asrSo there I was, in a shouting match with one of my Sailors about his latest evaluation.  Suddenly, he pulled out a gun and shot me. Twice. As I fell to the ground and slowly bled out, I watched him proceed to walk through our office and shoot other Sailors.

Except it wasn’t real.  It was our first active shooter drill.

The news tends to sensationalize active shooters, like it devolves into some sort of action video game.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  After the drill, my team watched our security camera footage to see what really happened.  We also had someone following the shooter around and take notes.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the difficulty realizing you were in an active shooter situation before it was too late. The shooter has ALL the advantages. Even though we used a cap gun that simulated the sound and smell of a 9mm pistol, the sound doesn’t always carry down a hallway. Plenty of people heard popping, but only a few realized it was a shooter.  By the time they realized it, the shooter was pointing a gun at them at close range.

notsureifgunshotI can validate Fry’s thoughts on this…

The Department of Defense provides active shooter training.  Once you realize there is an active shooter, if you can’t escape your goal is to barricade yourself into a room, lock the door and stay quiet.  That works surprisingly well.  Our shooter, intent on finding easy victims, got bored banging on doors that wouldn’t open.  It also delayed him, giving base security more time to respond.

Stopping the shooter because you’re Superman?  Unlikely, at least in the initial moments.  The shooter already has the aspect of surprise. Unless you catch him reloading, he can kill you in a fraction of a second.  Watching our surveillance footage, any Sailor that came within arms reach of the shooter was shot before he could react. When I go back and read other people’s accounts of active shooters, the ones that tackled the shooter typically did so while the shooter was reloading, or it was after the initial shock was over.

active_shooter_exercise_aims_to_strengthen_response_160401-z-bc699-098If you don’t have a gun, you wind up like the guy on the floor. Image from Wikipedia

An active shooter is absolutely terrifying to contemplate, but inside the situation it’s actually more confusing than anything else.  I’m glad to see the DoD is now allowing personnel to carry weapons on base, because it is frightening how quickly someone can kill multiple people before the police show up.  Our shooter was only walking and had to reload manually, yet he managed to kill a lot of people before the police response time.  Luckily, we identified areas we can fix, and I think the body count the next time won’t be so high.

My only wish at the end was that I share my experiences with non-military members, so that if they found themselves facing an active shooter, they could learn from my drill mistakes and perhaps save their life.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other agency.  Please pray for the victims of active shooters, including the knifing victims recently at Ohio State.  And if you’re in the military, take your Active Shooter training seriously…it might just save your life!


If you liked this article, check out my blog.

trump_china
Trump’s recent phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen has sparked a not too surprising response from Beijing:

“We must point out, there’s is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” read a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who has been watching Chinese-American relationships in the past decade isn’t surprised by this.  To an American, Taiwan has been de-facto separated by China, and many people don’t understand why they don’t just give it up at this point.

trump_taiwan

The biggest problem with this thinking is that China has sold itself on the reunification with Taiwan.  It’s not just a lot of press, it’s written into their constitution:

Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China. It is the lofty duty of the entire Chinese people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the great task of reunifying the motherland.

To put it into American perspective, it would be like giving Florida back to Spain, despite it being an American state for so long.

Although the phone call appears almost random, I’m guessing it’s not, and that it’s a deliberate overreach by Trump.  He knows that President Obama has too often gotten the snub by China.  China plays the long game, and doesn’t deliberately piss people off unless it feels it has the upper hand.  After watching the US fumble foreign policy with China and give them essentially what they want, China feels like it can push the US around to a certain extent.

Trump gets better deals negotiating from a position of power.  If he approached China in a normal manner, they would seize upon every diplomatic way they could to undermine his legitimacy as President.  So instead, he hits them between the eyes by pounding on a very sensitive diplomatic button.

I predict the following:

  • China will do something to show they still “control” Taiwan.  A military exercise, shoot off missiles, cyber attack…something like that.  Enough to get attention, but small enough to be diplomatically written off by the US if they want to.
  • This action will let China reassure its people, and plenty of people will advise Trump to just let it go.
  • Trump won’t, because he knows if he does, he starts off at a place of weakness.  So, he’ll do something out of the box that will scare the Chinese:
    • He could dismantle the alliance China has built up over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  If the US stops the UN from helping the bank, it would be a massive blow to Chinese pride.  Trump could selectively woo countries away from the bank and leave China holding a large bag of debt.
    • He could conduct a military exercise that would scare China.  A freedom of navigation drive-by would be too lame.  If President Trump practiced a maritime blockade of China, and deliberately built an alliance (think Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, all of whom have reasons to hate China), it could rattle the Chinese.  They want to win in a short, sharp conflict, and know that a long, drawn out blockade could strangle them in the long run.
    • He could buy off Chinese overseas investment.  China has put considerable money in African and Asian countries to try and break out of the First Island Chain.  Trump is the master deal maker, and if he dismantled those deals one by one, it would damage the international image that China wants to portray.

Make no mistake, Trump is walking into the China-Taiwan situation deliberately, and it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with to negotiate from a position of strength.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other organization’s viewpoints.


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openfloorplanLook at any listing for a modern house. I’m willing to bet that two things are present:

  1. An open floor plan, meaning that on the base level, one room opens into another.
  2. Almost all listings will have multiple pictures of the kitchen and almost no pictures of the garage.

kitchenThat’s a nice kitchen…but what about the smoking room?

The modern home listing is, frankly, very sexist.

Think about it. In almost every family I’ve seen, while both husband and wife cook, the wife organizes and runs the kitchen. If you don’t believe that, try (as a man) to reorganize your kitchen. Most women will have a serious issue with that. I know my wife did when I tried to clean up numerous drawers in our kitchen recently.

The open floor plan is terribly detrimental to men. For most men, if they get overwhelmed, they have to withdraw to a private space to gather their thoughts and de-stress. Try doing that in an open floor plan. Essentially, I’d have to lock myself in my bedroom, which I (like most) share with my wife.

Complicate this with the desire by many women to kick men’s hobbies out of the home and into the most undesirable rooms like the garage and basement. I see most guys hanging out in the garage because that is the only place they can store their hobby. Personally, I think garages are unheated storage for cars, not your quiet space.

garageAlthough if your garage looked like this and had an easy chair, it might not be so bad

The average guy today is probably told by his father that his house is his castle. He also probably doesn’t feel like that, at least in today’s world.

Layer on top of this:

  • That more men come from families broken by divorce, or in many cases a cohabitating couple that later splits, and lacks a good male role model
  • That society continues to change the bar for men, so it’s hard to define what is “good”

  • That all-male or predominantly-male institutions, including our veteran’s groups and church groups, are increasingly in decline

  • That our stagnant economy makes it hard to get a job, which is a critical expectation of men

  • and we shouldn’t be surprised that young men still commit suicide more often than women and have a lower life expectancy.

    We’ve setup a system that doesn’t inspire creation of good family men. It’s caused more than a few to go on strike, and single, angry, unemployed men don’t work well for any government (just ask Tunisia). The anger may have contributed to many men switching their votes to Trump this last election. It’s my hope that as the dust settles, we as a society take a serious look at what expectations we place on our young men.


    This post is the work of the author and does not represent any other organization’s views. And yes, rearranging things in your kitchen is a good way to stir up marital strife, so proceed with caution!


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    obiwanLike most military members, I was delighted to hear that James Mattis and Mike Rogers were being considered for key positions in the Trump administration. What you’ll hear the next few days is that Mattis is a blood-and-guts Marine and Rogers is an outgoing spook. The media misses the bigger reasons why Trump would want these men on his team.

    First, Trump’s biggest concern is ISIS. Mattis and Rogers have been fighting Islamic terrorism the entire time they’ve worn stars on their shoulders. Both were effective too: Mattis won hard fought victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Rogers retooled the Signals Intelligence system to root out extremist networks.

    mattisWords of wisdom to follow

    Both men are incredibly smart. Mattis is incredibly well read about history, and in his words “there is nothing new under the sun.” He’s often thought of as a modern day Sulla, or if you want a Star Wars reference, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Rogers has been in cyber and signals intelligence his entire career, and from working with him personally, he can follow any technical discussion thrown at him.

    uncryingIt’s probably true…

    Neither man hesitates to shake things up, including firing people. Sadly, our military has grown accustomed to never firing officers unless they drive drunk or surf porn at work. Mattis fired a colonel in Iraq that wasn’t pushing his men hard enough to take Baghdad. Rogers shook up the National Security Agency by redesigning it in the NSA-21 initiative, including identifying poor performing structures and personnel.

    Trump can’t go wrong with either of these men. If he gives them the tools to run their respective organizations, including expanded powers to fire people, he’ll be well on his way to winning America’s wars again.


    This post solely represents the views of the author and does not represent official views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, National Security Agency, or any other portion of the US Government. It’s also slightly biased because I worked for Admiral Rogers before, and he’s awesome.


    If you want more memes of Admiral Rogers as a total cyber badass, try checking out my website.

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q35nwyZzWkWearegettingaWe
    We’re getting a new President, and given Secretary Mabus’ long tour, I’m guessing we’ll get a new Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV).  The next SECNAV will have to tackle a lot of issues.  If you want to score popularity points with the military, there are five issues that would be quite popular with our Sailors:

     

    navyratingIt’s funny because we can’t say “Corpsman” anymore, because we got rid of rating titles AND the word “man”

    Rollback the rating disestablishment.  I don’t think you could find a more despised and needless action then the disestablishment of Navy Enlisted Ratings.  If President Trump wants to score easy points with Sailors, simply restore Sailor’s ratings.  It would be cheaper in the long run (no more studies and training on whatever the new system would be) and certainly less confusing than whatever we would come up with.

    nwufireWe wear a flammable uniform…apparently we never have fires in the Navy.

    Put a 5 year limit on uniform changes.  It seems every other year we are getting a mandated uniform change.  All changes require enlisted Sailors to get extra uniform money to spend on uniforms, which seems like a good deal for uniform suppliers, but a terrible deal for the Navy’s budget.  Limit us to only one new uniform every 5 years, so we can stop wasting money designing flammable, non-camouflage pajamas.

    Ely, past Barracks #1 at #2.It’s not my building…we at least maintain the lawn

    Fix the Military Construction (MILCON) process.  We spent so much money on LCS and the F-35 that we had to rob someone’s piggy bank, so we chose building funds.  If you think that is my opinion, try reading the 2016 budget (emphasis is mine):

    The  Department  has  been  challenged  to  meet  Combatant  Commander  demand  for forces,  and  associated  higher-
    than-planned  operational  tempo,  while  dealing  with the  reality  of  reduced  resources  in  the Budget  Control  Act.    Surgeable  forces  have decreased  due  to  increased  maintenance  on  aging  platforms,  a reduction  in  aircraft and  weapons  procurement,  and  risks  taken  against  support  infrastructure.    This budget  continues  to  put  a  priority  on  readiness  while  maintaining  the  minimum investment  necessary  to maintain  an  advantage  in  advanced  technologies  and weapons  systems.    While  we  have  accepted  some  risk  in  weapons  capacity  and delayed  certain  modernization  programs,  this  budget  provides  us  with  a  plan  to keep the Navy and Marine Corps as a ready, balanced force.

    Our Navy facilities are in poor shape in many places.  Unless you have a 3 or 4 star admiral, you are likely in a dilapidated building that should have been torn down 5 years ago.  My building, for example, was built in 1942, has scaffolding holding up the foundation in the basement, has flooding and cockroach problems (no matter how many times we poison them), struggles to maintain temperature…and it’s one of the nicer buildings on our waterfront.  It, along with many others, needs some new construction fast, something that our incoming President should be familiar with.

    radm_eugene_b_fluckey_colorReview more combat awards, and cut down on other awards.  The guy in the above picture is Eugene Fluckey.  He was a WW2 badass submariner.  He got 4 Navy Crosses and the Medal of Honor for doing daring stuff, including putting his own Sailors ashore on Japan to blow up a train.  He has 4 rows of medals.  Nowadays, I see people who have done nothing close to that walking around with 6 rows of medals.  The sad part is that we hand out more medals for simply showing up to work, but we’re so stingy with combat awards, despite being at war for over a decade.

    f_35_bobThis was the nicest F35 meme I could find…

    Fix our broken acquisition process.  If you want a new weapons system, the best way to guarantee success is to ensure the parts are made in as many states as possible.  That will make killing the program in Congress nearly impossible.  Never mind if the weapon isn’t doing the job, or over budget, or eclipsed by technology.  Making our procurement processes buy gear and not be a source of Congressional graft would go a long way.

    vaapptAt least you got some weight loss!

    Actually fire someone in the VA.  Seriously.  Nobody has lost a job, except for the guy on top (and really, he resigned).  A President Trump that goes hospital by hospital firing poor performing employees would get cheered by all sides.  What a perfect image: “You’re fired” from a President who made that his punch line for quite some time.


    This post represents the views of the author alone and does not represent views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other government agency. And no, I wasn’t making the cockroach part up.


    If you liked this story, you’d probably like others on my blog.

    640px-vfw_post_2408_ypsilanti_2I’ve driven by this place before. Image from Wikipedia.

    So I’m a veteran.  I’ve even participated in a foreign war…well, a conflict really, since declaring war went out of style in the 1940s.  I’m relatively young, with a young family, and fairly active in my community, despite moving every few years.  While I’m not that good looking, I’ve got enough going to make me a good poster boy for the VFW.

    But I’m not a member.  It’s not just me, VFW posts around the US are hurting for new members.  As a Rallypoint member, I’ve seen my share of “You should join the VFW!” posts.  Unfortunately, my personal experiences, as well as my dad’s (a Cold War veteran), find the VFW has too many problems:

    frontchoke

    • Female Veterans. VFWs still struggle to understand that yes, women in fact serve in the military as more than just nurses and yeomen (sorry, yeo-persons).  I’ve served with a number of wonderful female officers and enlisted Sailors, and to have them encounter resistance to entry is appalling.

    youdohere

    • Action?  Besides having a hall to rent out and parades to walk in, most VFWs aren’t exactly places of action.  Young vets tend to be healthier and want to be out and about.  While most people enjoy throwing back a beer and sharing sea stories once in a while, that can’t be your main draw anymore.

    emailthanksgiving

    • Updating with the times.  The VFW was slow to jump on the revolution in social media.  The sad part is that while it is now online, it’ll likely be too slow to adapt to whatever comes next.  If you want an organization that quickly adapts to it’s younger members, check out the NRA, which keeps it’s core mission while tailoring messages for women, minorities and police forces.

    The really sad part of this is that if you look into the VFW’s history, this isn’t a surprise.  The VFW struggled to recruit members after the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and only did so when their existing membership began passing away in large numbers.  If they didn’t learn then, I can’t say I hold out a lot of hope for them learning now.


    This post is the opinion of the author and doesn’t reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. All images used were labeled for reuse on the internet.


    If you’d like to read about how I’d change the VFW to be better, check out my blog.

    220px-fort_calhoun_power_plant_1Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant, another victim of the anti-nuclear movement

    This week, covered up by election coverage, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant closed down for good. Somewhere, a whole bunch of anti-nuclear activists are cheering. To replace Fort Calhoun, Omaha Power will instead use coal fired plants in Nebraska City, unless of course the future President Clinton shuts down coal, in which case Omaha will just not have enough power.

    Fort Calhoun’s problems are just the surface of a growing threat to the future of nuclear energy in America. More nuclear plants are closing, and we aren’t building replacements. The soaring cost of nuclear regulation is piling on to what should be cheap power. The building of nuclear plants requires high level engineering work, something that normally brings in stable, long-term and high paying jobs.

    But not anymore. I keep in touch with a headhunter that places nuclear-trained officers (like myself) into jobs after they leave the Navy. He sent a very depressing email to his distribution group, where he declared that he would no longer place officers in the commercial nuclear field:

    The promise of cheap power via commercial nuclear was supposed to be its big advantage.  It was once even touted as “too cheap to meter!”  But it is economics that are now killing the industry.  Utilities are deciding it’s less expensive to close plants that are already operating than continue their operation.  Think about that:  it’s more economical to idle billions of dollars worth of existing infrastructure and spend the money to be build new generation facilities.  That’s crazy and a powerful indication of how uncompetitive commercial nuclear power has become.

    We at -redacted- believe that strong professional successful Navy Officers should now avoid jobs and careers in commercial nuclear power and are suspending our relationships with our corporate clients in that sector.  If a career in commercial nuclear power is your focus, we will not be a good career transition resource for you.

    Recent and future nuclear power plant closings and changes:

    • San Onofre in CA closing
    • Diablo Canyon in CA closing
    • Crystal River in FL closing
    • Vermont Yankee in VT closing
    • Pilgrim in MA closing
    • Kewaunee in WI closing
    • Harris in SC, 2 plants cancelled
    • Levy County in FL shifting from nuclear to natural gas
    • Comanche Peak in TX, 2 plants cancelled
    • Quad Cities in IL closing
    • Clinton in IA closing
    • Oyster Creek in NJ closing
    • And more are coming…

    I have a former Naval Officer friend that worked at San Onofre who confirmed all this bad news. She has since left with her husband for a completely different career field.

    pm2anuclearpowerplantModular nuclear plant? That’s so 1960’s

    Meanwhile, China is rapidly building nuclear capacity, growing their engineering base in the process. Now they have designed a small reactor capable of providing 6 MW of power, enough to power a small island (South China Sea anyone?). Although the media is touting this as an accomplishment, it’s not. The Army built a number of small reactors, the Navy currently operates reactors on its submarines and aircraft carriers, and even the Air Force attempted to make nuclear powered aircraft. And this was back in the 60’s and 70’s. If we had continued investing in nuclear power, we could have closed our dirty coal plants and lowered electricity costs, perhaps enabling us to build the renewable energy sources for long-term electrical generation. Instead, we’re taking a second seat to China.


    This post is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.


    If you enjoyed this article, check out my blog and perhaps buy my kids book. And, instead of paying 5 dollars for a latte from Starbucks that they’ll use to fund Planned Parenthood, you should consider sending that to Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar instead.

    Lastly, please say a prayer for all the families of the engineers affected by Fort Calhoun’s shutdown. They now have to find new employment, and it’ll be hard on them for the next few years.

    cga_comey_podium
    Director Comey speaking at the Coast Guard Academy.

    As a sponsor family to a Coast Guard Academy Cadet, I have access to some unique opportunities. One such opportunity presented itself on Tuesday when my cadet texted me. “Director Comey is speaking at the Coast Guard Academy on Thursday. Would you like to come?”

    Who wouldn’t! Despite a long day at work, I put on a service dress uniform, met my cadet on campus, and walked together up to Leamy Hall. Since the cadets were allowed to ask questions, I asked him what ground rules had been set by the Academy.

    “They said the focus was race, and to not ask anything about Hillary Clinton.” I thought the race part was interesting, and no surprise about Clinton. I explained that even if a cadet was brash enough to ask, the Director would likely deliver one or two prepared sentences and move on, and you would have lost the opportunity to get a legitimate answer to a question.

    cga_comey_upstairsThe view from my seat.

    Director Comey started his hour talking about leadership, specifically that good leadership requires both kindness and toughness. He is a very good speaker, and obviously very comfortable getting in front of crowds. He’s also really tall, FYI.

    Then he talked about race, specifically the issues surrounding African-Americans and police enforcement. His first big point was that we needed more accurate data to get an idea of how to tackle this problem. He brought up the Harvard study that showed lethal force was more likely against whites, but non-lethal force was more likely against blacks. He wants police officers out of their cars, because “It’s hard to hate up close.” He worried that if policing becomes viewed as an undesirable occupation, then he will struggle to attract good men and women to the force.

    cga_comey_lineupCadets line up to ask Director Comey questions.

    Then he brought up Hillary Clinton, which was a surprise. He hit a number of points:

    • That he assigned some of the best people to that case.
    • That they rendered their decision without political pressure.
    • That seven layers of managers agreed with it before he did as well.

    He also brought up the most important point of the evening, that even if Hillary Clinton had been an FBI agent, while she would have been disciplined, she wouldn’t have been prosecuted, because we historically don’t prosecute people for those crimes.

    He has a point. We’ve had a number of high level people mess up classified handling, and while they get fined, most never serve jail time.

    “But this guy was fired from the military!” Yes, that is true in plenty of cases. But the difference is that the military is exercising Non-judicial punishment and Courts Martial authority. It’s NOT a trial. The removal from the military in most cases is done at an Administrative Separation board. While it’s not pretty for the person involved, it doesn’t result in jail time.

    So I can see Director Comey’s point. But that brings up a bigger issue. We spend billions to generate classified information, then we fail to protect it because we let people off when they exercise poor judgement. It’s sad when you spend more efforts attacking law-abiding citizens then prosecuting chumps that hide classified in their socks.

    If Congress is so enraged over Director Comey’s decision, then start by clamping down on our fickle laws over classified information. Add minimum sentences to mishandling, especially for politicians and other civilians. Start putting people in jail for gross mishandling.

    What Hillary Clinton did was wrong. There is no denying that. Personally I find it terrible, and it sickens me that most people seem to shrug it off, not understanding the damage that was done. The fact that it’s happened in the past so many times, without Congressional action to fix it, makes it even worse. At some point, we as a nation need to decide how much we care about classified information and how it is handled.


    The views expressed above are of the author and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.


    You should check out my blog here, and hit up Da Tip Jar!

    disarmament

    If you watch the news, you might not realize that on the Navy’s birthday, the USS MASON had already been attacked twice from Yemen. Or that we sentenced an NCIS agent to 12 years in prison for a massive Pacific scandal. The Navy isn’t as interesting as our Presidential election, which is why you’ve probably missed that it’s being slowly dismantled.

    Consider these points:

    hsvWhat happens to aluminum hulls when they meet missiles. From MarineLog.com
    • We’ve purchased the next generation of warship, the Littoral Combat Ship, where we focused on speed. Yet it’s hull is aluminum, it lacks a lot of firepower, and despite being billed as being cheaper, we aren’t getting a lot of cost savings.
    • We’ve changed personnel procedures to allow transgender personnel, without having first fixed our broken health care system, so we setup the system for failure before even getting out of the gate.
    • We completely dissolved our Navy rating system so that we could better align with the civilian sector. Never mind that we had multiple programs to make it easy to transition from the Navy. We also changed the retirement structure. It’s almost like we don’t want career Sailors anymore, and certainly not any with warfighting experience.
    • We’ve spent millions on multiple uniform changes, but many of us are still working in dilapidated buildings built in the 30’s and 40’s, and we’re told there isn’t any military construction money to help us.
    • We ignored offensive sea weapons, and now the Chinese and Russians have missiles that can strike us long before we ever get within firing range.

    The Chief of Naval Operations said the Navy was to focus on three tenets: Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready. USS MASON was certainly ready to strike against an adversary in Yemen, but are we building a Navy that can keep us safe from Russia and China? Maybe that question isn’t as enthralling a discussion as the Presidential election, but it certainly is one we should be having.


    The views in this post do not reflect the official views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other branch of the US government. They belong solely to the author.


    If you’re curious about the Navy rating disestablishment, check out my post here.

    trumpsaid

    There has been a lot of debate over remarks Donald Trump made about our veterans and PTSD. He was accused of saying many veterans were weak and unfit, leading to a rise in PTSD. In reality, Trump was misquoted by the media, although no one should be surprised by this.

    Although The Donald didn’t say it, there is some truth to the accusations that some military members are more susceptible to PTSD than others. Although PTSD numbers are hard to come by, suicide numbers are much easier, and I think we can safely say that trends in suicide will probably closely resemble suicide trends.

    To start analyzing, we need to know what the military suicide rate is. Historically, we can get some data for the 80s and 90s:

    militarysuicide8093Source: National Mortality Profile of Active Duty Armed Forces

    But that was the 90s, and things are different now. A more recent look can be found in a RAND study:

    dodsuiciderate

    Taken at face value, and compared to a national average of 10 suicides per 100,000 people, it looks like active duty military are killing themselves 50% more than normal.

    But what is normal? The population of America is about 50/50 male/female, yet the military is primarily male, and weighted towards the 18-25 year old crowd. Conveniently, these people have a particularly high average suicide rate that hovers around 20-25 per 100,000. When compared to that, the military rate is actually much lower than normal.

    But what about that rise? It’s pretty obvious that from 2006 we see a rise in suicide rates. Obviously the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on troops.

    But the timing doesn’t make sense. Afghanistan casualties were fairly steady up to 2008. Casualties in Iraq were already steady by 2006, and in fact went down in 2008 onwards, yet the suicide rate continued rising. And when the Army looked into it, a full one-third of the suicides had no deployment history. The wars causing the rise in suicides doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny.

    This is where the insider piece helps. As a Navy guy stationed previously at an Army base, I couldn’t help but notice with disgust the number of fat Army troops walking around. This wasn’t simply inter-service rivalry. I looked into it, and found the Army was waiving body fat requirements more so in 2006 and onwards in order to meet an increase in end strength. Local unit commanders confirmed that it wasn’t just body fat. Non-violent felonies, mental health issues, and all sorts of other conditions that the Army would previously screen out were being waived.

    So what happens when you are no longer taking from the best part of the population, and instead are taking more average people? In the Army’s case, you get more average-people problems. The suicide rate rose to the average 18-25 year old male rate.

    I’ll go out on a limb here. While PTSD can strike anyone, it is far less likely to strike the average soldier we recruited in 2002 than the soldier recruited in 2007. We had to lower recruiting standards to fill a wartime need, and we did it without providing the proper medical support for those people. As a nation, at some point we will need to come to grips with that decision.

    Which means Donald Trump was right when he said

    “when you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it. But a lot of people can’t handle it. And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it.”

    If we want to help our veterans struggling with PTSD, let’s start by using statistics to help us tackle the right problem first. Stop blaming the wars and start fixing the poor choices we made as a nation.


    This post solely represents the view of the author and does not represent the official views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other branch of the US government.


    If you’re a great American and want to help fight suicide and PTSD, you can donate to a variety of places, or go volunteer at your local VA hospital. If you know someone that needs help, tell them to call the Military One Source Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, because one suicide is one too many.