Military News

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is Stress Therapy Going to the Dogs?

By Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications
 
“I looked at Thor who was to be euthanized that day at the kill shelter. He was quiet and calm and looked like he didn’t belong with the other, more engaged dogs, and I thought, ‘I feel the same way.’”
 
That day, retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson not only saved Thor’s life, but claims Thor saved his. I recently heard Veseth-Nelson talk about the dog during a Military Pathways® webinar “Canine Companions and Your Emotional Health.” Although he didn’t know it when he met Thor, Veseth-Nelson’s anger, sleeplessness and restless mind were symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He credits his companion dog with forcing him to engage in life while distracting him from his darker inclinations.
 
Veseth-Nelson’s experience with Thor is being echoed by other vets with PTSD who credit a dog for their improved condition. Now he and his wife, Diana, believe they’re helping save veterans’ lives with Battle Buddies, their mentoring and canine placement program for veterans with PTSD.
 
Battle Buddies joins a growing movement of canine-assisted therapy programs in the country. Paws for Purple Hearts mimics the military’s peer support tradition by teaching veterans with PTSD how to train service dogs for other veterans with physical and psychological health concerns. In the process, trainers must face their own issues, such as hyper-vigilance and emotional numbness, to effectively train the animals. Many recovering service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center participate in the program as part of an internship.
 
Within this movement, distinctions are made among service dogs, therapy dogs and companionship dogs. Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort to specific groups of people, such as those in nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities. Companionship dogs fill emotional and social needs.
 
Service dogs go through intensive training to perform specific tasks for people with visible or invisible disabilities. Examples include the dog checking out a dark room or turning on the light for a nervous veteran with PTSD; interrupting a nightmare by encouraging the person to move; or keeping track of everyday items such as keys and wallets. That training grants service dogs the right of public access under the amended Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing them to accompany their handlers in all public places. Your family pooch is not likely service dog material; service dogs are not pets.
 
What makes a good service dog?
 
Temperament, physical soundness and desire to work are some criteria. Maybe that would explain why we see certain breeds more often than others as service dogs. “Labradors, golden retrievers and lab-golden mixes are the most frequently used service dogs in the United States,” said Cathy Reisfield, Battle Buddies program coordinator.
 
Why do we look to dogs for help with PTSD?
 
Dogs have a long history of providing emotional support. Dogs are vigilant, protective, respond well to authoritative relationships, love unconditionally, help relearn trust and remember feelings of love, notes Dr. Tracy Stecker, assistant professor at the Dartmouth Medical School Psychiatric Research Center.
 
While there is ample anecdotal support for canine therapy, evidence-based support still needs to be developed to fully embrace it for PTSD patients, noted Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, psychiatry professor at Uniformed Services University and chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health, during a recent DCoE Monthly Webinar on integrative health. In cooperation with the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Paws for Purple Hearts plans to test and gather statistics on sleep studies, biomarker tracking and symptom reduction to support the premise that service dogs help PTSD patients.
 
Veseth-Nelson doesn’t need convincing. “I was in a dark place and Thor brought in the light,” he said.
 
More organizations that provide therapy dogs for veterans:

■VetDogs®
■Patriot PAWS
■Pets for Patriots™
■Hawaii Fi-Do
■Paws and Stripes

Face of Defense: Marine Recalls Bomb Blast

By Marine Corps Cpl. Walter D. Marino II
2nd Marine Division

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Oct. 25, 2011 – As a teenager working on farms and in construction in his hometown of Urbana, Ohio, Marine Corps Capt. Chase B. Wheeler never thought he’d one day be a Marine combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

Wheeler’s blue-collar work ethic gave him the drive to work hard. After high school, he earned a degree in construction management and mining. It was while playing football for Morehead State University that Wheeler decided he wanted to fight for the United States.

“I didn’t want to be 55 saying, ‘I wish I would have done this.’ It was my obligation to fight for my country, because there was a fight to be had,” said Wheeler, executive officer of Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division here.

Military service runs in Wheeler’s family. His father served as an Army staff sergeant. His grandfather is a World War II veteran, and his great-grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War.

“Being around veterans -- it was kind of set I would serve in some sort,” Wheeler said.

In Afghanistan, Wheeler led Marines in clearing roadside bombs from convoy routes and building combat outposts. While on patrol during his first deployment, Wheeler was wounded by an improvised explosive device blast.

“I’m fortunate to be alive,” he said. “Makes you realize the importance in life -- family and friends.”

Wheeler’s fighting spirit was undiminished. In February 2011, Wheeler deployed again with 2nd CEB.

Marine Corps Capt. John E. Shubeck, Wheeler’s company commander, noticed Wheeler’s courage during one mission in particular.

“We were in combat during the whole operation,” Shubeck said. “Multiple times he stood out from the side of a vehicle with binoculars to draw fire behind tree lines and determine where the fire was coming from. It was successful. We were able to bring air [support] on station and break up the enemy assault.”

Wheeler’s father and fellow Marines from Afghanistan were present Oct. 3 when he was awarded the Purple Heart and promoted to captain.

Pentagon Monitors Thailand Flood Situation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2011 – Defense officials are carefully monitoring the situation in Thailand as that nation faces the worst flooding it’s had in more than 50 years.

Recent flooding across Thailand has killed more than 360 people, and more than 2.5 million people have been affected, Thai government officials said.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who is traveling in Asia, has expressed serious concern about the disaster, said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who is with Panetta’s traveling party.

The defense secretary “offers his deepest condolences to all those who have suffered as a result,” Little said in a written statement. “The secretary is closely monitoring the situation, and applauds the Thai government’s quick response to this major natural disaster. Thailand is a close ally, and we will continue to work with Thai officials to assess what they may need in the form of assistance from the United States.”

When the flooding started, U.S. Pacific Command ordered the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which was conducting a port visit to Singapore, to get underway earlier than scheduled to pre-position in case assistance was required. The command sent a 10-Marine humanitarian assistance survey team from Okinawa, Japan, to Bangkok, Thailand, to assess the situation in the country.

After meeting with Thai officials, the team determined that U.S. military assistance was not needed.

“The Thai government and military have led a tremendous effort to protect and help its citizens during the recent flooding,” Pentagon officials said.

The Navy ships have been released to participate in a previously scheduled annual exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Pentagon officials said. The destroyer USS Mustin now plans a previously unscheduled port visit to Laem Chabang, Thailand, to conduct community service events and military-to-military engagements.

Pacific Command officials are working with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to determine if U.S. military assets are needed to support the Thais.

Vietnam Veteran Driven by Personal Experience Vows to Say “Thank You” to All Vietnam Vets for Their Service

Bob Graveen Spearheads 10-day Heroes Homecoming Event in Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville, NC – October 25, 2011 – Bob Graveen voluntarily enlisted in the military in 1972 to serve in the Vietnam War. Now, more than 30 years later, he is finally getting the welcome home he deserves but never received when he returned to the states. And he’s making sure Vietnam vets across the country get theirs as well.

“We were told to change out of our uniforms and into civilian clothes at the airport, which didn’t bother us at the time because we were so thankful just to be home,” said Graveen. “But we never expected to be ostracized by society like we were. Many people actually felt like we owed them an apology for doing our duty and serving our country.”

For the past two years, Graveen has been a key player in planning Heroes Homecoming, the biggest commemoration ever for Vietnam veterans. The 10-day, 60-event celebration will take place in Fayetteville, North Carolina from November 4-13, 2011. Vietnam veterans everywhere are invited to finally get their long overdue “welcome home.”

Graveen served as a helicopter crew chief outside of Saigon from 1972 to 1973. According to Graveen, most of his fellow soldiers spent their entire time in Vietnam wishing they were home. They had no idea the reception that would greet them upon their return.

“We weren’t heroes and didn’t expect to be treated as heroes when we came home, but a simple ‘thank you’ would have been nice,” said Graveen. “That’s why Heroes Homecoming is going to be such a big deal after all this time.”

Originally from Wisconsin, Graveen came to Fayetteville when he enlisted and decided to stay when he returned because of the community’s overwhelming support for the military.

“There’s no other place in the country like Fayetteville when it comes to its support for the military and their families,” added Graveen. “I hope the rest of the country, especially Vietnam vets, will get to experience this firsthand during Heroes Homecoming.”

Graveen is now president of the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter and a member of the 82nd Airborne Association. He lives in Fayetteville with his wife and has two grown sons, two granddaughters and three step-grandsons. He got involved with Heroes Homecoming after finding out about the event from Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne, who hand-selected him to join the planning task force. Graveen was one of eight people chosen to speak at the opening ceremony for Heroes Homecoming at Freedom Memorial Park last November when the official event logo was unveiled. He is working closely with Fort Bragg on the Rededication of the Vietnam War Memorial scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 10 at the Fort Bragg Main Post Parade Field, as well as helping coordinate Vietnam veteran participation in the Veterans Day Parade taking place on Saturday, November 12.  

Fayetteville/Cumberland County is home to the largest military installation in the country. Since more than 200,000 troops trained at Fayetteville’s Fort Bragg before being deployed to Vietnam, there’s no more fitting place to host Heroes Homecoming than America’s First Military Sanctuary community. Event organizers are pulling out all the stops to make sure that Vietnam veterans across the country know about the event.

“We are doing everything within our power to make sure each and every Vietnam vet knows about Heroes Homecoming and has the opportunity to finally get their ‘welcome home,’” said John Meroski, President and CEO of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (FACVB). “In particular, we want the streets of downtown Fayetteville to be overflowing with vets and supporters during our annual Veterans Day Parade so we say a very visible ‘thank you” to our Vietnam vets.”

The Veterans Day Parade will be the most visible of all the Heroes Homecoming events. Vietnam veterans are invited to take part by marching in the parade. If you are interested in participating, contact Bob Graveen at (919) 498-1770 or grav1730@aol.com.

Heroes Homecoming is being held in partnership with the FACVB. All Heroes Homecoming events recognize the service and sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans, ranging from concerts and parades, to lectures and movie viewings, to cultural celebrations and recognition ceremonies. For more information on Heroes Homecoming, visit www.HeroesHomecoming.com.

About Heroes Homecoming:
As America’s First Military Sanctuary Community, Fayetteville/Cumberland County is giving brave Vietnam veterans the welcome home they deserve. The community will host Heroes Homecoming – the biggest commemoration/reunion of its kind – for the 10 days leading up to Veterans Day 2011. The event series will feature celebrations, discussions, fellowship and memories for all those who attend. Heroes Homecoming is Fayetteville/Cumberland County’s way of showing all Vietnam veterans that we remember and appreciate their courage, their sacrifice and everything they’ve done to defend our freedom – now and forever.

About the FACVB:
The Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private, not-for-profit organization responsible for positioning Fayetteville/Cumberland County as a destination for conventions, sporting events and individual travel. For additional information, visit www.visitfayettevillenc.com or call 1-800-255-8217. Fayetteville/Cumberland County is America's first military sanctuary. Through the Army's Army and other volunteer groups, our citizens and businesses are dedicated to “watching over those who watch over us ©.”

NORAD Flight Exercise Planned for National Capital Region

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), will conduct an exercise -- Falcon Virgo 12-011 beginning early Wednesday morning, Oct. 26, in the National Capital Region.

Flights in the National Capital Region are scheduled to take place between 12:30-5 a.m. EDT.  In the event of inclement weather, the exercise will take place the following evening, until all training requirements are met. If bad weather continues, officials will then make a decision to postpone or cancel the exercise.

For more information on Falcon Virgo exercises, please contact CONR Public Affairs at 850-283-8080, or the NORAD Public Affairs Office at 719-554-6889.

Akron Navy Reservists Welcomed by DASN to New, Energy-Efficient Home

By Bill Couch, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest Public Affairs

GREEN, Ohio (NNS) -- Navy Reservists in eastern Ohio officially brought their new headquarters to life with the help of the Secretary of the Navy's senior advisor for Navy and Marine Corps Reserve issues Oct. 23.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Reserve Affairs) Dennis Biddick praised the global contributions of Navy Reservists and thanked the construction team as he welcomed nearly 500 selected reserve and active-duty Sailors and Marines to their new, energy-efficient Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC).

"I can't say enough about how much I appreciate what [Reservists] do for this country," said Biddick. "Though sometimes it might seem over-said, our most important asset really is our people--you."

The center's Sailors and Marines deploy to conduct operational and humanitarian assistance missions worldwide, including Operation Tomodachi, which came in response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March.

"You support operations around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those of you here this morning directly supported Operation Tomodachi in Japan," said Biddick. "I'm constantly amazed at how you handle two careers--your full-time civilian careers, and, as Reservists, your Navy and Marine Corps commitments as citizen-Sailors and citizen-Marines. Thank you so much for your service."

NOSC Akron Commanding Officer Cmdr. Eric Johnson echoed Biddick's recognition of the service of the assembled Reservists.

"As a Reservist, you wear the uniform part-time, but every day in every community across the country, you are the face of the Navy, sharing our core values with your families, in your churches, places of employment, and with everyone you meet," said Johnson.

"Here at NOSC Akron, we are committed to supporting the fleet and our Reservists by preparing them for mobilization, supporting their families--especially while their Sailors and Marines are deployed--and assisting demobilized Sailors and Marines in reintegrating with their families, employers and community," added Johnson. "We are committed to maintaining the 'equilateral triangle' of balance between family, career and Navy."

The new NOSC replaces the units' previous home in nearby Akron, a 1950s-era building that had exceeded its design lifespan and could no longer adequately support the unit's operational requirements. The new facility improves the unit's ability to conduct training and administration activities for Reservists, most of whom live in the local area.

"I always like to see progress, and, especially compared to your previous 1950s home, this is definitely a great facility," said Biddick. "Its design is in line with the Secretary of the Navy's desire to 'go green.'"

The 50,000-square-foot building is designed to be energy efficient and sustainable, meeting at least the "silver" standard under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Now that the building has been completed, the independent council will evaluate the LEED features incorporated into the design and determine a rating, which can range from "certified" through "platinum."

The building's LEED features maximize durability and sustainability over the building's planned 20-to-30-year lifecycle. Examples include the one-story design itself, which reduces expenses such as those associated with an elevator, egress stair towers, upper-story window cleaning, and suspended flooring. Steel-reinforced concrete masonry bearing walls are durable and require little maintenance, and they reduce the structure required to support the durable, standing seam metal roof.

Energy efficiency measures include a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that recovers heat from restroom and locker exhaust air to be reused before venting. The system will also allow maximum use of outside air for "free cooling" when outside temperatures allow. The masonry walls will also support energy efficiency by slowing the release of heat from the sun to the interior. In addition, the building's windows are placed to maximize natural lighting without allowing excessive heat gain.

The construction contractor's plans promoted resource conservation and environmental responsibility by recycling half of the project's non-hazardous construction debris and choosing at least 10 percent construction materials that contained recycled material. In addition, at least 10 percent of the construction materials were produced from within 500 miles of the site, in order to reduce fuel consumption and emissions during shipment.

The site was also planned to manage storm water runoff, using catch basins and grass pavers to reduce impact to the local drainage system.

"The men and women of NAVFAC Midwest, and our partners at Better Built Construction and Clark Construction are proud to have completed this project," said Lt. Cmdr. Leticia Soto, public works officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Midwest's Public Works Department Central, which supports Navy and Marine Corps reserve centers throughout the Midwest. "This ceremony not only gives us a chance to take satisfaction in a completed project, but more importantly, it allows us to stand with the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps Reserves and say, 'Welcome to your new home. We've done our best for you, and we're confident it will serve you well.'"

Established in 1946, the current NOSC Akron organization includes former members of NOSC Cleveland, which was disestablished in 2007 and consolidated with nearby NOSC Akron. The move was mandated as part of the military's 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process to consolidate facilities and improve operational efficiency across the Department of Defense.

Middletown, Ohio,-based small business Better Built Construction was awarded the $11.4-million project in February 2010 along with its Lansing, Mich.-based partner Clark Construction.

NAVFAC Midwest provides civil engineering, public works, and environmental support to Navy, Marine Corps and other Department of Defense activities across the 16 states that comprise Navy Region Midwest. The command's 900 professionals include civilian architects, engineers, acquisition specialists, environmental specialists, public works trades people, and administrative personnel, as well as active-duty Civil Engineer Corps officers, Seabees, and Reservists.