Warrior, Survivor Care Program Provides Key to Airmen’s Recovery
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2008 The Air Force Warrior and Survivor Care Program is reaching out to wounded airmen from the point injury on the battlefield and throughout their rehabilitation and reintegration and beyond, the program’s manager said yesterday.
The program’s success relies largely on family liaison officers and community readiness consultants, John Beckett said in a “Dot Mil Docs” radio interview on BlogTalkRadio.com.
“The backbone of that entire program is what we call the family liaison officer,” he said. “The family liaison officer is assigned to a family to be their personalized assistant, if you will, to help with anything that the family may need.”
The family liaison officers are crucial players at the very beginning of an airmen’s recovery, Beckett said. “We wanted to alleviate all of the logistical concerns at the very beginning and provide assistance while their servicemember is in the hospital,” he said.
The family liaison officers provide access to many key programs to assist airmen and their families.
“Family liaison officers have access to airmen and family readiness center consultants, who have access to almost any type of benefit information or resources,” Beckett explained. “They are pretty much a one-stop shop for the family and the wounded airman.”
The program has access to resources to help airmen and their families with financial, spiritual and child care needs, among others. “Our charter is to do whatever the family needs, and that is what we try to do,” Beckett said.
The Warrior and Survivor Program started in the late 1990s as the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program, but when Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom started, Beckett said, the program changed to provide assistance to wounded, ill or injured airmen and their families.
During hospitalization and after an airman is released from the hospital, Air Force community readiness consultants are engaged to help airmen and their families. They’re equipped to provide resume- writing services, financial support and a host of other things an airman or family member may need, Beckett said.
He added that he draws enormous strength from the airmen making their way through their rehabilitation process.
“What amazes me is the resiliency that our airmen have,” he said. “I have seen people who have been burned over 80 percent of their body, and they get up and talk about what they can do and what they want to offer back the Air Force. It amazes me -- their dedication, their resiliency and how, despite what they have given, they want to give back.”
One airman, in particular, who was blinded and lost an arm to a roadside-bomb explosion, is an inspiration to him, Beckett said. “When you listen to him talk, he doesn’t talk about what he gave up, but [rather] he talks about what he can give,” he told “Dot Mil Docs” listeners.
The Air Force can learn some valuable lessons from these wounded, ill and injured airmen, Beckett said.
“The Air Force policy is … to keep people on active duty that would like to remain on active duty,” he said. “It could mean a limited assignment status, or it could mean retraining to another job. Our wounded airmen offer a lot of valuable experience for the Air Force, and our goal is for them to remain on active duty, if that is want they want to do.”
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)