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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Soldiers that climb Mount Kilimanjaro considered unfit by DND

Cpl Ryan Elrick lost both his legs while in service in Afghanistan in 2006 and is currently suing the Department of Defence due to being released from the military against his wishes.

DND has claimed that they have not released anyone from the service due to injury.  Elrick's  performance reviews in his new job as Intelligence operator indicated that he was doing work at the level of a Sergeant but due to his injury he could never be promoted.

Instead of offering continued employment DND has offered all wounded and injured soldiers the opportunity to become Cadet instructors as they do not fall within the term of universality of service.

Cpl Mark Fuchko as well as completing the climb of Mount Kilimanjaro also kayaked from north of Seattle to Vancouver in 2009 over a 7 day period with Coastal TEAM Challenge.

Many soldiers would be unable to do either task and yet Mark Fuchko, myself and Elrick and many others are all considered unfit for service.
Cpl Ryan Crawford (left) and Cpl Mark Fuchko set up their tents for a night in Point Roberts, Washington.
Principle of Universality of Service
The principle of universality of service or "soldier first" principle holds that CF members are liable to perform general military duties and common defence and security duties, not just the duties of their military occupation or occupational specification. This may include, but is not limited to, the requirement to be physically fit, employable and deployable for general operational duties.

United States Marine Corp (who have similar fitness rules and regulations as the CF) member who showcases that Universality of Service is not applied equally

'More than 100 combat veterans who have lost arms and legs over the last decade in Afghanistan are at risk of being forcibly discharged from the military because they can no longer meet that standard, known as Universality of Service.
Many of the most grievously wounded Canadian soldiers have expressed frustration with the policy. Elrick is believed to be the first to have mounted a legal challenge.
“Everyone understands that soldiers should be fit. I spent 20 years in the infantry. I’m the first person to say that, yeah, soldiers should be fit and ready to deploy and everything like that — if you’re in that type of unit,” he said in an interview from his home in Winnipeg.
“I think that the way that they’re applying Universality of Service isn’t fair and we’re looking for a bit of a policy change here in the way that they apply it.”  Cpl (ret) Ryan Elrick
Allen Woods  The Toronto Star, 17 June 2011

Richard Vandentillaart, Edmonton Journal Cpl. Mark Fuchko, one of four Canadian soldiers seriously injured in Afghanistan, says climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is one of the most challenging things he’s done as an amputee.

Photograph by: Richard Vandentillaart, Richard Vandentillaart


Cpl. Mark Fuchko was in such pain the last day of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, others making the trek with him urged him to stop.

“Don’t worry if you don’t get to the top,” they told the struggling double-leg amputee from Calgary.
“That was more motivation to carry on. I didn’t want to quit.”
Fuchko, 27, lost both legs below the knee three years ago, while serving in Afghanistan. Before leaving for Tanzania, the soldier vowed to make it to the top of Africa’s highest mountain (elevation 5,896 metres) on all fours if he had to “and I was intent on doing that,” he said.

“I’m not going to lie, there were some parts where I was severely hurting and the thought had crossed my mind that I should just quit, but I just could not do it. I dug as deep as I could and kept carrying on, pushing myself as hard as I could. I was successful and that just made it all the sweeter.”
Fuchko, Warrant Officer Quinn Beggs, Cpl. Lucas Mullens and Cpl. Dallas White, all recovering from injuries received in Afghanistan, were part of a group of 37 climbers, including doctors, professionals and business leaders, who trekked up Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Orthopedic Surgery Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Their goal was $575,000; they raised more than $800,000.
Twenty-eight of them stood on Uhuru Peak, the summit, on Wednesday, after seven gruelling hours of climbing.

“I’m going to require new hips in the future and the fact that the Royal Alex (hospital) has a very specialized system that is very high-tech, that is going to be the best in Canada for hip and knee replacements, gives me a lot of comfort to know that I’m going to have less intrusive surgery that is going to be very precise,” explained Fuchko.
The final push for the summit was the most difficult part of the entire climb. Up to that point, the soldiers thought they had overtrained for the trek because they had taken everything Kilimanjaro had thrown at them.

“Then we got to the base camp (just below the summit). It’s really steep, and it’s really loose ground, challenging for anybody, let alone me, being an amputee,” Fuchko said.
On arriving at Gilman’s Point (elevation 5,669 metres) on top of the mountain, the group watched the sun rise and the soldiers decided to climb two more hours to reach the peak.
Reaching Uhuru and sitting down on a rock, exhausted and relieved that he had made it, is what Fuchko will remember most from the eight-day trek.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve done as an amputee. I can’t describe it any other way — it was very challenging, it was very difficult.”
That last gruelling day required him to wear his prosthetic limbs continuously for 18 hours.

Thursday was another tough day, as the climbers spent seven hours making their way down and off the mountain.
“I required quite a bit of actual physical support (from the other climbers) in certain areas,” Fuchko said from the group’s base hotel in Arusha.

“My legs are just sore. It’s a weird sensation — it feels like I’ve got sore feet.”
Members of the expedition were resting in Arusha on Friday before some of them — Fuchko and his fellow soldiers included — were to board a flight today, arriving home the next day. The rest of the climbers will stay on in Africa for a six-day safari before returning.

“If someone had shown me the summit push that we did the other day a year ago, I would have said ‘that’s impossible, there’s no way I can do that,’ ” Fuchko said. “Reaching the summit has really helped me build a lot of confidence in the skills that I have and the things I can still do as an amputee.
“I’m so glad I was able to summit and complete the whole adventure.”
czdeb@edmontonjournal.com


De-motivational Poster

Military turns blindeye to unfit soldiers at headquarters, ex-ombudsman says




DAVID PUGLIESE, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN JUNE 19, 2011
Wounded soldiers out, but 'fat plugs' kept in
The former veterans ombudsman has come out in support of keeping wounded soldiers in the ranks of the Canadian Forces, saying that the military’s Ottawa headquarters is full of “fat plugs” who aren’t physically fit but unlike the injured suffer no consequences.
The Canadian Forces says it must follow what it calls the universality of service principle which dictates personnel must be fit to perform military duties and be capable of being deployed on missions.

Wounded Afghan veterans say the military is using that principle to force them out of the Canadian Forces.

But retired colonel Pat Stogran says there is no reason why such combat veterans, who want to continue serving their country, can’t do so. He says the universality of service rule makes no sense and the military overlook it when they want to.

“I could walk down the halls of NDHQ and show you people with no medals on their chest who are not deployable, either because they’re overweight or because they’ve got family problems or whatever and no one challenges them,” explained Stogran, who was in charge of troops during the 2002 deployment to Afghanistan.

“There are certain things they (the wounded) would readily admit they aren’t up to but there are still all sorts of jobs that some fat plugs at NDHQ who are not deployable, who are not universally fit for service, are now doing.”

Stogran says a greater principle should be at play and that is one of taking care of those who have made significant sacrifices for their country and want to continue serving the nation.

The federal government is currently being sued by Ryan Elrick, a 38-year-old former soldier who had his legs blown off by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2006.

He was retrained to be an intelligence analyst in the Canadian Forces, and had been praised by officers for his performance in that job.
But in documents filed in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Elrick alleges he was forced out of the military in March because the Canadian Forces determined his disability made him unfit for service. Elrick stated the military determined he was in violation of the universality of service policy.

Rear Admiral Andy Smith, chief of military personnel, says no soldiers are being forced out. Smith says the Forces are prepared to offer wounded veterans jobs either training cadets or providing administrative work for that organization. In addition, there are jobs supporting the Canadian Rangers, a reserve force that operates in the Arctic.
No jobs would be offered with the regular forces, though.

If that is not of interest, the Canadian Forces helps prepare the wounded to transition to civilian life. “If anything we are being extremely compassionate, respectful in treating people in a dignified manner, to help them deal with the terrible things that have happened to them,” Smith said.

The files of 40 wounded soldiers are being reviewed by the military.
In a previous interview Smith said individuals who can’t pass fitness tests because they are overweight are provided with help. But ultimately they too would be removed from the Canadian Forces if they cannot meet the universality of service conditions, he added.

However, some serving soldiers have disputed that, noting there are overweight individuals or those who have family issues and as a result have been quietly exempt from serving overseas. 

Both Stogran and Elrick point out that attitudes toward the wounded are much different in the U.S. military. In an undated article about the U.S. army’s amputee patient care program, Dr. Jeff Gambel, of the Amputee Coalition of America, noted that “today’s military amputee who wishes to remain on active duty commonly finds a more receptive atmosphere, if not strong encouraging support from their chain of command.”

Such support, writes Gambel, is “well-founded given advances in amputee care that make it possible for amputee service members to effectively meet and exceed rigorous performance standards for a wide range of military occupations.”

Gambel pointed out that two U.S. generals, who returned from the Vietnam War as amputees, were allowed to continue on in their careers and recently retired after full, active-duty careers.

Stogran also highlighted the major advancements made in prosthetics and said wounded Canadian Afghan veterans have shown they are physically fit, running marathons and taking part in other sports activities.
Smith acknowledged that some of the wounded have made great strides in their rehabilitation. But he added: “It’s more than just being able to run a marathon. You have to do all the various fitness tests we prescribe to effectively measure their fitness in relation to the universality of service principle.”

Smith said the issue should also not be influenced by the argument that the numbers of wounded are relatively small, so the Canadian Forces could easily find a place for them in the regular ranks. The universality of service principle overrides that, he added.

But Stogran said the real problem is that senior military commanders have slipped into a bureaucratic mindset. “I’m sure if you talked to the young warriors who work with these wounded guys, they’d say, ‘sure I’d soldier alongside these guys anytime’,” Stogran explained.
“It’s when it gets to the paper pushers at NDHQ that things change.”


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