VICENZA, Italy - Soldiers here are seeing considerable renovations on post that will play a major part in helping injured troops on the road to recovery as part of a Warrior Transition Unit that officially opens Feb. 22.

"Building 9A is complete, and we are already moving Soldiers into their new rooms," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Chaplin, WTU squad leader. "The other building will be complete by the end of this month."

Once the revamp is finished, there will be 36 rooms - a combination of single and double quarters - housing a total of 56 Soldiers and two cadres, with new decks providing wheelchair access.

Those already assigned to the WTU have started moving into the new quarters. For example, Sgt. Justin Varnes now has single room to himself.

"It's a really nice space, much better than the regular barracks," Varnes said. "Not having a roommate is great, but I'd love to have more of a kitchen area, rather than just a fridge and microwave."

"We've got lots of storage area," added Pfc. Thomas Bryant, who is moving into a double room. "I like it a lot. I even have a signal for my cell phone. Better than hanging out the window in the last place I lived."

For now, available rooms will be occupied by WTU Soldiers only. As more rooms become available, they will be filled by other troops needing short-term billeting - but WTU members have precedence.

"These rooms are just too nice to leave them empty," Chaplin explained. "We have Soldiers that may need a temporary place before they get authorization to move off post or to other quarters. But our WTU Soldiers always get priority."

Besides the new barracks, the unit has taken delivery of a specially fitted Mercedes van to shuttle Soldiers. Able to handle up to nine passengers, the vehicle is outfitted with a hydraulic lift in the rear to put wheelchair-bound Soldiers securely into the van while they remain seated.

"This van provides ... more mobility and ease in getting around for appointments and such," said Chaplin.

However, "Learning to drive it was a big adjustment; this is a big truck," Chaplin added. "But it is great (transportation)."

Co-located with WTU operations are the USO and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers organizations, which have moved into the refurbished buildings as well.

Overall, U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Directorate of Public Works did "a superb job in getting the facility renovations completed in such a short time, less than four months," said Christopher Karlsen, who is the sustainment, restoration and modernization program manager for Installation Management Command-Europe.

"They ... improved accessibility to buildings; reconfigured room layouts; provided new access control; and added all new furniture," Karlsen noted.

The WTU, which allows Soldiers the time and place to heal, is a large step in the right direction in caring for injured warriors, Chaplin said, with the facility receiving plenty of local support. "Anything we need," he said, "the Ederle community is right on it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16