Geesey saves lives with technology

When it comes to people at risk of suicide, quick access to professional help can be a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, soldiers in combat zones traditionally have had to endure long waits to see a mental health specialist. But then Lt. Col. William Geesey, product manager of the Army’s Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care, spearheaded an effort to use technology to digitally connect soldiers in the field with mental health specialists, helping them get a jump on the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder or any other mental health issue.

We had already been working on a number of telehealth initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, so we didn’t really start from scratch. The Army suicide prevention campaign kicked off a lot of the focus on soldier suicides and [other mental health issues]. There was a perception of a lack of access to mental health specialists in theater. Some studies show you’ve got ratio of 1 to 10,000 or [1 to] 15,000 when it comes to licensed clinical providers and soldiers, and they’re spread out all over the place. The challenge was really about access.

Travel in Afghanistan is difficult and dangerous. We’ve got soldiers spread all over in a wide area, so the goal was to really increase access to those service members. What we did was to basically leverage existing commercial off-the-shelf technology in a new way as a force multiplier for mental health and health care providers.

We already had significant experience in theater. We had been operating beginning in Iraq in 2004, 2005, so we were familiar with the environment. We had been in Afghanistan since 2007, so we knew our customers and their needs. The Army’s attention and focus moved to suicide prevention, and we looked at how we could better leverage technology to help the warfighters who are out there.

With any new initiative, there’s a little resistance to the effort. But people came onboard really quickly because they saw the value and the need in the project. The greatest challenge was probably overcoming the bureaucracy of network access. The Army has a lot of different networks, and anywhere you go, you need to get permission from someone different.

After we set up initially in Afghanistan — even before we got feedback on the pilot — there was a real demand to expand it, and we immediately expanded to Iraq and Kuwait. Another significant challenge was the introduction of a new technology in the middle of war and casualties. Everyone is already working on overload, and you show up and say, “Hey, we’ve got something new for you to do.”

Thirty-eight percent of the providers who were surveyed said this capability reduced travel time by 24 to 36 hours. Thirty percent of the time, it was taking 24 to 36 hours to get to the location of a service member who needed some mental health services. Now we can bring that soldier through a [video processing capability] to the provider.

I’ve been doing this for a long time; I’ve been with the Army almost 28 years. These are my brothers and sisters, the people I work with every day in harm’s way, and I feel a real connection to them. Basically, it’s about making a difference for them, making their lives easier and giving them greater capabilities in the missions they have to do.

Read more about the 2012 Federal 100 award winners.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

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