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Bastogne Physical Therapists Keep Soldiers on Their Feet
By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division (AA)
May 22, 2008 - 10:52:20 AM
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Staff Sgt. Rebecca Gaither, physical therapy NCOIC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), helps Soldiers get back on their feet at COB Speicher, Iraq.
COB SPEICHER, Iraq - It's not a game, it's combat.  Yet many of the physical tolls that professional athletes face are mirrored in professional Soldiers.  Pulled muscles, back pains and sprains are just a few injuries that Soldiers face while conducting day to day operations in Iraq. 

Enter the Army physical therapist.  A mobile, hands-on medical professional, who works with Soldiers to alleviate Soldier's neuromusculoskeletal problems in the thick of the fight here. 

"We see our guys on the line as professional athletes," said Capt. Christine Iverson, a physical therapist with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

Iverson, who has been an Army physical therapist since April of 2006, earned a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Baylor University and has been helping Screaming Eagle Soldiers reach their peak performance ever since.  She and her mobile physical therapy team have helped more than 2,500 Soldiers get back on their feet since being deployed here in Sept. 2007. 

The Army and Baylor have been partners in helping physical therapists expand their role in the military since 1971, when the Army faced a shortage of orthopedic surgeons during the war in Vietnam.  These "physician extenders," were credentialed to evaluate and treat neuromusculoskeletal patients without physician referral, according to the Army Medical Specialist Corps website. 

The Bastogne physical therapy team handles an array of Soldier's injuries here, from acute battle wounds to chronic orthopedic pain, said Iverson.  "You name it, we're here to fix ‘em," she said. 

"Physical Therapy is not to be confused with massage therapy," said Iverson who describes the operation as a one stop shop for relieving Soldier's aches and pains. 

The physical therapy team here specializes in joint mobilizations, manipulations and exercise therapies.  They use sophisticated machines, modalities and braces to help debilitated warriors get back on their feet across the Salah ad Din province.

Iverson said that her team spends an average of 20 days a month traveling to forward operating bases here providing treatment and giving advice to Soldiers on how to avoid injuries.  "As we are trying to do more with less, it becomes important for our line Soldiers to get the best treatment we can give them," she said.  "We want them to leave here as better Soldiers." 

A large portion of the cases Iverson's team here deals with, is back pain.  As Soldiers are being asked to carry a heavy burden here, so to they carry equally heavy loads on their backs. 

Core strengthening is key to avoiding back issues, said Iverson.  This entails building the muscle that acts as a weight belt underneath the superficial layers of muscle around your core, she said. 

For many Soldiers, the physical therapists here have been instrumental in helping them recover.  "It's awesome because you don't have to go through a whole deployment in pain," said Spc. Thomas Heppler, who is suffering from chronic back pain. Heppler said that he appreciates having a physical therapist at the brigade level instead of having to seek help elsewhere.  "It makes it easier on me to have them here," he said.  "They make themselves real accessible."

For Iverson, there is no better place for a physical therapist to be, than at the heart of the fight.  "We belong down at the line units," she said.  "We owe them that."


Staff Sgt. Rebecca Gaither, physical therapist NCOIC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), helps a Soldier stretch out his foot. The physical therapists here treat the Soldiers as if they were professional athletes, giving them a greater chance of avoiding injury.
Staff Sgt. Gaither, physical therapist NCOIC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), checks on a Soldier with back pain at the Combat Support Hospital here at COB Speicher, Iraq.

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Jaci Graul
18 Dec 2010, 20:43
You are a ROCKSTAR, Becki with an "I"!!! Muah, muah, muah!!
Guy Terry PT, OCS
14 Sep 2008, 10:02
Good to see something written about your efforts. Are either of you reservists? I'm a former AD PT now in the IRR with a private practice, who just received mobilization orders for OEF. Not sure whether I'm backfill yet (that would be easy) or whether I'm headed to Afghanistan, but I'd like to have a couple of brains to pick regarding the situation if I'm sent to Afghanistan. I was part of the MFO in Egypt several years ago, but things are different now. The SP Corp has yet to return a phone call or email, believe it or not.
Laura & Geoff Weller
27 Jun 2008, 07:33
Great job Becky, we are so proud of you. We miss you!
-L & G
LaRonna Wilson
26 Jun 2008, 17:35
Way to go Becky. Keep the faith. I'll be praying for your safe return home.
SSG Gaither
26 Jun 2008, 11:38
Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of your support! It is greatly appreciated!!
Susan Pugliese
25 Jun 2008, 20:24
Kepp up the good work, And remember we are keeping you and your unit in our prayers. More coffee is on the way!
25 Jun 2008, 10:37
Way to go Becky! Keep up the good work. We love you.

Uncle Fred
Midwest City, OK
25 Jun 2008, 09:42
That's my sis! Go Becky!
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