This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams - We Are The Mighty
Articles

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony June 7  that was both encouraging and disturbing about PTSD programs and allegations that some vets are faking symptoms to get a disability check.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly expanded its treatment programs for mental health problems overall, and for post-traumatic stress disorder in particular, said Dr. Harold Kudler, acting assistant deputy under secretary for Patient Care Services at the VA.

In fiscal 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 1.6 million veterans, up from 900,000 in 2006, Kudler said. Of the overall figure, 583,000 “received state-of-the-art treatment for PTSD,” including 178,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.

Kudler said the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans receiving VA treatment for PTSD has doubled since 2010, while VA services for them have increased by 50 percent.

In addition, the VA is increasingly open to alternative treatments for PTSD, including the use of hyperbaric chambers and yoga, but an Army veteran who went through VA treatment for PTSD said the expansion and outreach leave the program open to scams by veterans looking to get a disability check.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
A Veterans Affairs benefit advisor briefs 910th Airlift Wing reservists on their VA benefits following a long-term deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)

Brendan O’Byrne, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served a 15-month tour in the remote Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, told the committee he was overwhelmed by “crippling anxiety, blinding anger” compounded by drinking when he left the service in 2008.

After four years, he was given a 70-percent disability rating for PTSD and was immediately advised by administrators and other veterans to push for 100 percent to boost his check, O’Byrne said.

“Now, I don’t know if they saw something that I didn’t but, in my eyes, I was not 100 percent disabled and told them that,” O’Byrne said. But they continued to press him to go for a higher rating. His arguments for a lower rating went nowhere, he said.

In VA group counseling sessions, “I realized the sad truth about a portion of the veterans there — they were scammers, seeking a higher rating without a real trauma. This was proven when I overheard one vet say to another that he had to ‘pay the bills’ and how he ‘was hoping this in-patient was enough for a 100-percent rating.’ I vowed never to participate in group counseling through the VA again,” O’Byrne said.

“When there is money to gain, there will be fraud,” he said. “The VA is no different. Veterans are no different. In the noble efforts to help veterans and clear the backlog of VA claims, we allowed a lot of fraud into the system, and it is pushing away the veterans with real trauma and real PTSD.”

Committee members, who are accustomed to hearing allegations of fraud and waste within the VA but rarely about scamming by a veteran, did not directly challenge O’Byrne’s allegations, but Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., told him he was unique. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of a vet wanting to reduce the amount of benefits they’re receiving,” Bost said.

O’Byrne was a central figure in the book “War” by author Sebastian Junger, who also testified at the hearing on “Overcoming PTSD: Assessing VA’s Efforts to Promote Wellness and Healing.”

Junger said society must share the blame for the prevalence of PTSD. “Many of our vets seem to be suffering from something other than trauma reaction. One possible explanation for their psychological troubles is that — whether they experience combat or not — transitioning from the kind of close communal life of a platoon to the alienation of modern society is extremely difficult.”

Then there is politics. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause, and that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity,” Junger said.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he said.

“And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — the commander-in-chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” Junger said. “For the sake of our military personnel — if not for the sake of our democracy — such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party.”

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
U.S. Air Force illustration by Alex Pena

The allegation that some veterans are bilking PTSD programs is not a major concern for Zach Iscol, a Marine captain who fought in Fallujah and now is executive director of the non-profit Headstrong Project.

“If there are people taking advantage of us, that’s OK, because we have a bigger mission,” Iscol said, but he also noted that Headstrong does not give out disability payments.

In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the project’s goal is to provide free assistance with experienced clinicians to post-9/11 veterans for a range of problems, from PTSD to addiction and anger management.

Iscol said Headstrong currently has about 200 active clients, and “on average it costs less than $5,000 to treat a vet.” He cautioned there are no panaceas for treating PTSD, and “there’s no simple app that will solve this problem. I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all for mental health.”

The witnesses and committee members agreed that PTSD is treatable, but disagreed over the types and availability of treatment programs and whether the VA is adequately funded to provide them or should rely more on non-profits.

The issue of the estimated 20 suicides by veterans daily came up briefly when Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., a retired Marine lieutenant general, questioned Kudler on VA programs to bring down the rate.

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made combating veteran suicides a major priority and has focused on making treatment available for veterans with less than honorable discharges.

Kudler said there is a “counter-intuitive” involved in addressing the veteran suicide problem. About 14 of the 20 daily suicides involve veterans who never deployed and experienced combat trauma, he said. “It would be premature to say we know why.”

 

Articles

These 3 active duty officers served as National Security Advisor before McMaster

With the news that Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has been chosen to serve as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, this marks the fourth time an active-duty military officer has filled this position.


Here is a look at the previous three.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Air Force Lt. Gen Brent Scowcroft meeting with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller during his tenure as Deputy National Security Advisor. Scowcroft would later become the National Security Advisor – serving 28 days until retiring from the Air Force. He later served under George H. W. Bush. (White House photo)

1. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft

Brent Scowcroft was active-duty for less than a month while serving as National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, taking the job on Nov. 3, 1975, and retiring on Dec. 1, 1975. Still, he is technically the first active-duty military officer to serve in this position.

Scowcroft served for the remainder of the Ford administration, then was tapped to serve as National Security Advisor for a second stint under George H. W. Bush – holding that post for the entirety of that presidency. During his second run as NSA, Scowcroft’s tenure saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
(Official U.S. Navy biography photo)

2. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter

Perhaps the most notorious active-duty officer to hold the position due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the 1986 Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that turned violent, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and the Reykjavik Summit in October, 1986.

Poindexter was initially convicted on five charges connected with Iran-Contra, but the convictions were tossed out on appeal. In 1987, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper Half).

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

3. Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell

Probably the most notable active-duty officer to serve in the post, Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor from November 1987 to the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. While he was in that position, the U.S. and Iran had a series of clashes culminating in Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of an Iranian Airbus by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49).

After his tenure as National Security Advisor, Powell went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – then was Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term as president.

As a note for the fashion-watchers, while all three predecessors wore suits, We Are The Mighty has learned from a source close to senior Trump staffers that incoming Nationals Security Advisor McMaster has been given the option to wear his uniform while holding the post.

A spokesperson for Scowcroft noted, “It is not against the law but it is not usually done.”

Neither Powell nor the White House Press Office responded to a WATM request for comment by post time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The top general in Afghanistan says he needs more troops for the President’s war plan

The United States and NATO may not have enough troops in Afghanistan to carry out President Trump’s strategy to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That is what Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of United States Forces Afghanistan, is saying.


Nicholson, who is responsible for carrying out Operation Resolute Support, expressed that belief during a press briefing at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Operation Resolute Support Commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., addresses the audience during the change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016.

“This year, we fought most of the year — however, at the lowest level of capability that we’ve ever had in the 16 years. So it was the lowest level of capability and the highest level of risk we’ve faced in this time. Part of the reason for the higher risk was [that] we’re only at 80 percent. We were only at an 80 percent fill on our combined joint statement of requirements,” Nicholson said during the briefing.

During the briefing, Nicholson also noted that the force may look into hiring contractors – specifically, retired cops – to help train Afghan police. “That’s — that’s not my first choice. We’d rather have serving police officers — serving police professionals to come into those roles,” he said of that approach. Nicholson also noted that the first Security Force Assistance Brigade will be deploying to Afghanistan next year.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Afghan National Army soldiers assault a building during their final training exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen.)

President Trump unveiled his Afghanistan strategy in August, in which he defined victory as “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America.”

In October, WATM reported that American troops saw a five-year high in terms of combat in Afghanistan. Also that month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosened the rules of engagement that governed American troops in the theater of operations, and this past spring, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a Taliban tunnel complex.

Articles

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Articles

Wounded veterans helped amputee victims of the Boston Marathon bombing

The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three and wounded 264 others. The attack was committed by two American brothers of Chechen descent who set off a couple of pressure cooker explosives they learned to make from an English language al-Qaeda magazine. One of the brothers died after the other brother ran him over with a stolen SUV following a shootout with law enforcement. The other brother is in prison, awaiting execution.


At least 14 of the the bombing victims required amputations. Anyone who undergoes amputations of limbs for any reason will go through the five psychological stages of grief, but 20-22 percent of all amputees will experience some form of post-traumatic stress, according to studies from the National Institute of Health. For the civilian victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, their stress is coupled by the two explosions, just 12 seconds apart, that killed three, injured scores more, and took one or more of their limbs.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The aforementioned studies show the ability to cope with an amputation be affected by pain, level of disability, the look of the amputated limb and associated prosthetics, and the presence of social supports. The 14 amputee survivors of the bombing received a ready network of support from wounded warriors, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who lost limbs during their service. Within days of the attack, injured veterans arrived in Boston to meet the survivors.

“We felt as amputees compelled to get out here,” said Captain Cameron West, a Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan. “It won’t define them as a person … soon all of them will be able to do everything they could before the terror attack.”

“Military combat veterans are not the only victims of PTSD,”  said Dr. Philip Leveque, a pharmacology researcher, WWII veteran, and author of “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier of WWII.” “Civilians in a horrific event like those in Boston will not only be victims of these events but may be mistreated by their physicians with morphine-like drugs, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs, which can cause adverse side effects, including suicide.”

Chris Claude is a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania. He met with marathon amputees and  told the Associated Press it was his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. B.J. Ganem, a Marine who lost his left leg in Afghanistan, said all he saw was resilience. The two groups came together again later in 2013, at the New England Patriots home opener. They were honored on the field together before the game.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

“I like the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together,” Claude said. “It’s another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can’t be broken.”

Articles

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

Green on blue attacks — used to describe attacks by Afghan soldiers on Coalition forces — are one of the many dangers our troops in the Middle East face every day.

These deadly morale-sapping attacks are difficult to predict and leave lasting negative trust issues between the locals — and American forces. As many as 91 incidents resulted in 148 Coalition troops killed and as many 186 wounded between 2008 and 2015.

Related: How Navy corpsmen and Army medics work together on deployments

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Marine infantry officer turned Army Green Beret Chase Millsap, and our Navy corpsman smartass Tim Kirkpatrick share their experiences working with the locals. Millsap with the Iraqi Police and Kirkpatrick with the Afghan National Army. As you’ll listen, their experiences differ.

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

  • Twitter: @tkirk35

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

  • Twitter/Instagram: @orvelinvalle

Guests:

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

  • Twitter/Instagram: @cmillsap05

August Dannehl: Navy veteran, Chef, and show producer

  • Twitter: @ChefAugust37

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be

At the heart of Arlington National Cemetery lies one of our nation’s most magnificent displays of honor and respect to our fallen troops. Three unnamed graves are tended to by some of the most disciplined soldiers the military has to offer. The soldiers tirelessly guard the monument. Every hour (or half hour, during the spring and summer months), the guard is changed with an impressive, precise ceremony.

Each year, these three fallen soldiers receive up to four million visitors — but it’s not about honoring the specific individuals contained within the tomb. In death, these three fallen soldiers have became a symbol, representing each and every troop who gave their last breath in service of this great nation. Every step taken by the sentinels, every bouquet of flowers offered, every wreath laid, and every flag placed is for every American troop who has fallen.

This is exactly what was intended when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated almost one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1921.


This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The King of England is also the head of the Church of England, so he chose to place the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, where all future kings and queens would be crowned, married, and buried.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The tradition of honoring a fallen but unknown troop actually originated as a joint effort between France and the UK.

In 1916, David Railton was a chaplain in the English Army serving on the Western Front of World War I. Near Armentières, France, he discovered a rough, wooden cross planted in the middle of a battlefield. It read, simply, “an unknown British soldier, of the Black Watch.”

David Railton would go on to join the clergy after the war, but the image of that cross never left his mind. It took years, but after many attempts, he finally got the ear of Bishop Herbert Ryle, the Dean of Westminster. Railton wanted to repatriate the remains of this fallen soldier and give him proper honors, despite not knowing his identity. Bishop Ryle was moved by Rev. Railton’s passionate words and went directly to King George V with his proposal.

Reverend Railton would later say,

“How that grave caused me to think!… But, who was he, and who were they [his folk]?… Was he just a laddie… . There was no answer to those questions, nor has there ever been yet. So I thought and thought and wrestled in thought. What can I do to ease the pain of father, mother, brother, sister, sweetheart, wife and friend? Quietly and gradually there came out of the mist of thought this answer clear and strong, “Let this body – this symbol of him – be carried reverently over the sea to his native land.” And I was happy for about five or ten minutes.”

The soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey, London on November 11, 1920, thus creating what’s now known as The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

It’s fitting that the Arch built in honor of the French victory in WWI would also be the final resting site for her unknown soldier.

(Photo by Jorge Lascar)

Meanwhile, across the English Channel, in France, a young officer in the Le Souvenir Français, an association responsible for maintaining war memorials, had better luck. He argued for bringing an unidentified fallen soldier into the Pantheon in Paris to honor of all fallen French soldiers from the Great War — and his proposal garnered support.

Both England and France decided to share the honors. They buried France’s Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc de Triomphe on the same day as The Unknown Warrior was laid to rest at Westminster.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cody Torkelson)

The next year, as the United States began the process of repatriating remains from the European battlefield, plans for an American Tomb of the Unknown Soldier began to take shape. The originator of the idea remains unknown to history, but the selection process was public. On October 24, 1921, six American soldiers were asked to come to Châlons-sur-Marne, France. Each soldier was a highly decorated and highly respected member of their respective units. They were selected to be pallbearers for the remains as they made their way back to the States.

While there, the officer in charge of grave registrations, Major Harbold, randomly selected one of the men. He gave Sgt. Edward F. Younger a bouquet of pink and white roses and asked him to step inside the chapel alone. There, four identical, unmarked coffins awaited him. He was told that whichever coffin he laid the roses on would be laid to rest in the National Shrine.

Younger said of the event,

“I walked around the coffins three times, then suddenly I stopped. What caused me to stop, I don’t know, it was as though something had pulled me. I placed the roses on the coffin in front of me. I can still remember the awed feeling that I had, standing there alone.”

The remains were brought to the Capital Rotunda and remained there until November 11th, 1921. President Warren G. Harding officiated a ceremony in which he bestowed upon the Unknown Soldier the Medal of Honor and a Victoria Cross, given on behalf of King George V.

Since that day, the entombed soldier has been guarded every moment of every day, rain, shine, hurricane, or blizzard.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the 10 best places for veterans to live in 2017

A lot of factors go in to a veteran’s post-military life. Where they choose to live when they get out of the service is important for many reasons. Veterans Affairs hospitals in some areas of the country are overcrowded and have a hard time giving fast, quality care. Access to decent schools and a quality education for the vets to use their GI bill benefits are another factor.


Analysts from WalletHub looked at 100 American cities and judged them based on four criteria: employment, economy, quality of life, and health. For each of those areas of study, the analysts looked at a number of weighted metrics, including skilled jobs, veteran unemployment rates, housing affordability, median veteran income, VA facilities, the quality of those facilities, and more.

These 10 cities may or may not surprise you, but they’re definitely worth a look!

10. Austin, Texas

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

This should surprise no one. Austin is a city that has been coming up in conversation for more than twenty years. From its proximity to the military bases in Texas, to its active nightlife and vibrant social scene (not to mention the SXSW Festival that comes around every year), Austin is the place to be for everyone — not just veterans.

9. Colorado Springs, Colorado

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Also the home of the Air Force Academy (this is not a photo of the Academy).

In the proverbial shadow of Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs is the second most populous city in Colorado. It is consistently ranked as one of the top spots to live in America, not just for vets. Also, apropos of nothing, marijuana is totally legal here.

8. Virginia Beach, Virginia

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Here’s a statue of the mayor. Probably.

Virginia Beach offers more for the avid outdoor veteran than just the beach. Nearby Back Bay Wildlife Refuge offers kayaking, birdwatching, and hiking, among other activities. Even the thriving downtown entertainment offers more for vets than it did even just a few years ago.

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Everyone drives way too fast though.

“The City of Oaks” has a vast array of schools, public and private, along with nearby Chapel Hill and Durham. It also boasts a world-class technical research park that houses IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson, and Lenovo.

6. Plano, Texas

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Really?

Yes, really. Plano and the greater Dallas area are proud handlers of U.S. military tradition. The (relatively) nearby presence of Sheppard Air Force Base, NAS Fort Worth, and JRB Carswell ensure there will be a great infrastructure for veterans who stick around the area.

5. Tampa, Florida

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Everything is prettier at sunset.

Tampa was the top bootlegging and rumrunning towns during prohibition. Tampa has been big on the military since Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders staged their visit to Cuba from here. On that note, Tampa is also the only place to visit Cuba in the mainland U.S. Yeah, check out José Marti Park.

4. Fremont, California

Freemont is a young city, an amalgamation of five other cities that came together in 1956. But if you’re going to be in the San Francisco area, Fremont is the furthest south you can still hop on the BART.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Or you can take a hot rod. Freemont has an awesome car show every year. Bring your A-game.

3. Seattle, Washington

I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. Seattle is home to Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, and more. It’s probably more difficult to get a job at that fish market where they throw fish at each other.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Dare to follow your dreams, though.

2. San Diego, California

The town that brings you Navy SEALs might have just stolen Amazon from Seattle. So they might be up a level on this list next year.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
See if you can find all 127 SEALs hidden in this photo.

1. Boise, Idaho

Boise being in the top ten might have surprised you, but it didn’t surprise anyone in Boise. The residents enjoy a high quality of life, which includes the Greenbelt – a 25-mile long strip of wildlife habitats and bike paths along the Boise River.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Boise!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Let’s face it, when the Army bought the Stryker, in one sense, they were really just catching up with the Marines, who were making an 8×8 wheeled, armored vehicle work for quite a while. Now, though, the Marines are getting a new system for one variant of their Light Armored Vehicles, the LAV-AT, which will make them even deadlier and easier to maintain.


According to a release by Marine Corps Systems Command, the LAV-ATM project gives this version of the LAV a new turret. The LAV will still be firing the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile.

Don’t be surprised that the TOW is still around – the BGM-71’s latest versions could be lethal against Russia’s Armata main battle tank.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
A Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank Modernization A2 model sits under an awning at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., June 15. The turret atop the LAV-ATM is a Modified Target Acquisition System, MTAS, containing a state of the art rocket launcher designed to be more quickly deployed on target with fewer mechanical parts. The MTAS replaces the more than 30 year old Emerson 901 turret. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight,” said Jim Forkin, Program Manager’s Office LAV-ATM team lead.

“The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn’t have before,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer, PM LAV team, explained.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
A Marine tests the enhanced vision capability—part of an upgrade to the Light Armored Vehicle’s Anti-Tank Weapon System—during new equipment training Sept. 18-29, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command completed its first fielding of four upgraded ATWS in September. (United States Marine Corps photo)

The new LAV also makes maintenance easier with an on-board trouble-shooting system that allows operators and maintenance personnel conduct checks on the systems involved with the vehicle and turret. Learning how to use the new turret takes about one week each for operators and maintainers. The Marines have also acquired 3D computer technology to enhance the training on the new LAV-AT.

But the real benefit of the turret is that “Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better,” according to Chief Warrant Officer Lovell. “We’re providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield.”

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines operate a Light-Armored Vehicle equipped with a new Anti-Tank weapons system to their next objective during testing at range 500 aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 16, 2015. The testing of the new system began Feb. 9 and is scheduled to end March 8. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Enemy tanks will hopefully be unavailable for comment on these enhancements.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines want to swarm enemy defenses with hundreds of small boats

Move over, 355-ship Navy.


The Marine Corps is working to build up its own sizable fleet of boats as it postures itself for future combat in shallow coastal waters and dispersed across large stretches of land and water.

Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare, said the service wants to find new ways to put conventional forces on small watercraft for operations ranging from raids to insertions and river operations.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
A Navy boat launched from USS New Orleans Aug. 14 carries maritime raid force members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to a vessel the force’s assault element later boarded during counter-piracy and counter-terrorism training. (Lance Cpl. Justin R. Stein)

Typically, small boats have been the territory of Marine Corps and Navy special operations and specialized forces, such as the Coastal Riverines.

But, Coffman said, he has received guidance from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to change that.

“If we were to claim any moniker, we want to be the father of the 1,000-boat Navy,” Coffman said at a Navy League event near Washington, D.C., in late November.

Currently, he said, Naval Expeditionary Warfare is resource sponsor to about 800 small boats, including combatant craft, Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats, and smaller craft. While the precise numbers desired haven’t been settled on, he suggested 1,000 boats is close to what’s needed.

“The Marine Corps largely got out of what we call itty bitty boats … the commandant wants us to get back in the boat business,” Coffman said. “He’s recognizing he needs to distribute his force and be able to move in smaller discrete elements and different ways.”

Also Read: The Marines want robotic boats with mortars for beach assaults

The strategy for employing these boats is still being developed, but Coffman said the Marine Corps wants to be able to cover a wider range of maritime operations. The service, he said, likely wants to develop a family of small boats, ranging from high-tech combatant craft like those used in special operations to lower-end craft for harbor escorts and troop transport.

A good starting point for discussion, he said, is the 11-meter Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat, or RHIB, used by the Navy SEALs for a variety of missions and by Naval Expeditionary Warfare for things like maritime interdiction and transport to and from larger ships.

That design, Coffman said, would be easy to “sex up or simple down” as needed.

For the Marine Corps, small boat employment has largely focused on protecting larger ships, Coffman told Military.com in a brief interview.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
Force reconnaissance Marines with 4th Force Reconnaissance Company paddle toward the beach in F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts during hydrographic reconnaissance training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows in Waimanalo, Hawaii. (Image Marines)

“A lot of my theme is trying to flip the script, move from defensive to offensive,” he said.

With the Navy’s riverine forces increasingly employed in the Middle East to defend ships, there’s less availability for other small boat missions that could press the advantage. But with an investment in a new family of watercraft, that could change.

“That’s part of how you counter the peer threat: ‘I’ll out-asymmetric you,’ ” Coffman said. “So [Neller is] excited about that, that work’s going to happen.”

Articles

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are 7 battlefield-tested tips from a US Army sniper on how not to lose your mind in isolation

On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.

With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.


Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e2aeb7e24306a748b6daef5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=591&h=915c5fee77e93a36b62c80b9000eded0d32f51ce385996cc16a0258b6961ee14&size=980x&c=2669813413 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e2aeb7e24306a748b6daef5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D591%26h%3D915c5fee77e93a36b62c80b9000eded0d32f51ce385996cc16a0258b6961ee14%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2669813413%22%7D” expand=1]

Sniper in position in the woods

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Bright

Remember your mission

As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”

He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.

“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”

There is always work that needs to be done.

Break down the problem

One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.

“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FFileHandler.ashx%3Fid%3D11918&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.doncio.navy.mil&s=177&h=a568012a1f14eefa2c2f5d5ee9dbe3c8d8b47f2fba80eae388b9f866253c0974&size=980x&c=746523628 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FFileHandler.ashx%253Fid%253D11918%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.doncio.navy.mil%26s%3D177%26h%3Da568012a1f14eefa2c2f5d5ee9dbe3c8d8b47f2fba80eae388b9f866253c0974%26size%3D980x%26c%3D746523628%22%7D” expand=1]

Work to improve your position

“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.

Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice

“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.

Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”

“You get involved in their routine,” he added.

Look for new ways to connect with people

In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.

“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.

“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”

He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.

Think about things you will do when its over

“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.

Remember it is not all about you

Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.

He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”

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

Articles

HOAX: This fugitive Mexican drug lord just threatened to destroy ISIS

A blogger took the world by storm with a fake story about notorious drug cartel leader and infamous prison fugitive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán reported sent an email directly to self-proclaimed caliph and leader of Daesh (aka ISIS), Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, threatening a military response if the terrorist organization continues disrupting Sinaloa Cartel shipments to the region.


This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams
El Chapo after his 2014 incarceration (photo by Day Donaldson)

How El Chapo would have Baghdadi’s personal email address is not known, and went unquestioned by many (including WATM) but the encrypted email was said to be leaked from a blogger known to have ties to El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel, one of the three main drug cartels operating in Central and South America.

According to CartelBlog, the Middle East is an emerging market for cocaine, ecstasy, and other party drugs, which does not sit well with ISIS ideology, so the terrorist group’s fighters would have to destroy drug shipments whenever they’re discovered. Except drug use is one of many ways ISIS pays the bills. If anything, ISIS would capture Sinaloa shipments because they’re competition.

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

Part of the email was purported to read:

“You [ISIS] are not soldiers. You are nothing but lowly p*ssies. Your god cannot save you from the true terror that my men will levy at you if you continue to impact my operation. My men will destroy you. The world is not yours to dictate. I pity the next son of a wh*re that tries to interfere with the business of the Sinaloa Cartel. I will have their heart and tongue torn from them.”

The terror group gained notoriety for its brutal torture acts, barbaric fighting, and ruthless killings, all of which were perfected by drug cartels when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a teenager.

But how awesome would it actually have been to see ISIS get a taste of its own medicine.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information