The Pentagon Wants to Know if Employees Have ‘Havana Syndrome’

The Pentagon Wants to Know if Employees Have ‘Havana Syndrome’
Photo: Yamil Lage, Getty Images

If you’re working for the military and suddenly find yourself wracked by nausea, vertigo, or pounding headaches, the Pentagon wants to know. Per an internal memo obtained by The New York Times, the defence hub has started directing all military members, contractors, and civilian employees to report up top if they think they have symptoms of the so-called “Havana Syndrome” that has affected foreign diplomats and intelligence officers working outside the U.S.

For those not in the know, Havana Syndrome is the term used among federal officials to describe a series of unexplained, disturbing medical symptoms that were allegedly first experienced by a team of U.S. Cuban Embassy workers stationed in Havana back in 2016. Since then, a growing number of diplomats and personnel working in regions like Beijing, Vienna, and Berlin have all stepped forward reporting the same set of symptoms seen on Cuban soil: sudden, unexplained headaches, dizziness, and memory loss, which sometimes ratcheted up to brain trauma and permanent hearing loss. The total tally of those affected, per one recent NBC report citing those briefed on the matter, was 200 people — 60 of those cases were among Defence Department employees or their relatives.

While federal officials all seem to agree that something is causing these bizarre cases, nobody can seem to agree on what that something actually is. Researchers have tied the mystery syndrome to everything from pesticide exposure to cricket calls, while federal officials have come up with their own theories that veer pretty heavily into conspiracy territory, and usually involve some sort of secret sonic weapon. Experts in the medical and scientific community have pushed back on that “weapon” idea for a number of reasons, the biggest being that such a weapon would literally need to break the laws of physics in order to cause some of the symptoms seen in Havana victims.

Those on the engineering side, meanwhile, have pointed out how impractical and expensive a weapon like this would actually be in practice. Naturally, none of this has stopped current or former defence officials — including ex-Defence Secretary Christopher Miller — from doggedly pursuing the whole remote weapons theory as cases of the mystery illness continue to ramp up.

The new letter circulating among the millions of DoD personnel, which was signed by current Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, doesn’t make reference to those theories beyond noting that many of the cases reported involved “sudden and troubling sensory events” like sounds, pressure or heat striking at the same time that symptoms tended to start. If anyone suspects that they’re affected, the memo goes on, the best response is simple: pack up your shit, grab your family or coworkers, and run like hell.

“Timely reporting is essential and starts with knowing what to do if you experience A.H.I.,” the memo reads, referring to the acronym for “Anomalous Health Incidents,” the parlance for the illness that was recently adopted by the Biden Administration. After immediately removing themselves from the area, they’re instructed to report the incident to their chain of command, along with their security officers and medical providers.

“Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Guardian, civilian employee, and covered contractor personnel has a responsibility to report suspected incidents through all of the appropriate channels,” Austin wrote. “Other affected persons, such as dependents, are strongly encouraged to report suspected incidents.”

Well, there you have it. Let’s just hope the current administration’s response to these growing cases is less of a shitshow than we’ve seen in the past.