The Challenge Coin Tradition: Do You Know How It Started?

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

If you’ve been in the military or worked for the Defense Department, you know what a challenge coin is. They’ve been an American military tradition for a century, meant to instill unit pride, improve esprit de corps and reward hard work and excellence.

For centuries, coins have been an important part of military service. Presenting a service member with a coin is one way in which leaders show their appreciation for the service member’s hard work and dedication. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. David Murphy

The coins represent anything from a small unit to the offices of top leaders, such as the defense secretary. There are also coins made for special events, anniversaries and even nonmilitary leaders.

Many service members and veterans proudly display challenge coins at their desks or homes, showing off the many missions they’ve been on, the top leaders they’ve met and the units for which they’ve worked.

But how did this tradition get started?

Challenge coins are often put in racks to show off. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman

I was curious, so I checked with the National Defense University, Pentagon librarians and historians, as well as those with the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Naval History and Heritage Command. Those institutions couldn’t find any written records, probably because the challenge coin tradition didn’t start as an officially sanctioned activity. So I dove into the modern-day oral histories of the world – also known as the internet – to see what I could find.

The Most Common Myth

The most well-known story that the internet produced linked the challenge coin tradition back to World War I. As the U.S. started building up its Army Air Service, many men volunteered to serve. One of those men was a wealthy lieutenant who wanted to give each member of his unit a memento, so he ordered several coin-sized bronze medallions to be made.

Challenge coins collected from active and retired service members on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. Photo by Marine Corps Pfc. Samuel Ranney

The lieutenant put his own medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck. A short time later, his plane was shot down over Germany. He survived but was captured by a German patrol, who took all of his identifiable items so he would have no way to identify himself if he escaped. What they didn’t take was the small pouch with the medallion.

The lieutenant was taken to a small town near the front lines of the war. Despite his lack of ID, he managed to find some civilian clothing and escaped anyway, eventually stumbling into a French outpost. Wary of anyone not in uniform, the French soldiers didn’t recognize his accent and immediately assumed he was an enemy.

They initially planned to execute him, since they couldn’t ID him. But the lieutenant, remembering he still had the small pouch around his neck, pulled out the coin to show the soldiers his unit’s insignia. One of the Frenchmen recognized that insignia, so he was spared.

Challenge coins have been an American military tradition for nearly a century. In units around the world, and perhaps more so at deployed locations, personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces carry, collect and trade unit challenge coins. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss

Instead of being executed, the lieutenant was given a bottle of wine, probably as a form of reparation for his initial treatment. When he finally made it back to his squadron, it became a tradition for all service members to carry a unit-emblazoned coin at all times, just in case.

Not Everyone Believes That Depiction

While that story sounds cool, Air Force Historical Research Agency archivist Barry Spink isn’t buying it.

He said he’d been told in the 1990s that the tradition started in Vietnam, when an Army infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantrymen away by forcing “outsiders” to buy drinks for the whole bar if they couldn’t prove they had been in combat. The “proof” started with enemy bullets, then got a little out of control with grenades, rockets and unexploded ordnance. So a coin-sized item emblazoned with the unit’s insignia became the accepted form of proof.

This tradition – now known as a coin check – continues today, hence it being called a “challenge” coin.

Charles “Charlie” Fink, a Marine Vietnam veteran, holds specialty-made commemorative Marine Corps challenge coins. The coin on the left is for Marine veteran Sgt. Robert O’Malley, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during Operation Starlite. Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Melissa Karnath

One More Possibility

Spink also sent me an article called “Coining a Tradition” that was printed in a 1994 edition of Soldiers Magazine. It offered a similar version of the Vietnam story, the World War I tale and one other option, which dates back to the early 1960s:

“A member of the 11th Special Forces Group took old coins, had them overstamped with a different emblem, then presented them to unit members, according to Roxanne Merritt, curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C. A former commander of the 10th SFG picked up on the idea, becoming the first to mint a unit coin for the U.S. military unit. The 10th group remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the mid-1980s, Merritt said, when ‘an explosion took place and everybody started minting coins.’”

So if you’ve ever wondered how the challenge coin came about, you can take your pick of which story to believe!

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The Challenge Coin Tradition: Do You Know How It Started?

The SITREP: USS Cole Heroes Remembered, Nellis Spouses Help Heal Las Vegas & More

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Shannon Janelle, wife of Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Janelle, an instructor assigned to the Nellis Air Force Base First Term Airman Center, carries water to a donation site in downtown Las Vegas. Shannon teamed with more than 30 spouses, friends and families to collect donated items following the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Thursday, October 12, 2017.

  • Move over, Navy? Army Mariners are training for lethality on the open ocean.
  • The Navy remembers the fallen heroes of the USS Cole.
  • The Coast Guard started the Hurricane Lessons Learned crowdsourcing mission to collect the wealth of knowledge gained during its recent hurricane response efforts.
  • For the first time, U.S. Marine amphibious assault vehicles embarked and launched on a Philippine Navy sea lift vessel off the coast of Luzon to expand both militaries’ operational support capabilities.
  • Nellis Air Force Base spouses are combining efforts to provide for the needs of community volunteers, displaced family members and hospital staff in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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The SITREP: USS Cole Heroes Remembered, Nellis Spouses Help Heal Las Vegas & More

U.S. Central Command: Differentiating Its Major Operations

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently visited Afghanistan to meet with leaders at U.S. Central Command, one of the Defense Department’s combatant commands. Each command has a particular mission with varying operations and exercises to fit them.

Centcom, as we call it, has been around since 1983 and is one of the DoD’s busiest combatant commands. It’s area of responsibility includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and 15 other countries found in the center of the world map (hence, “central” command).

U.S. Central Command’s AOR is highlighted. DoD graphic

Centcom’s major missions are ones we hear about often in the news – Inherent Resolve, Resolute Support, and Freedom’s Sentinel – but we easily get them confused. So here’s a little explainer.

Operation Inherent Resolve

In late 2014, the U.S. created a new combined joint task force to fight the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The mission was named Operation Inherent Resolve to reflect the deep commitment of the U.S. and its partner nations to eliminate ISIS and the threat it posed to the Middle East and across the world. This mission continues.

Navy sailors work on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Arabian Gulf. Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce. Navy photo by Seaman Emily Johnston

Many members of the coalition, made up of 62 nations, provide military support via arms, equipment, air power, training and advice. Others are helping to degrade and defeat ISIS by cutting off its funding and flow of fighters and exposing its true nature.

While ISIS’s territory and abilities in Iraq and Syria have been degraded since 2014, there’s still fighting to do. The coalition is committed to the restoration of stability to the region.

How Inherent Resolve is different than prior Iraq operations:
Many remember Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included major combat operations, occupation and reconstruction during the War in Iraq from March 2003 to August 2010. Iraqi Freedom’s replacement was Operation New Dawn, which coincided with the drawdown of troops in the region by 50,000. New Dawn concluded when the War in Iraq ended in December 2011.

As for Afghanistan, there are currently two operations going on in that region, and they’re both successors to Operation Enduring Freedom. Enduring Freedom lasted more than 13 years (October 2001-December 2014) and aimed to expel from Afghanistan the Taliban government, which was harboring al Qaida terrorists.

Enduring Freedom formally ended in January 2015. That’s when operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel began.

Operation Resolute Support

Resolute Support aims to stabilize Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. It’s a NATO-led mission involving troops from more than 40 countries who train, advise and assist Afghan forces and institutions build their capabilities and create long-term stability in the region.

At a ceremony at Resolute Support Headquarters, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support, pays his respects to service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo

Resolute Support is a smaller noncombat mission compared to its predecessor during Enduring Freedom, the International Security Assistance Force. The ISAF had provided security and training for Afghan forces since August 2003, with the hopes of making sure Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists. When Enduring Freedom ended, NATO handed off the reigns from the ISAF to Afghan forces so they could assume all of their own security responsibilities.

Resolute Support was launched immediately after that. Its goal is to help the country reinstate a fully functioning government by developing Afghan leadership, advising them on reforms for fighting corruption, and optimizing ANDSF capabilities and resources so they can protect themselves from enemies.

The coalition helps provide the framework and guidelines for those goals through eight key areas:

  • Multiyear budgeting
  • Transparency, accountability and oversight
  • Force generation (recruit, train and equip the force)
  • Force sustainment (supply and maintenance)
  • Strategy and policy planning, resourcing and execution
  • Intelligence
  • Strategic communications
  • Civilian oversight of Afghan Security Institutions

The coalition also contributes to the financing of the ANDSF and works to strengthen political consultations with the country.

Operation Freedom’s Sentinel

Army Reserve soldiers board a flight at Fort Bliss for a deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Air Force photo by Ismael Ortega

Freedom’s Sentinel is essentially the continued counterterrorism efforts aimed at ridding the remnants of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the region. The goal is to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against America, like it was for Sept. 11, 2001.

Freedom’s Sentinel works hand in hand with Operation Resolute Support.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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U.S. Central Command: Differentiating Its Major Operations

The SITREP: Marines Test Future of Flight, Army Rolls Out New Tanks & More

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Marines prepare to test a small unmanned aerial system at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 27, 2017. Technicians from the United States Army Research Lab demonstrated to the Marines how easy the system is to create and have it fully operational with little to no training. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Taylor W. Cooper

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

  • The Army celebrated the delivery of the next iteration of the iconic Abrams Main Battle Tank with the first of six M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 3 initial production vehicles.
  • The Navy commissioned and brought to life its newest Virginia class submarine, USS Washington (SSN 787), during a ceremony on board Naval Station Norfolk.
  • Marines tested remote controlled small unmanned aerial systems made through 3-D printing at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
  • The Military Health System reminds women to reset their health care habits and make better health a priority.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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The SITREP: Marines Test Future of Flight, Army Rolls Out New Tanks & More

Mattis Isn’t Even ‘Mad’ About His Real Call Sign

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis doesn’t usually reveal personal details to the public, but recently he told us a good bit about his call sign, which is “Chaos.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 20, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

For those of you who don’t know, a call sign is pretty much a nickname. They were originally given to communications stations, facilities, commands and units so they could be uniquely identified over radio transmissions and telegraph lines.

Call signs can be structured around a unit’s nickname – Bulldog 6, for example, might be assigned to an Army company commander. They can also be given to an individual in jest, due to an embarrassing incident or misfortune, or because of an unusual way that person operates. While they can be embarrassing, they’re usually considered to be a great honor.

Mattis sees it that way – especially since he picked his himself.


Watch: Mattis’ Explains His Call Sign During Speech

The defense secretary was recently asked about his press-issued nickname “Mad Dog” during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. His response — he didn’t have any clue where that nickname came from.

“Even my troops laughed at it when they read it in the newspaper,” Mattis said, getting laughter from the crowd. “It was a slow news day, I think, and somebody made it up.”

Instead, he said his longtime call sign is Chaos, a nickname he earned back when he was a Marine Corps colonel.

“When I was a regimental commander of 7,500 sailors and Marines out in the Mojave Desert, there was nothing to do but go blow up the desert,” Mattis said. “I always had good ideas – at least I thought they were very good ideas. And one day, walking out of my operations officer’s office, I noticed ‘chaos’ written on this whiteboard. I said, ‘What’s this about?’”

The officer replied, “Oh, you don’t need to know that.”

But Mattis’ curiosity got the best of him, and he kept asking.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis interacts with audience members before speaking during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 20, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“Finally, [the officer] kind of said, ‘Well, it means the colonel has an outstanding solution,’” Mattis explained. “It was very much tongue-in-cheek. They didn’t consider all my solutions quite as outstanding as I enthusiastically promoted them.”

Was Mattis mad about it? Nope – quite the opposite.

“I liked what my irreverent troops had used there, so I adopted it as my call sign,” Mattis said.

And that’s that! Maybe people will stop calling him Mad Dog now?

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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Mattis Isn’t Even ‘Mad’ About His Real Call Sign

The SITREP: Airmen Move Quickly for Maria Rescue, Army General Makes History & More

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Brig. Gen. Irene Zoppi, U.S. Army Reserve deputy commanding general for the 200th Military Police Command, receives her star shoulder boards from her husband, Thomas Zoppi, and son, Andrew Zoppi, as she is promoted from the rank of colonel during a ceremony held on Fort Meade, Maryland, Aug. 28, 2017. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michael Sauret

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Thursday, September 28, 2017.

  • Meet Brig. Gen. Irene Zoppi, the first Puerto Rican woman promoted to the rank of general in the U.S. Army Reserve.
  • Aircrew members with the 15th Special Operations Squadron flew through the night after being tasked on short notice to evacuate 19 medical students from the island of Montserrat after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
  • Marines launch upgrade to ground ammunition inventory system, allowing for greater collection, storage and interchange of data.
  • As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month comes to a close, the Military Health System reminds us all that one small act can save a life.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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The SITREP: Airmen Move Quickly for Maria Rescue, Army General Makes History & More

Special Report: Hurricane Maria

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Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Sept. 20, as a Category 4 storm with deadly flooding expected. The Defense Department had personnel and equipment already assisting authorities in the region that has seen two other powerful hurricanes, Irma and Jose, in recent weeks.

Coverage

Sept. 17

Sept. 19

Sept. 21

Northcom Providing Disaster Relief Following Hurricane Maria

U.S. Northern Command is fully engaged with federal, state and local mission partners as the command provides support to the response efforts for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Read more on Navy.mil.

Sept. 22

GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico (Sept. 22, 2017) Rear Adm. Jeff Hughes (top left), Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), discusses joint operations in Puerto Rico with Army Brig. Gen. Dustin Shultz (top right), Commander, 1st Mission Support Command. Kearsarge is assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Goff/Released)
GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico (Sept. 22, 2017) Rear Adm. Jeff Hughes (top left), Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), discusses joint operations in Puerto Rico with Army Brig. Gen. Dustin Shultz (top right), Commander, 1st Mission Support Command. Kearsarge is assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Goff/Released)

Sept. 23

CARIBBEAN SEA (Sept. 23, 2017) 1st Sgt. Rafael Colon, a native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, and the senior enlisted advisor for the 602nd Area Support Medical Company, 261st Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C., gets accountability of his soldiers aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), in the Caribbean Sea. Members of the 602nd ASMC returned to the U.S. Virgin Islands to continue to assist with disaster relief operations in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Department of Defense conducts Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations to assist civilian responders in saving lives, relieving human suffering and mitigating property damage in response to a catastrophic disaster. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Alleea Oliver/Released)
CARIBBEAN SEA (Sept. 23, 2017) 1st Sgt. Rafael Colon, a native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, and the senior enlisted advisor for the 602nd Area Support Medical Company, 261st Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C., gets accountability of his soldiers aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), in the Caribbean Sea. Members of the 602nd ASMC returned to the U.S. Virgin Islands to continue to assist with disaster relief operations in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Department of Defense conducts Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations to assist civilian responders in saving lives, relieving human suffering and mitigating property damage in response to a catastrophic disaster. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Alleea Oliver/Released)

Sept. 24

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 24, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), exit U.S. Navy Landing Craft, Utility 1657 to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 24, 2017. The 26th MEU is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, and local authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the combined goal of protecting the lives and safety of those in affected areas. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 24, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), exit U.S. Navy Landing Craft, Utility 1657 to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 24, 2017. The 26th MEU is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, and local authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the combined goal of protecting the lives and safety of those in affected areas. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

Sept. 25

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), conduct route clearing operations with Navy Sailors and local civilians to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), conduct route clearing operations with Navy Sailors and local civilians to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), conduct route clearing with Navy Sailors and local civilians to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) U.S. Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), conduct route clearing with Navy Sailors and local civilians to assist in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) Sailors and Marines attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), unload military field rations, known as MRE or meals, ready to eat, from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kearsarge and the 26th MEU are assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Eduardo Jorge/Released)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Sept. 25, 2017) Sailors and Marines attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), unload military field rations, known as MRE or meals, ready to eat, from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kearsarge and the 26th MEU are assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Eduardo Jorge/Released)

Sept. 26

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) U.S. Marines, Navy corpsmen, and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), begin assessing medical and operational needs of Hima San Pablo Hospital as part of the humanitarian effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) U.S. Marines, Navy corpsmen, and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), begin assessing medical and operational needs of Hima San Pablo Hospital as part of the humanitarian effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) Construction Mechanic 2nd Class John McConnell, center, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), talks with a civilian employee after repairing a Hima San Pablo Hospital generator during relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) Construction Mechanic 2nd Class John McConnell, center, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), talks with a civilian employee after repairing a Hima San Pablo Hospital generator during relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) U.S. Navy Lt. Robert R. Bryson, left, a physician assistant with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), discusses medical and operational needs of Hima San Pablo Hospital with its staff as part of relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The 26th MEU is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, and local authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the combined goal of protecting the lives and safety of those in affected areas. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)
CEIBA, Puerto Rico (Sept. 26, 2017) U.S. Navy Lt. Robert R. Bryson, left, a physician assistant with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), discusses medical and operational needs of Hima San Pablo Hospital with its staff as part of relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26, 2017. The 26th MEU is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, and local authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the combined goal of protecting the lives and safety of those in affected areas. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally/Released)

Sept. 27

CARIBBEAN SEA (Sept. 27, 2017) A Sailor signals the take off of a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in order to refuel during humanitarian relief efforts following the landfall of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica. The Department of Defense is supporting the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rawad Madanat/Released)


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U.S. Navy Sailors and assets are supporting federal, state and local authorities’ ongoing relief efforts …

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Special Report: Hurricane Maria

Videos: DoD Assets Help Region Ravaged By Hurricane Maria

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Hurricane Maria has devastated large swaths of the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where a large majority of the island is still without power and many are struggling to find food, drinkable water and gasoline.

Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Nicholas Glass prepares residents of Dominica for evacuation following the landfall of Hurricane Maria. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Galbreath

Most Recent Update:

Having had a chance to assess the magnitude of the damage in Puerto Rico and the response required, the Defense Department plans to transition from a short-term, sea-based response to a mostly land-based effort to provide longer-term support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the situation is improving, as the territory’s governor said the island is shifting from response to recovery.

The U.S. Navy, several National Guard components and other DoD assets are working around the clock to bring help to the region.

In Puerto Rico:

As of Sept. 27, several DoD elements had delivered much-needed fuel and continue with road-clearing operations. While nearly half of the population remains without drinking water, officials said several airports, including the main one in San Juan, are open; the majority of hospitals are in some way operational, and a few seaports are open, some with restrictions.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort has been requested to get under way to help with the medical effort.

Puerto Rico National Guard Soldiers bring supplies to Vieques and Culebra


Puerto Rico National Guard members respond after Hurricane Maria

In the U.S. Virgin Islands:

Officials said the J.F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix has been ruled structurally sound, while power has been restored at the Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. While eight seaports have been opened with restrictions, airports remain closed except for military and relief operations. The Defense Logistics Agency has also shipped 10,000 gallons of propane to the islands.


U.S. Navy conducts U.S. Virgin Islands damage assessment flight

 Foreign Assistance:

U.S. troops continue to evacuate U.S. citizens in the Leeward and Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, including Dominica. They’re also responding to requests for reconnaissance, transportation and logistics support.

Sailors Help Evacuate Dominica

U.S. Navy sailors from the USS WASP LHD 1 evacuate residents from the Caribbean island of Dominica after #HurricaneMaria devastated the island. READ MORE: https://go.usa.gov/xRSvFNavy video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Levingston Lewis and Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Galbreath

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

U.S. Navy continue evacuations of U.S. citizens from Dominica

Lastly, want to know how the Air Force gets its storm knowledge?

Hurricane Hunters

Lt. Col. Chad Gibson and his fellow AF Reserve Hurricane Hunters are pretty dang good at their jobs. He explained to us why these brave men and women fly through Hurricanes!

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hurricane Biopsy: How the Air Force Determines What Storms Are, What They’ll Do

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Videos: DoD Assets Help Region Ravaged By Hurricane Maria

Identify, Intervene: Help Your Loved One with Mental Health Issues

Image deployment.jpg

By DCoE Public Affairs

This article is the first in a three-part series from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) on helping the loved ones of service members identify the signs of brain injury and mental health issues.

Senior Airman Nathan Slocum says his final goodbyes to a family member before deploying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel June 27, 2017. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Juchniewicz

Preventing a problem is usually better than waiting for it to cause trouble, but prevention isn’t always possible. The next best thing is learning to identify the warning signs of a problem to get your loved one help right away. This is especially true when it comes to mental health.

Mental health issues come in many forms. People may struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety, just to name a few. These warning signs can indicate problems with someone’s mental health:

  • Trouble remembering information
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Lack of interest in activities or daily tasks
  • Increased irritability or bouts of anger
  • Mood swings
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Crying or staring off into space
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Frequent trembling
  • Frequent headaches

If you think your loved one is experiencing a mental health issue, the next step is to help them find health care.

Talking to someone about seeking help for their mental health can be challenging, especially for those returning from deployment. They may be embarrassed, think that they can deal with their issue alone, or think that the problem will just go away. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs set up the free program “Coaching into Care” for caregivers trying to help their loved one seek support.

Remember the following tips as you discuss health care with your loved one:

  • Let them know you care – Express an interest in how your loved one is feeling. Tell them that you want to know about their experiences, and listen if they decide to open up to you.
  • Don’t try to diagnose them – Educate yourself about possible mental health issues, but leave the diagnosis to qualified clinicians.
  • Encourage them to talk to others – Your loved one may benefit from talking about their experiences with others who have similar experiences.
  • Encourage them to seek help – Support any interest your loved one shows in getting help for their issues. The DCoE Outreach Center has resources for your loved ones to locate a health care provider.

Remember, you’re not in this alone. You and your loved one aren’t the first to experience mental health challenges. Susan shares her story on AfterDeployment about how she noticed her husband’s struggle with PTSD. The Real Warriors campaign also has a video specifically for families on how to deal with the reintegration.

The DCoE blog and the Real Warriors campaign have more resources for service members and their families working through mental health issues.

Prevention is Key!

Taking care of your mental health while supporting a loved one is crucial. In addition to discussing health care, these daily activity resources may help you and your loved one:

This blog was originally posted on DCoE.mil.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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Identify, Intervene: Help Your Loved One with Mental Health Issues

The SITREP: DoD Continues Natural Disaster Support Efforts & More

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Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class Logan Parkinson surveys damage on the island of Dominica, Sept. 23, 2017, in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Levingston Lewis

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

  • DoD officials respond to recent natural disasters and promise to continue support in damaged areas.
  • Naval Air Station Key West’s Fleet and Family Support Center has established an Emergency Family Assistance Center program at its office on Sigsbee Park to provide support and coordinate services for families returning from the Hurricane Irma evacuation.
  • Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia serves as an important hub for hurricane relief efforts.
  • DoD continues 24-hour operations including providing lifesaving and life-sustaining resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of recent hurricanes.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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The SITREP: DoD Continues Natural Disaster Support Efforts & More