Warrior Transition Unit
Specialist Neal Schanbeck (L) and Sgt. First Class Andrew Turnbull (R) were injured in Baghdad, Iraq in separate incidents and are now both part of the WTU at Fort Lewis.

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - They had never met, but similar incidents in Baghdad, Iraq, brought Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Turnbull and Spc. Neal Schanbeck to the Warrior Transition Unit at Madigan Army Medical Center.

"A hand grenade went inside my Stryker (vehicle) in the back, and it blew up and it injured eight of us out of nine people," said Turnbull, who was with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment on that day in January 2007. "The driver's the only one that didn't get hurt."

"The vehicle that I was in ... hit a roadside bomb," said Schanbeck, a member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade when his Stryker was hit in October 2006. "Nobody died in it."

In those separate attacks, Turnbull and Schanbeck suffered extensive wounds. They have traveled long, painful roads toward recovery. The two Soldiers, now assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, sat in a lounge at the WTB last week and shared their stories.

Schanbeck recalled that his heart stopped three times after the attack.

"I wasn't projected to live," Schanbeck said. "I was in Walter Reed for about 2 1/2 months. One of those months, I was in a coma. Then for about two weeks, I was paralyzed from the neck down."

Medically, both Soldiers have come a long way. The psychological scars continue to heal. Turnbull, 31, and the 24-year-old Schanbeck are both dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Schanbeck has a traumatic brain injury.

"I lost a lot of friends over there," Turnbull said. "I just had a hard time dealing with all that. I was going through a lot of survivor guilt."

"When I actually got blown up, I was asleep," said Schanbeck, "so I have trouble sleeping a lot now."

Both Soldiers have gone through "Prolonged Exposure Therapy" to help with their PTSD. It brought everything to the surface for Turnbull.

"I felt it worked for me, because I wasn't talking to anybody about it," Turnbull said. "If you don't talk about it, you leave it inside. It's going to eat up at you really bad."

"It worked really well," said Schanbeck of the therapy.

Turnbull said he also finds that staying busy helps in his recovery. A father of three sons with a daughter on the way, he volunteers as a youth sports coach.

"I put myself into situations where I have to deal with a lot of people around me," Turnbull said.

Turnbull and Schanbeck have their eyes on the future. Both are attending Pierce College classes at the Stone Education Center on post while assigned to the WTB. Turnbull would like to teach high school history, and Schanbeck is thinking about a career in medicine.

The two Soldiers were complimentary of the treatment they have received here.

"When it comes to therapy and rehabilitation, this place is ... great," Turnbull said. "I get the best care I ever had since I've been in the Army. The people are really nice here."

Bob Reinert is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Thu November 6th, 2008 at 17:25