Care continues for wounded warriors during service, beyond
November 30, 2011
- ... once the hurdles of acceptance and trust are broken, then the transitioning process goes well.
- Nothing is more rewarding ... then seeing the fear disappear from the faces of his Soldiers when they land jobs.
Editor's note: This is the second of a two part series discussing Warrior Care Month.
FORT HOOD, Texas - Key to a Soldier's recovery and subsequent transition is the Comprehensive Transition Plan, which enables the team that manages a Soldier's care, to all be on the "same sheet of music" and know exactly what the Soldier is thinking and feeling and how he or she is progressing in the transitioning process. The CTP addresses every aspect of a Soldier's life: social, spiritual, physical, Family, nutrition, financial, career and emotional domain, as well as tracks everything medically related, such as appointments, medications and specialized care.
According to Janique Parnell, who supervises all the brigade's social workers, the CTP has been invaluable in improving behavior health care.
"Automated CTP has opened doors for us because now they feel they can speak more freely when they're self-evaluating, as well as ensuring us that the Soldier is getting the help he or she needs. It's a wonderful process because the Soldier owns it. "
Parnell said that at first the CTP process can be overwhelming because of all the tasks that go with it.
"It takes a moment really to soak it all in because it's so different from anything they've ever done before," she said, adding that they don't understand the process here. "You mean you really care about my Family? Yes, we really do."
Parnall said that once the hurdles of acceptance and trust are broken, then the transitioning process goes well.
Peggy Thomas added that some Soldiers may not like to talk because they don't like any kind of confrontation, good or bad, but being able to write down their feelings helps them because they avoid the face-to-face confrontation.
Soon to be medically retired, Staff Sgt. Eric Madden, Company B, said the CTP has helped him plan his future.
"It addresses issues you're having and guides you to the right resources to resolve them, however," he said, "you've got to be honest about your answers for it to work for you."
"If a Soldier does has an issue, but doesn't want to tell me personally about it, I'll get wind of it because he's put it on his CTP, and together, we'll try and resolve the issue," Staff Sgt. Joseph Ruda, a squad leader with Company D, said.
"Everyday is different," said Ruda about the 10 Soldiers whose care he manages. "Some Soldier issues are the same, but the majority of days they're different. And as a squad leader or platoon sergeant, it's imperative you know your Soldiers and their issues and take care of them."
Although the demands of 24-hour duty days, seven days a week can wear on you, Ruda said, being a WTB squad leader has been the most rewarding of his career.
"If they had cadre as a military occupational specialty (MOS), I'd request it," said Ruda, a 20-year career Soldier. "I enjoy doing what I do. Yes, it gets annoying and frustrating, but it's worth it because in the long run, they're still Soldiers."
No one is more thankful for the dedication of the WTB's squad leaders and platoon sergeants than Sgt. 1st Class Roderick Johnson's mother, Janice Johnson, who also is a WTB civilian employee. Diagnosed in February with stage four Liver Cancer, her 40-year-old son was transferred to the WTB from the Fort Bragg, N.C. Warrior Transition Unit in April.
"I've seen the dedication of WTB's cadre firsthand," the social worker assistant said. "I can't say enough about the men and women of Company A because they are continually by his side, monitoring his care, taking him to doctor's appointments, making sure he's comfortable and making sure he has the meds he needs. They've been invaluable in their support of my son and have been such a comfort to me."
Moreover, she said that when her son's squad leader visits her homebound son, his bad day disappears.
"He can be really down, but when he sees those ACUs (Army Combat Uniform)," she said, "his eyes light up and his demeanor changes. They really care about those Soldiers, and it's not because I work here and he's my son: He's first, and foremost, a Soldier."
Life Beyond the Army
Once WTB Soldiers heal and are ready to transition, they have two options: Soldiering on or moving on in civilian life.
"Of course we want our Soldiers to get back into the fight," Thomas said, "but we understand that some can't, so we want them to transition successfully as veterans."
To help Soldiers in that process is WTB's internship program, which program director Anthony Thomas said often translates to full-time employment in a federal agency.
"It doesn't matter what skill set an agency is looking for. They just want Soldiers to come in and be willing to learn," he said. "It's not about meeting certain criteria or what their MOS was, it's about bringing different dynamics to the team, such as discipline, leadership and ethics."
In fact, Sgt. 1st Class Johhny Shull, who said getting out of the military after 22 years is pretty much like falling off a cliff, knew his fuel-handling experiences wouldn't land him a job, however, after attending WTB's November career fair, he found out his management, administration and bookkeeping skills would.
"Knowing that and learning how to tailor my resume has boosted my confidence in finding a job," he said, adding that he is hoping to start an internship soon with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Paschall's internship with Fort Hood's Directorate for Emergency Services is his dream job, he said, and he is grateful to the WTB for having the program. Because when he got out in 1988 after serving eight years active duty, all he got was a handshake.
"That was it. You're on your own," he, who at the time was married and had two kids, said. "Today, they find you a job. Everything is waiting for you. All you have to do is apply yourself."
Nothing is more rewarding for Thomas, he said, then seeing the fear disappear from the faces of his Soldiers when they land jobs.
"There's an enoromous amount of worry and stress on both the Soldier and the Family during the transitioning process, because they're venturing into the unknown," he said. "That's why it's such a beautiful thing to witness the Soldier go from intern to direct hire."
Although Madden expects to leave the Army within six months, he said his time here as been valuable in helping him heal and develop skills to help him succeed in the civilian world. He's also thankful that the Army didn't forget about his Family in the process.
Fifty-four-year-old Sgt. James Earl Jones of Company C is grateful to the WTB for giving him the gift of time: time to heal, time to go to school and time to sort things out. A supply technician with the Texas National Guard, Jones credited the WTB with helping him eventually return to the fight because he's been able to focus on healing and keeping him on point.
"It's a blessing, really, that someone put this kind of plan in place, because without a WTB, I probably would've have been medically discharged," he said.
And that's what Janique Parnall likes to hear.
"The idea is when you transition out of here, you can say for having been here and the services that we've provided, you have determined that you're a better person," Parnall said, "Outside of making sure you're safe, we've gotten you connected to the right person and the right places for care. The rest is up to you."