Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wounded Warrior Diaries: Airman, Wife Hope to Help Others

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - A wounded airman and his wife plan to use the lessons they've learned about marriage and friendship through military service and adversity to help servicemembers who might be struggling after deployment or injury. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon was wounded Oct. 24, 2007, while inspecting an improvised explosive device in Kirkuk, Iraq. He and his wife, Annette, spent 15 months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio while he recovered from his injuries and figured out what life after the Air Force would mean.

"Fire can either burn you up or temper you," Slaydon said. "Luckily, ... it tempered us. We've seen a lot of couples that it's burned up, and ate away. They've divorced and gone their own ways, and nobody's better for it."

The issues the couple has faced while working with the medical system and the government, as well as Slaydon's own personal struggles, have given them a new direction in life: to serve those who face the same problems.

"What makes our country great is the concept of the servant-leader," he said. "Since my injury, I've truly, truly learned the greatest thing I can do is serve my fellow man. And to serve those who wear the uniform is a blessing."

Slaydon saikd he began a "love affair" with aircraft at a young age, and as he grew older, it brought him to the Air Force. Though his father had served in the Navy – Slaydon was born on a naval base in Kenitra, Morrocco – it was his desire to work with aircraft that brought him to the military.

"I wanted to work on aircraft and be a part of the Air Force," he said. "As I grew up, I developed a sense of patriotism, and I wanted to be a good [noncommissioned officer]."

Slaydon began his career as an aircraft armament technician, loading and unloading weaponry from planes. He saw a unique opportunity to learn and lead in explosive ordnance disposal – the bomb squad. He was drawn to EOD while working on F-16s at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

"Any time we had a munitions difficulty ... EOD would come out and take possession of any damaged munitions," Slaydon said. "I learned about who they were, and I got a tour of the shop, and from that point on, I was in love with the idea of being an EOD technician."

EOD isn't for everyone; the squad's job is to get up-close and personal with bombs. By collecting evidence and samples, a squad can determine the materials and techniques used to build the explosive and, ideally, pinpoint its source.

"Anybody can blow something up," Slaydon said. "If we do everything right, there will still be an explosion. But it's going to happen when I want it to happen, and not before. We defuse danger."

Walking the Long Walk

During a patrol in Iraq, Slaydon stared fate in the face, as he had many times before. He'd been on more than 200 calls and disarmed more than 100 IEDs, and this one was routine; in fact, his team was familiar with the site, an intersection near a village known to be hostile.

Slaydon never thought he would be the one to get hurt. In fact, he insists, the people who assume they will get hurt are a danger to themselves and, most importantly, those around them.

"I wouldn't want to be with somebody who's fatalistic," he said. "In reality, if I had a team member or team leader who's fatalistic, I'd probably run it up the chain and try to get them out of the field. We're smarter than the bombers. ... You have to step out of the truck with confidence in what you're doing. Otherwise, you'll just be paralyzed with fear."

After sweeping the area with a robot from inside the truck the day he was hurt, Slaydon and his team were preparing to leave when something caught his eye. He directed his team to stay in their vehicles as he went on what EOD technicians call "the long walk," when a leader scouts a site before putting his team in danger.

"The idea behind that is, one, if something happens to you – there's a detonation or you get shot, whatever – your team members are safe and sound," he said. "And two, you have somebody there to pull your fat out of the fire."

The weapons intelligence officer got out of the vehicle to take pictures, and Slaydon yelled at him to stay behind the truck.

"That was probably the last good decision I made as an EOD technician," he said. "I don't think I could have forgiven myself if I had hurt him, also."

Slaydon approached the suspect item, which was buried. He knelt over it and inserted his mine probe. That's when the IED – about 15 pounds of homemade explosives – exploded two feet from his face, throwing him about 30 feet.

"The blast mangled my left arm. ... [It] shattered my face, it broke my jaw, it destroyed my left eye," he said.

The blast also severely damaged his right eye, collapsed his left lung, knocked out a tooth and punctured both of his eardrums. As a result, he's lost his eyesight.

"I did have safety glasses on, but they don't make safety glasses for that kind of impact," he said.

As it turned out, Slaydon said, a second 15-pound IED was stacked under the one that detonated.

"The top one did more than enough to knock me out of the fight," he said. "If the second one had detonated, I'm sure it would have scattered me all over the road. I guess it was a mixture of some really bad luck and some good luck that I managed to survive that."

The Journey to Recovery

The first step in Slaydon's journey to recovery was an airlift to Balad, Iraq, where Air Force Senior Airman Larry Miller, a friend on a different team with whom he had deployed from Luke Air Force Base, met him. Miller requested a helicopter from Baghdad, where he was stationed at the time, to stay with Slaydon at the hospital.

"They didn't know if I was going to live; I was very badly injured," Slaydon said. "Larry sat by my bed for three days. I guess people would bring him food, because he wouldn't leave my bedside."

In Balad, Slaydon underwent nearly 11 hours of surgery to stabilize him for travel to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. This meant removing his damaged eye, stabilizing his jaw and facial bones, and ensuring what remained of his left arm could be saved. As it turned out, the medical team had to remove most of the arm.

The Air Force flew Miller to Landstuhl to stay with Slaydon before returning him to the front lines in Baghdad.

"Larry is one of the finest people I have ever met," Slaydon said. "He is one incredible human being, and a ferocious warrior. I feel privileged to be able to call him my friend."

After only a day and a half, Slaydon was moved from Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, where his wife met him.

The flight to Walter Reed is probably the hardest flight any spouse has to make, Annette Slaydon said. When she arrived, she found her husband unrecognizable.

Though she was suffering emotionally through Slaydon's recovery, Annette said, she stuck to advice given by one of her husband's friends: to be "steely-eyed" and keep her tears to herself. She said she would keep her sadness inside, letting it out only during private moments, such as while taking a shower before bed.

"I wanted him to focus only on him getting better," she said. "I didn't want him to worry."

After Slaydon had spent a few days in Walter Reed's intensive care unit, the Air Force flew the couple to Brooke Army Medical Center.

"[The caregivers there] told my wife I don't know how many times ... [that] all of them consider it an honor to be able to work on and to help the wounded warriors to recover," he said. "They don't make words big enough to allow me to thank them."

Slaydon spent the next 15 months recovering at Brooke, his wife guiding him through the difficult healing and rehabilitation process. She quickly learned how important she was going to be in her husband's recovery.

"One of the most important things you can do is [to] be an advocate for your wounded spouse," she said. "Things will go much smoother, and you'll have a better experience. It's so important that you do that. People won't get angry if you ask questions; the doctors want you to get involved. Don't just drop your spouse off at therapy. Go through therapy with them. The recovery time is shorter, the recovery is better, and I think the intimacy you can have in going through something like that is so important."

Coming to terms with his injuries and understanding what had happened when he first woke up, Slaydon said, was the hardest part of the healing process. He had lost memory of about 24 hours prior to his injury, so when he woke up in Texas three weeks later, he was confused, to say the least.

"I remember [Annette] telling me my left arm had been traumatically amputated, and I knew what that meant," he said. "My left eye had been removed, and they were trying to save the vision in my right eye. That's when I figured out I couldn't see. ... I had bandages on my eyes, but that's not why I couldn't see. That's when reality slowly started to sink in."

Slaydon said Annette really "took the bull by the horns" when it came to his medical care. Anything that needed doing, he explained, she not only did, but wanted to do.

"Feeling her hands on my shoulders as she slowly sponged me off -- I knew I was going to be safe," he said. "I was physically, emotionally and mentally just wrecked -- devastated. I'd feel her hand on me and hear her voice, and I knew she wasn't going to let me fall. It was such an amazing moment. I didn't know you could have a moment like that."

The Future, a "Joint Venture"

Following his injury, Slaydon wasn't sure how to move forward. His injuries made it impossible for him to resume his duties in the Air Force, so he had to find something new to do.

"Early on, I had a great loss of purpose. I knew my career was over. I couldn't be an EOD technician any more," he said. "[Your job] is who you are, down to your DNA."

Annette recalled a remark made by former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain during his acceptance speech for the nomination as Republican presidential candidate. He said he had been "blessed by misfortune."

"I felt like he was talking to me when he said that," she said. "Although I would give anything for my husband to have his vision back, and his arm back, and be able to continue with his career, we have been blessed by the love and caring of so many people, that it's been a positive experience, and we've both grown a great deal."

One thing stood out to Slaydon: he wanted to pursue a doctorate in psychology and counsel wounded warriors. Because he's lived through traumatic injury and knows it doesn't have to mean total defeat, he said, he's in a unique position to help others who have been hurt in the line of duty.

"I want to help them either get back to the battlefield where they want to be, or headed in another direction doing something else," Slaydon said. "But we'll get them doing it with their head screwed on right."

Slaydon said he wants servicemembers to know, even if they're wounded, they can still win the fight. If they lose hope, they're giving the enemy exactly what he wants: an American trooper who has been defeated physically and spiritually.

"You're not retreating [by seeking treatment], you're attacking in another direction," he said. The only way wounded warriors can retreat, he explained, is by giving up on themselves.

Because Slaydon now is considered 100 percent disabled, Annette is eligible for veterans' benefits, and will join him in returning to school. Like her husband, she wants to use the lessons she's learned to help others who have to follow the same path.

"What has become really clear to me is that I want to be able to give back to the thousands of people who have given to us as we've gone through this experience," she said. "I'm considering getting a counseling degree, maybe working in the family support center at the VA. I haven't made a decision, but I'm going to pursue that in some way."

What the Slaydons learned is that all tragedies don't require a negative consequence. Slaydon has found a new purpose after losing his Air Force career, and Annette is moving on to a new career. They've been able to make their future something it would never have been.

Annette recently was hired as a recovery care coordinator at Luke, where she will help wounded, ill and injured troops and their families.

"What we realized is we're still going to have a fantastic life together, and we're both dedicated to making sure that happens," she said. "It's just going to be different than we thought it would be."

The Slaydons renewed their wedding vows April 13, 2008, and now they celebrate that day as their anniversary. That renewal, they explained, symbolizes a fusion of their goals together and the start of their new life.

"When we renewed our vows, he told me it was all worth it -- everything he'd gone through," she said. "For us to have the love and everything he felt at that moment, it was all worth it."

Slaydon officially retires from the Air Force on Aug. 28.

(This is the 11th installment of the Wounded Warrior Diaries series. Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Face of Defense: Amputee Pursues 2012 Paralympics Berth

By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Army Sgt. Jerrod Fields hasn't just learned to adapt as an amputee since hitting a roadside bomb in Iraq. He is on his way to becoming a record-holding sprinter. Fields capped his track and field season by winning a gold medal at the 2009 Endeavor Games and setting his sights on the 2012 Paralympics.

A below-the-knee amputee sprinter in the Army World Class Athlete Program, Fields won the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds June 13 in Edmond, Okla., site of the Endeavor Games for athletes with physical disabilities.

This spring, he finished second against an able-bodied field of collegiate sprinters with a 12.0 clocking in the 100 meters at the Occidental Invitational in Los Angeles.

Fields' coach, Al Joyner, said he believes his sprinter will flirt with world records on the road to London for the 2012 Paralympics.

"I think he's a potential world record-holder," Joyner said in early February. "I would put my money on him in both the 100 and 200."

There's little reason to doubt Joyner, an Olympic gold medalist and Jim Thorpe Award winner who helped his late wife, Florence Griffith-Joyner, and sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sprint and jump for Olympic gold during their illustrious careers.

Joyner, Team USA's sprint and high jump performance coach, began working with Fields in November at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here.

"In terms of track and field, he's just a baby," Joyner said. "He's just now starting to learn techniques. He may be that one athlete that ends up changing the barrier as far as how people look at things."

Joyner became the first American in 80 years to win an Olympic gold medal in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He and Jackie were the first brother-sister duo to strike Olympic gold in the same event. And he coached 100- and 200-meter women's world record-holder Flo-Jo to five Olympic medals.

"In my family, we have a total of 12 Olympic medals," Joyner said. "And I have been coaching for the past 27 years."

Among Joyner's current crop of athletes, Fields received a special nod of approval.

"If I had to pick a most-improved athlete, he would get the award," Joyner said. "He's getting better and better by the second, so it's going to be really great to see over these next three or four years as we get ready for London. He's going to surprise a lot of people.

"He really has improved in leaps and bounds with his mechanics," the coach continued. "If somebody came out and watched him run from afar, they could not see that he had a prosthetic leg. But if you saw him the year before, he was falling all over the place. It's really like night and day."

Fields is chasing the world marks of 11.3 seconds for 100 meters and 22.48 for the 200.

"I'm almost there," he said. "This is my second season and my first real year of training. Everybody else that I'm competing against either was born without a femur or foot or something. I'm just coming on brand new. I'll catch them by London Games. I'll be ready."

Fields, 27, who played football, basketball and baseball for Carver High School in Chicago, encountered an improvised explosive device in Baghdad in March 2005.

"I was out on a routine reconnaissance with my platoon, and we got a tip that there were explosives inside of a dog," he said. "At that time, they were cutting dogs and cattle open and placing explosives in them. We got the call for the mission to go out and to handle the situation. We saw the dog and kept our distance to see what the situation was. We didn't want to get too close to it, but it turned out that was a decoy.

"We got the call to return home," he said. "I was in the trail vehicle in the convoy. As we turned around, [mine] became the lead vehicle, and that's when an IED went off underneath it. The first IED took the floor plate of my Bradley [fighting vehicle] out. The second one got me in the leg. It took from the calf muscle all the way down to the heel of my foot – the Achilles tendon and muscles. I was able to continue the mission. I didn't feel it really at first. I just felt a lot of fire.

"To be honest, when I first looked down to see what happened, I laughed, because I thought I had dropped a grenade," he continued. "I was thinking to myself: 'Man, these guys are never going to believe what I've done.' I finally heard over the net that it was an IED and that I had been hit. When I looked at my leg, I saw that it was mangled."

Fields reported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After six rounds of surgery and six days of contemplating his most difficult decision, Fields requested amputation below his left knee.

"It would have taken 22 surgeries, and they were going to fuse my ankle," he said. "I would not have been able to play basketball any more."

Fields resumed walking a month later, on April 2. By mid-June, he was playing basketball in a Chicago summer league.

"I never got down or angry about this injury," said Fields, who since has graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine for his "streetball" prowess. "I just felt that it was a new step or direction that I had to go in," he said. "I try to go back [to Walter Reed] as often as I can to mentor some of the others."

Fields said he never considered leaving the military, as long as it would have him.

"I saw more support by staying in the Army," said Fields, who was 22 when he suffered the injury. He noted that President George W. Bush had signed a bill allowing injured servicemembers to stay on active duty pending a test to see if they were physically fit for duty and could return to duty. "That was my intention," Fields said. "Then this program came along."

Fields received a call from John Register, a former member of the Army World Class Athlete Program and a Paralympian in both swimming and track and field, who now serves as director of community and military programs for U.S. Paralympics.

"He told me the Army had something for me if I wanted to continue active duty and also become an athlete," Fields recalled. "He faxed me all the paperwork. I got in contact with WCAP, they looked into it, and we went from there. Now, I think I can retire from active duty and come back as a coach to work with some younger soldier-athletes coming up.

"I was a career soldier the day I signed up," he added.

Fields suggests that wounded warriors get active as soon as physically possible.

"I would say to get out here and face those fears, if any, and have fun," he said. "This beats sitting in a house and being depressed, or being off your leg or your arm, or thinking how people might view you because of your disability. Just get out and have fun."

Fields is still learning to run on the prosthetic leg.

"When next season rolls around, I'm going to be ready to roll," he said. "I am more focused, and I'm finally able to put my workouts together, transferring the benefits from the weight room to the track. I just feel more confident in what I'm doing. The prosthetic is starting to be a part of me. I'm still learning how to get full usage of it, and it's showing on the track."

And on the field, where Fields recently began dabbling with the long jump.

"I'm going to let the event find him," Joyner said. "He's going to run the 400 to keep his strength. Getting ready for the Olympics, it's mental, so I'm going to attack his body to let him know that he can do anything he wants as long as he puts his mind to it. I look at him as a dedicated athlete, and he just keeps raising the bar. My job is to get him competing against himself."

(Tim Hipps works in the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs office.)

Obama Praises Senate Vote on F-22 Funding

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - President Barack Obama yesterday praised a Senate vote that struck down $1.75 billion in additional funding in the fiscal 2010 defense budget for more F-22 Raptor fighter jets. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recommended to the president earlier this year to end production of the F-22 at the conclusion of its current funding program in fiscal 2009. Obama had promised to veto a budget proposal from the Congress that allowed for more money for the program.

"I'm grateful that the Senate just voted against an additional $1.75 billion to buy F-22 fighter jets that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need," Obama said at a news conference yesterday following the vote.

"At a time when we are fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this would have been an inexcusable waste of money," the president said. "Every dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can't spend to support our troops or prepare for future threats or protect the American people. Our budget is a zero-sum game, and if more money goes to F-22s, it is our troops and citizens that loose."

The F-22 has not been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his 2010 budget recommendations, Gates favored the newest manned aircraft, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 carries a larger suite of weapons and is better suited for air-to-ground missions such as destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses.

An F-35 also costs half as much as an F-22 and, if supported by the president and Congress, it eventually would become the "backbone of America's tactical aviation fleet for decades to come," Gates said.

Gates called the F-22 a "niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios – specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet."

"The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict," Gates said last week in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago.

By fiscal year 2020, the United States will have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft in its inventory. Nearly 1,100 will be a combination of F-35s and F-22s.

Gates has said that accelerating the production of the F-35 will offset job losses of those employed in F-22 production. Pentagon officials plan to buy about 500 F-35s in the next five years, and more than 2,400 over the life of the program. The F-22 program is proposed to be capped at 187 of the fighter jets.

Officials Seek to Raise Awareness of Special Needs Programs

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Pentagon officials want all military families with special needs to be enrolled in the Defense Department's Exceptional Family Member program. Though more than 90,000 military dependents are enrolled in the program, many families with special needs probably aren't enrolled, said Rebecca Posante, communication director for the Pentagon's Office of Military Community and Family Policy said.

The program requires servicemembers to identify dependents with special medical or educational needs and documents the services they require, Posante said. Reasons may vary for families who haven't enrolled, she added, but one reason is heard more than any other.

"People think it affects their career progression, but the [program] records are not in the promotional paperwork at all," she said. "We're trying to tell people, 'If we know about you ahead of time, then they'll take that into consideration and try to find an assignment that has your [specialty], but also where they can meet your needs.'"

Many servicemembers think being part of the program will limit their assignment possibilities, Posante said, when in fact, most families can go anywhere. An Exceptional Family Member Program working group is hoping to address these issues, she said.

The working group's main task since its establishment in April is a five-year campaign to raise awareness of the programs available to families with special needs and the challenges they face, Posante said. One such challenge involves state Medicaid waivers, which help special needs families cover expenses for things such as adult day care and expendable items not covered by Tricare or most other insurance.

"Each of the states has this Medicaid waiver component, but unfortunately, the waiting lists for these waivers are years long," said Isabel Hodge, Special Needs Family Support Program manager. "We're at a disadvantage as military families, because we never live in a state long enough to be able to move up the waiting list."

Many programs and resources available to special needs families are available on the Exceptional Family Member Program's Web site, which is a part of the Defense Department's Military Homefront site at It includes a downloadable tool kit for parents with children 3 and under, and a social networking feature so special needs families can share questions, concerns and information.

In addition, the "Plan My Move" Web site, also part of the Military Homefront site, offers tips for families with special needs who are preparing to move to a new duty station. Answering a few simple questions -- including "Do you have a family member with special needs?" -- will generate a calendar with helpful hints about when to accomplish specific tasks and where to look for assistance.

Defense Department officials plan to hold a joint Exceptional Family Member Program seminar with "Improving the Quality of Life for Military Families with Special Needs" as its theme in November. The training is targeted to service providers and will provide opportunities for them to explore ways to better serve military families with special needs as well as to understand some of the obstacles.

Pacific Commander Reflects on China, North Korea, New Strategy

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - The top Pentagon policy official's recent visit to Beijing could be a sign of China's willingness to resume its military-to-military dialog with the United States, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific said. Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating pointed to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy's two days of meetings with Chinese defense officials last month as an optimistic sign for U.S.-Sino relations.

"We hope this is a clear signal on the part of the Chinese of their intention to resume pure military-to-military dialog," Keating told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing today.

Keating and his staff had been making headway in forging closer ties, but China brought the dialog to an abrupt halt after the United States announced arms sales to Taiwan in October.

"We would rather have more frequent dialog," Keating said today. "More importantly, we would rather have more robust dialog – something substantive. There is plenty of substance to discuss right now. It is not going on."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Keating to participate in bilateral talks with the Chinese next week. "I think it's important to have Pacific Command in the room," he said.

While he has no plans to visit China during the next three months, Keating said, he expressed hope that Navy Adm. Robert Willard, if confirmed by the Senate as his successor at Pacom, will do so early in 2010 to help to rekindle the military-to-military dialog.

Turning the discussion to other areas of the region, Keating expressed concern about potential military ties between North Korea and Burma, particularly arms shipments in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. Clinton shared that sentiment in Bangkok yesterday, telling reporters the United States recognizes the impact of such a relationship. "It would be destabilizing for the region," she said. "It would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbors."

Pacom has the capability of keeping "close track of any sort of vessel that might be violating UNSCR 1718," Keating said today. He noted that air and surface traffic flows between North Korea and several countries, including Burma. "And we watch carefully," he said.

Keating expressed hope that international pressure and diplomacy will pay off and North Korea will return to the Six-Party Talks aimed at a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Asked about security plans in the event of a change in leadership in North Korea, he emphasized that the departure of Kim Jong Il does not necessarily mean a national security crisis. "I don't have any indications that any change in Jim Jong Il's status means a change in military posture," he said.

But Pacom is watching the situation closely, he said, and ensuring it's prepared to respond, if required.

"We have a number of options that we at Pacific Command are studying in close coordination with the Department of State, Department of Defense, intelligence agencies and our partners and allies in the region," he said.

Keating praised Pacom's new strategy, with its three pillars of partnership, readiness and presence, for promoting stability and cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. As he prepares to pass the command's reins to his successor, he said, he's optimistic that daily execution of the new strategy will have a broad and lasting impact.

Asked what he sees as the next significant challenge in the region, Keating said he hopes the future security climate will be defined by what doesn't happen.

"I hope it's not a headline-grabbing violent extremist attack, a la Indonesia recently," he said, referring to last week's bombings in Jakarta.

"I am confident it won't be the outbreak of nation-on-nation military activity," he continued. "I hope that it's not some campaign to deny free access to the maritime or air domain. So it's a series of things that I hope don't happen."

Keating reflected on Pacom's role in the region and the stability it has helped maintain during the past 60 years. "We're a force present, a force engaged, a force ready, a force committed to peace and stability throughout the region," he said.

Military Kids Hit Home Run at Nationals Tribute

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Military children and their families were honored here yesterday by a troop-support group and others when the Washington Nationals took on the New York Mets. The Nationals beat the Mets 4-0, but the kids were the winners, as well, at the Nationals' annual Tribute to Our Troops event. Our Military Kids, a Virginia-based troop-support group, along with WTOP Radio and's Mission Get Hired participated in the event, which included 1,500 free tickets distributed to Washington, D.C.-area military families through the Our Military Kids office, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and WJLA, a local television station.

"We are thrilled that selected Our Military Kids as their charity of choice, said Gail C. Kruzel, co-founder of Our Military Kids. We are always looking for ways to create awareness about our program."

This was the first time Our Military Kids participated in the event, in which 10,000 fans received free T-shirts, courtesy of Mission Get Hired.

"Our mission is to be a great resource for U.S. veterans to find employers and educators that value their military background," said Inga Salavage, of "Our Web site provides pertinent information and tools for veterans to be successful in their new career search."

A series of promotional Mission Get Hired ads ran in the Washington area leading up to yesterday's game.

During the pre-game festivities, WJLA meteorologist Doug Hill and WTOP's Jeffery Wolinsky presented a $5,000 check to Our Military Kids on behalf of the sponsors and Mission Get Hired.

"This money will be used by Our Military Kids to provide grants that cover sports, fine arts and tutoring programs for the children of our deployed reserve and National Guard forces and to the children of our severely injured military members," Kruzel said.

At the start of the game, 14-year-old Riley Anderson of Ashburn, Va., an Our Military Kids grant recipient, threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch. Anderson, whose father is deployed, received a grant to cover fees to participate on his local baseball team this summer.

"I am excited to be here," Riley said. "I am also excited about my grant award. I think events like this help kids enjoy family time."

Wounded Warriors Tip Off at Basketball Tournament

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Sounds of dribbled basketballs and players' shouts filled the Wagner Gym at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here yesterday, but absent were the thuds and squeaks of players running up and down the court. Replacing them at the first City Wheelchair Basketball Tournament were the hissing of hands slowing wheelchairs and the clanging as they collided.

Although the game seemed to trade the normally subtle, hidden tricks of defending a player for aggressive blocking and pushing more akin to hockey or soccer, the players trash-talked and joked as any friends would on the court.

The games didn't require players to be amputees or have injuries that would put them in a wheelchair, but all participants had to play from a chair. In that case, the players who regularly use wheelchairs had an advantage over those who don't.

"It's fun to do," Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Knowles, a patient at Walter Reed, said. "Some people won't get excited for activities because they're in their chair. But in this, everybody's in it. There's no excuse not to do it; there's no reason not to be excited to play ball with your friends."

The tournament, organized by U.S. Paralympics' Military Paralympics program, brought in teams from the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., the National Rehabilitation Hospital here and the Capital Wheelchair Basketball Conference.

The teams came together to show their support and mutual respect, in addition to the chance to compete, said Paralympic coordinator Kari Miller.

"We started the Paralympic program here at Walter Reed in October, so it's a very young program," she said. "We get them participating in different Paralympic sports, so if other organizations invite them to play, they can come into the public eye and showcase their abilities, not their disabilities."

Miller, a silver medal-winning athlete on the U.S. Paralympic sitting volleyball team, said the program ideally will expand to include the full spectrum of Paralympic sports. She said the program isn't necessarily designed to train world-class athletes, but rather to give wounded servicemembers a way to enjoy physical leisure activities, especially when they return to their homes and families.

"Whatever level they want to reach, we want to help them get there," she said.

Knowles said he looks forward to expanding the program. Playing basketball has been fun, he said, but he's eager to try different sports and allow his drive for competition to grow.

"I can't wait until we start playing more sports. It doesn't matter which ones," he said. "I want to try it all."

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Officials Prepare to Launch Morale, Welfare, Recreation Survey

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Defense Department officials are preparing to launch the first militarywide survey to assess morale, welfare and recreation programs. "We've established standards for all the services," said Arthur Myers, principal director for the deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. "Now we want to get feedback from the [servicemembers] on how we're doing with our programs."

Myers' office is conducting the survey with the help of CFI Group, an international customer-satisfaction consulting firm with headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. It will be e-mailed July 27 to about 600,000 randomly selected servicemembers and will appear as being from CFI Group "on behalf of DoD."

"So, remember, when you get that, it's not spam," Myers said.

Some 120,000 active duty servicemembers in each service will receive an invitation to participate, and another 120,000 surveys will be spread across the 26 joint-base installations.

Though the survey will collect data on participants' service branches and, if they choose to provide it, their ethnicity, the responses will be completely anonymous, Myers emphasized.

It's also important, he added, that those selected participate in the survey to ensure the best level of accuracy in the results.

Though the survey will be sent only to active-duty servicemembers, Myers encouraged those selected to take their families' opinions into consideration when responding. As more data is gained, future surveys will be open to the reserve components, he added.

Those receiving surveys will have about three weeks to participate. When the responses are collected and analyzed, the findings will be published on the Defense Department Web site, as well as on Military Community and Family Policy's Military OneSource and Military Homefront sites.

"This survey will actually tell us what [servicemembers'] needs are so we can meet those needs," Myers said. "We really believe our programs are a key thing in keeping our military ready and [in helping to retain them]."

One Dead, One Wounded in Fort Lewis Shooting

American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - A woman is dead and a man is being treated after a shooting at the main post exchange here at about 11:20 a.m. PDT today. The woman was pronounced dead after being evacuated to Madigan Army Medical Center, and a man is receiving emergency treatment at Madigan. Preliminary indications are that the man shot the woman and then turned the gun on himself, officials said.

No additional information was available on the victims.

Fort Lewis military police have secured the scene, and people in the area have been evacuated. The post exchange is closed, and Fort Lewis law enforcement personnel have begun an investigation, officials said.

(From a Fort Lewis public affairs office news release.)

Comfort Care Shapes Lives, Course for International Aid

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

July 22, 2009 - Since he was a small boy, Juan Carlos Manzanares wanted to be a surgeon. Growing up in Leon, Nicaragua, Juan admired the skills of the doctors on television and dreamed that one day he could join their ranks. But for most of his 17 years, it looked as if Juan would not be able to slip on a surgeon's gloves. He was born with the skin on his two middle fingers on both hands fused together in a web-like fashion. In effect, he had only four fingers on each hand. Webbed fingers are the most common abnormality on a newborn's hand. If he'd been born in the United States, Juan's hands would likely have been fixed when he was child, probably before he started school.

Last week, surgeons on this Navy hospital ship separated Juan's fingers and at the same time opened the door for him to realize his dream.

"If I didn't have this type of surgery, I wouldn't be able to study medicine," Juan said, smiling and sporting two heavily-bandaged hands after the surgeries. "This way, I will be able to fit my fingers in the gloves."

The Comfort will pull back into its home port of Baltimore in the next few weeks after finishing up Continuing Promise 2009, a four-month humanitarian trip to seven Latin American countries. Nicaragua was its last stop, and the crew wrapped up there last week.

During the mission, the Comfort's physicians, dentists, nurses, optometrists and staff served more than 100,000 patients. Its surgeons conducted more than 1,600 operations aboard the floating surgical ward. More than 135,000 prescriptions were filled.

Beyond direct medical aid, doctors and nurses set up 1,300 training sessions for more than 37,500 host-nation students. Veterinarians cared for more than 13,000 animals. Engineers took on 13 projects, helping to rebuild schools and the like. The ship even carried aboard a military band that performed in venues such as the ship's waiting rooms and at local orphanages.

At each stop, local residents massed in the streets and villages of some of the Western hemisphere's poorest countries. They waited hours, and sometimes days, for a shot at being seen by health specialists from some of the world's finest health care systems.

Most of the medical problems were routine by U.S. standards: upset stomachs, near- or far-sightedness, tooth decay.

But for many, the Comfort's visit was their first, and possibly last contact with good medical care, officials said. And the patients traveled for miles and waited in the searing heat for a chance to be treated by the Comfort staff.

"I feel that this is absolutely the most important [mission] I've ever been involved in. The tangibility of our work is so incredible," said Navy Capt. Tom Negus, the mission commander.

Negus has served in the Navy for nearly a quarter of a century and has deployed on several military missions. This is his first such humanitarian mission, though, at the helm of what he called "the most powerful ship in the Navy."

The Comfort's mission was supported by nearly 20 civilian humanitarian groups offering up hundreds of volunteers. Doctors and nurses from 10 nations, nearly 100 medical providers, also joined its efforts. Teenagers and grandmothers worked side by side with military members from around the world to provide care.

The result was a precision military operation delivered with somewhat of a summer camp atmosphere. The mess galley was a melting pot of languages and backgrounds. Surgeons and nurses in scrubs sat next to college students in T-shirts alongside sailors, airmen, Marines and soldiers, all in their combat uniforms. Military commanders briefed every evening on the next day's operations. At the end of each section brief, the staff applauded. One lucky soul was recognized nightly as the "person of the day" for outstanding efforts.

This joint, interagency, international, diversity was critical to the mission, Negus said, and symbolizes the way ahead for U.S. efforts in the region.

"My sense is this is the future of operations," Negus said. "If we as a nation are going to hope to have an effect, then we are going to operate in an arena like this, with [nongovernmental organizations] and partner nations ... all collaborating, all focused on achieving a purpose, having that alignment, that unity of mission."

The United States traditionally has established individual relationships with countries, especially on a military level, Negus said. But working with the mix of agencies and nations -- and learning to work through the bureaucracies of each -- makes this mission unique.

"We're doing things now in this mission that haven't been tried before," Negus said. "Often times, it's very easy for people to get along. It's quite another for bureaucracies to get along or to understand each other. This is very helpful in doing that."

Negus said these relationships will prove valuable in the event the ship is called on for aid. Its sister ship, the USNS Mercy, was called on following the tsunami that struck countries in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

"We know firsthand who to call – the people who can make things happen," Negus said. "That capability makes all of us much more ready in the event of a disaster. But it also fundamentally strengthens the trust between our nations. And the more ... that we understand each other on so many different levels, then the stronger our ties are with those nations."

This was the fourth time a U.S. military ship ventured into these waters to provide aid. Continuing Promise launched in 2007 with a trip here by the Comfort. Last year, the USS Kearsarge and USS Boxer, both Navy amphibious assault ships, provided aid.

During the 2007 trip, the Comfort stopped at a dozen countries for only a handful of days each. This time, officials decreased the number of stops to seven, but averaged 11 days at each country.

And at each stop, the crew honed their skills at providing care to as many as possible. In the first stops, they averaged about 7,000 patients. By the end of the mission, they were seeing 20,000 patients, and with no increase in staff, officials said.

But the impact of the $25 million mission cannot effectively be measured in terms of gross numbers, but more so in the individual lives it changes, said Peggy Goebel, a volunteer nurse working aboard with Project Hope, one of the first groups to team up with the Navy for these types of missions. It was Goebel's second trip on the Comfort.

"The difference can't be measured in bottles of Tylenol passed out ... that's not it," she said.

Goebel recalled a teenager she saw in a remote village in Nicaragua. She was 16, poor and hungry. Her baby was swaddled in rags, and at 2 months old, weighed less than a newborn. The young mother was trying to breastfeed, but hadn't eaten enough to produce milk. The baby was starving, listless and covered in scabies, Goebel said.

A Navy physician at the site took money from his pocket, gave it to an interpreter to buy formula and diapers, and asked the mother to return the next day. When she did, both mother and baby were bathed and clothed. The doctor and Goebel taught her how to mix the formula. They cleaned her only bottle and fed the baby.

More importantly, Goebel made contact with a local Project Hope coordinator, who will follow up with the mother and child to ensure care. The formula the doctor bought was enough to last only a few days, but the follow-up care could mean the difference between life and death for the baby.

"That baby may not have lived a week. That was a life-changing experience," Goebel said. "We can't help them all. We can't do everything. But hopefully, we can plant a seed that we can make a difference."


BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP, Santa Clara, Calif., is being awarded a $216,526,924 modification under previously awarded firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-09-D-5026) for the purchase of Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield kits for multiple vehicular platforms to provide crew protection from blast, fragmentation, and small arms fire while in the turret. Work will be performed in Santa Clara, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 16, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

EDO Professional Services, Inc., Arlington, Va., is being awarded a $10,181,915 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering support for the development and maintenance of mechanical and electrical hardware and computer software for the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, and associated unmanned vehicles, systems and equipment. This three-year contract includes two, one-year options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to an estimated $17,558,194. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., (80 percent) and Kings Bay, Georgia, (20 percent), and base year work is expected to be completed July 21, 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via publication on the Federal Business Opportunities website, and posting to the SPAWAR e-Commerce Central website. Nine proposals were solicited and one offer was received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific is the contracting activity (N66001-09-D-0032).

Correction: Contract awarded July 20, 2009, to Advance Coherent Technologies, LLC, San Diego, Calif., should have stated the work performance place as Mobile, Ala., (60 percent) and San Diego, Calif., (40 percent).

Textron Systems Corp., Slidell, La., was awarded on July 16, 2009 a $99,491,233 firm-fixed-price contract for 191 each M1117 Armored Security Vehicles (ASV's); 38 each M1200 Armored Knights (AK's); 32 each M1117 ASV special tool- field sets; 11 each M1117 ASV special tool-sustainment sets; 10 each M1200 AK special tool-field sets; three each M1200 AK special tool-sustainment sets. Work is to be performed in Slidell, La., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2010. One bid solicited with one bid received. TACOM Contracting Center-Warren, AMSCC-TAC-ATBD, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-09-C-0532).

Chugach World Services Inc, Anchorage, Ark., was awarded on July 16, 2009 a $ 55,000,000 Indefinite Quantity firm-fixed-price contract. The express purpose of the requirement is for the design and construction for the revitalization of Building 2266 and 2264 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Work is to be performed in San Antonio, Texas with an estimated completion date of July 30, 2011. One bid solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Engineer District, Fort Worth, Texas is the contracting activity (W9126G-09-C-0055).

Creative Times, Inc., Ogden, Utah was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $ 23,395,008 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of Physical Fitness Facility at Fort Carson, Colo. Work is to be performed in Fort Carson, Colo., with an estimated completed date of Jan. 31, 2011. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with nine bids received. U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Omaha, Neb., is the contracting activity (W9128F-09-C-0024).

Daimler Trucks North America LLC, Portland, Ore., was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $ 22,930,055 firm-fixed-price- nine year requirements contrast for delivery order 0117 adds 121 each, M915A3 Truck Tractors, 27 each, M916A3 Light Equipment Transporters and 11 each M915 Flatbed Trucks to the contract. Work is to be performed in Portland, Ore., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2010. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with two bids received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMSCC-TAC-ATBC- Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (DAAE07-00-D-S022).

The Korte Company, St. Louis, Mo., was awarded on July 15, 2009 a $ 20,790,793 a firm-fixed-price contract for the design and construction of the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Tyler, Texas. Work is to be performed in Tyler, Texas with an estimated completion date of July 15, 2011. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with 15 bids received. Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Louisville, Ky., is the contracting activity (W912QR-09-C-0048).

RLB Contracting, Inc, Port Lavaca, Texas was awarded on July, 17, 2009 a $ 9,670,148 firm-fixed-price contract to Freeport Harbor, Texas, Inner Harbor and turning basin in Brazoria County, Texas, Levee construction and dredging. The work consist of raising dredged placement levee by truck haul, replacing drop-outlets structures, dredging of material and depositing it in a placement are. Work is to be performed on Freeport, Brazoria County, Texas with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2010. Twenty bids were solicited with five bids received. USA Engineer District, Galveston, Texas is the contracting activity (W912HY-09-C-0014).

Verizon Business Network Services Inc, Ashburn Va., was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $ 8,660,515 firm-fixed-price contract for the United States Army Reserve (USAR) requires a contractor to provide an innovative, integrated solution set (management, business, and technical) for its near and long term needs in order to manage, maintain, and transition the USAR ARNet II. The Army Reserve Network is one of the largest Wide Area Networks within the Department of Defense providing services on CONUS, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, supporting approximately 50,000 Active Guard & Reserve, Military Technician, and Department of the Army Civilian users. Work is to be performed in Ashburn, Va., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 31, 2014. Forty-Two bids solicited with two bids received. Department of the Army, Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Dix, N.J., is the contracting activity (W91LV2-09-C-0049).

TEC General Contractors Inc., Lares, Puerto Rico, was awarded on July 17, 2009 an $ 8,605,000 firm-fixed-price contract for Rio El OJO De Agua, Section 205 Flood Control Project, Aguadilla Puerto Rico. Work is to be performed in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2010. Eighteen bids solicited with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity (W912EP-08-C-0020).

Weeks Marine, Inc., Covington, La., was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $ 7,453,901 firm-fixed-price contract for the dredging, Atchafalaya Bay, Bar, and Horseshoe, Cutterhead Dredge Rental Contract No. 01-2009, St. Mary and Terrebonne Parishes, La. Work is to be performed in St. Mary and Terrebonne Parishes, La., with an estimated completion date of Oct. 25, 2009. Bids were solicted on the World Wide Web with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, New Orleans, La., is the contracting activity (W912P8-09-C-0086).

Raytheon Co., Andover, Mass., was awarded in July 20, 2009 a $ 6,586,256 cost plus fixed fee/Letter Contract for 44 BETSS-C (Base Expeditionary Targeting Surveillance System, Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment tower systems. Work is to be performed in Andover, Mass., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 30, 2010. One bid solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Contracting and Acquisition Management Office, Huntsville, Ala., is the contracting activity (W9113M-08-C-0171).

SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $ 5,488,594 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the IPDM program. It will develop systems that enable safe naturalization of unexploded munitions without their detonation of transportation. Harnessing advances in electrochemistry and material processing, the systems will swiftly penetrate, eviscerate, and render explosives inert in unexploded ordnance that otherwise be used to make improvised explosive devices. The portable prototype device will demonstrate safe demilitarization of 50 155mm M107 artillery rounds and be available for field evacuations by operational partners. Work is to be performed in Menlo Park, Calif., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2011. Bids were solicited using a sole source with one bid received. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (HR0011-09-C-0064).

PIKA International, Inc., Stafford, Texas was awarded on July 17, 2009 a $5,477,529 firm-fixed-price service performance based contract to perform Munitions and Explosives of Concern (MEC), removal and remediation from Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant, Grand Island, Nebraska. Work is to be performed in Grand Island, Neb., with an estimated completion date Aug. 1, 2012. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with five bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Omaha, Neb., is the contracting activity (W9128F-09-C-0019).

J.E. McAmis, Inc., Chico, Calif., was awarded on July 16, 2009 a firm-fixed-price contract for the Columbia River Channel Improvement rock removal-2009, this project is funded by American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Work is to be performed in St. Helens, Ore., (70 percent), and Camas, Wash., (30 percent) with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2010. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with two bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, Portland Ore., is the contracting activity (W9127N-09-C-0026).

BAE Systems, Tactical Vehicle Systems Limited Partnership, Sealy, Texas was awarded on July 16, 2009 a $ 5,467,404 firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursement contact. This modification is for the definitization of 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems Launcher Chassis for Foreign Military Sales cases in support of Singapore and United Arab Emirates. Work is to be performed in Sealy, Texas with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2010. One bid solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army TACOM-Warren, AMSTA-AQ-ATBB, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-08-C-0460).

Veyance Technologies, Inc., St. Marys, Ohio is being awarded a maximum $53,941,053 firm fixed price contract for parts. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There were originally two proposals solicited with two responses. The date of performance completion is September 30, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency, Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-D-0034).

BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems LP, Sealy, Texas is being awarded a maximum $34,097,605 firm fixed price, sole source contract for axle assembly parts in support of MRAP. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 24, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency, Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-C-0121).

Kidde Dual Spectrum, Wilson, N.C., is being awarded a maximum $27,208,560 firm fixed price contract for fire suppression system. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There was one proposal originally solicited with one response. The date of performance completion is March 3, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency, Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich.,(SPRDL1-09-D-0004).

Belleville Shoe Mfg., Co., Belleville, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $6,104,120 firm fixed price, partial set aside, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for temperate weather boots. Other location of performance is Arkansas. Using service is Air Force. The original proposal was Web solicited with six responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is July 22, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM1C1-09-D-1072).

Poker and Leadership

Editor's Note: The author of Leadership: Texas Hold 'em Style is a former servicemember.

July 20, 2009 (San Dimas, CA) American Heroes Press announced that the co-author of Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style, Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.) will be a guest on the internet-based radio program Boris Poker Radio.

Date: July 24, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
Listen Live:

Boris Poker Radio covers the poker world from the casual and low limit perspective. Reoccurring segments with our message board's very own on-line multi-table tournament pro help those new to the game in making the right decisions as they learn the game.

Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton. He has completed his doctoral studies in business research. Raymond is a graduate of the West Point Leadership program and has attended law enforcement, technology and leadership programs such as the National Institute for Justice, Technology Institute, Washington, DC.

Raymond has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and is currently a faculty advisor and chair of the
Criminal Justice Program at the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

His first book,
Police Technology is used in over 100 colleges and universities nationwide. He latest book, Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style has been adopted by several universities for course work in leadership; by several civil service organizations and required reading for promotion; and, has been well received in the wider market.

Using poker as analogy for
leadership, Captain Andrew Harvey, CPD (ret.), Ed.D. and Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA found the right mix of practical experience and academic credentials to write a definitive book for leaders. Working together, Harvey and Foster have written Leadership: Texas Hold em Style. Most often leaders find they are given a set of resources people, equipment, funds, experience and a mission. As Foster noted, "You're dealt a certain hand. How you play that hand as a leader determines your success."

More than a book: A fun and entertaining journey through
leadership that includes an interactive website to supplement knowledge gained from the book.
Proven and Tested: Not an academic approach to
leadership, but rather a road-tested guide that has been developed through 50-years of author experience.
High Impact: Through the use of perspective, reflection, and knowledge, provides information that turns
leadership potential into leadership practice.
Ease of Application: Theory is reinforced with real-life experience, which results in accessible and practical tools leaders can put to use immediately.
High Road Approach: Personal character and ethical beliefs are woven into each leadership approach, so leaders do the right thing for the right reasons.
Uses Game of Poker: Rather than a dry approach that is all fact and no flavor, the game of poker is used as a lens through which to view
leadership concepts.

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret)

PTSD and Problems with Alcohol Use

PTSD does not automatically cause problems with alcohol use; there are many people with PTSD who do not have problems with alcohol. However, PTSD and alcohol together can be serious trouble for the trauma survivor and his or her family.

How do PTSD and alcohol use affect each other and make problems worse?

PTSD and alcohol problems often occur together.

People with PTSD are more likely than others with similar backgrounds to have alcohol use disorders both before and after being diagnosed with PTSD, and people with alcohol use disorders often also have PTSD.

Being diagnosed with PTSD increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

Women exposed to trauma show an increased risk for an alcohol use disorder even if they are not experiencing PTSD. Women with problematic alcohol use are more likely than other women to have been sexually abused at some point in their lives.

Men and women reporting sexual abuse have higher rates of alcohol and drug use disorders than other men and women.

Twenty-five to seventy-five percent of those who have survived abusive or violent trauma also report problems with alcohol use.

Ten to thirty-three percent of survivors of accidental, illness, or disaster trauma report problematic alcohol use, especially if they are troubled by persistent health problems or pain.

Sixty to eighty percent of Vietnam veterans seeking PTSD treatment have alcohol use disorders. Veterans over the age of 65 with PTSD are at increased risk for attempted suicide if they also experience problematic alcohol use or depression. War veterans diagnosed with PTSD and alcohol use tend to be binge drinkers. Binges may be in reaction to memories or reminders of trauma.

Alcohol problems often lead to trauma and disrupt relationships.

Persons with alcohol use disorders are more likely than others with similar backgrounds to experience psychological trauma. They also experience problems with conflict and intimacy in relationships.

Problematic alcohol use is associated with a chaotic lifestyle, which reduces family emotional closeness, increases family conflict, and reduces parenting abilities.

PTSD symptoms often are worsened by alcohol use.

Although alcohol can provide a temporary feeling of distraction and relief, it also reduces the ability to concentrate, enjoy life, and be productive.

Excessive alcohol use can impair one's ability to sleep restfully and to cope with trauma memories and stress.

Alcohol use and intoxication also increase emotional numbing, social isolation, anger and irritability, depression, and the feeling of needing to be on guard (hyper-vigilance).

Alcohol use disorders reduce the effectiveness of PTSD treatment.

Many individuals with PTSD experience sleep disturbances (trouble falling asleep or problems with waking up frequently after falling asleep). When a person with PTSD experiences sleep disturbances, using alcohol as a way to self-medicate becomes a double-edged sword. Alcohol use may appear to help symptoms of PTSD because the alcohol may decrease the severity and number of frightening nightmares commonly experienced in PTSD. However, alcohol use may, on the other hand, continue the cycle of avoidance found in PTSD, making it ultimately much more difficult to treat PTSD because the client's avoidance behavior prolongs the problems being addressed in treatment. Also, when a person withdraws from alcohol, nightmares often increase.

Additional Mental Health Issues

Individuals with a combination of PTSD and alcohol use problems often have additional mental or physical health problems. As many as 10-50% of adults with alcohol use disorders and PTSD also have one or more of the following serious disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders (such as panic attacks, phobias, incapacitating worry, or compulsions)
  • Mood disorders (such as major depression or a dysthymic disorder)
  • Disruptive behavior disorders (such as attention deficit or antisocial personality disorder)
  • Addictive disorders (such as addiction to or abuse of street or prescription drugs)
  • Chronic physical illness (such as diabetes, heart disease, or liver disease)
  • Chronic physical pain due to physical injury/illness or due to no clear physical cause

What are the most effective treatment patterns?

Because the existence of both PTSD and an alcohol use disorder in an individual makes both problems worse, alcohol use problems often must be addressed in PTSD treatment. When alcohol use is (or has been) a problem in addition to PTSD, it is best to seek treatment from a PTSD specialist who also has expertise in treating alcohol (addictive) disorders. In any PTSD treatment, several precautions related to alcohol use and alcohol disorders are advised:

The initial interview and questionnaire assessment should include questions that sensitively and thoroughly identify patterns of past and current alcohol and drug use.

Treatment planning should include a discussion between the professional and the client about the possible effects of alcohol use problems on PTSD, sleep, anger and irritability, anxiety, depression, and work or relationship difficulties.

Treatment should include education, therapy, and support groups that help the client address alcohol use problems in a manner acceptable to the client.

Treatment for PTSD and alcohol use problems should be designed as a single consistent plan that addresses both sources of difficulty together. Although there may be separate meetings or clinicians devoted primarily to PTSD or to alcohol problems, PTSD issues should be included in alcohol treatment, and alcohol use ("addiction" or "sobriety") issues should be included in PTSD treatment.

Relapse prevention must prepare the newly sober individual to cope with PTSD symptoms, which often seem to worsen or become more pronounced with abstinence.

Where can you get help?

For a listing of professionals in the USA and Canada who treat alcohol disorders and PTSD, we suggest consulting the membership directories of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies or the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists. For veterans experiencing problems with PTSD and alcohol use, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a network of specialized PTSD and substance use treatment programs. For information on these programs, contact the local VA Vet Center or the Psychiatry Service at a VA Medical Center. (For addresses and telephone numbers, look under the "United States Government" listings in the telephone directory.)

CALL - THE PTSD Information Line at (802) 296-6300

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