Posts Tagged Medical

Medical: New Research Links Dust From Iraq’s Camp Victory To Ill Soldiers

“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory” in Iraq.

I wanted to get this information out there for everyone that has served in Iraq. Although I am not sure if the VA will test non-veterans, I would give it a try anyways. At least file a DBA if you have lung issues that you think came from your time in Iraq or even Afghanistan. If the VA is truly interested in finding trends and sources of this illness, it would be advisable for them to include the thousands of contractors who deployed in Iraq during those years. Either way, get yourself checked if think you need it.

Also, for DBA sake they should be testing contractors. The reason for that is they can plan for the coming claims, if it is found out that contractors are reporting lung illnesses. If there is an illness associated with serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, then contractors should absolutely get the same attention in these studies and treatment.

If you have a lung illness and think it was from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, by all means make a comment below so others can read it. It mentioned that the metal dust found in the soldier’s lungs matched the same dust found at Camp Victory. There were also multiple camps in Iraq and Afghanistan that were burning trash daily. Balad airbase in Iraq burned 240 tons of trash a day!

With that said, this research and reporting reminds me of the Gulf War Illness studies back when I was in the service. That research is still ongoing and they are still trying to determine what caused Gulf War Illness. The article below also lists a registry you can sign up with if you served in the First Gulf War or in the most recent wars in Iraq. Get the world out guys and gals and pass this one around. –Matt

Study on Iraq dust here.

Register with the VA for Gulf War Registry Health Exam here.

Veterans who served in the Gulf during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn are eligible for the Gulf War Registry exam. You do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to take part.

Register with the VA for Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry here.

* Veterans who are eligible for the Gulf War Registry may also join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which includes additional data related to airborne hazards.


Burn pit in Balad, Iraq.

New research links Iraq dust to ill soldiers
By Kelly Kennedy
June 2, 2014
Titanium and other metals found in dust at a base in Iraq have been linked to the dust found in six sick soldiers’ lungs, according to a study set to be released Monday.
“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory” in Iraq.
The dust is different from dust found elsewhere in that human lungs are unable to dispel it through natural immune-system processes. The Iraq dust comes attached to iron and copper, and it forms polarizable crystals in the lungs, Szema said. The particles — each bit 1/30th the size of a human hair — have sharp edges.
“They’ve inhaled metal,” Szema said. “It’s not a little; it’s a lot.”
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Medical: Security Issues–A Top Five, By Angela Benedict

The other day Angela wrote me to ask about some of the issues that contractors are having to deal with in the war and at home. Stuff that get’s us into trouble on the job or with our personal lives. It’s a good list, and a good start. I am sure there are other issues we could talk about and hopefully this will get the mental juices flowing out there. A big thanks to Angela for putting this together.

I also forgot to give her one more area that really messes with guys, and that is the money issue. Sometimes people get into contracting against their wishes, all because they are desperate. You have scenarios where guys are extremely burned out on anything to do with the war or the military, but they have a family they need to feed and jobs are scarce at home.  So they begrudgingly get into contracting, and introduce this bitterness to the work place. They might not have any respect at all for contracting and the very basic guard duty jobs they are doing, and this attitude gets them in trouble with their co-workers and management.

The other reason why I like posting this stuff is that this gives those out there that are suffering, more tools and ideas on how to cope. Angela is the only one out there that has reached out to this community with a helping hand, and I think she is an awesome person for doing so. As a result, I send folks her way all the time.

I also get the hard emails now and then, and all I can do is listen and try to channel them to persons and places that can help. I definitely do not want to see another Danny Fitzsimons scenario where a contractor is suffering and yet they keep going after jobs to stay employed. But these are the guys that are walking time bombs in the contractor workplace. We need to find these contractors and help them before they hurt themselves or others.

Which by the way, and I mentioned this to Angela, I do not know what the suicide statistics are for contractors. I imagine there have been quite a few suicides, just because many contractors already come from a past filled with trauma–either as a cop or veteran of a war. But there are no studies at all about this area of contracting. If I were to speculate, the rates of suicide would be similar to that of the military or police. But this is just speculation….

I am also interested in all and anything that will help to create mental resiliency for war zone work. Because we all deal with some kind of personal demon or issue which can have an impact on our work, health, or relationships, and it is important to create a personal battle plan on how to work through those issues. You need to be constantly learning about yourself and continuously improving upon what makes you strong and resilient mentally. The pay off is the ability to work in this industry for the long term and still maintain a life at home.  The other pay off is that your mental state will not interfere with your job, and your decision making process will be enhanced and focused on winning the fight. –Matt

Security Issues – A Top Five.
By Angela Benedict
August 30, 2011
Five of the most debilitating issues in security disciplines are; addictions, relationships, PTSD, physical pain and suicide. Addictions are tied to relationship problems.  Alcohol and women get many personnel into serious, life-altering trouble.  Alcohol is especially problematic as it has such an engrained historical place and therefore acceptance within military settings.  It is a cultural norm.  The devastating effects of its status are seen as unfortunate, but not serious enough to curtail the place it holds in the culture.  If this happened, the positive ripple effect would be immense.

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Medical: The Skin Gun

This is a cool invention. For the military or this industry, burns can come from all sorts of sources during a war. So stuff like this is awesome. Check it out. –Matt


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Medical: True Bionics, And Getting Back Into The Fight

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Job Tips: How To Get Into Security Contracting Without A Military Or Police Background

I wanted to do a post about this subject because of all of the emails I have been getting lately. In the past, I have hinted at this kind of stuff before, but I think now it deserves it’s own post.  The top question I get is ‘how do you become a security contractor without any military or police background?’. My top reply is for individuals to join the military or police, and get that background–with an emphasis on the combat arms and duty in the war.  That by far is the best route to go, and you will come up against the least amount of friction in this industry as you pursue your career in security contracting.

With that said, there is a way to become a gun carrying security contractor without that four year degree in the combat arms.  The loophole I am talking about is to become a paramedic. In my career, I have personally met three security contractors without any military or police background, that got their job as a gun carrying contractor because of their medical qualifications.  From PSD work to disaster response to site security work–these non-military/police contractors worked those gigs as gun carrying medical guys. Although not purely shooters, they are armed non-the-less, with an emphasis on their medical qualifications. That is what they were hired for, and they are right along side the guys who were contracted as shooters–much like how a combat medic is used in a military unit.

All three medical contractors I had met, were armed by their company so that they could defend self and/or client.  Out of the three I had met, two of them had invested in security/weapons training to supplement their medical certifications so they could be less of a liability in the field.  Most of them had to go through the same overseas type deployment spin up course, or similar company vetting to ensure they could operate well with whatever team they were assigned to. But to put it bluntly, paramedics/nurses/doctors are all highly valuable assets to companies, and companies will bend over backwards to get these guys out there on contract, and especially when medical assets are required for a specific contract. A company must look beyond a lack of military or police background with a job seeker to fulfill a contract requirement, just because there isn’t enough qualified medical folks out there willing to do this kind of work.

Which is the one caveat that I tell folks when they pursue this loophole of contracting.  I suggest to folks to not only get their paramedic certification, but to also invest in excellent security/weapons training that will at least introduce to them the basics of how to operate out there.  I really emphasize the weapons schools because most of the companies will have their medical contractors do a shooting test with the weapon they will be issued in the field as a requirement of the contract. At the least, a contractor should be proficient with a pistol and rifle, and any investment in weapons training will pay off in the long run when you pass that shooting test and get that six figure job overseas.

To take this a step further.  If by chance you are able to sign on to the WPS program, you will have to shoot and qualify with some of the belt fed weapons that this program uses. I have even heard of medical officers being used in training to teach the usage of weapons like the AK 47 or PKM on the TWISS program.  The point here is that once you get involved as a security/medical contractor, you should expect to be around weapons and know how to use them if you want to be useful and a  non-liability to the team. So get some good reputable weapons training, and learn the fundamentals. I suggest CSAT as a an excellent starting point if you are looking for ideas.

Of course you must also maintain your fitness level because companies will require a PT test as per the contract. Keep up to date mentally by following the latest news in this industry through the forums and blogs. You must also ensure your background checks clean for any kind of clearance issues, because in this war, the US government is using the ‘security clearance’ as a means of vetting. So keep your finances in check, keep your nose clean and do not lie on your SF 86 form.

The most important thing though is to maintain your paramedic certification and stay up to date on all the medical protocols. If you are a former 18 Delta or military medic, I still suggest getting the paramedic certification because it will help you to bridge your military experience to the civilian world.

I would even suggest some exposure to military themed medicine (TCCC) for those without a military/police background, through some of the private schools that offer such things. Deployment Medicine International is one such company that I can recommend, and with a search, you can find others.  Also, you can learn more about training by talking with other medical contractors via the forums.  That is what’s called networking and getting ‘locked on’, which will help you big time in your security contracting career.

Now I am sure there are other ways of becoming a security contractor besides the medical route, and hopefully some folks will put their ideas down in the comments section.  But personally, the medical angle is probably one of the best ways that I have seen to accomplish this task. It is also one of those certifications that will be quite useful when you are done doing the overseas contracting game and are wanting to settle back home.  You could spend all that money you earned on going to Nursing school or similar, and advance your career in the medical world.  The experience you gained as a medical professional in the war zones will also be highly respected back home in the hospitals and ambulances.

The other thing that I wanted to touch upon is that if you are a security contractor with a military or police background, and are wanting to increase your marketability in this industry, then getting a paramedic or EMT certification would be an outstanding move.  Even with executive protection gigs, out of two guys with equal shooter backgrounds applying for the same job, the guy that can save the client medically will be of higher value than the guy that does not have any medical experience or certifications. If you want an edge in this highly competitive world of security contracting overseas or at home, get that paramedic certification.  To me this is all about being the ‘Useful Contractor‘ and diversifying your capabilities.(Miyamoto Musashi would approve) This one investment could save your buddy or client’s life, it could get you that high dollar contract you have been dreaming about, and it could keep you marketable in a highly competitive industry both CONUS or OCONUS for years to come. Something to think about if you are coming up against a wall in your career path, or wanting to get a foot into the door of this highly competitive industry. –Matt

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Medical: ‘Experts’…. Look At Civilians Hurt Supporting War

     The most prevalent diagnoses for civilians were musculoskeletal/spine injuries (19 percent), combat-related injuries (14 percent) and circulatory disorders (13 percent). Among members of the military, the most common diagnoses were musculoskeletal (31 percent, 6.4 percent of them considered war-related), combat (14 percent) and psychiatric (9 percent).

     Cohen noted that civilians with psychiatric diagnoses were significantly more likely to return to duty (16 percent, versus 9 percent for soldiers). “Despite the military’s emphasis on screening and early treatment for psychiatric disorders, they still take a much greater toll on military personnel than nonmilitary personnel,” said Cohen, who is also director of Chronic Pain Research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


    After looking through this, I had some objections with the study. It is lumping in civil servants or federal employees with non-federal employees or civilian contractors.  The reason why I disagree with this combination is that federal employees would have different motivations and different compensations than civilian contractors. It would have been better to completely separate the two.

    Dr. Cohen said this as well–‘Civilians, who often work in security and transportation jobs, are less likely to be in the line of fire and don’t expect to be injured in combat‘. I absolutely disagree with this statement and I am not sure how he came to this conclusion?  Even the KBR truck drivers that were hired to work in Iraq at this specific time line of the study (2004 to 2007) would have had to have known through the news and through word of mouth, that they were signing up for a very dangerous contract in an active war zone.

    The security contractors that worked at that time, and especially in Iraq, all considered the idea of being ‘injured’ or killed in combat every day they worked there.  How could a person in this position not consider this?

    This study also highlights some strengths and weaknesses of the contracting model in war zones, as it pertains to the medical side of things.  It shows how contractors view their job as a profession that will help to feed their family and pay the bills. The study makes no mention of that contractor’s patriotism or their desire to be with the team. The various motivations for them to continue going back to that war zone is varied, and this study does not differentiate. This study also represents a very dangerous time period to be a contractor, and a key time period of the development of the industry.

    On the other hand, the study pointed out that after civilians were wounded from ‘combat related’ injuries, they were more likely not to return.  Is that because they lost heart for the work or is that because the injury was debilitating enough to where they could not go back? Does the study make any mention of how many incidents that an individual had been through, both in their military history and contractor history?  Or how many of these folks have returned back to work after such incidents, but years later. This is happening in this industry, and the contracting model allows individuals to do this, dependent upon their resume and vetting.

    The other interesting statistic was this one. ‘Cohen noted that civilians with psychiatric diagnoses were significantly more likely to return to duty (16 percent, versus 9 percent for soldiers).’  This statistic needs to be clarified. How many of these folks that were questioned, were military veterans or police veterans that had carried their mental issues with them into their contract? Or what kind of diagnosis is given for each individual questioned, and was it related to combat and the war, or were these psychiatric issues a carry over from something else going on in their lives?

    With that said, the drive for a contractor with mental problems to continue working to feed their family and pay the bills, might be stronger than seeking help and not working.  At this time period of the study, a secret clearance was not mandatory. But there was the infamous CRC that many contractors had to cycle through at that time, and the military was tasked with medically screening folks.  At the bases that conducted this screening, contractor’s medical backgrounds were reviewed.

    Even with these screening processes, contractors still slip through.  Danny Fitzsimons is just one case of a contractor with mental issues making it through the system. There is also the peer review or on the ground management of teams that helps to screen folks as well. If there is an individual that is mentally unstable, they will be identified and removed from contract due to their liability. Everyone has to be a little crazy to do this work, but no one wants to depend their survival on some dude that is mentally gone.

     The high musculoskeletal/spine injuries statistic is the one statistic that was intriguing to me.  With the use of body armor and how heavy it is, as well as the hours of standing around or driving around wearing it, this can have adverse effects on the body.  Even though the armor can save a life, it still can injury a person just because of it’s weight. This is a problem for the military, and for contractors, and back injuries and the pain medications required to deal with those injuries will become very common place as contractors and military continuously work in war zones and wear this stuff. Armor is a paradox of sorts, and not to mention it’s limitations on the mobility of a war fighter. It may save your life, but it will also allow enemy combatants to out run you and give them a chance to fight again.

     Now what would be an interesting study is to pick up where they left off and see how things look now(2007 to 2011)?  A lot has happened since then.  If the study was better targeted and consultants outside of the medical group were asked to help guide the process, then that would be a more thorough and respected study. People will support what they help to create…. –Matt

Experts look at civilians hurt supporting war

February 21, 2011By Stephanie DesmonAfter analyzing data on 2,155 private contractors, diplomats and other civilians supporting war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan who were medically evacuated from combat zones, researchers have found that such civilians are more likely to be evacuated for noncombat-related injuries but more likely to return to work in-country after treatment for these conditions.

Still, the findings of the Johns Hopkins–led research team, published online in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, note that 75 percent of the nonmilitary group medically evacuated from the war zones to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany between 2004 and 2007 did not return to the field.

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