Muster helps wounded, ill, injured Soldiers build relationships, resources
July 9, 2013
Nearly 70 Soldiers gathered together in June at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to train, meet with leadership, and gain fellowship at a Community Based Warrior Transition Unit-California muster.
While musters largely focus on comprehensive transition plan scrimmages and focused transition reviews, along with risk assessments and additional training, there's intangible value in the community connections and in the relationship building they offer, according to attendees and staff.
Soldiers who live and heal at home can use the muster as a way to reconnect with their peers who are going through similar struggles to recover and transition.
"I see that some of the same issues and concerns I have, my battle buddy has," said muster attendee Sgt. Kris Hardie, who is getting care for degenerative disc disease. He said that meeting Soldiers with similar injuries helps him to know what to expect in his recovery.
Since CBWTU Soldiers not only live but might later work in their communities as citizen-Soldiers, they are also very reliant on their civilian supporters.
"It's the community that's helping take care of our Soldiers: they're the ones that have the medical providers; they're the ones that have the clubs; they're the ones that have the job opportunities; they're the ones that have the counselors that are there," said Capt. Jim Moran, CBWTU-CA's officer in charge of musters.
Because of the depth of area resources that regional community groups possess, they're invited to each muster's resource fair to let Soldiers know about schools, employment opportunities, local adaptive sports, financial counseling and more. They're joined by resources for Army benefits to include the Operation Warfighter Program and the Army Wounded Warrior Program.
By reaching out to area communities and finding new resources for Soldiers, "you find those hidden gems," said Moran.
And by focusing on regional musters for the four states that CBWTU-CA oversees (California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) rather than one large muster for all of the Soldiers, CBWTU-CA cadre can offer smaller gatherings that give Soldiers more individualized attention. Soldiers are also likely to be more courageous in asking questions and interacting with briefers in smaller groups, said Moran.
Musters also now include nutrition counseling and health screenings, since CBWTU-CA cadre noticed that Soldiers tend to gain weight due to lack of activity or medications that encourage weight gain.
Now, "they're walking out of here with rules for eating: 'How can I eat to heal?'" said Moran.
Thanks to a health screening that covers balance, gait, flexibility and grip strength assessments, Soldiers are also walking out of the musters with personal exercise plans.
"I've got some success stories now; Soldiers are losing some weight; Soldiers are getting back in shape, and that's helping them heal," said Moran. "They're learning the tiny steps they need to take to heal quicker, to get stronger and to recover."
The June muster also included an adaptive sports day thanks to the Loma Linda University and the U.S. Paralympics; learning about adaptive sports expanded some Soldiers' ideas of how they can still stay active.
In addition, the muster offered Soldiers the opportunity to be recognized in front of their peers with an awards ceremony, as well as the ability to visit with leadership from their home units.
More importantly for CBWTU-CA cadre, who primarily communicate with their Soldiers remotely, getting face-to-face time with their Soldiers gives them better assessments of how their Soldiers are doing, and helps strengthen their relationships.
"You really solidify that bond between the nurse case manager, platoon sergeant, social worker, and the servicemember," said Moran.
He spoke about how when Soldiers get to visit in person with staff, they share more of their personal stories and inevitably become closer.
"You just see those connections being made and solidified and it's awesome to watch," he said.