Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.

The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.


Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.

A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.

The will to live

Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.

“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”

Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.

Flashbacks from the Gulf War

His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.

Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement

Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,

It gave me hope

Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.

“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”

Click here to read more of Henson’s story.

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

Articles

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.


In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.

 

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
WIRED FOR DISCOVERY. Earl Shamwell, one of the authors, sets up a multisensor robotics testbed to collect images, LIDAR data and inertial measurements. Researchers aim to improve robotic performance by closing the gap between what a robot expects to happen and what actually happens. (Photo by Jhi Scott, ARL)

What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.

We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.

‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’

Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.

Related: Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.

The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.

We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.

Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.

A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.

NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’

In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.

Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.

All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.

Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Army researchers brief a Japanese industry delegation on a unique robot with strong, dexterous arms during an Oct. 5, 2016, visit to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF

Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.

Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.

For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.

Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.

CONCLUSION

At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.

A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.

Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.

If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.

Also read: The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

For more information about ARL collaboration opportunities in the science for maneuver, go to http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/.

DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.

This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.

Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army wife competes on NBC’s ‘The Titan Games’

When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.

“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”


The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.

McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.

At first, McMillan was unruffled.

“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.

“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”

McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.

She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.

“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”

That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.

McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.

“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”

The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.

“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.

This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.

Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.

“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”

Visit https://www.nbc.com/the-titan-games for information on upcoming episodes of The Titan Games.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia and China are dodging North Korea’s sanctions

China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.


A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.

Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.

More reading: Here’s another potential reason for North Korea’s nuclear provocations

More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.

North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.

Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.

Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.

Also read: Why the US will never recognize a nuclear North Korea

A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.

Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.

Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.

Related: Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said violations of maritime operations involving North Korea are a problem.

“We must put an end to illicit ship-to-ship transfers that undermine UN sanctions,” he said.

Articles

US general suspects Russia is supplying the Taliban

VOA News


Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.

“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.

His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.

“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.

Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .

VOA Afghan contributed to this report.

Articles

The making of ‘Range 15’ is even crazier than ‘Range 15’

“Nothing’s off limits.”


That’s a quote from one of the actors in Range 15, but it’s also the way the creators of the film live their lives.

And before you start getting all teary-eyed over it, know that it’s also the attitude they bring to their dark, effed up, and glorious comedic projects.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

For people who can relate to military humor, it doesn’t get much better than the veteran-produced zombie flick “Range 15”…until you find out they also made a behind-the-scenes documentary.

For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.

Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.

Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Not a War Story and check out the film on iTunes Nov. 7, 2017.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Midway’ movie takes war in the Pacific seriously

This Veterans Day, moviegoers everywhere can witness the most pivotal Pacific battle in World War II: “Midway.” The production reminds viewers just how precariously America’s future teetered in the early 1940s, and what cost, sacrifice and luck was required to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down, Independence Day: Resurgence) waited ten years before embarking on the heroic story, written by U.S. Navy veteran Wes Tooke. The ambitious storyline begins in earnest in Asia the 1930s, and follows the war in the Pacific through the Midway battle that ultimately changed the tide of war.


The narrative chiefly follows the experiences of two principal characters: Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton (the U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence Officer) and Lt. Dick Best (naval aviator and commanding officer of Bombing Six squadron). As with the actual war, numerous other characters help the story take shape. Historic figures like Nimitz, Doolittle, Halsey, McClusky and others played critical roles in the war, and resultantly in the movie.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Actor Woody Harrelson observes flight operations with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, Aug. 11, 2018, as aircraft trap, or recover, while returning from a mission.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)

The movie timeline has a fever-pitch parade of battles from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the the climactic fight at Midway a mere seven months later. Those portrayed are originally imperfect versions of themselves, who grow personally and professionally. Along the way they are confronted with unimaginable challenges and choices, often with historic consequences.

“I wanted to showcase the valor and immense courage of the men on both sides, and remain very sensitive to the human toll of the battles and war itself,” said Emmerich.

Hallowed grounds

Just as the project was being “green lighted,” Emmerich visited historic Pearl Harbor in June 2016. While there, he saw first-hand the historic bases, facilities and memorials that remain some 75 years on. Home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Oahu was the target of the infamous Dec. 7 attack. The island also hosted the headquarters where much of the early Pacific war planning occurred and where information warfare professionals partially broke the Japanese code. Ultimately, this was the location from which Adm. Chester Nimitz made the decision to risk what remained of the Pacific Fleet in the gamble at Midway in June 1942.

Emmerich personally toured the waterfront, including Battleship Row and the harbor where much of the fleet was anchored that fateful Sunday morning. He went on to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, which includes a dedicated Battle of Midway exhibit. His visit was curated by the facility’s historian and author Mr. Burl Burlingame, who has since passed away. Burlingame provided rich accounts of the opening months of the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Emmerich also got a behind-the-scenes look in the historic aircraft hangar there.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

More than 200 extras in period dress on location during the filming of the major motion picture “Midway.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)

The tour continued along Ford Island, which included stops at the original USS Arizona Memorial; a Navy seaplane ramp (with Pearl Harbor attack bomb and strafing scars); the Army seaplane ramps (also with strafing scars); and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials.

Emmerich and his party then conducted windshield tours of the USS Missouri; the Pacific Fleet Headquarters compound at Makalapa – which included the historic Nimitz and Spruance homes; the temporary office space from which Adm. Kimmel watched the attack on Pearl Harbor unfold; and the famed Station HYPO, profiled throughout the movie Midway, where its operators broke enough of the Japanese code to enable the ambush at Midway.

The visitors were able to glimpse the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Dry Dock One. In the of Spring of 1942, a battered and bloodied USS Yorktown aircraft carrier limped back to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Coral Sea. Despite extensive damage, the ship remained in dry dock only three days as shipyard works swarmed aboard to get her back in the fight. Initial repair estimates actually forecast three months to get her operational. The “Yorktown Miracle” resulted in the aircraft carrier being available to join the Midway fight a few days later.

After a full day of exposure to the places and legends who won Midway, the task of pulling it together for one movie might intimidate even the most seasoned directors. Not Emmerich.

“I was really impressed with his enthusiasm for the history and his determination to get it right. You could see the wheels turning in his head with each visit – it was like the movie was coming alive in his mind,” said Dave Werner, who escorted Emmerich and his group during the visit.

Script reviews

Once the Department of Defense approved a production support agreement with the movie’s producers, the writers got busy working to get the script as accurate as practicable. Multiple script drafts were provided to the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). Those same historians viewed the rough and final movie productions.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, left, and actor Woody Harrelson discuss the life and career of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander during World War II.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)

The “Midway” movie writers and producers worked tirelessly with the Navy in script development and during production to keep the storyline consistent with the historic narrative. In a few small instances, some events portrayed were not completely consistent with the historical record. Revising them would have unnecessarily complicated an already ambitious retelling of a series of complicated military battles. The production was representative of what unfolded in the opening months of WWII in the Pacific and does justice to the integrity, accountably, initiative and toughness of the sailors involved.

The naval historians who reviewed the production were impressed.

“I’m glad they did a movie about real heroes and not comic book heroes. Despite some of the ‘Hollywood’ aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made and does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle, on both sides,” said the director of NHHC, retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who personally supported each phase of the historical review.

The commitment to getting it right matriculated to the actors honored to represent American heroes.

Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz

Woody Harrelson plays the role of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander who assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, through Midway and remained in command until after the end of the war. Harrelson bears an uncanny resemblance to Nimitz in the movie.

In preparing for the role and while in Pearl Harbor, Harrelson called on Rear Adm. Brian Fort, who was (at the time) the commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted to understand the decisions the fleet admiral took in those critical months, and also wanted to get a sense of the type of naval officer and man Nimitz was. Calm and understated, and renowned for his piercing blue eyes, Nimitz was a quiet, confident leader. And he demonstrated a remarkable threshold for taking calculated risks. Committing his remaining carriers to the Midway engagement was chief among them.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Actor Woody Harrelson, second from left, poses for a photo with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while observing flight operations with sailors.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)

“Adm. Nimitz came in at an extremely difficult time for the Pacific Fleet. It was really important for Harrelson to understand not just the man, but the timing of his arrival and the urgency of the situation for the Navy and nation,” said Jim Neuman, the Navy Region Hawaii historian who arranged the meeting between Rear Adm. Fort and Harrelson. Neuman also served as the historical liaison representative on multiple sets during the filming.

Harrelson also got underway on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in August 2018 while the ship operated in the eastern Pacific Ocean. While embarked Harrelson got a close look at air operations at sea. He observed the launching and recovery of various naval aircraft, as well as seeing the navigation bridge and other areas critical in ensuring the ship operates safely. Harrelson was also exceedingly generous with his time to interact with sailors, stopping to talk with them, sign autographs and even played piano at an impromptu jam session.

During the visit, he saw first-hand what “Midway” depicts throughout: Navy teams work very closely together to make the impossible become possible.

The Midway battle pitted four Japanese aircraft carriers against three American carriers. Preparing, arming, launching and recovering aircraft from a ships at sea is no easy task. Adding the uncertainty and urgency of war only complicates an already highly complex operation.

Having credible combat power win the fight was only one aspect of winning Midway. Having them in the right location, at the right time, was the work of the information warfare professionals.

Wilson as Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton

Patrick Wilson, who serves in the role of Lt. Cmdr Edwin Layton, the U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, took great care in accurately portraying his character. He called on the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer, just-retired Navy Capt. Dale Rielage. The two toured an unclassified area outside of the still highly-classified offices at the Pacific Fleet. The outer office space is adorned with storyboards that remind the Navy information warfare professionals there just how critical their work was in winning Midway and the war in the Pacific. Also located there is the Pacific Fleet intelligence officer portrait board – with Layton’s picture being the first in a line of dozens of officers who have served in the 75 years since.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Patrick Wilson, right, who portrays U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton in the upcoming movie “Midway,” tours U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. Here he tours an unclassified outer office dedicated to heritage of the World War II information warfare specialists who helped win the war in the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)

After the brief tour, the two sat down and compared notes about Layton’s education, his experiences in Japan and elsewhere before the war, his relationship to Nimitz, and what the relationship was like between the Pacific Fleet staff and the code breakers in Station HYPO. No detail was too small, including typical protocol concerning how staff might have reacted when a senior officer such as Adm. Nimitz entered the office. Wilson’s command of Layton’s history was impressive and exhaustive, and his portrayal in the movie reflects it.

In fact, the research he and others put into the script and portrayals made “Midway” a compelling and believable representation of how information warfare professionals literally helped save the world 75 years ago. In today’s connected 21st-century information landscape, the importance of naval information warfare professionals are even more important to today’s security.

“We were thoroughly impressed with the amount of research he had conducted on his own, and it’s evident he is committed to honoring Layton’s legacy. Besides that, he was a really just a good guy and earnestly interested in learning more about Layton and the history,” said Werner, who escorted Wilson during the visit to the staff.

“Midway” opens in theaters everywhere on Nov. 8, 2019.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

“I am 95 years old,” said James Davis. “I am a World War II veteran, and I’m the last of my unit.”

Davis sat stoically in the chair, his head cocked to one side due to his poor hearing. His hands folded over the grip of his walking stick and his experienced eyes were surveying the room of soldiers and the distinguished guests in attendance who had come to hear him speak.

Davis spoke confidently, not fazed by Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, Hawaii State, Adjutant General and Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, Hawaii State, Deputy Adjutant General, and along with the Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Wingad who attended to hear Davis speak.


“I was in one of the first ten firefighting units created,” Davis said. “We were one of four units to deploy overseas to Africa. I made the landing on D-Day plus one on the southern French coast, but not Normandy.”

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

Davis, a Firefighter Historian, and last surviving member of the 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon, had come to the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 103rd Troop Command Armory in Pearl City, Hawaii to provide a professional development seminar to the 297th Engineer Fire Fighting Team. Davis became the Historian of his unit 30 years ago.

“I was born blind in one eye,” Davis said. “So, I figured the Army wouldn’t want me. But I registered with the selective service as was required by law. A few months later, the Army said, ‘We want you!'” The room laughed, as Davis chuckled.

Davis entered the United States Army as a selective service limited service inductee early of 1943. Due to his limitations, Davis was not permitted to deploy into combat.

Davis would not initially serve as a firefighter for the Army.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers 103D command staff attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“I started in another Corps,” Davis said. “The Army came looking for people like me that had had experience in wild land fires. Which I had had from the National Park Service. There weren’t many with firefighting experience. We had some training and some the job training. That was typically how we learned how to fight fires, ‘OJT.’ Between the end of World War I and Dec. 7, 1941 there was no class of Army firefighter, they didn’t exist.”

Six months later, he was deployed to Noran, Algeria.

“One year later, I’m hitting the beach on D-Day plus one,” Davis said. “We are very proud of what we did, in many respects. We were by in large, selective service inductees with no fire experience.”

Davis would go on to tell the role of the Army firefighter during World War II

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“When we went to shore in France, we had 37 men and five fire trucks,” Davis said. “We had engineer firefighting platoons that fought anything that burned, military or civilian.”

The 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon served a number of roles from supporting engineering missions as well as supporting combat operations. They were able to utilize their equipment to accomplish missions that normal military equipment could not accomplish.

The Army firefighter was also called upon to directly support combat operations on the front lines of the war.

“When we went into the forward areas, we worked behind the artillery,” Davis said. “Because the adversary would be throwing incendiary rounds, trying to burn the guns out, and would set fire in the process.”

Davis’ history and connected to the lineage and the roots of the 297th FFT Command.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“He loves firefighting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Odoardi, 103 Troop Command Sergeant Major. “He loved the job. He’s sharing that history with our guys, sharing their roots. In regards to professional development, it was an opportunity for our small firefighter group to learn from somebody who did it in World War II. It was amazing. We have such a diverse set of Military Occupational Specialties, anytime we can capture history from the past, especially from a veteran, it’s invaluable”

“We got to learn our history,” said Staff Sgt. Julius Fajotina, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 297th FFT. “I didn’t think firefighting went back to the Legions of Rome. Knowing where we came from and knowing what we equipment we have now, it’s amazing what firefighter Davis accomplished.”

Davis is the last surviving member of his unit and his story will continue on through the soldiers of the 297th FFT.

“We did what we could, with what we had,” Davis said. “It wasn’t adequate, but we are proud of what we did.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of the Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife

Every badass commando needs their own fighting knife. When the battle gets up-close and personal, all the rules are thrown out and it’s anything goes. When a suitable blade doesn’t exist, you get one made. On Nov. 4, 1940, John “Jack” Wilkinson-Latham, Charlie Rose, Lieutenant Colonel William Ewart “Dan” Fairbairn, and Major Eric Anthony “Bill” Sykes met at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. to discuss the prospect of engineering a new combat fighting knife.


Each man brought desirable knowledge in practical concepts to the drawing board. Taking three decades of past experience as a peace officer and firearms instructor for the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in China, then the most violent cop-beat in the world, Fairbairn had the required intangibles to show up for a conversation. He was one of the original members of the world’s first Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams and had expertise in forensic ballistics. These bullet points in Fairbairn’s life were what allied clandestine units eyeballed. “I was in police work in the Orient for 30 years [1907-1940],” he said. “We had a tough crowd to deal with there so you had to be prepared to beat every trick in the book.”

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Dermot O’Neill teaches combatives learned from his days as an SMP officer.

Photo courtesy of Special Forces Roll of Honour.

A bloody fight in an alleyway hospitalized Fairbairn after he was ambushed by goons from a Chinese separatist gang. Covered in bandages after being stabbed over a dozen times and left for dead, he awoke to notice a plaque on the wall that read: “Professor Okada, Jiu-Jitsu and Bone-setting.” He had an epiphany to use Jiu-Jitsu and combine it with other martial arts such as boxing, judo, and wrestling. He called it Defendu and used it to better protect his officers in these types of melees.

Sykes, a special sergeant attached to the sniper unit, was highly respected by Fairbairn. Together they tussled with street thugs in riots and patrolled among the political unrest across the red light districts. In just 12.5 years, they were present during more than 2,000 riots and fights, 666 of which were shootings. They deescalated 200 of them, a remarkable record considering that a mob can turn into a violent riot fairly quickly. This anomaly exposed them to real-world tactics shaped from classroom theory to results-driven practices. The skill to incapacitate called for a specific level of training because killing was the last resort.

From 1927 to 1940, Fairbairn made connections with the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in China; those from the “China Marines” were exposed to his methods in how to kill with a blade. These connections would prove to be effective down the road in his role with the implementation of unarmed combat within the U.S. military and select special operations units.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

A commando concealing his F-S knife in a sheath on his calf.

(photo courtesy of the Commando Museum.)

After retiring from the SMP, the pair returned to the United Kingdom in 1940 and were approached by the Secret Intelligence Service’s (SIS) “Section D” (for destruction) to set up a combatives program for the newly formed Commandos and Special Operations Executive (SOE). Since their November 1940 meeting, it took Rose, the top development engineer at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. Experimental Workshop, 10 days to work out the kinks in the “First Pattern” of the F-S knives. The expedited process ensured a batch of 1,500 daggers would reach schoolhouses across England.

“In modern warfare, the job is more drastic,” said Fairbairn. “You’re interested only in disabling or killing your enemy. That’s why I teach what I call ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play; no rules except one; kill or be killed.” Their nimble design had a long, thin 6.5- to 7-inch blade; the grip was made from solid brass, and the grip handguard was nickel-plated.

Designed for combat applications, the double-edged stiletto could be worn and concealed on the calf of a commando. Its usage was common in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) but saw action among members of SOE’s Force 136, including James Alexander E. MacPherson, who carried it in the Far East.

Gutter Fighting training by OSS at Catoctin

www.youtube.com

This lightweight model was then introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Rex Applegate, a counterintelligence officer assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) instructor cadre. Known for his instruction on “Point Shooting” with handguns and a visionary in combat application, he traveled to the U.K. to witness the commandos training firsthand. He and Fairbairn inspected the field reports of the dagger’s effectiveness on body armor, conducted additional training, and met up with Fairbairn’s then-compatriot Sykes. While Sykes remained in the U.K. instructing his “Silent Killing” course, Fairbairn and him had a disagreement that is rumored to have hurt their relationship.

Applegate and Fairbairn returned to the West to introduce their methods to the Americans at Camp Ritchie, then later at the 275-acre farmland training grounds called STS-3 (Special Training School), or Camp X, in Oshawa, Canada. Camp X opened on Dec. 6, 1941, a day before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. It became an instrumental link between British and American special operations forces who cross-trained before going to war. They eventually made a knife of their own called the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.

The Shanghai connection didn’t stop there. Irishman Dermot “Pat” O’Neill served amongst the SMP, following in his father’s footsteps. As he rose through the ranks, O’Neill earned a fourth dan black belt. His influence was feared — a SWAT cop mingling in the same gyms as Judo students who were trained as spies for the Kempeitai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo. Adding to the heat already upon him was rampant corruption in the SMP, including the chief of detective squad, Lu Liankui. He was a Green Gang boss and disciple of the Ji Yunquing, one of the eight leaders of the Big Eight Mob. O’Neill expected retribution and bailed onto a fishing boat for Sydney; he soon received a telegram from Fairbairn requesting his presence in the United States.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

The Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife is present on many modern-day unit insignias, including the U.S. Army Special Forces.

(Open source graphic.)

O’Neill weaved his way to Camp X, where Fairbairn utilized his expertise teaching OSS officers. Here he taught students how to sneak up on sentries and eliminate them. He ran the students through real-world scenarios because shooting paper targets on a range and performing hand-to-hand combat drills on dummies wasn’t going to cut it in war. Fairbairn put students through “indoor mystery ranges” (the “shoot houses” or “kill houses” today’s special operations soldiers are familiar with).

“Under varying degrees of light, darkness, and shadows, plus the introduction of sound effects, moving objects, and various alarming surprises,” Fairbairn explained, “an opportunity is afforded to test the moral fiber of the student and to develop his courage and capacity for self control.” The students referred to these tests as the “House of Horrors” for its authenticity.

Fairbairn’s web of connections brought helped spread the Fairbairn-Sykes combat fighting knife around the world, and it has a lineage in many different historical units. When O’Neill left the OSS, he later joined Lt. Col. Robert Frederick’s First Special Service Force (FSSF), commonly referred to as the Devil’s Brigade. The joint U.S.-Canada team learned quickly that O’Neill wasn’t there to teach them how to incapacitate an enemy — he was there to teach them how to kill.

Frederick developed his own knife called the V-42 stiletto. Inspired by the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Frederick issued his “Cross Dagger” to his commandos. Today, the lineage can be seen in the insignia of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Royal Marines, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Army Rangers, Dutch Commando Corps, and the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment.

The Best Ranger Competition

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of April 14

Ready for a payday weekend? So are we once we finish these little articles and get through the editor’s safety brief.


One intern falls out of the window and all of a sudden we can’t be trusted. Anyway, here are 13 funny military memes to help you get the weekend started:

1. “Yeah, Navy, Imma let you finish. But the Air Force has the greatest bombs and I can prove it.” (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
That MOAB is Air Force AF.

2. Don’t laugh, don’t coo at him. Don’t laugh, don’t …. (via Air Force Memes Humor)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Guarantee you’ll lose control and laugh when his voice cracks.

Also read: Why deadly wounds aren’t treated first in combat

3. But what are you going to do with the extra space in the bin? (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Maybe that’s where you can place their DD-214s as well.

4. The warrant recruiters wouldn’t have to send all those emails if they only made this their motto (via Sh*t my LPO says).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
For warrants, it’s actually a pretty accurate description.

5. You’ll spend the whole weekend waiting for the other shoe to drop (via Sh*t my LPO says).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
What’s really going on around here?

6. “Wait … this surf and turf doesn’t even taste like rubber. Why would they send fresh food unless …”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

7. Know what’s a good topic for those application essays? “How I smoked that terrorist shooting at my buddies.” (via @rachaaelbrand)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

8. It’s funny because it’s true (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
It’s also sad because it’s true, but let’s not focus on that.

9. Speaking of sad because it’s true:

(via Military Memes)

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Sorry, Jody. No one is cutting orders yet.

10. Just think of all the dry socks and water onboard too (via Decelerate Your Life).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Silver bullets as far as the eye can see.

11. That DD-214 isn’t always a golden ticket (via Team Non-Rec).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Guess you’re just going to have to console yourself with doing whatever you want and getting to see your wife and children.

12. Sorry, corporals, but we were all thinking it (via The Salty Soldier).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
Army corporals enjoy twice the responsibility without any of that pesky extra pay.

13. Nope. Nope. Nope (via Sh*t my LPO says).

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts
You do get plenty of free salt though, so that’s nice.

Articles

Veterans describe what it’s like to kill in this powerful video series

What do you say when people ask if you killed anyone?


This question is almost inevitable when civilians find out you’re a war veteran. How do you explain that feeling to someone who never fought in a war?

I know it’s not right to do this, but I have to. If I focused on it for one minute, I would lose my mind. So I didn’t.

Most people, even many veterans, will never know what it’s like to kill another human being, especially in combat. A video series, On Killing, produced by Cut.com, asked six war veterans of various eras and countries the difficult questions about killing in warfare.

I didn’t give a f*ck who he was. I was trying to keep me alive.”
One minute you have somebody walking along and the next it’s just a lump of flesh.

Six war veterans discuss their experiences in the series. This includes Lonnie, an infantryman during the Vietnam War:

Josh, a sniper in Operation Enduring Freedom:
Daniel, a machine gunner during the Vietnam War:
Qassim, an Iraqi who was forced into Saddam Hussein’s army during the Iran-Iraq War:
Lance, a 3rd generation Army veteran and veteran of the Kosovo War:
Jonathan, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran:
MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain deploys fighters to deter Russians over NATO

Two British Typhoon jets based in Romania have scrambled to investigate suspected Russian fighter aircraft operating near NATO airspace over the Black Sea.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Typhoons launched from the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018, when two suspected Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft appeared to be heading toward NATO airspace from the Crimea region.


There was no immediate comment from Russian officials.

Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.

Russia has also increased its navy’s presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

Tensions are high in the region since Moscow’s 2014 takeover and illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a move that led to Western sanctions being imposed against Russia.

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

Two British Typhoon jets were launched from an air base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018.

The British Typhoons were operating in accordance with NATO’s enhanced air policing mission designed to deter “Russian aggression, reassure Romania and assure NATO allies of the UK commitment to collective defense,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It quoted one of the Typhoon pilots as saying, “We had radar contact and shadowed the two aircraft as they flew through the Romanian flight information region, but we never got within visual range to see them.”

Airspace is divided into flight information regions, in which flight and alerting services are provided by a specific country’s aviation authority and differs from sovereign airspace.

The statement did not specify if the Russian jets flew into actual Romanian airspace.

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

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