24 July 2011

Psychology of the Soldier

The psychology of the soldier is one that can be difficult for civilians to come to terms with. No, this has nothing at all to do with photography, cameras, models, or anything remotely related. You can stop reading now if you wish, but I came across an interesting article the other day and have gone back to read it several times.

Model, Joanie

"82nd Airborne Paratroopers Unhappy With Iraq, Afghanistan Troop Withdrawals",
by David Wood for the Huffington Post on 11July2011

Model, Joanie
So what's the gist of the article? Simply put, many of the soldiers don't want to leave for one reason or another.  "Instead of an exciting and challenging combat tour, they'll be relegated to the dread "garrison life" here at Fort Bragg.", reports the article. That may sound like war-mongering to many of the citizens of the United States, however I might ask that you hold that judgement for a little bit and take a second (or longer) to see where these "Joes" (...as in G.I.'s, hence G. I. Joe...) are coming from. 

The 82nd from Fort Bragg, North Carolina is one of the most famous and storied units to honor, serve, and defend your way of life here in the United States of America. Along with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, they comprise the two Army Divisions most known to the populace if you were to ask them to name ANY military unit. (Yeah, Seal Team Six gets some notoriety too). I served 2 tours of duty with the 101st...first with the 502nd Infantry Brigade, and then again after a stint in Korea with HHC Division G-3 as an Air Operations NCO...loved that job! I received my honorable discharge in 1998, after 10 years of service. I was done. My body had taken enough abuse and I wanted to still enjoy some physical abilities as a young civilian. I can tell you quite literally that from head to toe, I still contend with injuries sustained over my tours of duty. 

"I'm afraid I'm not going to get the chance to go again," said Spec. Brenton Parish, a 21-year-old paratrooper from Fond du Lac, Wis. "I like doing my job, and I can only do that when I'm deployed," he told The Huffington Post.

Model, Joanie
So why would a man or woman want to maintain operations in a hostile environment? Let me put it to you this way: Your Armed Forces Command units take pride in turning that snot-nosed brat you worried would never amount to anything, into a highly trained, high speed, low drag, bad-ass, machine that can maintain his or her military discipline and professional bearing in the most inhospitable, uninhabitable work environments  like nobody you'll ever encounter at the office. Imagine if you were expected to get out those expense reports or make your quota, while doing so in the desert heat with sand grains in every crevice imaginable, wearing long sleeves and weighted gear. An error on your part might cost a life. Your former snot-nosed brat is now responsible for million-dollar equipment and is depended on to do his job and keep the well-oiled machine from seizing up. Only a few years ago, they could hardly get along with others that well. They couldn't figure out how geometry would ever serve them in life. Now they are part of  an intricate team on a mission to hell and back, calculating back-azimuths and learning to triangulate their 8-digit grid coordinate on a map. No matter if they are on the front lines or in the mail room, they understand that they may never draw breath on American soil again, yet they do their jobs and watch out for the soldier, marine, seaman, or airman who stands in the gap next to them.  

Capt. Tom Cieslak, a staff officer with the 1st Brigade: "If we're going back to garrison life, to pressed and starched uniforms and all that? After my seven years of war, I don't think I could do that."
Model, Joanie
As a civilian, you really cannot fathom what it is that you ask your servicemen and women to do. With that said, it will probably be difficult to understand the mentality that they have to assume in order to complete a mission, do their jobs dependably, admirably, and above and beyond the standard. You are in effect, asking a man or woman to become a machine and you loose them upon the world to protect you and your way of life. To ask them to come home and shut it off is to ask water to not be wet. The expectation for these service people to adjust seamlessly to the life that is your reality is not realistic. This is what they do. This is what they had to become in order to go forth and protect you. You can honor their return by being understanding to the military mind and aiding in the transition rather than ridiculing and judging like what happened when our veterans came back from Vietnam.

In a major study released last year, the Army reported that a small but growing number of soldiers who perform credibly in combat turn to high-risk behavior at home, including drug abuse, drunk driving, motorcycle street-racing, petty crime and domestic violence.

This is the part I fear most. After spending years at a time, "keyed-up", these guy come back to garrison life know they need to "gear down" but can't. Alcohol and drug abuse is common. Something to take the edge off becomes a new priority and this is where you see men getting into trouble with the law, having a disastrous family life, and go further sink into depression. I first became conscious of such matters when I began hearing about Bragg soldiers killing their families (and its still going on). And then it started happening at my Division at Campbell. It was almost like an extreme case of some type of disease or disorder where a plague hits your community. Everybody gets sick and some are killed. You never know who is most susceptible, but no one is untouched. God help our veterans.

18 July 2011

Go See a Doctor

"I got the bill for my surgery.  Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for."  
~James H. Boren

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Model Viki Vegas
In several of my posts, I've confessed that I am sometimes talking to myself when I start dispensing "words of wisdom". Some of those little nuggets come from conversations I have with other people who either share blog content-worthy material or they may bring up a point that I think is good to pass on. In this case, its another one of my own personal experiences that make me wish I was smarter and learning this stuff PRIOR to making the mistakes. I've been talking about things you can do to improve your stature in life and offering suggestions that can aid you in your endeavors. Maybe this is particularly a man thing, but I've had a problem, pretty much all my life, going to see a doctor. I can not give you any sane reason for my lack of visits, but unless something is broken or causing me no end of grief, I tend to bear down and deal with it.

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Its the same with medicine. Its hard for me to put a pill in my mouth that can quicken my recovery, not because my mouth is too small to insert the danged capsule, but rather because it simply does not cross my mind. If I get a headache, I may let somebody know. I might complain that its excruciating. They'll ask me what I've taken for it and the answer is pretty much the same. Nothing. And I cannot give them any plausible excuse as to why I haven't taken anything. I see that look on their faces as if they want to call me an idiot and I cannot even justify any form of reply to defend myself. I called in today to see if I could get a same-day appointment and got one within the hour, surprisingly. I was actually 10 mins late getting there even though I left right away. I told the doc my ailments and she asked how long the I had been experiencing the issue. I told her a few months and she stopped her examination to stare me in the face. Before she could even say anything, I just blurted out, "I KNOW...". What was her reply to that? "MEN..."

"You are afraid we will put our finger in your butt." - No 1 reason why men don't go to the doc, Dr. Sharon Orrange

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As a kid, I didn't see a doc too much either. I rarely got sick and if it wasn't for the required routine inoculations, I'd probably never have seen the inside of a doc office but once every so many years. I broke my fingers once and it was a whole week before I saw a doc. Prior to this, I spent that week "working" my fingers out, by forcing them open and closed until my hand swelled up to the size of a softball. My step-dad looked came in my room and saw me bending it back and forth and asked if I thought they might be broken. That had never crossed my mind as I had never broken any bones. I was in 10th grade. He took me in for x-rays and sure enough two fingers had really nice fractures. It was amazing to see my x-rayed hand and the bones broken the way they were. One finger bends toward the inside now when I type on a keyboard.

Being in the Army didn't help my cause in this manner either. Airborne Rangers were supposed to be indestructible. If you can  maintain consciousness and can walk, then you shouldered your weapon and moved out...pain be damned. I'm now paying the price for subscribing to that concept. Its also been a recent thing in that I've learned how serious some of my ailments really are. I've got tinnitus which is a ringing in the ears from all the loud guns and explosions I was involved with. NPR today had an episode on Tinnitus that almost made me stop my car and listen to it. As I drove to my doc appointment today, I heard about a man who was driven to leave his own start-up company because he could not concentrate on his work and was plagued with panic attacks because of the constant and incessant ringing. I had never even heard of anyone else with Tinnitus am not conscious as to whether any of the other things I deal with might be as of a result of my hearing impairment. I still hear well enough, but have to filter out the "other noise". Sometimes it can be difficult and I think I'm hearing something that isn't there because my brain tries to make sense of it and may incorrectly fill in the gaps for the imperceptible parts. I've never been treated for it. Apparently, according to the VA, (Dept of Veteran's Affairs) there is no treatment...you just deal with it. Which is what I've been doing for most everything I have military ailments for all along.

"You are afraid we will examine your balls." - No 2 reason why men don't go to the doc, Dr. Sharon Orrange

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You definitely have to fight with the VA sometimes and it can be a very long process. You can realistically expect to wait a year for treatments when you submit a disability claim. But I can honestly say, its worth the fight. VA or civilian-based, GO SEE A DOCTOR! Don't let stuff fester inside your body. Your health is more important than anything else you can attend to outside of your family or religious affairs. It does you no good to be optimistic concerning your job prospects or living a better life if you're going to be dead in a few months. See the doc. Take the meds and live. The financial stuff come second to that. Quality of life first starts with health. Take care of it. Be smart about it. Don't do the stuff you already know you shouldn't. Drop a few pounds. Lay off the sweets and salts. Check your prostate, breasts and get your paps done. Watch those spots on your skin. And by all means, if you're not feeling right, get yourself checkout out. And even if you feel fine, do the routine examinations. Young or old, man or woman, schedule a doctor's visit. Please.

Top 10 Reasons Men Don't Go to the Doctor - Daily Strength, Dr. Sharon Orrange
Top 5 from AskMen.com
4 Reasons Why Men SHOULD Go to the Doctor - Healthy Living

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14 July 2011

In All Honesty... Get Out of the Way

Model Enyo
"Lead, follow, or get out of the way" 
-Thomas Paine

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When was the last time you wondered how or when things would turn around in your favor. Weekly...daily? Did you think that you'd be in the condition you're in today at your age when you were a kid? Do you look around at other people on the highway driving luxury cars who are much younger than you and wonder how you missed it?   Well, who's to say you have? Who makes that call to judge your case and dictate that you are not where you are supposed to be at this point in your life, so therefore you are now sentenced to life in failure? God? The "Man"?  No, I'm afraid the answer is a little more complicated. Its you.

Think back to when you were a kid and dreaming about what you'd be like as an adult. Think about where you thought you'd live. What car(s) you'd be driving; basically, your stature and accomplishments in life. If you were to gauge the distance between the dream back then and the reality now, how far off the mark are you? If you are on target, then congratulations. If not so much then, well... keep working at it. If you didn't have a dream, well chances are you were the rich kid in school who's been been living the dream all along then.

Model Enyo

Model Enyo
More likely than not, somewhere along the line, your thought pattern changed. Somewhere, you got caught up in the rut of the 9 to 5, raising kids, and having other people around you who became a slave to the grind. That notion has probably worn off onto you and infected your head too, effectively killing the dream. I submit to you that a change in the way you think, view yourself, and a change in your perceived ability to seize opportunities will put you back onto the road to recovery. If you look at our nation right now, we've got weeks to come to a congressional consensus to raise the national debt ceiling. If not, the global community will watch as the great big United States of America begins to default on its loans. The creditability of this great nation will plummet and much of the world's economy will begin to suffer far worse than the economic collapse we suffered back in '07 and '08. Now without further digress, the same analogous model also fits you. You too are on your road to economic recovery and its simply a matter of getting back on the right track. You can get bogged down in the politics that will complicate matters or you can simply do what has to be done and make it happen. The U.S. can do this right now and solve everything, but she's marred in political banter and nonsense. Two sides want power and control much in the same sense that you might also have to battle... "The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak!"

Model Enyo
Model Enyo
It begins in the mind. First learning what's important. Figuring out what the real priorities are and then making every decision made reflect that goal. If a course of action does not take you to your objective, don't do it. If a person in your life is more like an anchor than wind in your sails, cut'em loose. If your job becomes an obstacle to your real dream, quit it. Granted that sounds harsh or unrealistic, but what is the better reality? To keep doing the same old thing? To keep hold of that same old job or person that doesn't let you fly? You'd better do something! I'll further submit that if you can't let go of the weight that keeps you down, let go of the dream. Stop wondering what it would be like to fly and resign to your fate in the lowlands. Don't  wonder what it would be like to have a better life. In fact, quit dreaming altogether. It will only pile on more stress and make you even more miserable. And by all means, leave the ones trying to fly alone. Don't become their weight. Don't be the reason they can't achieve their goals in life. If you see one of your peers with that ambitious gleam in his/her eye, turn around and don't let them see you. Give them the gift of not interfering with their lives. When they do begin to blast off and achieve, you can then sit back and boast to your friends, who've also given up, and say you knew so-and-so "way back when" and talk about the good ol' days. That'll probably cheer you up!

Be patient and find a way to win. Otherwise get out of the way of those who still have a mind to do something beyond talking about it. Be a doer, not a loser, or at least don't become an obstacle.