Friday, November 14, 2008
Special to American Forces Press Service
, Nov. 14, 2008 - The USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are preparing to deploy in support of unified combatant commanders, the strike group commander said this week. The sailors and Marines are at sea conducting the composite training unit exercise, or COMPTUEX, in scenarios they may face in upcoming deployments, Navy Capt. Peter K. Dallman told bloggers and online journalists Nov. 12.
The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group is composed of five Navy ships, and the 13th MEU is made up of 2,200 Marines aboard three amphibious ships, Dallman said.
The objective, Dallman said, is to expand the 13th MEU and the Boxer ESG teams' primary capabilities, which include maritime security operations, decisive combat operations and other operations, including humanitarian assistance.
"We are fully integrated and capable teams, and we are prepared to carry out a broad spectrum of mission actions from any unified combatant commander," he said.
Dallman and Marine Corps Col. Dave Coffman, commander of the 13th MEU, "have a support team relationship, which means that neither one of us works for the other, but rather we work together," he said.
"More importantly, this relationship produces a flexible configuration that makes the Boxer ESG/13th MEU team an effective and versatile platform for not only protecting combat power, but also accomplishing other missions such as providing humanitarian assistance and or disaster relief," he added.
While the units are preparing for future missions, Coffman said, they have yet to be tasked by U.S. Pacific Command or U.S. Central Command. "So we'll take our mission list and be prepared to go both ways," he said. Models are in place for whatever the mission may be, he added.
While the Boxer group has specialized in working from sea-to-shore capabilities, Coffman emphasized, "We can do it any way they want it to."
One challenge the MEU and ESG have is lightening the load of all the equipment, Coffman said.
"We're too heavy," he acknowledged. "We've got some heavy stuff and some big stuff, and it's not matched to ... the lag of building ships and how quickly we can turn around vehicles."
But the USS New Orleans has increased capacity in terms of vehicle stowage, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell is sailing with the group, he said.
The primary purpose of bringing the Boutwell is to show other countries how the U.S. Coast Guard operates in coastal patrol, law enforcement and coastal defense, said Navy Capt. Mark Cedrun, commanding officer of the USS Boxer.
"We're working with many coalition partners to fulfill those tasks in order to create stable conditions at sea which are going to allow economic prosperity to continue and enhance global security," he said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2008 - Navy Rear Adm. Garry White, Director of Total Force Manpower Requirements, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with American Forces Press Service about the Navy's wounded warrior care program, known as Safe Harbor, and the service's policy of allowing seriously injured sailors to return to active duty. This is a question-and-answer from that interview:
Q. How has the Navy's Safe Harbor program grown in the past year?
A. There's been tremendous expansion and that has enabled us to be much more effective in providing the care. It went from only including [Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom] veterans who were injured to everyone who is severely injured. If somebody needs a case manager or some level of advocacy, then we will step up.
There are no boundaries, there are no rules. There are no limits to what we can and will do. There are no barriers.
If we see a need, we will address that need, no matter where it goes. If it goes outside of Navy, we'll go out there.
Some of these folks in the Safe Harbor program, they will be in it indefinitely ... until they say, if they ever say, 'We no longer have a need or desire.' Effectively we'll track them for life.
Q. What are the Navy's priorities for wounded warrior care?
A. There is nothing higher. We want to make sure that the highest quality care is given to every single sailor no matter what their need is.
We've got a lot of very, very dedicated professionals that are doing that. One of our criteria is every single person that joins [Safe Harbor] is a volunteer. They don't get ordered to do this. We want people who want to be here, because it takes the right kind of person, the right level of compassion, the right level of passion for what they're doing ... and everybody isn't cut out for that.
Q. As you have traveled to the hospitals visiting wounded sailors, what are your impressions of military medicine?
A. I am very pleased with what I have seen. The last year and a half has been my first in-depth exposure to ... military medicine and I will sing their praises. I see the dedication and the professionalism and the talent that is there.
I was a fighter pilot, and I was always thinking that when I go it's going to be an aircraft crash and I'll be gone. And I had the mind set that if I was in an accident and lost my legs, lost my vision, whatever, that I would probably rather just be killed than to have that happen.
After I saw the care that our folks are getting ... when they come in there and they see the recovery that their predecessors have experienced, they see their future and ... it is very, very bright. It's motivating. It completely changed my perspective.
Q. What is the Navy's stand on helping wounded warriors stay on active duty if they so choose? And what value do they bring to the service?
A. We will do everything we can do to make that happen. Because they bring experience that we can't get anywhere else -- experience of having 'been there.' We brought some folks into the Safe Harbor program to help us in that regard. That level of empathy, some of it you just can't get unless you've been there.
All of their training has not gone away because of their injury. Right now if we can find enough people, we've got some instructor billets that we would love to fill with some of those folks, again because they have that training, they have that experience, they have that knowledge.
Anywhere that we can bring folks back, give them training, give them prosthetic [devices] -- anything that we can do we will.
Q. In terms of policy and procedures, what has been the climate of change within the Navy? How has your program been received by senior Navy and Defense Department leadership?
A. Positively -- across the board. Everybody is on board with this. I don't think that there's a higher priority. Caring for our casualties and caring for our people, there is nothing that is a higher priority.
I have seen from the Chief of Naval Operations ... the entire chain all the way down, everybody is dedicated to this and very passionate about it. There is no question in anyone's mind the level of support and the level of priority that this has.
Q. The Safe Harbor program has tripled in size and quadrupled in resources. Do you think the support and resources will be the same in five or even 10 years?
A. Yes, because the folks who are in the Safe Harbor program are in there for life. That will not go away.
The level of time dedicated to it from the senior leadership may go down because it will start to run autonomously. They've established the level of priority and now we've got folks on board who are going to take it and run with it.
Q. Are we there yet in terms of providing care for wounded sailors?
We're not there yet, because we're still learning and instituting. In fact, we are working very hard to continue to improve and we are seeing tremendous improvement, but we're not perfect. When you talk the numbers of people that we're talking about, there will always be somebody that we're either missing, or who just hasn't come to our attention, that we can help, and we haven't been put in touch with them yet.
If anybody is experiencing difficulty, or having problems, [they need to] call us so that we can help.
Q. What are the challenges the Navy faces in taking care of its wounded warriors?
A. Because we're new ... it is just awareness. People maybe still fall back on some of their old methods of communication. They'll go to people that they've gone to for years, or they may get bad advice.
There are still some administrative challenges, because any time you have an organization as large as this ... then you have policies and programs in effect that are probably appropriate for 99 percent of the people. But there will be those exceptions. I have said repeatedly to our folks -- if it becomes a question of complying with the rules or doing the right thing, we will do the right thing every time. And we will either get a waiver or get the policy changed or get the law changed, whatever it is. But we will do the right thing for the individual and for the Navy.
Doing the right thing is of paramount importance.
Q. Describe the Navy's efforts to combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A. We saw that there was a hesitation for people to come forward and say 'Yes, I'm having these post traumatic stress events,' and these problems. They were hesitant to go for counseling because of the stigma. So we're trying to institute right now this Navy-wide plan for operational stress control which will start at boot camp and it will go all the way through to [education and training] for flag officers and at every level there will be some training.
We're trying to get all the leadership to understand what their responsibilities are.
What we're doing right now with the individual augmentees and the global war on terrorism support assignments -- it's a little bit different than what Navy has done before. We've deployed forever ... so we're used to that, but that is as a unit. The unit goes, and operates and then they come back as a unit.
This is a little bit different in that we're plucking individuals out, and they're deploying, coming back and then being stuck back into a unit. So that has a whole new set of challenges that we have not had to deal with in the past.
Hopefully, we can get where we won't have PTSD, and the reason we won't have it is because we will have inculcated throughout the Navy the level of the resiliency before they go over there, and the training. And while they're there and when they come back, we'll have other [training and support] all in place, so that we'll be dealing with the post traumatic stress and it will never get to the disorder point. That's the ultimate vision that we have.
[Editor's note: This is the latest article in a series about wounded warriors who return to active duty.]
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2008 - For the first time in U.S. history, a woman military officer today pinned on the rank of four-star general. Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody was promoted just hours before taking the helm of the Army Materiel Command, a Fortune 100-sized organization with nearly 130,000 servicemembers at 150 locations worldwide charged with equipping, outfitting and arming the service's soldiers.
The emotionally charged promotion ceremony was a veritable "Who's Who" within the Defense Department, as the defense secretary, the Army secretary, the chairman and all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two former Army chiefs of staff and other senior military officials attended.
The Pentagon auditorium was standing-room-only, leaving even a three-star general to fend for himself and stand in the back.
"We invited everyone but the fire marshal," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates quipped as he took the podium.
Speaking briefly, Gates heralded Dunwoody's 33-year career, calling her one of the foremost military logisticians of her generation who's known among senior officials as a proven, albeit humble, leader.
"History will no doubt take note of her achievement in breaking through this final brass ceiling to pin on a fourth star," Gates said. "But she would rather be known and remembered, first and foremost, as a U.S. Army soldier."
Dunwoody's career as a soldier began, Gates pointed out, in the Women's Army Corps and at a time when women were not allowed to attend the U.S. military Academy at West Point. Her father and brother, both West Point graduates, sat in the front row of her promotion ceremony.
The general's father graduated from the academy in 1943, following in the steps of his father, who graduated in 1905. Dunwoody's great-grandfather graduated from West Point in 1866.
"Now you understand why people think I have olive-drab blood," Dunwoody joked later.
In fact, Dunwoody's father is a combat veteran of three wars and received Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He wears the Army's Distinguished Service Cross for valor.
In a speech that alternated from tears to laughter, Dunwoody credited her successes to her father's teachings and the family's strong military values.
"I know most of my success is founded in what I learned from you, as a dad, as a patriot and as a soldier," she told her father, choking back tears. "Talk about never quitting. Talk about never accepting defeat. That's my dad, my hero."
Dunwoody said she has been fortunate to live a lifetime of firsts, and that the Army gave her those opportunities. The Army has mentored her, she said, and now she has been given the opportunity to return the favor.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. pointed out that, as Dunwoody was receiving her commission, the Army was finishing a study on what those serving thought were appropriate jobs for women in the Army.
The top job appropriate for women, according to officers and enlisted soldiers in 1975, was that of a cook. Dunwoody joined the Army's quartermaster branch.
"That's the Army that Ann Dunwoody entered -- an institution just figuring out how to deal with the full potential of an all-volunteer Army, and not yet ready to leverage the strengths of each individual soldier in its ranks," Casey said. "And Ann's career has mirrored our progress."
In 1970, the Army promoted its first woman officer to brigadier general. Three years after Dunwoody was commissioned, the Army promoted its first woman to major general, and at the same time disbanded the Women's Army Corps, which had its roots steeped in World War II. A year later, Dunwoody took command of a mixed-gender company, a relatively new concept in the Army. The first woman lieutenant general was promoted in 1997.
The Army now has 21 female general officers, and just more than 100 serve within the Defense Department.
Dunwoody first joined the Army intent on serving only two years, she said. Her success, she admitted, comes to her surprise.
"There is no one more surprised than I, except of course my husband. You know what they say -- behind every successful woman, there's an astonished man," she joked.
Her husband, Craig, who sat beside her on stage during the ceremony, is a retired Air Force colonel. They met while attending a military school together.
Dunwoody's jokes seemed to relieve her nervousness and underscored her humility in the moment.
"It's as overwhelming as it is humbling, especially for somebody who thought fifth grade was the best three years of her life," she joked.
The general said at first she didn't appreciate the enormity of the event. She has previously refused all requests for media interviews. Pentagon officials said Dunwoody was uncomfortable with the attention garnered when she was nominated to be the first woman four-star general.
Since then, Dunwoody said, she has received cards, letters, e-mails and encouragement from men and women serving in all branches of the military around the world -- many offering congratulations, others thanking her for her service.
In a briefing at the Pentagon later, Dunwoody said she never grew up believing any limitations were set for her career.
"I never grew up in an environment where I even heard of the words 'glass ceiling,'" she said. "You could always be anything you wanted to be if you worked hard, and so I never felt constrained. I never felt like there were limitations on what I could do."
And, because much of her career has been forged on relatively new paths cut by a handful of women having gone before her, Dunwoody at first saw this latest accomplishment as simply more of the same, she said.
"My whole career was kind of the first of my generation, because women had not been down those roads before," she said. "And so you go, 'Why is this first any different than the other first?' But it is different, because it is a bigger first."
Still, Dunwoody was quick to deflect the attention her accomplishments were receiving.
"While ... I may be the first woman to achieve this honor, I know with certainty that I won't be the last," she said.
Now, at age 55 and with this promotion, Dunwoody said, she has finally realized her purpose.
"Even though I thought I was only coming in the Army for two years, I now know from the day I first donned my uniform, soldiering is all I ever wanted to do," she said.
That led to the fourth and final standing ovation for Dunwoody at the ceremony.
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2008 - The outgoing director of the Defense Logistics Agency "simply refused to take no for an answer when it came to meeting the needs of our troops," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, said here yesterday.
Speaking at Army Lt. Gen. Robert Dail's retirement ceremony, Petraeus said Dail's two years as DLA director and 33 total years of service in the Army will have a lasting impact on U.S. warfighters.
Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson will assume responsibilities as DLA director in a ceremony slated for Nov. 19.
"Bob Dail helped to instill a never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude and a warrior ethos in those supporting our combat forces," Petraeus said.
Before assuming command of Centcom on Oct. 31, Petraeus commanded U.S. and coalition operations in Iraq. He spoke of his firsthand experiences being on the receiving end of support provided by DLA under Dail's leadership.
"He repeatedly leveraged his experience and expertise to link the national industrial base and to harness the global marketplace to ensure the best possible support of our troopers around the world," Petraeus said.
Such outstanding logistics support was particularly critical during the surge of forces in Iraq in early 2007, Petraeus added.
"All of us involved in that critical endeavor could see and feel the impact of his determined leadership, energy and creativity," Petraeus said. "In fact, Bob and DLA were not just critical to sustaining our own forces and some of those of our allies, they also played a huge role in the efforts to provide equipment and supplies to the rapidly growing and increasingly important Iraqi security forces."
Petraeus recounted how he and Dail served together as battalion commanders in the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division and again as brigade commanders in the 82nd Airborne Division. He peppered his speech with personal anecdotes about their careers.
"The truth is, if someone had told any of our buddies back in the early 1990s that Bob and I would be leading DLA and Central Command 15 or 20 years later, that individual would have been told to go sit under a tree until that outlandish thought passed," he said.
Petraeus said he heartily agrees with Dail's belief that the officers whose careers the retiring officer influenced are his true legacy to the military.
"Half of the Army logistics corps generals have served under him," Petraeus said. "And the list of colonels, lieutenant colonels, senior civilians and business executives he has mentored and guided is equally long. Bob has shared his passion and his expertise, and these will live on long after he has taken off the uniform."
In his retirement speech, the outgoing DLA director urged military logisticians to always keep the troops foremost in their minds.
Specifically, Dail urged DLA employees to ensure America's warfighters receive "the kind of support that men and women who wear the uniform of a free republic should expect and deserve when they volunteer to serve the country."
The retired general said he often pictured a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine in his vehicle with him as he entered through the gates of the McNamara Headquarters Complex every day, because that's who he was representing and he felt like they influenced his decisions.
Dail also said that he believes that officers whose careers he influenced are his most important legacy to the military corps of logisticians.
"I really feel that my legacy is not in some initiative or some program, but my legacy really is in my subordinates," he said. "I have ... felt that that was my ... long-term mission that I was supposed to provide to the Department of Defense."
Dail also delivered a personal message to the countless servicemembers and civilians he's led and mentored throughout his career: "It just fills my heart to no end to know that you're in the service and that you are in charge in the next few years."
(Kathleen T. Rhem works in the Defense Logistics Agency Public Affairs Office.)
Program Date: December 5, 2008
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: Maritime Security
About the Guest
After graduating from Montclair State College with a BA in Biology, Michael Walling served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years as a commissioned officer and a senior petty officer. His assignments included buoy tending, search and rescue missions, drug law enforcement, and oceanographic operations in the Arctic. As part of the Boarding Party and Prize Crew teams on two cutters, Michael Walling participated in the seizures of a Panamanian drug-runner and a Cuban fishing boat. His decorations include the U.S. Coast Guard Achievement Medal (O) for counter-drug operations, the Arctic Service Medal, the Sea Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the USCG Cutterman's insignia.
Michael Walling is the author of Bloodstained Sea: The U.S. Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic 1941-1944; an editor of the Sinbad of the Coast Guard; and, the author of Choke Points. According to the book description of Choke Points, “Stretching from the treacherous shores of Iraq to inner circles of power in Washington, DC, Choke Points leads the reader deep into the heart of the War on Terror and the real threats of attack on the U.S. This is the first book of the Fletcher Saga that stretches from the tumultuous Colonial times to the ever-dangerous present.”
About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.
About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, criminal justice technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.
Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole.
Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2008 - Recent changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act will extend the period of unpaid, job-protected leave that eligible family members can take to care for wounded warrior spouses, Labor Department officials said. Legislative amendments to the act signed into law by President Bush provide new entitlements that pertain to military families and enable them to take caregiver leave, officials said.
The Labor Department administers FMLA for private-sector workers. The changes, authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, are slated to be published in the Federal Register Nov. 17.
"This final rule, for the first time, gives America's military families special job-protected leave rights to care for brave servicemen and women who are wounded or injured, and also helps families of members of the National Guard and reserves manage their affairs when their servicemember is called up for active duty," Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.
"At the same time, the final rule provides needed clarity about general FMLA rights and obligations for both workers and employers," she said.
One change stipulates that eligible employees who are family members of covered servicemembers can take up to 26 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious illness or injury incurred in the line of duty on active duty. This change extends the period of available unpaid leave beyond the original 12-week leave period. The new provision was a recommendation of the President's Commission on Wounded Warriors.
A second family-leave-related amendment to the act makes the normal 12 work weeks of FMLA job-protected leave available to certain family members of National Guardsmen or reservists for qualifying exigencies when servicemembers are on active duty or called to active-duty status.
Qualifying exigencies for which employees can use FMLA leave include:
-- Short-notice deployment;
-- Military events and related activities;
-- Child-care and school activities;
-- Financial and legal arrangements;
-- Rest and recuperation;
-- Post-deployment activities, and
-- Additional activities not encompassed in the other categories by which the employer and employee can agree to the leave.
Another change requires employees to follow their employers' call-in procedures when taking FMLA leave. Previous rules were interpreted that employees could inform employers of taking FMLA leave for up to two full business days after initiating it.
Another rule change allows employers' human-resource officials, leave administrators or management officials to contact employees' health care providers to verify information on medical certification forms, so long as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 requirements and medical privacy regulations are met.
Established in 1993 under the Labor Department's jurisdiction, the FMLA originally entitled most federal employees to up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for:
-- The birth of a child of the employee and the care of the child;
-- The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
-- The care of a spouse, child or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition; or
-- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to work.
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2008 - Comedian and former Marine Drew Carey will welcome servicemembers to the stage of "The Price is Right" during a prime-time airing of a special episode dedicated to the troops. "I think that if they said it was a very special show, it's because it's very high-energy. The contestants were really great," said Stan Blits, the show's co-producer. "The military guys were just the best, and we had such a fun time taping it with them.
"They were all enthusiastic, and it was just really a great honor to have them there," he added. "They ended up being just wonderful contestants, too."
Everything about the show was just a little bit special, Blits said. The contestants and audience members were special, of course, but the prizes, which usually are pretty incredible, were even better, he said.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service provided six $1,000 gift certificates for its online store and six 1,000-minute phone cards for contestants who made it on stage. Additionally, everyone in the audience received 10-percent discount coupons courtesy of AAFES.
"We don't want to give anything away," Blits said, hoping people will tune in to see the array of prizes offered on the program. "Of course, we always give away our usual great cars. There are some guys that do win some cars and trucks, so you will definitely see some great wins. One of the guys, when he won his car, he actually lifted one of our models up in the air out of the flatbed of a truck."
This isn't the first time "The Price is Right" has saluted the troops. On several occasions when Bob Barker was hosting the show, episodes were dedicated to specific branches of service. This show features Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps contestants.
The episode, taped Sept. 10, and originally slated to air on Veterans Day, will now air tomorrow.
"The network took a look at the special, and they actually liked it so much they thought it would do better in prime time," Blits said. "Prime time space is limited, and they found an opening."
The show will air on CBS at 9 p.m. EST tomorrow, and is slated to air on the Armed Forces Network in the future.
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2008 - The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fought in deserts and mountains far removed from the oceans' blue waters. But U.S. Navy sailors are increasingly seeing desert and mountain combat as they augment the units of traditional foot soldiers and medics. Seeing their numbers of combat wounded increase, Navy leaders launched its Safe Harbor program in 2005 to take care of sailors injured in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The program started with three staff working out of the Navy Annex, an office building located just a stone's throw from the Pentagon.
There were 20 wounded sailors in the program at that time, said Navy Capt. Key Watkins, commander of the Safe Harbor program.
In 2006, the number of wounded sailors doubled as they were increasingly assigned to augment units deployed in theater.
By late 2007, there were 120 sailors in the program.
By then Navy leadership, along with the rest of the services, was deep into restructuring its wounded warrior care program in an effort to keep up with the increasing demand placed on its systems by the war on two fronts. Although the Navy had far fewer seriously injured personnel than the Army and Marine Corps, the types of injuries, length of treatment and the extra care required for families began to strain its decades-old system.
The continuum of clinical and nonclinical care was there, Watkins said. But, like the other services, the Navy's wounded care system was complicated and complex.
"The problem is it's such a vast organization. There are so many different disparate entities involved with it, it's very confusing," Watkins said. "And then it's compounded if you're medically incapable of navigating this vast bureaucracy and even worse if you're a family member of a servicemember who's incapacitated ... and you don't understand the system.
"You need an advocate. You need somebody who can help you navigate the bureaucracy."
In January, the Safe Harbor program expanded to include all seriously injured sailors, not just those injured in combat. A month later, the program was expanded again to include the non-clinical oversight of all wounded, ill or injured sailors – more than 6,000 of them – including those in the reserves.
Most of those in the program don't need a lot of support. But their cases are now tracked to ensure no sailor slips through cracks in the health care system, Watkins said.
Leaders 'Kick Down' Doors of Bureaucracy
The primary focus of Safe Harbor remains those who are severely wounded, ill or injured, Watkins said. The Navy has more than 200 sailors in that category. They are assigned case managers who help take care of the sailors' and their families' needs from the time of the injury through the rest of their lives, he said.
"We'll provide case management support as long as they need help," Watkins said. "Unless they put us on the national do-not-call list, we're going to keep in touch with them and follow up with them."
The Navy leans toward a "triad of care" similar to that of provided by the Army and the Marine Corps. The triad approach emphasizes a direct relationship between those providing medical care, medical case management and non-clinical support.
Every seriously injured sailor is assigned a nurse case manager at the military treatment facility, as well as a non-clinical case manager who will manage every other aspect of the sailor's care, from fixing pay problems to finding temporary housing for the family.
"When I first took the job, I swore that I would never say in public 'concierge service,'" Watkins said. "But we really are a five-star concierge service -- with a kick. Because sometimes we have to kick doors down to get things done."
Those doors are sometimes outdated regulations and policies that conflict with today's practices of caring for wounded warriors. Senior Navy officials have vowed to work around any policies that are not in the wounded sailors' best interests until the policies are updated or thrown out.
"If it becomes a question of complying with the rules or doing the right thing, we will do the right thing every time," said Navy Rear Adm. Garry White, who reports directly to the Navy's top officer on wounded warrior care. "And we will either get a waiver or get the policy changed or get the law changed, whatever it is. But we will do the right thing for the individual and for the Navy."
White is the director of total force manpower requirements in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. As part of a casualty care working group that he started, White has traveled the country with other senior Navy leaders, talking to wounded sailors at their bedsides and asking about their needs. That group now drives policy governing the care of the wounded, ill and injured in the Navy.
"There are no boundaries, there are no rules. There are no limits to what we can and will do. There are no barriers," White said. "If we see a need, we will address that need, no matter where it goes. If it goes outside of Navy, we'll go out there."
Growing and Planning
Safe Harbor has not grown to its fruition, Watkins said. In fact, Safe Harbor is not officially designated as a command – yet, said Watkins, explaining that he is working on that issue.
"We're not just doing this because of the war. We're doing this because we will always have wounded, ill and injured sailors," Watkins said. "It needs to be an enduring organization. I want to get established policy written in place that directs us what to do, how to do it, and then we'll have the right policy, right funding and the right support that we need.
"Right now we're just working on 'Go, and do good things.'"
Ultimately, Safe Harbor will have 15 case managers deployed nationwide at all the fleet concentration areas, major military treatment facilities and the four Veterans Affairs polytrauma centers. It also is to have 12 headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., and a couple at its personnel headquarters in Millington, Tenn. These should be in place by the end of this year, Watkins said.
Currently, five case manager jobs are being filled by reservists on two-year tours. Those will eventually be converted to active duty slots, Watkins said.
The Navy program is similar to the Air Force's in that there are no large units specifically designed to house wounded warriors. Injured sailors receive care at the military hospital closest to their home station. If the sailor is assigned to a ship, the sailor is reassigned to the ship's home port, Watkins said.
The Road to Recovery
Each sailor that enters the Safe Harbor program is screened and, if the service is needed, assigned a non-clinical case manager.
The non-clinical case manager then meets with the sailor, and his or her family, and completes a needs assessment. An assigned nurse case manager completes a similar assessment from a medical perspective. The two assessments are combined and later matched with the goals of the sailor and his or her family.
Less seriously injured sailors who are expected to return to duty will be put in a limited duty program. Once they recover, they go back into the assignment pool and are eventually reassigned, Watkins said.
The more seriously injured, if they are not expected to return to active duty, may move from the military hospital, to a VA polytrauma center closer to their home, and eventually to their hometown for recovery.
"They try to get them as quickly as they can to where they're going to be for their long-term rehabilitation," Watkins said.
Once the needs assessment is matched with the patient's goals, a recovery plan is created outlining the steps that will take the sailor from recovering in the hospital to meeting his or her goals.
"He may be a welder in the Navy today, but he may want to become an astrophysicist," Watkins said. "So we're going to help him get enrolled in college and take college courses and get prepared to transition while he's rehabilitating medically."
The recovery plan includes milestones and Safe Harbor watches to ensure that the care providers and the sailors meet those milestones.
When it is time to transition to Veterans Administration care, the non-clinical case manager works closely with VA officials to ensure the sailor's care transitions smoothly between the two government agencies. In fact, Safe Harbor has on-site case managers at each of the four VA polytrauma centers across the United States. Many of their offices are steps away from VA case managers and social workers.
Retaining Wounded Sailors
Not all seriously injured sailors choose to separate from the Navy, though. And the Navy has joined the other services in the recent trend to allow seriously injured servicemembers to return to active duty. Advances in treatment and technology, as well as rewritten policies and the determination of the troops has put many, including amputees, back in boots and sometimes even back into combat.
"We bend over backwards," Watkins said. "If a sailor has the desire to remain on active duty and has something to contribute to the mission, whatever it may be ... we're going to do what we can to retain them on active duty."
One sailor was blinded by a homemade bomb in Iraq. As a senior chief petty officer, he was about three years shy of his 20-year retirement goal.
Safe Harbor retained him on active duty to help develop the Navy's wounded care program. His unique perspective helped determine how and where case managers are needed and how they should deal with severely injured sailors. The senior chief petty officer also went into military hospitals and talked to those freshly injured, filling them in on what to expect during their recoveries.
"It was a no-brainer for us to retain him on active duty," Watkins said. "Even though he was not qualified by the regulations -- by the medical standards -- to serve, we were able to get that waived, keep him on active duty, because he still had a lot to contribute to our mission."
The sailor retired this year.
Watkins now spends his time developing the program and traveling around the country giving his "stump" speech about Safe Harbor and its efforts to commanders and senior enlisted, medical officials and physical evaluation board liaisons. One of the challenges is that many of those deep within the Navy's ranks and who have already separated do not know about its services.
"Anybody who wants to hear about what Safe Harbor does, I'll go talk to them," Watkins said.
Even if the sailor is completely out of the Navy, he or she still is eligible for Safe Harbor help, he said.
"If it is service connected, we can get them enrolled with the VA and get them treated," Watkins said. "Rather than them having to figure it out on their own, we're going to put them right in touch with whomever they need to be working with."
Bringing Sailors Back for Treatment
There are even ways for the Navy to bring a sailor back on active duty to ensure he or she gets needed treatment, Watkins said.
For example, Navy Petty Officer Zachary Crites deployed to Iraq as a medic in a Marine combat unit in July 2006. It was an assignment he loved, Crites said, despite the fact that he was rocked so many times by bomb blasts while traveling in convoys that he eventually had to be pulled from duty outside the wire and treated in country for symptoms of a traumatic brain injury.
Crites suffered from migraines and tremors, and when he returned stateside, doctors here began a battery of neurological and other tests and prescribed medications.
In June 2007, Crites was ordered into the naval reserves as part of a program that places sailors on active duty for 15 months and then transfers them into the reserves for the remainder of their enlistment. It wasn't long before Crites found himself in another battle – one for his health.
His active-duty command gave Crites as much medication as they could legally for the transition, and told him Veterans Affairs would continue the care. Crites filed a claim with VA that summer. But soon he ran out of medicine and was told by VA officials that they were still processing his forms.
Crites could have seen doctors using the healthcare plan provided by his civilian employer, a hospital where he worked as an emergency medical technician. But he was worried about his job stability if his employer found out that he had a brain injury.
"I didn't know what they would do if they knew that I had a traumatic brain injury," he said.
Crites didn't even tell his then-fiancé, now his wife. He didn't want to worry her, and hoped the problem would fix itself.
By December 2007, Crites knew he needed help. With nowhere else to turn, he went to his command at his reserve unit.
Crites' command contacted the Safe Harbor program and within a month, he was receiving the treatment and medication he needed.
"Crites is lucky that his leadership noticed something was not right ... and knew what to do about it," said Watkins said.
In April, Crites was brought back onto active duty for his treatment. He plans to stay in the Navy and wants to return to the "green side," or back with the Marines.
Recovery isn't easy and Crites knows it won't happen over night. But he's glad to be back on duty.
For Crites, Safe Harbor was the turnaround.
"There are days when it sucks. And it really isn't that much fun," he said. "But when I wake up 20 years down the road, I definitely will be glad that I decided to come back.
"Safe Harbor's been great. They have done everything that they said they were going to do."
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 12, 2008 - Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright is halfway through a six-country, eight-day USO tour to bring entertainment to troops Nov. 9-16. Cartwright started out the tour in Thule Air Base, Greenland, and has since made stops at four bases in Alaska and four bases in Korea.
Along with Cartwright on the tour are comedians Gabriel Iglesias and Edwin San Juan, model Mayra Veronica and the rap duo The Ying Yang Twins.
While at Thule, Cartwright told airmen and contractors there that despite the few visitors who come through the base, their mission of tracking satellites and early warning for ballistic missiles is vital to national security.
"One of the key reasons we're up here is to make sure you understand that we understand how important your mission is," Cartwright said. "It's a critical activity. It's one of those deals where nobody notices unless it goes bad. The good news is it's never gone bad."
Cartwright said the focus of this tour is to visit remote installations that may not get as many visitors, bringing a "slice of home" with the USO entertainers.
"It is probably an unusual event to see the entertainers and the USO come here, but when we get the chance, it's worth the while to do it," he said.
During his visit to Alaska, Cartwright traveled via Army UH-60s to Fort Greeley to see missile defense operations at the post. He then traveled to Clear Air Force Station with Veronica to do a meet and greet with the troops there.
The rest of the USO entertainers flew to Fort Wainwright on a CH-47 Chinook to visit with troops there. The entire group met back at Eielson Air Force Base to perform a show at the base theater for approximately 500 airmen and family members.
Following two extreme cold weather stops, the group flew here aboard C-17s. The groups helicoptered in to Kunsan Air Base, where they had a chance to see airpower up close with a static display of two F-16s and equipment from the 8th Security Forces Squadron.
After a show at Kunsan, the USO entertainers flew a CH-47 to the northern part of the country to visit troops at Camp Casey. Following that stop, it was back here for an evening performance that packed the base theater.
Nov. 13, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his fellow NATO defense ministers are getting down to business today in consultations on Ukraine's course toward membership in the alliance. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the ministers will focus on questions of defense and security policy, strategy and reform. The discussions will yield information that NATO foreign ministers will use in December, when they will seek to sculpt a membership action plan to chart Ukraine's course to full NATO membership, he said.
Ukraine has strong support for membership in the Euro-Atlantic alliance, a senior administration official, speaking on background, said after the first set of meetings. However, the official added, ministers also are expressing concerns about developments in Ukraine.
The country has not done as good a job on reforms as ministers would like, as political crises have created instability in reform efforts, the official explained.
"They need to do a better job themselves," the official said. "They need to do their part of the work. NATO is ready to help them; they need to hold up their end of it as well."
Membership in the alliance isn't just about defense matters, the U.S. official said, as NATO expects its prospective members to have stable institutions, pursue economic reforms and have strong anti-corruption laws in place.
De Hoop Scheffer said the overall theme of the NATO-Ukraine consultations is how the relationship works in an evolving security environment.
"The meeting presents an excellent opportunity to exchange views at a high level about the current security environment in the Euro-Atlantic area, as well as to address Ukraine's capabilities to meet modern security challenges and to contribute to NATO's security efforts," the secretary general said his remarks opening the conference.
"There can be no denying ... that the Russia-Georgia conflict last August has changed the European security environment," he said, adding that Russia's unilateral recognition of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states violates basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The secretary general said the Russian moves will not lead to the viable European security structure that all nations seek.
The meeting sends two messages, the senior administration official told reporters. "We need to be clear that Russia has not succeeded in drawing a line across Europe with its invasion of Georgia," he said. "We also need to convey that NATO remains very much on track working with countries in the East on this process of building a Europe, whole and free."
Also in play is the concept that a country has the right to freely choose its security alignments. De Hoop Scheffer called this "a test for a Europe we all seek to build."
"It is a principle we will not seek to compromise," he said.
The defense ministers also will take stock of Ukrainian progress in transforming its national security structures and practices. Defense budgeting and investment, an all-volunteer military and interoperability with NATO are key stones in that effort. "The road to Euro-Atlantic integration, after all, is a performance-based process," de Hoop Scheffer said.
Though Ukraine has not done a good job in prioritizing its defense expenditures or in forming interoperable and deployable forces, officials said, the country is involved in some way in every NATO operation from Afghanistan to Kosovo.
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2008 - The Warrior and Family Support Center located steps away from Brooke Army Medical Center here is one packed place. It is stuffed from floor to ceiling with homey decorations, leather furniture, stacks of snacks, baskets of books, computer work stations, a video library and a constant flow of wounded servicemembers and families.
Every Thursday night, 250 people pack into the 1,200-square-foot room for dinner. Guests spill into the hallways and stairs, and this Thanksgiving dinner promises to be more of the same.
But by Christmas dinner, the feast will feature more leg room.
A new $4 million, 12,000-square-foot facility is slated to open here Dec. 1, boasting its own dining room plus a great room, a classroom, a video game room and, overall, just a lot more room.
And, just like its neighbor, the Center for the Intrepid -- a state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar rehabilitation facility -- the new building was entirely privately funded and hasn't cost the Army a dime.
"The sky is the limit when we move into that new facility," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Glynn Mallory, who serves on the board that oversaw the fundraising and building project that has taken a little less than two years to come to fruition.
The project was spearheaded as a charitable project by two brothers who own Huffman Developments, a Texas-based building company. In January 2007, Steve Huffman visited the current center, which is housed on the second floor of a guesthouse that serves the families of servicemembers receiving care at BAMC.
Huffman had read about the center, and he asked its manager, Judith Markelz, what it needed. Markelz said she replied that the center needed a video game system to replace one that had been stolen. Huffman agreed to replace the system, promised he would be back in two weeks, and said he wanted to know what else the center needed.
"Think big," he told Markelz.
Estimates for the project were just over $3 million when it started, but the contractor solicited servicemembers' and families' ideas on its construction, and subsequent design changes increased its cost. The building will ring in at about $4 million, and an added therapeutic garden and other landscaping will take the project to nearly $5 million, Markelz said.
One soldier said he wanted grass -- "real" grass, not the brown, coarse kind typical of southern Texas. So, plush St. Augustine grass with a sprinkler system to keep it green was added to the landscaping.
Cookouts are popular, Markelz said, so a barbecue pavilion wired with outdoor stereo speakers now overlooks a harbor and garden.
The soldiers and families wanted a fireplace, so a massive fireplace centers the building's open great room, with its chimney stretching to the height of the cathedral ceiling. The open backside of the fireplace faces an outdoor courtyard so it can be enjoyed outside as well. An 18-foot-high, wrought-iron butterfly sculpture, designed by a soldier recovering here, will spiral up the chimney.
A large video gaming room will feature several large-screen televisions and a drop-down projection screen to accommodate competitions.
A classroom with computers will offer educational opportunities for servicemembers and families. Markelz has a donor lined up willing to pay tuition and books for anyone wanting to advance their education. Several others have volunteered to teach classes there.
"These classes are important, because in some cases, these wounded warriors are looking for a new career," Mallory said.
And the new building will have a large kitchen, which Markelz said she expects to be a main gathering place. The current center does not have a kitchen, and the staff must wash dishes in a bathroom. The new space also will offer room for the three administrative staff members, who now share one desk, one computer and one chair, Markelz said.
Large windows and skylights throughout the building allow light to spill into the center. An open floor plan encourages servicemembers to mingle, and parts of the design are intended to aid wounded servicemember's rehabilitation.
A covered patio allows for recovering servicemembers to be outside without subjecting them to the harsh Texas summer sun. To aid servicemembers' therapy, the outdoor garden will offer varied surface types, ramps with no rails, uneven surfaces and inclines that servicemembers must maneuver through.
"What we're trying to do is emulate things they are going to see at home," said Jennifer Golden, of Golden construction, a subcontractor on the project.
The overall design is built with a Hill Country theme, with rock and stucco throughout and a large star as a centerpiece on the front of the building.
"It's very Texas," Mallory said.
Mallory said he was asked to sit on the board because he was always at the center "hugging wounded warriors all the time."
As an infantryman, he served two combat tours in Vietnam. Mallory said this project completes the BAMC complex and is worthy of the sacrifices of the servicemembers and their families.
"They've got two world-class facilities here, in the hospital and the rehabilitation center, and they deserve a world-class facility for socializing and ... doing what they need to do to rehabilitate," he said.
The center opened in 2003 when Army officials saw a need for a place that focused on helping family members as they arrive to be with their wounded servicemembers.
Markelz said many family members panic when they get the news that their servicemember has been injured, regardless of the severity, and they leave immediately for the hospital. Some arrive even before the servicemember.
"I had a mother get off the airplane the other day with two left shoes on, because when she got that phone call ... she put on something and got on that airplane," Markelz said. "She brought no money. No credit card. She brought the clothes on her back."
As of September, nearly 250,000 visitors had used the center.
Markelz said she took the job initially as part of a temporary, six-month deal. Her husband served as the deputy commander of BAMC. Nicknamed "Judith Miracle" by Mallory, Markelz keeps the center running and open every day. It is open for 13 hours daily now, but will expand to 15 hours when it moves to the new facility, she said. Her cell phone is on 24 hours a day.
"We do not close," she said.
Markelz is a former teacher, evidenced by her penchant for the decorations that blanket the room and dangle from the ceilings. An eight-foot-tall inflated turkey rests in the corner.
"We wanted to make it junky and comfortable," she said of her current space. And even though her new space is much larger and somewhat cold right now, she said, she doesn't anticipate it will take her long to redecorate.
The Army pays the salaries of Markelz and her three staff members. Everything else is bought with donated funds, she said. She refers to many of the soldiers as her "kids," and said that helping the families is critical to the recovery of the servicemembers.
"Without these families, these soldiers won't heal. Support is everything," she said.
And while Markelz admitted she will miss her old space, she agreed with Mallory that the servicemembers and families deserve the new building.
"We owe them. They deserve it. It's the right thing to do," she said.
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2008 - Ukraine is making progress, but still has a long way to go before becoming a full member of NATO, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. Gates spoke to reporters at the conclusion of a meeting here of NATO defense ministers to discuss Ukraine's path to membership in the alliance. The secretary also spoke about Russia and how the security environment has changed since Russia's invasion of Georgia in August.
The NATO representatives met with a Ukrainian team led by Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Gates called the meetings good and productive, and he praised Ukraine for what it has done to date.
"Ukraine participates in all NATO-led operations and continues to build expeditionary forces compatible with alliance requirements and goals," the secretary said.
Still, Ukraine cannot rest on its laurels. The NATO ministers called on Ukraine to speed the pace of security-sector reform, specifically addressing defense budget shortfalls and urgently needed improvements in planning and prioritization, the secretary said.
"Despite political uncertainty, the leadership in Kiev must continue to show the sustained commitment required to join the alliance," Gates said.
The secretary emphasized that one of the main reasons he made the trip to Tallinn was to support the countries of the region who wish to more fully integrate with the West. "These nations are, quite understandably, on edge due to Russia's incursion into Georgia last summer," Gates said.
The secretary called Russia's more recent behavior troubling as well. Within hours of the conclusion of the recent U.S. presidential election, Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev threatened in a speech to put weapons in Kaliningrad – a small sliver of Russia on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. The speech was "hardly the welcome that a new American administration deserves," Gates said. "Such provocative remarks are unnecessary and misguided."
Gates repeated what is fast becoming a mantra. "As we have tried to make clear, Russia has nothing to fear from a defensive missile shield, or for that matter, the presence of democratic nations on its periphery," he said. "Rather than associate with the rhetoric of a bygone era, the United States would prefer that Russia work with us to combat mutual security threats. We will continue to seek a positive, constructive relationship with the Russian government."
The United States has put forward proposals to ease Russian concerns and has been answered by missiles, Gates noted. "Quite frankly, I'm not clear what the missiles would be for in Kaliningrad," he said. "After all, the only real emerging threat on Russia's periphery is in Iran. I don't think the Iskander missile has the range to get there from Kaliningrad. Why they would threaten to point missiles at European nations seems quite puzzling to me."
Still, Gates said, the United States does not want a relationship with Russia that dwells in the past, but one that looks to the future. "That means greater integration of Russia with the rest of Europe as well as the United States," the secretary said. "It means the Europe 'whole and free' that we talked about in 1989 and 1990 extends to and includes Russia."
No one in U.S. or European governments wants to exclude Russia from these relationships, Gates said.
"We just hope that the evolution of politics and economics in Russia moves Russia toward resuming the movement toward integration with western institutions," he said. "We want them to be a part of this family, and we are going through a period that they are taking a difficult line. I'm hoping that this is transitory, and they will resume a more productive and positive relationship going forward."
By Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2008 - When Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, first arrived in Iraq in November 2007, they had many things in mind to help to improve the lives of the citizens in Rathwaniyah, just on the outskirts of Baghdad. The soldiers wanted to provide medical assistance, but there was no clinic in the area available to the Iraqi citizens. So the soldiers made it their mission to establish one.
"It's a farm area, very rural, that has some sectarian division," said Army Capt. Jerry Braverman, a physician assistant from Roseburg, Ore., with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment. "When we got here, our mission was to establish this new clinic next to the school and try to set Dr. Abass up for success to be able to independently work free of [the] Ministry of Health, with the long-term goal of getting Ministry of Health doctors and nurses to come out here and assist with the care for the area."
In the meantime, while the facility was being built, the "Top Gun" troops pushed out into the area and held six combined medical engagements, working side by side with Iraqi physicians to treat ailing Iraqis.
At the last medical operation in Rathwaniyah on Nov. 8, soldiers and Iraqi doctors treated about 350 Iraqis in the new medical facility. They treated a variety of illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, sore throats, skin rashes, muscle aches and asthma, Braverman said, and even were able to take care of a few minor tooth problems.
Braverman has been active in engaging the Iraqi physicians, and said he has found these medical engagements rewarding on many fronts.
"For me, it's very rewarding, especially with the kids," he said. "The kids know you by name; they know exactly who you are."
Recently, he said, one child approached him and said when he grows up he wants to be a doctor just like him. Braverman said the soldiers are having a great impact on the children, the sheiks and the local council, who all appreciate what they have done to aid the community.
This medical engagement also provided an opportunity for the soldiers' replacements, from the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, to meet the Iraqi physicians and see first-hand the medical problems many of the citizens face.
Army Capt. Quintin Treadway, a physician assistant from Osceola, Neb., with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, said he is looking forward to the next year and engaging many of Iraqi physicians in the area.
He wants to continue these medical engagements, he said. "I think it engenders a lot of trust within the local people as they see us out there to help them," he explained, "and I think it's the most visible and hands-on way of engendering that trust, because we are actually placing hands on to heal someone. [Medical engagements help to] develop rapport with the local population."
Just as the Top Gun troops have done for the last year, Treadway said he is keen to treat medical conditions and help the Iraqis avoid future ailments through preventive medicine. As his medics hit the streets daily on patrols, he said, he is eager to have them do all they can to help the people, no matter how severe the case.
"I expect my medics ... to assist with what they can with the children out on the streets," he said. "A medic told me the other day a young kid had come up with a pretty good-size cut on his hand, and he bandaged it there on the spot."
Treadway said he wants to get the Ministry of Health more involved with the clinic by providing new equipment, doctors and nurses or supplies, because the clinic plays a vital role within the community.
The clinic, which Braverman describes as one of the best facilities in the area, is treating up to a dozen people a day, on average. It has proved successful since its opening, he said, as Abass, the doctor running the clinic, now can purchase his own supplies in addition to what the government normally provides. However, Braverman said, the clinic is limited in what it can do for the Iraqi people.
Abass said he hopes to add a lab and an X-ray machine, but in the meantime will do all he can with what he has to ensure the good health of his neighbors.
(Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)