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.

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.

 

Trump and his “National Emergency”

CBP_Tours_San_Diego_Border_Wall_Prototypes_with_POTUS_(25935924167).jpgAs President Trump gets more and more frustrated with the government shutdown it seems he is more and more likely to do the unthinkable, declare the lack of a border wall a “national emergency” and try and use the military to build it.

It’s an unthinkable abuse of power, one that would be instantly contested in court, and almost certainly be blocked. But the mere notion of suggesting that the military should be used to enforce a partisan agenda, is terrifyingly dangerous.  

It is not the job of the military to do the bidding of the President in partisan issues. The fact that this is even a thinkable action to be taken goes to show how far the role of Commander in Chief has gone astray.

The role of the Commander in Chief should be to direct troops into wars that have already been authorized in Congress, or direct troops into a war that is being approved by Congress (something that has been abused by Presidents’ of both parties in recent years).

But the use of the United States military to enforce domestic partisan policies significantly raises the risk of the United States taking a step towards becoming an authoritarian government. If the President can order the military to build his wall, why can’t he order the military to enforce drug policies? Isn’t that a national emergency too? What about immigration control in sanctuary cities? The implications of what the President thinks he can do is appalling and terrifying.

And while attempting to use the military to circumvent Congress will be challenged and overturned in the court system, the mere mention of using them degrades our service members. They joined to serve their country and they deserve better then to be used as political pawns by the President to enforce his domestic political agenda.

Trump’s Transgender Policy: The Rational Solution

transgender

The White House has passed a new policy “banning” transgenders from serving in the United States military, “except under a few limited circumstances”. Without getting into the controversial and often bigoted debate about whether transgenderism is a “disease” or “mental condition” let’s break down the new policy.

If you take an objective look at it, what it does is prevent individuals from transitioning genders while they are in the military. Which falls under policies currently in place for military members already.

Don’t believe me? Military members are kicked out if they are not deployable for 12 consecutive months. How long does it take to transition? Best case scenario is two years. For those two years they are nondeployable. So, under current policies they should be kicked out.

As far as it being a full “ban” on transgendered individuals, it’s not. When you look at the exceptions made all they do is ensure that individuals can’t transition after they join. Let’s break down the “limited circumstances” that the White House has outlined.

The first exception laid out by the White House policy is that individuals who have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” may join. In layman’s terms, if an individual fully transitioned 3 years ago they can join the military.

While an argument can be made on whether this is necessary, it is hardly the only thing that can require a mandatory waiting time. For instance, anyone who has gotten LASIK or PRK must wait 12 months before they are eligible to join.

Now 36 months is overkill to ensure that no unexpected health issues arise from the transition process, but so is 12 months for eye surgery. That’s just how the military does things. Should the mandatory waiting time probably be less? Yes, and it might change after the courts get a hold of it.

The second exception is for those individuals that “do not require a change of gender”. Now this reeks of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but once you get over the guttural response to the wording, you can understand why this is a necessary provision. If an individual wants to join the military and is willing to forego the medical process of transitioning they should be able to do so. In an idealistic world this wouldn’t be necessary, but in an idealistic world we wouldn’t need a military.

The final exception is for those transgender individuals that are already in the military. They can stay in. This is the right thing to do. You don’t tell people they can do something, then kick them out for doing it.

So, while media sources go nuts on this new policy, President Trump is right when he says it’s what senior military leaders want. They are tired of having a force that isn’t fully deployable. And transitioning members only add to that number.