When natural disasters strike, like Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River flooding or the earthquake, tsunami and radiation threat in Japan, we tend to think survivors’ immediate needs are: safe food and water, places to live, and tools to rebuild lives and communities.
For disease outbreaks, our thoughts may go to medical care for the affected.
The 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States and civil unrest in foreign countries might cause concern for victims and families of victims.
But, there is another dimension to the consequences of traumatic events we may not immediately think of — the psychological well-being of those involved.
What do we know about psychological responses to disaster trauma?
What research informs first responders and health care providers of effective psychological response strategies to traumatic events?
What is known about the psychological impact and health consequences for service members exposed to extreme environments and traumatic incidences?
Where can military families find resources to help them with traumatic events?
How does all of that translate into disaster resources and interventions with military and civilian populations?
Those issues are the focus of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS), a component center of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. CSTS, directed by Dr. Robert Ursano, is one of the world’s leading institutions on disaster psychiatry, which examines psychological and behavioral effects of traumatic events on military and civilian populations.
CSTS was established in 1987 to address Defense Department concerns about psychological responses in individuals and communities to a range of traumatic events, such as exposure to weapons of mass destruction, acts of terrorism or hostage-taking, combat, natural disasters, physical assaults and vehicle accidents.
In response to the events of 9/11, the center expanded its research and consultation to workplace preparedness for terrorism and disaster. The nation’s subsequent military response contributed to the center’s focus on new areas of trauma concerns, such as the impact of combat injury on military health care providers, service members and families, and higher incidences of deployment-related family psychological concerns. CSTS currently hosts a database of more than 30,000 articles on the psychological, social and behavioral manifestations of exposure to traumatic events, from resilience to post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Drawing from its extensive military research on human behaviors under extreme stress, CSTS now sits at the crossroads of military and disaster psychiatry, applying what was learned in military psychiatry to inform the nation and international groups of the principles that can help people better prepare, respond and recover from traumatic events.
Psychological First Aid
Just as first aid addresses the body’s immediate needs for attention, psychological first aid performs the same role for the mind. CSTS is in the pioneering group of organizations that developed psychological first aid.
“Psychological first aid is an important evidence-informed intervention for supporting resilience and recovery in the immediate face of disaster,” said Nancy Vineburgh, CSTS, Office of Public Education and Preparedness director.
In the aftermath of a traumatic event, individuals often experience shock, stress, confusion, fear, anger, grief, hopelessness, guilt and withdrawal. Psychological first aid is designed to help people cope with those emotions, and according to CSTS, mitigate the chances for further harm to themselves down the road.
CSTS’s Courage to Care fact sheet for providers, “Psychological First Aid, Helping Victims in the Immediate Aftermath of Disasters,” describes psychological first aid as a course of actions taken to help individuals feel safe, remain calm, stay engaged, believe in themselves, and find hope in the aftermath of a traumatic experience. It also lists “do’s” and “don’ts” of this method, such as, do listen to people; don’t force them to share their experiences.
The concept of psychological first aid applies to the stresses first responders experience as well. Read this physician’s account of helping in the aftermath of Katrina for a sense of the psychological stressors responders may experience.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deploys experts around the world to control disease outbreaks, collect health information and improve response strategies. Recognizing the mental stresses on responders to traumatic events, CDC asked CSTS, led by Dr. David Benedek, associate director, Consultation and Education, to develop training for its deployment safety and resiliency teams. Psychological first aid is the key component of this training and peer support is central to building resiliency among colleagues.
Likewise, CSTS’s knowledge of psychological first aid and disaster psychiatry informs the disaster response strategies of the National Guard, often deployed first in times of domestic natural disasters.
Advice in Real Time
A distinguishing characteristic of CSTS is that many of its resources have the imprint of disaster response delivered during real-time scenarios.
“We develop educational resources in real-time and consult in real-time,” said CSTS scientific director, Dr. Carol Fullerton. She noted that CSTS developed and disseminated disaster response materials and advice to our military during 9/11 (2001), Hurricane Katrina (2005), the H1N1 flu pandemic (2009), the Haiti earthquake (2010), the Japan earthquake and tsunami (2011) and the China earthquake (2011).
“Our military tradition is one of preparedness,” Fullerton continued. “CSTS’s tradition is to support preparedness, response and resilience in military and civilian populations across a spectrum of challenges to the human psyche.”
A feature length documentary about Congressional Medal of Honor recipient 1st Sgt. David H. McNerney and the men of A-Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry of the 4th Infantry Division that he trained and led into a bloody, yet forgotten battle near Polei Doc in the Central Highlands of Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War. This area was later known as The Valley of Tears. In the men's own words, through the stories they recount, the film gives us insight into the time these men spent together and the bond they formed that remains unbroken to this day. The men of A-Company trained together for eleven months and served together for one year. Their story begins with basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington in 1965 and continues 40 years later at their 40th reunion in September 2007. The highlight of the film is a detailed, first-hand account of their intense combat encounters, including the events of March 22, 1967 (for which Sgt. McNerney was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor). He is celebrated by the men he trained and served with and whose lives he saved. ??Conceived by Executive Producer John A. Ponsoll, whose father served with A-Company and documented his tour of duty with a Kodak slide camera, the film honors the memory of A-Company 1/8 and their incredible courage and dedication to one another
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrew D. Wiskow, USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) embarked 42 Sea Cadets from the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) July 5-8 to get a first-hand experience of life at sea on a modern Navy warship.
The NSCC program is sponsored by the Navy League and is a federally chartered, non-profit youth organization whose charter is to acquaint high school age youths with the Navy and guide their interest in military service. Founded in 1958, it is run by an all-volunteer force and supported by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
Sea Cadet Seaman Noreen Domingo, from Anaheim, Calif., has been a Sea Cadet for two years. She said her time aboard Makin Island has been a great experience.
"We've been able to see flight operations and well deck operations. We got to see an Osprey land on the flight deck. I really liked seeing the Air Boss at work in primary flight control. I think I want to be an Air Boss one day," said Domingo.
Sea Cadet Seaman Constantine Spyrou, from Sunnyvale, Calif., joined the Sea Cadets 15 months ago. He said he would definitely recommend this experience to others.
"The ship is a lot busier than I thought it would be. When you see movies about the Navy, it doesn't seem as busy as it is in real life," said Spyrou.
According to Domingo, the Sea Cadets embarked aboard Makin Island are all from different units, but they were all selected as part of their training known as Petty Officer Leadership Academy (POLA).
"We're all E-3s, and POLA is part of our training to become Sea Cadet petty officers," she said. "Not all Sea Cadets get to go to a ship. Some are sent to shore commands. But I think that getting to go to a ship is the best."
Many of the young people in the Sea Cadet program go on to enlist or become officers in all branches in the U.S. military. For those embarked aboard Makin Island, this summer training equips them with experiences that can only be learned in the fleet, and they said they will carry the experience with them forever.
Makin Island is currently off the coast of California conducting sea trials in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Johnson, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines on board USS Ronald Reagan received a surprise delivery of individual care packages June 30, sent from volunteers and members of Operation Gratitude, while deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization that has supported forward-deployed troops around the world with care packages for eight consecutive years and counting.
"We sent packages to every person stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Chancellorsville and USS Preble," said Carolyn Blashek, founder and president of Operation Gratitude.
The organization sent more than 4,500 packages to the three ships out of the roughly 100,000 packages sent annually worldwide. Exhibiting a deep appreciation for servicemembers, volunteers and donors provide products for care packages, with an average box consisting of approximately $50 dollars worth of donated items.
"Operation Gratitude's mission is twofold; to put a smile on every servicemember's face, letting them know Americans care, and providing an avenue for every American to express their appreciation to our military and their families," said Blashek.
Blashek has oversight for the entire organization, but recognized volunteers and donors throughout the United States.
"We work with supporters all over the country who organize collection drives for us to provide items and letters for the packages," said Blashek. "There are several more opportunities to support our program such as recycling, knitting, and fundraising."
Volunteers of Operation Gratitude put a lot of care and effort into putting together care packages by hand-making stuffed animals, holding letter-writing campaigns throughout the community, recycling used cell phones, and even knitting and crocheting scarves.
"My satisfaction in sending the packages is in feeling that I am serving the United States, and at the same time, hopefully putting a smile on the face of a hero in harm's way," said Blashek.
Blashek said that so far more than 650,000 packages have been sent to deployed servicemembers and expects that number to increase to 250,000 annually.
Many Sailors and Marines aboard Reagan expressed gratitude for the surprising gesture.
"I think Operation Gratitude is awesome," said Chief Aviation Ordnancemen Jorge Maldonado. "I haven't received a single package during this deployment, so for people I don't even know to unexpectedly send something to me brought a lot of joy to my day."
Maldonado said he hopes crewmembers feel appreciative of the support, and seek opportunities to give back and support this organization and its members.
"If I could speak to Operation Gratitude organizers and supporters, I would say thank you. The program is very well thought out, you touch a lot of Sailors and Marines through care packages," said Maldonado
Many Sailors and Marines get a morale boost when they receive packages from home and unexpected packages such as those from Operation Gratitude boost morale even more.
"It makes you feel pretty good to get a package because it brings up morale," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Atiba Johnson, Reagan's post office leading petty officer. "It's definitely nice knowing someone's thinking of you. It adds excitement to life, and it reminds us why we're out here doing the type of job we're doing."
Ronald Reagan CSG is comprised of Ronald Reagan, guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which includes guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88).
Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 includes the Black Knights of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the Argonauts of VFA-147, the Blue Diamonds of VFA-146, the Death Rattlers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the Black Eagles of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the Cougars of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 and the Black Knights of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2011 – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged China during a speech in Beijing today to use its strength and influence to become a global partner in addressing security challenges in the region and beyond.
Speaking to students at Beijing’s Renmin University, Mullen recognized China’s economic, technological and military growth during the past three decades, and urged its leaders to use this power as a force for global good.
“We look forward to China assuming more responsibilities for global problem solving, commensurate with its growing capabilities,” he said in his prepared remarks.
Mullen recognized China’s ability to deal with security challenges that impact both China and the United States. “Many of our security issues have a common dimension, centered in places where China can exert a great deal of constructive influence, and where our interests are aligned,” he said.
The chairman cited challenges on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions have mounted in light of recent North Korean provocations on South Korea and its refusal to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
China also can help ensure the safety of shipping lanes in Southeast Asia, he said, and ensure access and equitable use of the global commons for all nations, rather than a select few.
Mullen noted China’s increasing reach beyond Asia and the Pacific, and its ability to address Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, promote security in South and Central Asia and confront other emerging challenges.
“Both of our nations recognize the emerging challenges of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, growing global energy demands and the geopolitical implications and stresses of climate change,” he said. “Therefore, our exchange must not be limited to the Asia-Pacific, but should range farther and wider, as befits our shared interests and China’s increasing ability to contribute positively beyond your shores.”
As China becomes more of a global player in addressing these and other global challenges, Mullen emphasized the United States’ interest in strengthening the two countries’ partnership, including their military relationship.
“The United States wants a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China, one that comes to be defined by our common challenges and our shared interests in Asia and globally,” he said. “Global cooperation advances China’s interests, and it advances U.S. interests.”
While in China, Mullen hopes to explore ways to expand the military relationship, building on talks during People’s Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde visit to Washington in May, according to Navy Capt. John Kirby, Mullen’s spokesman.
Those discussions laid groundwork for upcoming military engagements that Mullen said will lead to relationship-building between the two militaries and ultimately enable them to operate together in exercises and joint activities.
Mullen emphasized the United States’ historical ties to Asia and the Pacific and its enduring commitment to the region.
“Now, more than ever, the United States is a Pacific nation, and it is clear that our security interests and economic wellbeing are tied to Asia’s,” he said.
“President Barack Obama has said, ‘the relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21stcentury, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world,’ and I could not agree more.”
About the Guest
John Podlaski “served in Vietnam during 1970 and 1971 as an infantryman with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 501st Infantry Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He has spent the years since Vietnam working in various management positions within the automotive industry and has recently received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
John now works in sales and logistics for a Belgian company that supplies gears and shafts for transmissions and diesel engines. He is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 and lives with his wife of 37 years, Janice, in Sterling Heights, Michigan. They own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage and are both members of the Great Lakes Chapter of Southeast Michigan Harley Owners’ Group.” John Podlaski is the author of Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel.
According to the book description of Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel, “It's 1970 - they're 18 years old - drafted and trained by the Army Infantry for five months - sent to Vietnam with others their age to fight in an unpopular war - dubbed "Cherries" by their more seasoned peers - nothing had prepared them for this nightmare - forced to become men overnight - working hard to learn the ropes and earn the acceptance and trust of fellow soldiers. Once they come under fire and witness death firsthand, a life-changing transition begins. This eye-opening account offers readers an in-depth look into the everyday struggles of these young infantry soldiers. You'll feel their fear, awe, drama, and sorrow, witness the bravery and sometimes laugh at their humor. In Vietnam, battles weren't just fought against NVA and VC soldiers - personal battles occurred daily as these teenagers had to fend off the many crawling, flying and scurrying insects, rats, snakes, spiders and other creatures that lived in these dense jungles. Some were magnificent - most were deadly! Buy "Cherries" and read about it for yourself!”
About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.
About the Host
Lieutenant 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; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement 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.