Friday, March 19, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury

Well, I made it safely to Afghanistan. While here, I was contacted about helping to get the message out about TBI. Certainly we are suffering from our successes -- our improved body and vehicle armor has kept many from dying outright, but instead we now face increased numbers of TBI cases.

Here's some more information:

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming a common wound of modern warfare. It has even been coined the “signature wound” of the War on Terror. While TBI is becoming more prevalent in wartime activity, many service men and women continue to go undiagnosed. Institutions, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs, are working to make quick and accurate diagnoses in order to prescribe appropriate and effective treatment.

TBI is caused by forced trauma to the head, either by being shaken or hit. The severity of a TBI varies from case to case, but symptoms range from mild concussions to a debilitating state. The majority of TBI’s acquired by military personnel are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). Initial symptoms of MTBI consist of loss of consciousness, disorientation, loss of memory, headache, and temporary loss of hearing and vision. They are often partnered with anxiety, irritability, difficulties processing information, limited concentration amongst other problems experienced down the road. While MTBI is most common amongst the men and women of the armed forces, more severe cases of TBI are happening much more frequently and often require the victim to attended specialty rehabilitative nursing centers, like CareMeridian.

The most common cause of a TBI in the military is due to blasts. There are three degrees of blast injuries where a TBI is common; Primary (due to blast itself), Secondary (due to objects being propelled by a blast) and Tertiary (due to a collision with a third party object). According to the Veterans Health Initiative, active male members of the military from the ages 18-24 are hospitalized with a TBI at a rate of 231 per 100,000 and females 150 per 100,000. Based on military force projections this would mean that 4,141 military personnel are hospitalized on average each year with a TBI, and these numbers often rise during wartimes.

The best prevention for veterans to avert the long-term effects of a brain injury is to recognize the symptoms of a TBI. Once the symptoms are identified an individual should take basic precautionary measures in order to begin the healing and recovery process until a more specific diagnosis can be made.

Service men and women give so much to protect this country and they deserve to come home to a happy and healthy life. Creating awareness about TBI will help ensure their long term health. By helping our veterans, their friends and their families recognize the early warning signs of a TBI, treatment can be sought as early as possible.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The bottom line is that you agreed not to...

this is just one of the many milblog references to the AP's posting of a photo of a young Marine fighting for his life, who subsequently passed away. The family of Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, killed in Afghanistan had reportedly asked

Here's the controversy in a nutshell

The picture, taken by embedded AP photographer Julie Jacobson, shows Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard suffering severe leg wounds from a rocket-propelled grenade fired at him in an ambush in Helmand province on Aug. 14.

The 21-year-old Marine's father, from New Portland, The AP said it decided to publish the photo even though Bernard's father objected. A report claims Defense Secretary Robert Gates strongly objected to the organization's decision, and told the AP his feelings in a letter., reportedly asked the AP to take down the photo in an interview and follow-up phone call.

I have mixed feelings about this to be sure. The issue isn't as clear cut for me as it is for others.

A good friend of mine and great writer had this to say about the controversy. He has deployed to Iraq three times and been a tremendous Public Affairs Officer. He writes -- and writes well -- over at "Armed and Curious"

My response to his well-crafted post ran too long for the comments section so I put it here.

I agree with your thoughts here as they pertain to the trust between journalists and our military. I think that the relationship -- tenuous at the best of times -- has been worsened by the actions of Ms Jacobson and her supporters at the AP.

So too, has the relationship between PAOs and our military forces been damaged. Our credibility is on the line, often with forces with whom we have had little time to build a critical relationship. Suddenly, we are introducing to their unit a reporter alongside whom they'll live -- and sometimes die -- and telling them that it's important in our obligation to inform the American people about our mission and the men and women who accomplish that mission.

Having just returned from 10 weeks at the Joint Forces Staff College, I was surprised at how little love there was for PAOs from operators and others, such as the IO community. At best, we are seen as a necessary evil and at worst, a complete roadblock to the success of the mission.

This situation certainly isn't going to help us the next time we need to convince a unit to take an embed along.

I am interested in seeing what steps the military will take towards Ms Jacobson for violating the terms of the agreement she signed. This is for no other reason than to see the message we will be sending to other journalists that will, and I do mean will, do such things in the future.

I agree that she should be sanctioned and removed from our military care (I mean dropped off somewhere safe, not in the middle of nowhere) because she violated the agreement she signed. But only for that reason.

I am not sure that the arguments about the wishes of the family or the potential use of such photos should be of paramount importance here.

Don't misunderstand: if we have the rule that photos that allow identification of a servicemember will not be allowed -- either by nametag or other distinguishing characteristic -- then we should support that rule and take actions when that rule is violated.

I certainly understand the feelings of the family, but wonder whether we open a dangerous precedent when we allow the feelings of the family to dictate what events, which happen in the public realm, will be covered in the media?

Is it really that far a jump from the Bernard family's decision to any family’s decision to say, "we don't want photos of our loved one to be published because of our feelings and the situation it creates for us." The principle of allowing a 3rd party to be the deciding factor in media coverage is a difficult one, full of larger implications that warrant discussion and exploration.

As far as showing photos like this as a general rule... I wonder whether it's not better for Americans to truly see what happens when they send young men and women who are fighting the nation's wars, or at the very least photos where a particular individual cannot be recognized. How else will Americans develop an appreciation for what we truly do, and the sacrifices we truly make? I don't see Americans developing this sense of appreciation from seeing flag-draped coffins, or a photo of a bugler at Arlington.

I do appreciate and understand the American sense of outrage at the AP over a sense of profiteering over the photo. Americans are keenly aware of anyone they see as taking "unfair advantage" of a situation to profit.

I just finished reading "Sway: the irresistible pull of irrational behavior" in which the authors referred to a study where Americans were offered a choice. The choice was to take a split of 10$ predetermined by a complete stranger the chooser would never meet or know anything about. If the chooser accepted, then both parties would get the money, if the choice was rejected, then neither party got any money. Americans almost universally rejected any split that was not 50-50... claiming that it was "unfair" that a stranger would profit more than they, despite their receiving money for nothing. This principle held regardless of the total amount offered.

I can't help but wonder if the same principle is at work here for some people: that some people will refuse to see anything other than the AP and the reporter are gaining from this young Marine's death. Which they are, to be sure.

But as to what I would do in this situation: I would pull Ms Jacobson's credentials and send her packing. She violated her agreement, plain and simple. That's the deontological side speaking ... the consequentialist in me says that maybe there is more good than bad that comes from these types of photos... I just don't know. But I know the answer isn't simple and is full of the 2nd & 3rd order effects of which you so eloquently refer.

At the end, all I can be sure of is that this Marine's death -- like so many others -- is a terrible tragedy, and that I hope that some good comes from it in Afghanistan and other places around the world. Bless him and his family!

And thank you for always making me think... I really wish we could have been stationed at the same post at the same time!


crossposted to

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I am at the Army Worldwide Public Affairs Seminar

Well, the fun starts tomorrow.

I am sure we'll discuss the Army's new blog, found here.

Sadly ironic that we are having a seminar about the importance of social media, at the same time that Army PAOs have to beg permission to access the same from their work computers...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Year of the NCO videos

Here's a little something to enjoy given that it's the Year of the NCO.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is the new Army-brand cycle jacket an i-wreck waiting to happen?

It's no secret we have had an alarming rise in motorcycle deaths in the past few years, especially among sport bikers.

A few months ago, the service secretaries met with motorcycle manufacturers to discuss the trend.

The secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force met with four major motorcycle makers Jan. 15. The discussion focused on motorcycle safety and how sport bikes are marketed to service members. read the full story.

The military has attacked this issue numerous ways: safety courses, motorcycle rallies, and my favorite (seriously) ... rally days where they encourage fast riding in a safe, controlled environment.

I haven't had the opportunity to ride much here in Korea, but I certainly expect to at my next PAO assignment. So, I was in the Military Clothing Sales store when I saw one of the newest "Power Trip" Army-branded motorcycle jackets. I bought this model.

I really like the jacket ... it's got some nice touches like reflective strips that fold out for riding, but tuck away for wearing; jacket loops that attach to your belt so the jacket doesn't ride up during a fall; pads for the shoulders and elbows and an option to put in a heavier pad for the back.

But one thing bothers me: with the increase in motorcycle deaths, did we really need this?

It might just be me ... but do we want Soldiers listening to their iPods while operating THE piece of equipment most likely to be involved in their peacetime early death?

Or am I over thinking things?


Sunday, April 12, 2009

How I knew I would hate teaching.

I remember the day I said to myself, “there’s no way in hell I ever want to be a teacher”.

I had told my 9th grade Anatomy & Physiology teacher I was considering teaching. When I asked him about it; he mentioned it got easier as he went along.

He said something like, “You know, I’ve taught the same classes for 14 years. You could pick any day of the year, and I could teach that lesson from memory.”

I was horrified.

I couldn’t conceive of doing the same thing every day for 3 years, let alone 14.

It’s one of the reasons I love the Army… after about 2 years in a job, it’s time to move, but you take your seniority with you. After moving 12 times in 17 years, I have never had to worry about knowing the day’s lesson plan in advance.

Ironically though, I received an email the other day from a Soldier who thanked me for everything that he had learned while in my command.

It’s one of the things I love the most about being a leader in the Army: taking care of Soldiers.

And one of the ways we do that is of course:

The teaching.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lost Generation

This is an incredible ... and incredibly creative video I came across last week. Watch the whole thing, and enjoy!