Vaccine Research by DoD Saves Military & Civilian Lives

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

By Debbie Gregory.

Military personnel at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR ) are researching and developing vaccines that can save military and civilian lives from the threats of deadly viruses and bacteria.

There has been a lot of coverage in the news about the Zika virus. With U.S. service members deploying to areas where there is a danger of Zika, malaria and other dangerous pathogens,  vaccines could be the key to not only keeping the troops healthier, but the civilian population as well.

Pharma companies Glaxo-Smith-Kline and Sanaria, in conjunction with WRAIR, are near ready to release their vaccines for malaria. But this wasn’t new territory for the institute: WRAIR has been a research partner in the development of every existing malaria medication on the market today, as well as the first effective licensed vaccine against meningitis in the 1970s.

“Every single licensed therapy for malaria has somehow made its way through Walter Reed Army Institute of Research at some point in its development,” said Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s director for emerging infectious diseases. “It was tested, validated and developed within our institution,” Modjarrad said.

WRAIR is the largest and most diverse biomedical research laboratory in the Department of Defense. The institute’s greatest resources are the dedicated scientists, technicians, and support personnel who make up the core of the institute.

WRAIR is working on vaccines for Zika.  Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease that has appeared in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Private-sector pharmaceutical companies are not always in the financial position to pursue vaccine research, so  WRAIR provides resources and support to advance vaccine research.

“By us funding further studies of the more-promising vaccine candidates, we can generate more data on how safe and effective they are,” said Paul Keiser, director of WRAIR’s viral diseases branch. “More data means less risk. And less risk makes it more likely that a drug company may pick them up.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Artificial Intelligence – Moving Forward

artificial_intelligence

By Debbie Gregory.

Modern artificial intelligence (AI) has proven that at times, it works better than the human brain. There is no denying the fact that artificial intelligence is the future. From the security forces to the military applications, AI has spread out its wings to encompass our daily lives as well. However, AI comes with its own limitations. The biggest area where AI is challenged is explaining to humans is the how and why of the decision making, limited by the machine’s current inability to explain their actions to human users.

Developing Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) is of interest to commercial users of AI, as well as to the military. Explanations of how algorithms are thinking make it easier for leaders to adopt artificial intelligence systems within their organizations

XAI, especially explainable machine learning, will be essential if future warfighters are to understand, appropriately trust, and effectively manage an emerging generation of artificially intelligent machine partners.

Last month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) engaged 10 research teams in multimillion-dollar program designed to develop new XAI systems.

XAI program will incorporate new explanation techniques with the results produced by the machine in order to create more explainable models and results.

Processes such as architectural layers, design data, loss functions and optimization techniques are used to experiment and develop interpretable models of the AI machines.

Model induction would also take place to treat the machine processes like a black box and experiment with it to develop a better understanding of its processes.

“Each year, we’ll have a major evaluation where we’ll bring in groups of users who will sit down with these systems,” says David Gunning, program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

CENTCOM Eyeing Technology for 3D Photos, Through Walls, Using Wi-fi

Wifi Hologram

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s easy to understand why CENTCOM or other government military and security agencies would want a technology that could not only photograph people through walls, but also do so in 3D.

It’s called Wi-Fi holography technology, and while it may take a number of years and millions of dollars to develop into a practical technology, it could prove to be invaluable in hostage situations, covert military operations, police stakeouts, etc. It also has humanitarian possibilities, such as helping rescue workers detect people in rubble left by an earthquake.

The theory is that if Wi-Fi can pass through walls, which we know it does, the same property would allow the taking of holograms, or 3D photographs, of objects inside a room from outside it.

“It can basically scan a room with someone’s Wi-Fi transmission,” Philipp Holl, a 23-year-old undergraduate physics student at the Technical University of Munich. He initially built the device as part of his bachelor thesis, with the help of his academic supervisor, Friedemann Reinhard.

The technology uses two antennas: one fixed in place and another that moves. The fixed antenna records a Wi-Fi field’s background, or reference, for the spot it’s placed in. The other antenna is moved by hand to record the same Wi-Fi field from many different points.

The signals from both antennas are simultaneously fed into a computer, and software builds many 2D images as one antenna is waved around and then stacks them together in a 3D hologram.

Although the technology is only in its prototype stage and has limited resolution, Holl is excited about its promise.

Holl said that he hasn’t yet “had any contact with someone from the U.S. Central Command.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Corporate Gray Sets the Standard

corporate gray

Corporate Gray was established in 1994 to help transitioning and former military personnel connect with employers in print through the Corporate Gray book (now titled, The Military-to-Civilian Transition Guide), in person at their Corporate Gray “Military Friendly” Job Fairs, and online through Corporate Gray Online.  They have set the standard with regard to hosting quality job fairs, publishing a first-rate career transition book, and running an advanced military-to-civilian career transition website.  To date, they’ve given over 4 million copies of their Corporate Gray book to transitioning service members, held over 150 military-focused job fairs across the country, and connected thousands of veterans with employers through Corporate Gray Online.  A brief description of each major service follows…

The Corporate Gray Military-to-Civilian Transition Guide provides useful and actionable advice to separating/retiring service members.  From self-assessment to resume writing to networking to salary negotiations, this book leads you through each step of the job search process.  A free copy is given to everyone leaving military service from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The Corporate Gray Military-Friendly Job Fairs connect military veterans face-to-face with both local and nationwide employers.  The Corporate Gray Job Fairs are currently being held in the Washington, DC Metro area and Virginia Beach.  These events are especially for transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses.  The job fair schedule is shown at http://www.corporategray.com/jobfairs.

Corporate Gray Online (www.CorporateGray.com) is a military-niche employment website connecting transitioning and former military personnel with employers nationwide. Job seekers can post their resume, search and apply for jobs, learn about upcoming job fairs, and gain access to important information for their job search. Employers can post their jobs and use a customized resume search interface to find military-experienced candidates meeting their needs.

Corporate Gray is active in social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) and has published the book, Social Media and Your Job Search: Maximizing Your Network for a Successful Transition.  They also present social media workshops at military installations in the Washington, DC Metro area.

You May Not Want To Save Your Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Your Kids

transfer gi bill

By Debbie Gregory.

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a very generous post-service education benefit, a special provision of the program allows career service members the opportunity to share their education benefits with immediate family members. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the only one which allows transferring education benefits.

Now that the Post 9/11 GI Bill allows servicemembers and veterans to transfer their benefits to their spouse or children, it begs the question: is that a good idea?

The first consideration is the value of using the GI Bill for a parent’s education. On average, a college graduate earns about $25,000 more per year than a high school graduate. If you run the numbers, just 10 years of this increased income would yield an additional $250,000. Especially if your children are young, the extra income an adult would add over the course of a number of years would more than likely cover the cost of a child’s college education.

If you were to save your GI Bill benefits and transfer them to a dependent, you would not only have a lower lifetime income, you’d only be able to use the benefit to put one child through school on the GI Bill.

Of course if you have older children or already have a degree, this scenario doesn’t apply.

The other thing to take into consideration is possible changes to the GI Bill.  There have been a number of different versions over the years, and more than likely, it will continue to evolve over time.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Two Women Bond Over Their Sailors In Aftermath of Fitzgerald Tragedy

 

fitz

By Debbie Gregory.

A sisterhood has been forged from the tragedy of the USS Fitzgerald collision with cargo ship ACX Crystal .

Erin Rehm, who lost her husband of 17 years, and Jacqueline Langlais, a sailor on the Fitzgerald who lost her fiancé, Seaman Dakota Rigsby, have bonded through their loss.

Langlais was also extremely close with Erin’s husband, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who introduced her to the man that became her fiancé.

Gunner’s Mate Rigsby and Rehm were among the seven sailors killed in the collision.

Erin Rehm and Langlais had met last year.

“Me being Gary’s best friend, Gary always talked to me about Erin,” said Langlais. “Gary’s passing gave us something in common. We’re trying to help each other get over that aspect.”

Rehm Jr. has been hailed as a hero, reportedly pulling some 20 sailors to safety before he perished..

Although she already knew that her husband was heroic, Erin Rehm has learned about other acts of kindness and going above and beyond in the days and weeks the followed the tragedy.

“He downplayed what he did for people, that it was no big deal,” she said. “He’d say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this real quick.’ Then I hear these stories of how he impacted people.”

Last November, when Rigsby reported to the USS Fitzgerald, he became friends with Gary Rehm, and it was Rehm who introduced Rigsby to Langlais, an information systems technician 2nd class.

“Gary was my best friend,” Langlais said, “so he brought Dakota over to my house one night and said, ‘I want to introduce you to one of my guys — my kids.'”

Although Langlais wasn’t looking to get romantically involved, these things have a way working out how they will. The two ended up falling in love, and. Rigsby popped the question.

While Langlais plans to stay in the Navy, she’s not sure if she’ll return to the Fitzgerald.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Warrior Games in Chicago Spotlight Wounded Athletes

warrior games

By Debbie Gregory.

The Warrior Games, taking place this year for the first time in Chicago, spotlights wounded, ill or injured service members and veteran athletes as they compete in Paralympics-style sporting events.

The Warrior Games were launched in 2010 as a way to encourage veterans’ participation in adaptive sports and celebrate their achievements.

Emcee Jon Stewart, formerly of the “Daily Show” hosted the opening on July 1st.  Offering opening remarks was Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation.

The games are not only important for the athletes, but also for their families. For many competitors, this is the first time their family is seeing them after rehabilitation and recognizing that there is life after injury.

Besides the U.S. athletes, teams from the United Kingdom and Australia are also competing.

In 2008, Congress directed the Department of Defense to establish wounded warrior programs across each of the service branches

Navy Capt. Brent Breining, director of the Games, said  “The country is looking for heroes right now, and these Americans are true heroes,” Breining said. “They served their nation, put their lives on the line, and now this is an opportunity to come and support them.”

Breining added, “All these service members and veterans are pulled out of their teams on the front line because of their illnesses and injuries, and we put them back on a team.”

To qualify for the Games, athletes must be enrolled in one of the Department of Defense’s wounded warrior programs.

The competition runs through July 8 at locations including McCormick Place, United Center, the Museum Campus and Lane Tech College Prep High School.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Supreme Court Asked to Take Up Workplace Rights for Reservists

supreme court

By Debbie Gregory.

Lawmakers are asking the Supreme Court to decide whether military reservists’ unfair dismissal claims can be forced into arbitration by their civilian bosses.

Because the case involves veterans’ rights, the legislators are hopeful that the Supreme Court will show appreciation for our citizen soldiers by allowing them to legally stand up for their workplace rights.

The filing’s intention is to overturn a previous appeals court ruling against Kevin Ziober, a Navy reservist who sued his employer for firing him before his year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

In mid-May, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal spearheaded the filing of a amici curiae brief , also known as a “friend-of-the-court” brief on behalf of  himself, six fellow senators and 13 House members.

The members of Congress urged the Supreme Court to reaffirm a longstanding principle that all veterans’ rights laws must be interpreted for the benefit of veterans. It is also imperative to protect veterans and servicemembers against waiving any of their rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), including their procedural enforcement rights like the right to file an action in federal court.

“They’re serving and sacrificing so we have these rights, and then they come home and they are denied those very rights that they are fighting to uphold.”

The aforementioned case alleges that in 2012, real estate company BLB Resources told Ziober he was out of a job. The company denied wrongdoing, saying it terminated Ziober for sub-par performance on a federal contract assignment, and not for his deployment.

Upon returning to the U.S., Ziober brought a lawsuit against BLB under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) a 1994 law banning companies from discriminating against employees for taking time away from work to serve in the reserves.

If the Supreme Court accepts the lawmakers’ request, it could finally end what has become a pain point for employment in several industries.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Can an Injection Alleviate PTSD?

ptsd study

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army has commissioned a study to see if an anesthetic injection to the neck can alleviates the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

Stellate ganglion blocks have been used to treat shingles and arm pain, but the $2 million Army study is the first to examine whether the treatment might be helpful to those with PTSD.

During the procedure, a doctor uses ultrasound to guide the needle carefully into the stellate ganglion, a mass of nerve tissue in the neck, and injects the local anesthetic. The injections work on blocking messages along nerve fibers that influence the fight-or-flight response, which can include symptoms such as nightmares and hot flashes.

The study is being led by scientists at RTI International, a North Carolina-based research and development institute. It has begun recruiting active duty troops who have PTSD at military hospitals in North Carolina, Hawaii and Germany.

Some military doctors have already begun treating PTSD patients, particularly Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, with the shot. It appears that once the treatment has been administered, the shot eases the patient’s anxiety enough so that they can receive other treatments.

“Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately,” said Col. Jim Lynch, command surgeon at the joint Special Operations Command-Africa

Early experiments with the injection have proved effective.

The military is cautiously optimistic about the treatment, but won’t endorse it until there is sufficient evidence that proves its efficacy.

The researchers expect to complete the study in 2018.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VA Nurse Steals from Veteran, But Won’t Be Going to Jail

thief

By Debbie Gregory.

Nursing is one of the noblest professions. But there will always be good and bad people in every profession, and this bad apple was rotten to his core. On more than 40 occasions, between February 2015 and July 2015, licensed practical nurse Alexander Kudla ripped off a veteran in his care.

Kudla was tasked with helping withdraw funds from an ATM due to the unnamed veteran’s physical disabilities. But the Department of Veterans Affairs nurse at the Wilmington VA Medical Center filled his pockets with $22,320 that didn’t belong to him.

Charged with and convicted of wire fraud, the Delaware District Court ordered him to pay full restitution to the victim, with $4,000 due immediately. But he will not see the inside of a jail cell; after pleading guilty, he was sentenced to a three-year term of probation by United States District Judge Richard G. Andrews.

A wire fraud conviction can carry a prison sentence up to 20 years, so it isn’t clear why Kudla will not face jail time.

Kudla worked as a VA nurse from 2005 to 2015. Needless to say, Kudla is no longer employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Acting U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss stated, “I want to thank the Veterans Affairs Police Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General for their efforts throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case. The act of secretly withdrawing his patient’s funds for Defendant’s own personal use is completely at odds with the important position with which he was entrusted. Such crimes will be investigated by our partner agencies and prosecuted by our office.”

The investigation was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Veterans Affairs Police Service.

The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Whitney Cloud.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.