By Jorge Gomez, U.S. Army Recruiting CommandJanuary 9, 2013
SAN ANTONIO, Texas --- Few community leaders understand how the Army trains physicians, cares for the wounded, feeds Soldiers and sustains a high quality of life for Soldier Families. During pregame activities of the U.S. Army All American Bowl, 50 selected centers of influence from throughout the nation toured Fort Sam Houston Jan. 3.
"The intention was to provide these civilian leaders an opportunity to see the Army as it is," said Col. L. Wayne Magee Jr., U.S. Army 5th Recruiting Brigade commander. "We didn't need to talk about the technology we use for training, they were able to handle simulators and perform (virtual) surgical operations themselves. They were able to talk directly with our wounded warriors and ask them tough questions."
During the tour, community leaders visited the Simulation Center of the Brooke Army Medical Center. The simulators are used to train basic medics to cardio fellowships and everything in between. Visitors could practice cutting tissue on a virtual laparoscopic machine while others could see the reaction of dummies groaning when an bronchoscope was inserted.
Anna Gilmore, a premedicine student adviser at Emory Career Center in Atlanta, has seen many simulation laboratories in her career but none compare to BAMC.
"A lot of schools may have one or two but the fact that [BAMC] has a wide range of simulators is impressive," Gilmore said.
The medical facility also did not correspond to the misperceptions that are sometimes circulated in the public, she said.
"You hear in the news about how run down the medical facilities are for Soldiers and it's definitely not the case here," Gilmore said. "It's one of the nicest hospitals I've been in."
Community leaders visited with wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid, dedicated to providing the best rehabilitative care. They heard from Soldiers who lost limbs and regained the ability to walk and run with the support of high-tech prosthetics.
CFI patient Capt. Michael Caspers lost his right leg below the knee after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in August 2011.
"My experience here in BAMC has been fantastic. All my medical care and needs were attended to. I never felt like I was shorted of any care," Caspers said. "I went from being able to walk with a prosthesis to running in the Army Ten-Miler."
Joy Thrash, a North Carolina defense business executive, is a three-time runner on the Army's Ten-Miler. She has only been able to achieve a 12-minute mile and remarked at how Caspers has been able to run a 9-minute mile.
"As I'm running [in the Ten-Miler] these gentlemen and ladies with the prosthetics would pass me. It's just humbling for them to be doing what they are doing. It's hard for you to say you can't run," Thrash said.
The civilian leaders were afforded the opportunity eat lunch alongside Soldiers at an Army dining facility. Even for the senior Army leaders who accompanied the COIs, the dining event demonstrated how the Army has modernized its supporting facilities over the past generations. That served as a launching pad onto an in-depth discussion of how Army installations create a home environment to Soldiers and their Families.
Maj. Gen. John Uberti, Installation Management Command deputy commanding general for support, and Maj. Gen. David Mann, U.S. Army Recruiting Command commanding general, hosted a forum with garrison leaders and Families via video teleconferencing.
The testimony of a Fort Drum family receiving care through the Exceptional Family Member Program demonstrated the Army treasures its family members, said Richard VonAncken, a high school principal in Rio Rancho, N.M.
"In order for a Soldier to be successful he has to feel comfortable that his family is being attended to," VonAncken said. "That session (VTC) allowed you to see that the Army has a lot of foresight in preparing for (various) situations."
Even Minnifield who considered himself familiar with the Army was impressed by how much the Army builds around the family.
"What I'm most pleased with is that there's a supportive network that allows for any Soldier to achieve the level of success that he or she desires," Minnifield said. "So many of our young people have wonderful dreams but don't know how to connect the dots. The Army gives them (young people) the platform to connect the dots."
The IMCOM deputy commanding general thanked the community leaders for taking the time to visit the installation and learn how the Army applies mission readiness to all facets of family life.
"It is your Army," Uberti said to the community leaders. "Help us find ways for you to connect the Army to America and keep it strong."