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First Army caring for soldiers

By Ed Brock

Army Master Sgt. Anthony Kingston was doing physical training in Uzbekistan when he noticed that one of his legs would grow numb when he ran.

He endured the discomfort for about three months, but when he returned to Fort Benning he went through a physical and was told his femur head where the thigh bone joins the hip was collapsing.

The injury wasn't bad enough for Kingston, a resident of Jonesboro stationed at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park, to be discharged from the Army. But it was enough for him to qualify for the Army's Medical Holdover program.

Now he's working a job in maintenance similar to what his regular duties are, and he's getting the medical care he needs.

"As far as scheduling appointments and getting in to see a doctor, it's good," Kingston said.

The First U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Gillem, hosted a panel discussion Thursday on the Medical Holdover and Community-Based Health Care Organization programs at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Officers with the First Army addressed a small gathering of soldiers, the reason why these programs exist, the officers said.

"There's nothing we do in this Army that's more important than taking care of our soldiers," Army Lt. Col. Richard Steele said.

First Army Maj. Gen. John Yingling said the focus of the programs were to fix soldiers and get them back to their military duties or back to their communities.

Currently east of the Mississippi there are 2,779 soldiers in the Medical Hold program.

According to Lt. Col. Ken Braddock as many as 10,000 soldiers might become Medical Holdovers as a result of the current mobilization of troops, which is the largest since World War II.

The Medical Holdover program is a voluntary option for soldiers who, due to their injuries, are not capable of performing their normal duties but who do not want to be discharged from the military. The Community-Based Health Care Organization (CBHCO) allows the soldiers on Medical Holdover to locate near their hometown and family to help in the healing process.

The CBHCO program was developed in 2003 and initiated in February and March of 2004.

To be eligible for the program, as well as being unable to return to regular duties, the soldier must live in a state that is participating in the program, be unencumbered by legal or administrative action or holds, and must be able to provide their own transportation to regular doctors appointments and live in a residence that accommodates "functional limitations."

"If I was in a wheelchair, I couldn't live at home," Braddock said.

Also, the soldier's residence must be within commuting distance (50 miles) from the duty station or work site to which they will be assigned while on Medical Holdover. Giving the soldiers work to do also helps in the healing process, Yingling said.

As for medical criteria, the preliminary diagnosis and care plan must be supportable by the CBHCO programs and appropriate medical care must be within commuting range of the soldier's residence.

Soldiers with multiple or complex diagnosis as determined at the staff at the Army Mobilization Station and those requiring maxillofacial reconstruction or not eligible for the program. Neither are soldiers who suffer from medical problems that are not commonly treated by civilian practitioners, such as exposure to depleted uranium or chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents or who have a working diagnosis of leishmaniasis.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection spread by sand flies.

Steele said the CBHCO program will impact Georgians the most when members of the Army National Guard 48th Infantry Brigade return from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There are a number of medical and health problems that can happen when they're deployed," Steele said.

The Medical Holdover and CBHCO programs are available to National Guard and Reserve members.