Veteran Nerds Can Help Respond To Future Disasters

Noah Olsman, a University of Southern California student, prepares his team’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), SeaBee III, for a practice run during the 14th annual International RoboSub Competition at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. The competition, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), challenges teams of student engineers to design AUVs to perform realistic missions in a simulated ocean environment.
Photo by Rick Naystatt

Many people have the impression that emergency management is encompassed in the flashing lights and oscillating sirens of fire engines and other emergency response vehicles. However, if we look at the sector from a higher elevation, we can see that the issues of emergency management cut across many different disciplines and matters. My personal focus is related to how hazard risks affect socially vulnerable populations (lower socio-economic communities, the elderly, those less able to easily communicate, etc.) at a higher rate than more socially stable and affluent populations.

However, there is another aspect to emergency management that goes beyond on-the-ground responders and nerdy policy wonks like me. These practitioners may not even equate themselves with the emergency management discipline at all. They are the engineers and scientists who take the field to a completely new level.

Mitigation of natural and technological hazards is the key to reducing impacts on populations. In the next 30 years, we will see a significant increase in natural disaster events. As someone who understands these threats, I can point out mitigating criteria. However, I can’t design and implement the solutions. For example, widespread fires are a constant threat to the slums of Delhi, India. The materials used to build homes, coupled with the proximity of housing units, promote instances of fire. Engineers are needed to solve this problem, to design a living environment that is more resistant to fire.

A little closer to home, tornadoes are a continuing threat to Americans, particularly in the Midwest. Better computer modeling systems would be able to provide more precise tornado warnings. Additionally, less expensive and better-engineered sheltering options could save lives. In fact, every solution we can dream up while trying to mitigate against future disasters must be designed by someone who understands the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM. However, STEM knowledge is not enough. We need veterans who can translate their skills into solutions for a turbulent environment. Veterans are specifically well trained to understand the increasingly complex problems the world faces globally and those who additionally understand STEM can address those problems.

The United States Department of Labor O-Net site provides 167 different career titles associated with STEM education. Many of these jobs would be beneficial to the emergency management sector. Some of these titles include chemical engineers, civil engineers, climate change analysts, computer scientists, environmental engineers, geoscientists, hydrologists, and water resource specialists, just to name a few. Additionally, a 2013 Brookings report showed that half of STEM jobs "are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average—a wage 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements."

For veterans interested in pursing a four-year degree, Student Veterans of America has partnered with some of the heavy hitters in the STEM arena to develop scholarship programs that can help you harness your skills. Currently, SVA has partnerships with Raytheon, Google, and Disney to provide $10,000 scholarships to students pursuing degrees in STEM fields.

If you are an aspiring super nerd and a veteran, your service is needed to reduce the risk of future disasters. You have the real world experience to know when things are broke and how to fix them.

Rick Schumacher served as a PSYOP Team Leader in Northern Iraq (2003-2004). He is a graduate of the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs with a MPA in disaster and emergency management. He is a Tillman Military Scholar and is developing the Community Vanguard Initiative, a veteran-focused organization centered on community engagement in emergency management. Follow him on Twitter.


Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

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Joshua Kaleb Watson (Facebook via Business Insider)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.

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Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Courtesy photo)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

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Saudi air force Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani (NBC News)

The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

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Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hold folded flags before military funeral honors. (U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.

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