By Jason B. Cutshaw (Fort Drum Public Affairs)August 8, 2008
Concern about support for America's fighting men and women brought one of New York's U.S. senators to speak with wounded warriors here.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) met Tuesday with Soldiers from Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Unit and their Family Members to discuss medical care provided to them and how to improve the Army's medical system.
The unit, also known as 3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry Regiment, works to ensure Soldiers can focus on rehabilitation and the Army Physical Disability and Evaluation System process.
Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, listened as troops discussed the quality of health care since the reactivation of 3-85 Infantry in 2007.
"We have just finished a very helpful discussion with some of the wounded warriors who are here in this Warrior Transition Unit," Clinton said. "This is a very important program, and I think it is fair to say that Fort Drum is a model of what we are attempting to do here with the Army. We want to make sure that our wounded warriors are given the support and the medical care and the counseling that they deserve and need.
"What is important is that we are trying to treat each individual Soldier with the care and attention that he or she deserves," she added. "This is a new undertaking on the part of the Army, and I am very proud that here at Fort Drum we have a really exemplary program."
Soldiers held a roundtable discussion with the senator about their personal experiences and some of the frustrations they felt with health care provided to them at Fort Drum.
"It meant a lot for her to come here and talk to us today," one Soldier said. "Most of the time it seems that politicians don't worry about us, but having Senator Clinton talk to us like she genuinely cared meant a lot to me.
"Senator Clinton asked for our opinions, and we gave them to her," he added. "She made us feel like we are important and treated us with respect. I believe she truly cares about the Soldiers, and I know she is on our side."
As Clinton prepared to leave, she told the Soldiers and Family Members present that they are at the top of her priorities and she would not rest until she knows they and their comrades receive the care they need.
"One of the biggest concerns I hear is personnel and resources," Clinton said. "We need the people to be able to the job that the mission has been asked to perform, and that is something that I will be delving into even further based on this experience.
"It is always, for me, more useful to come and hear ... about what ... Soldiers are going through," she added. "I am very grateful to everyone who put this day together."
During her visit, Clinton viewed some of the new construction on post and also visited barracks for warriors in transition.
The senator also met with Fort Drum's leadership and spoke with Maj. Gen. Mike Oates, Multinational Division - Center - Iraq and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, via a video teleconference about the situation there.
"I was privileged to have a video conference with Maj. Gen. Oates in Iraq and had a chance to be briefed by him (about) how he saw the situation there," Clinton said. "I was able to ask him questions about what he believes is the way forward and was very impressed, as always, with his perception and his very acute understanding of the complex situation that we face and the progress that he saw on the ground from the time before when he was there.
"(Maj.) Gen. Oates understands and expressed very clearly the connection between our military mission and the stability of the Iraqi government, the legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people and, of course, the professionalism of the Iraqi Security Forces," she added. "I think we have certainly seen progress in the last year and a half to two years. I think everyone is cautiously optimistic."
Before departing to participate in an economic development forum at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, Clinton thanked everyone for their time and promised to take the knowledge she gained at Fort Drum and apply it in the U.S. Senate upon her return to Washington, D.C.
"I think a specialized unit like this really demonstrates the Army's seriousness in trying to provide the help that our wounded warriors deserve to have," Clinton said. "We've made a great start, and we have a long way to go. I think we are making a lot of progress."
"Like everything, it takes time and it is not easy to get the focus I would like to see us have, but I am pleased at the progress we have made," she added. "But I will also continue to keep my pressure on as well."