Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron reaffirmed their commitment to deliver the best possible support for the men and women of our Armed Forces, our veterans and their families through the US/UK Task Force, which was established during the President’s visit to London last May.
British and American Service personnel have operated side-by-side in conflicts around the world since World War II. British personnel serve in US units, and American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel operate in British units. In Afghanistan, where we and our NATO allies and partners are working side-by-side in support of the Afghan Government, our alliance is stronger than ever.
The goal of the Task Force is to build on existing cooperation and share best practice in the support of Service personnel, their families and veterans. To accomplish this goal, the Task Force has established working groups to look at four areas:
- Wounded Warrior Rehabilitation
- Supporting Service leavers transitioning to civilian life
- Mental Health
- Military Family Support
The working groups, jointly led by US and UK Co-Chairs, are turning the Task Force’s strategic goals into specific outcomes and achievements. Progress so far has included:
Wounded Warrior Rehabilitation
In May, for the first time ever, a team from the UK will participate in the annual US Wounded Warrior Games, to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They will join over 200 US Wounded Warriors at the Games, which offer an excellent opportunity to maximize the beneficial effects of adaptive sports in rehabilitation. The Games are a significant competitive springboard with competing US athletes attempting to qualify for the Paralympics in London later this year.
UK experts will also attend, for the first time, the US Army Triad of Care Training Conference taking place in August 2012, in Oklahoma. This conference brings together primary care managers, nurse case managers, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, and transition coordinators to share and promote best practice in caring for and rehabilitating Wounded Warriors. The US will in return attend the UK MOD’s Welfare Conference in September 2012 in London to learn about innovative practices and collaboration between State and charitable providers of support in the field of Wounded Warrior rehabilitation in the UK.
The UK and US will also continue work to develop joint medical research protocols drawing on the experiences of US and UK institutions, including, in the UK, the National Institute for Health Research and the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre and, in the US, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the US Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
Transition to civilian life
President Obama has directed that the US should deliver the best possible transition process for personnel returning to civilian life. The work of the Task Force has identified areas where the UK leads in best practice in this field. Using the UK’s idea of a “Personal Resettlement Plan” for each member leaving service, which includes personal training objectives, the US has now developed a similar “Individual Transition Plan” to help Service personnel establish transition goals and the path to those goals.
The US has also borrowed from the UK’s focus on career preparation throughout a Service career, to help move the US transition system towards a military lifecycle approach rather than an end-of-career event. Best practice being transferred from the UK includes assisting Service personnel in pursuing technical training opportunities and, during transition, developing the skills for small business ownership, as well as understanding different approaches to assessing and delivering an individual’s wider transition needs.
The Task Force has also established a partnership between the Department of Defense and the UK’s Department for Education which is allowing the UK to draw more fully on the lessons of the US’s Troops to Teachers scheme in the establishment of the UK’s Troops to Teachers programme, which aims to encourage Service leavers to become teachers.
This critical area remains a challenging one for both nations. It is also a promising area for potential development, research and joint progress. In June 2012, speakers from the UK Ministry of Defence and the National Health Service will present their findings and experiences in the area of suicide prevention within military communities at the US’s Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs suicide prevention conference in Washington, D.C.
In addition, the UK is planning to deploy a military mental health professional to Afghanistan this year with a US Joint Mental Health Assessment Team. They will participate in the team’s work to investigate causes of relevant mental health issues, such as post traumatic stress disorder, impact of tour lengths and suicide and propose pre-emptive measures to be used by policy makers and tactical Commanders to help prevent suicide amongst Service personnel returning from Afghanistan.
Military Family Support
The UK has briefed US colleagues on the Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Children’s Plan, a process which is forming the basis of the US’s 5-year strategy for children and youth. Both sides will continue to co-operate in the development of children’s strategies.
The sharing of programmes and experiences between the UK and US is proving beneficial and is helping to influence the development of UK strategy and plans. The UK is developing a personal finance awareness programme for the Armed Forces community in close conjunction with the Royal British Legion and the links established with a similar US programme are allowing the UK development team to benefit from the US experience.
The Task Force has also formed a close partnership with the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, invited by the US Chamber of Commerce, attended the Los Angeles “Hiring Our Heroes” hiring fair on July 10, 2011, which was attended by more than 1,000 Veterans and more than 500 military spouses. The Task Force looks forward to working with the Foundation on further initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic.
In a separate venture, under the auspices of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden’s “Joining Forces” initiative, which supports the military, their families and veterans in the US, universities in the United States and the United Kingdom are increasing and deepening their research partnerships to improve and inform the care of our military communities.
The University of Southern California, a leading innovator in veteran and military family care and research and King’s College London’s King’s Centre for Military Health Research have committed to expand their existing relationship in this area. They are focusing on a 5-year plan for collaborative military research and related initiatives. This plan aims to improve the quality of research, interventions, and workforce development related to veterans and their families, with an emphasis on problems in the transition to civilian life and combat-related stress. The Task Force welcomes this step and any opportunities it presents for further collaboration.