VILSECK, Germany - In keeping with the Army warrior ethos "I will never leave a fallen comrade behind," Warrior Transition Units are being activated in Europe as part of the Army Medical Action Plan announced by the Department of Defense in June.

With WTUs, Soldiers who need extended medical care no longer will have to return stateside. Instead, they can heal here.

The units are a result of the growing number of medical evaluation boards and the increasingly high survival rate of servicemembers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, "We have a lot of people we need to take care of," said Col. Brian Boyle, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, during a Sept. 26 community briefing on the WTU concept.

"The purpose of the WTU is to provide leadership and to remove the bureaucracy (to obtain health care and other services) so we make sure that the Soldier can concentrate on getting better," Boyle said.

WTU is the first program entirely focused on injured Soldiers that develops an organization to care for those troops in transition - so they can concentrate on healing.

Giving the time it will take for some to heal, the WTU concept allows commanders to refill positions that wounded Soldiers once manned.

As with every organization, the WTU requires a chain of command to handle military issues. Plus Soldiers are assigned a nurse case manager and a primary care manager to handle health issues.

Soldiers eligible for the WTU are those assigned to a medical hold company in active-duty medical extension status, or those who require extended medical care for more than
six months. Europe Regional Medical Command officials and tactical commanders will determine who will be assigned to the WTU.

Those who are not eligible for WTU include Soldiers pending investigation, Uniform Code of Military Justice action or administrative separation; those with a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy; and those with permanent profiles requiring a mandatory medical retention board.

Four WTU centers are planned in Germany - one each at Vilseck and Heidelberg, and two in Landstuhl.

In fact, some facilities already exist at Vilseck, such as a company operations building and barracks, which are located in converted lodging structure. Boyle stressed that the garrison is trying to accommodate Soldiers by placing them close to a medical clinic in a building with a handicap entrance as well as five rooms equipped with wheelchair access.

"It is my job as a supporter to find more barracks if we need more," the colonel said.

Still, European sites are different than large stateside bases that own bigger capacities, more resources and larger support areas, Boyle noted.

However, "We are prepared to handle these folks and to do as much as possible with the resources we have," he said.

The WTU may impact community resources, mostly in the area of funding, Boyle said, adding that wounded Soldiers will have priority status while being treated.

He added that a Soldier does not have to be wounded on the battlefield to be considered for WTU services, explaining, "If someone hurts his back in a car accident, he will be eligible to be a candidate to WTU."

The two types of casualties that are ineligible for WTU services, though, are amputees and burn victims, both of which require extensive specialized care.

Boyles said Vilseck's WTU is ready to open: "If you told me today I have a WTU member, I can handle it, and we can do it right now."

But he does have some concerns. For example, when it comes to married Soldiers who are in wheelchairs, the colonel's biggest challenge is "not having too many first-floor houses.

Boyle said his main priority is to make a Soldier's home "as comfortable and efficient as we possibly can."

Besides ongoing work, construction of a new $16.5 million Transitioning Warrior Support Complex will begin here in 2009.

"It is the promise we have made to Soldiers and to families, to take care of wounded warriors." Boyle said.

Page last updated Wed October 24th, 2007 at 09:26