[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        April 10, 2009

Medical personnel ensure troops 
can complete missions

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

Whether it is a Soldier going through the paperwork process prior to being deployed overseas, or the Soldier is returning from in-theater to go home to civilian life, the Fort McCoy Soldier Readiness Center (SRC) Medical Section plays an integral role to ensure Soldiers successfully complete their missions.

Photo: Capt. Ronald Diorio (left) interviews Sgt. Gregg Bryson at the Fort McCoy Soldier Readiness Center. Bryson of the 221st Ordnance Disposal Company was demobilizing at Fort McCoy with his unit. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Capt. Ronald Diorio (left) interviews Sgt. Gregg Bryson at the Fort McCoy Soldier Readiness Center. Bryson of the 221st Ordnance Disposal Company was demobilizing at Fort McCoy with his unit. (Photo by Tom Michele)

Capt. Ronald Diorio, SRC Medical officer-in-charge, said, "The major role of the primary providers (civilian and military doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners) at the SRC is documentation of a Soldier’s medical condition. The Soldier wants it on paper. They want reassurance as to what to expect when they leave here. We document a Soldier’s condition to help them receive proper care and treatment at home."

Diorio was referring to the Pre-Deployment Health Assessment given to Soldiers prior to deploying overseas, and the Post-Deployment Health Assessment given to the same Soldiers when they return to the United States.

Fort McCoy, as a mobilization training center, is one of the primary stepping stones in both directions.

Diorio said Soldiers start the "pre" version of the assessment while still at their home station as part of the Unit Medical Readiness Report and have as many individual medical issues resolved as possible before coming to McCoy.

"When the unit arrives at McCoy, the first two days on post usually are reserved for the Soldier Readiness Processing function. The medical section is one piece of this, along with others like finance, personnel, dental, records and legal," Diorio said. "A major aspect of the medical portion of the predeployment process is to assess the physical readiness of the Soldier. Do they have injuries or conditions that would render them non-deployable? If so, they are released from active duty with the expectation that these issues will be addressed by the home unit prior to a future mobilization."

The post-deployment assessment is similar, but it is just given to Soldiers returning from theater. "The Post-Deployment Health Assessment is completed by Soldiers while in-theater and within 30 days prior to returning to the United States," Diorio said. "That assessment includes documenting physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, exposure concerns (such as from sand and dust, smoke from burn pits), all that could affect the Soldier later."

Diorio explained the Soldier visits a health provider at the SRC, with the provider going over the Soldier’s Post Deployment Health Assessment and the issues listed there. "The provider then determines if the Soldier needs further medical evaluation. If there are major medical issues that would require treatment, such as surgery, the Soldier would be retained on duty and sent to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Knox, Ky. There, they would receive treatment and be allowed to recover prior to being released from active duty and return to their jobs and civilian life."

There is another similar aspect to the Pre-and Post-Deployment Health Assessment, and with the same intent and style. That is the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA).

"The PDHRA is completed by the Soldier three to six months after redeployment and is a unit requirement. It is commonly conducted at the Soldier and unit’s home station," Diorio said. The PDHRA provides for a second health assessment. Reserve-component members are reminded of their option of treatment using their TRICARE health benefits or can obtain care through a Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Diorio said, "The focus of the PDHRA is to identify Soldiers who may not have recognized problems at the time of their return from deployment. They may realize that what seemed like a minor concern becomes an issue some time after their return home."

Among the reasons for the three-to-six-month period, Diorio explained, "The Army found incidents of post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) peaked three to six months after redeployment."

"The PDHRA is part of the safety net the Army provides Soldiers," Diorio said. "The evaluation looks at what the Soldier is going through, including possible symptoms of anger, isolation, hyper-vigilance, loss of sleep — things that become abnormal and when it negatively affects their life. When a Soldier steps back into civilian life, it is like the Soldier becomes a completely different person."

The PDHRA will be offered to all servicemembers who have returned from operational deployment, including all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers, as well as those who have separated or retired since their return from deployment. The form asks questions about behavioral health and traumatic brain injury. The form must be completed in an electronic or Web-enabled form using the Army Medical Protection System (MEDPROS).

Diorio said the form enables the Soldier to identify any physical or emotional symptoms, as well as combat mission-related concerns, such as concussions from improvised explosive devices (IED) blasts. Problems related to traumatic brain injury have really been stressed, and the PDHA/PDHRA is a chance to document them and identify those needing further treatment, he said.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)


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