Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proposed Leave Rule Would Provide for Warrior Care

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - Defense Department federal employees could receive up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a military family member injured in the line of duty if an Office of Personnel Management proposal is adopted. The proposal would allow eligible federal employees to take 26 "administrative work weeks" provided for under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a servicemember wounded in the line of duty, OPM officials explained during a telephone conference call.

The provision would extend to families of National Guard members or reservists injured while on active duty, explained Jerry Mikowicz, OPM deputy associate director for pay and leave administration.

To qualify, the federal employee must be the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of the servicemember declared medically unfit to serve, he said.

The OPM proposal also would allow agencies to advance up to 30 days of sick leave to federal workers who care for wounded military family members.

OPM also has recommended other sick-leave regulation changes to help agencies better plan for outbreaks of pandemic influenza or other serious communicable diseases.

The proposed rule would allow for agencies to advance up to 13 days of sick leave to care for a family member who has been exposed to a serious communicable disease and who health authorities say would jeopardize others' health. Federal employees also could receive up to 30 days of advanced sick leave if they are exposed to or stricken by a communicable disease that could be further spread in the workplace, Mikowicz said.

The OPM proposals were published in yesterday's Federal Register, and the public will have 60 days to comment on them.

OPM officials will review the comments before issuing a final rule, which will proceed through the regulatory process required before it is implemented, Mikowicz said.

New GI Bill Will Heighten Professional Work Force

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - More college-educated professionals will enter the next generation's professional work force as a result of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said this week at the American Legion's 91st National Convention in Louisville, Ky. Shinseki lauded the organization's efforts in advocating the new legislation, just as it fought for the original GI Bill more than 65 years ago.

"Just as you were responsible for the passage of the original GI Bill in 1944, your commitment here was instrumental, yet again, in getting this 9/11 GI Bill through the Congress," Shinseki said.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect Aug. 1, and with its expanded benefits and the option of transferring benefits to family members, it's likely to affect the country the way the original GI Bill did in 1944, he said.

Between 1944 and 1956, millions of veterans took advantage of educational benefits provided by the original bill and helped to fill the nation's work force with qualified and trained professionals. Although they no longer wore the military uniform, the veterans' contributions to the country weren't any less significant, he said.

"Returning World War II veterans leveraged the educational opportunities they had under the original GI Bill into sustained economic growth for the nation, catapulting the nation into the world's largest economy [and into a position of] leadership in the free world," he said. "Our country became richer by 450,000 trained engineers, 240,000 accountants, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 66,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists and [by] millions of other college-educated veterans who went on to lead our great country in the second half of the 20th century.

"This new Post-9/11 GI Bill has the potential to impact the country in the same way, thanks to your leadership and the leadership in country," he added. "You've been our eyes and ears for identifying needs for veterans."

The education opportunities also will help VA in its struggle to end homelessness among veterans, which, Shinseki said, also will have an indirect but positive effect on a host of other issues. Veterans lead the nation in homelessness, he said, and also are ranked among the highest groups in the country for depression and substance abuse.

In 2003, more than 195,000 veterans were without homes. Shinseki pointed to a lack of education and employment opportunities, as well as mental-health and substance-abuse issues, as the main reasons for the over-representation of homeless veterans.

Today, VA estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless, and Shinseki said he's determined to get them off the streets within the next five years. His department and President Barack Obama's administration are moving in the right direction to tackle the issue, he said, but he noted it won't be easy.

"We're moving in the right direction to remove this block from all of our consciences, and are committed to ending homelessness," he said. "No one that has served the nation as we have should live without care and without hope. I know there are no absolutes in life, ... but I also know that if we don't put a big target out there, we won't get our best efforts."

Homelessness is the last stop in an unfortunate road for many veterans, the secretary said. "To do this well, we'll have to attack the entire downward spiral that ends in homelessness," he said. "We must offer education, we must offer jobs, we must treat depression and we must treat substance abuse, [and] we must offer safe housing [for homeless veterans]. We must do it all."

The Post-9/11 GI Bill may not deliver an immediate impact on the homeless issue and others that veterans may face, but education is a long-term investment that will ensure many of their futures, he said.

"This investment in America's future will go on for decades to come," he said. "I told you what happened the first time we did this: thousands of trained engineers, scientists, doctors, dentists, accountants [and] teachers. Lightning is about to strike twice. And those who've answered our nation's call are going to be benefited into being leaders for our country in the 21st century through this program."

Doctors, Scientists Team Up to Improve Wound Care

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 25, 2009 - READER'S COMMENT:

Ronny R Dunn
Retired 1st Sgt.
Army Infantry
Aug. 26, 2009

Fred, I read your article regarding the fantastic work the medical professionals are researching.

Having been wounded by multiple fragmentation wounds myself I can attest to the fact that some wounds don't heal the same as the others. Even though they were from the same IED.

Having had my wounds cleaned daily the same way as all other soldiers and new bandages stuffed in the gaping holes.
The most terrifying times for me were when the nurses came in to change my bandages.

My god what excruciating pain. I always wondered why they didn't give me some sort of sedative or pain killer an hour before the procedure. I must tell you I more frightened of the nurses than the doctor. Surely in this day and age we have some sort of local numbing procedure to help alleviate this daily ritual of pain.

Besides the tormenting site of my buddies lying dead and other bad memories, I still have dreams of the nurses and their saline bottles, and those god awful tongs they used to pull the gauze out of the deep tissue.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2009 -- Army Spc. Adonnis Anderson said he knew the pain was coming.

After a bomb blew off much of his left forearm in Iraq in 2003, nurses came to his room daily to wash out his wounds. He described the treatment as two minutes of torture. They would swab the open wound as Anderson gritted his teeth and white-knuckle gripped the hospital bed railing.

"On a [pain] scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 15. It hurt really bad," Anderson said.

But the pain was a necessary evil. After being evacuated from the battlefield, Anderson's new fight was against dangerous infections that could destroy his chances of keeping his arm.

Anderson's story is not unique. Many soldiers evacuated from today's war zones suffer complex wounds from their injuries.

Bones are broken, and skin is burned or ripped by searing shrapnel. Mud, metal and fuel are fused into the wound. Harmful bacteria and other organisms are at work in the troops' bodies before they can be carried from the battlefield.

For the first time within the Defense Department, military doctors and scientists are working hand in hand to understand and improve the treatment of these complex wounds.

As part of an overarching, interservice combat wound initiative, scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology are researching the makeup of complex wounds to help doctors in military hospitals better individualize and chart a course of care.

Dubbed "translational research," this partnership breaks down traditional barriers between the scientists who study the medical intricacies of the wounds and the clinicians who provide the care for the wounded. Now, each supports the work of the other, basically taking the science from "the bench" to the "bedside."

At the core of their work, scientists and doctors hope to discover why some wounds heal and others resist treatment.

Army Col. (Dr.) Alexander Stojadinovic, a surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, heads the combat wound initiative program. He said that while two wounds may look similar, they don't always react to treatment the same.

"We were perplexed. Why, when you close one [wound] it heals uneventfully, and when you close the other it has a complication that impairs healing? When by all criteria that we traditionally use you would have expected it to heal," Stojadinovic said.

Since early 2008, Stojadinovic has spearheaded efforts to merge the actions of military and private hospitals to address complex wound care.

He now has a staff of Army and Navy doctors that operates out of Walter Reed's Military Advanced Training Center. They deliver all of the needed specialists to the patients to collaborate on care.

"The nature of battlefield wounds today is complex. These are difficult medical problems that really challenge our creativity, our knowledge base and bring to bear teams," Stojadinovic said. "There's no single individual that can address all the problems that result from blast injuries."

When Stojadinovic decided to add a research arm to his program, he did not have to look far. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology sits right in his back yard, situated on the same complex as Walter Reed.

About a year ago, Stojadinovic began talking with officials at the institute about research that can help doctors decide how to treat a wound and determine when it can be closed without further risk of infection. Many wounded troops are forced to endure several additional operations solely to remove infection. According to officials at the institute, the average soldier with complex wounds takes nine trips to the operating room.

Now, using troops enrolled in clinical trials at Walter Reed, doctors provide the scientists with wound fluids, blood and tissue that otherwise would be discarded. Scientists at the institute study the wound and provide feedback to the attending physicians. Scientists also study metal and other fragments that are taken from the wounds.

Depending on the study, scientists work to determine the number of bacteria in the sample, and characterize them genetically. The degree of bacterial contamination in a wound affects how it heals. Providing doctors with the number and type of bacteria allows them to avoid treatments that won't work and target treatments that will.

Officials also plan to use the data gathered in the studies to develop tools, such as a computer program, that will help doctors make faster, more tailored treatment decisions.

About 150 wounded troops are participating in clinical trials now. Their samples are stored in a repository at the institute of pathology. They are frozen and can be stored indefinitely.

This repository also can be to provide wound data for conflicts generations from now, said Dr. Mina Izadjoo, a microbiologist and the division chief of the wound biology and translational research at the institute.

Besides providing research for the clinical studies and maintaining the repository, Izadjoo's division also tests promising treatments that will advance wound care.

Already, a field deployable "dipstick" kit that can detect types of bacteria in a wound is being tested. This will allow doctors in the combat hospitals to identify which antibiotic to use first, she said.

"The bottom-line goal is [quickly] providing enough background information that leads to faster recovery of the wounded soldiers," she said.

(If you would like to comment on or have questions about this story, contact Fred Baker at

Somali Pirates Fire on Navy Helicopter

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - Somali pirates aboard a hijacked ship fired at a U.S. Navy helicopter yesterday, Navy officials said. According to the Navy, the helicopter from the USS Chancellorsville was not hit, and there were no injuries. The helicopter did not return fire.

The chopper received fire while on a surveillance flight over a Taiwanese-flagged vessel that pirates had captured in April. Footage taken from the SH-60B helicopter shows at least one pirate opening fire with what appears to be "a large-caliber weapon," officials said.

Somali pirates hijacked the Taiwanese-flagged Win Far vessel April 6, and since have used it as a "mother ship" to conduct attacks, most notably on the U.S.-flagged Maersk-Alabama in April. The incident occurred in the Indian Ocean south of Garacad, Somalia, where the Win Far is anchored.

During the flight, the aircrew members observed pirate activity, but did not confirm they were fired on until their return to Chancellorsville and review of the infrared surveillance footage. The helicopter was about 3,000 yards from Win Far when it happened.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command news release.)

Chairman Honors Wounded Soldier for Selfless Service

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted on a recent visit to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., that wounded veterans recovering there all had one thing in common. "These are individuals, without arms and legs at that point, who had one common desire -- and that was to get back with their unit," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said Aug. 25 at the presentation ceremony for the 2009 International Brain Mapping and Interoperative Surgical Planning Society's Beacon of Courage and Dedication Awards in Boston. "Their only concern was, 'How do I get out of here and get back with them?'"

A desire to serve again also was expressed by one of the award recipients, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Colin Rich, who recovered from two traumatic brain injuries and returned to active duty each time.

And while he was given top-notch medical care for each injury, Mullen credits Rich's wife with completing the healing process.

"While we honor Colin tonight, we do so only because he has been incredibly supported by Nancy, who represents thousands and thousands of spouses and children and parents who've made such a difference to those who've been wounded and who offer so much for the future of our country as Colin does tonight," Mullen said. "It is an honor and a privilege to recognize, introduce and be able to say for over 2 million men and women who serve, how special you are, Colin ... and now, have been and always will be."

Speaking off the cuff because his head injuries have made reading difficult, Rich thanked the chairman.

"Admiral Mullen's kind of stolen some of my thunder," he joked. "He talked about my wife and all the other countless spouses and family members out there that have borne the brunt of this war as much as any soldier has."

His said his wife, Nancy, has been his pharmacist, his neurologist, counselor and masseuse.

"She was the first thing I saw after countless seizures. She was the last thing I saw after trying to get to sleep when I was in miserable pain," Rich said. "I've told her on countless occasions, 'Nancy, have I told you I love you today and thank you for everything you've done for me?'

"Today, I want to say it publicly," he added. "Nancy, have told you I love you and thanked you for everything that you have done for me?'"

He went on to accept the award on her behalf.

Rich joined the Army Reserve on April 13, 1981, and was recruited into active duty June 28, 1985. By late 1986, as a private, he had been assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment as an infantryman. Eight years and four months later, Staff Sergeant Rich moved on to his next assignment and several schools, which led him to serve in the ranks of 1st Special Operations Detachment, also known as Delta Force, in May 1994.

Later that year, a .45-caliber bullet "bounced off the front of my head," he said. "If I'd been an inch taller, we wouldn't be talking here right now."

Fast-forward to Shken, Afghanistan, on Dec. 28, 2002, and Rich was shot a second time in the head.

"OK, this is no kidding," Rich told the crowd gathered for the award presentation. "A .308 bullet hit me in the back of the head. If I was one inch taller, again, we would not be having this conversation today, and that is no exaggeration."

Rich served on active duty for another four years before retiring in 2007 with full disability. He's faced multiple challenges since the injuries, and he has a guide dog primarily to help him overcome visual impairment, but he still hasn't let the challenges he faces slow him down.

He's training for a 300-mile solo venture on the Appalachian Trail.

ABC News anchorman Bob Woodruff, who suffered traumatic brain injury while reporting on hostilities in Iraq, also was presented with the Beacon of Courage and Dedication Award.

The award was part of the 6th Annual World Conference for Brain Mapping and Image Guided Therapy, co-hosted by the society and publisher of scientific information, Elsevier.


Air BP a division of BP Products North America, Inc., Warrenville, Ill. is being awarded a maximum $112,125,808 fixed price with economic price adjustment, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for fuel. There are multiple locations of performance. Using service is the Defense Energy Support Center. There were 69 proposals originally solicited with four responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-09-D-0510).

Frank Gargiulo & Son Inc., Hillside, N.J.*, is being awarded a maximum $13,050,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment, total set aside contract for full line fresh fruit and vegetable support. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and USDA schools. The original proposal was Web solicited with six responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the first option year period. The date of performance completion is February 26, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM300-08-D-P027).

Terex Corporation, Fredericksburg, Va., is being awarded a maximum $5,624,730 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for rock crusher jaw plant. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Navy. There were originally two proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is June 30, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0044-0032).

Raytheon Company, Goleta, Calif., was award a $19,809,007 modified contract to exercise and fund the low rate initial production option of the ALR-69A upgrade development contract. At this time the entire amount has been awarded. 542 CBSG/PKS, Robins Air Force Base is the contracting activity. (F09603-01-C-0330-P00127)

Black Construction Corp., /MACE International Joint Venture, GMF Barrigada, Guam, is being awarded a $19,180,000 firm-fixed price contract for upgrades to the existing air ops water treatment plant and air ops wastewater treatment plant, and to construct a one-story warehouse and wharf utility improvements at Naval Support Facility, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. Work will be performed in Diego Garcia, and is expected to be completed by July 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website with two proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Far East, Yokosuka, Japan, is the contracting activity (N40084-09-C-0018).

Ikhana/Choate -1 LLC*, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., is being awarded a $13,385,855 firm-fixed price construction contract for the construction of two child development centers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, N.C., and is expected to be completed by June 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $7,095,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 41 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-3209).

Consigli Construction Co., Inc., Milford, Mass., is being awarded $9,039,438 for firm-fixed price task order #0003 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N40085-08-D-2112) for construction of a consolidated emergency control center at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The work to be performed provides for the construction of a three level, steel framed reinforced concrete facility with the ground level located below grade to directly support radiological emergency response as required. This facility will house the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) radiological emergency response organization and will serve as its command and control center during an emergency. This facility, as constructed, will also support PNSY response to other natural disasters (e.g., destructive weather) or manmade emergencies (e.g. terrorist attack) involving chemical, biological, and radiological contaminants. The contract also contains six unexercised options, which if exercised would increase the cumulative contract value to $12,035,066. Work will be performed in Kittery, Maine, and is expected to be completed by April 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems, Land & Armaments L.P., U.S. Combat Systems, Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded a $7,893,637 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117) to procure a MK 110 naval gun, including onboard repair parts and special tooling and test equipment, in support of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime National Security Cutter WMSL-753. The 57mm MK 110 gun, along with its ammunition, provides an all-purpose naval gun system that is effective against aircraft targets, missile targets, at-sea surface targets, and shore targets. This compact, lightweight gun is unmanned and fully automatic, with computerized ammunition movement within the mount and reloading from two ship-mounted hoists. Work will be performed in Karlskoga, Sweden (45 percent); Louisville, Ky., (40 percent); and Fridley, Minn. (15 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Kollmorgen Corp., Electro-Optical Division, Northampton, Mass., is being awarded a $7,352,252 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-6227) for the production of eight Virginia Class universal modular masts (UMM) and 1 UMM interface box unit, providing an SSN 785 shipset. The UMM program provides for the development and acquisition of a non-hull penetrating mast that serves as a lifting mechanism for five sensor configurations (the photonics mast, the multi-function mast, the integrated electronic mast, the high data rate mast, and the photonics mast variant on the Virginia Class and SSGN Class submarines. Each sensor is mounted on a UMM. Work will be performed Northampton, Mass., (20 percent) and Bologna, Italy (80 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Head, Inc.*, Columbus, Ohio, is being awarded a $6,783,933 firm-fixed-price construction contract to repair Runways 13L/31R and repair taxiways at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Work will be performed in Corpus Christi, Texas, and is expected to be completed by August 2010. Funds for this project are provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website with four (4) proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity (N69450-09-C-0766).

Alliant Techsystems, Inc., Rocket Center, W.V., is being awarded a $6,314,928 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0036) to exercise an option for the procurement of 555 Mk 36 Mod 13 spare rocket motors for the AIM-9M missile carried on F/A-18E/F aircraft. Work will be performed in Rocket Center, W.V. (50 percent); Chatsworth, Calif.(17 percent); Chandler, Ariz.(6 percent); Newburyport, Mass.(6 percent); Cedar City, Utah (3 percent); Jeannette, Pa.,(3 percent); Fort Worth, Texas (2 percent), and various locations throughout the United States (13 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $6,314,928 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Academy Offers Soldiers Second Chance at Diploma

By Army Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - Army National Guard leaders from around the country converged on this remote training center yesterday for the dedication of the National Guard's first and only academy designed to help soldiers receive their high school diplomas. The Patriot Academy is a National Guard Bureau initiative allowing high school dropouts ages 17 through 20 a second opportunity to earn their diploma.

Currently, 47 students from 16 states are attending the academy, which is staffed by a full-time cadre of active duty National Guardsmen.

"The Patriot Academy can be described in two words: 'second chance,'" said Army Col. Perry Sarver Jr., the academy's commandant. "These soldiers are here because they have unfinished business, and they are getting a second chance to right a wrong. These young men have started down a path that will change their lives forever."

The nine-month program was launched last June under the guidance of now-retired Army Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, then the Army National Guard director, for high school dropouts who weren't able to finish high school for reasons other than disciplinary or legal.

Students first attend basic training prior to arriving here, and then move on to their advanced individual training after receiving their diploma.

Although the first class consists of all men, the academy will be tailored to accommodate coed students in the future.

"Our mission is, very simply, to educate and train these young men to become the best citizen-soldiers in the Army National Guard," Sarver said.

While at the academy, the student-soldiers receive a nationally accredited diploma through online courses offered through Liberty University.

While Army initiatives are designed to award GED certificates to its students, the Patriot Academy is the only program that offers a diploma.

Vaughn said the Patriot Academy is an investment in the Army's most precious asset.

"It's a work force that's not going to be available if we don't get it right," he said. "It's someone that's not going to reach their full potential if we don't get that diploma early enough. We depend on this organization right here in this state to get it right."

In addition to academics, the students are required to attend Army training and accomplish community service projects around Indiana's Jennings County.

"The academy will be strengthening the connection of each student-soldier with that community service they provide," said Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman. "The culture of service has never been more important to our state and our nation. It's my hope that the graduates of this program return home with a real understanding of what it means to be a good neighbor as well as what it means to be a good soldier."

One student-soldier attending the academy, Army Pvt. Ismael Ramirez Jr., said the academy has given him a chance to serve and to accomplish something he never thought he could.

A native of Roanoke, Texas, Ramirez was unable to receive his diploma because Texas law requires high school students to pass a qualifications exam. "I had the credits I needed, but I didn't pass the final exam, so I wasn't issued a diploma," he said.

After speaking with a recruiter and learning about the academy, Ramirez said that he wanted to join just because of the diploma program.

"Just the fact that I could get a high school diploma rather than a GED sounded better to me," he said. "It just makes me feel and sound like I've completed my school. Like our sergeant major once told us, we're not going to get this chance again. If you get the opportunity to come to the Patriot Academy to have your second chance, you actually get paid to go to school and learn new things.

"When it's all said and done, you walk out of here with extra knowledge," he said. "You walk out of here stronger."

(Army Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III serves in the Indiana National Guard.)

Chairman Cites Urgent Need for Brain Injury Treatments

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2009 - Time is of the essence when it comes to finding better treatments for traumatic brain injuries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday at the 6th Annual World Congress for Brain Mapping and Image Guided Therapy. "What I worry about the most is these young men and women who are sustaining these blast injuries are typically, most of them, in their 20s," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during his keynote address, which opened the congress in Boston. "There's 30, 40, 50 years of life out there, and just in my brief discussions with some of you, this doesn't get better with time.

"We don't have a lot of time," he added. "We need to have a sense of urgency and treatment that gets to solutions as rapidly as we can."

Another difficult challenge for the military is post-traumatic stress, Mullen said, which affects more than just those who fight on the front lines. It's emerging in military families, as well.

"We're seeing it in spouses, and we're starting to see it, or some version of it, in children," Mullen said. "Our system is very focused on military members, and so getting family assistance at [the Veterans Affairs Department], for instance, or family help at the VA, is not part of the law at this point."

In an effort to solve these tough challenges, Mullen advocated the integration of work being done in different fields as a "clear and compelling requirement" to achieving the urgent solution the military seeks.

There's much to learn, he said, citing the list of papers and subjects in the research area. As a Defense Department leader, Mullen said, he wants to be an asset and an advocate and to try to figure out, even inside the military, how to connect what he calls the "line leadership" with the medical side.

"I will tell you that these wars have done many things, and one of the things that they've done is accelerated the integration between medicine and medical leadership and line leadership, which was, in its own way, greatly stovepiped before these wars started," Mullen said. "It's just because of the way we built the system over time, and those things have to change."

That design could be a downfall for the military, he said. The military's future is embedded in its people, and part of the reason people stay in the military is because they know they'll be cared for, he said. If that promise isn't delivered every day, servicemembers and their families will go elsewhere.

"Time really does matter right now, because as you can just read the headlines today, we have young men and women who are sustaining these kinds of injuries every single day," he said.

The 6th Annual World Congress for Brain Mapping and Image Guided Therapy is co-hosted by the International Brain Mapping and Intraoperative Surgical Planning Society and Elsevier, publisher of scientific information.