Healing is Job One for Wounded Troops
March 7, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany - Injured Wiesbaden warriors received firsthand assurances by the Army leader responsible for warrior care and transition that nothing has higher priority than their recovery.
"Nothing gets in front of healing," said Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker, assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition, during a visit to Wiesbaden's Warrior Transition Unit. "You're getting paid to heal. Everything you do is healing."
The general reiterated the announcement, made during a February Army Leader Forum held at the Pentagon, of the Comprehensive Care Plan that activated March 1. The plan is focused on healing the whole Soldier - and not just physically, but also "spiritually, mentally and educationally," said Tucker. "We want to heal more than a bad knee. We want to heal the whole person."
The recovering Soldiers were reminded that being in transitional status means a type of progress should be occurring, and for that reason the term "hold" - reminiscent of the former medical holdover companies - was removed and replaced with "transition."
The general emphasized the importance of the Soldier gaining life skills while recovering, as he acknowledged a concern that could affect generations to come. "If we're not careful, we could create an entire generation of panhandlers. We want to enhance your life skills and set the conditions for you to be successful," he said.
Noting that 95 percent of the people who enlist claim that continuing their education was one of the top three reasons to join - while only 10 percent actually do - he advised Soldiers to take full advantage of schooling opportunities while they are assigned to the unit.
"When you are not at appointments you will participate in a structured employment program or be enrolled in a cognitive enhancing activity like going to college classes. We want to fill idle time with structured activity that will enhance your skills," he said.
While healing is the Soldiers' mission while at the WTU, Tucker reminded them that the Army's ultimate goal is to encourage troops to return to duty. "You are warriors by trade," he said. "You are the defenders of this nation, and the Army wants you to return top duty."
In light of several WTU deaths at stateside facilities, Army leaders are taking a harder look at things relative and specific to healing that perhaps weren't thoroughly considered in the developmental phases of the WTU concept, the general said.
"We are looking at things like relationships and relationship management, narcotic use ... and we are being careful with high-risk Soldiers," said Tucker, who gave the example of how suicide attempts can be related to relationship failures or how mixing prescribed narcotics with alcohol can contribute to a fatal overdose.
After assessing the situation of each warrior present, he went on to say that leaders have more authority to grant Soldiers' desires that positively impact healing and possibly speed recovery.
"We have a WTU-to-WTU transfer to get Soldiers closer to (their) Families to heal. We realize that a person heals better when Family is around," he said.
"To reduce the stigma of being assigned to the WTU, we even allow Soldiers to wear their unit patch and distinctive headgear. Soldiers injured downrange want to identify with those who they fought and bled with," said the former 1st Armored Division assistant commander. "As long as it's legal, moral and ethical - if it is something that will help the Soldier heal - we are going to make the decision on the side of healing.
"There is a 73 percent return-to-duty rate for the WTU," Tucker added. "This program is effective, and it's not something that's going away."