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Wounded warrior program assists Airmen, families

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Stan Parker
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Air Force officials here have developed a new program to assist Airmen in need because wounded warriors and their families remain a top priority.

The recovery care coordinator is designed to be an "ultimate resource" for seriously wounded, ill, or injured service members. 

RCCs work closely with family liaison officers, patient liaison officers, medical case managers, and a host of support agencies to ensure the right level of support and entitlements are delivered to recovering Airmen and eligible family members.

While family liaison officers remain a critical part of the team and share experiences with ill, injured, and wounded Airmen, the RCC is trained to streamline processes and guide the member and their family through the nonclinical recovery process, program officials said. 

"They are all a team, with the recovering member being the center of the team," said John Beckett, the warrior and survivor care program manager. "We want the RCC to be able to minimize bureaucracy and get Airmen to the right people in the right office. Our goal is to make things as efficient as possible and help the recovering Airman continue to be productive." 

Not only is it important for RCCs to be able to handle bureaucratic delays, but also program officials said they seek individuals who have a true commitment to helping people.

With nearly 28 years of experience in assisting Airmen and their families, Dennis Fritz, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center RCC in Washington D.C., described typical attributes of inbound RCCs.

"RCCs have to really care and love our Airmen," Mr. Fritz said. "Many of these Airmen are dealing with some painful and long recoveries, and though they may be going through some hard times, it's amazing to see such positive attitudes. We want to make sure that remains."

Lt. Col. Michael Marzec, who has been a patient at Walter Reed for 14 months following a 2007 rocket-propelled grenade attack in the Iraq Green Zone, said a "positive attitude" wasn't easy before the creation of the RCC program. He spoke about how the RCC, along with 21 leg reconstruction surgeries, changed his life.

"The establishment of the RCC program has been a godsend," Colonel Marzec said. "When I first got here, it was very disorganized because although there were many people who wanted to help, it was not a well-integrated team."

Colonel Marzec explained the positive impact RCC had on him. 

"This biggest change I have seen personally is that I now have piece of mind," Colonel Marzec said. It's a great relief because I can focus on being a patient and recovering. Knowing that there is a team behind me takes a big worry off my shoulders." 

As many units try to assist from afar, RCCs remain an integral part of the team by helping Airmen and their families, regardless of location. 

"My family's needs have been met every time," said Staff Sgt. Steven Light, who was seriously injured by a roadside bomb. "(RCC) has helped us every step of the way." 

Elizabeth Flowers, whose husband Staff Sgt. David Flowers, an explosive ordnance disposal member, was seriously injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, shared the sergeant's sentiment. 

"I would be a basket case right now," Ms. Flowers said. "I don't have to worry about a thing, because they take care of it all." 

RCCs are currently assigned to the National Capital Region and San Antonio. The program is slated to expand to 15 additional RCC positions this month at the following locations: 
--  Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. 
-- Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
-- Eglin AFB, Fla.
-- Kessler AFB, Miss. 
-- Travis AFB, Calif. 
-- Trippler Medical Center near Hickam AFB, Hawaii
-- McGuire AFB, N.J.
-- Nellis AFB, Nev.
-- Robins AFB, Ga. 
-- Luke-Kirtland region in New Mexico 
-- U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. 
-- Scott AFB, Ill. 
-- Pope AFB, N.C. 
-- National Capitol Region 
-- San Antonio area

Locations were selected based on case management data provided by surgeon general and regional considerations, including support to Reserve components.

For further assistance or information regarding the RCC program, active-duty, Reserve or Guard members should call the 24-hour assistance line 1-877-USAF-HELP.