From Injured to Independent: One Veteran’s Story about how AW2 Helped Him Take Back Control of His Life

By Anna Eisenberg, WTC Communications Division

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“AW2 empowered me with the tools to help myself. I am more self-sufficient and independent now than I ever was,” said Sgt. Robert Green, pictured here with the Maricopa County sheriff in Phoenix, Arizona.

“AW2 saved my life. It made me a better person, a better father, and a better member of my community,” reflected Sgt. Robert Green, who sustained a back injury in 2007 while stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash. A seasoned Soldier with two deployments under his belt, Green struggled to adjust to an injury that sat him behind a desk instead of out in the field.

Green entered a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) in 2009, where he was introduced to the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) and his AW2 Advocate Laura Arisohn. Struggling with physical and personal challenges and the transition to civilian life, Green reached out to Arisohn for counsel and support.

“AW2 empowered me with the tools to help myself. I am more self-sufficient and independent now than I ever was,” said Green.

With continuing guidance from Arisohn and AW2 in both personal and professional realms, in just five years, Green transformed his life—he overcame an alcohol addiction, remarried and became a certified firearms instructor in Arizona. Green credits his work with AW2 in rebuilding his confidence and helping him understand the tools and resources available.

“I’m continuing my education because of AW2. I’m financially stable and sober. It helped me find what I need,” said Green, who is working toward his degree. “It was the best experience of my life.”

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

US Army Marksmanship Unit offers wounded, ill and injured Soldiers opportunities to serve and compete

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson became the first active-duty Soldier wounded in combat to compete in the Paralympic Games when he competed in two events at the London Games in 2012.

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson became the first active-duty Soldier wounded in combat to compete in the Paralympic Games when he competed in two events at the London Games in 2012.

When you think of an Army unit, most of the time the thought of an artillery unit or infantry unit comes to mind, but the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Paralympic Section wants to change that thought process by showing the military contains a multitude of diversity in units and Soldiers.

“As a shooter, you grow up watching and competing in this sport, the Army Marksmanship Unit is the apex of where you want to be,” said Sgt. 1st Class Armando Ayala, the Paralympic Section coach and El Paso, Texas native. “It is a natural progression to want to eventually end up in this unit.”

Originally formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USAMU trains its soldiers to win competitions and enhances combat readiness through train-the-trainer clinics, research and development.

Despite the long hours of training and the time dedicated to competing, Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson and Staff Sgt. John Joss are two soldiers assigned to the USAMU Paralympic Section and use their expertise to train other Paralympic hopefuls as well as junior riflemen and wounded warriors.

“I really enjoy the basic training of high school students because when they learn something and can apply it, they get really excited. Their confidence increases,” said Olson of Spokane, Wash. “They stand a little straighter when you give them a few basic pointers, and they start shooting 15 out of 20 or 18 out of 20.”

The USAMU’s ground-breaking Paralympic Section is comprised with Army wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who showcase the Army and help raise the standard of the Army’s marksmanship proficiency.

USA Shooting named Staff Sgt. John Joss as the 2013 Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

USA Shooting named Staff Sgt. John Joss as the 2013 Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

“This section was formed to recruit and train wounded warriors in national and international games,” Ayala said. “We are training Soldiers to accomplish in three or four years, what those in the civilian world are doing in 15 years.”

“It is important that wounded warriors understand this is not a wounded warrior program. It is not a given program,” he added. “We expect them to come here, work hard, maintain the status of the team, and be very driven and coachable.”

In 2013, both Olson and Joss showed the world their impressive shooting skills. Olson, who lost his right leg in an ambush in 2003 while deployed to Iraq, became the first active-duty Soldier wounded in combat to compete in the Paralympic Games when he competed in two events at the London Games in 2012.

“It was great, but if I could change anything about it is that I would let myself enjoy it more.” Olson said about his 2012 London Games experience. “I was so focus on my training that I didn’t step back and take it in that I was competing against the world’s best shooting athletes.”

Joss, a Burkburnett, Texas native, received recognition as the 2013 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by USA Shooting, an organization recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of shooting.

I was surprised that I was named the Paraylmpic Athlete of the Year,” said Joss, who currently serves on Continuation on Active Duty, an opportunity for wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers to continue their service after being found physically unfit by a Physical Evaluation Board.

“This honor is usually reserved for those more prestigious, so to receive it for my first year of shooting is kind of humbling,” said Joss.

For more information about the USAMU Paralympic Section, visit http://www.usaac.army.mil/amu/unit/paralympic.asp or visit http://www.wtc.army.mil/modules/soldier/s6-coadCOAR.html to learn about Continuation on Active Duty.

Meet AW2 Soldier Shenae Mitchell

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

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Spc. Shenae Mitchell addresses the Warrior Transition Command to launch the AW2 10th Anniversary commemoration.

While deployed in Afghanistan in June 2012 with the 82nd Airborne Division, Spc. Shenae Mitchell was crushed under 1,000 pounds of medical containers, called Hescro barriers. She sustained thirteen injuries that required intensive surgical treatment. After being medically evacuated from Afghanistan, Mitchell began her recovery and rehabilitation at the Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Unit. At Fort Belvoir, she was immediately introduced to the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) and her AW2 Advocate, Ayandria Barry.

During Mitchell’s recovery, Barry helped her navigate military residence training, including 496 hours of military correspondence courses. Mitchell has also completed 44 college credits toward an associate degree thus far during her recovery at Fort Belvoir. She credits Barry with anticipating questions and possible challenges and providing accurate answers every time. When Mitchell needed a tutor to retake her Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT) to raise her General Technical (GT) score, Barry found her a tutor through a local program in just weeks. Barry would arrange a ride if Mitchell needed to travel off post to support her recovery and transition goals, such as going to tutoring sessions. If Mitchell couldn’t find a ride, Barry would provide transportation herself.

Barry and Mitchell’s relationship extends past assistance with completing coursework and finding tutors. “Ms. Barry has been supportive not only from the military aspect,” said Mitchell. “She would build my hope and my courage up.”

Mitchell plans to re-enlist in the Army with a new Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and return to duty upon completing in-patient care. Barry supported Mitchell in submitting her paperwork to change her MOS to one more suited to her medical profile. She is currently waiting to hear whether she is approved for either of the two MOS options she has applied for: 27D (Paralegal) or 42A (Human Resource Assistant).

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Meet AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco and his daughter take a trip on the Austin Steam Train.

AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco and his daughter take a trip on the Austin Steam Train.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Karl Pasco, a two-time Purple Heart recipient and avid shooting enthusiast, was injured on two separate deployments in Iraq. On his first deployment in 2004, his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). After recovery, he redeployed to Iraq in 2006 and was hit by another IED. Among other injuries, Pasco sustained a shattered right leg, shrapnel in his left arm, ten broken ribs, three fractured vertebrae, a broken upper jaw, a bruised heart and shrapnel puncturing his chest. The first time he was injured, the US Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) had not yet been created and Pasco remembers having to navigate the recovery and transition process on his own. After his second attack, AW2 support began right away when he was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He returned to his home state of Texas once major surgeries were completed to continue his recovery at Fort Hood.

Pasco has worked with a number of AW2 Advocates over the years. “They would challenge me to attain the goals that I set,” he said of all of his AW2 Advocates. One of the most important goals for Karl was to be able to shoot again. He told AW2 that he wanted to build his own shooting range and they said, “Well then do it!” Pasco found planning the project and actually constructing the range extremely therapeutic.

While at Fort Hood, he created his own internship with the ROTC program at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Pasco knew that he did not want to spend his time at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) “sitting around,” so he went to work in their S3 operations as the Donations NCO and Activities NCO. He processed donations to the WTB for three years and helped coordinate activities for other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers at the WTB. Karl took many of his fellow WTB Soldiers hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, kayaking and more.

Pasco is currently a part-time student at Central Texas College, working towards his BA and MA. He has a very close relationship with his current AW2 Advocate, Carol Livengood, and takes pride in sending her updates on his rehabilitation progress. He sees Livengood quite often, as she works closely with another AW2 Advocate—his wife, Joy. Karl says of Joy, “she realized that she found a passion in her life that she didn’t realize—she wanted to help Soldiers.”

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Meet AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts celebrates the holidays with his Family.

AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts celebrates the holidays with his Family.

Retired Staff Sgt. Paul Roberts is a two-time Warrior Games medalist, a father of two, a federal employee and a proud member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). In the summer of 2009, Roberts was serving in Afghanistan when his truck was hit with an IED in a small ambush attack.

“I hit the windshield, and I was unconscious,” remembered Roberts, who sustained severe second- and third-degree burns and was the only survivor from the truck. “When I woke up, my face was on fire, the fire started eating through my gloves.” He was medically evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany and then to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, where he was introduced to AW2 and his first AW2 Advocate, Kimmy Davis.

During his recovery at BAMC, Roberts participated in the Operation Warfighter (OWF) internship program at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Though he was separating from the Army, Roberts was determined to continue to serve his country by working for the government. While at BAMC, Roberts also participated in wheelchair basketball, playing for the San Antonio Spurs wheelchair basketball team and for the Center for the Intrepid. “Wheelchair basketball was instrumental in my recovery and transition,” reflected Roberts. “It gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of drive.”

In 2012, Roberts medically retired from the Army and relocated to Washington, D.C., where he met his new local AW2 Advocate, Ayandria Barry. Barry signed Roberts up for federal job fairs and trainings to conduct practice interviews and help with his resume. He found a position with the Department of Justice and has been working there ever since. “I feel lucky that I had wonderful people at the Army Wounded Warrior Program help me transition from the Army to civilian life,” said Roberts.

Along with career and education planning, AW2 Advocates work with Soldiers and Veterans to navigate federal institutions, assist with financial planning and find local resources. Specifically, Barry secured a special lawnmower for the Roberts’ yard that accommodated the burns on Roberts’ legs. Roberts also needed a special wheelchair to train for and participate in the Warrior Games, which Barry obtained as well. Today, the Roberts Family considers Barry a staple around their household, not only as an AW2 Advocate, but also as a friend.

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Did You Know? What is an AW2 Advocate?

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Retired Spc. Ira Brownridge Jr. with his Advocate, Melvin Kearney

Retired Spc. Ira Brownridge Jr. with his Advocate, Melvin Kearney

The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) has more than 200 AW2 Advocates, located at most Army installations and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. AW2 Advocates are dedicated to guiding eligible AW2 Soldiers and Veterans and their Families and Caregivers through recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration to achieve their personal goals, navigate government agencies and local resources, create financial plans, support education and career goals and anticipate challenges ahead. AW2 Advocates are often retired/former Soldiers, AW2 wounded warriors themselves, spouses of AW2 Soldiers and Veterans or individuals with professional backgrounds in the behavioral health and social work fields.

Each Soldier or Veteran entering the AW2 Program is paired with an AW2 Advocate to guide the Soldier throughout the recovery and transition process and toward achieving independence. AW2 Advocates counsel eligible AW2 Soldiers and Veterans and their Families/Caregivers regarding benefits information, career guidance, Continuation on Active Duty/Continuation on Reserve Duty (COAD/COAR), educational opportunities, financial audits, government agency coordination, local resources and tracking their Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) onto the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).

AW2 Advocates are onsite at more than 60 VA locations, where they educate AW2 Soldiers and Veterans on how to navigate the VA system and ensure continuity of care as AW2 Soldiers transition out of the Army. AW2 Advocates collaborate with VA Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) coordinators, help resolve appointment issues, VA benefits issues and facilitate applications for services such as the VA Adaptive Housing and Adaptive Vehicle grants and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. AW2 Advocates help transitioning Soldiers plan for a potential gap in between their Army pay and beginning their VA benefits and work with the VA to ensure they get their pay as quickly as possible.

AW2 Advocates assigned to Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) are engaged in the WTU Soldier’s mandated Comprehensive Treatment Plan (CTP) process. AW2 Families are an integral part of the CTP process, and AW2 Advocates facilitate conversations surrounding this process and the Family’s goals. They can help Families who are moving or traveling to the WTU with arranging housing, schooling and childcare. AW2 Advocates assist with applications for Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL) and Non-Medical Attendant (NMA).

AW2 Advocates are plugged in to the local communities and know all the different organizations that are available to support Soldiers, from locating job opportunities and scholarships to obtaining service dogs and adaptive transportation.

“Did You Know?” Series

We will post a blog every other week on the following five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during the AW2 10th Anniversary commemoration:
1) What is AW2?
2) AW2 Advocates
3) AW2 Career and Education
4) AW2 Pay and Benefits
5) VA Resources

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Want to share your story? Post a comment here or email us at usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.strategic-communications@mail.mil.

Veteran Uses AW2 Resources to Succeed in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division

Leaving the military can be a nerve-racking experience for a wounded, ill and injured Soldier, but Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Billy Guyton will attest to using the resources the Army offers to successfully transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

Guyton was hired by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), the organization that operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.

“I was looking for a job,” Guyton said. “I told my Advocate, and the next thing I knew I was being contacted by the hiring manager from DeCA.”

Guyton’s AW2 Advocate contacted the AW2 Career and Education Cell in hopes of getting him in the Expedited Referral Process, a process that connects AW2 Veterans with employers who are looking to hire wounded, ill and injured Veterans and have agreed to expedite the hiring process for qualified Veterans.

“Billy’s advocate submitted an issue requesting employment assistance,” said Mullen. “I was the ‘connector’ between Billy and DeCA, because I knew if I could get someone to speak with Billy, they would want to hire him.” 

“If a Soldier or Veteran is looking for employment, we ask that they contact their Advocate,” said Vicki Mullen, AW2 Labor Liaison Specialist. “The Advocate will notify us, and we will start the employment process.”

Guyton learned firsthand the process works but it requires the Soldier or Veteran to do their part to help.

“The resume plays a huge part in getting hired,” Mullen said. “Soldiers and Veterans should ensure their resumes contain all of the information required before submitting it for employment.” 

“If they have 5-10 years of experience and the federal resume is only a couple of paragraphs they have left out a lot of information,” she added. “Use all resources available to you i.e., ACAP, DOL, Transition Coordinators, etc.”

Guyton, who was recently promoted to a supervisory position, proves success can transfer from the military to the civilian workforce, but recommends a Soldier or Veteran take chances and use the resources available.

“I was an engineer in the military, but I’m working in logistics,” he said. “I’m glad DeCA saw that I had other skills to bring to the table.”

“Just because you are doing one thing in the military it doesn’t require you to do the same job as a civilian,” Guyton added. “Hopefully, Veterans and employers will continue to look beyond the military specialty title and focus on the military skills.”

Visit AW2’s old blog for additional stories on AW2’s career and education services and stories of Soldiers and Veterans successfully finding employment.

 

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is the official U.S. Army program that assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families, wherever they are located, regardless of military status. Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. Through the local support of AW2 Advocates, AW2 strives to foster the Soldier’s independence. There are more than 19,000 Soldiers and Veterans currently in AW2.

Ft. Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion and Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center conduct resilience refresher workshop for unit MRTs

By Alissa L. Bookwalter, CSF2 Training Center Liaison Officer to Warrior Transition Command

Ashley Jenkins

Ms. Ashley Jenkins, a CSF2 Training Center Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Expert (MRT-PE), covers “Hunt the Good Stuff” with a Ft. Belvoir WTB MRT.

Resilience skills are an integral part of the Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Warrior Transition Command (WTC) also uses  resilience skills for Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Families, Cadre and staff, ensuring that resilience training is offered at the unit level at all WTU’s – primarily though  Master Resilience Trainers. Master Resilience Trainers (MRTs) are selected by their command staff to attend a two-week MRT training course conducted by Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2).

Once a certified MRT returns to their WTU, they develop a unit resilience training program and conduct resilience training for local Soldiers, Families, Cadre and staff at least once per quarter.  Local CSF2 Training Centers, staffed by CSF2 Master Resilience Trainers-Performance Experts (MRT-PEs), are available at the installation level to assist MRTs with training, resilience and performance enhancement skill refreshers and conducting two week MRT courses.

The Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) recently conducted a Resilience Skills Refresher Workshop in conjunction with the National Capital Region (NCR) CSF2 Training Center.  All Fort Belvoir WTB MRTs and command staff attended the workshop that provided additional skills training and practice-teaching on two of the most heavily utilized resilience skills in the WTU – “Hunt the Good Stuff” and “Goal Setting.”

“As an attendee and participant, I observed the true benefits of resilience refresher training,” said Fort Belvoir’s WTB Command Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier. “Leaders must provide opportunities to equip MRTs with the skills necessary to be a force multiplier within their organizations.”

Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center MRT-PEs covered “Goal Setting” and “Hunt the Good Stuff” with unit MRTs.  After a brief refresher on the skills, the MRTs had the floor to demonstrate their knowledge and teaching abilities to the audience and Command team.

Michael Fairman, the National Capital Region CSF2 Training Center Manager noted that “keeping MRTs refreshed and engaged is critical to the success of the CSF2 program. As a CSF2 Training Center, we are equipped to provide MRTs with the tools that allow them to be successful.”

The Fort Belvoir WTB plans to continue Resilience Refresher Workshops once per quarter to keep unit MRTs current on skills.

For more information on CSF2 Training Centers and Resilience skills, please visit http://csf2.army.mil/index.html.

 

Veteran’s biggest reward is telling his story and sharing experiences with other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division Army Wounded Warrior Program

Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Rico Rawls never thought after two tours in Iraq, one in Albania, a tour in Macedonia and one in Kosovo that he would be sitting in a wheelchair in front of a crowd at the World’s Toughest Rodeo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But that’s where he found himself on February 8, 2014.

AW2 Veteran Rico Rawls and his Family

AW2 Veteran Rico Rawls and his Family received special recognition during the World’s Toughest Rodeo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 8, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Rico Rawls).

Although he may no longer wear the uniform, Rawls said his biggest reward is telling his story and sharing his experiences with other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans. “At first I was a little skeptical about the recognition at the rodeo because I was just doing my job when I was in the military,” said Rawls. “I’m always amazed when I am recognized for doing my job and doing the right thing.”

Eventually Rawls’ medical issues caught up with him. In addition to problems with his hip, he ended up in the intensive care unit (ICU) for two weeks following a brain tumor diagnosis.

He remains thankful to his fiancée, his AW2 Advocate, nonprofit organizations and several individuals from his time at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) and credits part of his recovery to their support.

“I specifically want to thank 1st Sgt. Larry Perrine, Sgt. 1st Class Nick Bright and Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Ertl who were my original first sergeant, platoon sergeant and mentor,” he said. “The Cadre at my WTU were amazing.”

“Additionally, my fiancée helped tremendously throughout my recovery,” he added. She was at the hospital when I was in the ICU.”

“Katrina (Hood) is now recognized by the VA as a Caregiver, which means her job is to strictly help me,” Rawls said about his fiancée who VA recognizes as a Family Caregiver under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.

“Rico is a very humble and extremely appreciative person,” said Bill Duerr, his AW2 Advocate. “I am very happy for him and his Family because they deserve it.”

Rawls’ journey has not been easy but he continues to receive assistance from AW2, the VA and several nonprofit organizations. He offers this advice to other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans.

“It is important to listen and take the time to fill out any required paperwork.  It may seem tedious, but it pays off,” he said. “These organizations are not out here as charity but providing the tools we need and care about us.”

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is the official U.S. Army program that assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families, wherever they are located, regardless of military status. Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. Through the local support of AW2 Advocates, AW2 strives to foster the Soldier’s independence. There are more than 18,000 Soldiers and Veterans currently in AW2.

Did You Know? What is AW2

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) was established 10 years ago to support severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers? AW2 is a major component of the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) under the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) and the Warrior Transition Command (WTC). Over the last decade AW2 has supported more than 19,000 Soldiers and Veterans in navigating processes and procedures that open doors to services, resources and benefits.  These resources build and strengthen abilities to adapt to daily life and empower AW2 Soldiers and Veterans to regain their independence.

Today, Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, either back into duty or on to civilian life.

To qualify for AW2, a Soldier must suffer from wounds, illness or injuries incurred in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, and receive or expect to receive at least a 30 percent rating from the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) for one or more of the conditions listed below, or receive a combines 50 percent IDES rating for any other combat/combat-related condition:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Severe loss of vision/blindness
  • Severe hearing loss/deafness
  • Fatal / incurable disease with limited life expectancy
  • Loss of limb
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Severe burns
  • Severe paralysis

Upon entry to the program, each AW2 Soldier and Veteran is paired with one of the more than 200 AW2 Advocates who guides the Soldier throughout the recovery and transition process and toward achieving independence. Together they collaborate to set goals for the Soldier’s and Family’s future to meet the personal needs and abilities of the individual AW2 Soldier or Veteran. Some common activities that AW2 Advocates support are:

  • Creating an action plan for life after transition
  • Coordinating with government agencies (i.e. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor)
  • Supporting Continuation on Active Duty/Continuation on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR)
  • Providing career guidance
  • Locating educational opportunities
  • Performing financial audits
  • Finding local resources
  • Navigating medical and Physical Evaluation Board (MEB/PEB)

AW2 Advocates collaborate with transition professionals at AW2 Headquarters to resolve issues related to careers and education, benefits, pay, the Department of Veterans Affairs and more. These AW2 transition professionals also use their vast knowledge and experience with wounded, ill and injured Soldiers to help write policies and guidance that affect all WTUs.

“Did You Know?” Series

We will post a blog every other week on the following five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during the AW2 Tenth Anniversary commemoration:

1)    What is AW2?

2)    AW2 Advocates

3)    AW2 Career and Education

4)    AW2 Pay and Benefits

5)    VA Resources

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Want to share your story? Post a comment here or email us at usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.strategic-communications@mail.mil.

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