Veteran Nerds Can Help Respond To Future Disasters

career
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.

 

(DoD photo)

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(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

Walruses rest on an ice floe off Wrangel Island, part of the Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve in the Arctic Ocean (Itas-TASS/Yuri Smityuk via Getty Images)

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