10 April 2011

Every Day Hero

Meet Capt. Brian Brennan:

From Military.com

Double Amputee to Lead Basic Company

March 21, 2011

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- This summer, new Soldiers coming to Benning for basic training should be less apt to whine about physical training because of the presence of Capt. Brian Brennan, a new Army Basic School company commander who's proving that obstacles to getting in shape are mostly mental.

Brennan is an infantry officer -- and a double amputee. And he's out to inspire confidence as few can.

"There will be no excuses," said Brennan. "Especially not when it comes to running."

Brennan was wounded in Afghanistan during a 2008 roadside bomb ambush. Both he and his gunner lost their legs in the blast that killed two other Soldiers and a civilian. Now almost three years later, Brennan will become the first amputee of any kind to graduate the Army's Maneuver Captains Career Course and the first double amputee to lead a basic training company at Benning.

Brennan's presence here represents an ongoing shift in Army policy toward the severely injured. If they can live up to the standards of the job, the Army wants them to stay.

"The issue is you now have people who are physically challenged performing duties that were previously done by the able-bodied," said Bill Costello, a spokesman for Army Human Resources Command. "And they aren't just public affairs officers that sit behind the desk and talk on the phone. They are out teaching, leading and doing other things."

Individual drive on the part of injured Soldiers and advancements in prosthetics have led to the Army's shift in its policy, experts say.

"It's a combination of the Army really wanting to use the assets that are available to them -- the guy who has a heart as big as anything -- and now he has the technology available to do whatever he wants," agreed Erich Langer, a spokesman for Warrior Transition Command.

Brennan is among only a handful of Soldiers with his type of amputation -- one leg removed below the knee and the other just above -- who are still in the infantry. Most switch to a less physically demanding branch of the Army or leave the service entirely.

But after a lot of therapy, Brennan was given a service dog, fitted with prosthetics, and received a waiver to stay. And since his pre-injury plan of going to Special Forces is no longer possible, Brennan has adapted to training as an alternative career.

"When you're not able to function the way that you want and the way the job requires you to function, people tend to get out of the area they were originally in," Brennan explained. "But you can still contribute to the fight by training future Soldiers and future warriors."

A graduate of The Citadel in South Carolina, Brennan never had trouble learning before his injury. But since coming to the academics-heavy career course, he's discovered that he struggles with "executive skills," which affect his ability to think abstractly and grasp overall concepts.

Still, he's held to the same standard as the other students, said Capt. Brennan Speaks, one of the instructors. When he's lagging in class, teachers spend one-on-one time helping him work through the material -- just like they do with any other struggling student.

"He has that attitude that you wish everybody had -- can do, go get them," Speaks said. "There are [healthy] guys who fail because they didn't put the effort in. … There's no quit in that guy."...

Go - now - and read the rest of the Captain's story, here.

Thank you for your service, Captain Brennan.

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