Soldier Graduates from Maneuver Captain’s Career Course

LTC Fredrick Dummar, commander of the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at Fort Bragg, NC, congratulated CPT Ivan Castro on graduating from the Maneuver Captain's Career Course.

LTC Fredrick Dummar, commander of the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at Fort Bragg, NC, congratulated CPT Ivan Castro on graduating from the Maneuver Captain's Career Course.

CPT Ivan Castro was the first blind student and graduate of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course (MCCC). He was severely wounded by a mortar blast in 2006 while deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division. With a 20-year Army career under his belt, Castro is determined to continue wearing the uniform and serving the country. He now serves as the operations officer for the U.S. Special Operations Recruiting Battalion, Fort Bragg, NC. I recently was able to catch up with CPT Castro to ask him about his accomplishment.

How did it feel being the first blind student at the MCCC?

I am glad to have completed the course, although it could not have been done without the support from my classmates, cadre, and my command. They treated me like everyone else. There is a place for us wounded warriors—as long as you have the right mindset, are willing to adapt, and have the right attitude and tools.

What tools do you use?

I use an audio voice recorder and screen reader software provided by DOD through programs like CAP [Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program]. CAP is the best! They have provided me with training, hardware, and software in order to continue to be productive in an office setting.

What are some things that have helped you as a wounded Soldier?

CPT Castro ran the Bataan Memorial Death March in 2008.

CPT Castro ran the Bataan Memorial Death March in 2008.

Working out is a stress relief for me. It takes me to another place. I really enjoy spinning, cycling, running, and weight lifting. I have a few marathons coming up this year in March, April, May, June, and all the military service marathons as well. Last year I ran a 50-miler, and I plan to do it again this year. I also have a strict diet, try to get restful sleep, and am blessed with ample support from Family and friends. I also try to give back by mentoring other Soldiers through SOCOM’s Care Coalition. I tell them to look at what they can do and not dwell on the losses. I try to motivate them and give them tough love.

How do you feel about your new position at the recruiting battalion?

It feels great. I have the ability to inform Soldiers about an advanced career opportunity within the Army. Previous to my injury, my intent was to become an SF ODA [Special Forces Operations Detachment Alpha] Team Leader. Since that is no longer possible, my command has allowed me to play a vital role within Special Operations. I love wearing the uniform and love serving the country. I have the experience as an enlisted Soldier and as an officer. I can show interested candidates how Special Forces takes care of you and your Family no matter what.

Give an Hour Provides Free Counseling

By Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder & President of Give an Hour

Give an Hour is a national nonprofit organization delivering free mental health counseling services to active duty service members, members of our National Guard and Reserve forces, and Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have separated or retired from any branch of military service.  In addition to these military personnel and their spouses and children, Give an Hour offers services to parents, siblings, and unmarried partners.  Through our network of nearly 5,000 providers nationwide, we aim to provide easy access to skilled professionals offering a wide range of services including:

  • individual, marital, and family therapy
  • substance abuse counseling
  • treatment for post-traumatic stress
  • counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries

Returning combat Veterans suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are not routinely seeking the mental health treatment they need.  Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing.  Given the military culture’s emphasis on confidence, strength, and bravery, others are reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to counselors who are often military personnel themselves.  By providing free and confidential services that are separate from the military establishment, we offer an essential option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members in need of services can visit www.giveanhour.org and use a zip-code finder to locate a provider in his or her area.  Give an Hour is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Check Out Army Social Media

By COL Kevin V. Arata, Director, Online and Social Media Division Office of the Chief of Public Affairs

The Army has been engaged on the social media front for well over a year now. We are present on four major social media sites—YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook—and have created the ArmyLive blog. We are present on these platforms because we know many people are getting their information this way, much more so than going to a traditional Web site or reading a newspaper. While we still do provide a lot of information on the Army’s Web site (army.mil) to keep people informed about the Army, using social media is becoming a very viable outlet as well.

The great thing about our social media sites is they allow us to instantly share information across multiple outlets, with the added advantage of allowing dialogue amongst our audience members, and between the Army and those who are participating on our sites. Check out our Facebook fan page for a great example of people who are on our page every day, showing support for the Army, asking questions and getting answers, and getting into discussion with fellow fans and the Army.

So why does this matter to you? It’s a great way for Veterans and currently-serving Soldiers and their Families to keep abreast of what’s going on in the Army, in a manner and place where you are probably already present anyway. So rather than have to go find Army-related information, you can become an Army Facebook fan and get news feeds at about the rate of one post per day, that appear in your Facebook news feed. If you are a Twitter user, and follow us on Twitter (@USArmy), you will receive links to interesting Army stories, and be asked questions about things where we want your feedback. And you can get your fill of videos and photos from the Army while surfing YouTube, or checking out photos on Flickr.

I invite you to check out the Army’s social media sites. Check out Army.mil and look for our social media icons. The links there will take you directly to our sites. You can also check out all the other Army units and installations that are actively engaged in the social media sphere. Go to the “All Army Social Media” link under our social media icons. There you will see over 350 official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts from Army units and installations worldwide.

AW2 Weekly Digest February 15-19

  • AW2 Soldier SPC Steve Baskis, featured in the Daily Herald, is participating in “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies” program to help him rebuild his body and train for the 2012 Paralympics in London.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth, featured in the Hampton Roads Daily Press and Hampton Roads Recon, spoke on post-combat stress and traumatic brain injury at the 2010 Virginia is for Heroes Conference in Richmond.
  • AW2 Veteran Dawn Halfaker, featured in Good Housekeeping, discussed the need for more female care at VA medical centers.
  • AW2 Veteran Scott Winkler, featured on WJBF-TV, told his story about competing in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics—which will be chronicled in a movie—and teaching and training other injured Veterans.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What May Help You

As of February 2010, 39% of AW2 Soldiers and Veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Medical professionals are treating PTSD with several different kinds of therapy, counseling, and medications which have proven to be effective. There are alternative therapies and experiences that may also aid in lessoning PTSD symptoms. Please always consult your physician before trying anything new in your treatment. Here are some things that you may want to consider:

Yoga
Several Army posts and military treatment facilities have started teaching yoga classes. It may seem to be a strange idea, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Yoga uses meditation, deep relaxation, stretching, and breathing to reduce physical, emotional, and mental tension. Many people have found it useful in keeping them relaxed, thereby, allowing them to deal with anxiety caused by traumatic events. Some experts believe that therapists treating psychological trauma need to work with the body as well as the mind. Yoga may provide a safe and gentle means of becoming reacquainted with the body and allow people to confront their internal sensations. A study of active-duty Soldiers with PTSD who took yoga found that they were able to sleep better, felt less depressed, felt more comfortable with situations that they couldn’t control, and as a result, felt more control over their lives. If interested, ask your physician about Army or VA locations offering this service.

Service Animals
Service animals are helping people with behavioral health issues live their lives. For example, dogs can wake a person having bad dreams, give a gentle nudge when a person is stressed, and even find misplaced medications. Many people find that service animals allow them to perform daily activities that they couldn’t before, such as running errands. A recent survey showed that 82 percent of PTSD patients with a service dog had a decrease in symptoms, and 40 percent had a decrease in the medication usage. The Department of Defense (DOD) is even starting a 12-month study to find out exactly how the dogs help by comparing Soldiers with PTSD who have dogs with a similar group of Soldiers without a dog. Numerous nonprofit organizations provide service dogs to Soldiers and Veterans at no charge, visit the AW2 Community Support Network Web page for a listing http://www.aw2.army.mil/supporters/index.html.

Theater of War
“Theater of War” is a DOD project designed to remove stigma related to psychological injuries by illustrating how war heroes in history have lived with the psychological effects of battle. The goal of the project is to help military audiences confront and discuss the emotional and psychological effects of combat and war, and the challenges of homecoming. Performances include a dramatic reading of selected scenes from the plays “Ajax” and “Philoctetes” by Sophocles, performed by a rotating cast of film and stage actors. The reading is followed by a town-hall discussion with the audience and a panel of members from the local military community. The Army has sponsored several performances, and 100 performances in 50 military venues are scheduled in the next year. For more information on future performances at Army bases, visit Theater of War at http://www.theater-of-war.com/.

For more information on PTSD and treatment options, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/ForHealthPros/PTSDTreatmentOptions.aspx.

References:

Yoga

Reeves, Steve. “Yoga Helps Vets Find Balance.” Army News. 7 Jan. 2010. http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/01/07/32565-yoga-helps-vets-find-balance/.

Wills, Denise Kersten. “Healing Life’s Traumas.” Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2532.

Service Animals

Suchetka, Diane. “Giving Comfort, Courage to Heal: Psychiatric Service Dogs Offer Patients New Life Outlook.” The Plain Dealer. 26 Jan. 2010. http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2010/01/giving_comfort_
courage_to_heal.html.

Gardner, Amanda. “Service Dogs Help Traumatized Veterans Heal.” U.S. News & World Report. 3 Sept. 2009. http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2009/09/03/service-dogs-help-traumatized-veterans-heal.html.

Theater of War

Theater of War. Army Stand-To. 26 Jan. 2010. http://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2010/01/26/.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Write a blog for AW2

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families can submit a blog for AW2 by emailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.