Warrior Care Month Leadership Perspective

  • Published
  • By Col. Richard L. Obert
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

This is the first opportunity I’ve had as the new Director of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) to talk about what Warrior Care means to me. In the short time I have been director I have learned a number of things and have been introduced to a number of amazing people.

And that, is where it all begins, with people. Warrior Care is about people. We support Air Force wounded, ill and injured through a complex process they did not ask to be part of.  These young men and women are my brothers and sisters in arms, and I feel personally obligated to support them in their time of need. 

Now, anyone in my position understands they do not do this alone. I am fortunate to work with a group of dedicated, passionate people that interact with wounded warriors, caregivers and families on a daily basis. Some of them are even wounded warriors themselves, giving them a perspective that is valuable to this team. The daily work is not easy, as each case has its own set of challenges, but our team makes it look far easier than it is. From an outsider’s viewpoint they work miracles every day, often multiple times in a day.

From my perspective there are two things that I feel are critical to helping a wounded warrior achieve success in their recovery. The first is the Recovery Care Plan.

This plan, built in collaboration with the Care Management Team and the wounded warrior, sets goals and milestones on the road to recovery. Each step of the process is meant to build on the last, with the intent of reaching the new “normal” as easily as possible. This is done through personalized support and advocacy, with the overall intent of returning the Airman to active duty. If that is not possible the team works to help provide the smoothest transition to the veterans affairs and their communities as possible.

Part of the Recovery Care Plan involves incorporating support programs such as the Ambassador and Outreach Program, Recovering Airman Mentorship, Wellness and Resilience, Empowerment in Transition, Adaptive Sports, and Caregiver Support. These programs, along with the hard work put in by the Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC) and Non-Medical Care Manager (NMCM), combine to help a wounded warrior navigate what is often the most difficult time in their lives.

The second critical component to Warrior Care is mentorship. Our job is to facilitate the connections between wounded warriors, helping them build their own support network that will last long after they have reached the end of the medical process.  This is done with the help of trained mentors; wounded warriors that have been through the process and want to help, using their experiences to guide mentorees along the road to recovery. They share these experiences, both good and bad, to lessen the stress felt by the wounded warrior they mentor.

It is people that drives both critical components. Without the hands-on approach of our Care Management Teams in conjunction with the support programs and assistance of fellow wounded warriors, we would not be able to provide the level of care expected. Every person in the process is vital to the overall success, not only of the program, but of the wounded warrior’s long-term recovery and resiliency.

I learn new things daily as the AFW2 director, and I fully expect to continue learning new things about this program all the way to my final day on the job. I’ve been surprised to find out just how hard it can be to navigate Air Force processes when faced with a life-changing wounds, injury or illness.

That is where AFW2 comes in. We do our best to break down some of those barriers in the process and are intent on being a resource that people will not be afraid to ask support from. If you look at our calendar of events you will see that we are constantly striving to maintain connections, providing information and resources that we hope will help Airmen or veterans throughout the process.

In 2020, we’ve found ourselves having to go about business in a completely different way. Despite the challenges, Warrior Care does not stop; only the manner in which we deliver it. The future will bring opportunities and challenges as we continue to operate in a virtual space, providing support via virtual events.  The goal is to continue providing virtual connections while working towards the day when we can deepen those connections, face-to-face. 

I have learned a lot about the Warrior Care Program, the Warriors, and the people providing the support; I will continue to support Warriors and their families as best I can.  AFW2 will continue to provide outstanding support as well as improve areas of weakness.  I look forward to seeing everyone in a virtual environment as well as in-person. 

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