Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blogon psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.
Doc Bender explores the T2 Mood Tracker mobile app using his iPad. (DCoE photo)
Technology has dramatically changed our world during the past 20 years, including how we approach psychological health care, and mostly for the better. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find out about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you could either make an appointment with a psychologist or spend countless hours at a library reading books and professional journals. Now, great information is just a click away.
If you have a smartphone for example, you can instantly download free mobile applications such as the PTSD Coach, and learn about PTSD and ways to help you manage its symptoms. There are apps to track your mood during a period of time and give you and your provider information to help diagnose a possible mood or anxiety disorder. Treatment guidelines to help providers manage patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) are even available on a smartphone. There are lots of good online assessment tools, and although they don’t give a clinical diagnosis of a disorder, they can get you thinking about your well-being and help start a conversation with a mental health care provider if needed.
When I was seeing patients, it impressed me when someone came to my office with a printout from a website describing a particular problem or topic. It showed me that they cared enough to seek out information and were proactive in their care.
But here are a few points to keep in mind when you’re educating yourself on psychological health concerns:
While many sources are good, a few are poor. Be wary of sites that try to sell you something, make outlandish claims or offer quick results. Treatment for mental health conditions works, but it takes time and effort
While these resources can educate you and give you things to talk about with your provider, they should not serve as a substitute for professional help
National Public Lands Day (NPLD) 2011 was commemorated at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) on October 1, 2011. The event provided our Airmen, Sailor, Kick-Start Karate Club members, DOD personnel and families with an increased awareness and appreciation for the rich Natural and Cultural Resources of JBPHH. Approximately 50 volunteers turned out to participate on this day to enhance and care for the Halealoha Haleamau Burial Platform. This platform was created in consultation with the Native Hawaiian Community to be a respectful way to properly preserve ancient Native Hawaiian remains, or “iwi”, that are discovered on the base during various base construction and maintenance activities. The platform or vault is a replica of a traditional Hawaiian burial platform, and is surrounded by a native hedge, “Naupaka”, that shields it from view.
As part of the event, Ti leaves were planted, which plays a significant role in native, as well as, modern-day Hawaiian culture. Base personnel used this opportunity to educate young volunteers on the prehistoric settlement of the area and the cultural significance of the burial platform. Nearby, Ahua Reef also benefitted from our volunteers’ energetic spirit as they pulled out invasive pickleweed in the hot sun and out planted with Native Hawaiian plants. It was an excellent opportunity to educate the younger generation about how invasive plant species adversely affect the environment and teach them the importance of Native Hawaiian plants. At the end of the day, everyone expressed an appreciation for how much they learned about the Natural and Cultural Resources in the area and were happy to be a part of its preservation and restoration.
“Keiki”, child, and “Kupuna”, elder, working together.
Volunteers from the Kick-Start Karate Club, Active Duty military, and DOD Civilians pulling out invasive pickleweed and out planting Native Hawaiian plants at nearby Ahua Reef.
Teaching our keiki to be proud of their rich heritage, to honor and respect those who came before.
Working together as a community to care of the final resting place of kupuna (elders), whose remains (iwi) were found in the surrounding area.
NAVFAC HI Archeologist, Jeff Pantaleo, explaining the cultural significance of the Halealoha Haleamau Burial Platform and the importance of the work about to take place to eager volunteers.
In preparation for the Navy’s largest demonstration of shipboard alternative fuel use, NAVSUP FLC San Diego fuel department personnel transferred about 20,000 gallons of a 50-50 blend of hydro-processed algae-derived algal oil and petroleum F-76 to SDTS, a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer formerly known as Paul F. Foster (EDD 964).
Three tanker trucks transferred the fuel to SDTS over a six-hour period at the supply point’s Pier 180 aboard Naval Base Point Loma. Following the fueling operation, SDTS set sail for its 17-hour test transit back to Port Hueneme, Calif. (more…)
There is a need for rapid, sensitive “real-time” identification and diagnostic tools to detect rickettsial infection and a need for FDA-approved vaccines to protect our warfighters and civilian populations. Epidemic typhus, scrub typhus, spotted fevers and ehrlichioses had a debilitating impact on military personnel during both World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
Acridine orange stain is used to show presence of rickettsiae in three different types of cells (DH82, S2, and Vero). Arrow indicates cell containing rickettsia.
The bacteria that are responsible for these rickettsial diseases are transmitted by fleas, lice, mites and ticks. Current research efforts are underway to determine the prevalence of these diseases among troops serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. For example, scrub typhus, which historically affected populations from Afghanistan and further east, is now spreading to the Middle East and even South America. In 2010, Candidatus Rickettsia andeanae was detected in a tick near the Portsmouth River in Virginia and since 1984, more than fourteen new types of rickettsial species have been discovered.
To date, there is no vaccine for protection against rickettsial infections. Biomedical research that contributes to the prevention, diagnostic and vaccine development effort is an important component of Navy Medicine. In Silver Spring, Md., the Naval Medical Research Center’s (NMRC’s) researcher, Dr. Wei Mei Ching, is leading a team to develop new, innovative and effective rickettsial diagnostic tests and potential vaccines that are now ready for commercial development.
Vinay Gupta probably did not expect to serve as an inspiration for a DoD research project. As a programmer, master of Nepalese magic, editorial staff-member at the Rocky Mountain Institute and, most recently, the founder of the Hexayurt Project – where he promotes easy-to-assemble shelters for disaster-stricken communities – Vinay’s background doesn’t smack of a strong connection with the U.S. defense community. Regardless, in his work with Hexayurt, he has approached disaster-relief with a “6 Ways to Die” model, which argues that humanitarian aid is most effective when targeted at the 6 top causes of human death: extreme heat, cold, thirst, hunger, illness, and injury. Little did he anticipate that it would help inspire the STAR-TIDES project (Sharing to Accelerate Research, Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) at the National Defense University, and guide our efforts to assemble a searchable database of low-cost, sustainable technologies for a variety of missions.
Photo of hexayurt from TIDES' 2010 Technology Demo at Fort Lesley J. McNair (Photo by Lou Elin Dwyer)
Present: 3 OANRP staff, 1 State of Hawaii Natural Area Reserve staff, 13 volunteers
On Sept. 24, 2011, three O‘ahu Army Natural Resources Program (OANRP) staff, thirteen volunteers, and one State of Hawaii staff joined together to revitalize the boardwalk trail at Ka‘ala. The highest peak in the Waianae Mountains, Ka‘ala is home to an immature bog filled with rare and uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals. The boardwalk passes through the bog, providing a window into the forest for hikers and an important access trail for conservationists. The boardwalk, now 20 years old and severely decayed, is being replaced in a joint project by OANRP and the State of Hawaii. Along the boardwalk, there is an infestation of the invasive moss Sphagnum palustre, which forms dense, deep mats and replaces a diverse group of native mosses with a monoculture. Sphagnum also may alter the water and nutrient cycles in the bog, which in turn can affect the forest as a whole.
On National Public Lands Day, we built on previous work done at Ka‘ala. Wire mesh was nailed to the new boardwalk to create traction and improve the safety of the trail. Sphagnum was treated along the boardwalk corridor with an organic clove oil product, to ensure that hikers do not become unwitting vectors for the moss, which can grow from tiny fragments easily caught up and moved by boots. Three additional days are scheduled to continue this work. (more…)
There’s a place where you can distinguish yourself as a professional and define yourself as a person. A place where you can be part of something far bigger than the title you hold or the community you serve.
NATICK, Mass, Oct. 7, 2011 — What fits into one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, will be used by as many as 150 Soldiers, and can be set up and fully operational in as little as 3 1/2 hours?
Give up? Everything one would need to set up an entire base camp. It’s true, and it all came about as a result of Army shelters used and judged inadequate during Operation Desert Storm.
“It goes back to 1991,” said Mike Hope, Combat Field Service Equipment Team leader for Project Manager Force Sustainment Systems at Natick Soldier Systems Center. “General (Gordon R.) Sullivan, who was the chief of staff of the Army during Desert Storm, looked on one side and saw the Air Force living in (comfortable) air-conditioned tents, and the Army on the other side not doing so well. So he directed the development of Force Provider.”
The “Force Provider” system furnishes everything those 150 Soldiers need; climate-controlled billeting, shower, latrine, kitchen, power distribution, even morale, welfare and recreation facilities. “All you have to bring is the fuel and water, and it will run,” said Luz Diaz, a Force Provider project manager. “It’s the Army’s premier base camp for Soldiers.”
At the beginning, Force Provider was designed as a 600-Soldier camp. According to Hope, 9/11 changed all that. Eight Force Provider modules were flown to Afghanistan in November 2001.
“We had them right over there,” Hope said. “The first thing the commanders wanted to do was break them apart to support smaller forward missions.”
Hope’s team got right to work reconfiguring Force Provider for the smaller units deployed to Afghanistan.
“We packaged it so it was much more flexible,” Hope said. “You can put them anywhere you want. You can send them downrange to the smallest FOB (forward operating base) — wherever you need (them).”
“The 150-man package is kind of tailored around a leg company, so a battalion commander doesn’t have to put all his people in one place,” said Lee O’Donovan, Hope’s systems acquisition manager. “He can have them in four different places, and they’re self-sustaining.”
That 150-man camp can be established much more quickly than any other shelter systems of the past. In less than four hours, eight people can have it up and fully operational. Hope said the use of Natick-developed inflatable air beams in the tents streamlined the process.
“The set-up time was reduced dramatically,” Hope said. “It used to take us seven to 10 days to house 600 Soldiers. We can do it in one day because of that air-beam technology.”
O’Donovan pointed out that not much can keep Force Provider down.
“You can actually unroll the air-beam tent, put the four big stakes in the ground and blow it up in a sandstorm,” O’Donovan said. “It’s been done. You can’t do that with a temper or a frame tent.”
And what about that sandstorm? Well, it would stay outside, where it belongs.
“This thing is like a cocoon,” O’Donovan said. “It’s really nice.”
A diesel compressor can inflate the four air beams of a 32-by-20-foot shelter in 10 minutes.
“Once you get it to 60 (pounds per square inch), you take (the compressor) away,” Hope said. “That’s it. You never come back and put air in it.
“The nice thing about that tent, though, is everything’s integrated inside so it doesn’t beat the Soldier up for another hour to go back in and outfit the inside of the tent.”
What happens if an air beam is pierced by a bullet?
“They don’t explode,” Hope said. “They would leak like a tire and just deflate. It’s very, very reliable.” And an air beam can be replaced in minutes.
Hope said Force Provider, 50 of which are deployed to Afghanistan, can be set up just about anywhere. “The nice thing about it is it’s so flexible that we could probably set it up in a hundred different configurations,” Hope added.
Soldier feedback from the field over the years has spurred improvements to Force Provider.
“We have (had) eight guys in theater since (2001),” Hope said. “We have a technical assistance team (TAT). Those changes, in going to the 150-man camp and upgrading all the life-support systems, (are) really because of the TAT guys who are in theater living with the Soldier getting the feedback.
“We’re passionate about the Force Provider System, because we get to see what it does. We design it, we build it, we field it, we get to see the looks on their faces. We didn’t do anything scientific. We just listened to what the Soldier had to say.”
A constant goal of Force Provider is to decrease the amount of fuel and water used in basing, thereby reducing the number of costly and sometimes dangerous resupply missions to those forward bases. A new shower-water reuse system with Force Provider captures and reuses 75 percent of gray water.
“If you look at a typical 600-man camp, you use about 4.4 million gallons a year if you had 600 living there for an entire year,” Hope said. “That little box will capture 3.3 million gallons of that. And if you look at the cost of water in Afghanistan right now, it could range anywhere from $15 to $30 a gallon. So it pays for itself in or about the sixth day.”
The Force Provider team took its development efforts a step further this year with the establishment of a systems integration laboratory on a 10-acre site at nearby Fort Devens, Mass., where the team set up two 150-man camps. One mirrors those currently deployed to Afghanistan; the other is designed to collect data and test new technologies in such areas as micro-grid, insulation materials, lighting, gray/black water treatment and renewable energy.
“The big thing coming out of theater is we’ve got to look at how we’re going to reduce fuel and water,” Hope said. “Power grid, power management — that’s big for the future. That’s big because you’re taking Soldiers off the road, plus the cost of the fuel, plus the maintenance and sustainment.”
Some Soldiers and Marines training on the Devens ranges will live in the camps.
“If we were going to look at new technologies we wanted troop input and troops to be able to live there, and something so close to Natick,” Hope said. “There (are) so many new technologies being looked at right now.
“We did make it like a realistic FOB. We duplicated exactly what you would see if you went to Afghanistan.”
Data collected and new technologies tested at the Devens site will lead to future improvements in the shelter system, which has already received high marks over the years from deployed Soldiers.
“The modular capability that it provides has proven to be a force enabler from the battalion down to the company level. It takes care of our deployed service members by providing for a one-stop sleep, feed, entertainment and exercise capability that means so much to each and every task force member,” Lt. Col. Michael C. Lopez of Headquarters, Combined/Joint Task Force-82, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, wrote in a Nov. 9, 2009, letter to Kevin Fahey, program executive officer, Combat Support, Combat Service Support.
“This Force Provider System is unlike any base camp system we have in the area of operations; specifically, the hygiene systems provide a like-home environment that increases morale more than you will ever know. Once again, thank you (from) all of us for ensuring our warfighters have the best equipment and for providing a piece of garrison while we are deployed.”
That’s just the kind of response that Hope likes to hear.
“Force Provider: It’s all about providing that slice of home to those troops,” Hope said. “That’s exactly what General Sullivan’s vision was, and that’s exactly what it’s doing today.”