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Commander’s Drumbeat: Warrior Care Month

BG Darryl A. WilliamsBy BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

In November we observe Warrior Care Month. The theme is “Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential”.

Taking care of Soldiers is something we do every day. Observing Warrior Care Month allows us to highlight the significance of keeping Soldiers healthy and safe, and taking care of them when something doesn’t go right. We’re all in the business of caring for the Army’s wounded, ill and injured Soldiers—Active, Guard and Reserve.

I realize most people think of the combat injured when they hear the term ‘warrior care’. Clearly, that is warrior care and there is no higher calling than helping these men and women heal. Warrior care is also preventing illnesses and keeping Soldiers healthy and ready to deploy. Warrior care is arming Soldiers with tourniquets that they can use with only one hand. It’s having the best trained medics in the world standing shoulder to shoulder with our combat Soldiers.

Warrior care is an undertaking that encompasses a broad scope of efforts that extend way beyond the battlefield including managing pain with medication and with complementary medicine such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga. Warrior care means building resilience and ensuring our men and women in uniform are strong in mind, body and spirit. Warrior care is our best researchers looking at how we can advance medicine, improve protective gear and treat trauma and complex injuries. It’s having a battle buddy who looks after you and a leader you can count on.

During Warrior Care Month I ask that you also take time to recognize the men and women who don’t wear the uniform but who support and care for our Soldiers and their families. I’m talking about our partners at the Veterans Administration, Congress, Veterans organizations, non-profit organizations, corporate America, local communities and individual citizens. These are the people retired Admiral Michael Mullen, (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was referencing when he said there is a “Sea of Goodwill” in America.

I know a lot of you are planning events to honor the wounded, ill and injured men and women in uniform and to highlight what we do and what this Nation does each day in the spirit of Warrior Care. Like me, you’re likely looking forward to the events you’ll be attending. I’m excited about this month. We have a lot going on here in the National Capital Region. We will support the Navy in a wheelchair basketball expo and clinic in the Pentagon on November 18, and on November 22 the Warrior Transition Command is hosting a seated volleyball tournament. It’s going to be a great month. I’ll be traveling, visiting some WTUs and attending events that honor our Soldiers and people who work to keep them safe and healthy. It doesn’t get any better than this!

As I wrap things up, I want to emphasize my three priorities—education, training and employment. A WTU is a place for Soldiers to heal; it’s also a place for them to plan for their future; a place to develop a good, solid way ahead for them and for their family. When they leave a WTU I want them to have received the best medical care possible, have the education and training they need to succeed and have a job or career lined up.

We owe them our best, and Warrior Care Month is a time to commemorate their strength and resilience and the importance of what we do throughout the year.

I’d enjoy hearing about your Warrior Care Month plans and experiences. Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

More information on events at WTUs around the country is available on the WTC website at http://www.wtc.army.mil/.

Commander’s Drumbeat—The Excitement of AUSA

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

It’s always great to see the Army Family come together.  Last week was a whirlwind of reconnections, fun experiences, and meaningful opportunities.  Sunday started at 0630 with the Army Ten-Miler.  I met with our team for photos, gave them a send-off and met our wounded warriors as they crossed the finish line.  One WTC employee told me that she was excited to run with the Missing Parts in Action team—current and past wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers who received treatment at Walter Reed—and especially enjoyed seeing them leave her in the dust.  Rehabilitation at its best!  The Warrior Transition Command and the Missing Parts teams were both impressive.

BG Darryl Williams, Warrior Transition Command Commander, congratulates world class runners Tesfaqe Sendekee, first overall male finisher, and Tezata Dengera, first overall female finisher at the 2011 Army Ten Miler (ATM) footrace. Both athletes competed for the 'I Run for God' (IR4G) team coached by LTC (Ret.) Sue Bozgoz. Each runner as well as additional IR4G runners donated their ATM trophies to WTC's Army wounded warriors.

I have to give a shout-out to everyone who participated but especially the International Running Team—I Run for God or IR4G.  These men and women ran for wounded warriors and took first place overall, first place in the overall male category, and first, second and third places overall in the female categories.  They very generously presented us their trophies on Thursday.

If you did not participate in the Army Ten-Miler, start making plans now for next year. It is a super event.  I’m already talking to my team about all the ways we can ramp up our presence and get more folks involved. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years, ate great food, and saw some excellent exhibits.  I even heard some good music and saw a martial arts expo.  It was an all-around festive time with Families, friends, and colleagues—two of my kids were with me and even they had a ball.

You all know that I’m adamant about making it clear that we represent and work for Active Duty, Guard and Reserve.  To build on that—we were fortunate to share a Hooah Tent with Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU) Illinois.  Kudos to all the runners and the volunteers who showed up to share education and information products, and talk to visitors about WTC and what we do every day to support wounded, ill and injured warriors.  They also dished up a load of award-winning chili for runners and spectators—that was a big draw at our tent.

I had such a great time I didn’t think the week could get any better.  Then on Monday I had the privilege of listening to the Secretary of the Army.  While the Secretary did admit budget cuts sometimes keep him up at night, he also told us that unlike in the past, we saw this downturn coming and are better positioned than at any time in our nation’s history to deal with the fiscal realities, and do it in a way that truly makes sense.  He reinforced that part of dealing with these realities is to cut end-strength and that our Army will look different than it does now.  He emphasized that no conflict is ever won without boots on the ground and was confident the Army can handle the challenge of these pending reductions.

He addressed who we are and what we do when he said, “We’re still at war. We work diligently every day to try to make certain they get what they need, to get it when they need it, that we give them all the support they require to build resilience and all the care that’s necessary when they come home.”

For you history buffs, he was right on the money when he referenced  the book “This Kind of War,” and TR Fehrenbach’s passage, “You may fly over land forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it, and wipe it clean of life. But if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.”  He went on to acknowledge that “Fehrenbach’s observations are as relevant today as they ever were, because while we shocked, while we awed, at the end of the day, we did the most important thing to gain and ensure victory, we marched. And there is no getting around the fact that it is the Army that has been saddled with much of the burden these past years, providing between fifty to seventy percent of our deployable forces. And while I’m loathe to view our men and women in uniform as mere budgetary statistics, I think it’s important to remind people that while the United States Army represents half of our nation’s entire force, we consume only about a quarter to 30 percent of the entire defense budget.”

Later on Monday, I was on a panel with the Army Surgeon General, Deputy Surgeon General, and the FORSCOM Surgeon, Supporting the Deployment of Healthy, Resilient and Fit Soldiers…Soldier Medical Readiness.   There was significant focus on how we identify and deal with non-medically ready Soldiers, and fitness and nutrition.  It felt good to say that we return about 50 percent of our Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers to duty and support all our wounded, ill and injured with a personalized Comprehensive Transition Plan  that supports their goals to return to duty or transition out of military service.

Reflecting on the remarks by the Secretary and the Surgeon General on the future and resilience of our Army, I was reminded of who we are and how young we are.  This command is only about two years old and we’ve only had WTUs since 2007.  As the Surgeon General says, we are a learning organization and continuously changing.  Our history is already rich with success and change.  We went from medical hold companies to WTUs; from having no plan to the Army Medical Action Plan; from rehabilitation and therapy to Warrior Games.  Very soon I’ll be sending out the new Comprehensive Transition Plan guidance for coordination and I’ll have new command information product—a newsletter, Warrior Care and Transition Program Update—coming your way soon.

Before I sign off, remember that in November we will celebrate Warrior Care Month across the Army.  I want you all to be fully engaged as this is the most important monthly observance we have.  The Warrior Care Month joint-service theme is “Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential.”  You all know better than anybody what this means and that these men and women embody strength and resilience.  They are the products of prevention and research that resulted in more survivors of combat injures than ever before.  My three priorities for these men and women are education, training, and careers.  Let’s show the world who we are next month and what we do every day to support those who have given so much.  It’s a time to highlight our wounded, ill and injured—Active, Guard and Reserve, and the people who support them.

I’d enjoy hearing about your Army Ten-Miler, AUSA experience and plans for Warrior Care Month.  What stood out, and what we can do better on next year.  Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

In closing, I would recommend you check out the remarks of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army during the annual AUSA meeting.

Commander’s Drumbeat: Fort Stewart–Success Built on Teamwork

BG Darryl A. WilliamsBy BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

I recently was able to get down to Fort Stewart to visit with the leaders and Soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU)—what a great visit and what a beautiful Army installation.   There are 234 Soldiers there who are healing and mapping out plans for their future under the leadership of LTC Bill Reitemeyer and CSM Steven Owens.  These are two impressive leaders who are in the National Guard.  They are on the ground, taking care of our wounded, ill and injured, and representing our 563 cadre and the National Guard superbly.  They are an extraordinary team, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to highlight them and their successes—a big salute to my National Guard brethren.

I can’t emphasize enough the difference it makes when WTU leaders are supported by the medical treatment facility and senior mission leaders.  The benefits are tangible and nowhere are they more apparent in our Army than at the Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB).   Leaders at all levels work together to ensure they adhere to the WTU entrance criteria, that the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) is adhered to, and that the medical management center are up and running efficiently to manage the medically not ready population that doesn’t need to be assigned to a WTU.  Fort Stewart is actually the model for medical management centers.  They have been in place now for about 18 months and the folks there are on point with this process.

My favorite part of these visits is meeting and talking with the cadre and Soldiers in the unit.  It was apparent that these folks are familiar with the battlefield.  About 10% of the Soldiers are combat wounded and about one third of the cadre was injured in combat.  They have a unique situation there, I’m not sure I know of any other cadre with these levels of combat injured.  Meeting with them and hearing what they had to say reinforced to me that we can have success when leaders lead and work together to execute processes in synchronization.  I’m talking about teamwork.

This trip was unique in more than one way.  I particularly enjoyed meeting with Soldiers and their therapy dogs.  For those of you who haven’t seen this in action—it’s an unbelievable combination—Soldiers and their dogs.  You all know—probably a lot better than I do—the bond that develops, the positive impact on mental and physical healing, and just overall well-being that can occur when we put the two of them together.  When you get a few minutes, I encourage all of you to read “Dogs and War” in the October issue of Men’s Health, http://www.menshealth.com/best-life/dogs-war. It highlights the important work done by some of our four-legged therapists and the Soldiers they serve.

Well-deserved shout-outs go to PAWS4Vets, some special warriors and their service dogs, and WTU staff:

  • SFC Joshua Campbell’s battle buddy is Jackie and SFC Ed Boleyn’s battle buddy is Paisley.  Guys, you are my heroes.
  • Debra Dehart, Head Occupational Therapist, also gets a big hooah and shout out.  This lady is all about the Soldiers at the WTU and making things better and easier for them.  She basically grew her own military advanced training center (MATC) and is working on behavioral health care through a program that incorporates classical music and has an unbelievable efficacy rate.  Our wounded, ill and injured are fortunate to have Ms. Dehart on their team.
  • The last shout-out goes to CPT Bryan Stewart, Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), who has oversight of the Tampa mission.  It’s a special mission set that deals largely with spinal cord injuries.  I met him this summer when some members of my team and I visited wounded warriors at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa where they specialize in treating spinal cord injuries and severe brain injuries.  He did a great job of hosting me during both visits.  I know they are looking at potentially expanding the cadre in Tampa.  The WTU has submitted a proposal for consideration, and we’re considering putting a company commander in Tampa.

To the leadership and cadre at the WTU, keep up the good work.  You are making a huge difference in the lives of the Soldiers you serve through your skills, dedication, command climate and warrior ethos. This was evident all during the visit, but was highlighted when my command sergeant major CSM Benjamin Scott, randomly spoke to a wounded warrior who was not part of the formal schedule who said, “I love my command.”

This is our testament—what we all strive for.  I know I speak for all of you when I say that our goal each morning as we start our day is to do the right thing by every Soldier who is wounded, ill or injured, and that it is a privilege to serve these very special men and women.

In wrapping things up, I want to remind you that we don’t have to do everything on our own.  There is a sea of goodwill at the local, regional and national levels that include the Army Homefront Fund (AHF) and hundreds of other organizations who want to give back to our men and women in uniform.  You can find out more by visiting the Warrior Transition Command web site resource section, http://www.WTC.army.mil/resources/resources.html.

Note: The appearance of external hyperlinks and/or recognition of non-federal entities does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense, the United States Army, the United State Medical Command, or the Army Warrior Transition Command of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein.

Making the Most of What You Have

By Mark A. Campbell, CSF-PREP, Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mark A. Campbell serves as a WTU Master Trainer/WTC Liaison.  He joined Comprehensive Soldier Fitness- Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) in 2007, and is currently working toward his doctorate in Health Promotion andWellness. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Have you ever been walking through an airport, remember that you have to make a call before you board the plane, and realize that your cell phone battery is almost dead? You rush to the nearest outlet and plug in long enough to make the call, until you can arrive at your destination and fully recharge the battery.

Our personal energy stores are not unlike this. Have you ever left work feeling like you do not have enough “left in the tank” to spend quality time with your Family? One of the biggest performance challenges that an individual can face is effectively managing his/her energy. Life does not stop, it does not slow down, it will not wait for you. It is important to know how to make the most of the energy you have and to understand how to refill your energy tank whenever possible. “Energy management” is a term used to describe the process in which a person uses deliberate strategies to leverage the body’s energy resources.

I don’t have to tell you anything about stress. We are all masters of it. By definition, stress is “anything that causes us to mobilize energy.” If you look at it in that way, there are countless examples of this happening each day.  Another good analogy would be that of an ATM machine. Imagine all day long you withdraw various increments of cash. If we only make small deposits from time to time, then we will never get ahead. One of the biggest misconceptions in our society is that “I’ll get enough sleep when I’m dead.” I think we all realize that there is a wall, and without the proper recovery, we will most definitely hit it hard.  There are many different techniques that an individual can use to deliberately manage energy. Here are a few:

  1. Recovery Breathing: Slowing down our bodies and taking good, cleansing breathes can benefit us on multiple levels. Recovery breathing is a way to relax tense muscles, calm the mind, as well as deliver more oxygen throughout the body. This will also improve your memory and ability to think clearly.
  2. Reinterpret what you are up against:  By looking at upcoming events in your life as “challenges” instead of “threats” we are less likely to unnecessarily mobilize large amounts of energy in the form of doubt, worry, and fear. By looking at an event as a challenge, then you can plan for all of the ways you can grow from the experience and be successful.
  3. Control the Controllables: It is a common, human quality to focus on those things that we perceive as negative stressors, but have no control over (weather, traffic, other people, etc.). The only three things that we can ever truly control are what we think, what we say, and what we do. The next time you feel the negative effects of stress, look at what you can control in the situation. This will help to prioritize your stressors, and act on them accordingly.

It is important to have strategies in place for effectively managing your levels of energy. It will look a little differently for each of us, but the take-home message should be that stress happens. However, through deliberate recovery techniques we can minimize the negative effects. Our personal levels of energy are a scarce resource, and we should protect them in order to be at our best.

Senior Noncommissioned Officers Discuss Way Ahead During Training Conference

By CSM Benjamin H. Scott, Jr., WTC Command Sergeant Major

CSM Benjamin H. Scott, Jr., the WTC Command Sergeant Major, speakingduring the training conference held in Orlando, FL.

CSM Benjamin H. Scott, Jr., the WTC Command Sergeant Major, spoke with several senior noncommissioned officers during the training conference held in Orlando, FL.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Sergeants Major, First Sergeants, and Senior NCOs from several Warrior Transition Units (WTUs), Community Based Warrior Transition Units (CBWTUs), and the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) during the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) Training Conference held in Orlando, FL.

During this Senior NCO meeting, I reinforced the idea of communication within our command and among each other resulting in a positive impact for the severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans.

I also listened to the NCO leadership express concerns, frustrations, and issues that plague them at their locations. Their suggestions and concerns have not gone unheard. The purpose of the WCTP Training Conference was to bring these ideas to the table, because if you don’t ask, you won’t get. While the Warrior Transition Command has come a long way, we still have a way to go, and the feedback from the Sergeants Major and First Sergeants will greatly improve the path to excellence.

A key component to the way ahead is understanding and implementing the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP). The CTP will help strengthen the leadership in the WTUs, Military Treatment Facilities, and the Senior Commanders—allowing for the best care possible.

So many times, my boss, BG Darryl A. Williams has stated, “CTP is the core of what we do.”   And I completely agree. In order for the CTP to be successful, we have to support it, own it, and live it. We are not simply setting the standards, but creating a foundation that will help these Soldiers and Veterans succeed for the rest of their lives. I’m not saying we can resolve all issues immediately, but we can’t take the necessary steps to fix something if we don’t know there is a problem that needs fixing. And the CTP helps us get at this realization.

The bottom line is that the CTP is a big deal.

BG Williams and I are committed to making this program a success by ensuring all severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans have the necessary tools and equipment to succeed and excel throughout their lives.

We will continue to stress the importance of the CTP and its essential role in ensuring the Soldiers, Veterans and their Families have the ultimate level of care and support that is standardized throughout the Army.

Along with our commitment to these Soldiers, Veterans, and Families, my personal commitment—and one that I stressed to the Senior NCOs during our meeting—is enforce the standards with compassion.

Read more about the Comprehensive Transition Plan on the WTC website.

Commander’s Drumbeat: One More Round

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

Herschel Walker visits with Soldiers

Herschel Walker visits with military personnel at the WCTP Training Conference in Orlando.

We’ve worked hard this week at the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) Training Conference, and folks were getting tired. We needed a little something, a little boost. Boy did we get it – in the form of Herschel Walker. This guy is awesome. He has a message I wish every Soldier and Family member could hear: “We can go one more round.” Most of you probably know that he is a Heisman Trophy winner, played for the New Jersey Generals, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and the Philadelphia Eagles. What you may not know is that he suffered from dissociative identity disorder, dealt with extreme anger, and threatened others with physical violence of which he had no memory. He sought psychotherapy treatment and made his illness public to encourage others to seek help.

His story is peppered with references to his strong Christian faith and with sports anecdotes. With each demon he had to confront, he told himself, “I can go one more round.” One thing that struck a chord with the team at this conference was how he addressed stigma. In the Army, we talk a lot about stigma—the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health care. It’s something we want to wipe out, something we want to overcome. Herschel’s message is that stigma doesn’t really exist when you know who you are and what you have to do. It is something used to make others feel less than who they are. When you know who you are and what to do, stigma doesn’t matter.

He also emphasized the importance of support networks and admitted that some people bailed on him when he went public. It didn’t matter, the people supporting him were the ones he needed. Getting better, getting free from his illness was what was important. He credits his ex-wife and pastor for getting him through the dark days. Herschel said there are times when you don’t think you can get up, times when you don’t think you can make it, and that’s when you need someone there to encourage you—to tell you that you can make it.

To me, his most compelling message is that maybe more important than telling people to seek help, is if you see a friend or family member struggling—go to them. Go to them because when they get to that really low point, they can’t see anything else. Help that friend or family member go one more round.

Herschel is also vocal about the importance of physical and mental fitness and how they go together. He understands it is important mentally to be able to know and understand your surroundings and that if you are physically fit you have the energy to adapt.

He shared that he considered a military career before he was recruited by Coach Vince Dooley at the University of Georgia. Herschel proudly admits he feels a connection with servicemembers because we have the ability to overcome and adapt in a lot of different situations. He compared the football team to the military saying that teamwork is how things get done.

Walker, who in his life has felt like he was not going to make it, wants Soldiers to know that they will make it. That there is no such thing as I can’t ; no such thing as I will give up; no such thing as I will quit. We can go one more round.

It’s clear my job as a senior leader is to create conditions where all of our Soldiers and their Families feel supported and part of a team—a team that can go one more round.


Commander’s Drumbeat: Partnering to Face Our Challenges – Warrior Care and Transition Program Training Conference

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

John R. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy

John R. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, cited the Comprehensive Transition Plan as a very tangible example of the positive work done through the Warrior Care and Transition Program.

We are on a roll here in Orlando, FL. My staff did a super job planning this conference! More than 1,000 attendees spent the first two days training on the Comprehensive Transition Plan. When they return home they can help us standardize the transition planning process across the Army. Today we’re on to training segments focusing on interdisciplinary team members and warrior care improvement including: comprehensive pain management, adaptive sports, polypharmacy, force structure models, and internship opportunities.

We started the day with a presentation by John R. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. I have to say, he is a super advocate for the wounded, ill, and injured, and for the military and civilian men and women who take care of them. He made it clear he understands the challenges Soldiers face while coping with posttraumatic stress and the challenges of successful transitions back to the force or of leaving the military.

It’s great to know that we are definitely on the same page and moving in the same direction. We are both energized about education and employment for our Soldiers who transition out of military service. Mr. Campbell captured it perfectly when he said that “long after the guns are silenced, we have not succeeded if all of America does not hear the silence of the drums of war as a deafening call to action–a call to help lead our wounded warriors, the next greatest generation, into the classrooms as teachers, into the board rooms as executives, into their communities as small business owners and entrepreneurs , and into the lives of all Americans as leaders in their communities, their government, and back to their military to help others along the way.”

He reflected on his generation of Veterans who didn’t have the support they needed to overcome challenges and vowed it is a scenario he refuses to see repeated. Following his remarks, I had the opportunity to meet today with Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) commanders and NCOs; then with doctors, nurses case managers, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is twofold. One, to let you know that leaders in the warrior care arena, military and civilian, like me and like Mr. Campbell, are committed to providing the best possible support to today’s wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. Second, the meeting with this group of WTU medical professionals was historic. It was the first time we got them all together, and they are an extraordinarily dedicated and impressive group who deserve a shout out! They do good work, they change lives, they are critical to the success of our wounded, ill, and injured warriors. They also realize that Families are integral to the success of Warriors in Transition and that they need and deserve the same care and attention we provide their loved ones.

I feel confident—and you should too—that together with Mr. Campbell’s office and with our partners the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Veterans Administration, we can continue to improve and leverage resources internally and in local communities. An example of this is Judith Markelz. Mr. Campbell recognized her during his remarks so on behalf of the Army and Mr. Campbell, I too want to recognize her in this forum. She runs the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio, TX. Ms. Markelz saw a need for a place where warriors and their Families could go to find resources, counseling, and a respite from their worries. She built the center from the ground up and people noticed. In 2008 $4 million was donated to the center for expansions, renovations, and improvements. It provides services to Soldiers and their Families and didn’t cost the Army a dime. So, kudos to Judith Markelz for her dedication, enthusiasm, and her selfless contributions to our wounded, ill, and injured warriors and their Families.

Folks, the bottom line here is that we’ve made great strides and we can continue to improve because our fight goes on. Know that I’ll stand with you to meet the challenges. Hooah.

Commander’s Drumbeat: VCSA Kicks Off Warrior Care and Transition Program Training Conference

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

Army Vice Chief of Staff, GEN Peter Chiarelli, kicks off the Warrior Transition Command Training Conference in Orlando.

Army Vice Chief of Staff, GEN Peter Chiarelli, kicks off the Warrior Transition Command Training Conference in Orlando. His remarks were carried live on the Pentagon Channel: http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/. Scroll down and click on the Warrior Care & Transition Conference featured video.

Hi folks. I’m back in Orlando, FL this week. You likely recall I was here about two weeks ago for the AW2 Symposium. This week is all about the Warrior Transition Command and the Comprehensive Transition Plan or CTP. The CTP is a big deal. It’s the roadmap for warriors transitioning out of military service or remaining on active duty and transitioning back to the unit or to another Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

I’ve gathered about 1,000 people here from across the Army who directly impact the care of our wounded, ill, and injured warriors and their Families—from WTU cadre to clinicians, resource managers, and pharmacists.

The CTP is a seven-part multidisciplinary structured process for every Warrior in Transition that includes an individual plan that the Warrior in Transition builds for him/herself with the support of the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) cadre. Although it is standardized, it allows warriors to customize their recovery process, including setting and reaching personal goals. It includes a personal, customized plan created for the Soldier by the Soldier. This week is about the CTP, about committing to networking, learning the processes, and about standardizing how we support these Soldiers and their Families across the Army. The success of what we are doing this week will be measured in the extent to which what is learned results in real change. Change measured in terms of how well everyone, and I do mean everyone, implements every aspect of the CTP. So let’s galvanize this across the Army so that everybody is on the same sheet of music at the end of this week.

We couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. On Monday, GEN Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, kicked off our opening ceremony so we’re all energized and ready to take on the tough challenges. His remarks were carried live on the Pentagon Channel.  Enter GEN Chiarelli, Warrior Care, or Warrior Care & Transition Conference in the search box to the left of the All Videos ribbon or click on this direct link.

I encourage you to take a look at this. For those of you haven’t had the opportunity to hear him speak, GEN Chiarelli is passionate about taking care of Soldiers and their Families. He recognizes there is nothing more important than caring for our own and he understands the challenges and commitment of all of you who support our wounded, ill, and injured, active duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve Soldiers. He was generous with his comments about how far we have come over the past few years, but clear that we still have improvements to make including continuing to take on post-traumatic stress disorder and concussions. He also addressed the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and where we are on that. He is committed to taking this on and partnering with Army leaders at the local levels and the Veterans Administration (VA) to streamline the process. Before he departed he challenged attendees to collaborate, share lessons learned, and commit to standardizing and implementing the CTP. It was great to hear him speak. It’s clear he gets that this is important, especially in a resource constrained environment. I want you to know that I share his passion and if we stay on track with training, education, employment, and keep telling our story, we’ll get this job done.

Training is important. I want to improve resiliency for our Soldiers, for our cadre and for all of you in this room. Have you heard of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Master Resiliency Training? It’s a great course—resiliency is important for social workers, for nurses, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), doctors—everybody. Look into this. If you help yourselves, you help your Soldiers and their Families.

Education can be addressed on numerous levels. For now, I want you all to understand the Continuation on Active Duty (COAD) and Continuation on Active Reserve (COAR) programs. I want Soldiers to know and understand the process for staying on active duty if that is what they want and they are able to do it.

Finally, you’ve all heard me say this before—we’ve got to work on careers and jobs for these warriors. They all deserve a soft place to land regardless of whether they stay in the Army or not.

Before I sign off I want to give a big shout out to our social workers! This is one dedicated group—they worked all day Saturday and Sunday. That’s impressive. They are a vital part of the WTU team and contribute directly to the success of our wounded, ill, and injured warriors and their Families. They brought some issues to my attention, and we’re going to look into them. These are the conversations I want to have and plan to have this week. That’s why I’m here. I look forward to the week ahead. Hooah!

Commander’s Drumbeat: AW2 Symposium–Thank you for all you do

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
CPL Jeremy D. Voels, a patient at James Haley, talked with BG Darryl Williams about his deployment, injuries and his plans for the future.

BG Darryl A. Williams, Assistant Surgeon General and Commander, Warrior Transition Command, recently visited with Soldiers and staff at the James A. Haley VA Hospital Polytrauma Center, Tampa FL. CPL Jeremy D. Voels, a patient at James Haley, talked with Williams about his deployment, injuries, and his plans for the future.

I had a fantastic experience last week at the AW2 Symposium in Orlando. I stayed busy listening and getting to know people and their personal stories in a lot of different settings. Thursday I lunched with our wounded warriors. I also took some time along with a few members of my staff and Ms. Deborah Amdur, to visit with some Soldiers and staff at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa.

Ms. Amdur is Chief Consultant, Care Management and Social Work Service, Patient Care Services, Department of Veterans Affairs. For those of you who don’t know her–she was very instrumental in rolling out enhanced services to include a monetary stipend, health insurance, expanded training, and other support services to a whole new category of people serving our Nation—Family caregivers of Veterans. I can truly say that she was the perfect guest to have at the AW2 symposium, and that her passion and enthusiasm for our Veterans, their Families, and caregivers is contagious.

I got good feedback during my lunch with the wounded warriors. I heard some very personal stories and believe me they weren’t shy about telling me what we’re getting right and where we need to make improvements. That was great—I love when Soldiers talk to me uncensored and unfiltered. That’s how I get a true sense of where we are and where we need to go. By the way, it’s time for a shout out to retired SGT Joshua Cope, my new friend who got a gator with a crossbow. I met SGT Cope during the luncheon.

My day ended with the visit to James Haley. I can’t say enough about the great work by the leaders and staff at the VA hospital in Tampa which is also one of the VA’s five polytrauma centers. Polytrauma care is for Veterans and returning Servicemembers with injuries to more than one physical region or organ system, one of which may be life threatening, and which results in physical, cognitive, psychological, or psychosocial impairments and functional disability. Soldiers who are treated here usually have spinal cord or severe brain injuries.

I was impressed to see first-hand the care they provide our Soldiers and Veterans. It’s clear they are caring, competent professionals to their core. I met some great Americans who had recently been injured in combat and who are getting treatment and healing at James Haley. I also had the privilege of meeting with some of their Family members. I know that I speak for all the people in my party when I say this visit was humbling, uplifting, and inspiring.

I want to publicly recognize Dr. Steven Scott, Chief, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitative Services, and his team—they graciously took time to introduce us to patients, gave us a tour of their hospital, and shared with us the incredible ways they take care of our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and their Families. The public affairs officer, Ms. Carolyn Clark, did a great job helping us coordinate the visit and providing additional information after we returned to DC.

Finally, my hat is off to each wounded Soldier I met. Thank you all for allowing me and my staff to visit with you, hear your stories and express how grateful we are for your service and sacrifice. You all set the standard for resilience and perseverance.

COL Greg Gadson, Director, Army Wounded Warrior Program, visits with CPL Jeremy D. Voels during a visit to the James A. Haley VA Hospital, Tampa, FL.

COL Gregory D. Gadson, Director, Army Wounded Warrior Program, visits with CPL Jeremy D. Voels during a visit to the James A. Haley VA Hospital, Tampa, FL.

To CPL Jeremy D. Voels, Bravo Company, 101st Airborne Division, and his battle buddy in the bed next to him—I salute you. Guys, stay in the fight. You are exceptional Soldiers who inspire and motivate me to get up each morning and work hard for our wounded, ill, and injured men and women in uniform. Thank you for your service.

I’ll wrap this up by saying I’m sure it is obvious it was an exciting week, a long week, and a rewarding week for all of us who had the privilege of being a part of this year’s AW2 symposium. This AW2 symposium was not about individuals. It was about doing something for the greater good and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Everyone who participated worked as a team and worked to improve warrior care.

Kudos to COL Gadson, LTC Debra Cisney and everyone who helped to make this Symposium a resounding success. The out brief was very well done and it was obvious the delegates were up to the tasks and challenges of the week. Stay tuned—I’ll be able very soon to share with you the top five issues that we’re passing on to the Army Family Action Program for consideration.

Commander’s Drumbeat: “Unlimited Potential,” a New WTC Video

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

CPT Juan Guerrero, poising here at the 2011 Warrior Games during the Ultimate Champion competition, is featured in the new video, “Unlimited Potential.”

In my time spent traveling to our Warrior Transition Units (WTU), I have the privilege of meeting our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers who are working hard to regain their self-sufficiency and reshape their lives post-injury. It’s difficult to capture in words the work and spirit of our Soldiers and convey how they overcome obstacles large and small day after day throughout their recovery. But I’ve learned over the years, it’s always better to let a Soldier speak for him or herself.

I encourage you to meet some of the Warriors in Transition that I’ve gotten to know who are featured in the new WTC video, “Unlimited Potential.”

  • SFC John Wright puts things into perspective for many wounded warriors when he said, “You shook hands with the grim reaper and walked away from him.”
  • CPT Juan Guerrero, 2011 Warrior Games Ultimate Champion competitor, displays a defining trait of many Warriors in Transition—a great sense of humor. See his unique stretching techniques for running. I think about them as I warm up for PT.
  • CPT Jeremy McGuffey remains focused on his career during recovery and uses his time in a WTU to receive training to switch from Armor to become a Physician Assistant.
  • CTP Lisa Merwin, a cancer survivor, represents the drive and perseverance that is at the core of all Soldiers.
  • Retired SSG Joe Fowler came back after surviving severe burns to be an AW2 Advocate at Fort Carson to take care of the wounded who followed.

Great work is being accomplished at Warrior Transition Units by both the Soldiers and support staff. It takes a team to get the work done and turn an injury- or illness-limiting event into unlimited potential. I think SSG Gabriel Garcia summed it up best by stating, “My 75 percent is better than most guys 100 percent and that’s the way I live my life.”


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