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    Wounded warrior comes home to quality life

    Wounded warrior comes home to quality life

    Courtesy Photo | Retired Army Staff Sgt. Mitch Court (second from left) stands among his squad in...... read more read more

    CLEVELAND, OH, UNITED STATES

    04.08.2015

    Story by Thomas Perry 

    Defense Contract Management Agency

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - While defending a group of ambushed soldiers during his third tour in Iraq, retired Army Staff Sgt. Mitch Court was shot and knocked unconscious when insurgents fired on his squad.

    His injuries required major surgeries to his legs, face, lungs and ribs. As he healed, underwent medical retirement and prepared for life without the Army, Court spent 14 months as an intern at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Emergency Operations Center. Far removed from the battlefield, he again found himself in a dangerous situation.

    “The scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life was not combat, it was becoming a civilian for the first time,” said Court, who six years later, is now a Defense Contract Management Agency Cleveland quality assurance specialist.

    His post-Army journey eventually landed him in Ohio. Thanks to hard work and the assistance of his agency team members, he now has a promising career. Better still, the decorated veteran seems at peace with his role within what he calls his “DCMA family.” Unfortunately, too many of his wounded brothers-in-arms — labeled America’s heroes not long ago — return to their homes uncomfortable in their well-known, yet hauntingly foreign, environments.

    “After being released (from the Army), we have a lot of contact support group friendships,” said Court, who joined the Army in 1996 at the age of seventeen. “Men and women returning home with no purpose tend to make horrible coping decisions. I’ve had a few members of my personal team pass away, and others just dropped off the grid. I think the attitude is simply ‘who’s going to want me now.’ It’s sad and breaks my heart to see this take place. We don’t need babysitters, but civilian mentors who are willing to ‘wing’ us to the first start of our new life.”

    Court first heard of the agency during a phone conversation with a friend who was looking into anything that would allow him to continue the mission and support the troops. Soon after, Court’s new professional life began when his story was brought to the attention of DCMA leadership.

    After it was determined he was qualified for an open journeyman position, Court was hired as a quality assurance specialist with special funding authorized by Section 852 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. Its purpose is to ensure the Department of Defense acquisition workforce has the personnel and skills capacity needed to properly perform its mission, provide appropriate oversight of contractor performance and ensure the department receives the best value for taxpayer money.

    After a few months with the agency, Court was transferred to a quality assurance team led by James Hartman.

    “Mr. Hartman understood I had limited knowledge of the tasks for the daily mission needs,” said Court. “My entire life and personal experience was the battlefield and the military. Learning how to be a civilian was also a job in itself. School teaches you the paperwork and the rules, but having a mentor and a team to call and learn from was key.”

    An Air Force veteran himself, Hartman said he makes himself available to Court 24/7 in case he needs to talk. “They need to know what they fought for was worth their sacrifice. They deserve a good job, a home to go to, complete medical support and the understanding of who they are. I also believe they need to feel normal again.”

    Hartman, who is now a Cleveland quality team lead, knew Court could take a big step toward normalcy by beginning to master his new profession.

    “When Mr. Court joined us he had a lot of questions, needed guidance on his training plan and wanted to know more about our team’s area of responsibility,” said Hartman. “He continued with his training and completed it on time. Our team knew Mr. Court’s background and welcomed him with full support and assisted him with whatever he needed. Everyone made sure he was actively involved with on the job training and answered any questions.”

    Court is now fully certified as a quality assurance specialist with certifications in quality assurance systems and mechanical skill sets. His agency future is bright. He is not sure however, if he would have the same prospects without his mentor.

    “Mr. Hartman could see my personal struggle with adjusting and the job,” said Court. “He was not a ‘wave him off and move on’ type of leader. Mr. Hartman knew I could do this job, and with a little mentoring and guidance, I could become a good member of the team. Leadership like his is not common out here, but similar to what I left in the service. He has a ‘let’s get this man squared away’ mindset; he was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t imagine trying this again without him as a mentor.”

    Understanding he is fortunate, Court often focuses on ways to aid other wounded warriors in finding careers and advertising the positive traits they can bring to a team. He wants others to know his story so they can realize there are many other stories whose endings have yet to be written.

    That’s why Court wrote a letter in early March to Air Force Lt. Gen. Wendy Masiello, agency director, praising Hartman’s mentorship and explaining how he changed his life.

    “I think every wounded soldier worries about becoming a total failure out here and not finding a new focus,” said Court. “But I wasn’t given the chance to fail. My new leadership and team members wouldn’t allow it. I owe them for the time they took to work with me to stay the course.”

    Court tells his story with measured optimism and polish, having recited it numerous times to high-ranking military and government officials. There is a constant overtone of humility, and he is quick to remind his audience — be it one or many — this is not about him. It is about the thousands of wounded warriors still searching for their second life. It is about American heroes still waiting to make it fully home.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.08.2015
    Date Posted: 04.08.2015 14:17
    Story ID: 159426
    Location: CLEVELAND, OH, US 

    Web Views: 219
    Downloads: 0
    Podcast Hits: 0

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