Saturday, August 18, 2012

PP12 Surgeons Provide Unique Service Aboard Mercy

USNS MERCY, At Sea (NNS) -- Surgeons aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) provided a unique and relevant service to Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) participants in the form of minor surgeries, Aug. 14.

During the transit from the mission's final port in Cambodia to Guam, service members were able to request various surgeries to be performed on Mercy.

"A lot of the surgeries were minor cases from the removal of small lumps and bumps to orthopedic cases," said Cmdr. Matthew Provencher, a general surgeon aboard Mercy. "These were all cases that improve function and also help that individual return with the highest mission readiness possible."

Provencher said the reason behind offering the surgeries was to say thank you to the hard work the crew put in during the PP12 mission.

"We have the best that the armed forces has to offer in terms of surgical and nursing expertise and we thought it would be a great opportunity to offer elective surgery to the crew on a limited basis in terms of the complexity of the procedure goes," he said. "It was a small way of saying thank you to everyone that helped care for all of our patients throughout the mission."

Cpl. Aaron Morice, a surgery recipient, said the surgery was a new and welcomed experience.

"I didn't really think I would go on the ship as part of the mission and then be a part of the mission by getting surgery," he said. "It is definitely a privilege and for the crew, it is more secondhand because we were out here for the host nations to help them. It is nice to be able to get something removed that has been an annoyance for a year."

Provencher said the surgeries were an opportunity to finish the mission strong.

"I think this was a great opportunity to leverage a little bit of downtime and also capitalize on our surgical, nursing and technician expertise in order to provide a very good service to the crew," he said. "It helped us go full circle with the mission and get back to working with our normal patient populations for when we go back to our parent commands."

This service allowed service members to receive surgeries during downtime so when they return to their parent commands, they will not miss work.

Mercy's crew is now finished with working ports which included Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia in support of PP12. While at the mission ports, patients were provided free medical, dental and optometry care along with veterinary care for pets and livestock.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission U.S. military, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Stay Alert, Stay Alive

By Capt. Michelle Baer
Wisconsin Army National Guard

Recent mass shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and Sikh Temple in Wisconsin may have you concerned about public safety and while all acts of violence aren’t necessary signs of terrorism, we in the military are taught to stay alert.

One such avenue is through annual Antiterrorism Awareness Training. But is it effective? For me, I would say “yes”. However, if you quizzed me on the eight signs of terrorism, I would fail.

The Army training model is repetition. Antiterrorism training is no different. Soldiers go through an hour of antiterrorism training every year. One of the goals is to ensure that Soldiers maintain situational awareness at all times. In a high-stress situation, you will always revert back to your training.

I have taken the antiterrorism training at least 10 times. Now when I sit in a restaurant, I naturally choose the seat facing the door. When I eat with my husband he also wants to face the door so I occasionally give him the better seat. However, we both want the seat for the same reason; in order to maintain situational awareness.

Situational awareness is knowing who and what are around you and having a plan to react in case of an emergency. I know that I stand out from the crowd when I wear the uniform and I understand that I could become a target. It is something I do not take lightly.

As I was leaving a busy Department of Motor Vehicle office, someone was walking about five paces behind me. Before I joined the Army, I would not have thought twice about someone walking behind me. However, after 10 years of antiterrorism training, I discreetly stepped into the grass adjusted my boot laces and waited for the person to pass.

Awareness is your first line of defense. Most people think of kicks to the groin and blocking punches when they hear the term “self-defense.” However, true self-defense begins long before any actual physical contact. The first, and probably most important, component in self-defense is awareness: awareness of yourself, your surroundings and your potential attacker’s likely strategies.

The criminal’s primary strategy is to use the advantage of surprise. Criminals are adept at choosing targets that appear to be unaware of what is going on around them. By being aware of your surroundings and by projecting a “force presence,” many altercations which are commonplace on the street can be avoided.

It is easy to discard antiterrorism training as a check-the-box requirement that we, as service members, need to do year-after-year. But for the sake of you and your loved ones, you should take it seriously and be aware because you never know when something tragic can happen.

Reintegration Support and Why It Matters

By U.S. Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Dana Lee
DCoE licensed clinical social worker

Deployment support programs initially focused on the needs of service members in the pre-deployment phase as they trained and prepared for deployment. With the progression of combat operations during the past 11 years, our understanding of deployment-related challenges for service members, veterans and families is better understood, and the importance of the actual deployment and post-deployment phases is also more apparent.

Reintegration is the process of transitioning back into personal and organizational roles after a deployment. It’s often seen as a series of positive events as the service member reunites with family and friends. However, it can also be associated with increased tension and difficulties readjusting to stateside roles, new family routines and changes at work — all of which can affect a service member’s ability to transition smoothly back to home life.

We now know, it’s common for service members to return from a deployment changed, shaped by their experiences. To help improve our understanding of the issues service members and their families face post-deployment, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) developed, “A Review of Post-Deployment Reintegration: Evidence, Challenges and Strategies for Program Development.” This report addresses the need for greater understanding of the factors that promote positive reintegration experiences and the importance of support resources during this process.

As important facilitators of the reintegration experience, military leaders, program managers and health care providers will benefit from recommendations that help them define and evaluate support resources across populations and services, a method currently lacking in consensus. A DCoE review of reintegration literature and support resources includes the following recommendations:

■Develop a cross-service, cross-agency definition and approach to reintegration policies and directives
■Implement an integrated approach to reintegration
■Improve access to behavioral health services, education and resources
■Conduct assessments of non-clinical needs (e.g., family support or counseling, finance assistance or counseling)
■Develop and implement reintegration assessment procedures and metrics

The Total Force Fitness model of readiness, resilience and performance informed the DCoE selection of information and resources on the reintegration process and relevant reintegration issues, and suggestions for further resource development to help service members and their families navigate the post-deployment period.

Undoubtedly, the challenges that today’s active-duty military members experience as they reintegrate to life stateside are unique and complex; even more so, for members of the reserve component. And as the military drawdown and plans to reduce the force continues to unfold, it’s now more important than ever for leaders at all levels to provide a unified, sustainable and integrated approach to support the reintegration needs of service members, veterans and families.