By Terri Moon Cronk, American Forces Press ServiceDecember 20, 2012
WASHINGTON (Dec. 20, 2012) -- Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence here, Dec. 19, to gain perspective on treatment for service members who have traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Austin also visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here, a trip officials said he makes on a regular basis. Austin and his wife, Charlene, have taken a particular interest in treatments for traumatic brain injury, or TBI, and post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, two signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said.
Dr. James Kelly, NICoE director, led Austin's tour of the two-year-old center. During the visit, chiefs of major specialties briefed the general on their treatment approaches.
Austin learned how those approaches are effective in treating service members by using such modalities as art and music therapy, relaxation, a sleep lab and counseling, all in a team setting over the course of four weeks. He viewed magnetic resonance imaging, also known as MRI, and saw MRI films showing the occurrence of TBI and PTSD in the brain.
Two golden retrievers and their handlers from Warrior Canine Connection also greeted Austin at NICoE. The Warrior Canine Connection is a nonprofit organization that works with NICoE service members while they are undergoing treatment. In an optional program, service members can learn to train the retrievers as service dogs that are paired with veterans who are mobility impaired, the dog handlers said.
Austin also was briefed on the satellite NICoE clinics being developed around the country at Army posts and Marine Corps bases. The sites include Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a yet-to-be determined base in Southern California.
NICoE officials estimate each of those clinics will see about 1,200 patients with TBI and PTSD per year, while the most severe cases of the disorders are usually referred to the NICoE here.
"I'm very much encouraged and excited about the satellite clinics," Austin told Kelly about the NICoE concept. "They will be beneficial to [service members]."
"It's not every day NICoE gets a visit from the Army vice chief of staff," Kelly said, adding that Austin asked him about the progress on the Fort Belvoir satellite clinic, which is now under construction.
"His main concern today was how what we learn here influences the system [for treating TBI and PTSD]," Kelly said.
"His dedication to our service members in these circumstances is unquestioned," he added.