Maxwell RCC serves, cares for wounded Airmen

Tim Griggs, 42nd Medical Group recovery care coordinator, is surrounded by photos depicting his 27-year Air Force career, May 21, 2015, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Before becoming a recovery care coordinator, Griggs served in the Air Force for 27 years, spending 24 years working in security forces and three years as a Senior NCO Academy instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

Tim Griggs, 42nd Medical Group recovery care coordinator, is surrounded by photos depicting his 27-year Air Force career, May 21, 2015, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Before becoming a recovery care coordinator, Griggs served in the Air Force for 27 years, spending 24 years working in security forces and three years as a Senior NCO Academy instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Taking care of Maxwell's wounded, ill and injured service members one step at a time is Tim Griggs' mission as the  42nd Medical Group recovery care coordinator.

Recovery care coordinators are assigned to the seriously wounded, ill or injured and provide personalized support for them and their families, smoothing the transition either back to full duty or to the civilian community.

Sitting at his desk, surrounded by walls covered with 27 years' worth of photos depicting his Air Force career, Griggs starts his day by checking the Casualty Morning Report, which lists everyone in the Air Force who has been injured within the last 24 hours. As Maxwell's RCC, Griggs has spent the last three years supporting approximately 30 service members and their families. 

Jennifer Sweatman shares her experience with Griggs as the spouse of retired Air Force Master Sgt. Kenneth Sweatman, who sustained a back injury while stationed in Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, which now leaves him permanently constrained to a power chair.

"He is a giving human being with a heart of gold," she said.  "Not enough can be said of him, he is just amazing. He has gotten in touch with us, visited us and has stayed with me during hospital visits. He goes above and beyond."

With the RCC profession being constantly filled with the grim news of injured service members, Griggs finds the light in dark situations.

"Seeing wounded, ill and injured service members being taken care of and seeing them realize that despite the disability they have incurred, life isn't over, it has only really begun, is the biggest reward" said Griggs. "It's nice to see the life come back into them, because when they have incurred a devastating injury, it changes their futures forever."

To become more independent and responsible, Griggs, who is from Connecticut, enlisted in the Air Force out of high school and spent 24 years working in security forces before becoming a Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor for three years.  When facing his retirement back in January 2013,  he said the recovery care coordinator profession stuck out as something he would like to do.

"Having a security forces background, I saw a lot of injured people," said Griggs. "Responding across the base, having deployed so many times and witnessing things during deployments had something to do with what drew me to this position."

While the best part is helping people through their struggles, he said the hardest part is in knowing that there are many people who could benefit from his help.

In 2007, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, being inundated with an influx of injured military members coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq, left the mentally and physically wounded neglected of proper care and housed in bad living conditions.  In response to the poor treatment and care, the Recovery Care Coordinator program was established.

"What happened in 2007 was a travesty," said Griggs.  "When this nation sends its men and women to another country to defend its freedom, there is an obligation for the country to take care of them.  When they come back, they should be taken care of, even after they are no longer serving. That is what recovery care coordinators ensure."