22 August 2009

Don't miss out on veterans, universities!

(Pic: Graduating with friends at Norwich: a shool that lives and breathes military)

M. found me an article that spread the disappointing news that many colleges and universities are ignoring veterans' experience when it comes to granting academic credits:


The article is very interesting. One nuclear sub operator was told he had to repeat basic physics and ended up teaching the professor points of practical application, and another was told that jump school didn't count for a PE credit when other students could write it off with a SCUBA class in the pool.

When it came time for me to use my GI Bill benefits to get my MBA, I had lots of choices (and I saw an online Ad from University of Phoenix about every 42 seconds.) I had no trouble deciding: I went straight to Norwich University in Vermont: it is the birthplace of the ROTC and alumni have served in all wars including OIF.


They had no problem accepting military documents and communications: they even arranged to have my exams administered by the library/education office in Iraq!

Universities will miss out on the best and brightest if they do not recognize the value of veterans and their experience. Troops are practical enough they will go elsewhere.

The article highlighted two resources:

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges: a DOD funded consortium of colleges that have pledged to accept military service as credit where applicable.


and Student Veterans of America, an organization founded by an AF veteran to advance the aims and interests of former troops in school.


19 August 2009

Here, Bullet, a mystery.

A long time ago I posted a blog expressing how deeply I am struck by Brian Turner's poems. He served in Iraq in 2ID. I have yet to find a more pure expression of the war than his work. Read here two that haunt me: "Here, Bullet", and "AB Negative"


I see my own Thalia as I read them.

One other to mention is "Body Bags"


Today I read an article detailing how small arms fire is more deadly in Iraq (20% of soldiers struck die) when compared to Afghanistan (15%):


The article offers solid theories: The steel core rounds used more commonly by insurgent snipers in Iraq (can penetrate Kevlar) and evidence there are greater numbers of skilled insurgent sniper teams in Iraq.

From my part, I was struck by the impression that barely any of my US troop patients had received penetrating projectile trauma: Nearly all of them were victims of fragmentation/blast attack, like IED and indirect fire. Fortunately we were lucky enough to have a great survival rate for these wounds: round about 93%, and if they made it to the Balad hospital alive, survival was 98%.

The lower incidence of small arms fire injuries is a testament to great advances in individual body armor. Even over the course of the war our experiences guided improvements such as broader neck, axilla, and groin protection. (Of course all this makes a sweaty, heavy kit sweatier and heavier, so we might not get universal thanks!)

I think perhaps the higher death rate of these thankfully less common gunshot wounds is because they represent the unlucky magic bullets that sneak through the few gaps in the armor to strike a major blood vessel or vulnerable organ. I'm hard pressed to say why it is more deadly in Iraq than Afghanistan. I would agree that enemy personnel/capability has something to do with it: there has been a gathering of foreign fighters. However I think the most likely culprit is terrain: In Iraq the denser population centers allows the insurgents to deviously blend in with civilians and sneak up closer to our troops for more lethal fire. Perhaps not for much longer.

I'd be curious to hear if those with actual experience outside the wire have an opinion on this, rather than rely on guesses from a Fobbit like me!

Lastly, if you want to read an incredible story about how our amazing fighting troops are bulletproof, look here:


Stay safe, wear your gear.


(below: potentially eye-killing frag stopped by ICE. Thanks to SB for image)

17 August 2009

Of Course They Are!

Great article here about women serving side by side with men in Iraq: (Thanks to C.A. for the reference)


This report will come as no surprise to anyone who has been there. Our hospital in Balad was one team, it didn't matter if the troop was male or female. We surgeons might have been a loud brash bunch, but it wasn't the usual gender stereotypes: Our team included women surgeons and male nurses. All pulled together.

The article talks about about sex in theater and pregnancy. We did see this, but it was a surprisingly small number of women who had to leave unexpectedly over the course of the deployment. I agree with the article that it is inevitable when young people are together. It is more upsetting when senior, (supposedly) mature officers fail to obey the no sex in theater rule. After all, the young troops have to get the right example from us.

Assault was a danger, and did occur rarely on our base. I think that the population of contractors was more of a threat, but since that small risk did exist, it was wisest when women walked in pairs or groups after dark. Most did, and most carried weapons (and they knew how to use them).

The point is clear that ANYONE who has a desire to serve our country is a valuable resource and deserves the chance.

Make sure you read the article to the end if you have never heard of a urinary director.



16 August 2009

Pulling their weight

I wanted to relay a fascinating news story I read today:


In "Sometimes it's not your war but you sacrifice anyway" by T Christian Miller in the Washington Post, you can read about how contractors working for our military, some US citizens, some foreigners, often do not get their federally mandated insurance benefits when they are disabled or killed.

The article describes how the Defense Base Act


requires that overseas employees of DOD contractors purchase insurance. AIG, recipient of a generous bailout on our dime is a major provider of this service, however many families of injured contractor employees never see benefits when their loved ones are killed.

The article is also interesting for detailing the story of Wake Island, where US contractors were held captive by the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and were later executed.


The Defense Base Act was created to protect the families of those who give us vital assistance on our bases overseas.

Below is a picture of the 98 rock on Wake Island. One of the contractor POW's briefly escaped and carved the message "98 US PW 5-10-43 " before he was recaptured and beheaded.

(Photo source: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo; public domain)