By Hugh Lessig, Daily Press, VADecember 12, 2008
NEWPORT NEWS - The special recovery unit for wounded soldiers at Fort Eustis never stops running.
Just ask Capt. Donald C. Little, who assumed command on Friday.
His acceptance speech was briefly interrupted by a faint buzzing sound from the lectern - the official Blackberry passed to him by the outgoing commander. New e-mail had already arrived.
"There it goes," he said with a smile.
The Warrior Transition Unit, as it is officially known, has risen in stature and visibility since being activated last year. The well-appointed barracks houses injured soldiers who are preparing for a return to duty or civilian life.
It also serves as home to Mother, a mixed-breed dog who is the unit's unofficial mascot and roams the halls in a perpetual state of tail-wagging happiness under the eyes of her handler, Spc. Steven T. Porter.
The unit's approach to care is part of a plan established in 2007 after investigations into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center unearthed disturbing shortcomings in health care for service members.
In his new job, Little said he wants to first maintain the status quo at the Warrior Transition Unit, a tribute to its operation under the former commander, Capt. Michael J. Hosler.
"You guys are simply that good," Little said.
Hosler said he learned that it is impossible to generalize about the soldiers the unit serves. There is no set duration for someone's stay there. Each case is judged on its own set of circumstances.
"Basically, you have to take the time to know every single individual story," he said, "because they're all different. They're all unique."
The unit has grown from 69 soldiers in October 2007 to a peak of 197 this July. About 150 soldiers are assigned there.
Since last October, 140 have gone through the unit. Of those, 71 have been medically retired, and 48 have returned to duty. A dozen have left active duty, and another nine have transferred to other transition units.
"We will not push anybody out of this unit prematurely," Hosler said. "Everybody has the right to their treatment."