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By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2008 - A joint team formed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is looking at the broad range of care and support services for wounded warriors to find any gaps and tap into best practices to share across the force.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen stood up the Joint Staff Wounded Warrior Integration Team in late April and appointed his strategic plans and policy chief, Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, to head it up.
The team will evaluate all programs that affect wounded warriors and their families to see which are working best, which can be improved, and how to make the services they provide easier to tap into, Sattler explained during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
"A lot of things are being done across the spectrum by a lot of great people. We just want to make sure that where there may be a duplication of effort, we can use those resources more wisely," he said. "And if there may be unintentional gaps and seams, we can overcome those."
Sattler noted big improvements in the care and support for wounded troops and emphasized that the task force wasn't formed to fix any particular shortcoming or problem.
"No commander stops raising the bar because they think they have hit the objective," he said. "Even if we're doing all we can do, the harder you look at things, the more often you find things you can do better."
Unlike the flurry of task forces and evaluation teams that convened last year after deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center came to light, the new joint task force will focus heavily on what's going right, Sattler said.
"This is taking a look at things that are going well -- things that don't normally attract attention because they are humming along -- [and asking] 'Are they humming at the rpms that they should be? Could they be improved upon? Could we make life better [or] easier, could we facilitate for warriors and their families the ability to find out what they don't know?'"
Mullen dedicated "a lot of his best and brightest across the Joint Staff" to answer these questions, Sattler said. The team consists of experts from the legal, legislative affairs, public affairs and personnel fields, as well as commanders with recent combat experience. The variety of perspectives reflects "the intent of making it the best we can for our men and women," Sattler said.
The team is approaching the challenge as an operational planning team would take on a challenge at any military command, he said. It's starting with Mullen's stated intent: "He wants to find, locate the best practices and facilitate the ability of our men and women and their families to have access to those best practices," Sattler said.
Now, the team is exploring all existing programs -- within the military, other government agencies as well as nongovernmental and nonprofit groups – to see how they support that intent. The team will brief Mullen and the service chiefs on its findings at least every two weeks and assemble a "campaign plan" that documents all services currently available and recommended changes or improvements.
Sattler conceded that wounded warriors and their families are a "hard-core crew" who don't ask for much as they try to move forward with their lives.
"They want to take their own destiny into their own hands and they want to advance their cause," he said. "Whatever their wound may be, they want to get back to where they can function in society. No one is looking for a handout."
But it's the Defense Department's responsibility, he said, to ensure programs for wounded warriors are the best they can be.
The issue, he said, isn't about "How high have we raised the bar to support our men and women?," but rather, "How can we raise that bar even higher?"
"Until we exhaust all those efforts, ... as long as our efforts produce results that are better for the men and women and their families or make it easier for [them], then we shouldn't rest," he said.