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.”

A Door Kicker to a Housecat—One Wounded Soldier’s Continued Service

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

SGT Tony Wood, a Military Police Officer, encourages other wounded Soldiers to continue to serve post injury

There are many sides to SGT Tony Wood. Combat Veteran. Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Volunteer of the Year . Military police officer. Eighth Theater Sustainment Command Volunteer of the Year. Foster parent. Reservist. But first and foremost, he’s a Soldier.

“I swore an oath to protect and defend my country,” Wood stated at the first AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum. “It is no secret what our job is. When I swore this oath it did not mention anywhere that it would be safe and that I could pick and choose what I agreed with.”

And safe it was not. A blast in theater placed him in a coma for 45 days and damaged all of his major internal organs except for his heart. “They couldn’t close my abdomen the normal way, so they used titanium mesh.” But Wood quickly added, “I may be out of the battle but I’m not out of the fight. There are still Soldiers in harm’s way, and as long as I am able, I want to continue to contribute. These are my friends, my peers. Why should I be exempt? I took an oath when I agreed to do this job, and as long as stuff is going on, this is where I belong. I can’t be a door kicker any more but I can still do something. That’s the biggest pill to swallow, going from a door kicker to a housecat.”

While he admits the transition is not easy, he wants other wounded Soldiers to know that, “Just because your old life was shattered doesn’t mean you can’t start a new one. You are trained to never quit. If you want and are able to do something—then go for it. You’re not just getting kicked to the curb. If there’s a way that you’re physically able, the Army can find you a job. In the past if you got injured, you were gone. There were no second chances. But today you can stay.”

This week, Wood is working with 29 other delegates to help the Army update regulations that impact severely wounded Soldiers who continue to serve post injury. He hopes that his participation in the AW2 COAD/COAR Forum will make wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers’ transition back to the force easier.

“There is, as with all new programs, bugs and hiccups that need to be addressed to improve it for all,” Wood explained. “We have been given an unprecedented opportunity not offered to our predecessors. It is our obligation to make it the best it can possibly be. There are problems, but it’s a fairly new program and programs have a tendency to outrun their regulations. This forum is a way to get these issues unfiltered to the people who can change things. I feel like I’m bypassing everything and going straight to the horse’s mouth.”

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