Addressing a potential cause of suicide in the Military: BMT

Basic training

I want to start out this story by stating this for whoever might need to hear it. If you are thinking about suicide seek help. It’s never too late to get help and there are people out there that care about you. Seeking help doesn’t make you weak, knowing when you need someone else to help you out is a sign of strength, if you are thinking about taking your own life, talk to someone and get help.

According to data obtained by Stars and Stripes, a military news source, the Marine Corps hit a 10 year high on the number of suicides committed by its members. Overall 75 Marines killed themselves in 2018, up from 42 in 2008.

The majority of those that killed themselves, 63 percent, were under the age of 25.  Additionally, most of those who killed themselves had not seen combat or been deployed overseas. So that rules out the reason for the increase being related to an increase in combat operations and PTSD, not surprisingly so since our troops are seeing less deployments then they were 10 years ago.

Additionally, suicide has become a high focus item in the military, leading to more training and resources then ever to address the issue.

But that begs the question why are troops killing themselves at a growing rate if the job is getting less dangerous and troops are being presented with more options for help?

With such a complex issue there certainly are multiple underlying reasons, but here’s my take on one of the potential causes, backed up only by my own experiences while in the military:

I went to Lackland Air Force Base in 2013 for Basic Military Training (BMT). When I went it was shortly after a massive sexual assault scandal where trainees were being raped by their MTI’s. Following this scandal every policy surrounding trainees and their treatment by MTI’s was looked at, and rightfully so, no one should sign up to serve their country and get raped while in training.

However, a big result of that was on how MTI’s could treat trainees while in training. For instance, they put restrictions on how much physical training (i.e. pushups, sit-ups, flutter-kicks, etc…) they could issue out as a punishment for things, they made it so MTI’s couldn’t cuss at trainees, MTI’s couldn’t throw mail at trainees, and they even gave trainees a “safe space”, although not one a student on a college campus would recognize!

The “safe space” was our day room, you could still get yelled at by a MTI in there, but they couldn’t make you do physical training in there, and they were supposed to take it a little easier on you in there. In fact, I had a MTI put a fellow trainee “on his face” (made him do pushups) in the day room once, realized his mistake, had him move to the hallway to finish his pushups, then APOLOGIZED TO HIM for making him do pushups in the day room. And I’m not talking about a snarky “I’m sorry”, I mean a full “please don’t tell on me” apology.

Now don’t get me wrong, BMT still isn’t a COMPLETE joke, we did have several people washout and go back home because they couldn’t handle it. But we also had people that shouldn’t have made it get pushed through the system.

In my flight we had a trainee try and kill himself. He failed, mainly because he was in a flight of 49 other trainees that ensured he would fail. He left, got the help he needed and moved on with his life. It’s good he didn’t make it through BMT, for his sake.

You see the military isn’t for everyone, and that’s alright. Service members give up a bunch of their rights and freedoms when they join, they go where the military tells them to, do what the military tells them to do, and that’s that. You work whatever hours they tell you to work, without overtime pay or compensation, for relatively little money. It’s a complete change in lifestyle that civilians can’t understand (The changes in lifestyle are far reaching, not just what is mentioned here, it would take an entire post of its own to even begin to address them all).

BMT is supposed to ween people out that aren’t suitable for a military lifestyle. That doesn’t make these people bad or anything, it just means they aren’t cut out for the military, and like I said before, that’s alright.

But by watering down BMT, MTI’s are less able to weed out those individuals that never belonged in the military to begin with. That’s not a good thing. BMT is supposed to stress you the hell out, that’s kind of the point. If you go to war and get put in a combat situation that’s going to be a hell of a lot more stressful then whatever they put you through in BMT.

But it goes beyond that, BMT is temporary, the stress of a military lifestyle is permanent, well at least until your contract is up, so four to six years. If you can’t handle the stress dished out at BMT you’re not going to be able to handle the stress from a military lifestyle.

And the easier they make BMT the more people are going to get pushed through the system that can’t handle the stress of a military lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with those people, everyone has their breaking point, but by making BMT easier we aren’t doing anyone any favors, in fact I think they are putting more lives at risk.

Book Review: Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America

founding-faith.jpgOriginally published in 2008, Founding Faith by Steven Waldman has aged like a fine bottle of wine, amazing when it was first published and even better now. The arguments Waldman uses when applying the viewpoints of the founding fathers to the issues of today are well-researched, unbiased, and still ring true.

The book starts out by studying the religious roots of the original 13 colonies, and how they tied into the American Revolution. He presents the facts about how early Christianity was practiced in the 13 colonies, and it is impossible to miss the similarities between the brutality of Christianity at the time and that of the radical Muslims of today, even though Waldman himself never explicitly points this out.

Furthermore, Waldman declares the American Revolution nothing short of a “holy war” and is able to back up his assertation with well researched facts and arguments. His research makes the fact that the colonists’ religious beliefs were instrumental to the Revolution.

Throughout the book, Waldman goes on to present the religious views of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a way that is easy to read and accessible to all, while showcasing the early lives of these founding fathers that brought them to their views on faith.

Finally, he digs into the religious arguments being made at the time of the American Revolution, all the way to and through the passage of the Bill of Rights.

Waldman’s ability to present the debates and political tactics of the 18th century in a way that reminds the reader of the political battles of today gives you faith that what we are facing today is not so different from what our country was going through over 200 years ago, and we made it through just fine.

Jam-packed with information about the formation of our country, and how it applies to the issues our country is facing today, this book should be required reading for every high-school student. Below is a link to Amazon if you’d like to get a copy of the book yourself.

Feel free to share this post, re-blog it, or just let me know what you think the comments! If you’ve already read this book, I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Shutdown is Over: Now we need to make sure it NEVER happens again

government_shutdown_sign_(10174816623)What this government shutdown has shown just about every American and politician, is that shutdowns like this cannot happen. Government workers cannot go without paychecks for weeks on end because of political games. And in a sense, we were lucky, this was a PARTIAL government shutdown, and the effects were still profound.

Do you really think that the politicians would have handled the situation any differently if it was a full shutdown? Don’t count me as someone with any confidence that they would have.

With that being said, there is a lesson to be learned here, and a solution to be implemented. The lesson learned? We can’t let this happen again.

What’s the solution? If the federal government cannot get a budget passed on time, then the country should automatically be funded by a continuing resolution until a budget gets passed. To ensure that the CR is not the new permanent budget, it should be reduced by 5 percent every month, with government employees’ salaries the LAST thing to be affected.

This is a bipartisan solution to a problem that has become increasingly worse in recent years. Obama did it in 2013 to get the Affordable Care Act pushed through and now Trump is trying to do it to get his wall built. Holding government employees’ hostage to get what you want is not how you govern.  

A new budget needs to get passed in the next three weeks, and a provision to ensure that a shutdown like just happened never happens again NEEDS to be in it. It’s what the American people deserve.

Doing what’s right: Removing the statute of limitations for sexual assault

pope_francis_malacanang_7Several states are finally starting to do the right thing when it comes to prosecuting sexual predators that target children and the groups that enable them. Currently the laws vary state by state, but many states place a statute of limitations on when the crime can be prosecuted. This is insane.

For adults that have been sexually assaulted it can take years for them to come to terms with their abuse. For children that have been abused, it sometimes takes decades for them to process it. But when they finally come to terms with

Several states are finally starting to do the right thing when it comes to prosecuting sexual predators that target children and the groups that enable them. Currently the laws vary state by state, but many states place a statute of limitations on when the crime can be prosecuted. This is insane.

For adults that have been sexually assaulted it can take years for them to come to terms with their abuse. For children that have been abused, it sometimes takes decades for them to process it. But when they finally come to terms with what happened, and go to seek justice, the states tell them its too late.

The common-sense solution is to remove all the statute of limitations for these cases, but only a handful of states have done this. The reason, as it seems to be with almost everything, is money.

The Catholic Church, insurance companies, and the Boy Scouts of America are some of the major players lobbying against these bills. They worry that an increase in cases will lead to them going bankrupt. And parts of these groups very well might.

But here’s the problem, these groups are notorious for covering up abuses when they happen. And instead of being held liable they want to be exempted from the consequences of their actions. To make matters worse, the people that they want to pass the burden to is the people they let down in the first place.

If these groups are going to learn from their mistakes and do everything they can to prevent these abuses from happening in the future, then they need to be held accountable for what they allowed in the past. If not, they have shown, and continue to show, that they aren’t willing to do what is necessary to stop future abuses. Its time to tell them enough is enough.

what happened, and go to seek justice, the states tell them its too late.

The common-sense solution is to remove all the statute of limitations for these cases, but only a handful of states have done this. The reason, as it seems to be with almost everything, is money.

The Catholic Church, insurance companies, and the Boy Scouts of America are some of the major players lobbying against these bills. They worry that an increase in cases will lead to them going bankrupt. And parts of these groups very well might.

But here’s the problem, these groups are notorious for covering up abuses when they happen. And instead of being held liable they want to be exempted from the consequences of their actions. To make matters worse, the people that they want to pass the burden to is the people they let down in the first place.

If these groups are going to learn from their mistakes and do everything they can to prevent these abuses from happening in the future, then they need to be held accountable for what they allowed in the past. If not, they have shown, and continue to show, that they aren’t willing to do what is necessary to stop future abuses. Its time to tell them enough is enough.

It’s NOT about a wall

Obama hands over presidency to Trump at 58th Presidential Inauguration

This shutdown has never been about a wall. The whole debacle between President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cemented that fact. Cancelling the speakers travel plans and cancelling the State of the Union are the actions of immature politicians using their powers to stroke their own egos.

And that’s all this has ever been about, egos between powerful politicians. As the left celebrates their “win” because Trump agreed to postpone the State of the Union, 800,000 people are going unpaid. SNAP is close to running out of funds for the first time since the program was made permanent.

These realities are something that both parties have lost sight of. Each side is worried about “winning” but has lost sight of the fact that nobody wins in a shutdown. What’s even worse is playing overt political games with each other while those that you are hurting are watching.

I don’t know which party will end up “caving” in the end, and I don’t think it matters. It won’t change my opinion of either party, and I doubt that it will change the minds of any of either parties’ supporters.

When this shutdown ends, neither party will have gained the respect of the American people. In fact, both parties will have lost what little respect that they had remaining. These kinds of behaviors are what got Trump elected in the first place, so he could “drain the swamp”.

He seems to have missed his mark, and instead has become a part of the quagmire that his supporters loathed so much.

Why does everyone care about Nathan Phillips?

world_newspapersWhen I first heard of the encounter between Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, I was heavily inclined to NOT weigh in on the situation. First off, no matter what happened, it was a localized event with no impact on anything. It doesn’t matter who you believe, or who was even right, because it means nothing to the American political system, or to you in any sort of way. It’s a problem for the individuals involved to figure out, and that’s about it.

Yet the story went crazy, in large part because of social media. A video was taken with a cell phone, it went viral, so news agencies picked it up and ran with it. It’s a problem that news agencies haven’t quite figured out how to handle yet.

As a news agency, when are presented with a video, that has no context or substance, and you choose to highlight it as a legitimate news story simply because people are watching it, you are bound to run into problems. Of course, if you ignore the video, you are bound to become irrelevant.

So, what should they do? They should present the video as news and allow viewers to make their own decisions on it. The last thing they should be doing is pushing a narrative, and yet that’s exactly what almost every news agency did.

And while I completely disagree with President Donald Trump’s assessment that the media is “the enemy of the people”, it’s mishandled situations like this that give him and his supporters a ton of ammunition.

Mainstream media companies need to do a better job at presenting stories like this in an unbiased manner until all the facts come in. Even then they need to simply present the facts to the public and let them make up their minds about the situations.

That kind of journalism that is essential in a democratic nation. Journalism isn’t the “enemy of the people”, it’s the only thing that keeps society working. However, when it’s handled so horribly wrong it hurts democracy by hurting the image of the media.

Trump’s comments are just a symptom of the problem at hand, and until you fix the root of the problem, you can expect the symptoms to get worse.

Donald Trump: This is how you can end the shutdown

capitolFor someone who champions himself as knowing “the art of the deal”, and being an expert dealmaker, President Donald Trump seems to be clueless on how to end this shutdown. His recent proposal to Democrats only goes to show how incapable he is of understanding how to compromise.

His offer of 3 years amnesty for DREAMERS in exchange for his border wall funding is laughable. Why would Democrats agree to a temporary solution for DREAMERS while agreeing to put up a permanent wall?

If Trump was serious about reopening the government, he would have offered PERMENANT protection for DREAMERS, preferably by legalizing them. But instead Trump hopes that Democrats will end up caving to his plan, so he can try and use DREAMERS as political leverage down the road to get what he wants again. The problem is, Democrats will never agree to that, and in the meantime 800,000 government workers will continue to go unpaid.

The solution to end this shutdown is simple. It gives both sides something that they want while giving up something both sides hate. In exchange for Trump’s wall funding Democrats should get the legalization of all DREAMERS.

He can’t argue that this will just encourage more immigrants to flood the border to get to America, because as he has so proudly touted, his wall will “prevent that”. Additionally, there will instantly be 800,000 less illegal immigrants in the United States, curing part of that problem as well.

It’s a common-sense solution that neither side will really like, but that they can take back to their respective bases as “wins”. But in the end the real winner is the 800,000 American people that can go back to work, and to a lesser extent, the American people.

Limiting Trumps Power: Something both parties agree on.

natoRepublicans are once again working to limit President Donald Trump’s power when it comes to international affairs, proof that they don’t trust his judgement when it comes to working with our allies. This time Senate Republicans, being led by Senator Lindsey Graham, are working to pass legislation to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO as he has threatened to do.

Previously, Republicans’ and Democrats’ passed legislation preventing Trump from withdrawing troops from South Korea. These actions go to show how unhinged Congress has come to view Trump. They don’t trust him to be able to make basic decisions that are clearly in the best interest of the country.

If Trump were to withdraw from NATO, the number one beneficiary would be Russia, at the expense of all of Europe. If Trump were to withdraw troops from South Korea, the number one beneficiary would be North Korea, at the expense of the South.

These are common sense things, and the fact that Congress doesn’t trust Trump to see that is telling. It either means that Republicans and Democrats alike think Trump is an idiot, or that he doesn’t have the best interests of the United States as his foremost interest.

One thing is for sure though, Republicans are finally starting to stand up to Trump, at least for the most common-sense things, and that can only be a good thing. The powers of the executive branch have run amuck in recent years, and it’s taken a clearly unhinged president to finally get the legislative branch to reign him in.  

Donald Trump’s absurd cost sharing proposal with South Korea: What does he expect to gain?

camp humphreysThe United States/South Korea alliance is one that has been crucial to stabilize Eastern Asia since the Korean War. With North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, China’s development of military technology, and a resurging Russia, that alliance is more important than ever for both South Korea and the United States.

With that in mind it becomes even more perplexing that both sides have been unable to come to a new deal on the cost sharing measures for U.S. troops that are stationed there. Under the previous deal, South Korea covered roughly half of all the costs associated with the United States military in South Korea, which rang up to roughly 850 million dollars a year.

Additionally, South Korea almost completely funded the expansion to Camp Humphreys, a 11-billion-dollar endeavor. But, for President Donald Trump that’s still not enough. He has called for a 150 percent increase in the amount of funding provided by South Korea, and he wants to have the contract renegotiated every year, instead of every five years like has been done previously.

If President Trump expects to get any where near that much of an increase in defense funding by South Korea, he has lost his mind. When the contract was renegotiated last time, the United States secured an increase of 5.8 percent by South Korea, and 4 percent cap on the inflation rate. Something along those lines is what can be expected this time around and is what is reasonable for South Korea to cover.

What makes this situation more perplexing is the fact that other U.S. allies, like Germany, pay far less of the share then Korea does. Germany pays only 18 percent of the overall cost associated with the United States military being in their country,

So what gives? Many experts think that Donald Trump is trying to gain leverage to use during potential second summit with North Korea, where he can use the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea as a bargaining chip. Just about every expert agrees, this would be a terrible idea.

Congress has taken notice too, that’s why as a part of the defense policy bill for the year it was specified that there will always be a minimum of 22,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea for this fiscal years budget.

Still the question remains, is President Trump looking to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea in exchange for concessions from the North. And as long as it remains a question, it hurts the alliance between the United States and South Korea, and gives our adversaries in the region and edge that they don’t need.

 

Purdue Pharma and the Opioid Drug Crisis

opioidBefore Purdue Pharma released OxyContin in the 1990’s, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, and a member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma had these prophetic words to say “The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white”.

If Mr. Sackler knew then what he knew now he might not have been so proud of that fact. 72,000 people died from opioid overdoes’ in 2017, and Mr. Sackler’s comments point to one of the root causes. Yes, it’s true that pharmaceutical companies recklessly pushed prescription painkiller’s like OxyContin for years despite knowing the risks. And yes, the companies deserve to take a large portion of the blame.

But simply blaming them for the opioid epidemic missies another key factor that needs to be addressed for this problem to be solved.

Doctors still need to be held accountable for prescribing opioid painkillers to patients at an alarming rate. Opioid pain killers need to be prescribed as a last resort to manage pain, but right now they are among the first things doctors recommend. Additionally, with all the negative research available doctors need to be held accountable for not properly sharing those risks to their patients.

Furthermore, doctors need to be held responsible for not ensuring that their patients are being properly weaned off their medication. Too many times patients are prescribed opioids, only to become addicted and then have their prescription taken away. It’s then that these individuals turn to illegal drugs like heroin to get their fix.

So yes, it’s a good thing that these drug companies are being taken to court for their nefarious practices that got these drugs on the market to begin with. But by assigning blame to them we must be careful to ensure that we don’t get complacent. We still need to address how opioids are getting prescribed today, or this drug epidemic isn’t going to get any better.