Hiring Initiative Allows IED Survivors to Fight Back
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2006 Servicemembers seriously injured by improvised explosive devices during duty in the global war on terror are getting a unique opportunity to use their experience to combat and prevent future IED attacks.
The Joint IED Defeat Organization here has entered into full partnership with the Operation Warfighter program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in an initiative to target, recruit and hire servicemembers, including many who have suffered serious injuries from IED attacks.
Operation Warfighter is a nationwide program that places wounded servicemembers in positions within the federal government. Thanks to this partnership, these servicemembers can now continue their service to the nation working for the Joint IED Defeat Organization, and possibly can transition into government service or civilian positions in the same organization once they leave active duty.
"This is an opportunity for these true heroes to get back into the fight," said Army Sgt. Maj. Clifford Lovejoy, who oversaw the recruitment and hiring of 22 soldiers. Five of them are currently on staff at the Joint IED Defeat Organization, which was created in October 2003 originally as an Army task force to serve as the single focal point for all Defense Department IED defeat activities.
Using a balance of intelligence, training and technology, the organization wages a coordinated campaign to defeat current and future IED threats endangering joint and coalition forces, officials said.
"This organization will certainly benefit from the presence, experience and competencies of recuperating OWF personnel who have been injured as a result of an IED attack," said Army Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, the JIEDDO's deputy director. "They have first-hand knowledge of the threat and the challenges being faced in the theater. Synergies will be gained by having them integrated into the staff here."
This initiative also provides valuable support services for the servicemembers brought into the organization. JIEDDO supervisors oversee the transportation needs of each individual, arranging for parking and transit passes as appropriate. More importantly, the work week is modified for each member to accommodate rehabilitation needs at Walter Reed.
"Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I leave at lunch and spend the rest of the day at Walter Reed for rehab," said Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Dennis Walburn, who started at JIEDDO Feb. 14, and was the second OWF volunteer to arrive. "I am thankful for this opportunity, because I realize that there are guys out there who have it worse."
Walburn lost his left leg above the knee as a result of an IED blast in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005. His treatment at Walter Reed moved into a less rigorous phase and he eagerly wanted to work in an area where he could continue to help the deployed troops. He then learned of the JIEDDO recruitment of IED survivors.
The JIEDDO recruiting effort at Walter Reed began Jan. 17. After open advertising of the opportunities, 65 personnel were interviewed. From that original pool, 22 were selected. Those on staff are assigned to various positions in the organization where they contribute to the effort to defeat the IED threat.
Walburn is assigned to the Strategic Communications Division, where he is assisting in congressional affairs, public affairs and industry outreach initiatives. Although all of the 22 original selectees are from the Army, Lovejoy said, the program will grow and eventually include servicemembers from other services who are injured due to IED attacks.
"We are looking for the best, the brightest and the most capable to join the team," he said. "Getting all of the services involved allows us to merge this whole team into the best you can have to win the war on terror."
(Based on a Joint IED Defeat Organization news release.)