Under secretary visits Fort Eustis WTU, hears Soldiers' concerns
December 16, 2009
By Lyna Tucker
(FORT EUSTIS, Va., Dec. 14, 2009) -- Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal learned about the concerns and thoughts of wounded warriors during a visit to the Fort Eustis Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) today.
Westphal was accompanied by Matt Flavin, director, White House Office of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy; Michelle Jones, special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates; and Joe Bowser, staff assistant to Army Secretary John McHugh.
Following a briefing at the WTU and a tour of the unit facilities, Westphal and his entourage met with several wounded warriors at the Fort Eustis Club for a sensing session.
After introducing his team, Westphal requested that WTU leaders leave the room to provide an uninhibited environment for the Soldiers to air any grievances or share any positive remarks regarding the WTU and the wounded warrior program.
Shedding his coat, Westphal opened the discussion with his observations and impressions of the WTU and experiences at other units.
"I want to hear from you how you really see things here, to see what we need to do as an Army to make things better for you," Westphal said.
Jones, a retired U.S. Army Reserve Command Sergeant Major with the distinction of being the first female to hold that position, sustained a traumatic brain injury during her Army service. She encouraged the Soldiers to speak out.
"I'm a survivor, too," she said. "I had to transition like you and I'm here to tell you that things are not going to get better for you if you don't open up."
With that, the Soldiers began to speak of their concerns, both good and bad, regarding the unit and the expectations they have for their recovery and rehabilitation.
The concerns expressed by the Soldiers ran the gamut to include concerns about medication, appointments and transportation.
As the session began, Cpl. Joshua Humberger, who lost his left leg in an attack outside Balad Air Base in Iraq while serving with the 1st Battalion, 213th Air Defense Artillery, an Army National Guard unit based in Spring City, Penn., expressed feelings of frustration. He stated that he felt Soldiers' needs aren't being properly considered and addressed.
"I feel like the WTU is counterproductive and the only way to fix it would be to wipe the slate clean and start over," said Humberger.
Other Soldiers expressed satisfaction with the services provided by the WTU.
"I feel the complete opposite. I have had a really good experience here and have been able to accomplish things I wouldn't have been able to if I was in another unit," said Sgt. Katherine Sidon.
Following the session, members of the group met for a luncheon before the dignitaries' departure.