Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates Hails Bliss Center

Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates Hails Bliss Center
May 2nd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates Hails Bliss Center

Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates Hails Bliss Center
El Paso Times
May 2, 2008
Pg. 1
Post's PTSD care may be model for Army
By Chris Roberts, El Paso Times
Bracing against a blasting wind that reminded him of his native Kansas, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spent a day at Fort Bliss touring a mental health center, watching a demonstration of the Army's newest technology, and meeting with soldiers and community leaders.
Gates said the recent announcement that two additional brigades will come to Fort Bliss as part of a plan to expand the Army "will be the final major additions for the time being." The total increase in the number of soldiers expected to be stationed at the post since the Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005 is nearly 30,000.
Gates had high praise for a Fort Bliss center designed to treat soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and return them to their units -- a center he said would serve as a prototype for the Army.
"They are doing some amazing things here in terms of helping soldiers who want to remain soldiers but who have been wounded with post-traumatic stress disorder," Gates said of the Restoration and Resilience Center. "I think it's an extraordinary program. I think it's a prototype. And one of the things that I will carry back to Washington with me is the question of whether we can replicate this at other posts around the country."
During a morning press conference in front of the center, Gates also formally announced a change in government policy he said would allow soldiers to seek help for PTSD without hurting their careers.
Getting help for PTSD related to the "combat environment" will no longer be a reason to deny security clearances, he said.
The Fort Bliss center is also looking at finding ways to help soldiers in combat zones deal with stress, Gates said, adding that those techniques "are clearly worth additional attention as well."
During a question and answer period with reporters, he reverted to the topic, noting that John Fortunato, the clinical psychologist who created the center, told him one reason for the program's success is that it was local and relatively small so "therapists can develop relationships with the soldiers."
In the seven months the program has been active, Fortunato said, 38 soldiers who wanted to stay in the Army but whose only other option was a medical discharge have entered the program, and 12 have been returned to their units. An additional nine soldiers have entered the program since, he added.
The program will track soldiers who are back at their jobs for two years, he said. "The major measure of success for this program is retention," he said.
Gates repeated that soldiers with PTSD should not be treated as if they were "permanently broken" when he spoke to students at the Sergeants Major Academy who will be the top non-commissioned officers in the Army.
"You are in the best position of anybody to give a sense up and down the chain of command as to what is and isn't working," he said.
During the annual Fort Bliss Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, Gates' wife, Becky, said she remembered the pain of separation she felt when her father was serving during World War II.
"Your families are fortunate that such a broad range of services are available to them, both through the military and because of dedicated volunteers," she said.
Beverly Vacanti, who has worked nine years tutoring and mentoring students at Northloop Elementary School, was recognized for her efforts.
"I want to give back," Vacanti said. "I am a cancer survivor and I got a second lease on life."
Then, as dust plumes rose into the sky, Gates watched soldiers with Fort Bliss' Army Evaluation Task Force demonstrate robots and communications systems that already are being deployed into combat zones around the world. Bradley vehicles equipped with the new technology sped toward an observation post and swerved into defensive positions as soldiers, throwing smoke grenades, attacked across a culvert and through a chain-link fence. All soldiers were able to hear communication as they approached their target in queues of four or five people.
A small unmanned ground vehicle, called a SUG-V, approached the building using its eyes and ears to send information on insurgent locations and activity back to the soldiers.
Earlier, at the Sergeants Major Academy, Gates made it clear that the "spinouts" from the Future Combat Systems Program are vital.
"Current needs must not be sacrificed to future capabilities," he said.

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