Wounded Warriors Inspire Today’s Youth

By Aaron Poch, Guest Blogger

This week CPT Scott Smiley, Commander WTU West Point, spoke to the students of Liberty University. My son, Aaron, asked if he could share his thoughts. Tim Poch, WTC Stratcom.

Having CPT Scott Smiley address our student body at Liberty University was a tremendous honor for us. CPT Smiley is a great example of the men and women of our armed forces who serve with honor and courage. So often, when someone experiences trauma like losing one’s eyesight, as CPT Smiley did, our only hope is that they can somehow recover and return back to their so-called “normal” life.

CPT Smiley, and the other wounded warriors I have seen, don’t return back to an average life. Instead, they go above and beyond, setting an example for all of us to follow.

I appreciated CPT Smiley’s genuine testimony, and how he shared with us the struggle he had emotionally and spiritually when he knew that he would never again see his beautiful wife and kids. He did not lose himself to despair and went further and stronger in achieving more in his life. He continues to go further than most people will ever go.

He went back to the service, because an American Soldier never quits. He worked to overcome his injury, train, prepare, and inspire his comrades. To me, this is what makes a hero. Someone who doesn’t see obstacles–only tasks to be accomplished. 

His dedication to leading others in the right direction was an inspiration to me and my fellow students. I hope we get to see more of our heroes at our convocations in the future.

As history has taught me, America needs its heroes and benefits from their stories about how to never stop fighting for freedom, even when facing personal loss. Testimonies of real American heroes, like that of CPT Smiley, serve to inspire and encourage us to emulate them and preserve our blessed freedom.

Working Together Makes a Difference

BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

I had an opportunity yesterday to present the Army’s warrior care story to a dozen Veteran service organizations (VSOs) such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I was the guest of Dr. Michael Kilpatrick of Force Health Protection. Although I covered the nuts and bolts of how the Warrior Transition Command and Army Wounded Warrior Program operate, it’s hard to truly summarize what we do and the impact we have on helping wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers move forward.

I think the key to what we have done is that we understand that every Soldier we work with is a unique individual with distinct challenges—and so we created a uniform system with flexibility. We exist to help Soldiers chart their own path forward to a rich future and provide assistance in their following of a Comprehensive Transition Plan based on their goals.

In my discussions with the VSOs, I emphasized that this is a team effort between the Soldier, WTC, MEDCOM, VA, VSOs, and other organizations such as the USOC Paralympics. I also demonstrated what our team effort can accomplish by sharing the inspiring stories of a few of our Soldiers who have continued to serve after injury, including CPT Scott Smiley, who is blind. Knowing we’ve made a difference validates everyone’s hard work and commitment.

Proving People Wrong

(L-R) BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, CPT Scott Smiley, West Point Warrior Transition Unit Commander; Noel Koch, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, at the West Point Transition Unit change of command ceremony, February 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy of John Pellino)

(L-R) BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander; CPT Scott Smiley, West Point Warrior Transition Unit Commander; and Noel Koch, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy; at the West Point Transition Unit change of command ceremony, February 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy of John Pellino)

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

On February 1, CPT Scott Smiley took command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit. While every WTU change of command is notable because it demonstrates a re-commitment on the part of leadership to the comprehensive support of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, this particular change of command was even more so.

CPT Smiley proved a lot of people wrong to get to where he is today.

On April 6, 2005 CPT Smiley was severely injured in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq. As a result, he lost his sight. Many thought he couldn’t continue on active duty. He did. When CPT Smiley decided to pursue his MBA at Duke University, many questioned whether he could do it.

He did.

CPT Smiley has gone on to teach cadets at West Point, to climb Mt. Rainier, to serve as an example to all Soldiers and all Americans.

As the commander of WTC, I charge all WTU commanders and cadre to lead our Warriors in Transition and encourage them to embrace ability over disability. CPT Smiley is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a Soldier sets a determined goal and gives his all to achieve it. I cannot be more proud to have CPT Smiley as a commander of a WTU. The Soldiers who are placed under his watch can rest assured that they are being led by someone who has faced tremendous challenges and overcome them—and can lead them to do the same.

I thank CPT Smiley for taking up this new challenge and to his Family who have provided him with the support to do so.

Thoughts on a Leader

By Lee McMahon, WTC Stratcom

The Army is built on strong leaders. They are the individuals whose impact stays with you for years to come. I had a chance to learn about one such leader from someone just starting his path in the Army. On February 1, CPT Scott Smiley takes command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit. I had a chance to talk with a first year cadet, Will Webb, at West Point who has known CPT Smiley for nearly 10 years about what kind of leader he is. CPT Smiley is not only becoming a leader of Warriors in Transition, he is a wounded Soldier himself. CPT Smiley was severely injured in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq on April 6, 2005. As a result he lost his sight. This has not stopped him from leading Soldiers and continuing to serve in the Army.

What was your first impression of CPT Smiley?

The first time I met CPT Smiley was Spring of 2000. He and my brother were classmates and he visited our house for the weekend. I was immediately impressed with his humble and personable servant attitude and rock-solid faith. He immediately struck me as the kind of person that genuinely cares about the people he comes in contact with, and someone who I could look up to and emulate.

Has he impacted your experience at West Point with the Army? If so, how?

CPT Smiley has greatly impacted my West Point experience in numerous ways. As an Army Officer and West Point graduate, he has mentored me and supported me through the toughest challenges here at the Academy. As my sponsor, he and his wife, Tiffany, have graciously provided their home as a place of relaxation and refuge from the challenges and demands of the week. And as my bible study leader, he has greatly impacted myself and the others in our group spiritually, and motivated us to choose to walk on the path less traveled, to be godly men of character. There is no doubt that without the influence of CPT Smiley in my life, my overall experience at West Point this year could not have been the same.

What do you think about CPT Smiley taking command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit?

While I am sad to see CPT Smiley leave his teaching position, I am excited to see him take command of the Warrior Transition Unit. I know that he is thankful for this opportunity, and I am confident that he will continue to excel and have a profound impact on the soldiers that he will soon be commanding.

What are the characteristics of CPT Smiley’s leadership?

CPT Smiley is a selfless, dynamic, and highly successful leader who always puts others first and strives to be a positive influence on them. He is the kind of leader who looks for ways to challenge himself and then eagerly conquers those challenges. As a highly capable and experienced leader, CPT Smiley can be trusted to accomplish any task set before him.

Note: To read an interview with CPT Smiley and his wife Tiffany, please visit the WTC Blog.

A New Leader with a Unique Vision

CPT Scott Smiley and his wife Tiffany with their two kids.

CPT Scott Smiley and his wife Tiffany with their two kids.

By Lee McMahon, WTC Stratcom

Today, CPT Scott Smiley takes command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit. I had a chance to talk with him and his wife, Tiffany, about their thoughts on the upcoming change of command and their future. CPT Smiley is not only becoming a leader of Warriors in Transition, he is a wounded Soldier himself. CPT Smiley was severely injured in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq on April 6, 2005. As a result he lost his sight. This has not stopped him, or his Family, from moving towards their goals and continuing to serve in the Army.

Mrs. Smiley, what was your reaction to learning that your husband would take command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit?

I was excited for him because we were looking at what our next steps would be. He had been going thru the process of talking to the branch manager and doing all the right things to get promoted. He knew he wanted a company command if he could get that opportunity given his unique case.

CPT Smiley, have you had a chance to develop goals for the WTU?

My leadership mentality is communication — communication on all different levels and with not only the WTU cadre but also with the Warriors in Transition. I want to know what they think their goals should be and what our goals as a unit are. In my mind, communication is the key aspect in allowing me to properly lead the Soldiers.

Mrs. Smiley, will you be teaming up with your husband for any tasks for the WTU?

I would love to. Scotty wants me to help out where I can. I don’t know what the opportunities are but I plan on being there, and supporting the Army as a whole. I feel like I’ve been there in a sense so I will help out where I can because we’re kind of a team.

CPT Smiley, how will you motivate Warriors in Transition?

Being an example is the best way that I have learned over the years to be an inspiration. I definitely mean that in multiple ways. For myself specifically, I was in the Medical Hold Company at Fort Lewis so I can relate to today’s Warriors in Transition. When the Soldiers realize that I was in their position, I can show them that I was motivated to not just sit by. I wanted to set goals for myself and I was inspired to continue on active duty. Also, being the example visually by the story I have and by setting those goals, that’s how I motivate—by being better than what you are at that time.

Mrs. Smiley, what are your goals as a Family for the future?

Scotty always jokes that he makes a five year plan but it never happens. That’s what he was doing when this comes up. His mission is to stay in the Army and serve soldiers where he can. He believes he is here for a reason and he will command this company and do what he can to make it a better place.

CPT Smiley, what do you say to a wounded warrior who is questioning his or her future?

It’s not just for wounded Soldiers, for anyone and everyone going thru tough times, I say we all go through them. My story and my life can be used as an example, losing my sight, being told you’ll never see again. I’ve been through tough times. For myself it’s having faith, I’ve been a Christian my entire life, it’s God who supported me, having my wife to support me, that’s what got me through.

Write a blog for WTC

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