Story by Spc. Jennifer Spradlin
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Sgt. Danli Samonte has just completed another session of physical therapy and waits patiently while his right arm is iced. Five days ago he was part of a mounted patrol with C Battery, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Combat [Cavalry] Regiment, when his vehicle struck a 200-pound improvised explosive device planted in the road.
Samonte was taken to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, where medical personnel initially believed he might have fractured his arm. Later it was determined that his injury was a muscle strain, and he was enrolled in a wounded warrior project on KAF, also known as the Dragoon Case Management Program.
The Dragoon Case Management Program, known as DCAMP, treats Soldiers who have battle and disease non-battle injuries (related to injuries sustained during physical fitness or job related accidents) that do not require evacuation from the combat theater. These Soldiers can be rehabilitated by the DCAMP and returned to their units.
DCAMP can house 16 wounded Soldiers at a time and has a four-pronged approach to treatment that offers not only medical and physical therapy treatments, but also spiritual and behavioral health.
“Taking care of Soldiers is our business. Period.” said Maj. Alan Schilanski, Medical Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Striker Cavalry Regiment commander. “There is no stigma with talking to a provider to say ‘hey, I need help’ or ‘I’ve had this reaction to a concussive blast’ or ‘I’m having this type of stress.’ It’s a concern, it’s an injury and we’re going to take care of that Soldier to make sure it gets fixed as best we can.”
Schilanski said that Soldiers benefit from being treated by someone from the same unit who has a personal investment in seeing them get “world-class” treatment.
“These [injured] soldiers are not down. They are as motivated as they can be reacting to whatever injury they have incurred. They want to get better. They want to get back out to their units and their buddies because to them that’s family,” said Schilanski, a Fairfax, Va., native.
This is the first blast-related injury for Samonte, who previously deployed to Iraq. The rehabilitation process is at times difficult for him. Simple tasks that he used to perform daily now represent a bigger challenge.
“It’s frustrating because most of the stuff I usually do is with my right hand,” said Samonte. “I’ve been practicing writing with my left hand, but no one can read my handwriting.”
Staff Sgt. Sean Riley, the noncommissioned officer in charge of DCAMP, and physical therapy technician, oversees Samonte’s treatment. He runs through a series of stretching and strength-building exercises. Squeezing a golf-ball-sized piece of putty causes Samonte to wince with pain, but he doesn’t complain.
“In the beginning I could barely move my arm because it hurt, but I can see the improvement every day as I go through the physical therapy,” said Samonte, a Haywood, Calif., native.
A much more positive experience taught Samonte how to focus on an outcome beyond the initial pain. He proudly displays his heritage and familial traditions with a tattoo that fully covers his left arm and reaches halfway across his chest. His father, a former Soldier, was the artist. He used ink and a bone needle to tap the design into his son’s skin. It took more than 197 hours to complete over three separate multi-day sessions.
“The tattoo is about the day I was born — who my father was, who my mother was,” explained Samonte. “It also says that I am a warrior because I am in the military.”
Samonte said that the tattoo reminds him that accomplishments are not without pain. He eagerly awaits being returned to his unit and his Soldiers.
The DCAMP program exists to help Soldiers like Samonte, and Soldiers who work there are aware of the important role they play in the healing process.
“I feel a great sense of accomplishment working with these Soldiers,” said Riley, Medical Troop, RSS, 2nd SCR. Riley is a San Antonio native. “We’re able to get them back on track. We’re able to get them back to full health and return them to their unit.”
Riley said that the ultimate reward is being that link in restoring Soldiers to the fight.