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A great ride….

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, we are stopping the blogging here at You Served. I hope it stays up because I think we have a ton of good material here, but that will be up to VUHL since this is their site.

You may have noticed a flurry of blog posts over the last week or so. Sorry there have been so many at once, but these were all ones I had in draft versions which I wanted to get posted before the end of blogging here.

Ironically I have been courted by some other sites to write for them and fellow bloggers too, but between by own site at along with the other blogs I write on, the Top Talk Radio show, my full time job, volunteer work and of course family maybe this is a break I need.

Anyway, it is all good and I will leave it in God’s hands. Like I said before, things change and I am honored to have written on this site for so long and the great opportunities that VAMC and VUHL gave me and the others who used to write here.

I encourage you to check out VUHL’s other sites and online presence at:

So thank you all for your readership, comments and interaction on this site. It has been a great ride….



Manning was almost the Grand Marshall

Charged with one of the largest leaks of classified documents in history, U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, is set to be acknowledged at San Francisco’s annual gay rights parade. Naming Manning as a Grand Marshall of the parade, a role that is annually filled by activists, politicians and celebrities who have made significant achievements for the LGBT community, has drawn fire from multiple groups that represent the LGBT Service Members.

Being openly gay, Manning’s lawyers argue that his actions of leaking classified information to the website Wikileaks were in part caused by his experience as a gay Soldier before the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”

“As a longstanding Manning supporter, I’m thrilled to see our community publicly embrace his courage in disclosing classified truths about the war in Iraq and other facts, which empower the American public to promote smarter future policy,” said Rainey Reitman, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

While those who believe that Manning was in the right for his actions will see this recognition as a milestone in the movement for his support, this leave a bad taste in the mouth for many towards the LGBT community; this is the case for Stephen Peters, the president of American Military Partners Association, an advocate group for gay and lesbian military families.

“The LGBT military community is outraged by this decision and we genuinely hope that San Francisco Pride will reconsider their appointment of Bradley Manning as a grand marshal for this year’s celebration. No community of such a strong and resilient people should be represented by the treacherous acts that define Bradley Manning,” said Peters.

Regardless of whether or not Manning will be kept on ticket as a Grand Marshall of the pride parade, his nomination to that position was one of symbolic gesture. Under normal circumstances, the Grand Marshalls of the parade ride by in convertibles, waving to the crowds and reviewing parties, but whether or not San Francisco Pride decides to keep him as such, he will not be in attendance due to the fact that he is currently residing in a comfortable cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as he waits for his court martial trial.


UPDATE- Since I had written this there has been an update and it looks like Manning will NOT be the Grand Marshall now. Due to the heavy amount of criticism facing their decision to honor PVT. Manning as a Grand Marshall at the gay pride parade on June 30, those at SF Pride have decided to drop Manning.

SF Pride Board President Lisa Williams was quoted in a statement  saying that “an employee of the organization had prematurely notified Bradley Manning this week that he had been selected for this honor. ”

“That was an error, and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride,” Williams said.

A committee of former San Francisco Pride grand marshals did select the openly-gay Manning, to honor him, but the Pride Board decided his nomination would be a mistake, Williams said.


Keep What You’ve Earned

Alcohol use, and more importantly, alcohol abuse, are issues that each branch of the military faces. Posing a threat to the health and safety of both enlisted and officer alike, as well as the overall readiness and functioning ability of each branch as a whole, it is an extremely difficult set of issues to handle, as alcohol use is deeply rooted within the culture and traditions of the Armed Forces. With all of this, the Navy has launched a new campaign that is not aimed at eliminating drinking or those traditions, but at helping Sailors think before they drink.

Stemming from research collected by the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office, which compiled information from the surveys of over 700 Sailors, the “Keep What You’ve Earned” campaign aims to help eliminate the negative consequences that can occur when soldiers chose to drink and make mistakes.

“We recognized the need for an innovative strategy aimed at promoting responsible drinking among Sailors,” said Dorice Favorite, the Director of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office . “So we conducted interviews, focus groups, and an online survey to gain a better understanding of Sailors’ personal drinking habits and how alcohol consumption is perceived in the Navy as a whole.”

Bearing the slogan “You’ve Earned It, Don’t Waste It,” the campaign works towards highlighting Sailors accomplishments so far, a reminder of what they have earned, so that they know what they have to lose. This was the elected slogan after officials sifted through all of the surveys and research that was conducted in order to find out what Sailors valued and felt that they had the most to lose.

“The majority of Sailors we spoke with listed loss of pay, rank and other privileges as the most significant consequences of alcohol abuse,” said Favorite.

The initiative offers three courses of action for sailors to follow to ensure that they can still have a few, have some fun and stay out of the brig.

1. Plan ahead for a safe ride home, 2. Don’t try to “keep up” with your friends or shipmates and 3. Know your limit, before you get there. These are the simple paths that the program suggests to follow, that way sailors can still have a good time and keep what they have been working for their entire military career.

Posters featuring Sailors from the Jacksonville-Mayport-King’s Bay, Fla. Region will be issued out as part of the campaign amongst the five fleet communities of aviation, expeditionary, medical, submarine and surface.

“It was great to see how the campaign’s imagery represented each of the unique roles our Sailors serve in as part of the Navy, from medical corpsmen to aviation pilots,” said Cmdr. Jay Clark, USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) executive officer.

Calling it a “campaign for Sailors, by Sailors,” Favorite acknowledges that this whole process would not have happened if it weren’t for the feedback and cooperation of the Sailors who took part in all aspects of the initiative.

Now it will be interesting to see if this works, and if so, if the other branches will take notice and try the same approach.

See the posters and learn more at


Integrated Training, Part 2

While the Integrated Training Environment helps soldiers prepare for combat by honing the communication skills between the units that represent the various legs of an operation, its utility to our nation’s military extends further in a time of budget cuts and sequestration.

While certain posts have established interactive training systems, most of which were only partially developed or inefficient, many at the command level saw the distinct need or ground and air units to be able to train together according to the director of the ITE platform, Lt. Col. Shane Cipolla. Allowing for more soldiers to train, while operating at less cost than it would to train with real tanks and helicopters, Cipolla admits that at the time the pending cuts did play a role in the development of the ITE platform.

It cost’s the Army only $6,400 a day to run a center with 28 tank simulators, opposed to the $196,000 a day it costs conduct training on 28 Abrams tanks. The same dramatic difference in costs exists between running the simulated helicopters; practicing on the real thing would cost the Army an estimated $281 million to conduct the 14,000 hours of simulated helicopter and weapons training done on simulators in 2011 for only $19 million.

Research and development for the ITE program costs something to the tune of $8 million annually. The potential to save the that kind of money far outweighs that of always training on real tanks and helicopters as opposed to utilizing the simulator technology. Ultimately allowing for the unspent funds to be allocated elsewhere, limiting the effect the cuts are having on the Army.

Currently in use at Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Bliss, Texas the Army is working on expanding the system to bases around the world. By 2017, the Integrated Training Environment will be in use at 18 bases, both stateside and abroad in locations like South Korea.

While this new technology is not intended to do away with conducting training operations with the actual weapons systems and vehicles, it serves as platform to help soldiers rehearse and hone certain aspects of conducting operations, not only to ensure that they have the necessary skills for conducting combat operations, but at the same time cut out costs and minimize the effects of the sequester on the standing Army’s readiness and abilities.

Learn more at—Keynote-Speaker-UC09—COL-Millar 

Pill farms preying on Veterans

It is no secret that substance abuse is an issue that plagues many in both our society and the military. The abuse of prescription drugs, especially painkillers, anxiety and anti-depressant’s, is on the rise and the influx of PTSD and depression that we have seen since the start of the Global War on Terror only increases and magnifies the potential for those suffering from these issues to fall victim to substance abuse.

While it is difficult to place the blame in situations like this, it is easy to see that those who over-prescribe and give others easy access to these drugs are guilty of enabling those who deal with these issues and further perpetuating this issue. Now, one of the individuals guilty of doing just this is being held accountable for his actions.

Charged last week on the same day that the FBI searched his clinic, Michael P. Schuster of Manhattan Pain and Spine stands accused of conspiring to illegally distribute controlled substances. Located in Manhattan, Kansas, Schuster’s Clinic is approximately 15 miles away from the home of the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley.

Starting last year after the local police received notifications that Schuster was issuing out high-dosage prescriptions with little accord to do so, the investigation of Schuster and his clinic was only furthered as reports from the Medical staff at Fort Riley regarding several cases of fatal overdoses of soldiers and their family members whom Schuster had treated made their way to the Army Criminal Investigative Division.

It was reported that while Schuster was the only one in the clinic certified to prescribe controlled substances, he would often sign off on blank prescription notes for staff members to issue out while he would travel back to his home country of Russia.

Initial reports state that he was gone from the office when 542 patients were issued prescriptions, and that he and his clinic attracted patients who are suspected of illegally selling prescription drugs.

If in the investigation, it turns out that the prescriptions he and his office issued contributed to death and bodily injuries, he could be facing a fine of up to $1 million and a sentence of a minimum of 20 years in prison. While Schuster and his clinic are on the way to being shut down entirely, all too often these pill farms go unnoticed and many who become addicted to these prescription drugs and turn to self-medication ultimately end up taking heavy tolls on their own lives and in increasing numbers, take it over the edge.

It is therefore not only the job of the prescriber or the recipient but of our society as a whole to do what we can to limit this abuse and be your brothers-keeper so to speak. While there are efforts on the part of third party groups to reform the way Veterans receive treatment for the physical, mental and emotional scars that they bear when returning from the frontlines, there is still a long way to go in order to limit the casualties of the invisible wars that many fight on their own.

Read the whole story at:

Integrated Training, Part 1

Living in the increasingly wired and connected age that we do, it should come to no surprise that the way our military trains and prepares for combat has also changed.  Weapons systems that resemble and operate like that of laser tag games have been used by the military to train for some time now,  alongside simulators that look and feel like the real thing for track and wheel-based vehicles as well as helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

In combat, the coordination between units and their detachments and support elements needs to be precise and effective, and like anything, training, and more importantly, training together is essential for these skills to be properly honed. Training, has in essence been a mutually exclusive exercise for units that would work together in combat, until now.

Now, due to the utilization of virtual reality and technological innovation, a tanker group can train for a support mission alongside a helicopter detachment, both supporting an infantry unit that is conducting training operations using laser tag type rifles. All in real-time, with each group communicating and working towards the same mission together, just like they would do in combat.

Called the Integrated training environment, the virtual program being fielded by the Army records every aspect of a virtual operation, down to the last round fired. Acting like a play back video in a video game, the ITE allows for unit commanders and soldiers themselves to go back, review various aspects of an operation and mainly, examine the communication between units; see what worked, and look for areas to improve on especially that of communication, that when troops are in combat, it is second nature.

The idea of virtual training is not new to the branches of the military. There has been a plethora of virtual training aids from Briefcase sized Sony PS2 types of devices that inter-connect, all the way up to entire rooms with 90 degree wide-screens that soldiers “shoot” at. However taking all these different point solutions and putting them together into a joint-fight is a fairly new capability.

“(Training gives soldiers) muscle memory through repetition … so when we are in Iran, Syria, Africa, it’s going to kick in,” Sgt. 1st Class Donald Jones said. Operating a tank simulator, Jones recognizes the importance of training with the infantry units and helicopter, saying that having this virtual training would have definitely helped his deployment to Afghanistan.

Learn More at


PTSD? There is an app for that!

Returning home with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and adjusting back to normal life is no easy task. Handling and living with the invisible wound is incredibly difficult and seeking help is no easy task either. But now the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have come up with a new and innovative approach to help those suffering from PTS learn how to live with and manage it. Called the Stress Resilience Training System, the program comes in a relatively familiar format, an app on an iPad, with the only extra equipment being a heart rate monitor that clips to the user’s ear.

 With 21 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans returning home with PTS, the costs to treat these Veterans is not my any means cheap. And with many in the DoD making cuts to many programs and looking to save where they can, a application like this, that can replace some of the treatment services that a Veteran with PTS would receive, is extremely valuable.

“The SRTS app provides users with an easy-to-access tool that helps them build resilience toward stressful events,”   Cmdr. Joseph Cohn, the program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department.  He went on to say that for those with the PTS who use the app, “the likelihood of experiencing PTSD or any other aftereffects from stress is reduced.”

The Stress Resilience Training System is made up of four separate sections, which in conjunction with one another helps the user learn to better manage with and fully understand their stressors and stress responses by learning biofeedback techniques based on their needs. The first section, “Know How,” provides the user with information about stress and resilience and how to apply it to the real world. The second, “Techniques,” explains how the user can get themselves into the best state both mentally and physiologically in order build their resilience and get back to normal life. The “Games” section allows the user to choose from several training scenarios while the ear clip monitors the heart rate rhythm to look for changes in heart rate as a sign of stress. Also in the “Games” section is the introduction of techniques, like deep breathing or muscle relaxation, which help them maintain coherence and manage stress. This works alongside the final section, “Review”, which keeps track their progress.

“We’re capitalizing on past research and making a leap that one way of managing PTSD lies in learning to more effectively manage your stress,” said Cohn, who has been on the forefront of this project since its inception.

Set to start field testing at the San Diego Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC) in April, we may see this app become a commonplace treatment for those returning home with PTS in coming years. While there is no replacing counseling and the human element of helping those with PTS work past their barriers, if there is a way to help Veterans better understand the issues they are facing and be able to cut out some of the costs in age of budget cuts, then it is definitely worth investing in.

Learn more about this at

Caffeine is the least of a deployed soldier’s worries

To the average Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine energy drinks and supplements like Red Bull, Monster and 5-hour energy are seen as no different than the morning cup of coffee; a little pick-me-up to help you stay awake, alert, and focused. But now the Surgeon General for the U.S. Central Command is requesting that the sale of these common energy drinks, along with other caffeinated supplements, be banned on instillations.


In a Stars and Stripes editorial co-authored by Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Army Col. Erin Edgar suggested the ban be enacted “until legal loophole” that allow the energy drink companies to include extra caffeine “are closed.”

Not knocking the occasional energy drink they said that “Caffeine at moderate doses is safe and effective,” but their concerns came from the issue of individuals consuming large quantities of caffeine where it “can play havoc on the nervous system,” resulting in “nervous tremors, racing hearts and deteriorating cognitive performance.” In high stress situations such as combat, they said that these over-caffeinated drinks, in conjunction with workout supplements and other substances “can tip a troop over from just feeling on edge to having a full-fledged panic attack.”

With such a serious and detrimental outcome, their concerns become real for the average service member. With 45 percent of combat troops drinking at least one energy drink per day and 13 percent admitting to drinking three or more per day, command is concerned when it comes to having significant numbers of their fighting force ingesting these drinks with undisclosed amounts of substance that can become detrimental to both one’s own health and the mission at hand.

Referencing a study done by the DoD that stated that soldiers who take sports supplements stood a higher chance at needing medical care for irregular heartbeats, the editorial noted that “Twenty percent of the troops were unable to promptly return to duty” 10 percent of which required  a medevac.

While the battle in the FDA and on Capitol Hill to regulate the content of specific substances like caffeine in both energy drinks and sport supplements will continue to rage on, bases may see these products taken off the shelf. For the time being, the best solution is to be reasonable, don’t overdo it on the 5 hour energy shots, and if you need a liter of some sugary questionably-green drink to be able to face the day, look for another solution to help wake you up and make you alert. Use your head, know what you’re consuming and if you don’t, use some discretion and common sense.

Read more at:

Air Force Academy Cadet contributes

After the introduction of synthetic drugs and increase in use by both civilians and service members over the past several years, there has been some difficulty in testing for these now banned substances. But now at the US Air Force Academy, which has faced its fare share of difficulties posed by these substances, a senior 1st class cadet has been awarded for the results of her summer research that has ultimately led to a way to catch those whose use these substances, even long after they’ve used them.

Alexa Gringas, is the daughter of two academy graduates and applied to the academy on a whim with no initial desire to attend her parents alma mater, but after realizing that the Academy would help her get to her end goal: going to medical school, she decided that the Academy was the right place for her.

Working alongside two doctors at the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Gringas found a way to increase the sensitivity of the Air Force’s drug test by 400% as well as a way to prepare urine samples so that the preparation time for the sample testing is shorter than ever before.

“Her work is important for a couple of reasons,” Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Mark Maybury said after awarding Gringas for her accomplishments. “She had a good understanding of not only the basic science that was happening and the practical methods, but she also had a very insightful perspective on how she could improve existing practices. That’s what’s really extraordinary.”

As part of the research on how to improve the sensitivity of drug tests to synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and K2, Gringas worked with Dr. Dennis Lovett and Dr. Enrique Yanes to develop a way to find traces of substances banned by the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 in urine samples from airmen. By using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, Gringas found that by adding ammonium bicarbonate, she was able to improve the sensitivity of the tests so that it can find detect traces of the drug even if the person has not used the substance in a few weeks.

While these new tests will not be able to completely irradiate the use of illegal synthetic drugs by those at the Service Academies and in the Military, just like the current test do not eliminate drug use, the improvements made will irradiate those guilty of using these substances from the ranks and ultimately lessen the effects that these dangerous and mind-numbing substances do have on both the Service Academies and the military as a whole.

Learn More at

Killer Gains, Shocking Results- Part III

This problem is very similar to the issues that both the military and society have faced over the past year in regards to the controversy about the sale and use of synthetic drugs known as Bath Salts. If an individual can achieve the desired effect of a high without breaking a law, he will do so more quickly than he will by breaking a law, especially if it is something that until recently was not looked for in drug tests. The same goes for supplements. If an individual, soldier or civilian, can achieve desired strength and endurance gains from a supplement without having to get involved with illegal anabolic steroids or human growth hormone products, then that supplement is guaranteed to fly off the shelves, regardless of possible health risks.

The solution to the this problem will not be an overall ban by the FDA, because in the next few years we will see another chemical compound take the place of DMAA, the same way that it took the place of Ephedrine, and it too will undoubtedly prove to have some adverse effects which will result in lawsuits and yet another ban.

Rather it will take either significant change in the way we as a society view these products or the exhaustion of every possible stimulant compound to put in these products, whichever comes first. In a realistic time table, it will take a very long time to get to either. So the remedy for right now? Well that can be found in a ground-breaking substance called Common Sense.

Rare and in dwindling supply, Common Sense gives you the results you desire of: not suffering cardiac arrest, insomnia and disorders of the nervous system and psych, with possible side effects of well-being, fitness, longevity and an increased quality of life. Common Sense and being informed on whatever product you so chose to use is all it takes for you to not fall victim to adverse affects that can have devastating consequences. The same consequences we see in the case of Michael Sparling who was taken from his family and friends before his time and has a story that is becoming all too familiar.

Be sure to check out Parts I and II if you haven’t already.

Also to learn more about this whole 3 part series, check out :