Army's Chiarelli honored for support of vets

President's Award winner Gen. Peter Chiarelli highlights how technology helps treat brain injuries and PSTD

Every war leaves a legacy of wounds, both physical and mental. A decade of warfare in Southwest Asia has seen a major increase in traumatic brain injuries, often caused by improvised explosive devices, and post-traumatic stress disorder from multiple deployments. Although those afflictions have been around since the invention of gunpowder and warfare itself, they previously were overlooked or ignored. That must change, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff.

Speaking at this week's Federal 100 awards ceremony, Chiarelli said the legacy of such injuries on warfighters and their families “could be the Agent Orange of our time.” At the event, Chiarelli received the President’s Award for his efforts in championing treatments for traumatic brain injuries and PTSD.

Related coverage:

Army's Chiarelli honored for support of vets

Eagle and President's winners photos

2011 Federal 100 awards main page

He has helped create or oversee various initiatives, such as virtual health screenings for troops preparing to return to combat zones and new treatment methods for soldiers who experience PTSD. Part of that new treatment approach is a more proactive stance on preventing suicides through efforts such as the Army's Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Campaign. Created as part of the campaign, a task force has developed treatment centers that allow soldiers to check in online to receive help wherever they are. “I genuinely like seeing advances in technology,” he said.

The emphasis on health care is vital because after a decade of warfare, the stress is showing on soldiers and their families. Chiarelli noted that some troops have deployed as many as five times for 12 to 15 months in Afghanistan or Iraq. “They’re tired, and their families are tired,” he said.

Chiarelli explained that when he took over as vice chief of staff in 2008, the rate of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD injuries was 38 percent. They now account for 63 percent of all combat-related injuries and affect about 19,000 soldiers. “These injuries represent the signature injuries of this war,” he said.

One of the challenges in treating those injuries is overcoming the stigma associated with them. Chiarelli said changing attitudes will require a significant cultural shift for the military and society. Technology enables personnel to privately seek help and receive better treatment. However, there is a critical lack of qualified treatment personnel. “One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation and a service is the shortage of behavioral health professionals,” he said.

Technology is also helping to eliminate those cultural obstacles. The Army is using videoconferencing to connect soldiers with doctors. Chiarelli added that most young personnel prefer counseling sessions via video because they are used to electronically communicating with one another.

The service is also using virtual-reality simulations to help treat soldiers with PTSD. Chiarelli said the Army is starting to use those therapeutic techniques, and they are invaluable in treating soldiers. However, he added, broader use of such technologies will need to wait until the results of clinical trials and additional research become available. “We owe it to our service members and their families,” he said.

Read more about the 2011 Federal 100 award winners.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Wed, Mar 30, 2011

All things have good sides and bad sides. War & PTSD is never good, but now, society can see for themselves that disabilities do not make the person any less valuable or productive. I was born with a life-impacting hard disability & am in mid-40's.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group