11 January 2010

Army opening new generation of specialized barracks for Wounded Warriors

Staff Sgt. John Engel uses a functional squat machine at Irwin Army Community Hospital’s physical therapy clinic as part of his rehabilitation. Engel’s Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Riley, Kan., will be among the first to move into a barracks complex meant to help wounded troops recover. Photo: Nikia Simon/Courtesy of the U.S. Army.

In October of 2007, the Army announced the establishment of 32 "Warrior Transition Units" at major Army bases all over the world in order to help injured Soldiers with rehabilitation, retraining or medical discharge from the Army.

The WTUs did more than just replace Medical Hold Companies. The units combined what used to be separate structures for the active and reserve components and brought a new level of care to all patients.

At that time, the Army allocated $1.2 billion in Military Construction funds for Warrior Transition Unit facilities and projects. As far as I can tell, it looks like that money has resulted in a new generation of Wounded Warrior barracks.

Wounded warriors to get specialized barracks
By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TOKYO — The Army is spending $1.2 billion to build specialized barracks and transition centers for wounded troops who remain on active duty but face weeks or months of recovery and rehabilitation.

The centers will put all the aspects of soldiers’ recovery — from medical treatment to family support to career counseling — in one setting adjacent to a military hospital.

The consolidated sites are meant to help soldiers transition more quickly to better health and to the next stage in their lives, either inside or outside the military, says Col. Rolan W. Small, a chief adviser for the Army Warrior Transition Command.

For troops like Staff Sgt. John Engel, the difference will be tangible.

Engel is part of the Warrior Transition Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kan., which is slated to move into the Army’s first completed complex in the next few weeks.

Engel was working detainee operations at Camp Cropper, a part of the military’s footprint at Baghdad International Airport, when a pinched nerve in his lower back and a blood clot in his right leg sent him for treatment at Fort Riley on Halloween.

To make appointments at the Irwin Army Community Hospital, Engel and other senior wounded soldiers sent back to Riley soon had to cross an icy road with no sidewalks or crosswalks.

Others, he said, have had it worse. One of his fellow soldiers, who is on crutches, lives on the second floor of a building with no elevator.

The Warrior Transition Complexes are meant to consolidate the services a recovering soldier needs, Small said. The bulk of the buildings are barracks, some private and some with shared baths and living areas. Some can house family members needed to help care for the patient. The complexes also include food courts, lounge space, day care sites, and office space dedicated to education, legal aid, and other military benefits services.

The centers won’t contain health care services or exam rooms. But their location next to hospitals makes it much easier for patients to get to appointments and for wounded soldiers to spend time together while they heal, Engel said.

As of mid-December, nearly 9,000 troops qualified as "warriors in transition," according to Small. The Army’s approved construction plans will create 3,788 beds for those troops. The average stay is estimated at 220 days, he said.

All told, the military has plans for 23 centers: 22 in the States and one in Germany, Small said.

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