Helping Military Kids Cope with Tough Times

LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon, a pediatrician in the military, who gives advice on what stress symptoms a child may display and what to do.

LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon, a pediatrician in the military, who gives advice on what stress symptoms a child may display and what to do.

The fatal shootings at the Fort Hood, Texas military post are tough enough for adults to grasp.

Now, imagine if you are the child in a military family and hearing news of the shooting for the first time.

Military kids are tough, but news like that can overwhelm a child already dealing with deployment, transitioning to a new post or living on a military base.

So, I’m posting a few links that most military families may know about, but it’s helpful to have online tips at hand.

First, LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon outlines symptoms of stress you may observe in a child from an infant having trouble bonding to an elementary school child acting out.

The Military Kids Connect website offers specific tips for dealing with four tough topics:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)
  • Physical Injury
  • Grief and Loss

As part of a military family, children sometimes have to learn how to cope with and overcome very difficult situations. So, the Department of Defense has developed materials to help the children, parents and educators because the family’s involvement is key to a child’s success in dealing with tough situations.

There’s a sign circulating for April, Military Child Month, that goes:

Military children will say good-bye to more significant people by the age of 18 than the average person will in their lifetime.

Just think about it and whenever you thank a member of the military for their service you might add a thank you for their family and children.

Researching Military Sexual Assault Prevention

Diane Price-Herndl, chair of the USF Women and Gender Studies and the Women's Status Committee.

Diane Price-Herndl, chair of the USF Women and Gender Studies and the Women’s Status Committee.

One in every five women and one in every 100 men have told the VA that they experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.

Those numbers have both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs working on solutions for treatment and the prevention of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

The head of the Women and Gender Studies and the Women’s Status Committee at the University of South Florida, Diane Price-Herndl, thinks her academic expertise can help with healing and prevention.

“This is a place where academics have not done our due diligence,” Price-Herndl said. “We’ve got men and women in the service who are suffering. And they are suffering from things that ostensibly my discipline studies and works on.”

She said Women and Gender Studies has done a lot of research on sexual assault in the general population that might prove helpful for the problem in the military.

Credit: Iowa VA

Credit: Iowa VA

So, Price-Herndl is starting that discussion at a one-day symposium on Military Sexual Trauma planned April 8 at USF Marshall Student Center in Tampa.

The idea is to share strategies and research across disciplines and agencies. Researchers from Bay Pines VA and James A. Haley VA will join USF academics from nursing, theater, and other departments. Each will present their current research on MST and there will be a chance to brainstorm.

One session will explore a project Price-Herndl is developing, The Witness Project. It hopes to archive and use the written and oral stories of military sexual trauma survivors as teaching tools for prevention programs developed for the Department of Defense.

Additionally, a round-table is planned at the conclusion of the symposium will take up the problem of sexual assault among the general population on college campuses.

For details on “USF Responds to Military Sexual Trauma: A Research Symposium,” contact Diane Price-Herndl at  priceherndl@usf.edu .

General Pleads Guilty to Adultry, Still Faces Assault Charges

Courtesy of the Policy Front and Center.org

Courtesy of the Policy Front and Center.org

The NPR blog that reports breaking news, The Two-Way,  has posted this item:

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery and two other charges in a court martial proceeding on Thursday, but he still faces the most serious charge of sexually assaulting a female captain.

Sinclair, 51, a former deputy commander with the 82ndAirborne Division, admitted to an extramarital affair with the captain and “inappropriate relationships” with two other women. Adultery is considered an offense under military law. He also pleaded guilty to possessing pornography while stationed in Afghanistan, a violation of orders in the conservative Muslim country, The Associated Press reports.

The New York Times says decision to plead guilty to possessing pornography “came after Army prosecutors made it clear on Wednesday that they wanted to show the military jury reams of pornography that they said General Sinclair had illegally watched in Afghanistan. It would illustrate, they said, sexual desires that led him to assault a junior officer.”

You can read the full post here.

Joint Special Operations: A University of Their Own

U.S. Special Operations Command Deputy Commander, Army Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, served as keynote speaker at the symbolic groundbreaking for the new university campus. Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

U.S. Special Operations Command Deputy Commander, Army Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, served as keynote speaker at the symbolic groundbreaking for the new university campus.
Credit Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

The Tampa Bay area will soon become home to a new university. It is not another state university like Florida Polytechnic. Instead, the university has a highly-specialized curriculum with a global reach.

A hub campus for the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) is under construction near the U.S. Special Operations Command on MacDill Air Force Base.

There was a symbolic groundbreaking Thursday, but the JSOU has been holding classes for the past three years in a former bank building just outside the Tampa air base. The school is working on accreditation, but is not yet a degree-granting university.

Dr. Brian Maher, president of the Joint Special Operations University, said the curriculum is at the core of the Department of Defense’s plan to use more teams of special operators.

 Dr. Brian Maher, president of the Joint Special Operations University, says their new facility withstood budget cuts because Dept. of Defense plans to use more special ops forces in the future. Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media


Dr. Brian Maher, president of the Joint Special Operations University, says their new facility withstood budget cuts because Dept. of Defense plans to use more special ops forces in the future.
Credit Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

“The secretary of defense just the other day said, ‘Hey as we’re cutting back some of the forces, we’re going to see the special operator on the battlefield,’” Maher said. “And they’re going to be in small teams and they’re going to be needed to have the skills and that intellectual capacity to talk back to chiefs of staff of services and ministries of defense and be able to help formulate and articulate what the United States is trying to do.”

The JSOC was created to train special operations forces in 2000, a year before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. But what started as training courses and workshops has developed into an educational institution.

Now, it serves special forces and conventional forces as well as interagency and international partners.

“We want to take the niche, and it will be primarily for the non-commissioned officers,” Maher said. “Help them get a higher level education, but in the things that are going to be meaningful for the rest of their career – critical thinking skills, solving complex problems.”

(From left to right) Command Sgt. Maj. David Betz, JSOU senior enlisted advisor; Dr. Brian Maher, JSOU president; Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa; retired Army Gen. Doug Brown, former USSOCOM commander; Army Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, USSOCOM deputy commander; Retired Vice Adm. Joe Maguire, former commander of Naval Special Warfare Command; Air Force Col. Andre Briere, 6th Air Mobility Wing vice commander; and Army Lt. Col. Thomas Nelson, Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District deputy commander break ground for the Joint Special Operations University scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2015.

(From left to right) Command Sgt. Maj. David Betz, JSOU senior enlisted advisor; Dr. Brian Maher, JSOU president; Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa; retired Army Gen. Doug Brown, former USSOCOM commander; Army Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, USSOCOM deputy commander; Retired Vice Adm. Joe Maguire, former
commander of Naval Special Warfare Command; Air Force Col. Andre Briere, 6th
Air Mobility Wing vice commander; and Army Lt. Col. Thomas Nelson, Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District deputy commander break ground for the Joint Special Operations University scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2015.

Maher said a majority of the special operators’ work is building security cooperation and partnerships with other government agencies and nations and that only 5 to 10 percent of special forces’ work is “direct action.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB.

“It’s something that we call phase zero or before the bang,” Maher said. “We don’t ever want to get to where there’s an armed conflict.”

Instead, the aim is to provide training and work with partner nations to solve local problems before they grow into regional conflicts.

The university facility is being built as an extension of the U.S. Special Operations Command where Army Lt. Gen. John Mulholland is deputy commander.

“Nowhere in the world, literally, will you find such an academic institution dedicated to the professional study and practice of special operations,” Mulholland said at the symbolic groundbreaking. “This building will support JSOU evolving into a fully-accredited, nationally-recognized degree granting university. Providing a variety of academic programs and electives specifically designed for special operators.”

The new 90,000 square-foot JSOU facility is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and become home to 130 faculty and staff.

You can listen to the radio version of this story which aired on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Camp Lejeune Toxic Water May Link to Higher Cancer Deaths

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

  they shared news of a new study that found Marine and Navy personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. who were exposed to decades of polluted drinking water are dying at a higher rate than military personnel at other bases, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s study backs up concerns that contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune may be tied to cancers and illness in as many as 1 million people..

The study found that personnel stationed at the base from 1975 to 1985 had death rates for all cancers 10 percent higher than at Camp Pendleton in California. It compared deaths of 8,964 people at Camp Lejuene between 1975 and 1985, and compared it with deaths of people at Camp Pendleton during the same time period.

Families affected by the tainted water were encouraged to apply for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yet, many are frustrated by the VA red-tape and paperwork according to a report in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

“The VA keeps asking for the same stuff over and over again, and when I send it to them they say they can’t find it,” “It’s pretty crazy,” Englewood’s Cheryl Baillargeon, whose first husband, Dan Albert, died of cancer 24 years ago, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

In 2012, President Obama signed a law that provided health care for people with medical problems linked to the toxic chemicals who lived or worked at the base from 1957 to 1987 reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Cut to Military Pension Cost of Living Angers Some Veterans

Photo credit: PBS.org

Photo credit: PBS.org

Some younger veterans are viewing the budget deal that reduces the military pension cost-of-living adjustments as a betrayal according to the Washington Post.

The reduction in cost-of-living does not take effect until 2015, a year from now. However, reaction to the modest cut has been immediate.

After 25 years of service, including a combat tour in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Stephen Preston retired from the Army and began collecting a pension of nearly $55,000 a year. The money made it possible for Preston to go back to college, get his MBA and embark on a second career in corporate strategy.

…“I’m not an angry man, but I was very, very angry,” Preston, 51, said in a telephone interview from his home in Tampa. “This is a pact between the greater population of the United States and the fraction of people who served and sacrificed. If you didn’t want to pay us what you promised us, then you probably shouldn’t have promised it.”

Among the veterans organizations calling for a repeal of the pension cut is Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, IAVA.

“My family and I should not be penalized to subsidize the budget,” wrote Air Force Master Sergeant Brandon Bennett in a letter posted on the IAVA website.

The Post reports that Congress will consider restoring the 1 percent cut in the cost-of-living adjustment received by disabled veterans and families of those killed in action.

A special commission is expected to finalize its recommendations on a complete overhaul of the military pension system this May.

You can read the full Washington Post article here.

Watch: Wreaths Across America Honors Those Lost at Sea

Sgt. Steven Thibodeau, police officer from the town of Scarborough, Maine, renders honors after placing a wreath at the grave marker during Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

Sgt. Steven Thibodeau, police officer from the town of Scarborough, Maine, renders honors after placing a wreath at the grave marker during Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

Veterans, families and organizations turned out Saturday for the annual Wreaths Across America celebration,  the placing of wreaths on veterans’ graves at hundreds of cemeteries locally, nationally and internationally.

A special ceremony was held in Ft. Myers for those lost at sea and never to be recovered. Here’s a video tribute from former WUSF Public Media intern and video photographer Alex Cook, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who is now working at WINK-TV in Ft. Myers.

Continue reading

New Sexual Assault Prevention Director Named

 

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel named Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow as the new director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).

Snow will take over the job in January 2014 as the current director, Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, retires after serving for nearly 35 years in the U.S. Army.

Hagel praised Patton for his 18-month tenure as head of th SAPRO and for tackling tough assignments. A fact sheet detailing his initiatives is available at www.sapr.mil .

Maj. Gen. Snow comes to the position with 30 years of dedicated service, to include command at various levels and multiple combat tours in Iraq.  He is currently the Army’s director of Strategy, Plans and Policy.  He was competitively selected for this position from a field of multi-service nominees.

 

8 Things to Know About the Afghanistan Withdrawl

After 31 years as a Marine Corps officer, Scott Anderson took a civilian job. He now serves as director of Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Central Command.

After 31 years as a Marine Corps officer, Scott Anderson took a civilian job. He now serves as director of Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Central Command.

It’s a delicate balance keeping troops supplied while downsizing in Afghanistan. Then, add the mandate to do it in the most economical and efficient way.

That’s why troops in Afghanistan, including the commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, are eating an MRE for one of their three daily meals. There are a lot of prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat stored in Afghanistan and they are not worth the cost to ship home.

Despite the uncertainty over how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, logistics experts at U.S. Central Command are already closing bases and moving out equipment and troops.

Retired Marine officer Scott Anderson is the civilian in charge of logistics and engineering for CENTCOM.

The time differential between Afghanistan and Tampa, FL is 9.5 hours during Daily Savings Time. That means Anderson comes to work very early in the morning, more like late at night, to coordinate with his military counterparts in theater.

A digital board displaying several time zones is mounted above a large flat-screen TV in his office at U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base.

And the clock is ticking for Anderson and his logistician counterparts from the Pentagon to the Pakistan’s Port of Karachi. They have just over a year to ship, transfer or destroy tons of equipment originally sent to Afghanistan to support troops.

Here are some details Anderson shared on their progress:

  • They are 60 percent complete with base closures in Afghanistan.
  • At the peak, there were 360 bases in Afghanistan, now; there are fewer than 44 bases.
  • Afghan Security Forces identified the bases they wanted and asked the U.S. to build some new ones.
  • U.S. engineers are training Afghans on base operations like the electrical grid and water systems.
  • A snapshot of how much equipment is coming home: for the period of Sept. 10, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014, 7500 vehicles and about 1500 shipping containers will be moved out.
  • Troops are eating a prepackaged MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) for one of their three daily meals to use up stores that are too expensive to ship home.
  • The cheapest way to ship equipment out of Afghanistan is to truck it to the Port of Karachi in Pakistan and sail it home. Currently, 70 percent is coming out that way.
  • There are two options for equipment too old or too expensive to ship home: transfer it to the Afghan Security Forces or destroy it if it is deemed it the equipment would only be a burden to the Afghans.

Anderson said his biggest challenge is to not draw-down too quickly. He does not want a scenario where a soldier doesn’t have a meal or enough fuel in his vehicle.

NPR Report on ‘Other Than Honorable Discharge’

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

This week, NPR’s Quil Lawrence is reporting on veterans who did not receive an honorable discharge after service in the military.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special-operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good conduct medal, and that he’s a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads “Discharged: under other than honorable conditions.”

The “other-than-honorable discharged” have been turned away from medical care at the Department of Veterans Affairs and from programs offered by other veterans’ organizations.

… more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with “bad paper” over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it’s a red flag on any job application.

Yet, many with a bad discharge said it is due to post traumatic stress and other conditions directly tied to their military service.

You can read the full story and listen to the report here.

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