Air Force continues to support wounded warriors

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- When it comes to medical care, the Air Force Medical Service is intent on providing the best care for every Airman, regardless of their circumstances.
Wounded Warriors are often unique in the sort of care they need, and that’s why the Air Force has a Wounded Warrior Program.


The Wounded Warrior Program is just one of a myriad of resources the Air Force uses to better understand the challenges these Airmen face.


“Our senior Air Force leadership recognizes we still have room to improve upon the care we’re providing our wounded Airmen,” said Col. Mark Mavity, the Air Force Surgeon General Special Assistant for Invisible Wounds and the Wounded Warrior Program. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of them and understanding what they’ve gone through in the hopes of returning as many of these folks to duty as able. And for those that can’t return to duty, we need to ensure we never leave an Airman behind.”


He said that philosophy means so much more than taking care of their medical needs but also making sure all supporting elements are in place as they transition.


“Probably one of the most visible external elements of support are the Warrior Games, the Invictus Games and the Paralympics,” Mavity said. The Warrior Games were started by the Department of Defense and engage wounded warriors across all the Services in Olympic-style competition. The Invictus Games are similar but were started by Britain’s Prince Henry and include multiple militaries around the world. The Paralympics are the largest of three events and have been around in one form or another since 1948.


“Those competitions are just some of the outward manifestations of the life skills our programs are designed to support,” Mavity said. “The program also does a lot in terms of integrating these members in terms of job skills and vocational training opportunities while helping them prepare for life after the military. And there’s a particular focus on any unique challenges they may have because of their injuries.” 


Mavity added that taking care of wounded Airmen means  more than just addressing the needs of the Airmen themselves.


“Equally important to this process are the family members because they are taking on the additional, unexpected, role of caregiver for someone that’s very important to them. We understand that’s a heavy burden to place upon anyone, and it creates additional stress – physical, emotional, and psychological. We’re looking at better ways we can support their needs as they’re now on this journey right alongside their service member.”


Over the course of the last several conflicts, the AFMS has shifted a lot of research and development into all new types of care. One of the ways this impacts Wounded Warriors is with what Mavity calls “Invisible Wounds.”


“We've often referred to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder as the signature injuries of our most recent conflicts,” he said. “With that, we've committed a lot of resources to better understand these injuries, better evaluate them, and better treat them.”


He said the Air Force has learned a lot about these types of injuries and the types of therapies that are most helpful to the patients. One way the AFMS plans to put this research into action is by establishing an Invisible Wounds Clinic at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The clinic will focus on treating Airmen impacted by TBI, PTSD and pain management issues.


“It will be the first satellite Intrepid Center hosted by the Air Force,” Mavity said. “Since Eglin is also home to a large joint population we will certainly provide for the needs of that entire joint warrior population.”


He also mentioned Warrior Care in the 21st Century, which is an international symposium designed for experts from countries around the world to share what they’ve learned about invisible wounds to provide the best care possible. That symposium, which started in 2011, provides another venue for AFMS to improve care for Wounded Warriors.


“These Airmen have made tremendous sacrifices in service to our great nation,” Mavity said. “We owe it to them to give them and their families the utmost support we possibly can. We walk that path with them in full partnership and support, whether to help them return to duty or to aid their transition to the next phase of their life and career.”


For more information or resources visit the Air Force Medical Service, the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Program, or the DoD’s Warrior Care site. You can also learn more about the DoD’s Warrior Games or the Invictus Games by visiting their sites.