The Army established 35 Warrior Transition Units (WTU) throughout the United States to help soldiers ready for the next stage in their careers, whether that is military service or civilian life.
While the units were established in the wake of concern over soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care is also being provided to other soldiers who are recovering from non-combat injuries or life-threatening diseases.
Speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s monthly Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast Series May 8 in suburban Washington, Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, said he had talked with a soldier at a WTU who had deployed three times but suffered a devastating injury – losing an arm in a motorcycle accident – at home and far away from a combat zone.
“It’s hard to look at them and say they are different,” Schoomaker said. “We still have a duty to rehabilitate them.”
At each WTU, the only mission soldiers have is to make themselves better. To assist them along the recovery process, they have a primary care physician, nurse case manager and squad leader “from the moment they arrive to when they transition out,” Schoomaker said.
There are 400 permanent cadre throughout the 35 units, Schoomaker said. They come from a wide variety of skills and backgrounds, but many share a bond with the wounded soldiers in that they have recovered from injuries before.
A study from 15 years ago found that the Army didn’t retain a single amputee or partial amputee, Schoomaker said.
Now, 10 percent of amputees are retained in uniform, and if they can’t return to duty, doctors, nurses and everyone else in the recovery process prepare those soldiers for a productive civilian life.
“Healing and recovery includes a whole set of life skills to prepare them for their next step,” Schoomaker said.
The surgeon general also singled out the care soldiers are receiving if they are injured in theater. A group of civilian traumatologists visited a U.S. military medical facility in Baghdad and were “astounded by the degree of injury and survivability.”
The Army has invested so much in soldiers’ training and retention, “it’s important to do what we can” -- leading them on the road to recovery, Schoomaker said.
The breakfast was sponsored by AM General, an AUSA sustaining member.