CFI visit inspires Lackland leaders

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
As a group of Lackland senior leaders and squadron commanders started their Center for the Intrepid tour on Fort Sam Houston, one commander's whispered reaction spoke volumes: "Wow!"

After spending March 16 touring the CFI, hearing from a wounded Airman and visiting the Warrior and Family Support Center, "amazing," "impressive" and "inspirational" became common adjectives during and after the tour for the 18 Lackland leaders to describe the wounded warriors, facilities and staff.

The offsite visit served as the March Lackland leadership forum, hosted by the 37th Training Wing. The monthly forums bring together 37th TRW, 802nd Mission Support Group and 59th Medical Wing squadron commanders with senior wing and group leaders.

"The forums get squadron commanders together for an opportunity to interact," said Lt. Col. Clifford Rich, Inter-American Air Forces Academy, 318th Training Squadron commander, adding that squadron commanders also receive insight from senior leaders.

"The (CFI visit) was a chance to become more aware of the impact squadron commanders can have on injured Airmen and the importance of taking care of our Airmen," Colonel Rich said.

The state-of-the-art equipped rehabilitation center, adjacent to Brooke Army Medical Center, is unparalleled in its care for military members with severe extremity injuries and amputations. The center provides wounded warriors an opportunity to maximize their ability to live and work productively.

Col. William H. Mott V, 37th TRW commander, knew from experience the CFI's powerful effect.

"You see the difficulty of being a wounded warrior and then you see how much spirit they have; it's inspirational," Colonel Mott said. "This trip for the leadership forum is the perfect example of what I'm trying to (accomplish by the forums): unity, togetherness and perspective."

The group listened intently to Staff Sgt. Chris Curtis, CV-22 Osprey flight engineer, 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., as the wounded warrior described in detail his experience.

He had suffered life-threatening injuries - significant blood loss and multiple fractures to his back, face, legs, left arm and pelvis - when the Osprey he was assigned to crashed in Afghanistan last April. Airlifted out of theater and transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sergeant Curtis arrived at Fort Sam Houston in August to continue his recuperation after 14 surgeries and rehab.

"Chris' amazing recovery comes down to leadership," said Lt. Col. J.W. DeLoach, Defense Language Institute English Language Center, International Operations Squadron commander, who arranged the meeting with Sergeant Curtis, a personal and family friend. "Because of decisions leadership made, Chris is actually physically better.

"From the MAJCOM commander (Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command) all the way down to the squadron level, they decided to do the right thing (in taking care of Sergeant Curtis and his family). It's been really impressive."

In addition to understanding the difference leadership made in Sergeant Curtis' recovery, the Lackland group learned first hand the importance of emergency verification contacts. Because Sergeant Curtis had not updated his mother's contact information, it was 12 hours from the time of the crash until she was notified.

"I just talked to our first sergeant about emergency contacts," said Lt. Col. George Irving, 324th Training Squadron commander. "We cover it (repeatedly) with the trainees. You know about the need to keep it updated and this is a prime example of (the importance)."

Colonel Irving came away from his first CFI visit "blown away, impressed, very inspired and motivated."

"Pretty much everything positive you can possibly think," he said.

Colonel Irving said after hearing Sergeant Curtis' story, it reinforced the principles taught in basic military training about leaders taking care of their Airmen.

"With basic trainees, we emphasize they're joining the Air Force family just like they're a part of their family back home. It showed us when (an Airman) gets wounded in combat, we're putting our money where our mouth is and taking care of our family members within our military."

Lt. Col. Kara Neuse, 802nd MSG deputy commander, was also a first-time visitor to the facility. She, too, was impressed.

"It was an amazing opportunity to see the exceptional care that is extended to our wounded warriors and their families," Colonel Neuse said. "What really resonated with me was the compassion and drive of every single person we met to take care of the wounded warriors."

Before the trip, Colonel Mott summed up how the center affected him from previous visits.

"When you look at some of the challenges our wounded warriors are facing and that they're taking it on with spirit and gusto and doing well, when you see how much the medical military professionals are supporting them, you're proud to be in the service," he said.