The Hot Blue Flame

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

A former COAD Soldier retired GEN Fredrick Franks (right) discusses ways to improve the Army COAD/COAR process with AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson (left) and AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher (center).

For most of the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum delegates, their determination to find ways to improve how the Army manages those who are unfit for duty post injury but who remain in the Army is about “those that will follow.” It’s a responsibility they take very seriously. In fact, SGT Molly Holub, a Military Police dog handler, ended her pre-deployment leave three days early to attend and support the Army’s efforts to update the COAD/COAR system.

This morning during a breakfast session, the delegates heard from a decorated Soldier who paved the way for them—and still does. GEN Frederick Franks, a retired general and COAD Soldier, spoke to the delegates about what he described as the “hot blue flame of passion and drive to continue to serve.”

“All the males in my Family and community served in WWII [World War II],” Franks shared. “I was taken by their selflessness and pride in what they’d done—their willingness to serve. I wanted to earn the right to lead people like that, so I attended West Point.”

An injury, while serving in Cambodia in 1970, resulted in the amputation of Franks’ left leg below the knee. He went through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) in July 1971 and knew immediately that he wanted to COAD. “It’s my life. I love being a Soldier,” added Franks.  

Regulation AR 635-40 was in place back then, and Franks said, “It’s pretty much the same process, MEB, PEB [Physical Evaluation Board], and COAR that exists today.” He added, “After 10 years at war, it’s time for the Army to take it to the next level with the appropriate resources. I have great admiration for the establishment of AW2, but now they need to bump it up a notch.”

After meeting and talking with several of the current COAD Soldiers, Franks commented, “I am honored to be in their presence and admire their resiliency—to get up and go on. I am inspired by their continuation to serve.”

Franks charged commanders, “Look at the COAD/COAR Soldiers’ abilities and utilize them accordingly. Don’t artificially constrain or put limitations on them. Ask them. Engage them. Talk to them. Learn where they can best serve and whether or not their talents are being served or whether they could be better utilized somewhere else. They have an enormous amount to give—but we have to give them the opportunity.”

“I know for me, being able to continue to serve after my left foot was amputated, is one of my life’s greatest privileges.”

COAD Delegates Have Voice in Shaping Army’s Future

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

COL(P) Darryl Williams, Commander of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) and COL Greg Gadson, Director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) are eager to hear COAD Soldiers’ recommendations for updating warrior care regulations.

Of the 192 Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Soldiers who continued to serve post injury, 30 were at the first AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum opening ceremony in Washington, DC, ready to give the Army a piece of their mind on how to improve antiquated regulations that can’t keep pace with them. 

AW2 Director and COAD Soldier COL Greg Gadson told the forum delegates, “We are an elite group and the one thing that binds us is perseverance.”  He added that the Army stood up the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) out of its priority for warrior care issues and that, “It’s up to your leadership to make our Army better for those who follow.”

The event delegates are charged with identifying the top issues facing COAD/COAR Soldiers and recommending solutions.  Once prioritized, AW2, which provides personalized support for severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers to help foster their long-term independence, will be the lead proponent to find solutions and work to update regulations on behalf of WTC. 

COL(P) Darryl Williams, WTC commander, told the delegates, “What I bring to this is passion.  Passion for Soldiers.  It’s what keeps me going.”  He urged the Soldiers, “Help me walk with you.  Let me know how we can get movement on these issues for you, your Family, and the Soldiers who will follow.” 

“The Army is the only service that takes this on in such a structured way–you’re here to add color to it,” Williams added.  “I am part of a long line of Soldiers, and now my son serves too.  This is important work for the force and I look forward to partnering with you and being your teammate.”

The delegates then jumped into their focus groups to discuss challenges in the following categories: human resources, installation, medical, training, and Veteran affairs.  As SSG Jonathan Looney stated, “I’m glad I was chosen to be a COAD Forum delegate–to have a voice and be heard.”

Army Leaders Listen to Wounded Who Continued to Serve for Solutions

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

The Army Surgeon General LTG Eric B. Schoomaker (left) speaks to AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson (right) at the first AW2 COAD/COAR Forum.

Before the hard work begins today at the first AW2 COAD/COAR Forum, last night was about camaraderie among those who served, were severely wounded, and chose to stay on active duty post injury. 

COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director, told the event delegates, “This is an opportunity to make a huge difference.  It’s our chance to make it better.” 

The 30 delegates are working this week to identify which regulations and policies need to be updated to support the severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers who continue on active duty/reserve post injury.  Some of the regulations date back to 1967 and Gadson, a COAD Soldier himself, pointed out that, “They were written by those who hadn’t walked in our shoes—and that’s OK because we’re here this week to fix them.” 

The event is part of the Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program which is overseen by the Warrior Transition Command (WTC).  The Army’s commitment to this initiative was evident by the senior leaders in attendance including the Army Surgeon General LTG Eric B. Schoomaker, MEDCOM Command Sergeant Major CSM Althea Dixon, former WTC Commander BG Gary Cheek, WTC Deputy Mr. Tom Webb, and WTC Command Sergeant Major CSM Benjamin Scott, Jr.

At the AW2 COAD/COAR Forum, the Army Surgeon General LTG Eric B. Schoomaker (right) listened to two COAD Soldiers, including SSG John Stevenson (center), talk about the challenges they face.

LTG Schoomaker told the delegates, “You represent what Army medicine is all about.  It’s our job to create an environment that fosters the best in a Soldier and it’s critical for you to give us feedback on how to make it better.  I know that eventually you will all transition and it’s our job to ensure that once you transition that you go on to do great things.”  He closed stating, “You all are an inspiration showcasing your abilities—thank you and your Family for your service.”

In the week ahead, the Soldiers will work in two focus groups discussing issues pertaining to human resources, installations, medical care, training, and Veteran affairs, as well as recommending solutions. On the last day of the Forum, the delegates will vote and prioritize issues for resolution.  

As COL Gadson charged the delegates, “It’s going to be a hard, but fun week.  We just need to stay focused on improving the Army for future generations.”

Thank You for the Gift of Life

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

Bags and vials of blood await processing during an Armed Services Blood Program Blood (ASBP) drive. The ASBP program is different from other blood donations because all of the donations go straight to servicemembers.

During January, National Blood Donor Month, I am reminded of the gift of life I was given. When my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in 2007, I was severely injured and lost a substantial amount of blood.

I was given 129 pints of blood the first night at the hospital. I would go on to lose both of my legs above the knee and would require many more pints of blood to stay alive. Because of the gift of life, blood, I am here today.

The Armed Services Blood Program works with thousands of dedicated donors who give blood so that servicemembers, retirees, and their Families have a fighting chance when they are ill or wounded.

Blood must be collected continuously, and regular donors are key to ensuring that blood is available year-round. One blood donation can save up to three lives. Blood donors come through day-after-day, and their selfless gifts allow the Armed Services Blood Program to help the military community.

The Red Cross notes that January is a difficult month for blood donations. Inclement weather, seasonal colds, and flu may prevent blood donations. So I urge you to consider donating blood to the Armed Services Blood Program or the Red Cross this month—and anytime you are able—to ensure a stable supply. By donating blood regularly, you make vital contributions to healthcare and help save lives. 

Thank you for the gift of life.

Editor’s Note: The Armed Services Blood Program operates more than 20 donor centers around the world. To learn more about the Armed Services Blood Program, find a blood donor center near you, or to find out more about blood donor centers, please visit the Armed Services Blood Program Website or the Armed Services Blood Program Facebook Page. To donate blood to the Red Cross call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit the Red Cross Website to make an appointment or for more information.

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