Major Ed Pulido, US Army, Retired

Maj. Ed Pulido joined the Army in 1986. In 2004, while serving in Iraq, he hit an improvised explosive device (IED). This resulted in the the amputation of his left leg. For his heroism and valor, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and Joint Service Commendation and Achievement Medals. In commemoration of National PTSD Awareness Day (today), he gives us a glimpse into his recovery with the physical and psychological injuries of war.

Me: You’re an incredibly resilient being. How would you explain that?

Major Ed Pulido, US Army, Retired:  As I see it, it’s the fact that I understood what it was all about to serve my country in uniform. As my father once told me, when you take the oath, it’s about God, country, family, and defending and protecting the American people of the greatest nation in the world. To me, remembering that on a daily basis becomes a huge element that feeds my positiveness everyday.

When I came back from my last deployment with TBI and PTSD, I had to learn about and understand my symptoms to experience victories in my recovery. I had to know what the symptoms were all about in order to be able to remember things, read and write again and to live with the PTSD-the anxiety, the nightmares, night sweats, hypervigilance, rethinking about what I went through and so on…I also had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it alone. I learned about resources that are available to take care of me. I had to let the therapeutic processes work and help me. Bottom line, I had to ask for help, help from God, country, the American people…and to accept the help.

To say that there won’t be obstacles anymore is not true at all. We all have obstacles. It’s how we choose to deal with those obstacles that matters. It has never been easy for me. I have to continue to work on my recovery every single day, even when I’m feeling depressed from something like not being able to get my prosthetic on right.

The game changer really has been my family-my wife, our 2 girls, and my parents. They have been by my side the whole way…Not everyone has a family right now, but you can connect with a family member. It can be someone you served with or someone you call family. At the end of the day, family is the safety net in place for recovery.

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Major Nick Elias, OKCPD (part 2 of 2)

Me:  Tell us about yourself.

Major Nick Elias (Commander, Oklahoma City Police Department, Southwest Division): I was born in Phoenix Arizona. I have lived in Oklahoma City since I was 3 years old. I’ve worked since that age. My parents owned Eddy’s Steak House, so I grew up working in the restaurant business. I use to stand on a wooden pallet to clean dishes since I wasn’t able to reach the counter. Most of my weekends and holidays were spent working with my family.  I can cook for a multitude of people, prepare and organize large events. My dad personally taught me these skills.

I’ve been with the Oklahoma City Police Department now for 30 years.  My wife and I have been together for 12 years.  My son is 21, my stepson is 20 and my stepdaughter is 25.  I enjoy spending time with family, volunteering/ training our future leaders through Scouting, working out and getting things accomplished around the house.

Me:  What’s something you’re not really good at?

Maj Elias:  I would definitely say making time for fun and taking a break from work. I’m great at working and staying busy all the time. I rarely, if ever, take time for family or friends. I’m horrible to take on a trip. I’m most comfortable when I’m accomplishing a goal, not relaxing.

Me:  Misspent youth kind of story?

Maj Elias:  I would say my vice during my youth was with cars and speeding.  I loved to drive fast. I’ve had a lot of speeding tickets. I think I was on probation until I graduated college. I would go to court every six months and be placed on probation so the ticket wouldn’t go on my record. I still remember driving south bound on I-35 to Norman, OK and being impatient with two drivers going the speed limit and taking up both lanes of travel. I drove around them on the right shoulder of the road. I failed to look directly behind me to see the OHP Trooper. Yep, I earned another one. I received a careless driving ticket, but at least I didn’t go to jail.  When I decided to join OCPD, the one thing I felt was going to keep me from being hired was my driving record. I don’t drive fast anymore, mainly because I know my own mortality and I’m not in a hurry to get to my grave.

Me: Being a police officer seems like a pretty dangerous job.

Maj Elias:  Having a career in law enforcement can be very dangerous. Officers go to heated or violent situations every day. The reason they are so successful most of the time is because of the numerous hours spent training. It’s normal for people to think they will live forever. If we worried about dying, no one would ever leave their home. I’ve always looked forward to going to work and getting involved in something exciting. In the past, when I’ve been involved in fighting a subject who had a weapon or responding to an armed robbery in progress, I’d focus on the successful outcome of that one incident. Most police officers have a warrior mindset. They’re not joining because it’s safe, they’re joining because they want to make a positive difference for their family as well as others in their community.

Me:  Do you think about the dangerous aspects of the job while on the job?

Maj Elias:  I absolutely think about the risks during the entire shift. You have to be thinking about what actions you might need to take when going to a call for service in order to have a successful outcome for everyone involved. Police work is more mental than it is physical. To be truthful, one of the most difficult jobs on the department is being a dispatcher. They handle stressful situations when people call in, assign it to one of the officers who may also be a friend and never know the outcome of the situation. Not having a resolution to a critical incident is very stressful.

Me:  Stress management is pretty important to having a successful career.  How do you deal with the stressful aspects of being a cop?

Maj Elias:  It’s great to go home at the end of a shift. I normally see how my family’s day went and relax for a couple of hours to get my mind off of work. It’s not really different than anyone else with a career. It’s only different when officers don’t come home on time or don’t come home at all. Then it affects all of the officers and their families.

I like to talk about things that bother me. I talk to family, friends, and other officers. We have a fantastic support system set up at the police department. Our Chaplin Charlie Phillips is a police officer who has worked the front line for many years and understands the stress of being a police officer. He is trained to deal with a wide range of issues affecting officers. We also have an Employees Assistance Program and the Chapps Program (Cops Helping Alleviate Police Problems) and the Chaplin Corps. I’ve grown up in a Christian family, I’ve also been taught to respect the beliefs of others. I have seen God working in the lives of those I serve as well as my own. It would be difficult to do this job and not believe in something greater than yourself.

I have a great support system at home, my neighborhood and in the community. I may be a little biased, but my experience with people from Oklahoma has been very positive and supportive. We have many great citizens who contribute to the success of our City. I have worked with many City officials and police officers over my 30 year career. I can say without hesitation-we have the best police officers I’ve ever seen. This does not happen without leadership from the top. Chief Citty has been an excellent example of making positive and proactive changes over the last 14 years as Chief. He genuinely cares about all of his officers and works on giving them the tools they need to do the job more effectively.

Me:  How has being a police officer influenced who you are?

Maj Elias:  Being a police officer is an honorable profession, but it comes with a price. It means you will hold yourself to a higher standard than others in the community. You will be held to a higher standard of accountability if you break the law. You will be scrutinized for everything you do because you hold others accountable for their actions. Without a doubt police officers are trained to look for those who break the law, those who choose to rob, rape, steal, assault or even get a traffic ticket. The hardest thing for officers to see is the positive influence they have on others as a result of their decision to become a police officer. My personal views have been shaped by my personal experiences with people and they seem to change the older I get. The bottom line for me is I chose to believe in people otherwise I wouldn’t do this job.

I’m not as good at being a husband as I am a police officer.  Like many officers’ spouses, my wife didn’t choose to be a police officer, but she gets to be one anyway. She gets to hear the complaints and deal with the stuff I deal with on a daily basis. I put her “on hold” when I receive a call from work so I can deal with issues that arise. It’s not uncommon in police work, but it takes a toll on a relationship. My wife is a Saint!

As a father, I had more time to spend with my son when he was younger. I made time to be with him and be involved in his life. I will take his call even if I’m in a meeting. It might be short, but I’ll take his call. My stepson and stepdaughter are very independent and responsible young adults. They really don’t need my guidance, but I’m available if they need me. They rely more on their mom than they do me, which is probably a good thing.

 Me:  Tell us about your involvement with the Boy Scouts.

 Maj Elias: My first wife’s dad was an Eagle Scout, her brother was an Eagle Scout and my son was going to be an Eagle Scout. It’s a family tradition. I got involved when my son crossed over from cub scouts into boy scouts. I was going to troop meetings for my son’s sake, not because I enjoyed it. I quickly found out Scouting was about building future leaders in the community and nation by teaching them ethics and morals through the scout oath and law. They learned about citizenship, finance, fitness, first-aid, science, backpacking, family life, law, you name it and we might have a merit badge for it.

I quickly realized the value scouting had not only for my son, but for other kids whose parents were not involved. I later became a merit badge counselor and Troop Committee Chair. There, I found other adults whose values, mission and vision were the same as mine and they weren’t cops. It was a diverse group of men and women coming together for a common purpose-developing future leaders and being able to leave a legacy for future generations. My son earned his Eagle Scout Award in 2010 and stayed in Scouts until he went to college. I felt then I was done with Scouting when my son left the troop.

Being in the Scouts has given me a positive outlook on our future generations. I don’t normally get that interaction being a police officer. It’s important for me to be proactive and doing something positive for our future, not just whining about it. Also, I have a great relationship with my son, but going camping in Philmont, New Mexico during the winter or sweating through summer camp at Kerr Scout Ranch at Slippery Falls seemed to make it unforgettable. I will never regret doing things with my son and I have memories that will last a lifetime. I hope other parents will do the same.

I later realized Scouting has more layers than an onion. I received a call from the District Executive asking if I would be on the District Committee. No longer would I be going to a weekly meeting for just 1 hour a week. I would only be going to a meeting 1 hour a month. Sure, sounded like a good exit plan to me. Well, I’ve been on the District Committee for 4 years and serve as the Vice-Chair. I’m still having fun, but it’s with the adults who run the program for the pack, troop and or crew. I’ve also continued to serve on staff for Wood Badge.

Wood Badge is the BSA’s premier leadership training course for adults. You have to be at least 18 years old to attend this training. The first Wood Badge course was held in 1919 by Sir Baden Powell on Brownsea Island. Although the program has evolved, the Wood Badge program is still being held, only it’s world-wide. There are two phases to the leadership training. First is the practical phase where participants attend a 6-day course over two weekends. The second part is the application phase. This is where the participants put what they’ve learned into action. They work to accomplish 5 goals within a 6 to 18 month period. The reason this program is so valuable is because it trains the adults to become better leaders for our kids, in their careers, as well as the communities they serve. If anyone is interested, here’s the link for more information http://lfcwoodbadge.org/WB2128/

Major Nick Elias, OKCPD

(Part 1 of 2)

Me:   What’s something people might not know about the Oklahoma City Police Department?

Major Nick Elias (Commander, Oklahoma City Police Department, Southwest Division):  All across Oklahoma City, we now have about 200 body cameras for our officers.  These body cameras are utilized by evening shift officers.   We expect to expand the program in the future when funds are available.  These cameras have been extremely beneficial.  Our officers turn the body cameras on for Priority 1 & 2 calls for service and traffic stops.  Once the cameras are on, everything goes on record.  If there is a review process, for example, if an officer is involved in use of force or if there is a complaint filed, we will review the body cam video.  Most of the time, our officers have done nothing wrong.  When we go back and look at the footage, it’s great, because it tells the whole story. Most of the time, the complaints are not substantiated.  Regardless, use of the body cameras can go a long way to establish transparency and build trust with the people we serve and protect.

Our policy as police officers is to always treat people with respect, even in stressful situations or situations where we have to make split-second decisions.  Like anyone else though, we police officers are human beings.  Human beings make mistakes.  For instance, sometimes you might be in the heat of battle or in a dangerous situation, strong words may slip out.  When we do make mistakes, our actions are reviewed. The review process is then reviewed up through our chain of command to the Chief.  The officer involved may need to be disciplined, take remedial training, etc.

The Oklahoma City Police Department as a whole has been growing and moving in a positive direction.  I have not seen one problem case here at this division.  I’ll be real honest with you, I’m really glad we have the body cameras.  I prefer to have my actions on camera.  That way you know the truth.  There’s no he said, she said or ‘Well, of course you’re going to take the officer’s side.’  It is what it is.  I have all the confidence in the world my officers are doing the right thing, so I’m really not worried.

Me:  Tell me about something you’ve been through that sticks out in your mind?

Maj Elias:  After the Murrah Building Bombing in 1995, I was working at the Hefner Division.  The FBI had called and asked, ‘Hey, do you have any officers that can come up here?’ At the time, we didn’t know what it was for.  We went to the FBI office and met with Agent Chuck Choney.  I wasn’t expecting it to happen, but we then went to US Marshall’s office to pick up Timothy McVeigh and transported him to Tinker (AFB) for his arraignment.

McVeigh didn’t have the confident look on his face as depicted in the media back then.  This guy was extremely scared and in a bulletproof vest.  In person, he looked like a young kid right out of the military, worried and not grasping what was really happening to him.  If you were to just go off of his appearance, it wouldn’t have raised any red flags.  Right there’s one of the scary parts to policing.  What does a bad guy look like?  You never really know.  Anyway, the memory of being part of something like that so randomly has stayed with me since.

Another incident that comes to mind happened when I was dealing with a guy really putting up a fight and resisting arrest.  A different guy, one I arrested and put in jail on a different day, saw what was happening, ran over, and started to help me.  Later on when talking with the guy that helped me, he said, ‘No, (the arrest) was my fault.  You were fair with me.’  That has always stuck with me.  Just treat someone fairly.  I’m not a judge.  We as police officers have a job to do.  The fact that this guy, someone I arrested during another day’s work, thought enough of me as a police officer to come help me had me wondering if I should start treating everyone extra, EXTRA nicely!

Me:  What didn’t you hear early on in your career that you try to communicate with your officers now?

Maj Elias:  Slow down.  I was always quick, take the next call, go to the next one, look for this, and look for that.  I wanted to accomplish a lot.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve known to slow down.  I only thought about looking for the criminals. Now the culture of our department is such that our officers look for opportunities to connect with and help the community out.  They see some kids out in the neighborhood, they take the time to stop, maybe play some ball with them and talk with them.  When I was first hired on, my Lieutenant or Sergeant would see that as goofing off.

The perception, being engaged with the public, we do a lot better job now than before.  We were a lot more standoffish when I first came on.  You didn’t talk to the police or call them unless you were in trouble.  Now we’re actively engaged in the community and doing other things besides stopping people, checking them, and writing them tickets.  I think that’s the right attitude.  I do wish that I would’ve been more perceptive earlier on in that regard.

While the culture of policing has changed over time, the common theme has always been helping people.  We get to help people by holding them accountable.  For the most part though, it’s helping citizens who need advice or don’t know who to ask for help, or how to receive services.  The best part is being able to provide assistance to people that might not be a police issue.  It’s like being there for your mom or your dad, being that person to turn to when he or she has nowhere else to turn.

Me:  What have you struggled with the most in your career?

Maj Elias:  My biggest obstacle was dealing with the needs of many different people in society.  Their perspectives, life experiences, culture, values and beliefs can be very different.  Trying to alleviate their problems or issues can become very complex.  The law does not cover every incident an officer deals with.  I’ve had the greatest amount of success by listening and building relationships in our community.  I’ve met many people who are in the business of helping others.  One example is Jan Peery who runs the YWCA’s Battered Women’s Shelter.  She has provided services to many women and children who had nowhere else to go in a domestic situation.   Without people like her, our job would be extremely difficult.

Me:  What are you not really a fan of in your line of work?

Maj Elias:  Paperwork.  Police work is probably 95% paperwork and 5% excitement.  Paperwork, that’s what keeps this place going.  It’s the highlight of my day whenever I get to get out from behind the desk, show up with my officers, take a call, and feel like a real policeman.  Most of the time for me, I’m in meetings and doing paperwork.  I’m not as engaged as I used to be at this level, but I sure do miss it.

Me:  What’s something you feel really proud of, something you’d consider a huge win?

Maj Elias:  I’d say my best victory has been seeing others succeed, which is often.  I used to just focus on myself and what I wanted to achieve in life.  Then I realized it’s not about me, it’s about helping other people succeed no matter what your job is.  If you help yourself, you’ve helped only one.  If you help others, everyone wins.  I’m a big believer in teamwork and diversity.  The team will overcome many difficult obstacles. Having a diverse group ensures we don’t get stuck in single minded thinking and we stay on track.  It’s like having a football team.  You wouldn’t be very successful if you had all quarterbacks.

Me:  How would you like to be remembered?

Maj Elias:  Our police department is extremely employee-centric.  That’s who we are.  The leaders serve our officers more so now than we ever have before.  Before, you didn’t talk with your Captain, your Major, or anyone in your executive command.  You talked maybe to your supervisor and you didn’t look at the other senior officers.  Now we try to figure out what our officers who are actually doing the job need. How can we support them?  How can we best help them to perform optimally?  It works out really well for all of us.  I think it’s a generational shift and technology has helped a lot.

I’d like to be remembered as someone who was supportive, honest, fair, and gave good advice.  I want people to know it’s important to foster an environment where it’s ok to mistakes. You learn and grow from your mistakes.  I’d be happy to just be remembered as someone who was supportive and helped others along in their careers.

Erving Otero-Chiclana, US Army

Me: How did you end up here (Hawaii)?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, FL.  I joined the Army about 5 years ago.  I’ve been here in Hawaii on TDY for about a year now.

Me: What are some things you love about serving in the Army?

Erving Otero-Chiclana: Being a paratrooper!  I’ve been on 3 tours to Afghanistan and hey, I got to jump out of a helicopter and right into the middle of the ocean!  Also, one of the best things about being in the Army is about knowing that we are able to make a change in the world.  No regrets there.

Me: The most beautiful place you’ve been to?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  Next to Hawaii, it’s a tie between New Zealand and Thailand.

Me:  The most trouble you’ve been in?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  I have to say it was when I was at Ft Bragg…part of being with the wrong crowd.

Me: What would you want your family to know about you?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  Just for the impact I’ve made on my family and how important they are to me.  I hope they’ll know that anything and everything I’ve ever done was for them.  I just want them to be proud of me.