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Episode 42This episode features Major Rigby, a Senior Combat Systems Officer for Air Force Global Strike Command with 900+ hours in the B-52H Stratofortress bomber. In 2014, after returning from a deployment, Maj Rigby’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Over the following three years, she learned first-hand how to find harmony between her career and her enduring commitment to her husband. Major Rigby credits her resilience to a strong support network of family, friends, and teammates who provided a strong safety net and peace of mind, and she encourages others to nurture and strengthen their support networks. Her experiences have shaped her as a leader as she uses empathy, compassion, and story-telling as tools to educate others on resilience.
Episode 41Episode 41 is one of the most important conversations aired on The Blue Grit Podcast. I interviewed Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, who is a professor emerita in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and a co-author of a recently published book The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition (April, 2021). Dr. Kaplan, along with her co-author Dr. Julia Rucklidge, published over 300 peer-reviewed publications and textbook contributions about a paradigm-shifting approach to treating mental disorders with food and nutrients. In this episode, we discuss how to create a more resilient brain and improve mental health in the face of trauma, how nutrition is the safest, most effective treatment, how the gut and the brain are intertwined, and much more!
Episode 40Michelle Padgett is the Director of Warrior Wellness and Policy Integration, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Office. She is responsible for leading transformation efforts with a multi-disciplinary team of experts to enhance human performance and advance quality service and experience for warfighters and their families. In this interview, we talk about the power of community resilience. We also discuss the use of artificial intelligence for prevention/operational readiness and grit, challenges of being a military spouse, habits of resilient people, and more.
Episode 39We all have our stories. Some are more unfathomable than others. Master Sgt. Maria Seyborne shares her story of overcoming a harrowing hostage situation, PTSD, and why mental health advocacy has become her life mission.
Episode 38 Episode 38 is an interview with CMSgt Lisa Arnold, who is the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles California. We talk about Chief Arnold’s toughest moments, sexual harassment, surviving deep desperation, rekindling friendships, facing glass ceiling, being a good human and an optimist, her grit, her biggest fears, the importance of sleep, and much more.
Episode 37 The topic of this podcast is a form of resilience: heroism. Christopher McDougall, the author of Natural Born Heroes, describes heroism as a skill that can be practiced, rather than a virtue or personality trait. My guest is Dr. Alan Ogle, an operational Air Force psychologist and firefighter who, among many accomplishments during his military career, developed an alcohol prevention program that became the model for use across Air Force and DoD. He also implemented the 360 multi-dimensional assessment for Military Training Instructors in BMT. In this episode, we discuss heroes and heroism in the military, courage in every day life, compassion as the driving force The topic of this podcast is a form of resilience: heroism. Christopher McDougall, the author of Natural Born Heroes, describes heroism as a skill that can be practiced, rather than a virtue or personality trait. My guest is Dr. Alan Ogle, an operational Air Force psychologist and firefighter who, among many accomplishments during his military career, developed an alcohol prevention program that became the model for use across Air Force and DoD. He also implemented the 360 multi-dimensional assessment for Military Training Instructors in BMT. In this episode, we discuss heroes and heroism in the military, courage in every day life, compassion as the driving force behind heroism, embedded mental health teams, and applying 360 multidimensional assessments when selecting those to positions of power, including political leaders behind heroism, embedded mental health teams, and applying 360 multidimensional assessments when selecting those to positions of power, including political leaders.
Episode 36Blue Grit Podcast episode 36 is a special edition. For the first time, it features two guests on the same show. And for the first time, the topic of discussion is domestic violence. My two guests are Pam Collins -- who is the Clinical Director of Air Force Family Advocacy Program -- and Deidra Saina who oversees and directs Domestic Abuse Victim Advocacy services at the Air Force bases around the world. We discuss elements of Family Advocacy in the Air Force, the nature of domestic violence, power and control cycle, types of abuse, clients rights for self-determination, risk factors for potential victims, resources available to victims, and treatments available to perpetrators.
Episode 35Episode 35 is an interview with SMSgt Jamie L. Britt, the First Sergeant, 61st Air Base Group (ABG), Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.
SMSgt Britt and I met for this recording of the Blue Grit Podcast episode just 2 months after his father committed suicide. In this interview, SMSgt Britt talks about coping with suicide of his father, while helping airmen and commanders in the midst of COVID-19. We discuss what he had to let go in order to become the best version of himself. He is honest and humble. He is not ashamed to look in the mirror and give a name to the reflection he sees. Despite chaotic childhood, battles with alcoholism, and an almost failed marriage — through struggles, deliberate work, and thoughtful choices — he transforms as a better leader, husband, father, and wingman.
Episode 33Episode 33 is an interview with Chief Master Sergeant Roger A. Towberman — the Senior Enlisted Advisor of the United States Space Force and Command Senior Enlisted Leader of the United States Space Command. Chief Towberman represents the highest enlisted level of leadership and provides directions for the enlisted force. We cover topics ranging from personal responsibility, to importance of sleep, fears, racial injustice in America, his training routines, and more.
Special credit to SSgt Justin Armstrong (USSF Visual Information NCOIC, Peterson AFB, CO) for the beautiful production of the video “We’re listening” used in this segment.
Episode 32Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the owner of Thinkenomics, is a retired Colonel with 30 years of service in the United States Air Force. He is the creator of the Profession of Arms Center of Excellence (PACE) that has a strong footprint in the culture of today’s Air Force. We discuss affective learning, leading by example, and shaping healthy organizational culture that creates image appeal and a genuine sense of belonging for its members. Dr. Smith discusses the necessity of intention in engineering a healthy culture for the Space Force. More information on healthy organizational culture: https://www.thinkenomics.com
Episode 31Episode 31 is a conversation with Lt Col (Ret.) Dr. Kevin Basik, a recognized expert in behavioral integrity and leadership development at the individual, team and organizational levels. We discuss another grit strategy: battle cries. Battle cries are phrases, quotes, symbols, idioms, proverbs, or expressions that not only prepare us for stormy times but build our life's narratives and guide us when we struggle.
"It is what it is."
"We will love our way our of this."
"Just do the next right thing."
"I wish this was harder."
"Get bitter, or get better."
"All I’ve ever known how to do is keep showing up."
Need a re-set and a new reminder you are on the right path? Check out this interview on battle cries. More information on https://basikinsight.com
Episode 30The 30th episode of the Blue Grit Podcast is a gripping interview with Colonel Ann Igl, the Commander of 61st Air Base Group, Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California. We talk about multigenerational family grit, deployment grit, grit through cancer, separation, and pandemic. We also discuss a Soviet Union crisis aversion, eating lamb brains, lethargarians, gratitude, humor, grace, and much more.
Episode 29Episode 29 is an interview with Col (Dr.) Scott Sonnek who is the Air Force Director of Psychological Health at the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency. He consults and engages senior leaders at the Headquarters Air Force, DoD, and Congressional levels. He also represents Air Force mental health interests at the Defense Health Agency’s behavioral health clinical community. We discuss psychological impacts of COVID-19, opportunities and innovation amidst crisis, routines, small sustainable improvements, energy management, and staying physically distanced but socially connected.
Episode 28Lt Lindy Jones qualified for the 2020 Olympic trials on her first marathon. Enjoy our conversation about running, her mental game, fast women, and things that really matter to her. Lt Jones is a part of the World Class Athlete Program for track & field and the marathon. She will continue to train for the Olympic trials in the 10k on the track this Summer.
Episode 27Episode 27 is a conversation with Dr. Thomas Joiner, a leading expert on suicide, a psychologist, the Director of the Military Suicide Research Consortium, and a renowned author of many books, to include Why People Die by Suicide, Myths about Suicide, Lonely at the Top, Mindlessness, and The Perversion of Virtue: Understanding Murder-Suicide. This is a helpful conversation about nature, causes, and management of suicidal behavior and related disorders. We discuss his interpersonal theory of suicide, as well as understand and prevention of suicidal behavior in the military.
Episode 26Episode 26 is an interview with Rob Stella, a retired Navy SEAL, and a co-founder of Acumen Performance Group. Rob brings his expertise and experiences in strategic/operational planning, multiple deployments to the Middle East, Pacific Rim, Africa, and Afghanistan. He holds a master's degree in sport and performance psychology and is working on completing a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.
Episode 25Lt Col Rob Marshall, Deputy Chief of the Research and Scholarship Division, Center for Character and Leadership Development, USAFA. He creates innovative courses and researches the effectiveness of adventure and experiential based learning programs in the development of cadets and adults. He discusses his passion of using outdoor experiences to enhance people’s lives, especially in building resiliency and positive coping skills.
Episode 24Episode 24 is an interview with Major Weston S Kelsey, a 3 time Fencing Olympian, Olympic Coach, and Force Support Squadron Flight Commander. Maj Kelsey discusses how to overcome setbacks and design deliberate practices that mimic high pressured situations to learn adaptations to stress. He is currently guiding the growth of a fencing club in Oklahoma.
Episode 23Episode 23 is an interview with Captain (Ret.) Stephen Machuga, the founder and a CEO of Stack-Up.org — an organization that brings both veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming. CPT Machuga discusses overcoming his personal and professional struggles through following his passion for gaming. He strategically capitalized on the benefits of video gaming, building a powerful charity and robust support network. He is currently working on developing evidence based practices for suicide prevention through gaming.
Episode 22Episode 22 is an interview with Dr. Aaron Moffett, a sport psychology consultant for the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. He was the head coach for Team USA at the Invictus Games from 2016 to 2018. He teaches how to take human performance to the next level through enhancing mental game.
Episode 21Episode 21 features TSgt Jaime A. Medina, a recipient of three Bronze Star Medals, multiple Army and Air Force Commendation awards with Valor, Air Force and Army Combat Badges, among many other decorations. As a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), he selflessly deployed to multiple locations and crushed every mission, while his personal life was falling apart. With candor, Jaime discusses his struggles with addiction, self-medicating, denial, isolation, divorce, and harm he was causing to self and those he loved most. When he hit his tragic rock bottom, he checked himself into the residential VA's program that allowed him to heal his spirit. Today, he is advocating and counseling Veterans throughout California's Veteran Treatment Courts and working with the organization he founded -- FIX'D Inc. Veteran Service Org. www.fixdinc.org.
Episode 20Episode 20 features MSgt (Ret.) David Long who completed 20+ years of Army and Air Force service. While struggling with PTSD at the end of his military career and still in excellent physical shape, he was unexpectedly diagnosed with a heart condition that led to two major heart surgeries. Determined to find his way back to health, he continued to emphasize fitness. He was enrolled in the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. After competing as a wounded warrior, he continued to find resiliency by giving back and photographing accomplishments of other wounded warriors, illustrating visual proof of their determination.
Episode 19A1C (Ret.) BJ Lange is the comedy coach for the Air Force's Wounded Warrior Program. An actor and comedian, he was diagnosed with cancer while on orders in the Air Force Reserve getting him enrolled into AFW2. A year into temporary retirement, a cancer relapse set him into a mental health free freefall he soon found his resilience via teaching his passion of improv comedy to his fellow wounded warriors and their caregivers - helping them and him heal with laughter therapy.
Episode 18Episode 18 is a conversation with SMSgt Tiwanda Griffin-Greer, a first-hand witness of an active shooter event that tragically unfolded at Lackland Training Annex in 2016. (The event is described in further detail in Episode 6 — an interview with Abby Schroder who survived her husband, Col Bill Schroeder.) SMSgt Griffin-Greer discusses struggling with survivor’s guilt, invisible wounds, and finding a balance between giving 100% to the Air Force and her family.
Episode 17MSgt Deondra Parks, who survived mortar attacks in Iraq, became a victim of a hate crime. She was shot, while studying in a coffee shop in Texas. A survivor of an active shooting event, she talks about forgiveness, seeking support, dealing with PTSD, and moving on with grace.
Episode 16Monica Marusceac, a board-certified hypnotist and NLP practitioner and trainer, a former Marine combat fighter pilot, now Marine reservist and the CEO of Peak Performance Associates and NoVA Hypnosis & Wellness. The combination of her essential intuition, precision focus as a pilot and her years of hypnosis training and practice allow her to hone in on her clients’ needs with pinpoint accuracy. She discusses her methods of efficiently bringing highly tailored solutions to help reset minds and achieve full potential.
Episode 15Retired Chief Master Sergeant Robert L. Disney, Jr. discusses his experiences in the Air Force as a pararescueman. At the pinnacle of his career, he was the first superintendent of the 1st Expeditionary Rescue Group, leading 280 Airmen across three squadrons of C-130’s, HH-60’s, and Guardian Angel forces providing Personnel Recovery and Combat Search and Rescue to the entire theater of Iraq and Syria.
Episode 14Episode 14 is an interview with Lt Col Mark Zinno, a host of the Hazard Ground Podcast. Every week Hazard Ground brings together servicemembers from across the military, to share their accounts of combat and survival, and deliver inspirational stories of service and resilience from those who have fought on and off the battlefield.
Episode 13Episode 13 of The Blue Grit Podcast is with SMSgt Israel Del Toro who was severely injured in Afghanistan and suffered third degree burns on 80% of his body. He used adaptive sports to overcame his physical limitations. He participated in the Nationals, the Invictus, the Endeavor Games, the Desert Challenge Games, the Great Lakes Regional Games, the Valor Games, the Warrior Games, and is gearing up for the 2020 Paralympics. He competes in shotput, discus, cycling, relay, shooting, and sitting volleyball. At the 25th Annual ESPY Award in 2017, Del Toro was presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Courage.
Episode 12Episode 12 features Lt Col (Ret.) Dave Grossman, the author of On Killing and On Combat. He is a retired US Army Ranger, a paratrooper, a former West Point psychology professor, and one of the nation's leading trainers for military, law enforcement, mental health providers, and school safety organizations. In this interview, Lt Col Grossman discusses the importance of sleep discipline and the role of rest in development of resilience.
Episode 11Episode 11 features Lt Col (Dr.) Cynthia Rutherford who shares a powerful story of overcoming her childhood abuse, to include sexual trauma. She discusses how her painful life experiences taught her to be a better physician and an Air Force Officer.
Episode 10Episode 10 features Col (Ret.) Lee Ellis, who spent 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi and surrounding areas with Senator John McCain and other military leaders. He is the author of 2016 award-winning Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability and Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons From Hanoi Hilton. He shares his dramatic story and the stories of his fellow POWs filled with selfless honor, integrity, and character as the foundation for their daily decision-making.
Episode 9Episode 9 is an interview with Dr. Gary Percival, a SERE psychologist who has an extensive first-hand experience working with the survivors of captivity and isolation. He offers a comprehensive conceptualization of grit, draws a distinction between grit and hardiness, and offers concrete techniques of staying tough through difficult times.
Episode 8Episode 8 is dedicated to the Suicide Prevention efforts and features a moving conversation with Capt Brock McNabb, an Air Force social worker. He talks about coping with losing his best friend, an Army psychologist, who committed suicide.
Episode 7Episode 7 is an interview with Lt Col Jaime Humphries, a Public Affairs officer who discusses the aftermath of dealing with the deadliest shooting in Iraq. He has an interesting perspective on moving forward and becoming productive in the midst of chaos and trauma.
Episode 6Episode 6 features an interview with Abby Schroeder, the widow of Col Bill Schroeder who was shot, defending the lives of others. Abby discusses her life after losing the love of her life. She continues to use strategies she has learned from the Air Force resiliency trainings, relying heavily and deliberately on the 4 pillars.
Episode 5Episode 5 is an interview with Orb Greenwald a former Olympic pentathlete, a swim coach for the USAF special forces selection course. This interview is just weeks after his wife Cordy passed away. Coach Greenwald talks about his failures, grief, being a warrior, and developing grit through setting goals and staying active.
Episode 4Episode 4 features Maj Alea Nadeem who was kidnapped as a child in Iraq. She eventually was able to return to the US. As an adult, she joined the USAF and has a unique perspective on freedom and resilience. She is also passionate about female veterans' healthcare and is working on developing algorithms to help with suicide prevention.
Episode 3Episode 3 features an interview with a wounded warrior, Maj Kat Portillo, and 18 year Air Force veteran. She is a former bodybuilder, triathlete, and an advocate for fitness and health. In 2015, she was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left her paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Episode 2Episode 2 features an interview with the former POW, Dr. (Ret Lt Col) Hector Acosta who discusses his experiences of continuing to build grit after being shot down and held captive in Vietnam.
Episode 1Episode 1 features an interview with Colonel David Hammiel. Col Hammiel is the commander of the 61st Medical Squadron at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. He is a board certified and licensed clinical social worker. He has served in a variety of positions, to include mental health, family advocacy, family support, operational health, air mobility command, behavioral health consultant, medical support squadron command, Air Force medical operations agency, mental health division chief, and clinical social work consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General.