The Most Stressful Job in America – Being in the Military

combat stress

By Debbie Gregory.

Stress. It’s a big part of our daily lives, and much of it derives from the kind of work we do. Some jobs, naturally, involve more stress than others for obvious reasons, including the potential for physical harm.

As recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown, performing on the battlefield is grueling work that can lead to life-altering injuries and often times, death. So it’s little wonder that being a member of one of the armed services is one of the most stressful jobs there is.

Soldiers are trained to fight. Basic training is a process designed to develop skills which will keep a combatant alive and fighting long after he or she might have given up under more normal circumstances.

But when military service ends, there is no basic “untraining.”

From meeting the physical demands of working in special operations and infantry to armor and field artillery, many troops face psychological problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A further complication for military personnel is the difficulty many face in transitioning back to civilian life. Besides transferring their skills to the civilian job market once their service is completed, servicemembers often lose the focus of the mission, the camaraderie, the support and the structure provided by the military.

While PTSD has become a much-discussed affliction, transition stress, a seemingly more prevalent problem, is going largely overlooked.

Firefighters, airline pilots and police officers, ranked second, third and fourth respectively, also face a lot of stress in their occupations, but they are also much better compensated than those who serve.

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.

Court Ruling finds Military Burn Pits Caused Lung Disease in Troops

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By Debbie Gregory.

National Guard veteran Amie Muller succumbed to pancreatic cancer in February, 2017.  She believed her illness was a result of deployments to Iraq and exposure to burn pits.

Muller battled to win recognition from the United States government for victims of the burn pits. A recent court ruling that came too late for Muller may help the nearly 130,000 veterans who have signed on to the VA’s Burn Pit Registry.

Last month, a judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs ruled that open-air burn pits are connected to lung disease.

During the OEF and OIF wars, government contractors burned up to 227 metric tons of hazardous waste at forward operating bases using jet fuel in large ground pits. Items burned included: batteries, medical waste, amputated body parts, plastics, ammunition, human waste, animal carcasses, rubber, chemicals, & more.

In addition to lung disease such as life-threatening constrictive bronchiolitis and cancer, those who were exposed say they suffer from a range of diseases including gastrointestinal disorders and neurological problems.

The ruling will help to shine an overdue light on the complications that have arisen for those exposed to burn pit fumes while serving their country.

The case quickly fueled hopes among military veterans that the Department of Veterans Affairs may follow the ruling’s lead.

For years, veterans’ advocates have been pushing the VA to adopt burn-pit exposure as a presumptive-service connected disability. Instead, veterans’ burn-pit exposure claims are handled, slowly, on a case-by-case basis.

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.

How to Sell Your Home (Fast) Before Deployment

owners

By Phil Karp

Deployment and Permanent Changes of Station (PCS) are among the greatest challenges that military families face—especially when a financed home is brought into the mix. For many, time is of the essence to sell or risk juggling mortgage payments overseas. Luckily, there are several federal programs in place to provide servicemen with economic security during these periods of transition.

Whether you’re looking to relocate or prevent your mortgage from going underwater while deployed, here are some ways to sell your home a.s.a.p.

Enlist the help of a real estate agent

Home showings, marketing and price negotiations become your responsibility if you decide to go the for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) route. Save yourself time, money and stress by hiring a real estate agent. Find an industry expert who knows the local housing market like the back of his or her hand, and has the bandwidth to position your home to sell quickly. On average, agent-assisted listings earn an average of $55,000 more than FSBO sales.

Pictures are worth more than a thousand words

Property photos are important. Case in point: 84 percent of homebuyers and sellers claim they won’t consider listings without pictures. It is possible to take decent photographs with a smartphone. Still, listing photos taken with a DSLR camera tend to perform better, receiving an average of 61 percent more page views than other similarly priced properties. If you want to sell a home quickly, professional real estate photographers are worth their salt.

Leverage your VA Loan

VA loans have a unique feature called assumability, meaning homebuyers have the opportunity to take over your mortgage and payments instead of financing elsewhere. The no down payment requirement and low interest fixed rate can be great incentives, especially if local interest rates appear to be on the rise. Advertise a VA loan assumption sale to encourage more competitive bids.

Consider a short-sale

If you need to sell your home for less than it’s worth, a short sale might be worth considering. In years past, service members would have to be delinquent on their loans in order to qualify. However, as of 2012 homes financed through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac may be eligible for short-sale even when the borrower is current on payments if they have an eligible hardship—including job relocation.

Remember to keep short-sale as a last resort option as it can harm your credit score. You may be better off putting your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) towards the mortgage until you find a buyer.

Phil Karp is a real estate expert and head of Brokerage Services at Owners.com, where buying and selling a home is made easy. He is proud to offer tips and advice to active military members who are looking to sell homes before deployment. In his downtime, he chases his passion for auto racing in the Greater Atlanta area that he calls home. 

New Pentagon Plan Could Boot Thousands of Non-Deployable Troops

nondeployable

By Debbie Gregory.

In a change of policy, the Department of Defense (DoD) will start separating perpetually non deployable troops from the military.

The DoD is getting ready to launch a new “deploy-or-out” policy that could possibly force the separation of some 286,000 personnel troops.The service branches have until October 2018 to begin mandatory processing for administrative or disability separation for non-deployable service members

Servicemembers who are classified as “non-deployable” for medical and administrative reasons for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation. Those who are not current on their immunizations, are in the middle of a permanent change of station, who have a medical condition that will take 30 days or more to heal, who are nearing retirement, or who face legal problems can all be classified as non-deployable.

The aim of the policy is to encourage non-deployable troops to seek medical treatment so they can resume their military careers and become deployable as soon as possible.

“If you are going to serve and continue to want to serve, and if you want to make this a career, you’re going to have to learn that path of recovery and get back to being healthy,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell.

Troops who haven’t been deployable for more than a year will be subject to a go through the medical review board process currently in place, according to Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

“The department intends to emphasize the expectation that all service members are worldwide deployable and to establish standardized criteria for retaining non-deployable service members,” said Maj. Gleason.

The policy does not apply to women who are pregnant or experiencing post-partum conditions, and waivers can be granted to non-deployable troops who are still needed.

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.

Army Junior ROTC Honors Florida School Shooting Victim Peter Wang

wang

By Debbie Gregory.

Peter Wang’s dream of attending West Point and serving in the U.S. military was tragically cut short when he was fatally shot during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

In an act of heroism and selflessness, the young cadet died holding a classroom door open so his teachers and fellow students could escape the shooter.

Wang, who was a 15-year-old freshman, was wearing his U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) uniform when he was gunned down, was awarded the Medal of Heroism by the U.S. Army.  West Point posthumously admitted Wang to the school’s Class of 2025.

Two other JROTC members were also killed: 14-year-old Cadet Pvt. Alaina Petty, who was laid to rest on Monday in front of more than 1,500 mourners, and 13-year-old Cadet Pfc. Martin Duque, whose funeral is Saturday. They, too, have been awarded the Medal of Heroism.

The Army awards the Medal of Heroism to JROTC cadets who perform “acts of heroism.”

“The achievement must be an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” the Army said in a statement. “The performance must have involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”

Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, directed the Florida National Guard to honor Wang, Petty, and Duque at their funerals. Petty’s medal was presented to her family at her service Monday morning. Duque’s family will receive the medal at his service on Saturday.

Wang was buried Tuesday in uniform, at his family’s request, and the JROTC Heroism Medal was on his uniform. A second medal was given to the family as a keepsake.

The funeral procession was escorted to Wang’s final resting place at Star of David Memorial Gardens Cemetery and Funeral Chapel by Patriot Guard motorcycle riders and members of the American Legion.

The following was posted on West Point’s Facebook page:

“One of West Point’s priorities is to develop leaders of character who are committed to the values of Duty, Honor, and Country. Peter Wang’s actions on February 14th are an example of those very principles and for this reason the academy honors his dream of being a West Point cadet with a 2025 letter of acceptance.

Posthumous admissions offers to West Point are given in rare instances.

The Broward County school system’s JROTC program boasts an average enrollment of 7,650 students annually across 28 of its 34 high schools.

I am thankful that we live in a nation that allows us free speech and to hold different points of view.  I rarely express my personal views, but in this case, I feel compelled to do so. It is the least that I can do to honor all of the victims of this tragedy and other massacres.

I am a mom, and my heart is so heavy for the parents who have experienced the unimaginable pain of losing of a child, especially in such a senseless manner.

My son’s wonderful girlfriend and one of my valued staff members, along with her boyfriend who recently transitioned from the military, literally ran for their lives in Las Vegas.   They survived, but are dealing with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, and may never be the same.

I respect our 2nd Amendment for citizens to bear arms for protection.  But it is not necessary for any person, other than law enforcement personnel and combat military to have automatic assault weapons and/or devices to automate weapons.  We must have strong legislation to regulate these types of weapons in order to try and prevent massacres such as those that occurred in Parkland, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, etc.

Mental health is part of the issue, but without a doubt the main issue is automatic weapons.  There are many people with mental health issues that do not harm anyone.  There are people who are perceived to be normal who snap.   It is a lethal combination when disturbed people are able to have or easily obtain assault weapons and literally mow down innocent victims.     I do not understand why any reasonable person(s) would oppose controls on assault weapons.

It is a sad state of affairs when organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) have power over state and federal elected officials to sway them from their sworn duty to protect the people they are supposed to serve.

Too many children and others have lost their lives and their childhoods.  The survivors have been changed forever.  They are the adults in the room now.

We must work together on both sides of the aisle and change things.  We need to put people before special interests and political pressure.  We need to protect our children.

NEVER AGAIN.

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.

DoD’s “This Is Your Military” Program Aims to Bridge Civilian-Military Divide

know your mil

By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Department program called “This Is Your Military” is trying to bridge the military-civilian gap. The initiative is using the hashtag #KnowYourMil.

The program highlights the work of servicemembers, dispel myths about military service, and increase awareness among the American people.

Amber Smith, the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach, said the purpose of the program is to fix common misconceptions that those who have not served have regarding those who have.

“Some of the trends we found are a majority of young adults think that if you serve in the military, upon leaving the military you are going to have a psychological or an emotional issue or a physical injury,” said Smith.

Internal data indicates the civilian-military divide is expanding, Smith said. “That ultimately is a threat to the viability and the sustainability of the all-volunteer force, which in the long term has some national security risks.”

Smith added that in the mid-1990s, 40 percent of young adults had a direct connection to a veteran in their family. That number has dropped to 15 percent today.

“We really want to articulate a message of what the military is doing, tell that military story to a nonmilitary audience, and really create some interest for people who don’t necessarily care,” she added.

Outreach efforts will include coverage of sporting events and military engagements, as well as videos, photos, graphics and other products, Smith said.

The initiative will conduct outreach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Each month, the initiative will highlight an aspect of military life such as military jobs and benefits, entrepreneurism and innovation, global missions and family life.

“I think the end goal on both sides is to feel like America is connected to the military and the military is connected to the Americans and that there is support on both side,” Smith said.

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 Transition Stress Be A Bigger Problem Than PTSD?

trans123

By Debbie Gregory.

Stress is the enemy of mental and physical health. It is believed that most veterans experience high levels of stress during the transition to civilian life, however transition stress has received very little attention in the shadow of post-traumatic stress disorder.

While PTSD has become a much-discussed affliction, transition stress, a seemingly more prevalent problem, is going largely overlooked.

The crucial role of transition stress in the lives of military veterans is examined in a recent essay by George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia Teachers College, and former Army officer and Ph.D student Meaghan Mobbs.

In their abstract, Bonanno and Mobbs say that the wider range of challenges, rewards, successes, and failures that transitioning veterans might experience contribute to transition stress, which can be mistaken for PTSD.

While serving, there is the mission, the job, the camaraderie and the bonds. When servicemembers transition to civilian life, that sense of purpose and fulfillment can be lost, leading to anxiety, depression, and other behavioral difficulties.

“For our generation of veterans, for us being an all-volunteer force, we all go in during a period of emerging adulthood,” said Mobbs. “We’re typically asking ourselves the existential questions: Who am I? What do I want to do? What’s the meaning of life? And the military provides a really ready answer for that. They tell you: You have purpose. What you’re doing is meaningful. You matter.”

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides information, tools and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life whether pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector or starting their own business.

But often times, this week-long class doesn’t check all of the boxes.

Bonanno thinks that a mentor-based approach, with mentors assigned to veterans as they leave the military to just help with the daily things of life and understanding the transition process would provide great value.

“Some of the difficult things are just reintegrating with friends and families and managing those relationships.”

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.

Army Develops VR Game to Prep Teachers for School Shootings

edge

By Debbie Gregory.

With mass shootings sadly becoming a regular occurrence, the U.S. Army and Homeland Security are working to create a virtual reality experience they hope will help train teachers  how to react in the event of a school shooting.

It’s a grim project, but one that the creators hope will help teachers stay calm in a real emergency.

The VR experience allows role-playing, and multiple players take the role of a teacher trying to keep students safe during a shooting; a law enforcement officer trying to apprehend the shooter; and the shooter.

The project is based on a multipurpose Homeland Security simulator called the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE.) In 2016, the Army and Homeland Security released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train both fire and police departments how to handle school shooting response.

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” said Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE. “So this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

Teachers in the school-specific version get prompts to do things like lock the doors and windows, and they can give students instructions like “follow me” or “find a place to hide.” To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings.

No one can say for sure if this technology would have saved some of the victims in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day, among them teachers protecting their students.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel was killed after he unlocked his door so that he could let students inside his classroom and shelter. Assistant football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, used his own body to shield students as gunfire rang out in the school. Athletic director Chris Hixon, a former Navy Reservist, also lost his life.

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring. And unfortunately, it can’t come soon enough.

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.

Rape Conviction Overturned by Military Court Due to Jury Composition

Seal_of_the_United_States_Court_of_Appeals_for_the_Armed_Forces

By Debbie Gregory.

The nation’s highest military court has thrown out the 2012 rape conviction of a Coast Guard enlisted man because admirals and prosecutors packed the seven-member jury with five women, four of whom held jobs as advocates for victims of sexual assault.

In a 5-0 ruling that could change how the military conducts sex abuse trials, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces tossed out the conviction of Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class John C. Riesbeck.

The decision speaks to the way politics influences command choices regarding military justice. From the Coast Guard commandant down to an appellate court to the original trial judge, the high court said all contributed to a “stain on the military justice system.”

Riesbeck claimed a biased jury panel had infringed on his right to a fair trial after he was convicted. He was sentenced to three months’ confinement, demotion, and a bad conduct discharge.

Four admirals had a hand in the final panel: Coast Guard Commandant Paul F. Zukunft; Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown, then-commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area & Defense Forces West; Rear Adm. Christopher Colvin, then-Pacific Area deputy commander; and Rear Adm. June Ryan, then-Pacific Area chief of staff.

The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, but its 40,000 personnel — about 10 percent of whom are women — come under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as do all military personnel.

“It is gratifying to see a female judge pushing back against the ‘Me Too’ meme by insisting on due process for the accused Coast Guardsman as well as the accuser in this case,” said Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness. “The court also deserves praise for holding accountable Admiral Zukunft, who was involved in what Judge Margaret A. Ryan described as ‘gender-based court stacking’ with professional victims advocates.”

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.

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Chamblin Wins Again in Court

chamblin

By Debbie Gregory.

Once again, a military court has voided the conviction of former Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Chamblin, who was filmed urinating on Taliban corpses during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. The video was first posted by TMZ in January 2012, prompting an international backlash.

Chamblin was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement. The resulting demotion to sergeant ultimately ended his Marine Corps career.

Last November, five years after the initial sentence, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the case be set aside because of apparent unlawful command influence, which occurs when a senior military officer uses his or her position of authority to influence legal proceedings. The ruling cited the actions of now-retired Gen. James Amos, who was commandant of the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014, and some of his senior staff members.

Then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who was initially appointed to oversee the sniper prosecutions, testified that Gen. Amos met with him and told him the defendants needed to be “crushed” for their actions.

Waldhauser, now a four-star general overseeing U.S. Africa Command, later told Amos that he had decided against sending any of the Marines to a general court-martial, the military’s most serious form of trial.  Shortly thereafter, Waldhauser was replaced by another general.

According to Waldhauser, Amos said at the time that he had “crossed the line” in his previous conversation and was removing Waldhauser as a remedy.

The Marine Corps failed to notify the accused Marines and their attorneys why Waldhauser was removed.

The appellate judges also considered the decision by the Marine Corps’ top lawyer at that time to remove another attorney on the case who had protested what he considered the “irregular classification of evidence.”

The ruling specifically blamed Amos for complicating the case.

The government has two months to decide whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) to consider the case. For the military, CAAF is the final appellate step before the Supreme Court.

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.