STUTTGART, Germany – Sailors from the U.S. Navy Reserve serving at U.S. European Command and other military organizations in Germany got the chance to chat with a senior leader about training, medical readiness and the future of their careers.
Vice Adm. Robin Braun, chief of the Navy Reserve, held a Sept. 13 town hall meeting at EUCOM headquarters on Patch Barracks. Dozens of Sailors from EUCOM, U.S. Africa Command and local special operations units attended. Afterward, Braun attended the chief petty officers’ pinning ceremony at the Patch Community Center and met with senior EUCOM leaders, to include Vice Adm. Charles Martoglio, EUCOM’s deputy commander.
Her trip allowed Braun to speak directly with Reserve Sailors, learn the challenges they face and see what tools, training and assistance they need, she said.
“Through town halls, we hear about the great work being done, but also about what we can do for them back in Washington,” Braun said. “We have so many dedicated Americans who volunteer their service as Navy Reservists. Working on their behalf is a real honor and a privilege.”
Braun, a naval aviator with more than three decades in uniform, became the Navy Reserve’s senior officer in August 2012. But, she knows EUCOM’s mission’s well, having previously served as deputy director of the European Plans and Operations Center. Navy Reservists support EUCOM during both exercises and contingency operations.
“The skills they bring from their civilian jobs, in many ways, compliment what that they do in the military,” Braun said.
After Stuttgart, Braun travelled to Sembach Kaserne at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, where the Navy’s Warrior Transition Program is located. The WTP supports Sailors returning shore assignments in combat zones. During their WTP stay, Sailors check in gear, undergo mentoring and medical reviews, plus receive psychological support. What once took up to two weeks now just takes a few days.
“The WTP is very valuable to the Naval Reserve because it allows our reserve Sailors to take four days of down time before they go home, where they can take care of much of their outproccessing,” Braun said.
In December 2012, the Navy program moved from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to Sembach. The unit is located at the recently renovated Sembach Community Activities Center, where Sailors have access to recreation and dining. Sailors stay in barracks nearby. Having a Navy unit on an Army post may appear unusual. But it’s a great example of how the Defense Department can work jointly to care for service members, Braun said.
“We need to look to see where we can do things more jointly, especially in this fiscal environment,” Braun said. “Using the services on this Army post just makes sense.”
Seeing the WTP in action, how Navy Reservists returning from deployments process through the program, was important for Braun, she said, as was talking with mobilized Sailors who support the program at Sembach. Afterward, at Ramstein Air Base, Braun greeted Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15, a Seabee unit from Belton, Mo., on its way home after an Afghanistan deployment.
At LRMC, Braun met with Sailors of the Deployed Warrior Medical Management Center and the Navy Expeditionary Medical Unit 14.
“It was just a marvelous afternoon she spent with us,” said Capt. Laura Wesley, a Navy Reservist from Alexandria, Va., who serves as NEMU-14’s deputy director. “She was very gracious and interested. She cares about every single Sailor she spoke to.”
At LRMC, 76 Navy Reservist are on staff, working in nearly every section of the hospital. More than a dozen work in the operating room. Others are in orthopedics, urology, the pharmacy and administration. Mobilized Sailors have supported LRMC’s mission for many years, Braun said. In many cases, those Reserve Sailors have medical backgrounds.
“They bring skill sets from their civilian jobs to the hospital at Landstuhl that may enhance what the hospital is able to do for our wounded warriors,” Braun said.
Throughout her stay, Braun reinforced a message of Sailors watching out for one another to help reduce needless deaths among the ranks. Over the past year, four Sailors died. One was by suicide, two were car accidents and one was homicide, she said. While that’s down from 10 deaths in the year prior, each death hits home, as the Navy Reserve is like family. Causes varied, but family, financial and civilian career issues are a reoccurring theme.
“It was like I lost four people from my family,” Braun said. “All four deaths were preventable. People need to reach out and ask for help when they are hurting.”