Gulf War Illness Outreach Effort Continues in '99
WASHINGTON, December 30, 1998 (GulfLINK) - The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses will conduct an ambitious outreach to major military installations across the United States in 1999 to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Gulf War illnesses among the total force - active duty, Reserve/National Guard, retired and separated military personnel, DoD civilian personnel, Gulf War veterans and their families. The outreach is part of a program initiated in 1998 by Bernard Rostker, the special assistant, to listen to the concerns of veterans, servicemembers and their families and to communicate how the Department of Defense is applying lessons learned from the Gulf War. During this past year, Rostker's team traveled to Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California and met with more than 6,000 veterans, their family members and concerned citizens.
"We want to educate the total-force on our investigation, inform them on how we will apply our findings to future deployments and solicit their assistance," said Rostker.
Next year Rostker and his team plan to visit Fort Bliss, Texas, in January; Fort Polk, Louisiana, in February; Fort Hood, Texas, in April; Fort Stewart, Georgia, in May; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Carson, Colorado, in June; Fort Knox, Kentucky, in August; and Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, California, in September. More visits may be added later in the year.
The installation outreach agenda includes a two-day information campaign beginning with a series of briefings and ending in a Town Hall meeting. Briefing topics include investigation results on reported chemical or biological warfare events and potential environmental exposures, DoD's force health protection efforts and resources available to Gulf War veterans and their families. Rostker addresses each Town Hall meeting and answers questions regarding investigation findings. A convention-style Gulf War illness information display is placed at high traffic areas on the installation during the days preceding the meeting where team members answer questions, provide information and demonstrate DoD's Internet web site.
Since his office was established in 1996, Rostker has emphasized the importance of listening to Gulf War veterans. His office is staffed by trained professionals, many of whom are veterans. A team of 18 veterans work directly with individuals who call to report on incidents that occurred during the war. Information gathered by the "contact managers" is forwarded to respective analysts for incorporation into case narratives, detailed reports summarizing the results of Gulf War investigations to date. The DoD reporting line (800-497-6261) is only one of the several ways veterans can contact Dr. Roskter or his staff.
Veterans and their families who are interested in receiving medical evaluation are encouraged to call DoD's Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program at 800-796-9699 or the comparable Veterans Affairs Persian Gulf Registry. Both provide physical examinations and evaluation.
Other information resources available to Gulf War veterans include theDoD GulfLINK home page, where news articles, reports, transcripts of press conferences and case narratives are made available to the public. An e-mail capability (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides more personal and timely responses to the public world-wide. A bi-monthly newsletter, GulfNEWS, is available for those veterans who do not have Internet access. Veterans can request a free subscription by calling 800-754-2132.
The town hall meetings give Rostker and his team the opportunity to talk to the military community and get their immediate feedback. The meetings are open to the public.