Did You Know? Internships for WTU Soldiers

By Amanda Koons, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that internships develop or reinforce skill sets transitioning wounded, ill and injured Soldiers need to prepare for civilian employment? An internship program may support your rehabilitation and integration goals while providing valuable civilian experience. Talk to your Transition Coordinator (TC) to see if an internship is right for you.

There are two approved internship programs for Soldiers in Warrior Transition Units (WTUs):

  1. Department of Defense (DOD) Operation Warfighter (OWF) Non-Paid Federal Internship program
  2. Veterans Affairs (VA) Coming Home to Work (CHTW) Non-Paid Work Experience

Check out some frequently asked questions for Soldiers about participating in an internship:

How will I benefit from participating in an internship?

An unexpected injury or illness may have changed your life plans. An internship may help you see past your injuries to new possibilities within a new military or civilian career. The valuable experience you gain during your internship will enhance your resume and future job search.

How can I get the most out of my internship experience?

Establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) career goals and maintaining motivation will lead to a productive internship. You must be active, aggressive and accountable in meeting goals outlined in your individual Comprehensive Transition Plan.

What results can I expect from participating in an internship?

You can expect numerous results from participating in an internship:

  • Meaningful activity that assists in wellness
  • Exploring employment interests
  • Developing civilian job skills
  • Reintegrating into the civilian work force
  • Gaining valuable federal government work experience
  • Understanding of how military skills are transferable to civilian employment
  • Building a résumé

What is required before I may participate in an internship?

You must be determined medically ready, which depends on two factors:

  1. A medical management (M2) clearance finding you medically, physically, and emotionally ready to participate in an internship while continuing medical treatment.
  2. A Command clearance concluding that you demonstrate the initiative and self-discipline required to participate in an internship.

You must also have a federal résumé and a completed and signed OWF Approval for Participation form.

May I receive compensation for my internship duties?

No. You may not receive compensation or benefits from the agency as you will continue to be paid by the Army until discharge or return to duty.

 Where can I get more information about participating in an internship?

You should work directly with your Transition Coordinator (TC). Your TC will ensure you meet the requirements and all steps necessary to obtain an internship. Download the new “Did You Know?” Internships factsheet from the Career and Employment Readiness section of the WTC website for additional frequently asked questions.

“Did You Know?” Series

Using your feedback, WTC Communications Division identified five topics where wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Families and Cadre want additional information, particularly around Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) resources, benefits and policies that impact their recovery and transition. We’ll post one blog per week on these five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during Warrior Care Month:

  1. Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)
  2. Community Support Resources
  3. Internships
  4. Adaptive Reconditioning
  5. Transition Coordinators

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Post a comment here


Former Military Chef Hosts New Cooking Show, Out-Cooks Opponents on Food Network Show “Chopped”

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate

Sgt. Robbie Myers photo

AW2 Veteran Robbie Myers won first place on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network Show “Chopped.”

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Robbie Myers puts his  military culinary skills to work as host of the new cooking show “Come and Get It,” a new series created to pay tribute to the men and women who have and are serving in the military.

“This show will be a Veteran run  television show, from cameramen to set designers, everyone will be Veterans,” said Myers, an Adams Center, N.Y. native. “The show will highlight Veterans because there are many out there who got out of the military for extenuating circumstances, but became successful business owners and valuable members of the community.”

Myers served two combat tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009, where he was subject to combat stressors and the loss of fellow Soldiers while fighting in the Korengal Valley. He sustained post traumatic stress disorder from his wartime experiences and has had a long road to recovery and a great deal of support from his wife, Jamie, and his Family.

His wife, Jamie, said she is happy to see her husband doing so well after making it through many stressful times together. Jaime works for the Cerebral Palsy Association and as a substitute teacher for students with special needs in a local school district.

“She’s my brain and has always been there for me through my recovery at every step,” Myers said about his wife. “She is very supportive, standing by my side through everything.”

Earlier this year, Myers competed against military chefs from other services on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network show “Chopped.” During the competition, he made appetizers, entrees and desserts within a limited amount of time with ingredients unknown beforehand by the contestants.

“I had just medically retired, and a friend sent me a link to apply,” said Myers, who worked in the food industry before joining the military and during his military career. “I figured why not apply, and I was selected.”

“I went in humble and didn’t expect to win. It was three rounds, with four competitors,” he added. “I was kind of sick and couldn’t smell or taste anything, so I was happy as long as I didn’t get eliminated first.”

Despite his illness, Myers won the competition after competing one-on-one against a Navy chef in the final round when he  created a “deconstructed sundae using pomegranates, pilot bread crackers, fruit chewy candy and dried carrots.”.

As the winner, he received a prize of $10,000 dollars, a significant achievement reflecting his strong skill in the culinary arts.

As his advocate, I have loads of respect for his courage, perseverance and strength in working his recovery and overcoming many challenges on the road to recovery. Myers has been very active in his recovery and has put his culinary interests and the support of his Family to the forefront in moving on with life after the military. His strength and perseverance are evident in all he does for himself and his Family, and he is an inspiration for others that you can realize your dreams and move on in your recovery.

Army Athletes Win Big at World Competition

By Emily D. Anderson, Warrior Transition Command Communications Directorate

Army Warrior Games medalist Spc. Elizabeth Wasil won three gold medals in racing wheelchair at the 2013 PARA CISM Track and Field Games in Germany.

Army Warrior Games medalist Spc. Elizabeth Wasil won three gold medals in racing wheelchair at the 2013 PARA CISM Track and Field Games in Germany.

Wounded, ill and injured athletes from 16 nations proved ready and resilient when they arrived in Warendorf, Germany to compete in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) 2013 World Para-Track and Field Championships,Sept. 9-16.

Among the competitors were Sgt. Ryan McIntosh and Spc. Elizabeth Wasil. They represented the U.S. Armed Forces during one of the largest multi-sport discipline events in the world.

“I am so passionate about sports,” said Wasil, a Prescott Valley, Ariz., and assigned to the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). The WCAP provides outstanding Soldier-athletes with support and training to compete and succeed in national and international competitions leading to Olympic and Paralympic Games while maintaining a professional military career.

She reached new goals by winning first place in the women’s 100-meters, 200-meters and 1500-meters racing wheelchair competition. She also cinched a third-place finish in the men’s 1500-meters racing final.

“I was just honored to be a part of this event because this was a chance to take it to a higher echelon of competition,” said Wasil, who sustained bilateral hip injuries while on assignment in Afghanistan in 2010 as a combat medic. Her injuries impeded her ability to walk and required her to undergo three surgeries to restructure her hips in order to regain mobility.

“While competing, I had the honor to compete with athletes from many other countries,” Wasil said. “Some who had been injured serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and this brought me an overwhelming amount of gratitude for all of those outside of the United States who stood and still stand with us.”

“It was humbling to know these ‘strangers’ not only said I will stand beside a country that is not my own but I will continue to love and support them even when I have been injured during that service,” she added. “At no time did I feel I was competing against another country, but with them.”

McIntosh attests to Wasil’s unparalleled ability that continues to propel her military and athletic career despite her injuries.

“We have trained together at previous events,” said McIntosh referring to Warrior Games, a unique partnership between the Department of Defense and U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Program. “It was fun to watch her compete and to know how far she’s come – to see where she is now.”

During the competition, McIntosh, assigned as the adaptive sports noncommissioned officer in charge, and the ceremonies’ noncommissioned officer in charge at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, left an impression by winning silver in the 100-meters and 200-meters men’s para-track events.

“It was fun a new experience, and to compete at that high level is amazing,” said McIntosh, a right leg below the knee amputee resulting from stepping on a pressure plate land mine while deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.

“When I lost my leg I didn’t think I would be doing sports,” added McIntosh, who recently applied for WCAP. “Now I’m doing anything and everything that I can.”

The United States Armed Forces has been a member of the CISM since 1951 and holds CISM Military World Championships or events each year. The CISM represents the highest level of military athletic competitiveness, and often includes Olympians and world champions. The U.S. Delegation competes in 19 of the 26 sports offered, averaging around 12-15 sports annually. CISM championships are hosted around the world and provide a venue for the United States to project a positive image through military-to-military  sports engagement.

Macintosh’s and Wasil’s accomplishments are examples of the benefits of adaptive reconditioning. Adaptive reconditioning activities and sports are valuable components in the recovery process of wounded, ill or injured Soldiers recovering at WTUs.  Reconditioning activities aid the recovery process and promote social, physical, spiritual, Family and career goals. Learn more about adaptive reconditioning benefits and programs by visiting http://www.army.WTC.mil/solider/adaptive.html

 

Did You Know? WTC Community Support Network

By Amanda Koons, WTC Stratcom

Did you know that wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers may be eligible to receive free or discounted products and services from local organizations through the WTC Community Support Network? WTC connects individuals in the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) with local community organizations that offer products and services that are free of charge, covered by insurance or at a significantly reduced cost.

Read on for answers to the questions “who, what, when, where and why” about the Community Support Network.

Who may be eligible to participate in the Community Support Network?

Online Community Support Network resources are available to all wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Family members and Caregivers. Each Network organization determines who they are able to assist individually. Before signing up, Soldiers and Veterans should contact the organization to determine whether or not they are eligible.

What is the Community Support Network?

Community Support Network organizations provide a wide variety of products and services, including but not limited to:

  • Adaptive Reconditioning and Recreational Services
  • Animal and Pet Supplies and Services
  • Care Packages, Correspondence, Food and Moral Support
  • Education and Career Training
  • Employment Support and Opportunities
  • Fertility and Reproduction Counseling
  • Financial Counseling and Services
  • Housing and Relocation Assistance and Counseling
  • Mental Wellness Support and Counseling
  • Retirement and Transition
  • Substance Abuse Assistance and Counseling
  • Veteran, Soldier and Family Assistance

For the full list of categories and organizations, visit www.WTC.Army.mil/Community.

When do I need to obtain an ethics opinion about Community Support Network products or services?

Active Duty Soldiers, including Reserve and National Guard Soldiers while on active duty, need to obtain an ethics opinion if the value of any individual gift or donation they receive exceeds $350 or if various gifts from the same source in a calendar year exceed $1000. If you have questions about this guideline, contact your chain of command.

Where can I find more information about the Community Support Network?

Your source for up to date Community Support Network information is the Community Support Network website: www.WTC.army.mil/Community. Check back often to see new organizations as they are added. The WTC blog also frequently features posts about Community Support Network organizations. To see relevant posts, go to: http://WTC.armylive.dodlive.mil/tag/Community-Support-Network.

Why should I participate in the Community Support Network?

Why not? Organizations offer unique and sometimes hard to find solutions. These products and services are there for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans. Community Support Network organizations have agreed to one or more of the following:

  1. Providing products or services free of charge,
  2. Accepting insurance as a payment, or
  3. Offering products or services at a significantly reduced price, with all costs being disclosed up front and prior to any agreement.

Experience shows that community support aids in the successful recovery and transition of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans as they reintegrate into their local communities.

“Did You Know?” Series

Using your feedback, WTC Stratcom identified five topics where wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Families and Cadre want additional information, particularly around Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) resources, benefits and policies that impact their recovery and transition. We’ll post one blog per week on these five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during Warrior Care Month:

1)   Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)

2)   Community Support Resources

3)   Internships

4)   Adaptive Reconditioning

5)   Transition Coordinators

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Post a comment here.

Wintergreen Adaptive Sports Helps Wounded, Ill and Injured Servicemembers Hit the Slopes

Lt. Col. Danny Dudek takes on the slopes at Wintergreen Resort (photo provided by Lt. Col. Danny Dudek)

Lt. Col. Danny Dudek takes on the slopes at Wintergreen Resort (photo provided by Lt. Col. Danny Dudek)

By:  LuAnn Georgia, Warrior Transition Command Stratcom Division

With fall beginning, many people like Lt. Col Danny Dudek are looking forward to a break from the heat and a chance to get back to winter weather activities. Dudek, an avid sports fan and eight-time medal winner at Warrior Games for swimming, is looking forward to getting back on the slopes with the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports Program.

This will be Dudek’s third year skiing with the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports crew, and he is excited to share their story and what it’s meant to him.

“After becoming disabled in Iraq, I started looking for things I could do. I was looking for things I could enjoy and that I’d have the ability to improve on to a level of independence. Downhill alpine skiing falls into that category for me,” Dudek said. The Wintergreen Adaptive Sports program opened up new options for Dudek.  “I learned that it doesn’t matter what your injury level is, they have a way of getting anyone on the snow. Once I was up the mountain, I was able to work towards skiing independently. I was able to ski every slope and, although I did end up sliding down hill on my back sometimes, I truly loved it.”

In addition to their ongoing programs, for the past 10 years Wintergreen Resort in Wintergreen, Va. has held a Wounded Warrior Weekend. Although the event is called Wounded Warrior Weekend, Dudek pointed out “the focus is not just on the warrior. There’s skiing instruction, tubing, warming rooms, and activities for spouses, parents and kids. No one is left out, and at the end of last year’s event you could tell that everyone left happy and exhausted.”

With support from Disabled Sport USA, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports provides food, cold weather clothes and equipment for the weekend to all athletes, regardless of the injury or disability.

“Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard Seamen and Soldiers all participate and have a story to tell,” said Dudek. “The injuries and disabilities are as varied as each service member’s background. What’s special about the event is that the whole Wintergreen, Va. community gets involved. There were over 30 families that opened up their homes to wounded warrior Families last year.  They provided a place to rest and encouraged interaction without expecting anything in return.”

“I can’t wait until it starts snowing again.  I have my equipment all ready and am looking forward to improving on my skills and what I was able to do last year.  I may even attempt to go on the terrain park and enjoy some of the jumps.  Who knows,“ said Dudek.

The WTC Community Support Network lists resources that offer products and services that are either free, covered by insurance, or significantly reduced in price with all costs being disclosed up front and prior to any agreement between the organization and all wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers. The Wintergreen Adaptive Sport Program, a WTC Community Support Network member, offers winter and summer programs to individuals with cognitive and or physical disabilities.  Both programs offer a wounded military weekend during January and August. Scholarships are available to those unable to pay. For more information about how you can participate, visit www.wintergreenadaptivesports.org.

Learn more about the WTC Community Support Network and the resources and assistance provided by more than 350 organizations by visiting http://www.WTC.army.mil/community.

Did You Know? Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)

By Amanda Koons, WTC Stratcom

Did you know that servicemembers who incurred a permanent catastrophic injury or illness may be eligible for a monthly financial compensation called Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)? SCAADL helps offset the loss of income by a primary Caregiver who provides non-medical care, support and assistance for the servicemember. Read on to see who qualifies for SCAADL, what steps you should take to apply and where you can go to find more information.

1.)  Do I qualify for SCAADL?

You may qualify for SCAADL if you are a servicemember who:

  • Has a catastrophic* injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty;
  • Has been certified by a Department of Defense (DoD) or Veterans Affairs (VA) physician to be in need of assistance from another person to perform the person functions required in daily living or required constant supervision;
  • Would, in the absence of this provision, require some form of residential institutional care (i.e. hospitalization or nursing home care); and
  • Is not currently in inpatient status in a medical facility.

*Catastrophic: A permanent severely disabling injury, disorder or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty that the Secretary of the military department concerned determines compromises the ability of the afflicted person to carry out activities of daily living to such a degree that the person requires person or mechanical assistance to leave home or bed or constant supervision to avoid physical harm to self or others.

2.)  What steps should I take to apply?

SCAADL is not automatic. Soldiers must actively apply. If you believe you qualify for SCAADL, contact a member of your recovery team, such as your primary care manager, nurse case manager, AW2 Advocate or unit leadership for the SCAADL application and guidance.

Your DOD or VA physician will complete a DD Form 298. If your attending physician is not affiliated with DOD or VA, your recovery team can make arrangements to have a DOD or VA physician review your case and complete the certification. Your application (DD Form 2948) will be forwarded, via your chain of command, to the Warrior Transition Command.

3.)  Where can I go to find more information?

Your first resource for information about SCAADL is your recovery team, including your primary care manager, nurse case manager, AW2 Advocate or unit leadership. In addition, the following electronic resources are available to you:

“Did You Know?”Series

Using your feedback, WTC Stratcom identified five topics where wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Families and cadre want additional information, particularly around Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) resources, benefits and policies that impact their recovery and transition. We’ll post one blog per week on these five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during Warrior Care Month:

  1. Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL)
  2. Community Support Resources
  3. Internships
  4. Adaptive Reconditioning
  5. Transition Coordinators

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Post a comment here.

 

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.

Lasting Memories: WTU Recovery Opens Doors to New Business, New Baby, and Presidential Meeting

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Stratcom

A view of the fireworks over the South Lawn during the Fourth of July celebration at the White House where 12 servicemembers received a special tour.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A view of the fireworks over the South Lawn during the Fourth of July celebration at the White House where 12 servicemembers received a special tour. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Staff Sgt. Patrick Percefull will never forget his three deployments, saving the lives of numerous children by wrestling a buffalo and the upcoming birth of his son, but he recently added touring the White House and meeting the President to his memory bank.

“I was among 11 other military members selected for a tour and to meet the President during the Independence Day celebration,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Percefull who is assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Bragg, N.C. “We were taken into the White House and given a nice tour ending with a meeting with the President and First Lady.”

“This was a perfect American moment, and I’m honored that I was selected to attend,” he added. “It is such a significant event that I’ll hold with me forever.”

After 11 years of service, Percefull, who was shot in the shoulder and neck when his squad walked into an ambush in Afghanistan, credits his time at the Fort Bragg WTU as a wonderful experience, but decided to transition out of the military and focus on his efforts as an entrepreneur.

“I heard all of these stories, but every step of this process has been pretty smooth,” he added. “When I leave the military, I’ll be able to help my wife with the consignment store she bought with my deployment check, especially once the baby arrives.”

He understands the process is not the same for everyone, but offers some words of advice to other WTU Soldiers.

“No one’s going to take care of you like you, so Soldiers can’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said. “I was like others, not wanting to embarrass myself, but there’s a system in place to help and it saves a lot of grief.”

Percefull is speaking about the Comprehensive Transition Plan, a plan designed to be a roadmap for recovery and transition, with personal and professional milestones, such as passing a physical fitness test, taking college courses, or participating in internships and job training.

The CTP is developed by the Soldier in consultation with his or her Family, unit leaders, and health professionals.  Soldiers set short- and long-term goals in each of six domains: physical, spiritual, emotional, Family, social, and career. Soldiers meet with their interdisciplinary support team of clinical and non-clinical professionals on a regular basis to discuss their progress on these goals and how the WTU network can support them.

Percefull encourages others to seriously think about the future because a good support system and new career path can make the journey easier.

Breaking Down Barriers through Adaptive Sports

By LuAnn Georgia, WTC Stratcom

Swimmers and non-swimmers alike were able to participate in tubing fun at Fort Belvoir, Va. Wounded Soldier Jordan Knox along with Shelly Neal, spouse of retired Soldier William Neal, enjoy a few laughs on an exhilarating spin around Tompkins Basin.

Swimmers and non-swimmers alike were able to participate in tubing fun at Fort Belvoir, Va. Wounded Soldier Jordan Knox along with Shelly Neal, spouse of retired Soldier William Neal, enjoy a few laughs on an exhilarating spin around Tompkins Basin.

Tompkins Basin, Fort Belvoir, Va., was the site for a group of wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers to gather for some fun in the sun and water activities.

Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation and Team River Runner (both non-profit participants in Community Support Network) joined forces to offer a day of tubing, water skiing, sailing, flat-water kayaking, and camaraderie as part of their adaptive sports initiatives.

Bill Dietrich, Executive Director of ‘Two Top’- a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, runs a summer and winter program which benefits wounded warriors and their Families and was on hand to discuss their program and the effects it has on the participants.

“I love helping people do things they didn’t realize they could do,” Said Mr. Dietrich. “Our program works with all sorts of disabilities.  There aren’t many we can’t help.  Some people are fearful when they first start out, but building trust is essential. It’s key to an individual letting their guard down, breaking down barriers, and allowing themselves to have fun.”

“Getting everyone together and helping them try new things or just seeing them enjoy themselves offers a lot of rewards.” But according to Mr. Dietrich, “It’s not a one man show.  Without our incredible volunteers, these programs wouldn’t be possible.”

During the summer, water sport events are offered at different locations and are usually held a couple of times a month.  The summer programs are only available during the week days, in order to avoid the weekend crowds.  Reservations are required in order to properly plan and staff the events.  According to Dietrich, an ongoing challenge is getting enough volunteers together at one time, as the majority of volunteers still have regular jobs.  He added, “it takes between 8-10 people to properly staff for just one water skier.”

While summer activities are only offered during the week days, the bulk of winter activities are held on weekends. Snow skiing and snowboarding sports, including lessons, are offered at Two Top Mountain in Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa.

Dietrich, the 2012 recipient of the Army’s Spirit of Hope award is passionate about his program, the impact and joy it’s brought him as well as those he helps.  All programs are free to wounded, ill, or injured population.  “As long as I can continue to raise the money to fund the program, it will be free for our wounded warriors.”

For information about Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation visit:   www.twotopadaptive.org.  You can find information about Team River Runner at www.TeamRiverRunner.org.

AW2 Veteran Explains Importance of Resources in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

Most people consider speaking about themselves a challenge, especially if it is to a crowd of people. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Robert Murafsky tackled this task in order to provide insights about thriving in today’s workforce as an AW2 Veteran.

“I knew I wanted to be a Soldier since I was a little kid watching the Army commercials on television,” said the Metuchen, N.J. native. “I thought when I joined the military, I would serve 20-plus years, retire, and spend the rest of my life fishing and falling asleep in my reclining chair.”

“However, my reality changed once I was wounded because I had to recover and refocus,” Murafsky added. “If it wasn’t for great programs like the Army Wounded Warrior Program, I wouldn’t have the job I have today working as an Army civilian.”

On August 28, 2006, while performing a search mission during a deployment in Hit, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an enemy sniper shot Murafsky in the face damaging his right eye.

“A few minutes into the search I felt an awful pain, heard a loud ringing, and everything started to go in slow motion,” Murafsky said. “I remember putting my hand to my face, pulling it back, and seeing lots of blood.”

He was taken to the Forward Operating Base for an initial assessment, then airlifted to a nearby base for surgery. After surgery, he was medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Despite a catastrophic injury, Murafsky navigated through the rehabilitation process, transitioned out of the military in May 2007, and qualified for AW2.

AW2 supports Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. This program, through the local support of AW2 Advocates, strives to foster the Soldier’s independence.

“I told my Advocate I was searching for a job, gave her my resume, and the next thing I know I’m being told to come in for an interview,” he said. “I have no idea what happened between giving her my resume and getting that phone call, but I know she had something to do with it.”

Murafsky currently works as a security specialist for the Department of the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.

“My first day working as an Army civilian was great because it kind of made me feel like I was back in the Army,” Murafsky said. “This job makes feel like I am helping out the Army.  It may be in a small way, but I consider myself part of the Army still.”

“This job has been great, and I feel like they didn’t hire me to check a box but to actually help a wounded warrior,” he added. “They put me in touch with programs to receive equipment that would help me with my disability and allow me to work in the best conditions possible.”

One program he finds particularly helpful is the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

CAP ensures that people with disabilities and wounded servicemembers have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government.

“We provide the equipment to allow people like Robert equal access to everything,” said Kameelah Montgomery, acquisition team leader of CAP. “There’s technology out there for these Soldiers and Veterans.”

Some examples of technology available for those who are blind or have low vision include Braille displays and translators, large print keyboards, or a compact and portable version of a closed-circuit television.

“They can receive it free of charge while in uniform,” she added.  “It’s theirs to keep forever because we want them to go out and be successful.”

To learn more about how to hire a Veteran at your organization, including an online toolkit and educational video for hiring managers, visit the Warrior Transition Command at www.WTC.army.mil/employers or for information about CAP, visit http://www.cap.mil.

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