Fort Hood WTB Soldier ‘knighted’ by armor community

by Gloria Montgomery, Fort Hood Warrior Transition Brigade Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers congratulates former armored cavalry Solider Staff Sgt. Roger Pates on his induction into the Order of St. George. (Photo by Gloria Montgomery, Fort Hood WTB PAO)

Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers congratulates former armored cavalry Solider Staff Sgt. Roger Pates on his induction into the Order of St. George. (Photo by Gloria Montgomery, Fort Hood WTB PAO)

Life in the Army for Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) cadre member, Staff Sgt. Roger Pates has always been about the Abrams. It didn’t matter if it was a 60-ton or a 70-ton tank, he just wanted to be its master.

On August 1, surrounded by more than 400 warriors from his former unit –the 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division– the master gunner achieved the pinnacle of his Army career: knighthood and membership into the prestigious Order of St. George.

Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers, commander, “knighted” the kneeling Pates with two saber taps on the shoulders and the presentation of the order’s black medallion that is given to deserving junior officers and enlisted tankers and cavalrymen who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and technical competence.

The order, established by the United States Armor Association in 1986, recognizes the very best tankers and cavalrymen among its members. Its origins date back to a twelfth century Italian legend that depicts St. George slaying a dragon in exchange for the community embracing Christianity.

For Pates, who now works with brigade operations, the opportunity to get knighted was the driving force behind his decision to enlist and go “armor” three months after his 1993 high school graduation.

“I just thought that being knighted was the coolest thing I had ever heard about,” said the Kansas native, who first learned about the order from an Army friend. “Ever since I was a kid, too, I wanted to drive tanks, so this just made sense to me.”

Being knighted also was the fifth and final career goal Pates had set for himself when he enlisted.

“I wanted to make rank, be a tank commander, make master gunner, become a knight, and..,” said Pates, hesitating a bit, “Go to war.”

In 2003 Pates got his wish for war when his unit was one of the first to invade Iraq.

“I was a little nervous at first because I’m in a bomb on wheels,” the 37-year-old Pates said, “but it was also pretty awesome because I’m in a practically indestructible war machine.”

Pates credits Army training with preparing him for the fight.

Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers begins the Order of St. George knighting ceremony for former armored cavalry Soldier Staff Sgt. Roger Pates. (Photo by Gloria Montgomery, Fort Hood WTB PAO)

Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers begins the Order of St. George knighting ceremony for former armored cavalry Soldier Staff Sgt. Roger Pates. (Photo by Gloria Montgomery, Fort Hood WTB PAO)

“It was exactly like our Army training, only this time it was for real,” said Pates, who deployed three times to Iraq. “There were real bullets firing at real people, and real people firing back. It was a very surreal experience.”When his third deployment ended, Pates had achieved all his goals except knighthood.

Lt. Col Sellers nominated Pates for his demonstrated tactical and technical competence as an armored leader and for his contributions to the mounted force.

“He had numerous dismount and vehicle kills, and is one of the few Americans with a confirmed kill of a T-34 tank,” wrote Sellers. Sellers specifically cited Pates heroism during the invasion of Iraq when, in the absence of a tank commander, Pates took over the tank and is credited with fighting in seven major battles: As-Samawwah, Al-Hillah, Al-Qut, Al-Mossayib, Karbala Gap, Baghdad Airport and Baghdad.

“He’s done some amazing things within the armor community throughout his Army career,” said Capt. Christopher Mitchell, Pates’ former company commander. “As my master gunner, he built the company’s gunnery training plan from scratch and oversaw the training. He worked his butt off to get everyone qualified. He’s very deserving of this award.”

Staff Sgt. Roger Pates is one of hundreds of junior and senior enlisted personnel who volunteer for assignment as cadre members within Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) around the country. Cadre come from every aspect of Army life, from human resource to finance specialists to combat medic to chaplain’s assistant, and they are considered the backbone of WTUs. Pates serves as the WTB’s non-commissioned officer for operations,  in charge of writing operation orders. The armorman was injured during the invasion of Iraq, and he joined the Fort Hood WTB cadre in April 2013.

Has a member of your WTU cadre impacted your recovery? Share your experience below.

AW2 Soldier Receives Highest Military Award for Heroism

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

Medal of Honor recipient SFC Leroy A. Petry receives a photo and citation from Army Secretary John McHugh as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Petry's wife, Ashley, applaud during the Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at the Pentagon.

As AW2 continues to provide top-notched assistance and to advocate for severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families, wherever they are located, regardless of military status, the proof of seeing Soldiers surviving and thriving will become more evident.

Medal of Honor recipient and AW2 Soldier SFC Leroy A. Petry—a recent example of a severely wounded Soldier surviving, adapting, and overcoming the tragic situation which caused him to lose his right hand and being shot in both legs—induction into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony hosted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta at the Pentagon yesterday, proves life does not end once a Soldier is wounded, ill, or injured.

“To have that bullet go through both my legs and not hit any arteries or bones, just to take tissue and muscle it was, it was pretty amazing. It was a miracle,” Petry said during a news briefing at the Pentagon, last week. Petry continued by talking about two more miracles he experienced that day. One of a grenade going off about an arms distance away and walking away with only “shrapnel here and there and a prosthesis hand.”

“I was overzealous that I got two miracles in one day,” said Petry. He also said the third miracle was that the two guys that were next to him were alive, well, and that “their Families did not suffer the loss of them that day.”

One attendee at Petry’s Medal of Honor Ceremony, AW2 Director COL Greg D. Gadson said he felt very privileged to be in attendance. “It’s extremely humbling to be in the presence of leaders paying respect and tribute to SFC Petry. Members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, a lot of people recognizing such an honor shows significance.”

“In my mind, in events like these we take time to focus on such tremendous acts which are really done every day by Soldiers and service members of all braches. They may not all turn out to be Medal of Honor events, but they highlight the sacrifices and dedication our Soldiers take,” explained Gadson.

During the Medal of Honor Ceremony, President Barack Obama also recognized SPC Christopher Gathercole, a Ranger who did not make it back from the daylight helicopter assault mission where  Petry was severely wounded.

“These types of ceremonies underscore Family,” Gadson said. “It was nice to see the President recognize the brother, sister, and grandmother of the specialist because he didn’t make it and made the ultimate sacrifice, his life.

“Although we focus on the Soldiers, there’s a Family that supports that Soldier behind them. It’s a rippling effect that most don’t have appreciation for,” Gadson added.

The hardest part of the recovery and rehabilitation process may be different for everyone. It may not always be the physical, but mental aspects that play a major role in a Soldier’s progression. AW2’s dedication to providing personalized support continues to foster the long-term independence Petry and other severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families deserve.

 

Checkout DCoE’s Next Monthly Webinar: “Reintegration: Adjusting to Life at Home After Deployment”

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

One of the major obstacles Soldiers and Veterans face upon return from combat are those related to psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Due to the overwhelming need to address these challenges, the Department of Defense stood-up the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) in 2007. As an organization determined to improve the way psychological health and TBI are treated, DCoE has made strides to ensure that America’s service members and Veterans have access to the information necessary to start taking steps towards effectively dealing with these challenges.

One of the many ways DCoE is educating individuals is through its monthly webinar series aimed to provide information and facilitate discussion on a variety of topics related to psychological health and TBI. This Thursday, July 22nd at 1300-1430 EST, DCoE plans to present its next webinar entitled: “Reintegration: Adjusting to Life at Home After Deployment.” With discussions led by medical subject matter experts, the webinar plans to unravel many of the challenges service members face during the reintegration process. These challenges include, but are not limited to:

  • Readjusting to Family life
  • Going back to work
  • Coping with combat related stress and injury

This webinar will also feature personal accounts of deployment to Afghanistan, bringing a closer look to readjustment through the words of those who have travelled down the road of reintegration. In addition, DCoE has selected various types of resources to compliment this week’s webinar. To take a look at these resources, click this link: http://www.dcoe.health.mil/Training/MonthlyWebinars.aspx.

The webinar is planned to be very insightful and can easily be viewed from your computer screen at home. If you have a moment to check it out, please share your thoughts with the AW2 Blog so you can continue to support AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families by sharing with them what you learned.

To register for the webinar, to be added to the distribution list, or for more information, e-mail your contact information to DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil

“I Never Saw That Career Coming”

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

BG Horne told wounded warriors and employers at the 2010 AW2 Career Expo that throughout his 30 years in the Army, he never saw his next career coming. As he started out in air artillery defense, he never saw it coming when he moved to missile defense. As he moved to human resources, he never saw that coming either.

“I never thought I’d be the head of human resources for the largest company in the world—the Army, but like all Soldiers I did know leadership,” BG Horne explained. Horne is currently the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army G1.

The AW2 Career Expo is a two-day event that focuses on helping more than 125 wounded warriors reintegrate back into their communities through meaningful careers. The event offers sessions on education opportunities, resume writing, interview skills, being an entrepreneur, salary and benefits, and career planning; plus personal time with more than 51 employers who are eager to hire wounded warriors. For the first time, this event was opened up to local severely wounded, injured and ill servicemembers from every military branch.

BG Horne told the crowd that now more than ever he understood how hard the transition was to look for a job post retirement explaining, “I retire in two weeks. I thought I got it until I really got it. I had to maintain my current job, start searching for a new job, and coordinate with the VA. This is hard. The pressure builds up as you go through the process.”

Horne told the Career Expo participants about the new Veterans Employment Transition Program which aims to support career transition efforts for wounded warriors. “This makes good business sense for the Soldier and the local community—the cost to society of not doing this is huge.” He pointed out that veterans as a group are leading the U.S. in homelessness and the unemployment of veterans is twice the national average, but added that, “never before has there been a time when more Americans are supporting local Veterans—we’ve learned a lot since Vietnam. Employers know they get a proven population of leaders from the military.”

Businesses who are interested in establishing an expedited application process for hiring wounded, injured and ill Soldiers, Veterans and their spouses should contact the AW2 Career and Education Team at AW2CareerProgram@conus.army.mil.

Participate in DCoE’s Webinar Addressing Trauma, Grief, and Loss in Military Children

By Dr. Lolita O’Donnell, Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Explaining to a child that their parent has changed while deployed, is difficult—even for professionals. DCoE’s May Monthly Webinar will explore strategies to confront issues with children facing these difficult situations. A successful tactic that we will highlight is our work with the Sesame Workshop.

The webinar will be on May 27, 2010, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EST, and all servicemembers, Family members, government employees, health care providers, subject matter experts, and anyone interested in this topic are encouraged to join.

To register for this event or for more information please email: DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil.

DCoE’s Monthly Webinars provide information and facilitate discussion on a variety of topics related to PH and TBI. Each month features a different topic with presentations by subject matter experts followed by an interactive discussion period. Resources and reference materials related to the topic are provided each month and are available online. All speakers’ presentations are archived on the Monthly Webinar section of the DCoE website.

Participate in DCoE’s Webinar on Sports, the Military, and Recurrent Concussion

By Dr. Lolita O’Donnell, Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

For many Americans, sports players and servicemembers are two of this nation’s most iconic images. On Thursday, March 25, from 1-3 p.m. EST, these two topics will be brought together during the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury’s (TBI) webinar “Sports, the Military and Recurrent Concussion.”

An overview of the current state of sports-related concussions including emerging science of recurrent concussion will be discussed, along with collaborations between the sports and military communities to change the clinical guidelines and culture surrounding these injuries. Speakers will include CDR Scott Pyne, Navy Sports Medicine Leader from the Office of the Medical Inspector General and COL Michael S. Jaffee, National Director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

All servicemembers, Family members, government employees, health care providers, subject matter experts, and anyone interested in this topic are encouraged to join.

To register for this event or for more information please email: DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil.

Continued Healing and Recovery from Brain Injuries

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

There are some things that will require AW2’s continued support and steadfast resolve—such as the Army’s commitment to provide the finest healthcare to our AW2 Soldiers and Veterans with brain injuries. This year, as we recognize National Brain Injury Awareness Month, we again recognize that many of our men and women in uniform continue to make sacrifices that are as varied, as they are commendable. With those sacrifices, however, come some inescapable realities. Among them, are the ever present possibilities of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Throughout the medical arena, great strides are being made toward improving the care and support of our Army’s wounded warriors. Military Treatment Facilities and Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Centers continue to lead the way in researching, diagnosing, and facilitating mechanisms that help identify and treat Soldiers with TBI. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is working to establish best practices and quality standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI and promote the resilience, recovery, and reintegration of warriors and their Families. In addition, DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign. This around the clock commitment to provide specialized care and treatment to those who struggle with what may well require long-term medical care, is matched only by the fervor in which sound answers and treatment are pursued.

In a world of uncertainty, we can still hope for continued healing and recovery from brain injuries that have become synonymous with our current conflicts. Whether TBI conditions are diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, AW2 Soldiers suffering from traumatic events and injuries can find solace in knowing that the horizon is brighter because of the Army’s commitment to support wounded warriors and their Families for as long as it takes.

Adding The AW2 Blog to My.Army.Mil

By COL Kevin Arata, DoD DMA

Screenshot of My.Army.mil Homepage

Screenshot of My.Army.mil Homepage

In an effort to create a more personalized browsing experience, the U.S. Army has launched, My.Army.Mil, the first user-customized Web site under the Department of Defense.

My.Army.Mil offers visitors the ability to sign-in and create a personalized destination for official Army information, ranging from traditional news stories to up-to-the-minute social media updates. Members of the AW2 community can even easily add the AW2 Blog to My.Army.Mil to make the Web site a one stop destination for all your Army news needs.

Really, the creation of this site is for you — the user. We want you to feel like this is your page, not just the Army’s page that we are thrusting upon you. We hope that this customizable ability on My.Army.mil makes you want to come to the Army’s Web site. You have the ability to make this page match your personality. So if you want to add an RSS feed to your pages from outside sources — that’s ok. If you want to get news from your favorite Army installations, that is an option as well. We want you to make this your one-stop shop for news — how you like it — as opposed to how we think you like it. I encourage you to play around with the widgets and see what interests you.

To create your own customized My.Army.Mil page, simply sign-in and authenticate with Google Friend Connect (AIM, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and OpenID) or AKO (Army Knowledge Online) username and password. Once you have signed up and created your account, you will be prompted to add and arrange a series of widgets to suit your specific Army information needs.

Here are some of the widgets that you can add and move on your My.Army.Mil page:

  • An All Services widget with feeds from the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy, and Coast Guard.
  • Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube widgets that sync with many Army organizations
  • My Army News widget with customized feeds from Commands, Corps, Divisions,
  • Installations, and traditional news sections
  • A Features widget highlighting stories of Valor, Army events, history and heritage
  • AKO (Army Knowledge Online) widget to log-in to AKO
  • Video widget with official Army videos, newscasts and raw footage
  • RSS widget that can pull multiple feeds from external sites

To add the AW2 Blog to your My.Army.Mil page, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Log in to My.Army.Mil with either your AKO username and password or another supported service such as Google, Yahoo, AIM, Twitter, or OpenID.
  2. Click on the “Add Widgets” button that appears below where it says “HOOAH! Welcome.”
  3. A menu will appear. From the “News” column on the far left, click on “RSS.” The RSS widget should appear in the “Widgets Added” column on the far right. Click save.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you should see a widget box with the title “RSS” and a sub heading of “Front Page RSS Feed.” On the top line where it says “RSS” you should also see two intersecting arrows, two overlapping gears, and an X. Click on the overlapping gears.
  5. Once you have clicked on the overlapping gears, a drop down menu should appear with a web address for Army.mil’s RSS feed. Delete the web address and copy the AW2 RSS address (http://aw2.armylive.dodlive.mil/index.php/feed/). Paste the AW2 RSS address into the box. Click save.
  6. You have successfully added the AW2 Blog to My.Army.Mil.
  7. If you would like to move the AW2 Blog widget to another location on your page, hover your mouse over the intersecting arrows and hold the left mouse button down. Drag the widget to the location that you want and release the left mouse button.

For directions that include screenshots of each step, please click here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out My.Army.mil. I hope you find this is a useful Web site for you!

For additional information on My.Army.Mil, please visit http://www.Army.mil/MyArmy or contact ocpa.outreach@us.army.mil.

DoD Launches New Wounded Warrior Newsletter

The DoD Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy (WWCTP) has launched a new e-newsletter called the The Square Deal. The name of the newsletter comes from a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt in which he said, “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” The Square Deal aims to serve, support, and empower wounded warriors across the military by informing them of new DoD programs, policies, and benefits.

The first issue of The Square Deal features a letter from Noel Koch, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. In his letter, he expresses the importance of his office’s mission:

The WWCTP mission is to ensure America’s wounded, ill, and injured warriors receive the best care our Nation can provide, as well as seamless support as they transition back to active duty or on to separation from active service to Veteran status. The mission encompasses our sisters and brothers in the Reserve as well as Active Components, and their Families. Success in this vital mission will depend on proactive leadership, responsive policy, effective oversight, interagency collaboration, as well as the compassion and dedicated support of every member of the American Family.

The inaugural edition of The Square Deal also features updates about the modernization of the Transition Assistance Program, the creation of the Veterans Employment Initiative, and the expansion of the Disability Evaluation System Pilot program to six new sites.

To read The Square Deal click here to download the PDF from the Wounded Warrior Resource Center Web site. If you would like to receive The Square Deal via e-mail, please contact Sarah Moore at sarah.moore.ctr@osd.mil.

VA and DoD on the Mental Health Costs of War

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet before the first-of-its-kind National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2009.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet before the first-of-its-kind National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2009.

(Cross-posted from the White House Blog)

By Brandon Friedman

Brandon Friedman is the Director of New Media at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

When troops leave the active military after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, many find themselves lost in a blur of reality shows and superficiality–in a world where nothing explodes but tempers, and in a place where the rush of combat is soon dulled by the slow drip of alcohol. The symptoms of most Veterans might not be so pronounced, but there’s always someone living through this.

For my part, when I returned home in 2004, I sympathized with Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now — though, in my case, I made post-combat stress look way less cool. And while I never punched a mirror, I learned quickly that I wasn’t immune from the foundation-shaking effects that war can have on the mind.

The problem of post-traumatic stress is new for neither Veterans, nor for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. However — from “soldier’s heart” after the Civil War to “shell shock” to “combat fatigue” — the services have typically handled PTSD only to the point that it doesn’t boil over into a major social or political problem. And while that’s been good enough for many, it hasn’t been good enough for America’s combat Veterans.

However, that’s why DoD and VA are now coming together to not only seek practical solutions to mental injuries, but to de-stigmatize them as well. This week, for the first time, the departments are holding a joint national summit meant to harness “the programs, resources and expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the battlefield.”

In his opening remarks at the event, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted that “as a provider of mental health services, VA is challenging all of our assumptions about mental health care. We are undergoing a fundamental and comprehensive review of our programs to see that our approaches are Veteran-centric, uniform, and accessible.” But, he continued, “VA does not operate in a vacuum. Our collaboration with DoD is mission-critical because we share the same clients — the same population — at different stages in their lives. There can be no ‘seamless transition’ or ‘continuum of care’ without serious and high-quality collaboration between both departments.”

And that collaboration, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates is something that has, thus far been lacking.

As a Veteran myself, of course, I’m happy to see these steps being taken and I’ve been happy to attend. But much work remains to be done in terms of turning the dialogue at the summit into real change. I’m confident, however, that we’re now at a point where that can happen — primarily because both Secretaries understand that such change much start at the top with leaders who are willing to set the example.

Because, in reality, for the ideas from this summit filter down through the ranks, troops must be made to feel comfortable talking about and seeking assistance for these injuries. And if a company commander or a squad leader says it’s okay, then a young PFC coming off his or her first deployment, will be more at ease. And it is there — in the heart of military culture — where the real solution lies. Because, ultimately, it is those in uniform who will change the way America — and its military class — views mental injuries sustained in combat.

Both the military and the nation at large have far to go in terms of treating and de-stigmatizing the mental wounds of war, but any first step in a comprehensive process must include joint efforts on the part of VA and DoD. And now that Secretaries Shinseki and Gates are driving the dialogue between the medical field and ground combat commanders, that step has been taken.

We as troops, Veterans, and family members — just need to keep it going.

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