Roundtable: Military Suicide, Women In Combat, Dogs & PTSD, City Hall Transitions
November 30, 2012 2:36 p.m.
Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
Beth Ford Roth, KPBS News
Katie Orr, KPBS News
Scott Lewis, VoiceofSanDiego
SAUER: It's Friday, November 30th. Thanks for joining us. I'm Mark Sauer. My guests today are Katie Orr, metro reporter for KPBS news.
ORR: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Scott Lewis, CEO of voice of San Diego.
SAUER: Tony Perry, bureau chief for the LA Times.
PERRY: Good to be here.
SAUER: And Beth Ford Roth who writes our Homepost Blog.
FORD ROTH: Hi, mark.
SAUER: Katie, we've got a little bit of news this morning.
ORR: This morning I got a call from council president's Tony Young office. He is heaving at the end of the month to become the new CEO of the local American red cross chapter. And on Monday, are the council will be voting for a new council president. And it wasn't clear who Young was going to vote for. There was some speculation he might go for coffin. But he called this morning and confirmed he would be voting for Todd Gloria for the position. So that gives Gloria the five democratic votes on the council and the five votes he needs to become the council president. It should become official on Monday.
SAUER: Tell us what that job entails.
ORR: It's a powerful position. The council president sets the agenda, decides when the council will hear certain items, whether they'll hear certain items. He also appoints council members to committees. So he thought has a lot of control over how the council meetings are run.
LEWIS: And quickly, that was the role of the mayor before we switched governments in 2006, governance styles.
SAUER: To a strong mayor.
LEWIS: When you think back on when Pete Wilson accomplished as mayor, they did that from a position more like what Todd Gloria's will be. And I think it's a defining opportunity for Todd Gloria. This is a chance -- I think he'll be somebody to watch in many ways more than the mayor as he might define the debates a lot more clearer than the mayor can.
ORR: I think that's a good point. The first two years they was covering City Hall, Tony Young was just a council member. And you really saw him come into his own when he became the council president and had a lot more power. So it's definitely a defining position.
PERRY: What do we know about Todd Gloria? As I've watched him, intelligent, public spirited, polite. Is he going to be strong enough to stand up to Bob Filner?
[ LAUGHTER ]
LEWIS: As he said, the guy who had an 80-page plan lost the election. Filner is just going to spend the next few months I think getting used to the idea that he's now the boss of 10,000 city employees. There's a lot of problems they're going to have to deal with, where they're going to working who's going to be in charge of them. And I think Todd knows what he wants to do, and he may serve as a kind of rival.
PERRY: But there's a strategy called winning through intimidation. When Bob Filner rose as a political figure in this city in the 70s. Is Todd going to be strong enough to stand up to that?
ORR: They definitely have different personalities. Gloria is not the intimidating politician that Filner is. But recently they've talked a lot about trying to work together, bring sides together to accomplish some of these financial reforms. Gloria worked a lot with Jerry Sanders. He was sort of a protege in that sense. So I think that's more of his style. Trying to compromise and get things together. But he plays the game. He is now representing downtown San Diego so he's got do walk that line between making sure the business interests are happy with what he's doing and making sure his constituents up in midtown are happy. So I think it'll be a different style of leadership, but he's very well respected on the counsel. So I think he'll be able to get some stuff done.
SAUER: All right. Well, let's talk about the mayor, Bob Filner, and some of the things he's done so far in his time as mayor elect. Police chief, fire chief, chief operating officer. Any new faces?
ORR: He'll keep the fire chief and the police chief. He's keeping chief operating officer Jay Goldstone on for a while. He has agreed that he will stay on until they find a new COO. And he had said he wanted to bring Donna Frye back in to be the director of open government, but that's hit a wall.
SAUER: The notable former council woman and mayoral candidate Donna Frye, she was supposed to be a key role, right? She was going to keep everything transparent and on the up and up.
ORR: Well, are there's a city code that prevents anyone who has retired from the city and is currently taking a pension from then coming back and taking a full-time salary as well. It was different in the case of mayor Sanders because he was getting his police pension, but then he retired and then he was elected to office. Since she hasn't been elected, she can't get a pension and a salary at the same time. So she could either work for free or come work and as a provisional employee. But that only allows her to work 90 days a year.
SAUER: So a contractor for 90 days and then a volunteer?
ORR: Right. Or the council could change it.
SAUER: And I contacted Donna this morning briefly and she said there's nothing new on this so far.
LEWIS: She should just form her own company and act as a consultant, right?
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: She very well could! Well, she's a consultant with her husband's surf shop at this point. Let's see how that plays out. But Bob Filner has said he still wants a major role for her. Scott, who's going to be at the helm? Who's going to be Filner's chief of staff?
LEWIS: A guy named Vince Hall. He's praised by progressives in town, he's the current vice president or left his position of vice president of the local planned parenthood chapter. He flirted with elected service for many years. Tried to become an assemblyman. He was leap frogged by Lori SaldaÒa in 2004. Everyone use words like competent and well-spoken when they talk about him. But conservatives aren't going to be necessarily appreciative of his priorities.
SAUER: He's a progressive, is he not?
LEWIS: Conservatives lost.
[ LAUGHTER ]
LEWIS: So it'll be -- he's got a long-term concern about things like water supply, and he's just a well-rounded person as far as those priorities are concerned. I think a lot of people have been impressed with that. Of the big question now is what are they going to do to hire a new chief operating officer, this role of sort of general manager? Because they can say, look, Vince Hall is going to be in charge of the policy side and the politics side. But you can't just have any manager in the other side in operations, you need somebody who will then prioritize your plans and facilitate your ideas and provide the sort of bones behind the kinds of structures you want to build. And several people apparently have turned Bob Filner down.
SAUER: Oh, really! How interesting.
LEWIS: Including Walt Eckert the departing CEO of the county. So we'll see if he's able to convince one of them to come aboard. That's probably the most important hire.
SAUER: Is this a nationwide search? The mayor's salary has been frozen at at $75,000. But this person makes a quarter million dollars a year, right?
LEWIS: Yeah, so they're looking for competent manager, people like Eckert from the county, but I've only heard of local candidates for that. If they have to expand their major search, that's not something I think you would find attractive. He needs to move O. He's going to be grappling with the fact that he's now the chief executive of 10,000 employees.
ORR: All the budget projection, they have a CFO and a COO. But all the budget projection business we get all come from that office.
SAUER: $3 billion budget? 10,000 employees? Who knows how many assets and real estate and street, sewers.
LEWIS: There's many leases, those leases in many cases are expiring next year. So there are things that are big manager although --
SAUER: Big aspects of the budget.
PERRY: It does seem the mayor elect is running around handing out money. Let's have an office in Tijuana, let's have more cops, let's give free bus passes to kids. Is there money out there that he doesn't discuss during the campaign?
[ LAUGHTER ]
PERRY: What's going on here?
LEWIS: It's never been his strong suit, identifying funding opportunities.
ORR: And it goes back to your question about whether or not Todd Gloria is going to be strong enough because one of the things Filner wants to do is take money from the liability fund. The city got $27 million from SDG&E for the 2007 wildfire settlement. He wants to take most of that and put it toward public safety. Gloria has said, I believe he told Voice, no, I'm not going to support that. That money should be in the liability fund. The city needs its reserves. We're not going to go back to the days where we're financially shaky. So he's not even in office but you see this relationship setting up
PERRY: It did seem that Tony Young before he told us he was taking another job, he and Todd and Faulconer also engineered several moves on the council that were designed to frankly strengthen the strong council against the strong mayor, be it Bob or the redoubtable be Carl DeMaio. So they have been getting ready to assert themselves more than they were able to do under Mr. Sanders.
LEWIS: That's what I'm saying. I think you'll see Todd Gloria emerge as a more interesting figure in the effort to frame debates about city politics. He will be able to step right up, he sets the budget, the agendas, the mayor has to go through him, and it might turn into a tense rivalry between the two. Filner's ideas and plans are this vague series of things that he's strung together without actual funding ideas. He had this idea to take the hotel room tax, the 2% that's added on top of the 10% tax that the city charges for hotel room stays, he wanted to take a big portion of that is direct it toward fire and police. And of he told the council to hold back on approving that deal to extend that tax, and they basically said no. Sorry.
PERRY: One of the things I thought was interesting during the campaign. Filner kept saying neighborhoods neighborhoods, neighborhoods, and I thought to myself don't we have little kings called City Council members that are supposed to be in effect neighborhood people? Isn't the mayor supposed to be a little different in his or her --
LEWIS: I think that was more of a sense of decentralizing city -- we have this infrastructure built around power politics and transactional politics down with Convention Centers and redevelopment. What he's saying is we should prioritize not individual projects and neighborhoods but their concern as a whole over the concerns of big-time --
PERRY: Isn't that a slam on the council members, that they haven't been listening to their neighborhoods?
LEWIS: It's a slam on everybody who's been in charge of the city until this white knight showed up.
PERRY: He had all this criticism, or implies criticism of Jerry Sanders, I never heard him take Jerry Sanders on directly. I never heard him say and I'm going to be better than this guy we just had. He was no good.
SAUER: Let me hold that thought.
ORR: I think a lot of people give Sanders credit from taking the city from being on the brink financially to being relatively stable so much I don't think there is a lot of criticism out there among politicians of Sanders because everyone acknowledges that he had a big job and that he did a fairly good job of that.
SAUER: Beth, do you hear any criticism of the former mayor?
[ LAUGHTER ]
FORD ROTH: I'm just wondering about something I heard, a recent event at Horton plaza where Bob Filner was speaking and there was this humorous debate going on in the UT, who was the best mayor ever of San Diego? Was it Jerry Sanders? Was it Pete Wilson?
SAUER: Barack Obama.
[ LAUGHTER ]
FORD ROTH: No, no. And maybe I heard this incorrectly, but didn't Bob Filner say something like Pete Wilson? They were both sitting right there. Sorry, Mr. Sanders.
ORR: Yeah, I was not at that, but we were at a function for the mayor last night, and they were saying that he had said Jerry Sanders the second-best mayor of San Diego.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: But I mean, that's kind of Bob Filner, you know? He says stuff like that.
PERRY: He says things like that to see how rattled you get. It's a sport with him, I believe. Anyone who's seen him when he was the head of one of the committees in Washington, a bureaucrat would come and testify, it's an interesting experience.
SAUER: Speaking of Mr. Filner, he just tweeted that he was on UT TV this morning, and they didn't to say the least support him in the campaign.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: And he stopped by to say hello to John Lynch who of course is the publisher and CEO down there. It was all smiles on UT TV this morning.
ORR: At Sanders' last scheduled press conference with the media, we were waiting for him to come in, and Bob pops his head in, and he says I'm staging a cuse! I'm taking over early! I think it'll be fun.
PERRY: With Bob, I think you have to believe there are no jokes. There is truth said with a smile and a yuck yuck yuck.
SAUER: Let's talk about Carl DeMaio, he missed out on the mayor's job. Now he's out of a job entirely. Why isn't he continuing as councilman?
ORR: He had to give up his seat in order to run for mayor. And so Mark Kersey took over, and he ran unopposed in district 5, and he'll be sworn in on Monday. He took a gamble, and he lost.
SAUER: Has he had a gracious farewell? Has it been tearful and --
ORR: I think it's been gracious. He had some nice things to say about his colleagues. He's been a very gracious loser, I think is fair to say. He got a lot of credit for his concession speech. People saying oh, man, you should have shown that much emotion during the race!
LEWIS: Yeah, the concession speeches are always the best. I remember Ron Roberts in 2004, that was the best speech he ever gave. Carl trying to reinvent both himself now in the sense of a Crusader to challenge the Republican party. He wants to -- he thinks that he stumbled onto this magic formula about how to attract independents and Democrats, which the party is not doing very well.
SAUER: Are you speaking in California or nationwide?
LEWIS: In California. He says he has some major, major deep problems with the national party. Now, I don't know whether that's true or not. But that's what he's trying to project. He says that we are in deep trouble as Republicans, as a Republican party he want doesn't blame himself for losing the election. He says it's the party's fault in many ways because he just couldn't get over that label of being a Republican, as much as it happened him of course.
PERRY: Do you think he'll run again in four years?
LEWIS: No, I don't think necessarily for mayor. Maybe again for council.
SAUER: Maybe in two years for Congress?
ORR: Yeah, I heard total speculation that that might be a possibility. But it's pretty early.
PERRY: Interesting to see whether Carl's philosophy dies with him, as it were.
SAUER: How would we outline that in a short form?
PERRY: Sure. All the candidates say we've got to thwart special interests. Usually defined as developers and folks like that. Carl said the one special interest that we really got to fight is the employees. That this government has been run not just boy the employees but for the employees. Jerry Sanders made changes but in his heart believes in government service, government employment being a sinecure with a pension. He really believes it, and made the changes only reluctantly because the city was drowning. Carl was reluctant at all. He thinks civil service has gotten way out of hand.
LEWIS: Carl is a libertarian who morphed into what he believes that people didn't quite get enough or I would say he didn't articulate extremely well who believes that through his principles government could actually deliver more services.
LEWIS: By using some of these experiments with outsourcing libertarian philosophy and changing the government union.
PERRY: And you shouldn't get a city job at age 25. That means you're assured to say for as long as you want, salary increase every year, and a pension at the end.
LEWIS: So he says, his claim is that if you pull all those principles out and wrap them up in better labels, they would be more attractive than if you pull them all out and wrap them up under the Republican party banner. And whether that's true or not, it's going to be a tactic that a lot of people push the Republican party toward which is this Rand Paul world of liberties, leave the stuff alone.
SAUER: Let me interrupt just one second. The Supreme Court of the United States failed to act today on marriage cases, the same-sex marriage cases, so they're going to revisit that to see if they'll take it up next Friday.
LEWIS: And that's the struggle in particular for the state party, the Republican party. And I think that Carl really wants to influence that, and I think that's part of the reason that he put that oped that he did in the Orange County register. Orange County will have a major influence on the leadership of the Republican party that'll come. And I think whether he actually serves in a leadership role or not, I don't know.
SAUER: Tony your paper reported last week that I believe the Republicans in Orange County are losing their grip.
PERRY: Exactly. There are more Democrats in Orange County than there are in San Francisco.
PERRY: Percentage-wise, no, but numerical-wise, yes. And it is a smart Democrat that campaigns there and works it.
ORR: Along the lines of DeMaio wanting to redefine the Republican party, I spoke to Tony Kravaric, the local chair of the Republican party a couple days ago, and they lost many of the races that they ran this time around, and I asked him about that, do you want to do anything differently? He said oh, no, with San Diego, I think weR a model for Republican parties everywhere. And he was using Carl DeMaio as an example of that. He said we don't care who you are, black, white, straight, gay, anything, you are welcome in our party. We are just pushing the financial issues, kind of.
SAUER: Beth, you're shaking your head, here. You're not buying that?
FORD ROTH: Well, are not necessarily. I'm thought sort of curious. I've heard that also on the national level that well next time we'll appeal more to the Latinos by just bringing in a Latino, as if all the issues that matter to people who are of any sort of background, those issues won't change, but we'll just bring in someone with the same last name as you, and that's going to bring in the voters. It's just missing the point, I guess.
ORR: And his message was just sort of stay the course. Why do we have to do all this naval gazing? It didn't work out next time around, but next time it might be different.
SAUER: Then you wonder if he's going to be around next time.
LEWIS: The Republicans lose every four years, but they seem to be doing really well every four years alternate. In 2014, everybody'll be, like, what happened to the Democrats?
PERRY: There'll be Republicans lining up to run against Scott Peters.
LEWIS: And it's not going to be a presidential election.
PERRY: Exactly. So there are probably as we speak Republicans having power lunches at the Grant Grill or something with their hearts ready to take down Scott Peters.
SAUER: We do have some new faces on the council too. Let's talk about some of those folks. Who's coming in?
ORR: Mark Kersey is coming in, he was a business guy, an entrepreneur, he just walked into the see replacing Carl DeMaio for district 5. And Scott Sherman, a Republican, he has been elected in district 7. Marti Emerald's old district. She has moved on and is representing the new district 9.
SAUER: That area is near where we are here at San Diego state. The college area.
ORR: But Kersey and Sherman rode in on that primary wave of Republicans. They had all that success early on. And Ray Ellis who ultimately lost to Sherri Lightner but won that primary, so they were lucky in that they won you and a lot of Republican turnout, and they got into office.
SAUER: And that goes to the point you were just making, about the big turnout in the presidential year and maybe two years from now things at the local and congressional level.
PERRY: I kept wondering if there was an exhaustion factor at work. A council office in the primary with no opposition? Two candidates for mayor in the primary? District 1 out in La Jolla, usually we get a bumper crop. We didn't get any good odd-ball candidates with their little design on wisdom. Is there an exhaustion factor in local politics?
LEWIS: I disagree. District 7, Sherman, there were three or four interesting candidates there.
PERRY: We had an open mayor's race. We had two candidates. We usually had six, eight.
ORR: Well, are in the primary --
SAUER: Four major ones and about eight or nine total.
LEWIS: There was a DA, a sitting assembly woman, and then the Congressman, and a City Councilman.
PERRY: But Bonnie Dumanis, God bless her, she was a loser from day 1. Fletcher --
SAUER: Too little too late on the switch?
PERRY: Not much. What I'm saying is there really were only two candidates from the very beginning, Carl and Bob. I just didn't see a lot of energy.
LEWIS: I don't know.
PERRY: Springing up from neighborhoods.
LEWIS: This is like the fourth mayor's race I've watched, I've never seen this much interest in it. 2008, nobody ran against the mayor. I just don't --
PERRY: But the mayor told his opponent bleep you. That had to be very interesting.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: Which he said was his favorite line!
SAUER: The only bleep I've done since being news editor here was mayor Sanders and he was talking about Carl DeMaio! We're going to wrap it up there and leave it on the City Hall for now.
MAUREEN SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer. We've got three interesting stories related to the military this week. Beth, let's start with you on the appeal being heard by the military's highest court about punishment for attempted suicide. Tell us about private Caldwell. What happened in Okinawa?
FORD ROTH: Well, Caldwell actually who lives in Oceanside now but he was based in Okinawa, in 2010 he slit his wrists. He was saved by another marine who helped bind his wrists, and then he was basically punished for trying to commit suicide and failing and served I believe a year in the brig. And so the appeals court is hearing whether or not this kind of policy makes sense, when you have so many service members committing suicide now, I think they make up 20% of all military deaths now.
SAUER: That's remarkable am
FORD ROTH: It's remarkable, and Leon Panetta has called it an epidemic. It's only going to be growing as the troops come back and they're facing -- I think it's 1-5 troops have PTSD from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
SAUER: We're going to get into some of that. Let me ask you another detail about this. Private Caldwell that we're talking about, he was going to be sent to the brig?
FORD ROTH: He was actually. He's already served his time.
SAUER: But before he made the attempt --
FORD ROTH: He had been accuse have had stealing.
SAUER: So there may have been some sort of motive involved?
FORD ROTH: Well, I think that's maybe what went into it. But he had already been diagnosed with PTSD. He had not been deployed to Afghanistan but he had been stabbed by his fiancee, so he was suffering from that. He was on an antidepressant, and they did not provide him with it when he was in his cell. And then he slashed his wrists.
SAUER: So if you attempt suicide and fail, then it's a criminal offense as we're discussing here. And that's one of the issues in this particular appeal. Of but if you're successful, unfortunately, what happens then?
FORD ROTH: You've died honorably in the line of service. You get a letter of condolence from the president now. It's an odd message to be sending.
SAUER: What is the message?
FORD ROTH: Tony might have more of an enlightenment on this, but I'm wondering does this go back to the days when we didn't have an all volunteer force and maybe you had men in the service because of the draft, and there may have been ways they were trying to get out? And now when you do have an all volunteer force and you've got this epidemic of suicide, it doesn't seem to make as much sense.
PERRY: Sure. It's an anachronism that probably is not used a lot.
FORD ROTH: No.
PERRY: It goes back to World War II where individuals would fake suicide to malinger. And you can't have that. So they used it there to punish and threaten people who are going to fake like this. Now, Caldwell was not a good marine. His own attorneys will admit that their filings. He had a lot of problems. A lot of problems before he went in the Marine Corps. He would not today be allowed in the Marine Corps. On his own Facebook he says he spent a year in jail on some assault charge. Must have gotten a waiver to get into the Marine Corps. He is suing as I understand it because he got a dishonorable discharge which prohibits him from getting certain VA benefits including mental health counseling which he could benefit from. It's an anachronism. This court has upheld this before coming out of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf war, in which they can say, yeah, real bad law, but it is on the uniform code of military justice role, and that's how you ought to fix this thing. Soap they're going to have to make a legal argument that this thing violates this other law or the rights of. To get something overturned is -- it's a tough slog. And these attorneys are going to have a tough slog. I'm not sure that private Caldwell is a slam dunk to get what he wants out of this.
SAUER: Let me invite our listeners. 1-888-895-5727. Beth?
FORD ROTH: As strange as it sounds, the gulf war was 20 years ago. And I think we have a completely different understanding now of post traumatic stress disorder, which goes hand in hand with traumatic brain injury, which is the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in the Court of Appeals, one. The senior judges said this is a quote, if suicide is indeed the worst enemy the armed forces have, why should we criminalize it when it fails? If this marine had succeeded, it would -- his family would be having a completely different experience than the fact that he failed.
ORR: You say we have a completely different understanding of PTSD now, and we've been hearing a lot about it in the news, we hear about it -- it seems like daily. But bureaucratically, does the militarily have a new understanding of it? I mean, do they have new regulations in place for marines or service members who say that they are suffering from it? Do they have new services? Do they respond to them faster? Is that something we're still dealing with?
FORD ROTH: I was just at the VA in La Jolla about two weeks ago and spoke with someone there about the kind of services they provide female marines. But they have new diagnoses. Military sexual trauma is a diagnosis. And you will receive specific treatment for that. And this is something where the higher ups of the military are finally realizing that the idea that you have to soldier up and tough it out isn't really the way that you're going to keep these people alive when they come back. We've been at war now for ten years.
SAUER: Even longer.
FORD ROTH: Right. And I spoke with a marine probably about six months ago who suffers from PTSD who told me the only place he didn't feel his symptoms was in combat. And so they request these deployments to go back. In fact, they're all going to be coming back as we phase out of Afghanistan. And this epidemic is only going to grow. And so maybe this marine isn't the ideal case for the Court, but if you're having people -- this year alone I think the first three months of 2012, more service members, active duty service members, were dying from suicide than from combat.
SAUER: That really is remarkable. Tony?
PERRY: You have to be careful on some of these numbers. Who commits suicide in this country, young males, 18-25. And the army and the Marine Corps, their suicide rate is above that, above the civilian demographic. But only sort of flirting with being above it. So it isn't to my mind extraordinarily high above the similar civilian demographics. And what do they have that civilians don't have? They have weapons. There are also text that say oddly enough, the percentages of those who commit suicide in the Marine Corps, for example, who have deployed are the same as the overall force, that is to say you don't have a hire percentage of people who have done two, are three, four deployments committing suicide. You have people who have deployed, but you have a quarter of the people who haven't deployed like private Caldwell also committing suicide or attempting suicide. So you have to be real careful on these numbers because it's a serious, serious problem, and you can't underestimate it. But can't overestimate it.
FORD ROTH: Well, I don't believe I'm overestimating it. These numbers have been growing. We've seen a spike in the last few years. And it may be the kind of thing where we're experiencing something we've never experienced before. It's not necessarily being in deployment that's going to cause it. It's being out of deployment where they start to feel the symptoms.
SAUER: We got a caller, Jim, go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: I have a question about why the military wouldn't, and I'm sure they must create a psychological profile on those folks who claim that they have PTSD or do have PTSD. And also the ones that actually commit suicide or attempt suicide, if they would create this profile and use that as a screening tool when people want to get in, and prevent them from getting in in the first place.
FORD ROTH: Well, I can answer part of that question in which one of the problems I think that at least secretary Pinetta and
Dempsey have been saying, and a lot of what I've heard from military spouses, that these men are afraid to go to their healthcare providers because they feel it will hamper them in their promotions. They're not going to rise up the ranks of the military if they go and say, oh, I have PTSD. And I've heard that -- I was on a BBC radio show, and one of the veterans said I think that's just -- it's too bad that all these guys are saying they have PTSD because it just hampers them so much there's this feeling that they shouldn't be coming forward. Then they're alone, and that's when they may be committing suicide.
LEWIS: Just taking off Tony's point, we're not just talking about PTSD sufferers and then a spike in suicides. There are suedes that happen in places like the Navy and in other services where the exposure to combat isn't the same. But there's problems with an all volunteer force. Well, they're volunteer until they go in, and then they're in. You don't just quit the Navy. So I think there is a major stigma that the military needs to deal with as far as seeking treatment for help even which you're in a noncombat situation like in the Navy.
FORD ROTH: Right.
LEWIS: If you get an antidepressant in some of areas of the Navy, it ruins your career.
SAUER: Our other topic was the ACLU lawsuit filed against the federal government up in the bay area. What's the basis for this lawsuit and tell us about the plaintiffs.
FORD ROTH: Well, there are four women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple deployment, and the ACLU is filing suit basically to allow -- or against the policy that prohibits them from officially serving in combat roles. We were just talking in the newsroom about Tammy Duckworth who lost both legs piloting a lack hawk in Afghanistan. So women are suffering the same kind of wounds: They're not visible for the same kind of valor awards or promotions.
ORR: Or pay. Do they get combat pay?
FORD ROTH: If you're not officially in combat --
LEWIS: You get hesitant duty pay if you're in a certain zone.
FORD ROTH: But it's a matter of what jobs are open to you, and there are currently 238,000 jobs that are not open to women because they are perceived to be combat. And in May, they opened about 14,000 jobs that had previously been closed off because of their proximity to combat. In response to this lawsuit, Pinetta is saying, look, we're trying to expand the role of women and do it in a way so we can understand what works and what doesn't work.
SAUER: So he's not entirely -- he's not unsympathetic to this lawsuit.
FORD ROTH: No, it doesn't sound like he is. But it's just a matter of -- basically opening up the jobs and who's ever most qualified for the job will get the job as opposed to automatically cutting off 14% of the military.
SAUER: And they are in combat some roles already?
PERRY: Oh, sure, dog handlers, drivers, what they call female engagement.
PERRY: Pilots. And again, maybe I'm the voice of caution here, I'm not sure there's ever been a military in the history of the world that has allowed women equal to men. I think we have to be careful on that. Are we moving into something where we really don't know how it would play on the ground as it were? I think what they're doing to do, and the Marine Corps has already started to do this, they'll up the standards. And say everybody has to do this many pushups.
FORD ROTH: Pullups, they just changed the pullups requirement.
PERRY: Upper body strength. And if you make it, you make it, if you don't, you don't. What'll happen then, there'll be a second suit that says the standards were just upped to show off the macho strength we fellas have and you ladies do not have. And we'll have a second round of this.
ORR: It's something every industry goes through.
PERRY: This industry is specifically different.
ORR: Well, but police departments have gone through it, fire departments have gone through it want
SAUER: You mention fire, I did a story self years ago after the 2007 fires and spent a great deal of time with one very busy unit here, and that was a big issue, women. If I'm at the top of a joist of a burning house, and I've got to hoist me buddy up and out of there, does that woman have the upper body strength where a man would?
ORR: Sure. But you have to look at it again as obviously the situations happens, but over 80% of the fire department's calls are for medical emergencies. So a woman can do 80% of the work that they do.
PERRY: Infantry combat units are trained to kill. Kill. And we know from World War II studies, a rather large percentage of men will not pull the trigger when ordered to do so.
SAUER: Maybe more women would.
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PERRY: Coming from a culture that has certain gender roles written into it, are we going to have a higher percentage of women who will not pull the trigger? We don't know.
FORD ROTH: That's something that we should open up. If we're going to ask if certain men aren't, then those men shouldn't be allowed those combat roles either.
FORD ROTH: You're got 238,000 positions, let's look at them. Which could be open to women, so women can get promotions and there won't be the brass ceiling. One of them said the IED doesn't know whether I'm a man or a woman. And they're not going to get those valor awards.
SAUER: We're going to have to leave it there.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer: General Robert E. Lee said at the battle of Fredericksburg, it's well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of T. Now it's not just soldiers suffering the horrors of war. Tony, your story was how combat dogs can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder just like humans:
PERRY: Well, cora deployed, and he went out on patrols, he was a very good dog sniffing out the bombs. Of
SAUER: What kind of dog?
PERRY: Belgian mala notice. Figure a little German Shepherd, basically. And she did very, very well. Until she didn't. Then she wouldn't leave her handler, and she gnarled at other dogs, and she became combat ineffective. Brought her home, and core -- was brought him before thigh reached this conclusion, but the veterinarians now have realized that dogs come home with post traumatic stress disorder, and they're estimating maybe 10% of them. Cora had a mild case. She's still working for the Department of Defense training the trainers. She'll never deploy again. But some of the dogs are so ruined by their experiences, so traumatized, that they can no longer be of service either to the Department of Defense or the police department, Border Patrol, whatever. And they're retired out, if you will, and allowed to be adopted. Dogs is a controversial topic in Vietnam. We had hundreds of dogs there. Not all of them, in fact, very few of them were brought home. Don't dare ask of this a Vietnam vet, you'll get a screed about what happened. But basically they were not brought home. They were considered equipment. They are not considered equipment now. They are brought home. They have a $15 million hospital at lack lanfor these dogs, some of them physically injured. Some of them just PTSD like Corah. It's a whole 'nother war, and we're finding out that war is awful not just for the human beings but for the animals involved in it too. And one marine sergeant told me the animals, the dogs experience war just like human beings.
SAUER: Goes right down the leash, you said am
PERRY: Down the leash. And when the handler starts getting stressed or afraid, it goes down the leash to Corah or the other dogs. And if they switch out, Corah trained with one trainer, and he loved her, and wanted to deploy with her, then he was transferred out and she deployed with someone else. And that's a problem, dogs don't bond real quick. I talked to the priest handler and he said she was like the girl that got away. I wanted to deploy with her, but we couldn't. The tie between marine, army, airforce, Navy, dog handlers and their animals is mystical. Many of them spend more time talking to their animal than they do their buddies. And they want to bring them home. And you ask them about their experience with their animal, and these big tough guys with tattoos and salty tongues, their voices break up. And it's something to see. Now we've got yet another casualty of this long, drag-out of a war in Afghanistan.
SAUER: How many dogs are we talking about? Generally what are they doing?
PERRY: Maybe 2,500 dogs deployed, and they say 10%. Now, a lot of those dogs came back before they realized what PTSD was. They were slow really to label it for fear of looking like they were showing disrespect for human beings that come back with PTSD. So if 10%, we're talking hundreds of dogs. There were also several dozen dogs killed in the explosions and the firefights of Iraq and Afghanistan.
SAUER: What are some of the jobs they're doing?
PERRY: They sniff out bombs. That nose is the best detector. We've spent billions to create technology. But that canine nose is still the best detector.
SAUER: Ten times stronger than humans.
PERRY: They do that, they have controlled aggression, need to bring down a bad guy, they guard dog, if you will, in front of various places. But where the rubber meets the road is going out with infantry units, especially on the ground, dismounted units as they call it, running in front, sniffing out, and when they find something buried and the enemy is very, very good at burying these bombs, when a dog finds it, he lays down and says essentially here's where it is.
SAUER: You mentioned the one breed with Corah, what are some of the breeds?
PERRY: Well, German shepherds are big. Labradors. No standard poodles. Can't deploy. But those three. They breed some. They buy a lot from Europe. There are breeders there that know how to grow a dog, if you will, that is susceptible till training. Only half of the dogs that start training are later considered to be adequate to deploy. So becoming a dog handler is tough. Becoming a military dog is even tougher. Only the best get to deploy.
SAUER: It's amazing despite all the human suffering we've seen with our misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when dogs in war becomes the focus, the responses can become remarkable.
FORD ROTH: It's almost a given that if I post something, and not just about military working dogs, but there's also this phenomenon of the troops in Iraq bonding with the stray dogs there, and then there are different -- there's puppy rescue missions that help through the red tape and bring the dogs back so they can bring them home. And we're noticing now that we've got therapy dogs, although the VA doesn't pay for it, service dogs basically that help men and women who've got PTSD, and it's something the only thing that can get them out of the house. But I don't know if it's sort of a way that bring a big, awful story like -- you talked about Corah, one dog. And you can sort of relate to your own dog and imagine. As bad as the economy is, spending on our dogs continues to grow.
SAUER: Right, right
FORD ROTH: There's just a special bond between Americans and their dogs.
SAUER: And of course I can't remember, it was a year now, but that remarkable response you got to the one simple photograph.
FORD ROTH: Right, rice, when the Chinook was shot down in August of 2011 in Afghanistan, and all of the Navy seals were killed. And it was a photo taken by a seal's cousin, and it was his dog, Hawkeye, lying next to his coffin. And it got something like 38,000 hits in a 24 hour period, and then a total of something like 200,000 hits total. And it was just a matter of this horrible -- so many faces and different families affected by, but you saw that one picture of that dog and somehow you knew that that man was someone special because his dog loved him so much.
PERRY: And there have been a number of wrenching stories about families of the killed in action of dog handlers. And then they adopt the dog who was with their son when he was killed.
SAUER: Oh, really.
PERRY: A family in Texas, a family in Louisiana. But when you're there and you're with the dogs, more than just what they do, which is quite remarkable, just their presence is a morale boost to the soldiers, marines. It says things aren't totally crazy. Here's this dog who reminds me of Spot or Fido or whatever.
SAUER: Is there treatment for these dogs when they come back?
PERRY: Sure! They walk them through treatment, try to get them -- if they decide it's loud noises or darkness or whatever that have them stressed, they slowly move them into that. They prescribe for them Xanax and other things! Some of them will be able to redeploy. Most will not. They get lesser jobs and a pension.
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