Army Warrior Games Archery Clinic Receives Overwhelming Support from the Sumter Community, Third Army/ARCENT

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

More than 30 Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) assigned to Third Army decided to conduct their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter County State Fairgrounds, Sumter, South Carolina. After the meeting, several of the SNCOs and American Legion members posed for a photo and mingled with the more than 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers during the Warrior Transition Command hosted Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Photo Credit: LTC JeanetteGriffin.

After more than five months of planning, organizing, and collaborating with the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT, 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to train and compete for places on the  Army Warrior Games team on March 12 -16 in Sumter, South Carolina.

The first archery selection clinic was conducted January 31- 5 February in Sumter, only the top eight archers from both recurve and compound bow competitions will earn a spot on the team.

“During the first clinic, 18 shooters came to Sumter with hopes of wearing the Army colors in this year’s Warrior Games,” said retired SFC Steven Coleman, the Warrior Games Army archery coach. “Of these 18, eight Soldiers were selected to return to the second clinic, and four more athletes were added to represent the Warrior Games Army archery team.”

These Soldiers are competing in hopes of being one of 50 athletes representing the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games starting next month in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I feel that this clinic really helped me increase my ability to shoot as well as my mental ability to perform at a higher level,” said AW2 Veteran Jessie White. “The local community of Sumter has given amazing support while we were here.”

More than 12 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in The Warrior Transition Command's Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Third Army/ARCENT Medics and Combat Lifesavers assisted throughout the week. Photo Credit: (SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The list of supporters include American Legion Post 15, American  Whitetail, Coca-Cola, Crossroads Archery,  Dartfish, Elk’s Lodge, Gamecock Body Shop, Hansen International, emWave, and Third Army/ARCENT.

The offer of support to this effort began with the American Legion Post 15′s agreement to allow the Army archery participants to use the Agriculture Building located in the Sumter County Fairgrounds, in Sumter, South Carolina  for the first clinic held on January 31 to February 5, and the final qualification clinic that was conducted on March 12 -16.

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Soldier (AW2) Curtis Winston prepares to shoot his recurve bow during training at the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) archery clinic in Sumter, South Carolina on March 12-16. The clinic, taught by U.S. Army Archery Coach and retired Sgt.1st Class Steven Coleman, prepared wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans for this year’s Warrior Games, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 30-May 5. Photo Credit: SSG Tracy Smith

“The American Legion served breakfast every morning, a few Legion members treated the team to a lunch, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion cooked and served dinner,” said Coleman.

Since Third Army/ARCENT recently moved from Fort McPherson, Georgia  to Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina,  Coleman’s dad, retired SGM Billy Coleman decided that they should visit Third Army/ARCENT to inform the organization that the Army archery clinic was scheduled to be held just a few miles from the base.

This meeting resulted in Stephenie Tatum, the Third Army/ARCENT media and community relations specialist, and SGM Fletcher the Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs sergeant major and their team providing media support, committed military support, medics, and combat lifesavers during the clinic.

On Thursday, March 15, more than 30 Sergeants Majors and Directorate Chiefs assigned to Third Army/ARCENT conducted their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter State Fairgrounds.   After the meeting, several of the leaders posed for photos and mingled with the Soldiers and Veterans participating in the clinic extending words of encouragement and support.

“Overall, I felt that this was an excellent clinic,” said SGT Monica Southhall from CBWTU-Virginia. “I look forward to more clinics like this in the future.”

The archery clinic was an opportunity to get the community informed, involved, and excited about the Army’s archery team competing during the 2012 Warrior Games.  All the support provided by the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT was greatly appreciated and without a doubt, this was an outstanding clinic for everyone.

“Thanks to the outstanding support of the Sumter County community and several organizations, we have had two very successful clinics in Sumter County,” said Coleman.  “These organizations made it their mission to provide care and support for all of the Soldiers participating in the WTC archery clinics.”

Army athletes compete for spot on Warrior Games shooting team

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

SPC Justin Miller receives one-on-one training from MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach during the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) shooting clinic held March 14-17 in El Paso, Texas. Photo Credit: SSG Emily Anderson

Holding a rifle was nothing new for these athletes concentrating on the targets in front, but the silence in the room spoke volumes. Today was not another weapon’s qualification day, and these were not just any Soldiers.

About 25 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Army Veterans from across the United States trained and competed for places on the Army Warrior Games shooting team during the WTC’s final shooting clinic at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March  13 – 17.

“These athletes show a lot of promise,” said MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach. “We’ve seen dramatic improvements in their skill set from the clinic last month to now.”

Athletes from the Army, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“Training for these games has helped me to stay motivated and positive in my rehab so that I can return to duty,” said SSG Vestor Hasson, currently assigned to the WTU at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.  “I’ve got a fair chance, and I’m going to do my best.”

The games are  April 30 – May 5, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The official Army team will be announced in the March-April timeframe by representatives from WTC.

“This clinic has helped prepare myself for Warrior Games,” said AW2 Veteran Charles “Chuck” Allen. “It’s a mind game to stay focus and aim at the same spot every time because it doesn’t always hit the same spot.”

“I officially became a part of AW2 this year,” said Allen, who was medically retired after being shot during a training accident when another Soldier tried to clear his jammed weapon but misfired. The bullet entered the right side of Allen’s chest and stuck in his vertebrate, unable to be removed by doctors.

“If selected, I look forward to representing the Army,” Allen added. “Hopefully, I’ll be competing in the discus throw, shot put, wheelchair basketball, and rifle.”

The 2012 Warrior Games are hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, USO, Fisher House Foundation, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

“Even if these athletes don’t make the U.S Army Warrior Games team, I expect everyone to take what they’ve learned back to their units,” Day added. “They are now the subject matter experts in the shooting field.”

Wounded Warrior’s Archery Hopes Fulfilled by a Community Worlds Away

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (L) and Scott Dault, owner of Crossroads Archery, work to adjust a compound bow set-up donated to Haddock-Santiago through donations from the archery community and private organizations. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart, Georgia WTB
It was 2004 when SSG Jorge G. Haddock-Santiago made his first trek halfway around the world, marking the first of numerous deployments.  With each combat tour, he suffered some form of injury that, in 2009, would leave the seasoned combat artilleryman unfit for continuation of active service.

Haddock-Santiago resigned to dedicate himself to the new mission of a transitioning Soldier—s to heal and transition back to active service or continue to serve the nation as a Veteran in my community.’

“I racked up a total of six deployments,” Haddock-Santiago said with a thoughtful look in his eyes. “The worst thing that ever happened to me wasn’t so much the physical injuries—it was losing my friends.”

The scars of loss are the hardest to bear for any Soldier especially carrying the guilt of ‘why not me?’

“I had so many things to work through,” he recalled, with a slight ever-present tremor in his hands.  “I have come a long way working through my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other anxieties associated with loss.”

Haddock-Santiago, a native of Puerto Rico, dreamed of a military career that would find him mentoring others.  As a young boy, his father introduced him to archery as a form of relaxation, patience, and focus. Upon his assignment to Bamberg, Germany’s Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) he was reintroduced to archery as a part of the WTB adaptive sports program, never imagining the healing properties the sport would have.

When he was selected to try out for the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games archery team, Haddock-Santiago developed a renewed sense of purpose.  Again travelling halfway around the world to Sumter, South Carolina, he was ready to compete to be a part of the third annual Olympic-style games for U.S. military service men and women who have become wounded, ill, or injured.

“I am ready to give my best in memory of my guys because their loss is a burden I carry throughout my life,” he said.  “They were my mentors, and because of them I am alive.”

Retired SFC Steven Coleman, the U.S. Army Warrior Games archery coach, felt Haddock-Santiago’s chances for a spot on the team was strong. Unfortunately, opportunity can knock you down as quickly as you are lifted up.

“When military archers are sent this far it’s important that they come prepared,” Coleman explained about his clinic and the imperativeness of being on your ‘A-game.’  “His bow broke and the harsh reality is something like this can immediately end your chances to continue in a competition unless you are able to get that equipment repaired or replaced.”

To Haddock-Santiago it meant he had failed those he wished to honor, and he described how personal that failure was in one word-demoralized.

Soldiers are trained to be acutely responsive in tough situations, assessing then managing.

When it was suggested that a small archery shop in Summerton, South Carolina, , a 30-minute drive from the clinic grounds, may be able to fit him and his battle-buddy, SSG Albert ‘Al’ Louangketh, also a Bamberg WTB Soldier with a bow, they set off on a new mission not realizing another set of life-changing events were about to unfold.

Scott Dault, owner of the Crossroads Archery, was at his post with the same disarming smile that he has greeted customers with for more than 30 years.

“I could tell the young man was upset when he got me on the phone,” Dault recalled. “We just didn’t realize how much it meant to him to be here and how far he had travelled until I talked to him and his buddy Al filled me in a bit when they got here.”

Haddock-Santiago confirmed to his leadership in Germany that he found a bow but it may be a bit out of his budget.  His First Sergeant reassured him that Haddock-Santiago should not worry about it adding, “My First Sergeant went one step further and volunteered to pay for it out of his own pocket.”

What the 17-year career Veteran did not realize was his benefits were manifesting before he had even arrived at the little shop in Summerton. Dault, along with his wife Kim, began contacting local archery clubs in the area before the two combat Veterans arrived.

“I got in touch with the president of Bowhunters of South Carolina] David Shull, and the president of Swamp Fox Archers, and they started a ripple effect reaching out to the local South Carolina archery organizations,” Dault said.  “Within minutes we had the okay and were able to get Jorge fixed up.”

A customer who frequented Crossroads Archery, Bob Vaden, was so moved by the Soldier’s indomitable spirit and Dault’s determination and this fledgling brotherhood of archers that he reached in his pocket to make a personal donation.

“We look at our lives and know we owe a lot to good folks like Jorge and Al,” Dault said of Vaden’s gift.

Haddock-Santiago was the recipient an $1,100 archery setup courtesy of the Daults and his brotherhood of archers but the group’s altruism did not stop there as the man who traveled half-way around the world has sparked a new opportunity for an unlikely partnership.

“This is about rebuilding their lives,” Coleman added.  “These Soldiers and Veterans have given so much as our true one-percenters and this is one of the most therapeutic gifts any of them can be given to rebuild focus, patience and self-confidence.”

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (R), a combat Veteran and U.S. Army 2012 Warrior Games archery coach, retired SFC Steven Coleman, work to repair Haddock-Santiago's compound bow during the initial archery preparation and selection clinic. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The curative benefits also match WTC’s mission of providing viable adaptive sports opportunity for the severely injured. Archery’s versatility allows those with severe disabilities to enjoy the benefits using special tactile equipment such as mouth-tabs for those with upper body strength issues or prosthetics and an upright aiming device to assist blind archers.

Dault’s band of archers has donated archery equipment to five additional wounded Soldiers since that momentous day in late January.  The gift of a bow set-up can mark a new beginning for many of these Veterans and Soldiers.  Although there will be therapeutic benefits knowing someone cares is the most important benefit. This is all due to an encounter born of misfortune and donations from caring communities’ worlds away from the chaos of the battlefield.

“I was never in the military but my dad was a U.S. Air Force pilot,” Dault said describing the importance of what their mission was becoming. “My first employee worked for me while he was in high school and in college joined the South Carolina National Guard. He was deployed a few times and is now a Major.”

Dault chuckles at the last statement and looks around at the mounted trophies and spoils of the hunt that hang around his internationally known shed-shop he deems a ‘one-horse-operation.’

He cannot help but fondly reminisce about the man that he says “types like he talks” and looks forward to seeing his friend when he again travels halfway around the world in March for the next archery-training clinic.

Warrior Games Army Track and Field Athletes Take the Road to the Qualification Clinics

SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins, Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Carson and SPC Jasmine Perry from Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), Fort Campbell along with more than 70 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in the largest adaptive and reconditioning clinic hosted by the WTC at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field on March 8. Photo credit: retired LTC Sue Bozgoz

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom
On Thursday, March 8, unseasonably warm weather conditions accompanied the first day of competition for more than 45 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans that participated in the track and field portion of the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) largest adaptive sports and reconditioning clinic at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field.  Athletes practiced and competed in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 1500 meter dash track events, shot put, and discus field events in preparation for qualification rounds planned on March 10-11.

 “The first track and field clinic focused on timing each individual, capturing their biomechanics, and analyzing their athletic capabilities,” said track and field coach retired LTC Sue Bozgoz. “I made note of each individual athlete’s God given talent, then provided them with information on how to improve their performance prior to the final clinic.”

Track runners demonstrated that they had practiced and improved their running times, since the first clinic. Likewise, shot put and discus athletes showed that they had improved their form, technique, and ability to throw the shot put and discus.

“Thursday’s practice for athletes competing in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash included an 800 meter warm up, 4×50 meter sprints with 100 meter rest, followed by an 800 meter cool down,” said Bozgoz.  “Athletes competing in the 1500 meter ran a one mile warm up, 800 meter blow out, and a one mile cool down.” This was just the right amount of training to prepare for the weekend of competition and qualifications.

Warrior Games returning athlete, SPC Jasmine Perry, a Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Campbell, who won gold in the shot put event during the 2011 Warrior Games is very excited about competing in track and field and swimming.  “I believe that this year’s events are more competitive,” said Perry, “I hope to do my best and be selected to represent the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games.”

SPC Jasmine Perry from WTB Fort Campbell prepares to throw the shot put during a recent track and field competition. Perry won gold during the 2011 Warrior Games shot put field event and hopes to earn a spot on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team. Photo credit: LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

“As a coach, my goal is to bring out a runner’s God given potential by giving them the tools they need to perform at their best,” said Bozgoz. “I am excited about the track and field qualifications. My greatest joy as a coach is helping runners reach the finish line.”  

At the Warrior Games, athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“The planning and coordination for this event has gone well,” said SGT Brice Hamilton, of the Warrior Transition Command, Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch.  “We were fortunate to have the assistance of the WTU, Fort Meade to assist with transportation of personnel and equipment and students from Defense Information School to assist as photographers, videographers, and timekeepers.”

After the competitions, athletes paused for a few moments to cool down, relax their nerves, and take a few minutes to reflect on the accomplishments made on the track and field.

The day ended with laughter, horse play, and all of the details on how the athletes received their scrapes and bruises. 

We had quite a day in the track and field competitions.

Army Family Action Plan Conference Forwards Key Warrior Care Issues

Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) delegates, from left to right, Craig Smith, Jonathan Looney, Christine Looney and CW3 Edward Rivas with the Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. at the Army Family Action Plan Conference.

By Vondell Brown, AW2 Advocate Support Branch, and Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom
The Army Family Action Plan or AFAP is the formal process by which delegates representing Families across the Army identify issues and recommend policy and procedural changes to improve the lives of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Issues are gathered throughout the year and brought to the annual conference to be prioritized and forwarded to senior Army and other government leaders for resolution.

At last week’s AFAP conference in Arlington, Virginia, Army Chief of Staff GEN Raymond T. Odierno expanded the role of AFAP beyond the Army, highlighting its positive impact across the services.

“Most importantly, 61 percent of those issues went across the entire Department of Defense,” said GEN Odierno. “So you’re not only helping Army Families, you’re helping Air Force Families, Marine Families , Navy Families , and Coast Guard Families. And I know the Air Force has started this [type of forum] as well.”

“We must shape our Army,” said Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Raymond F. Chandler III. during his opening remarks to the delegates and staff echoed similar sentiments as the Army Chief of Staff.

As Chandler continued to speak about AFAP, he talked about an issue concerning medically retired servicemembers eligibility for concurrent receipt of disability pay saying, “We must push on with this issue to take care of our Soldiers.”

It is also important to note that the voice of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families has been particularly powerful at this year’s conference.

AW2 delegates Craig Smith, Jonathan Looney, Christine Looney, and CW3 Edward Rivas who spent five days in plenary sessions and working groups to voice the concerns and needs of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families seemed impressed with the AFAP process.

There was a lot of hard work and effort put in by the delegates and it will be evident at the out brief. “I think it will make a huge difference for the Family members coming behind us” said AW2 delegate Jonathan Looney.”

There were four focus groups that took on the task of reviewing 51 issues from the field. They were then tasked to prioritize two issues per group that were most important to the quality of life for the Army Family.

WTC/AW2 had a total of six issues elevated to the AFAP conference this year, and two of them were prioritized by the focus groups at AFAP and briefed to Army leadership at the end of the week.

One  issue was the Department of the Army Form 5893 “Soldier’s Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board Checklist” language clarification. The current form does not explicitly state the possibility that a Soldier or Veteran would have to pay the government back for concurrent benefits. AFAP delegates recommended that the form be modified to clearly state the possibility.

Another issue from WTC/AW2 was the retention of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers to minimum retirement requirement. The delegates felt that wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers are being involuntarily separated and medically retired within two years of the end of their eligible retirement date due to medical conditions incurred in the line of duty. AFAP delegates prioritized this issue and recommended that servicemembers within two years of their minimum retirement requirement to remain on active duty and not involuntarily separated due to their medical condition.

The conference also prioritized existing AFAP issues and of the top seven, three of them were generated by the WTC/AW2 Symposium and dealt directly with the needs and issues of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

For LTC Deb Cisney, the Officer in Charge of Symposium, the number of issues selected as new and prioritized issues speaks volumes about the Army’s level of commitment to the needs of the wounded, ill, and injured as well as the effectiveness of the WTC/AW2 Symposium as a process.

“The WTC/AW2 Symposium provides an opportunity for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families to take ownership of improving the immediate and long term support of this population—it is a powerful form of grassroots advocacy,” said Cisney. “Symposiums clearly demonstrate to wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, leadership, Congress, the media, and the general public that the Army is listening and taking action to improve the care and transition of these Soldiers and their Families.”

This year’s WTC/AW2 Symposium is taking place June 10-15 in Orlando, Florida.  AW2 is currently accepting both issue submissions and delegate applications to continue Symposium’s seven-year legacy of support to wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

To take part, go to the 2012 WTC/AW2 Symposium website, download the forms, and submit them today.

Wounded, Ill, and Injured Soldiers Compete for a Spot on Warrior Games Team

By Jim Wenzel, WTC STRATCOM

Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans arrive at Fort Meade to compete for spots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team.

For the next five days, athletes will train in swimming, cycling, sitting volleyball, and track and field to prepare them for timed trials that will be used to select the Army’s team for the third annual Warrior Games.

Warrior Games draws wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marines, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations to compete in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

SSG Krissell Kreager-Lumpkins has been in the Army 11 years and was injured falling off a Utah mountain during combat training operations.  She has been through several surgeries and will most likely undergo more as she recovers from injuries to her head, back, and neck.

At 27 years old, Kreager-Lumpkins is a first-time competitor for this year’s games; however, she was inspired to try out for the team while encouraging another Soldier during last year’s swimming event.  “Last year I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk,” Kreager-Lumpkins said, “I told my squad leader that I would be swimming in this year’s games.  I want to show others that there is life beyond injury”

LTC Keith Williams, WTC Adaptive Sports and Recondition Branch Chief, is responsible for arranging more than 10 clinics to prepare wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans to represent the Army at the games.  As adaptive sports programs begin to grow at the 29 Warrior Transition Units- link to page (WTUs) throughout the Army, he has seen the positive impact these activities have on recovering Soldiers.

“There is no doubt that a Soldier engaged in a sport or other physical activity recovers more quickly,” said Williams. “The Warrior Games provides our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers an opportunity to test themselves and regain both confidence and abilities that they may have thought were lost.”

The clinic will conclude with a final ceremony on Monday with WTC Commander BG Darryl Williams, congratulating clinic participants and recognizing finalists.

WTC plans to announce the 50 Soldiers and Veterans who will represent the Army on March 26. The games will take place beginning April 30 at the Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Conference Call Focuses on Supporting Wounded, Ill, and Injured Soldiers with Hearing Loss

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The AW2 Community Support Network held its first 2012 quarterly conference call. During the call, more than 35 organizations and an additional 30 participants from across the country listened and discussed the resources and best practices to help Soldiers, Veterans, and Familiy members with hearing loss.

AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson facilitated the call and provided insight into working with Soldiers and Veterans with hearing loss and asked Community Support Network organizations to continue to focus their efforts to our population living with hearing loss.

Callers were also treated to remarks by representatives from Gallaudet University, the only university in the world in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.

“It’s important for these Soldiers and Veterans to understand they can function in the hearing world with loss of hearing,” said Dr. David Barclay, Chair of Gallaudet’s Social Work Department. “They just have to understand their new roles as Family and co-workers.”

In addition, callers enjoyed stimulating dialogue with two Soldiers who sustained hearing loss, AW2 SGM Robert Gallagher and AW2 Soldier Danny Hill. The final panel member included Dr. Luzmira Torres, the brigade surgeon for the Warrior Transition Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia , and Hill’s supervisor.

During the call, panel members spoke about how those who are deaf or are experiencing hearing loss may feel more isolated.  The panel also advocated for  peer mentoring for those with hearing loss and encouraged organizations to teach Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families to learn about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In conclusion, Gadson said, “There are great resources available to assist wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Our goal is to help them connect.”

If you know of an organization that also supports wounded warriors in their local communities, please point them to the AW2 Community Support Network webpage or email recommendations to AW2CommunitySupportNetwork@conus.army.mil

Welcome to the AW2 Community Support Network

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
Join me in welcoming the newest organizations in the AW2 Community Support Network. These organizations are part of the 276 AW2 Community Support Network organizations that help better the lives of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Click on the links below to get to know them better.

The AW2 Community Support Network was created based on direct requests from severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families. Wounded Soldiers stated that connection with their local community and community leaders was essential for their success and reintegration. For more information, please visit the AW2 Community Support Network webpage.

Do you know of a caring organization that wants to assist wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families? If so, please email the AW2 Community Support Network at the email address below. I welcome your recommendations and referrals.

Send organization referrals to AW2CommunitySupportNetwork@conus.army.mil.

CBWTU-FL Soldiers Celebrate NBA All-Star Weekend and Celebrate Black History Month with Legends of Basketball

Six wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans from Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida (CBWTU-FL) along with SGT Brice Hamilton (WTC) pose with retired NBA player Dikembe Mutombo during the National Basketball Retired Players Association's (NBRPA) Legends Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC STRATCOM
During All-Star weekend, six wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans  from Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida  (CBWTU-FL) were invited to take part in the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s (NBRPA) Legends Celebration at the Walt Disney Swan Resort, in Orlando, Florida.

The Soldiers were invited to several events; the welcome reception, the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, a fashion show, and other events.

The festivities kicked off on Friday, February 24, with a reception where Soldiers mingled with guests, enjoyed a variety of food, got autographs, and took photos with NBA legends and celebrities.

“These are memories of a lifetime” said SFC Harrison Waithaka, a Soldier assigned to CBWTU-FL, who sustained injuries to his back, shoulder, and stomach from a fall after exiting a helicopter in Iraq. “We are very appreciative of the Warrior Transition Command for coordinating CBWTU-FL’s participation in this event.”

CBWTU-FL Soldiers were given the red carpet treatment. Cameras clicked continuously as Soldiers, took a multitude of photos with various NBA legends, WNBA players, and celebrities.

“They enjoyed a day full of notable NBA retired players—Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Erving “Magic” Johnson, Dominique Wilkins, and David Robinson” said SGT Brice Hamilton, who serves in WTC’s Adaptive Reconditioning Branch.

Five wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers from the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida (CBWTU-FL) pose with Women’s Basketball League (WBL) Women's Pro Legend (Susan Summons) pictured middle and (Kiara Redman) her personal assistant during the National Basketball Retired Players Association's (NBRPA) Legends Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

Coach Charlie Hatcher, co –host of Sports Inside and Out radio show, legendWali Jones, and Women’s Basketball League (WBL) legend Susan Summons hosted a live radio broadcast that included interviews with retired NBA legends Dale Ellis of the Boston Celtics, Lucius Allen of the LA Lakers,  and Dick Barnett of the New York Jets.

Later that evening, when I did not think that the events could get any better, the Soldiers were able to participate in the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, where NBRPA paid tribute to its members and discussed the impact African Americans have on the game of basketball as part of the celebration of Black History month.  Panelist included NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Earl Lloyd the first African American to ever play in an NBA game, and Dr. Richard A. Lapchick.

“The NBRPA Legends All-Star Celebration was amazing,” said Summons. “It’s so important to remember the sacrifice that former professional players made that are now legends of the game and sport, both men and women.”

“Our servicemen and servicewomen have made sacrifices to keep America safe.” I was honored to be a member of the U.S. Army, and I am proud to be a part of the historical movement of sports legends that have helped to pave the way for future sports legends” said Summons. “The history of sports gives you a look into the future of sports.” Summons added. “Remember and recognize the history and the women and men who helped to create it.”

Soldiers sat stage-side at the fashion show and met celebrities in the Legends VIP Lounge.

The next day, Soldiers went to the NBA All-Star Jam Session where they took part in interactive basketball activities, skill challenges, and autograph signing sessions with NBA players and legends.

“The Soldiers were the celebrities,” said Hamilton.  “Many of them stated that last night was one of their best experiences ever.”

Military Spouse Employment Partnership Provides Tools for Connecting Spouses and Employers

By Jim Wenzel, WTC STRATCOM
As a military retiree and Army wife, Dr. Lillie Cannon is familiar with the job-seeking challenges faced by spouses.  There are over one million Active, Guard, and Reserve spouses, and 85 percent currently want or need work.  A common refrain of this young, predominantly female, and highly mobile demographic is, “Every time I move, I start all over again.”

Despite their high levels of resiliency, their desire to work, and an enhanced toolkit of skills based on their life experience, military spouses earn 25% less and transition 14% more often than their civilian counterparts.

Cannon talked to military, federal and corporate attendees at the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference  this week.  According to Cannon, in 2002, many servicemembers were leaving the military due to unhappiness on the part of their spouses.  The National Defense Authorization Act that year directed the establishment of a corporate partnership to enhance the employment of military spouses.    The Army Spouse Employment Partnership began with 13 companies willing to commit to hiring military spouses.

In 2011, the Army program expanded to include spouses of all uniformed services and was renamed the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.  It now partners with 95 companies, and it has helped more than 131,000 spouses find employment.

Cannon is proud of the work accomplished thus far. “Thirty-five percent of our partners have a wounded warrior program,” she said. “Some of the partners have hired wounded warrior spouses to run their regional programs.”

The partnership expects to add 50 new organizations by year’s end and recently launched a website, www.msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil, to facilitate the posting of spouse resumes and open positions of partner companies.  Though there is much left to be done, Cannon feels that helping the spouses of wounded Veterans find jobs is a responsibility shared by the military, federal, and corporate employers.

“I felt like it was something we needed to do as a nation to give back to our military spouses,” said Cannon. “I am very passionate about our program.”

As a military retiree and Army wife, Dr. Lillie Cannon is familiar with the job-seeking challenges faced by spouses.  There are over one million Active, Guard, and Reserve spouses, and 85 percent currently want or need work.  A common refrain of this young, predominantly female, and highly mobile demographic is, “Every time I move, I start all over again.”

Despite their high levels of resiliency, their desire to work, and an enhanced toolkit of skills based on their life experience, military spouses earn 25% less and transition 14% more often than their civilian counterparts.

Cannon talked to military, federal and corporate attendees at the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference[SG1]  this week .  According to Cannon, .  in 2002, many servicemembers were leaving the military due to unhappiness on the part of their spouses.  The National Defense Authorization Act that year directed the establishment of a corporate partnership to enhance the employment of military spouses. The Army Spouse Employment Partnership began with 13 companies willing to commit to hiring military spouses.

In 2011, the Army program expanded to include spouses of all uniformed services and was renamed the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.  It now partners with 95 companies, and it has helped more than 131,000 spouses find employment.

Cannon is proud of the work accomplished thus far. “Thirty-five percent of our partners have a wounded warrior program,” she said. “Some of the partners have hired wounded warrior spouses to run their regional programs.”

The partnership expects to add 50 new organizations by year’s end and recently launched a website, www.msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil, to facilitate the posting of spouse resumes and open positions of partner companies.  Though there is much left to be done, Cannon feels that helping the spouses of wounded Veterans find jobs is a responsibility shared by the military, federal, and corporate employers.

“I felt like it was something we needed to do as a nation to give back to our military spouses,” said Cannon. “I am very passionate about our program.”

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Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.