157, we spoke with Army veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week’s Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.

The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory — also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest — is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps veterans to do just that.


The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.

Helping Veterans Become Whole

www.youtube.com

VA created four main hubs for instructing those granted into the program: Minneapolis, MN; Tampa, Fl; Richmond, VA; and Palo Alto, CA.

In this episode we look at:

  • How the program started.
  • How a Veteran can apply to the program.
  • Some Examples of the technology being developed.

Enjoy.

#BtBattle Veteran of the Week: Marine Corps veteran Meredith Keirn.

Check out the full episode.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the first steps of the War in Afghanistan unfolded

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States led a coalition of forces to invade Afghanistan. The mission, known officially as Operation Enduring Freedom, was intended to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had masterminded the 9/11 attacks and to topple the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda within its fundamentalist stronghold. The Taliban had held most of Afghanistan in thrall since 1996, imposing its extreme version of Islam on the populace and perpetrating a well-documented list of human rights abuses.


The invasion began on Oct. 7, 2001 with air strikes against Taliban defensive positions and al-Qaeda training grounds in Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. Most of the Taliban’s outdated surface-to-air missiles, radar, and command units were destroyed on the first pass, along with its modest fleet of MIG-21 and Su-22 fighters. Having crippled the Taliban defensive response, the Coalition Forces Command gave the Afghan Northern Alliance the go-ahead to begin a ground invasion, with U.S.-led coalition forces providing air and ground support.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
Members of 10th Mountain in Afghanistan during Operation Mountain Serpent on 12 September 2003. | US Army photo

The groundwork for large-scale military action in Afghanistan had been laid in secret in the weeks following 9/11 by a small CIA liaison team codenamed ‘Jawbreaker.’ The team had staged covertly in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, in order to coordinate with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. During the same period, President George W. Bush formally demanded that the Taliban relinquish bin Laden to the U.S. for prosecution and destroy al-Qaeda bases, brooking no discussion nor negotiation of terms.

They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.

The Taliban refused to comply and “The War on Terror” began in earnest.

By November 12th, the Taliban was routed in Kabul. Three weeks later, Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, was captured, driving Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar into hiding and the remaining al-Qaeda forces into the mountains of the Tora Bora region. Skirmishes continued between al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban indigenous forces, as U.S. Special Forces teams worked to locate the mountain caves into which al-Qaeda leadership had retreated. However, by the time the caves were captured, Osama bin Laden had escaped into neighboring Pakistan. He would remain at large until 2011, when he was finally apprehended and killed by SEAL Team 6.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
A U.S. Navy Corpsman searches for Taliban fighters in the spring of 2005. | US Marine Corps photo

In the vacuum of governance left by the expelled Taliban, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders was assembled under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the U.N. Security Council to handle security in the region. Karzai was elected President in 2004 in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic elections. But even as Afghanistan began to take its first wobbly steps as a young democratic nation, the Taliban was regrouping on the Pakistan border. Soon they launched a wide-ranging insurgency, conducting guerilla-style attacks on Afghan Security Forces and targeting members of the new administration. Despite the continued intervention of U.S. military might in the region, the insurgency continues.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army vet proves doctor wrong by achieving ‘the impossible’

Tell her she can’t, she’ll tell you, “Just watch me.”

U.S. Army veteran Twila Adams won the prestigious Spirit of the Games Award at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky. The award is given to one wheelchair athlete out of hundreds across the nation, Great Britain and Puerto Rico who exemplifies the heart and soul of the Games through leadership, encouragement and a never-give-up attitude.

But that spirit is not just on display at the Games. Adams’ positive attitude only got stronger since the 1994 car accident that put her in a chair.

“My parents raised me to believe the impossible, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. Don’t tell me I can’t. Don’t tell me I won’t. Tell me what’s next and what I have to do, because I’m still here,” she said.


Adams, who gets care at the Salisbury and the Charlie Norwood Augusta VA Medical Centers, served 11 years in the Army, with tours in Korea, Turkey and a deployment to Desert Storm, until road marches and bad knees caught up with her.

But three years after leaving the Army, another vehicle ran a red light as she was turning right.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

“I swerved and missed her and just bumped another car. I wasn’t even going fast, but I could only move my mouth and eyes. I knew then there was something wrong.

“I heard the doctors telling my parents that I’m paralyzed from the neck down. The prognosis didn’t look good. Doctors kept telling my parents what I couldn’t do, and kept telling me what I couldn’t do.

“I looked at my doctor and said, “I want you to wear a nice tie next time you come in so we have something to talk about and stop telling me what I can’t do and let me work on this.

“I asked all of the people who wanted to visit me to stop visiting. They sit and look at you. Nobody wanted to move my arms and legs. They’re all afraid they are going to hurt me. They’re afraid if they lift my arm, it’s going to flop around.”

The doctor lifted her leg.

She kept it there.

“That’s a spasm,” he said.

“Do you want to do it again?” she asked.

He lifted her leg again. She held it up and moved her foot around.

The woman who doctors said would most likely be paralyzed from the neck down worked hard on her therapy. She can now walk briefly.

“I’m considered a ‘walking quad,’ she said. “I can ambulate. I can kind of wobble and drag my foot. Like most quads, I can’t feel a lot, but do have chronic pain from the neck down, and intense burning and pain in my hands, legs and feet.”

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Yet look at any photos of Adams at the Wheelchair Games and there is either a look of fierce determination or a radiant smile.

“I’m not the hard-charging sergeant I was in the Army. I’m in a new body. I respect my body.”

Discovering the Wheelchair Games in 2002 was a turning point for her.

“I remember going to my spinal cord injury exam and the rec therapist asked me if wanted to go.

“And do what?” Adams asked her.

“You can play 9-ball,” the therapist said.

“From my scooter?!?”

“Yes, and you can play table tennis.”

She did more than that.

“I showed up at that first one and got to the opening ceremony and was blown away. I watched other people compete, doing air rifle, and archery with their teeth. I was amazed. I said, ‘Oh my goodness, my life is about to blow up. I’m about to die having fun.’

“Oh my goodness gracious, life is good. Without my injury, I never would have known about this stuff. I used to say my accident happened to me. By the time I was introduced to the Wheelchair Games, I was asked to go trap shooting. I play billiards in Tampa. At the Wheelchair Games, I do shot put, discus, javelin, air rifle, air pistol, bowling, boccia ball, power lifting. Now I say this did not happen to me, it happened for me. It changed my life.”

When she’s back home, she’s busy playing adaptive tennis at least two hours a day, several days a week.

“I was told I would need a power chair since I’m a quad. I don’t need a power chair,” she said. “I use my own, sports chair. Then I found out about an international adaptive tennis tournament. I was told I can’t go because I couldn’t compete at that level. I said, ‘Well, I’m going.’

“I went and got my butt whupped. But my second match was a doubles. I told my partner, “You get the backhand, I’ll get the forehand,’ and we won the tiebreaker.”

That story makes her recreation therapist, Valerie McNary, laugh out loud.

“She came up to me and said, ‘Val, everybody keeps telling me I can’t do it, but Val, I’m going to do it.’


NVWG: Twila Adams

www.facebook.com

“That’s typical of her,” McNary said. “She doesn’t care. It’s not about the winning. She doesn’t have to win. She wants to live and see other people living their lives. She’s not typical in any fashion or form. Most people don’t have the attitude she had right away. She’s already my spirit of the game every day. She is that spirit every, single day and doesn’t need the title.”

Jen Purser, from the Paralyzed Veterans of America Wheelchair Games leadership team, said Adams “truly embodies the spirit of what the Wheelchair Games are all about — camaraderie, support and perseverance.

“We were thrilled to see her win this year’s award,” Purser said.

But Adams said even with the right attitude, there are days she is like anyone else. It’s not all puppy dog kisses and unicorns.

“You know, we’re all flesh. Rains on me the same as anyone else,” she said. “I get depressed. I get those emotions, but I make a choice. I can say something to myself and motivate something in myself and this will go away.

“Exercise changes my emotions, better than sitting around and watching the news all day. I tell people, ‘Just get up, open the blinds and go outside and see what’s going on. Feel the sun on your skin. Go out and just let the breeze blow on you, and radiate over you, and you will feel good.”

But those Wheelchair Games — that, she said, is real balm for her soul.

“I’m like a kid in the candy store, every year, happy to be alive and hugging necks — even the grumpy ones. It’s about me having that one time a year to connect with people who know what I’m going through. They’re just like me. And if we can inspire the novices and share a little bit of hope, then my injury is not in vain.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump warns Iran of ‘heavy price’ if U.S. attacked in Iraq

President Donald Trump has warned Iran of a “heavy price” if it or its allies in Iraq attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq.

“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted on April 1.


Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

“If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” he added.

It was not immediately clear if Trump meant the United States actually has intelligence of such a plan.

Over the past year, the United States has accused Iranian-backed militias of attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces and on foreign embassies, particularly the U.S. mission.

Hours before Trump’s tweet, a top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned the United States of consequences of “provocative actions” in Iraq.

“Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.

On March 11, a rocket attack on an Iraqi base killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier, heightening tensions in the region.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which was followed by deadly U.S. air strikes on the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia group.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Tehran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions.”

In December, Washington blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 11

Oh snap! The first official recruiting ad for the Space Force has finally dropped! Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as hyped as everyone else who joked to their retention NCO that the only way they’d stay in was to reclass as a space shuttle door gunner.

But, like, why do they even need an advertisement at this point? Everyone knows who they are and are already planning on camping out at the recruitment offices when they open. It’s like seeing a commercial for a Ferrari. It’s just a waste of time and money when we’re already sold on the idea.

Whatever. They’re probably going to have a bigger budget than the Air Force – so spend it if you got it, right? Anyway, here are some memes.


1. I don’t care about any of your damn stories from Basic. But you can be damn sure that I’ll play along with whatever BS lie about how badass you are to tell civilians.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

2. While we’re in, we all sh*ttalk chief for being OFP. But, he’s literally treating the military like it’s a 9-5 job at that point.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

3. North Korean generals got nothing on some of the E-4’s I’ve seen these days…

No photo description available.

4. Anyone know if the vehicles in the motorpool are still fine? No one’s been around to kick their tires in ages!

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

5. All else fails, pocket sand…

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

6. One makes things go boom. The other prevents things from going boom. See the problem?

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

7. Largest amphibious landing in military history and it wasn’t conducted by the branch of the military specifically designed for such a task…

(Yeah, I know. They were in the Pacific and Marine generals assisted in the planning. I thought Marines were at least supposed to understand jokes.)

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

8. “Ah, I see you’re a man of culture as well.”

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

9. For the Space Force? In a heartbeat. Then again, I’ve been out for a few years, put on a few pounds, have literally no applicable skills needed in space… But I’d do it.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

10. Well. Now I’m going to rewatch Band of Brothers this quarantine… for the 101st time…

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

11. As long as you don’t have flat feet. (Is flat feet still a thing?)

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

12. f it looks right, it is right.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

13. If you didn’t jump up out of your bunk, but forgot that you’re on the lower one, so you smack your head so damn hard it echoes through the bay, did you even go to basic/boot camp?

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

Articles

Sailors and Marines are now eligible for these new award devices

A policy developed more than a year ago that creates new distinctions for performance and valor awards has taken effect for the Department of the Navy.


According to an all-Navy message released in late August, Marines and sailors can begin to receive awards bearing new “C” and “R” devices, indicating the award was earned under combat conditions or for remote impact on a fight, a condition that would apply to drone operators, among others.

The policy also establishes more stringent criteria for the existing “V” device, stipulating that it applies only to awards for actions demonstrating valor above what is expected of a service member in combat.

The changes were first announced in January 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a Pentagon-wide review of high-level combat awards, a measure designed to ensure that troops serving since Sept. 11, 2001, had been appropriately honored.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

Carter also approved the creation of the new devices as a way to distinguish clearly the conditions under which an award had been earned.

Development of the C device for awards earned under combat conditions enabled more selective use of the V device, giving it added weight and significance as an indicator of heroism.

“We’re raising the bar,” a Pentagon official told reporters at the time of the policy rollout. “What we’ve seen is, maybe it has been … a little too loose in the past.”

Notably, the ALNAV states, authorization of the C device does not entitle award recipients to wear the Combat Action Ribbon, which has more restrictive criteria.

The R device, meanwhile, is the product of conversations about how to recognize those who have direct impact on a fight from afar in a changing battlespace, such as unmanned aerial vehicle operators.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
An information graphic illustrates the changes to the letter-type devices worn on certain medals and ribbons. Navy graphic by Jim Nierle.

According to the all-Navy message, the sailors and Marines who might be eligible for this award are not just drone pilots. They also include:

  • Those who conduct ship-to-shore or surface-to-surface weapon system strikes.
  • Operators who remotely pilot aircraft that provide direct and real-time support that directly contributes to the success of ground forces in combat or engaged in a mission, such as a raid or hostage rescue.
  • Cyberwarfare that disrupts enemy capabilities or actions.
  • Surface-to-air engagement that disrupts an enemy attack or enemy surveillance of friendly forces.
  • Troops exercising real-time tactical control of a raid or combat mission from a remote location not exposed to hostile action.
  • For awards in which certain conduct or conditions is presupposed, the rules are not changing.

Bronze Stars, for example, are not eligible for the new C device, as combat conditions are inherent in the award.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
Former Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England pins the Bronze Star on Rear Adm. Willie C. Marsh during a ceremony held in the Secretary’s Pentagon office. Marsh was recognized for meritorious achievement in his duties as Commander, Task Force 51, from January 1, 2003 to May 31, 2003. US Navy photo.

Likewise, Silver Stars, Navy Crosses, and Medal of Honor awards are not eligible for the V device, as all these awards are presented for extraordinary valor or heroism.

For the Department of the Navy, processing of awards with the new devices began with the release of the ALNAV, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan De Vera, a service spokesman, told Military.com.

While the Navy will not retroactively remove V devices from any awards in keeping with the new rules, De Vera said Marines and sailors who believe they merit one of the new devices for awards earned since Jan. 7, 2016 can contact their command to initiate a review of the relevant award.

“The onus is on the sailor or the Marine to do that,” he said.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. Reginald McClam. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Awards given before the new policy was announced will not receive any additional scrutiny.

“All previous decorations that had a V device remain valid,” De Vera said. “It’s important to note that they are in no way diminished or called into question by the new policy.”

The Army announced in late March that it had implemented a policy for awarding the new devices; the Air Force did likewise in June.

The Navy and the Marine Corps are the last of the services within the Defense Department to roll out guidance for incorporating the new devices.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why grenades in movies look nothing like real life

Yeah, yeah, yeah… We know grenades in movies aren’t like the real thing. But that could make you wonder, “Why?”

Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?


First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.

The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.

The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal

U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.

(U.S. Army)

That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.

That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.

As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.

Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.

The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.

But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.

And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.

Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.

But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.

So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.

The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.

But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.

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U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.

If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.

But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.

So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.

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WWII vet running across the country to honor the fallen

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal


Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor.  These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country.  That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run.  Plus I always wanted to do this.”

Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip.  In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging.  He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.

“As you can see from this large turnout,”  said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment.  But at 92, wow!”

Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.

Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war.  He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life.  He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.

“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”

As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war.  He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship.  As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood.  Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood.  He had to do this several times throughout the night.  He remembers feeling light headed and weak.

“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said.  “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”

Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so.  One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.

“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think.  So we began reminiscing about our time in the service.  And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.

“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.

So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial.  They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana.  The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered.  The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.

“We have a great country,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget how we got here.”

If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.

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The Navy is closing in on a next-generation Tomahawk missile

The Navy is accelerating deployment of an upgraded Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile designed to better enable the weapon to destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.


The missile, which has been in development by Raytheon for several years, draws upon new software, computer processing and active-seeker technology, which sends an electromagnetic ping forward from the weapon itself as a method of tracking and attacking moving targets. The electronic signals bounce off a target, and then the return signal is analyzed to determine the shape, size, speed, and contours of the enemy target. This technology allows for additional high-speed guidance and targeting.

Also read: New silent killer welcomed into Navy fleet

The Navy’s acquisition executive recently signed rapid deployment paperwork for the weapon, clearing the way for prompt production and delivery, an industry source said.

“The seeker suite will enable the weapon to be able to engage moving targets in a heavily defended area,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kara Yingling told Scout Warrior.  “The Maritime Strike Tomahawk enables the surface fleet to seek out and destroy moving enemy platforms at sea or on land beyond their ability to strike us while retaining the capability to conduct long-range strikes,” she said.

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A Tomahawk missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of the USS Shiloh. | US Navy photo

The active seeker technology is designed to complement the Tomahawk’s synthetic guidance mode, which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves, Raytheon’s Tomahawk Program Manager Chris Sprinkle said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

The idea is to engineer several modes wherein the Tomahawk can be retargeted in flight to destroy moving targets in the event of unforeseen contingencies. This might include a scenario where satellite signals or GPS technology is compromised by an enemy attack. In such a case, the missile will still need to have the targeting and navigational technology to reach a moving target, Sprinkle added.

An active seeker will function alongside existing Tomahawk targeting and navigation technologies such as infrared guidance, radio frequency targeting, and GPS systems.

“There is tremendous value to operational commanders to add layered offensive capability to the surface force.  Whether acting independently, as part of a surface action group, or integrated into a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, our surface combatants will markedly upgrade our Navy’s offensive punching power,” Yingling said.

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A Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile launches from the forward missile deck aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut during a training exercise. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leah Stiles

Rapid deployment of the maritime Tomahawk is part of an ongoing Navy initiative to increase capability and capacity in surface combatants by loading every vertical launch system cell with multimission-capable weapons, Yingling explained.

Tomahawks have been upgraded several times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight retargeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras, and a high-grade inertial navigation system, Raytheon officials said.

The current Tomahawk is built with a “loiter” ability allowing it to hover near a target until there is an optimal time to strike. As part of this technology, the missile uses a two-way data link and camera to send back images of a target to a command center before it strikes.The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.

The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.

The Navy is currently wrapping up the procurement cycle for the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk missile.  In 2019, the service will conduct a recertification and modernization program for the missiles reaching the end of their initial 15-year service period, which will upgrade or replace those internal components required to return them to the fleet for the second 15 years of their 30-year planned service life, Yingling said.

“Every time we go against anyone that has a significant threat, the first weapon is always Tomahawk,” Sprinkle said. ” It is designed specifically to beat modern and emerging integrated air defenses.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the F-35 can succeed where US anti-missile defenses fail

The F-35, the most expensive weapons system in history that boosters say can do just about anything in aerial combat, could have a new mission: shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles.


Ballistic missiles, like the kind North Korea has been perfecting with the goal of being able to reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, pose a huge threat to the U.S. as they reenter the atmosphere at over a dozen times the speed of sound.

The U.S. uses advanced radars and ground-based missile interceptors without explosive charges to “hit to kill” incoming missiles. This method has been compared to hitting a bullet with a bullet, and it has really only been successful against unsophisticated, short-range targets or test dummies.

But there’s plenty of reason to doubt the U.S.’s missile defenses against North Korea would work. And advanced ICBMs with multiple warheads or decoy warheads could most likely confuse missile defenses and render them useless.

But as an ICBM takes off the launchpad and lurches up to speed, the entire missile, warhead and all, is a single target.

At that point, why not shoot it down with an air-to-air missile from an F-35?

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U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

The F-35 as a missile interceptor

The US Air Force has, for decades, had air-to-air missiles that lock on to hot, flying targets, and an ICBM in its first stage is essentially that.

In 2007, Lockheed Martin got $3 million to look into an air-to-air hit-to-kill missile system. In 2014, a test seemed to prove the concept.

But the F-35 program, usually not one to shy away from boasting about its achievements, has been hushed about the prospect of using it to defeat one of the gravest threats to the U.S.

“I can tell you that the F-35 is a multi-mission fighter,” Cmdr. Patrick Evans of the Office of the Secretary of Defense told Business Insider when asked about the program. “It would be inappropriate to speculate on future capabilities or missions of the weapon system.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was more open to speculating about why the Pentagon hadn’t gone through with missile-intercepting planes.

Also Read: This is how North Korea’s new missile can strike the US

“Very simple — what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Hunter said during a November meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.

Hunter also pointed out that in some places North Korea is just 75 miles across — well within the F-35’s missile range, Aviation Week noted.

Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for not picking up the air-to-air intercept sooner while spending $40 billion on ground-based missile interception.

“There’s not a retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”

An F-35 missile intercept over North Korea may be an act of war

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal
An F-35 Lightning II fires a missile while inverted. (Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office)

The present crisis with North Korea may demand some expediency from the Pentagon regarding the F-35.

The F-35, with its all-aspect stealth, is ideal for breaking into North Korea’s protected airspace. It can already use the air-to-air missile in question, and its sensor fusion would make it the best plane for the job.

The drawback, though, is that the F-35 would need to get close to the target missile as it’s leaving the launchpad, which could mean firing interceptor missiles over enemy territory — something North Korea could see as an act of war.

If North Korea were to actually threaten the U.S. or its allies with a missile, an F-35 intercept could be a game-changer. The U.S. reportedly knew about North Korea’s latest launch three days in advance, despite the North’s efforts to hide preparations. In a similar situation, the U.S. would have plenty of time to get the F-35s in place.

But the F-35 was already a nightmare for North Korean defenses before the prospect of using it to intercept a missile came up, and it’s unclear how Pyongyang would react to the stealth plane going anywhere near its borders.

For now, at least one member of the House Armed Services Committee seems to think the F-35 is the best bet for giving the U.S. an advantage over North Korea’s nuclear program.

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