On President’s Day, February 20, Marine Corps Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia visited the CIR office in downtown Los Angeles to learn about the center’s partnerships, research, and innovative projects, including the development of the Virtual Patient. Sgt. Maj. Battaglia is the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is the senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. He serves as the principal military advisor to the JCS Chairman, General Martin Dempsey, and the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration, utilization, health of the force and joint development for enlisted personnel.
Sgt. Maj. Battaglia was briefed by CIR staff and then met with a group of veterans and MSW students from the USC School of Social Work to discuss the issues that they believe are most important in helping veterans and their families reintegrate into the community. The group discussed the particular effects that post-traumatic stress has on veterans, such as suicide and a higher rate of homelessness, as well as the importance of ‘leaving no one behind,’ even after a servicemember separates from the military and re-enters the civilian world.
At a recent Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce event, Colonel David Sutherland spoke about the importance of providing support to veterans who return from battle. Col. Sutherland–the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Warrior and Family Support–emphasized the need for community members and neighbors to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life as well as provide support to their families. He called on community organizations and volunteer programs to provide support for this population and specifically recognized the Torrance-South Bay YMCA outreach program being launched in partnership with the USC School of Social Work.
The program, called the Armed Services YMCA DoD Military Outreach Initiative, offers free YMCA memberships to families of deployed servicemembers. The program’s partnership with USC will also give these families access to counseling and other services through student interns working at the YMCA. To date, approximately 100 families have been involved in the program.
On June 11, 2010, CIR received an unprecedented visit from a very distinguished guest – Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen accepted an invitation from CIR and the School of Social Work to come and learn more about the Military Social Work program, and the innovative military-focused research being spearheaded through CIR and the School.
Mullen, who was accompanied by his wife Deborah, arrived at the School of Social Work, and was greeted by both President Steven Sample and Dean Marilyn Flynn as he entered the Montgomery Ross Fisher building for a special luncheon held in his honor. During the luncheon, Mullen jokingly expressed appreciation over having a chance to actually eat, as his full schedule usually keeps him from enjoying meals. Mullen then shared his vision for helping military veterans with the group of invited guests, which included Social Work faculty and staff, USC students, members of the community, and military personnel.
After the luncheon, Mullen and his wife watched a demonstration of the Virtual Patient, an advanced virtual reality simulation developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) in partnership with CIR. Mullen and his team then set off across campus, for a Town Hall meeting held at USC’s Town and Gown. At the Town Hall, Mullen addressed an audience of over 450 students, faculty, staff and community members, some of whom had driven in from other states to hear Mullen speak. Mullen shared his views about the current state of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as his personal vision for service members returning home. Both Mullen and his wife also took questions from the crowd, and addressed them at length.
For more information about the Town Hall event, please see: Admiral Mullen Discusses Challenges Facing Military Families
To watch a video of the Town Hall, please see: Town Hall Meeting with Admiral Mike Mullen (CJCS)
On April 22, 2010, CIR hosted a day-long visit from Col. David Sutherland, the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). Accompanied by Col. Robert Saum (Behavioral Health Science Advisor to the CJCS) and Richard Osial (Public Affairs officer of the CJCS), Sutherland spent the morning learning about USC’s Military Social Work program, and meeting with the CIR team and Social Work research faculty. During their group discussions, Sutherland and his team stressed their desire to move beyond the bureaucracy and slow schedules that often characterize government responses to veteran needs, and the importance of finding timely, relevant solutions to ongoing problems.
During his visit, Sutherland watched a live demonstration of the Virtual Patient, an advanced virtual reality simulation developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) in partnership with CIR. When completed, the artificially intelligent Virtual Patient will give students the ability to practice interacting with an accurate and lifelike military client in a therapeutic setting.
Sutherland also spoke at a colloquium at the Davidson Conference Center, entitled Returning from War: The Challenge of Reintegration for Wounded Warriors and Their Families. During his lecture, Sutherland vividly described his own personal experiences on the battlefield, and the emotional and physical struggles that service members face when returning from war. Open to the public, the colloquium was attended by USC students, faculty, mental health professionals, veterans, and others from the community.
To watch a video clip from Col. Sutherland’s colloquium, please see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgzEsq51BSc
For more information about the event, please see: http://sowkweb.usc.edu/news/item.php?id=252