On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

Break it Down Like This

July 31, 2015, 11:26AM

Marines observe an explosion during a demolition range in Southwest Asia, July 17. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Leah Agler Marines observe an explosion during a demolition range in Southwest Asia, July 17. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Leah Agler

Military service members are often diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, but it’s a diagnosis that comes long after they’ve left the battlefields they serve on, which can come at a cost to their quality of life, as well as costing time and money. But that may soon change.

Currently, most combat zone TBI tests are based purely on symptoms such as headaches, nausea and light sensitivity. Based on those symptoms, medics decide whether the patient needs a CT scan, which is used to diagnose a person with a brain injury. But CT scanners are big, bulky and expensive, so in order for wounded warfighters to use one, they have to be shipped from the front lines to a facility that has a machine, and that could be far away.

Plans to essentially shrink brain scanning technology so it’s battlefield-accessible are on the way.

The Ahead 200 device is being designed to work with a smartphone to quickly assess traumatic brain injuries. Photo courtesy of BrainScopeThe Ahead 200 device is being designed to work with a smartphone to quickly assess traumatic brain injuries. Photo courtesy of BrainScope

“What we’re looking for [on the front lines] is something that measures the actual function of the brain, other than just asking people some questions,” said Army Col. Dallas Hack, the director of combat casualty care for the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

A new Food and Drug Administration-approved device is expected to revolutionize how quickly a TBI can be diagnosed. The device consists of a headset and disposable sensors that attach to an Android smartphone, which is used as a mini computer in the field. It measures brain electrical activity and then analyses the data using algorithms to correlate them to elements relating to TBI.

“That then allows them to make some very significant decisions about patient care,” said Michael Singer, the president of BrainScope, the company working with Army researchers on the device.

The device is expected to help save time, manpower, money and lives by telling medics who really needs to be taken off the battlefield.

 “There’s no other technology like it today,” Singer said of the new device. “From start to finish, the test takes about 10 minutes, and then at the end of it, it gives the caregiver a rapid reading as to whether the patient does or doesn’t have some form of structural brain injury.”

While the device will help evaluate patients in the field, Singer said it’s not to be used as a replacement for a CT scan. Instead, it should be used in conjunction with it.

Researchers are still developing the next version of the device, which they’re working toward having available for military use in the next year.  Singer said researchers are also working on another platform that will focus purely on concussion assessment.

Katie Lange is a writer with DoD News.

Osprey Overhead

July 30, 2015, 11:23AM

A U.S. Air Force CV-22B Osprey gives a demonstration of its capabilities during the Royal International Air Tattoo on Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, July 19. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best A U.S. Air Force CV-22B Osprey gives a demonstration of its capabilities during the Royal International Air Tattoo on Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, July 19. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best

Giving Directions

July 29, 2015, 11:22AM

Marine Corps Sgt. Donald Jackson trains enlistees in Yakima, Washington, July 17. Jackson is a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder Marine Corps Sgt. Donald Jackson trains enlistees in Yakima, Washington, July 17. Jackson is a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder

Jumping Back In

July 28, 2015, 11:21AM

U.S. Army Sgt. Sean Fitzgibbons, right, re-enlists before a joint airborne jump at a drop zone in Nurmsi, Estonia, July 23. Army photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt U.S. Army Sgt. Sean Fitzgibbons, right, re-enlists before a joint airborne jump at a drop zone in Nurmsi, Estonia, July 23. Army photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt

Towering Challenge

July 27, 2015, 11:20AM

Soldiers rappel from a 100-foot tower during a sapper leader course on Camp San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., July 19. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret Soldiers rappel from a 100-foot tower during a sapper leader course on Camp San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., July 19. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

Angels Upside Down

July 24, 2015, 8:36AM

The Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, perform a line loop maneuver during a practice demonstration at the Oregon International Air Show in Hillsboro, Oregon, July 17. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrea PerezThe Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, perform a line loop maneuver during a practice demonstration at the Oregon International Air Show in Hillsboro, Oregon, July 17. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrea Perez

Up for Air

July 23, 2015, 12:26PM

A soldier takes a breather after swimming 25 meters during combat water survival training on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, July 17. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel SauretA soldier takes a breather after swimming 25 meters during combat water survival training on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, July 17. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

You’re stressed, your thoughts aren’t straight, and you’re tapping your leg anxiously. But suddenly there’s a little furry head sitting on your lap, reminding you to calm down.  You start petting that furry little head, and next thing you know, you’re feeling a lot better.

That’s the kind of therapy that comes with the Warrior Canine Connection, which uses service dogs to help wounded service members with physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

“It’s a great non-traditional form of therapy that doesn’t come off as therapy at all,” said Allison Proctor, the dog training instructor at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which treats PTSD and TBI patients.

Photo courtesy of Warrior Canine Connection.Photo courtesy of Warrior Canine Connection.

About a third of the dogs with the Warrior Canine Connection work at hospitals or outpatient facilities like NICoE. The rest stay with their dedicated puppy parent, and their job depends on that person’s role in the community. The dogs at NICoE are still in training and will eventually be placed with wounded warriors, but while they’re there, they give active-duty patients a renewed sense of purpose.

“Knowing that these dogs are going to be placed with veterans who need help, [the patients] will do anything for their brothers and sisters. So, you’ll find that they’ll jump at the chance to work with the dogs,” Proctor said.

The patients make sure the dogs aren’t uncomfortable, scared or overexcited, and they get great therapy in return. The dogs are trained to recognize and respond to stress cues — a tapping foot, a head in the hands, pacing.

Service dog Lily gives a big kiss to a WCC dog training instructor. DoD photo by Katie Lange Service dog Lily gives a big kiss to a WCC dog training instructor. DoD photo by Katie Lange “There’s a chemical smell that’s associated with all our emotions,” Proctor said. “When you’re in an anxious state and your leg is tapping, [the dogs] come closer and close the gap. They realize that, for some reason, that indicates to give this person extra attention.”

Proctor tapped her own knee in demonstration. Derek, a 2-year-old black lab, came over pretty quickly and put his head in her lap. Pups Bre, Lily and Casey were right on her tail. A petting session then ensued.

The only side effects are dog hair and drool.

The dogs also remind the service members how to relate to other people.

“You’re the one in charge of making this dog comfortable, and … you realize how much of an effort you might have to put into your own relationships at home,” Proctor said.

One NICoE patient was really focused on making sure his pup-in-training, Lundy, went to a service member who really needed it. But the patient built such a strong bond with Lundy that, when it was time to place the dog, the trainers realized they couldn’t put it with anyone else.

“This dog has had such a great impact on this guy’s healing that, for him to go to someone else, that bond probably won’t be as strong,” Proctor said.

But, like many service members, it took him a lot of convincing because he was set on his mission — giving the dog to someone else.

“It was us as an organization that said, ‘Maybe you should take Lundy.’ And that gave him permission to say, ‘This is what I actually wanted,’” Proctor said. “There was just a giant smile on his face, because he would have never asked for him.”

Katie Lange is a writer with DoD News.

Green Drop Zone

July 21, 2015, 11:44AM

A U.S. airman parachutes to the ground during high-altitude, low-opening jump training at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 18. Green smoke marks the drop zone to guide the pararescuemen to their landing point. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford A U.S. airman parachutes to the ground during high-altitude, low-opening jump training at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 18. Green smoke marks the drop zone to guide the pararescuemen to their landing point. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford

Hot Topics for July 17

July 17, 2015, 2:34PM

Tetris video game may ease PTSD, study suggests (Military Times)  

The View From Inside Syria (Audio): (NPR)

Russia and its oil are likely to be losers in Iran deal (CNBC)

Where are my fries?' Navy not all happy with more nutritious menu (Christian Science Monitor) 

Sand Struggle

July 17, 2015, 11:55AM

Marines push an M151 jeep out of the sand during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Lee Point, Australia, July 12. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Louis RojasMarines push an M151 jeep out of the sand during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Lee Point, Australia, July 12. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Louis Rojas

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jude Joseph, a medical technician with the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, saved the life of a child who was found at the bottom of a swimming pool July 2. 

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jude Joseph, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician and eight-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, poses in front of the 944th ASTS building July 8. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jude Joseph, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician and eight-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, poses in front of the 944th ASTS building July 8. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder Joseph is a member of the Air Force Reserve and also an eight-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department. In that capacity, he responded to a 911 call and was the first to arrive at a residential backyard to find two children lying on the poolside patio.

"My immediate thought was that I have two babies who need help,” Joseph said. “I needed to triage the worst-injured, but still provide some care to the other baby and update [the] Phoenix Fire [Department] with information."

Quickly assessing the situation, he instructed a man who was with the children to monitor the child who was vomiting, and he administered CPR and rescue breathing to the unresponsive child until Phoenix Fire arrived.

Tragedy Averted

"Both children were transported to a local hospital and doctors are reporting that not only are the children expected to survive this near tragedy, but they are cautiously optimistic the children will recover with no permanent effects of the drowning," Phoenix police officials said in a statement. "Officer Joseph’s immediate response to the home, his calmness under great pressure and his training all contributed to the recovery of the 1- and 2-year-old victims."

Joseph said his CPR and emergency medical technician training taught him to keep the first baby's airway clear due to vomiting and to check the second baby for "CAB," short for circulation, airway and breathing.

Joseph has been with the 944th ASTS for almost 12 years, and he credits his success to the military and civilian training he's received. “To be able to assist in saving the lives of two babies in one incident using my training as a med tech was great," he said.

Perimeter Practice

July 16, 2015, 7:54AM

Marines set up a perimeter after a tactical insertion with an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft as part of an amphibious assault during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Louis RojasMarines set up a perimeter after a tactical insertion with an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft as part of an amphibious assault during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Louis Rojas

Beware of Andy

July 15, 2015, 11:49AM

Army Spc. Anthony Andrews, background, watches as Andy, his military working dog, chases a role player during training on Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, on June 27. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David WheelerArmy Spc. Anthony Andrews, background, watches as Andy, his military working dog, chases a role player during training on Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, on June 27. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Wheeler