Archive for the ‘soldiers’ Category

Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks

December 4, 2008

Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression and Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but it’s impossible to predict how high those risks are, researchers say.

About 22 percent of wounded troops have a brain injury, concluded the prestigious Institute of Medicine — and it urged precise steps for studying how these patients fare years later so chances to help aren’t missed.

The Veterans Affairs Department, which requested the report, and the Pentagon already are taking some of the recommended steps. But a report out Thursday highlights the urgency.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint in Kabul in August ...

“I don’t think we really knew how big a hole in scientific knowledge there is about blast-induced brain injuries,” said Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, the report’s lead researcher.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a signature injury of the Iraq war. Most do not involve penetrating head wounds but damage hidden inside the skull caused by an explosion’s pressure wave. It can range from a mild concussion to severe injury. And because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, troops may not seek care.

“If you have a gunshot wound to some specific part of your brain, I can tell you the consequences,” Rutherford said. But with blast concussions, it’s not even possible to say “if you have six of these, are you six times more likely to have something bad happen to you than if you’ve had one?”

Returning soldiers have reported headaches, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, irritability, insomnia and depression. The military has said most of the TBI-injured troops recover with treatment.

“There’s clearly a whole bunch of people who have mild TBI who have no negative outcomes,” Rutherford agreed.

Related:
PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_he_me/med_brain_injury

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PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

December 3, 2008

The number one question we see here at Peace and Freedom is: how can we better help soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Dealing appropriately with psychological health and traumatic brain injuries is the watchword…

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The military finally is getting ahead in the head business — tackling the psychological health and traumatic brain injuries of soldiers and their families in a comprehensive way.

It’s happening at the moment under the leadership of an energetic, Shakespeare-quoting Army psychiatrist, Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton. Gen. Sutton holds a medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. She completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco.

By Ann Geracimos    
The Washington Times

Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. The department seeks to care for troops before and after they suffer trauma. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Above: Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. 

Gen. Sutton, 49, is director of the year-old Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE), an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with health matters. The concept is to find the means of caring for troops and their leaders before, as well as after, service members and their relations suffer the debilitating effects of trauma.

The game plan focuses on building up what is being called “resilience” among the military’s many warrior volunteers as well as providing more and better treatment options for visible and invisible injuries of this type in a totally integrated program for recovery and reintegration. Gen. Sutton describes it as a network “like the Internet — a collaborative global network” functioning in a partnership, which is expected to take four years to put fully in place.

The plan, and its three R’s — resilience, recovery, reintegration — had a big workout at a recent three-day DCoE symposium, “Warrior Resilience Conference: Partnering With the Line,” and attended mainly by service members involved in health matters. Billed as the first of its kind, the event at the Fairfax Marriott at Fair Oaks typified what the organization sees as its mandate: promoting a shift of emphasis in the military away from what is known, in jargon terms, as an “illness-based medical model” toward a “wellness-centric resilience continuum.”

The latter phrase is a mouthful, with good reason, covering as it does a range of approaches that almost directly counter traditional military culture and practices.

“It’s ironic how the military trains us to overcome discomfort but not how to deal with invisible injuries,” Gen. Sutton notes. “As soldiers, we keep a lid on our feelings while we do our job. But nobody tells us when to take the lid off or how to deal with it when we do.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec
/02/military-marches-toward-wellness/

US soldiers re-enlisting because of poor economy

December 2, 2008

Sgt. Ryan Nyhus spent 14 months patrolling the deadly streets of Baghdad, where five members of his platoon were shot and one died. As bad as that was, he would rather go back there than take his chances in this brutal job market.

Nyhus re-enlisted last Wednesday, and in so doing joined the growing ranks of those choosing to stay in the U.S. military because of the bleak economy.

“In the Army, you’re always guaranteed a steady paycheck and a job,” said the 21-year-old Nyhus. “Deploying’s something that’s going to happen. That’s a fact of life in the Army — a fact of life in the infantry.”

By JOHN MILBURN and STEPHEN MANNING, Associated Press Writers

A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry ...
A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment searches a building as his platoon leader meets with Iraqi police and security volunteers in Baqouba, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

In 2008, as the stock market cratered and the housing market collapsed, more young members of the Army, Air Force and Navy decided to re-up. While several factors might explain the rise in re-enlistments, including a decline in violence in Iraq, Pentagon officials acknowledge that bad news for the economy is usually good news for the military.

In fact, the Pentagon just completed its strongest recruiting year in four years.

“We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” said David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “What difficult economic times give us, I think, is an opening to make our case to people who we might not otherwise have.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_on_re_us/m
eltdown_choosing_war;_ylt=AobfPtsZi
ED.Sl0zcsAzhmms0NUE

Some vindication for sick vets, but little relief

December 1, 2008

Ground combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War lasted just 100 hours, but it’s meant 17 years of pain and anguish for hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Those who came home and complained of symptoms such as memory loss and joint pain are only sicker. Even as their lives unraveled as their health further deteriorated, many were told their problems were just in their head.

But, recently, many of the sufferers were given a new reason to hope. Earlier this month, a high-profile advisory panel to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake affirmed previous research that a collection of symptoms commonly known as Gulf War illnesses are real and require treatment. The country has a “national obligation” to help them, the panel concluded.

The report, however, also noted a sad reality: Of the $340 million in government funds spent to research the topic, little has focused on finding treatments. And, researchers said, the estimated 175,000-210,000 Gulf veterans who are sick aren’t getting any better.

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

Many of those veterans are left wondering what’s next for them. The panel, created by Congress, said at least $60 million should be spent annually for research, but some veterans question if in these economically strapped times the money will be made available.

“I just hope that our elected officials pay attention to it and they accept that it is true,” said James Stutts, 60, of Berea, Ky., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and physician who struggles to walk and gave up practicing medicine because of memory problems after serving in the war. “It’s not a stress-related, nor is it a psychosomatic, issue. It is true. It is real. There is pain, not only for the veteran, but their families.”

The sad irony, said John Schwertfager, a veterans advocate in Ohio, is that many of the veterans who came home physically sick and were told wrongly it was a mental condition now struggle with real mental health problems after years of chronic pain and personal problems such as divorce and the inability to work.

“A slow, steady deterioration is what I’m seeing,” Schwertfager said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081201/ap_on_
go_ot/gulf_war_illness;_ylt=AlMl3qpwj
.e._ihiBMQizYSs0NUE

Pentagon Planning 20,000 Domestic Anti-Terror Military Troops

December 1, 2008

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department‘s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said. 

 

By Spencer S. Hsu and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 1, 2008; Page A01

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/30
/AR2008113002217.html?hpid=topnews

Military Bases Brace for Surge in PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders

November 29, 2008

Some 15,000 soldiers are heading home to this sprawling base after spending more than a year at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military health officials are bracing for a surge in brain injuries and psychological problems among those troops.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

Facing prospects that one in five of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers will suffer from stress-related disorders, the base has nearly doubled its psychological health staff. Army leaders are hoping to use the base’s experiences to assess the long-term impact of repeated deployments.

The three 101st Airborne combat brigades, which have begun arriving home, have gone through at least three tours in Iraq. The 3rd Brigade also served seven months in Afghanistan, early in the war. Next spring, the 4th Brigade will return from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. So far, roughly 10,000 soldiers have come back; the remainder are expected by the end of January.

Army leaders say they will closely watch Fort Campbell to determine the proper medical staffing levels needed to aid soldiers who have endured repeated rotations in the two war zones.

“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think anybody knows,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, as he flew back to Washington from a recent tour of the base’s medical facilities. “That’s why I want to see numbers from the 101st’s third deployment.”

What happens with the 101st Airborne, he said, will let the Army help other bases ready for similar homecomings in the next year or two, when multiple brigades from the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division return.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/sol
dier_stress;_ylt=AmE8_PG3c.WU2jnAbvUzG3Ss0NUE

Iraqi Lawmakers Brawl Over Security Pact

November 19, 2008

A session of Iraq’s Parliament collapsed in chaos on Wednesday, as a discussion among lawmakers about a three-year security agreement with the Americans boiled over into shouting and physical confrontation.

The session was dedicated to a second public reading of the agreement, which governs the presence of American troops in Iraq through 2011 and which the Parliament is scheduled to vote on Monday. Even before the session began, legislators were apprehensive.

“There is much tension inside the parliament,” said Iman al-Asadi, a Shiite lawmaker, shortly before the session was scheduled to start. “We worry that they will fight each other inside the room.”

Lawmakers who support the pact said they were worried in particular about the followers of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who make up a bloc of 32 legislators in the 275 member Parliament. While there are those in Parliament, like many Sunnis, who have objections to elements of the pact, the Sadrists reject any agreement with the Americans in principle.

In a departure from protocol, security guards were present in the room, both because of the tension and because several Iraqi government officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs and finance, were in attendance to answer questions about the agreement. Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign affairs minister, said the guards were unarmed.

As soon as the session began, politicians in opposition to the pact stood up in the hall and volubly argued that the ratification process was unconstitutional, because a law governing the passage of international agreements has not been approved. Supporters say such a law is unnecessary, because Parliament had already ratified numerous agreements without one.

For the next two hours, the Parliament speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, lashed out at the objecters and refused their demands to change the Parliament agenda. He then invited Hassan al-Sneid, a Shiite lawmaker, to begin the second public reading of the agreement, a matter of parliamentary procedure.

As Mr. Sneid began reading, witnesses said, Sadrists and other opponents of the agreement continued to trade shouts with lawmakers who supported it. Then, Ahmed Masu’udi, a Sadrist lawmaker, approached the dais. Mr. Masu’udi said later in an interview that he was simply trying to reach Mr. Mashhadani to persuade him to stop the reading; several other witnesses said Mr. Masu’udi tried to attack Mr. Snied. The security guards rushed toward Mr. Masu’udi, who said that they grabbed him and struggled to push him away. At that point, witnesses said, the hall was filled with shouting, lawmakers rushed toward the front and the session ended in chaos.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/world/middleeast/20iraq.html?_r=1&hp

NATO in Afghanistan fire on militants in Pakistan

November 18, 2008

The NATO-led alliance in Afghanistan said its troops fired at militants inside Pakistan in coordination with Pakistani soldiers.

French soldiers of ISAF on patrol near Kabul on November 8.

Above: French soldiers of ISAF on patrol near Kabul on November 8.
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The coordination, announced Monday by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, was noteworthy since Pakistan has, in recent months, complained that international forces were violating the country’s sovereignty by going after militants on its soil.

ISAF said Sunday’s artillery fire was in response to an attack on an allied base in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. Militants twice fired rockets into the base from across the border, the alliance said.

Once ISAF soldiers pinpointed the origin of the rocket launches, they fired 20 artillery rounds in coordination with the Pakistani military.

“ISAF and Pakistani soldiers observed all fired artillery rounds,” an alliance statement said. “The Pakistan soldiers assured ISAF that they would engage any insurgents attempting to flee deeper into Pakistan.”

No NATO soldiers were hurt in the rocket attack.

Read the rest from CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/11/18/
pakistan.nato/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Pact, Approved in Iraq, Sets Time for U.S. Pullout

November 17, 2008

Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet’s decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war.

By Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell 
The New York Times

The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.

Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true national consensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential.

US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following ...
US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, some 370 kms from Baghdad. The White House on Sunday welcomed the approval by Iraq’s cabinet of a military pact that requires the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011.(AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables.

Iraq also obtained a significant degree of jurisdiction in some cases over serious crimes committed by Americans who are off duty and not on bases.

In Washington, the White House welcomed the vote as “an important and positive step” and attributed the agreement itself to security improvements in the past year.

Throughout the negotiations, the Shiite parties and the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, under pressure from forces both within and outside the country, had been trying to strike a balance in forging a viable agreement with the Americans that would guarantee Iraq’s security and that would still stand firm against what many, including neighboring Iran, consider a hostile force

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/world/middleeas
t/17iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security pact with the United States on Sunday, ending prolonged negotiations to allow American forces to remain for three more years in the country they first occupied in 2003.

Read the Associated Press report:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081117/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_
iraq;_ylt=AgDMXJb9ChdxknE9ktwMJ6.s0NUE

British Troops Forced to “Make Do” Killed in Afghanistan by Taliban

November 15, 2008

Capt David Hicks, who was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, told his girlfriend Nicola Billen that his men were “sitting ducks” at their makeshift base just days before he was killed in an attack.

In letters to Miss Billen, seen by The Daily Telegraph, he repeatedly spoke of his “frustration” that requests for equipment went unheard.

On several occasions he had asked for a doctor for be sent to the remote outpost called Inkerman base because they were being attacked twice a day by the Taliban.

But it was not until the officer was killed while leading the counterattack against the enemy on Aug 11 last year that a doctor was permanently stationed at the base.

By Thomas Harding
Defence Correspondent
The Telegraph, London

The coroner at Capt Hick’s inquest earlier this week criticised the Ministry of Defence for forcing troops to “make do” on the front line after the court also heard that the sand-bagged fortifications were poor.

Read the rest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3459999/Officer-warned-of-equipment-
shortages-on-the-frontline-in-letters-to-his-fiancee.html