Warrior Transition Command stands up at Pentagon
May 12, 2009
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 12, 2009) - A new command to provide sole guidance and policy for the Army's 36 Warrior Transition Units and the nine Community Based Warrior Transition Units was activated May 11, in the Pentagon courtyard.
The new Warrior Transition Command will oversee the care of more than 9,500 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers while providing centralized family support under the command of Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, who also serves as assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition.
Guest speakers included Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Medical Command chief Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, who also serves as the Army's surgeon general.
Geren said the standup of the WTC was the silver lining in a dark cloud of what happened at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007.
"It really was a wake-up call and helped us to see how much more we could be doing for those wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who are outside of our primary care and outpatient care," he said. "The WTC is the culmination of efforts that bring together many different aspects of our Army. All these efforts are joined in one purpose, and that's our commitment to never leave a fallen comrade on the battlefield and never leave a fallen comrade in the hospital or in outpatient care."
Schoomaker added that in spite of an Army in tremendous movement, from seven years of war, base realignment and closure through the re-stationing of Soldiers outside of the continental U.S., to power projections inside, along with modularity and transformation, the "Army remains committed to improving the care that we're giving to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers through the creation of the Warrior Transition Command."
He said since the beginning of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, more than 61,000 Soldiers had entered the Army's medical system. Today, more than 85 percent, or 51,000 of those Soldiers have completed the transition back to active duty, a figure of two brigades a year.
The new WTC commander said one of his first three priorities is to implement the comprehensive transition plan for every Soldier "to get them excited about their future, whether that's in the Army or out because a Soldier excited about their future is a Soldier who will aggressively pursue their rehab and therapy."
The second part of Cheek's priorities is to work in concert with strategic leaders in the other services for a new way of taking care of those who have born the burden of serving the country.
"Our current physical disability evaluation was crafted in the 1940s for a draft Army and an industrial-agricultural America and now we have a professional Army in an information-age America," he said. "We want that system to reflect the nation and we want it to be a system that is more than just about disability and compensation; it's also about rehabilitation and productivity and that really inspires Soldiers to have a great future whatever that may be."
Cheek said his third focus is on families and though he believes the Soldier Family Assistance Centers are doing a great job, he wants to custom tailor a family program to each warrior in transition.
"We want a family program where we have literally interviewed each family and built a program that's right and appropriate for that family -- whether a Soldier is living with parents, siblings or spouses or far away," he said. "The family is a permanent part of a Soldier and long after the Army is gone, it will be the family that provides the support and everything else for the Solder."