You've Gotta Be Crazy to Go to War


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The job of the combat soldier is to kill. There is no simple way of saying it. In order to do such certain traits are brought out. What is too often misunderstood as PTSD are instead the characteristics of a good soldier. This is a presentation that I gave at the 2011 Oregon Counseling Association Conference. It focuses mainly on military culture. PTSD is very real, so too is an overly rigid adherence to a soldier mentality. Yet not understanding either diminishes grasping the totality of the returned veteran and that person's needs in reintegration.

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  • There are videos in this presentation. PowerPoint (and hence Slideshare) does a lousy job at keeping media files together. Keynote, for the Mac, does a far superior job in keeping media files together. If you want to know the media files associated with this I can get them to you. Or you can simply google them.
  • There are presentations available on the internet that detail rank structure, branch insignias, histories, and so forth as part of their curricula about ‘military culture’. This is not one of those. I point you towards for just such a presentation (with CEU credits available) for your edification. I speak here of the ‘down and dirty’ military culture.
  • My history
  • To understand one of the problems of military culture that makes treatment for PTSD harder is to understand fully the dimensions of a misogynistic culture. The terminology of ‘good/bad’ is thinly veiled ‘masculine/feminine’ traits. I use the vernacular of the common soldier in explaining the problems of a hyper-masculine culture.Women, in the military, are not allowed at the present to be in the ‘combat arms’, that is infantry and scouts and other ‘kick in the door’ types. However, women are in the same danger as men in theater. Women operate vehicles on MSRs, conduct military police operations, tower security, and other dangerous jobs. They wear the same body armor, shoot the same weapons (yes, even M2 .50 cal machine guns) and are targeted by the enemy just as, if not more, than are men. As a male I give respect to women in the military. They are my fellow soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors.
  • Marine Corps commercial called “For Country”.
  • There is a lot of talk about warriors as though this were the same as fighter and soldier. I make the contention that they are NOT the same thing.A fighter is someone who is incapable of giving up. This is NOT the same thing as seeking out a fight. A soldier is a person who is trained in the tactics, skills, weapons, necessary for an army/force. They are taught how to operate as part of a unit and to follow orders.In both fighter and soldier the moral landscape is missing. There is nothing moral about being a soldier. There is only the job.Warriors are purely defined by morality. It is a warrior that defends or fights because of ideals, of homeland, for a ‘purpose’. Combine all three into one person and you have the most potent force on the planet.
  • A great Marine Corps commercial showing scenes from boot camp.
  • A great movie. This video shows the Rifleman’s Creed.
  • I train soldiers to develop an offensive and defensive characteristic to their thinking and behavior. Offensive in that they not only know how to use the tools of offense, but also develop that fighting ability… the desire to move toward the fight and to rip someone’s guts out. We are adverse to killing other humans and this is a difficult thing to train. So we soak our environment with aggressive and violent terminology. Again, our purpose is to KILL the enemy. Defensively, the same applies. One must come to know that there are people out to kill you and to be always watchful, always ready for such an attack. 360 security is vital.
  • Practice and repetition help to build automatic responses in a fighting soldier.
  • Aspects of PTSD. Yet the ones in red are necessary traits of a good combat soldier. When you see what car bombs do to people, you are thankful that you can close your eyes at night and sleep because the images do not cross your mind’s eye. It is hard to kill someone you view as human. If you cannot shut off emotions, then it is easier to dehumanize the enemy in order to kill.
  • If you cannot see the utility, the necessity of these traits for a combat soldier, then you simply do not get a combat soldier’s perspective at all and are in no shape to counsel them.
  • BATTLEMIND is an older program in the Army that emphasized that a behavior or trait in a soldier is not good/bad in and of itself, but depends on the context. It worked well in combat, was necessary, but back home it deteriorates the family and gets one in trouble with the law.
  • The Battle of Tarawa, WW2. It wasn’t getting in touch with your feelings that won the day. It was a ferocity and inability to quit. Yet very importantly it was the Marines love for their fellow Marine and the feeling that they were the holders of the honor of their Marine Corps. They felt they had no choice but to keep fighting forward.
  • We come back home and an idiot asks us this question.
  • This is an actual question that a psychologist had in a questionnaire intended to determine if the veteran is a danger or not. What does this question mean? To the sheep (non combat veteran) this might bring images of the veteran dressed in cammo, hiding in the bushes at home, watching the neighborhood as though the person is ‘still at war’. Ask any veteran worth their salt this question and they will say ‘yes’. Example, when I get out of my truck at night I take a moment to scan my environment. I look for strange things. If I hear an odd noise at night, I go investigate. Veterans are not guilty of ‘bystander effect’, we do not stand by and watch as a helpless person is beaten on the street. If we see something, we investigate it. We are guard dogs of our world. So I’ll park my truck, take a look around, and go into my apartment. If I notice something out of place I’ll investigate it or call it up to the police. To me this is ‘patrolling the neighborhood’. Yet to some psychologist, my answer of ‘yes’ to this question is not indicative that I am a ‘protector’ but that I cannot leave the war behind and that I am possibly reliving combat trauma and, therefore, I have PTSD. Wrong.
  • This is a useful phrase. It is a quick version of the Serenity Prayer. Yet it can also disguise a sense of helplessness.
  • I do not like the current anti-suicide programs in the military. They are not written by warriors, or guard dogs, but by other sheep. (for clarification, see the essay “sheep, wolves, and guard dogs” by Lt Col Dave Grossman. These are essentially asking people to exhibit weakness. I heard a story about a computer design convention that had a computer on a stage. An elderly man was asked to come up on stage and turn on the computer. He picked up the mouse and started speaking into it as though it were a phone. The audience, a group of engineers and designers, laughed. The elderly man was thanked and asked to leave. Then the person in charge chastized the audience. How dare they laugh at the elderly man. It wasn’t the man’s fault he had no idea how to use a piece of machinery he never saw before. It was the fault of the designers in not making it intuitive enough. In psychology we have lots about treating people with depression and suicide. Yet combat soldiers do not follow these terms. They don’t live in this world. They live in a simple world where people’s honor is on display through behavior, where weakness is despised. Trying to bring them around to our ‘psychobabble’ is not working, has not worked, and will only continue to breed ridicule and distrust among the ranks against such programs as the ACE (ask, care, escort) and ‘courage of a warrior to ask for help’ approaches. Instead of getting them to buy into our product, we’ve got to speak their lingo in their values and give them a way that works in their world.
  • From the “soldier box”, beliefs that shape a soldier’s rules of behavior. From the CADRE Program of domestic violence treatment.
  • I was in uniform and stopped at a café for some coffee. A kindly old lady asked me this question. Without missing a beat I answered “everything within sight”. I am a guard dog.
  • It was Oregon National Guard soldiers that responded to a mall shooter in Tacoma, Washington by helping to evacuate civilians and others who were panicked and frozen. These guardians helped save some lives by responding to help.
  • Great song. Listen to this and you’ll get our feeling. Stand with me you’ll never stand alone.
  • You've Gotta Be Crazy to Go to War

    1. 1. Ya Gotta Be Crazy To Go To WarPTSD in the Context of Military Culture
    2. 2.
    3. 3. • It is important that therapists* to be educated in the warrior tradition and its rituals in order to recognize and help veterans identify with [the use of] warrior traits. Ignoring these traits is harmful to the veteran, for then the inner warrior remains invisible. Pathologizing the traits is also harmful, for then the vet is further wounded by reductionist interpretations that may minimize their importance to him… or empty them of their spiritual potency.• Edward Tick, Ph.D. War and the Soul
    4. 4.
    5. 5. Women inCombat
    6. 6. Fighter Soldier Warrior
    7. 7. Three Reactions to Stressful EventFight Flight Freeze
    8. 8. Three Reactions to Stressful EventMove To Move Away Move Nowhere
    9. 9. Push Beyond Initiative Breaking TeamworkMilitary Bearing ObedienceAttention to Detail Support Your Team Abusive Uniformity Communication Style Individual Quick Action Mistakes cost EVERYBODY PUNISHMENT
    10. 10. Dissociative SymptomsEmotional numbingReduced awareness ofsurroundingsDerealizationDepersonalizationReduced ability to recalldetails of event
    11. 11. Increased ArousalTrouble falling or stayingasleepIncreased irritability andanger outburstsDifficulty concentratingHyper-vigilanceExaggerated startle response
    12. 12. B Buddies VS WithdrawalA Accountability VS Controlling InappropriateT Targeted VS AggressionT Tactical Awareness VS Hyper-vigilanceL Lethally Armed VS Locked and LoadedE Emotional Control VS Detachment Mission OperationalM Security VS SecretivenessI Individual Responsibility VS Guilt Non-defensive DrivingN (combat) VS Aggressive Driving Discipline and Ordering VS Conflict
    13. 13. To meet destruction or tocome through:these are the terms of war. Homer, The Iliad
    14. 14. Did you kill anybody?
    15. 15. Do you patrol your neighborhood?
    16. 16. It is what it is
    17. 17. Any phenomenon inhabited by a particular god must be addressed in the rhetoric of that god. James Hillman - A Terrible Love of War
    18. 18. Psychology
    19. 19. Couragecowardice rashness
    20. 20. What are youguarding soldier?
    21. 21. Thank You