Newest Recovery Care Coordinators learn importance of centralized resources for wounded warriors, families

Training took place last week for the newest class of Recovery Care Coordinators, and they are now hard at work coordinating the non-medical needs of recovering Service members and their families around the country.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, Mr. John R. Campbell, opened the week-long training on December 5 by thanking Recovery Care Coordinators (RCCs) for rising to the challenge of caring for recovering Service members, and by reminding them of the critical nature of their jobs to be a one-stop resource for Service members and families.

Mr. John Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Carea and Transition Policy opened December's Recovery Care Coordinator training by thanking RCCs for the critical work they do on behalf of recovering Service members and families.

Michael Bihr, a new RCC who attended training last week, agreed with Mr. Campbell whole-heartedly. Michael saw first-hand the needs of wounded warriors and his families during a 37-year Army career, and it was an understanding of those needs that prompted him to become an RCC. Michael will be working with SOCOM wounded warriors in Tampa, Florida.

“For me, personally, if I can help one Soldier, I think I’ll meet the accomplishment,” Michael said. “If you can be that centralized core for him and his family, to pull it together, that’s critical.”

During the rest of the week, RCCs learned about all the services, programs and resources available to recovering Service members and their families, including the Transition Assistance Program, the Operation Warfighter Federal internship program, the Wounded Warrior Education and Employment Initiative, and the Warrior Athletic Reconditioning Program, all sponsored by the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, as well as other Federal programs from agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration.

Recovery Care Coordinators also took a field trip to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a PTSD and TBI research and treatment facility on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, as well as to the 779th Aeromedical Staging Facility, which is the first entry-point for most wounded warriors returning to the United States from theater.

Ed Salau, a Marine and Army Reserve veteran, shared his experience as a wounded warrior with Recovery Care Coordinators during December's training event. The poster in the background includes a photo of Ed at the base camp of Mount Rainier.

To end the week, the RCCs heard from 1LT (Ret.) Ed Salau, a wounded warrior who lost his leg in Iraq and later climbed 10,000 feet to the base camp of Mount Rainier. Ed commended RCCs for the work they do, and encouraged them to help recovering Service members and family members achieve as much as possible.

To illustrate his point, Ed used the example of his own ascent of Mount Rainier. When he reached base camp at 10,000 feet elevation, it was decided that he couldn’t go any further because his prosthetic knee would not support the descent from the summit.

What Ed didn’t know, however, was that a small joint in his prosthetic knee could have been adjusted to support the requirements of the climb. If he had had an RCC, Ed said, that person could have gone down a checklist with him to ensure he had all the tools he needed for his hike, including the allen wrench he needed to adjust his knee, and he probably would have made it to the top.

“You would have known so much about me and what’s been put on me and what’s been slung on me that I would have made it beyond 10,000 feet,” Ed said. “I’m humbled by what you do. Work to get the rest of them to 14,411 feet.”

There are now 171 Recovery Care Coordinators working with Service members and families in 84 locations around the world.