“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, December 29, 2013

During my three minutes in office, after which I would have been forcibly removed...

As approached by many throughout the years, here is my little "things that I'd fix if it was up to me" list for Congress - inspired by Daddybear's recent version, Tam, and P.J. O'Rourke amongst others.

No, not all ideas are my own. And they're posted in the meticulous order of "as I thought of them while typing." Not an all inclusive list, but bound to spin a few heads.
Of course they're not all logical or easily done. Welcome to my soapbox, deal!

- #1, absolutely - term limits. Whether it's your local sheriff or Washington "insiders," the career politician has done more damage to this country in the past two centuries than anything else. So - 3 terms in public, elected office maximum in your life - whether dogcatcher, state governor, or president. Once you had your bite at the apple move on. This solves the issue of people camping out in office for one, and returns politics to a duty spread amongst a wide majority of citizens over time.
- Just to piss off Chicago and New York, we'll deal with nepotism too. Once you've held an office no member of your immediate family (parents/children/siblings/spouses) can hold the same office, ever. Get the Daley's and the like out of politics and back to running junkyards or something.
- Congress/The President/etc will be paid a stipend set at the median wage for D.C. during the time of their office. No sitting up there soaking up money from the taxpayer. Oh, and no retirement or other benefits - serving in office is a privilege, not a ticket to entitlement.
- After leaving office no working as a lobbyist, or you (or family members) benefiting from ANY federal contract for a minimum of five years. We'll go ahead and include military retirees in that as well, to cut down on the problems with flag officers padding their retirement portfolios with pet projects.

- There are about 4400 words in the U.S. Constitution. No law, statute, regulation or other guiding legislation is allowed to be longer than this. If you can't explain it in the same or fewer words than how to run a country start trimming.
- No law, regulation, etc will be passed that does not apply equally to every member of the legislature, administration, judiciary, their families, staffs etc - if it's good enough for us it's good enough for them.
- Similarly, any new legislation must be able to specifically cite the article of the Constitution giving the Federales such authority - if not, it's kicked back down to the States.
- No more Congress policing itself - we need oversight on the system as a whole, and not some appointed body or fact finding commission. Whether the so-called "House Ethics Committee" of recent years, or the laughable farce of attempting to hold the current head of Justice accountable for anything beyond his name, if the people can't trust that wrongdoing at every level will be punished than faith in the system is absent.

- Budget, budget, budget - always room for some fun here. #1, no more deficit spending. Make the books balance, if you can't then start cutting programs. In fact, we'll start with an immediate 10% budget cut across the board - actual budget, not shuffling numbers, and no exceptions for pet programs, benefits, entitlements or whatever.
- Flat income tax and corporate tax. No deductions or breaks, no loopholes. This addresses both the fact of half the nation not paying taxes, as well as ensuring everyone "pays their share" - since it's equal across the board. Plus, it doesn't remove incentives for success - make more, keep more.

- If we can start putting caps and cuts on military benefits we can do the same for Social Security, welfare, and the like.
- Speaking of - a radical welfare reform. No more long-term unemployment without job seeking or retraining, no multi-generation welfare families and the like.
- Similarly, let's cut down on benefit abuse. Found selling your benefits, letting 47 people live in your subsidized housing, or otherwise gaming the system (oh, that goes for disability too) - you're off the program forever.
- Drugs. Always a touchy subject. While I personally don't approve of them and have seen the damage, the Drug War has done more damage to the rights and safety of our citizens than drugs ever did. So - I guess we can treat them like alcohol or other adult behaviors. But we can also include the same kinds of penalties - you commit crimes on/because of dope, you get harsher sentences. You want to work in certain jobs or get your public benefits, then drug testing is on your agenda too. You want to get clean then we'll help as a nation, but if you want to abuse then you deal with the consequences.

- While we're on crime let's return to real prison sentences for real crimes. No more slaps on the wrist and then everyone wonders why this went so bad eventually... but also no more of this life sentence for a pound of weed crap that is clogging our jails. Repeat offenders? Hammer em.
- Let's not leave the police out of this. Return to ideals like the 4th amendment. Corrupt cops? Throw the book at them. SWAT entries on all these warrants? Film them all, subject to review at any time by the citizenry. If we can't defend what we're doing in the light of day than we need to rethink our actions. And let's return to worrying about actual crimes, not an EPA SWAT team investigating the possible overwork of a gold mine by two hours on the third Friday in spring during a glacial runoff...

- Immigration - while this country was built on immigrants it was built on legal immigration mostly. And there are far too many talented people worldwide working their butts off to get here the right way. So, here's the Captain's amnesty program. You have sixty days, we'll even help you get to the border. Once you leave all your immigration related offenses are forgiven and you get a clean slate in that department (though not any other criminal acts). Following that you can enter legally like everyone else. Heck, we'll encourage your entry - to become a member of this country, to learn the language, and to partake of our society. I'm all for respecting your heritage, but if your goal isn't to become an American first before any other identity than find someplace else.
- I like Heinlein's idea, but think we can make it even more workable for "citizenship."  From age 18-20 EVERYONE does national service, whether it be the military, peace corps type work (domestically we need it for the infrastructure and inner cities desperately), or just helping clean your city. This will help get an even playing field back for those of the privileged who have forgotten what the real world is like, as well as at least some discipline and training for everyone. Plus, let's face it, most kids that age aren't ready for college beyond as a party time anyway, and this gives them some focus. THEN, if you want the privilege of citizenship and voting or running for office, you do an extra two years in national service, to show at least some modicum of public responsibility.
- Restructure the military. Get rid of our top-heavy officer corps and too gorram many flag officers. We have the most professional military in history possibly, but it is led by the most panty-waisted, self-promoting, risk-adverse leadership possible. Fix it.
- Speaking of, we're done being the world's policeman for free. Strict isolationism is unrealistic in this global age, but if we have to step in then someone is helping foot the bill - be it multinational, the aggressor nation, or the ones asking for help. No, this doesn't make us mercenaries - this means we're not spending trillions of dollars to protect nations like Saudi Arabia from their neighbors while they rape us in oil costs.
- While we're on foreign policy, a ten year cap on foreign aid to any nation. If you can't get your crap together by then it's beyond our problem. Free trade and help that way? Absolutely - but we're done giving handouts when we can't pay our own bills.
- Attack the nation and there won't be any of this "Oh, we'll declare war on a noun" crap. Immediate, overwhelming response is what defeats bullies. We won't pick on anyone, but don't mistake that for weakness.

- I most heartily approve of DB's example regarding no more subsidies for industry. There is no business "too big to fail" - if you can't make it work than find a new plan or call it quits. This also ties in with above issues of political/military cronyism in industry, and corruption as a whole.
- Social issues are fun too. Guess what - marriage is a civil/religious deal between consenting adults - no business of the government. Similarly, that means you don't get benefits, tax breaks, or the like just for being married. Want to marry three women and two guys, and your church approves it? Knock yourself out & have fun figuring out those living arrangements.

- Similarly for your lifestyle choices. As long as all involved are consenting adults and you're not harming anyone else, whatever. But that also means you don't get to flaunt it in the faces of everyone anymore than anyone else does. Live and let live people.
- Finally, and probably equally important with the first - secession. You know what - this country was founded on freedom and such the ability to separate when needed from a government you don't agree with. Why don't we return to that? You don't like my ideas (New York and California, I'm talking to you) - feel free. Declare your independence, we won't fight it, and we'll open diplomatic relations as soon as you're willing. Hack it as a nation under your own rules and it's not our place to judge.

I could probably come up with twenty others easily. But I'll start with that bit just for laughs and commentary.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't be fooled

Venturing into one of my rare political commentaries here. Brought on by the latest little change to veteran/disability payments, but can be reflected in a number of other events over the past few years.

If you're under any illusion that you have "representatives" in Washington D.C. these days you are sadly mistaken. Whether it be healthcare, international relations, the budget, banking, military action, or the role of the town dog catcher those days are long gone.

It is far too apparent that every one of them feels their role is to rule over the masses, because they "know better" - and that our opinions, desires, and entreaties do little to nothing to influence how they vote or legislate.

And - whatever your party flavor, don't think there is a significant difference between how either has acted over the past decade + - or that the opposition won't gladly turn around and pull the same crap.

Where this leaves us I don't even want to ponder, but I feel safe (if sad) saying that our days as a representative republic are gone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An new, old thing

   Many of the young'un's in the "tactical" arena may not remember the dark days of the 80's and 90's - when there weren't three thousand dealers of various nylon bags, pouches, accessories and the like, in everything from black to the latest Unobtanium-Camouflage shades, all at the click of a web button. Yes, at one time your choices were straightforward issued gear, or doing some work with a needle and thread on your own - or if you were super lucky, paying the local Asian laundry seamstress or the nearest parachute rigger to modify something just a bit.

   Yes, some of you may not know it, but many of the designs you take for granted today such as the "three day/assault pack," the "dump pouch" or "modified chest rigs" were born out of a guy somewhere going "I like this but damn I wish it had X... what can I do?"

   And then came the dual scourge/blessing of the internet and a prolonged military conflict. Now anyone with a heavy duty sewing machine and a few ideas could sell his varied wares to folks world-wide; and the consumer had not just one or two gear choices, but a plethora which would make anyone dizzy to truly comprehend. Packs in this and that color. Belts with or without accessories. Clips and straps and dangles and dongles and the latest in technology because you know that unit is using it, I read it on a web forum from a guy who's cousin knows another guy...

   I was just as guilty. You can ask my wife how many packs I've gone through over the years, or how many different little pouches I ordered because "this one is just a bit different and does something better." The standing joke in my old community of "900 pounds of lightweight gear" certainly applied - I had packs, pouches, bags, attachment points, rails, do-dads, thingamajigs and the like pouring out of bins. Because, by God, if I was going downrange on a live device, or making entry on a really bad situation I wanted everything to not only solve the problem at hand, but to also rebuild a civilization, construct a space program, and style my hair while doing so. Anything less would be a waste of all the work that was put into developing the "high speed low drag" kit that was out there.

   But over the past few years, something subtly changed. I got tired of having so. much. crap.  Having to haul it in my truck, carry it on my body, and deal with it when working. Part of it being getting older, not in the condition I was twenty years ago, and physically not the same man. But most of it being a slow mental realization. I don't NEED every available tool right on my body. I can often accomplish the same stuff going old-fashioned with some simpler tools. And I can't say I don't like it. I think the kit I wear on bad calls now is probably half the weight of five years ago, and yet I feel I am probably 200% more effective.

   Which leads to this. Again, I have been victim of pack/rig/nylon of the week fetish as much as any other. But - in so many cases, things would be just "not right." Missing one accessory I wanted. Or overburdened with something. So I'd make do, and just wait for the next big thing to come out and solve the problem.

    But it never did. And with the prices of the quote "specialized" items I often need, that kind of adds up.

   And somehow, about a month ago, something happened. I was looking at one piece of my bomb gear that I "liked" but I didn't "love" - thinking out loud that if it just had "this" it would be much more effective. And, instead of writing them, or Googling and finding someone who might come just that fraction closer, I did something different.

   I picked up a set of scissors, a needle and thread, and some nylon, and I made the changes myself.

   It wasn't the prettiest work in the world - but I used it on a call the very next week and was so much more pleased with the results.

   And it got me thinking. And working. Because, despite what my house looks like, I am slowly working to simplify. So, in the time since, I've tweaked my daily pack to be just that bit better and have what I need. A few more pieces of work stuff. And I'm trying to think through my other things in terms of what needs to go or stay, or to be modified by me instead of someone getting to charge tons of money for the right outsourcing. And it's kind of nice.

   Don't get me wrong. My work certainly isn't lovely enough to sell. And I'm still willing to buy someone else's project should they build the better mousetrap. But, I think it was important for me to remember that I'm capable of my own fixes - and that sometimes, instead of relying on others to "build the perfect tool" it might be better to just head on to the workshop myself.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A new one

Despite what many people think, we don't often hear original insults or commentary in law enforcement. Yes people, the "He's over here, arrest him!" joke when we walk into a business and you point at a coworker thing got old about ten minutes after Sir Peel published his doctrine.

But tonight I heard a new one, from a customer who was drunk, under the influence of narcotics, and with mental health issues - yet still put together numerous times in her string of insults "You burned pieces of fried bacon cops" - we were all quite impressed.

Hadn't heard that one before. Kind of made the whole night worth it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Health Hazards

As my partner and I took care of a bomb call at yet another house this week which made most landfills look sanitary and pretty, he pointed out that we're far more likely to die of some zombie flesh eating plague we get from some hoarder's home than we are of an actual device.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You just can't make this stuff up...

I present to you the following example of a recent call:

"Complainant advised she found a suspicious metal object in the middle of the roadway. She picked it up to prevent a car from hitting it, thinks it looks strange and that it may be an explosive object inside. Complainant has taken the object to her house but is afraid to put it in the trash because she doesn't want the trash can to explode. Requests someone to come look at it."

This is why I'll always have job security.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Video killed the EOD star...

Tonight my six year old daughter got into an extensive debate with me that the pictures I was showing her from work COULDN'T be real explosives, because they didn't look like the TNT in her video games...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Crossover skills

To my coworker who called at 9 tonight...

Yes, I do take apart bombs for a living. That doesn't mean I necessarily know how to diagnose and rewire your water heater.

Just saying.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An observation

If your organization holds training for supervisors and leaders on things like "Team building," "Morale Workshops" and the like, you may rest relatively assured they have lost the root concept of actually fixing such problems.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I'm so proud

My daughter's latest Lego creation?

She made a gallows... to put in the town square of the town she built. Because it needed one.

She wasn't born on Halloween like I had hoped, but she's still my spooky little girl when she wants to be :D

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sometimes you just shake your head

   So recently we were "volun-told" that a few of us would be making an appearance at one of our local housing projects "police community day."  Keep in mind that this is the sort of project that strongly dislikes the police in general, that is a high crime and drug area, and just generally isn't a great place to hang out in. It was clear well in advance that the majority of attendees would be there for free food or giveaways, and not really interested in better community/police relations unfortunately. But, the politicians had decreed to the administration had decreed to us... so off we went on a Saturday. My role there was to hang out for a couple of hours with the vehicle and me visible, and to do a dog demonstration for the attendees at some point. Which brings us to the amusement phase of things...

   Keep in mind that for the vast majority of people (particularly on the thuggish end of things) there are only two sorts of police dogs they think of - patrol dogs, which chase and bite people; and drug dogs, which do the obvious. The fact that we have bomb dogs rarely if ever comes to mind unless you specifically point it out to them. And, I won't deny there have been a few times I might have let people presume one thing when talking to them - but that's a separate story.

   Anyway, here I was on my day off, and all set for my demonstration outside. A five minute talk about the dog, show him finding something and that was the plan. So they make the announcement inside that there is a dog demo outside, and a small crowd of attendees wanders out to watch. And, as soon as I turn and start walking towards the group and they see my partner is a Labrador retriever, and obviously NOT a patrol dog - literally 80% of them turn around and make a beeline back inside. Not even subtly moseying - it was blatantly obvious that they didn't want to be anywhere near that detector dog. Even the upper staff who were there noticed and were dumbfounded. As I just laughed and let my boss know that was pretty much what I had expected to happen...

   And if this doesn't tell you something about the state of things than nothing will.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Just some bits...

- Still a work in progress, but I'm ok. Good days & bad but overall I'm in a better place than a few months ago.

- Finally took a couple of afternoons this week and did some serious yardwork I've been neglecting for years. Trimmed trees and bushes, raked up old crap and all that - and that's just the front yard. Now to slowly tackle the back.

- While "grilling season" never really ends here, with the warmer weather it has become more frequent and also involves letting the kids eat outside on the repaired picnic table as well as marshmallow roasts. To say they are happy is a big understatement.

- Have a birthday coming up this week - not sure yet what I think about that. But at least I made it another year.

Anyway, still alive here. Maybe have something to write soon but felt it needed an update.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Random thought

We do not miss conflict because it is complex or majestic... we miss it because nothing is simpler or more personal.

In war all the confusion and mystery is gone. It is you and the foe, chaos and madness, all distilled into action and reaction at their absolute purest form.

So we once reveled in it... to test yourself, and come home the winner in the ultimate game... and when it is gone forever after it's just a little bit duller in the world.

And how do you explain it without sounding mad?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sign of the times.

So tonight I got a callout... on a suspicious backpack... in a store... that still had the price tag on it.... because it's the brand the store sells...

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Home from the trip after a long day. I have a school paper which is refusing to proceed beyond the "staring at the page" stage of things, and yet is due tomorrow night. I have a wife and kids who haven't seen me in a week and deserve my attention. I have a full week ahead as well.

So, tomorrow will be a juggling act...

A rendezvous...

We see each other just a few times a year... it's almost like an affair the way we will meet when I am here. Because, somehow every trip for training, I find at least a few hours to spend with her. It's purely a private thing as well - nothing I take anyone along for, or tell them about afterwards. Just she and I together for a brief visit. It started four years ago on my first trip here, and ever since we have shared our secret moments.

The mountain rises east of town - it's barely qualified as such compared to many I've seen, but still she dominates the skyline every sunrise, and serves as a point of reference. Given my lack of anything similar nearby though, she serves the purpose.

So, I'll load up a light pack, throw on some shoes and head up to explore her trails. They are oh so cunningly designed - no matter how you choose to explore, the final part returning to your start will be an uphill climb. There was a time in my younger, fitter days I would have relished the challenge of conquering these slopes - seeing how fast I could run up them, striving to beat the mountain into submission and mark it as my own. Imposing my dominance on the landscape as I sought to prove my superiority.

But that was long ago. These days it's much more of a partnership. I know the places I can push hard, I can read her slopes and valleys and judge my pace to match what she presents. Instead of taking my time from the brief visits, I choose to use these moments as a gift, a reminder of the peaks of my own home and people.

And in return she rewards me. A forgotten cistern lying off the trail. The day I turned a curve and was in the middle of a small herd of deer. The spot where a copperhead sunning on a rock regarded me today until we peacefully went our separate ways. For, by accepting her, by living in the moment instead of striving for a victory, the mountain has given me just the barest glimpse of her secrets. I've walked down a path I thought I knew and ended up an hour distant exploring unknown streams. I've glimpsed the bright colors of spring flowers hiding in the brown remnants of winter; and seen the signs of approaching harvest in fat squirrels which have no fear of men they rarely see.

What the mountain gets from my visits is hard to say. The modern man in me of course sees such thoughts as foolish... The Celt sees a romantic notion, a wild spirit empowered by a human who remembers a time when such things mattered. The Native side simply remembers the feeling of the heights in my blood, the simple acceptance of man's place in this great circle, neither greater nor lesser than the other creatures in these wilds. 

It's far too infrequent of a relationship to be called a love affair; rather, it's more of a reminder of something I miss and am not sure I will ever truly regain. The times of me freely wandering the mountains with no agenda or care have been supplanted by other priorities and needs. My life has gone in other directions, and it will be years before I live on such slopes again, or see them from my window as I awake.

But, it's still nice to visit her now and then; to be wrapped in her embrace for just a few hours and forget the past and the future for just a few hours of the present.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gone again

Thanks for the supportive words folks. Hopefully I'll have a quality update soon.

Gone again this week on some more training stuff. Kind of getting tired of the whole "alone in a hotel" thing - it was one thing when I was younger, now I'd just like to be home.

See what I can come up with this week in between stuff.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

So... this post is something that's been gestating in one form or another for over a year now. And, like all things, what I imagined at the conception is quite a bit different from what's actually being born now.
Not sure how this is going to come out in some places, as I'm going to open up doors I usually don't. But I also know that parts of my journey may be something that relates to one or two others out there, and the least I can do is share it. I also can say that you won't get everything - those who know me know that.
We're going to discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There isn't a quiz or anything, but you may learn something. I know I have.

The start of this topic was one night last year when my wife and I ended up watching a television special discussing PTSD, and the shockingly high rates among some people who've served in recent conflicts. They profiled one particular Army platoon from a "regular" unit, which had rates of well over 50% of the soldiers. And this wasn't minor "I have bad dreams" stuff - this was formerly "normal" guys descending into crime, rampant drug abuse, violence, suicide, and other antisocial behaviors to say the least. Part of the show trying to determine why some units, which didn't necessarily experience better or worse conditions than others, seemed to have more or fewer men and women affected.
Well, my wife and I got to talking that night. With my observation being the big difference in reported PTSD issues amongst special operations, EOD and other more or less "elite" units as it were. Similar to the numbers reported amongst SWAT and such among law enforcement as opposed to "regular" patrol folks. The discussion between us focusing on whether it was that the kind of person who makes it through such training tends to be more mentally resilient, or whether the increased training and confidence helps make such things less common. But also some of it kind of descending into the typical "they just couldn't hack it as much" dismissiveness that seems to commonly come up when "we" discussed "them". After all, "we" didn't suffer from PTSD - we went to war, did our time, and came home to move on with things. This will come into play again.
Please note, this is in NO way meant to belittle or dismiss the things these men and women deal with, or to say that such special groups are fundamentally "better" than the line men and women who do different jobs. The demons they suffer from are just as real, and they cope with them in their way.
Anyway, so I had this thought kind of bouncing in my head for a while - wanting to write about it and why it is different people deal with things in different ways - not that I had answers, just opening it for discussion.

So, fast forward to this past few months. As my readers have gathered, I've been dealing with a bunch of stuff - not feeling right, not sleeping well, not eating well and generally not being myself. Where it was putting a strain not only on myself, but on my home life, how I felt about work and life and everything in general. When you lose thirty pounds in a couple of months, and are living on just a few hours of sleep a night, it carries over into everything else around you.
Now, I've had bits like this come up here and there in life before, but it usually doesn't last that long. After three months of this though & noticing a continuing decline in how I felt about things I was at least smart enough to take an internal look and say "things aren't right." At about the same time I was reading some things on PTSD again, and started adding numbers together and coming up with the conclusion there might be a correlation.
Which is a tough spot to be in, for a number of reasons. #1 - again - "that" doesn't happen... I'm better than that. #2 - my mind starts wrapping it around my career, what will this mean to me still being able to work at what I like doing, and all that. #3 - what happens from here? I mean, my mind is wrapped around "those" cases & that's not who I am. #4 - all the labels, particular from the media etc. - where EVERY veteran is a seething pit of PTSD-inspired violence just waiting to explode...  It all adds up to a lot of baggage before you even walk in that door, much less try to do anything about it.
Anyway, I swallowed my pride and made plans to discuss this with my doctor at the VA on my next appointment. Given the alternative is being one of those guys who finally reaches for help after everything in his life has already spiraled down the toilet & THEN has the realization something is wrong. And honestly, my kids were a big part of it too - wanting to be around for them, and not driving them away by issues of my own.
Fortunately my appointment was later that month, and I have a decent doctor. I laid out my concerns and my issues and why I didn't feel right, and he agreed that it would probably be a good idea to talk with one of the mental health professionals and see what they thought. And, I'm very lucky in that I have a good VA hospital here as opposed to the horror stories I've heard from other places out there.
So, off I go to see a counselor. Labels again, but I'm at least open to seeing where this goes. She again listened to my concerns and, at least for me, did it in a way I needed of not judging while also not being over-huggy and let's all feel good.
I did my part too - I told her up front I was going to be honest but that I might not say everything. I laugh too at some of the screening questions they give you in the forms - because I can tell you anyone who knows about interrogation, psychology, and the like knows how to answer them to "avoid" the labels. Again, this is probably key to why some people "show up" more than others.

We talked the first session a couple of hours. I learned a number of things I hadn't thought about ever - parts of which came just from me not knowing, parts from new things we've learned in the past decade. And, some of which I'll be sharing here for your knowledge.
One of the first things that was pointed out is some of the changes in terminology. A soon-to-come change in the literature is going to removing the term "Disorder" from the title... Because, quite frankly, humans when exposed to stress such as combat or similar things, particularly if this lasts more than about a month, are GOING to have some kind of changes and effects in their makeup. Different for different people, but it's simply going to happen. And, the effects are cumulative - it doesn't magically go away when you are out of the situation, and if you are exposed to more stressors of the like it just keeps adding to that bank. So - calling it a "disorder" implies it is abnormal, when the best way to describe it is "a normal reaction to an abnormal situation."
We then compared that to my situation. She was able to point out that between the military and police work, I've basically been exposed to such things for almost 25 years without a real break... as she said "the miracle is that it's taken this long for something to break." Looking at the charts, you can pretty much guarantee that if you've been exposed to more than 3-6 months of such things, then you're 99% likely to have SOME kind of effect; and the 1% who doesn't are your psychopathic and sociopathic personality types.
Next I brought up some of my issues with the screening questions and concerns. How there is a whole lot of "do you run away from/avoid things that remind you of what happened," "do you avoid stressful situations," and the like. Which I'm not saying aren't valid elements for a lot of people, but they certainly don't apply in my case. I mean, I still work with bombs and violence and such every day - it's sort of the job I'm good at. So, #1 I'm wondering if I'm just reading myself wrong and there is something else going on; #2 is if I'm not going to answer things the "right" way to qualify for any help.
Fortunately once more I have a good counselor I'm working with. Again she pointed out that in about 95% of the cases the presentation is the "classical" model that we expect from such surveys and from what we as a society read in the reports. People who do have trouble dealing with society and normal life, who are jumpy around loud noises and have the flashbacks and all that. And, again, not to belittle it - definitely a tough spot to be in. These are the men and women who can't be around those high stress situations without losing it, because their ability to adjust to it is simply overwhelmed.

But - about 5% - and frequently in the communities I've mentioned - the coping mechanisms work differently. We thrive on the stress, we continue to seek it out. The adrenaline and danger junkies, the type A personalities. Because, and this is important, that chaos is the only areas we really feel we CAN control. We bury ourselves in work, in deployment after deployment, in staying just a little while longer doing the job, because we can define our performance there. And because the focus and concentration of doing so tends to isolate the moments and shut the other things out. What is the price? We drive away other people; especially those who haven't "walked the walk." Failed relationships, distance from kids, friends limited to those who do the same job. Obsessing about work and being ready for it, while we ignore other things in life. Often an overwhelming perfectionism towards things WE find important, while blatantly ignoring or neglecting the things we don't. The sort who sits on the edge of the crowd, always watching - except for those moments they find kindred ones, and then everyone else is shut out who isn't in "the club."
Talk about painting a picture of twenty years. I couldn't tell you the number of coworkers on their second/third/fourth marriage/mistress/whatever. The number of times one or the other of us has volunteered for a trip because it was easier than dealing with the "real" world. Because "downrange" - be that in a war zone, or working a beat - is where we are in charge, where we know and control what is going to happen when. I could point every one of these things out time and time again in my peers over my career. And, the thing is, most of us don't even realize it, and certainly wouldn't acknowledge it as an issue. In fact, I can only think of a handful of guys at that level who I can recall coming out publicly and saying "I'm dealing with PTSD." Again, talk about building a wall to keep people from dealing with things.

Needless to say getting this data shown to me kind of helped put some of it in perspective. That it isn't just me, and that we're not "supermen" who are somehow magically immune to the influences of what goes on. That I have peers dealing with the same kind of stuff, and a network I can start working with on it.


So that's more or less where it stands now, at least as far as we're going in this one post. This didn't happen overnight, and a couple of trips to the VA isn't going to resolve it overnight either. 

But, there's at least a label now - which isn't always bad. It's a place on the map to start from. I can't say where the road is necessarily going to end up, but at least I have a reference point and a rudder again. I have a good support system building at the VA, and a wife who is very understanding and working with me on figuring out how this affects our lives and family. It definitely beats trying to figure it all out solo.

Hope you don't mind me sharing at least some of my perspective. Bits more will come over time, but this isn't going to turn into a "my adventures in mental health" blog. However, parts of it I do want to share, particularly if it helps someone else out there. And again, I'm just writing from my experiences and outlook - I don't belittle or think this makes anyone else's better or worse, it's just theirs. 

And, for those of my readers who may have some of their own demons. Sometimes you have to look into the abyss, you have to face those things we want to ignore. Sooner or later it's going to happen, one way or another, so you can choose when or they get to. Just something to think about.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Back home safe from the trip.

Home is great, I am not - but it is a good thing to come home to a loving family, and that helps.

Anyway, I'm working on a sleep deficit which makes the Federal budget look downright skinflint, and I have two papers to get written in the next two days else I fail the semester. So - not going to be on much, but letting the world know I'm sort of alive.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I'll be out of town for a bit over a week, with limited connectivity if any. Posting will resume when I return.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

K9 Veterans Day

First I've heard of this organization, but a good cause - support our military working dogs.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More to come

The VA appointment went well enough. Going back Friday to screen for some other stuff.

Not ready to discuss it more than that at the moment, particularly as this will be some long term stuff. But felt like I should post at least that much.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Brief update

Nothing amazing to share... so just going to do a few bits.

- Dealing w a plumbing crisis at the house for the past couple of days. I can say in all honesty, the fact we have our church pastor stepping in to help with it this week is a blessing beyond words. Since I was getting dangerously close to solving issues using some of my own techniques and tools...

- Health-wise I'm down almost 30 pounds now, which is nice. Had to put a couple more sets of pants and shorts in the "can't wear" pile now. Have an appointment tomorrow at the VA to discuss some of the other things, so we will see how that goes. Probably will be a long-term thing but we shall see.

- Officially, in blunt language, Feinstein can kiss my ass. PTSD is nothing "new" to Iraq; and not every PTSD sufferer is a ticking time bomb waiting to snap and slaughter people. Another example of many of stupid people shaping things to their message.

- Since I leave on a work trip next weekend I have to get a number of things caught up this week in advance - hoping that work, and the citizens etc cooperate and make that easy. Especially so I don't leave the wife swamped with more than she already so graciously deals with...

- Let me say that I'm ready for winter to be over. If we had mountains and real snow it would be one thing, but cold and humid for months on end is getting old.

Otherwise - my brain is all over the place and not focusing as it should, so I'll leave the post at this. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just a bit different...

I'm spending my week in a mental health training class - mixture of cops, fire/ems, medical people etc., so it's a variety of viewpoints and experiences. One of those mandatory things, but so far it's not too bad.

Anyway, today one of the exercises was actually interesting; in that they provided a stress input to all of us to simulate some of what a person might be experiencing during a psychotic episode with auditory hallucinations. We then were put into a variety of situations and asked to perform "normal" tasks as we dealt with this - with varying levels of distraction and effectiveness among the class participants, as would be expected.

So - apparently my performance was a bit abnormal... apparently I displayed almost no significant stress change from all of this as I went through the various tests, which had some of the ones who knew me laughing & those who didn't a bit perplexed. Up until it was explained to them what my particular specialty and background was. As I explained to them - no explosives, no one shooting at me? A few extra voices out there isn't exactly stressful all on their own.

But I do know I got a few strange looks from some of the mental health professionals. Like that's anything knew - we all know bomb guys aren't wired right in the first place!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

You can't make this stuff up

So, finally got a halfway amusing call the other afternoon/evening - one of those where you just shake your head afterwards.

The first problem of our idiot-in-question? Well, he's doing some homemade bomb experimentation... we get called since he seems to have decided to leave one of these by the roadway in the middle of the afternoon & a passerby spots it. Now, in this busy neighborhood, how do we figure out where the perpetrator is? Well - since he has left a literal trail of exploded & failed to work devices literally from the roadway to his back door, with parts & pieces of the manufacture thereof sitting in plain view on the porch, it's kind of easy to work that one out.

No one is answering the door, even with several cars there, so we end up with a couple of us sitting on the house while another goes to type up and get our search warrant. Reasonably sure that someone is inside and just pretending, but that's on them. While we are waiting I idly comment to my coworker as well "You know, we're going to find drugs in here too."

Which leads to the next phase of the story... after all of this, what with dealing with the devices, waiting on the paper, and all that, it's been about two hours now of plenty of police and fire folks right outside - not exactly subtle-like. Sure enough, shortly after like a rabbit out of a hole, out comes our timid little resident - "Oh officers, is something going on?" Even two seconds of talking with this guy has the B.S. meter pegged, and I'm just laughing because I know this will continue to be fun.

So, the search warrant finally shows up & inside we go to clear the house and start looking for the bomb stuff. And yes, we don't even make it out of the first room before seeing our drugs... Johnny the bomb player also apparently has a hobby of growing marijuana, and heavily consuming the same. Along with certain other recreational chemicals when he feels like it.

Ever watch Cops or any of those reality shows and think "People really aren't that stupid in real life, it's all scripted." ??  Let's consider this - just two elements. #1 - the guy pretty much left a lit beacon straight to his house from his bomb play saying "HEY, COME ARREST ME, I DID IT!"  #2 - he then sat in his house, peeking out the windows at us for TWO HOURS and realizing we just weren't going away, and at no point in there did the concept of "Hey, maybe I ought to go ahead and flush some of this dope down the toilet." ever cross his mind.

I mean really, can we honestly think that THIS example was the fittest survivor of his gene pool?

Job security folks.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Time to blow the dust off this thing...

A lot of things that interfered with my writing recently. Been dealing with some stress issues. Plus, not sleeping, not eating, a rather overwhelming school term, work trips and overtime, and every other excuse.

Quite frankly, it ended up taking my muse behind the barn and hitting it with a bat for a few hours.

So - I can't say that I don't have some of the same issues. But, I need to make myself write some again, something that isn't work or school related.

As for fixing things... have a DR's appointment tomorrow, so hopefully will get answers on a bit of it.

On a positive note - down a few pants sizes, which is nice.

No interesting work stories lately, just a lot of administrative headaches and teaching things. No good opportunities to shoot or blow things up either...

Anyway, hope a few of you are still out there, and let's see if I can fix some of these issues in my skull.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Close calls.

Unlike many traditional stories, this one won't start with "once upon a time," or "we were drinking and," or even "no shit, there I was." Instead, I'll just relay bits from yesterday's fun.

We were running the Academy recruits through a tactical stress course day. It's one of the last things we do in the Academy - basically bringing together all the shooting skills from their prior training, along with decision making, physical exertion, and as much stress as we can put them under - trying to replicate to at least a fraction what a real-life situation may be like to them. Obviously, given the live ammo and stress we keep a very close eye on them for the safety of everyone involved.

This Academy has one recruit who has been an issue the entire time. No firearms skills, folds under the slightest bit of stress to include crying and just locking up, poor officer safety, and just a general lack of effort to fix these problems. To the point of several memos are already in the chain of command addressing whether she needs to continue being here or not - but this is always a big fight, as the upper staff wants to give them a chance and attempt to fill the holes we have in our manning.

Well, she gets to my station yesterday - the second in the series of 7 - and she's already losing it I can see. The drill involved loading a shotgun and engaging various targets at a short range - just combining basic weapon functions with some situational awareness under stress. And she is completely lost - can't figure out what to do, can't load the weapon, can't function it, and every second is just getting worse as we continue to stress her. It finally reaches the point of two of us stop yelling at her and are trying to at least walk her through the simple bits to do anything here, when she has a bit of an incident - while putting a round in the chamber she's swinging the shotgun around, and just as I'm able to block it from swinging further she has her finger on the trigger and fires it unintentionally.

Fortunately we had the close eye on her, and I had caught things in time - I missed being hit in the leg by about 12" as the shot hit the ground ten feet in front of us. No one was injured, and we quickly let her know that she needed to get her head at least partially working very quickly. Unfortunately, her performance stayed at about the same level the rest of the course.

The results of all of it? The class as a whole got a significant re-lecturing on the importance of the four safety rules, and why we stress them from day one. A few of them may have learned some new words in the specific moment as I emphasized my point. I got to write a lengthy memo on the situation, which from what I'm told is pretty much the final straw into her packing her bags next week & being gone before she does hurt someone.

It also gave me something to think about last night as I was discussing it at home - in that, while I have nice first aid stuff on my vests I use for bomb calls and tactical stuff, and a good first aid kit in the back of the truck, I don't carry anything with me when I'm on the line teaching at the range. Where I was is about 100 yards from where I was parked - and no first aid stuff was any closer. Had I taken the round at basically contact distance it could have made a difference - so I'll be acquiring one or two things and keeping them on myself when I'm teaching like this, just in case. Like everything else we do to prepare - I may never need it, but it's better to carry it and not need it than the other alternative.

Stay safe out there.