WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 15, 2012) -- Fort Belvoir Community Hospital broke ground on the first satellite center of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, June 13.

The Fort Belvoir National Intrepid Center of Excellence, or NICoE, satellite, which is expected to open in a year, will extend the care of the NICoE facility at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to area service members suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.

Funded and conceived by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the Fort Belvoir NICoE satellite is the first of about seven to 10 satellite centers to be constructed over the next several years at some of the largest military deployment bases around the country.

In addition to providing state-of-the-art clinical care, the NICoE and its satellite centers also conduct the critical mission of research and education. Healthcare providers at the satellite centers will share information learned with the main NICoE facility, which will aid in its ongoing research program to improve detection, diagnosis and treatment of TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder and related afflictions.

"It's designed to be an instrument of healing, hope, discovery, and learning for service members and their families," said Col. Susan Annicelli, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital commander.

The facility will use an interdisciplinary approach to care featuring a comprehensive team offering intensive diagnosis and treatment, she explained. This team will employ modern medical technology and resources to develop effective treatment plans, education programs, long-term follow up and continuity management in a single, central location.

Staffed to "advance the understanding of complex human conditions coexisting in the same individual," Dr. James Kelly, NICoE director, said NICoE's charge is to "make visible what is invisible and restore to wellness the person whose health and interpersonal relationships have been disrupted by the most extreme of life events."

For Air Force Master Sgt. Earl Covel, NICoE has already been instrumental on his road to recovery while providing care for his family as well.

"From day one I had the whole medical system at my whim," Covel said. "Providers were at my beck and call. After war, you're forever changed as a person, but NICoE sent me on a path of healing."

Having deployed 12 times over the course of his career, Covel earned the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars. He spoke openly about his invisible wounds as a result of combat. More importantly, he said the NICoE facility at Walter Reed has greatly helped him "to be comfortable with the person I am now, and come to terms with the limitations I have. They led me from a very dark place to a place where I can now see the light."

Covel will continue his treatment at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, where the behavioral health department and Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center are currently located. They will both will relocate to the NICoE satellite center once the center is completed. This move will greatly improve the collaborative healing environment by bringing the two sections together in one facility. Currently, they are located in different areas of the hospital.

Enabling the military medical system to reach an even larger population of wounded warriors who are struggling with brain and psychological injuries, the Belvoir NICoE satellite is expected to service more than 600 military patients per year, according to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital's concept of operations.

Together, the facility and the healthcare providers will deliver the best and most advanced care possible to the nation's heroes, while elevating the level of healthcare across the military health system, Annicelli said.