As a former U. S. Navy officer who flew off Navy aircraft carriers for five years and
then spent three years in test aviation, I still keep up with military operations, especially
those with Army Special Forces types, Navy SEALS, or Marines in MEUs.
As a matter of fact, What caught my eye recently and as a person now involved in disability advocacy work, as well was the story of one Army sergeant, who, after having his left leg blown off below the knee from the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) , demanded to
go back to Afghanistan and return to his unit with the 82nd Airborne Division.
After the completion of his surgical repairs, fitting of his personal lower leg prosthetic device, and rehabilitation, the sergeant was actually allowed to return to his unit with full reinstatement
of his combat duties.
The second story was that of a Marine gunnery sergeant who had his leg blown off just below his knee by another IED and who also demanded to go back to his unit after being fitted with his prostheses, as well. This Marine gunnery was also returned to full combat duty with his previous unit.
As noted, incredibly, both were allowed to return to their units and returned to full combat status. Times are certainly different from my time in the Navy just more than 30 years ago.
Back then, fewer than two percent of those warriors with such injuries were allowed to go back to their branch of the service, and then only to a non-combatant role. Today, that number is just over 16 percent.
Much of that higher percentage is also due to the almost boundless leaps in technology that is driving the newer, almost life-like, technology in prosthetics. Moreover, many of those gains are coming from a joint collaboration between the Army and the USAF, from their work together at Fort Detrick, Md.
Nestled in the foothills of western central Maryland at the City of Frederick, the Fort Detrick garrison is home to the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC). It is also home to the major medical research arms of the Army, Navy, USAF and USMC, while also hosting substantial medical research and other medical labs for both the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the U. S. Secret Service.
In a recent joint USAF, Army, and Fort Detrick newsletter, the quotations from Troy Turner, their project's director and manager of the center's advanced prosthetics and human performance portfolio, were very positive in their nature, as well.
"Most of our work together is to find ways to help the wounded service member return to the highest level of functionality that they are capable of," said Turner.
"We do this with the understanding that it is really their initiative and their motivation that gets them there," Turner added. "But we want to make sure that there is nothing left undone that we can do to help them get there."
One of the center's better achievements, thus far, to date is a more computerized artificial leg. The medical technician professionals at Detrick call it their "C-leg." Right now, that "C-leg"? is being tested by above-the-knee amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
It actually uses a computer chip to control the knee's hydraulic functions.
In turn, their advanced development of this new approach to 21st century prosthetics, so far, has already been proven to give the wearer almost incredible flexibility to even allow its wearer to change speeds or directions without sacrificing stability.
The development of this new and far-advanced prosthetic device takes prosthetics to an almost unthinkable new level, enabling users to walk backward, up and down ramps, and even to swim.
Paul Rendine is chairman of the Disability Advocates of Delmarva Inc. group. You can contact
him at his email address at: email@example.com with any comments, suggestions, or questions.