FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- In 1985, a cadet named Paul Rounsaville came to Fort Bragg for a two-week "Army experience." As part of his tour around the installation, he remembers a white building located at a remote corner of post surrounded by fencing and concertina wire being pointed out to him.
"See that building over there," he recalls his tour guide saying to him. "That's medical hold; it's where all the losers go. If you ever end up there, you might as well just commit suicide."
Thirty years later, in December 2015, Rounsaville, now a Green Beret and a colonel, ended up at the new version of "there" -- the Warrior Transition Battalion. A self-described "type triple-A personality," he said that the only way to go was to go until you break.
"And I broke," said Rounsaville. "And when I broke, I broke hard. I spent 13 days here at Womack in the ICU in a coma."
Upon his arrival at the WTB, he said that he spent the first 45 days denying that he needed help. He eventually embraced the process as best he could. While he said he is not one to let go of control, he stepped back and allowed the process to work, giving him the time and the opportunity to heal.
Rounsaville was able to achieve return to duty status in 2016 and retired from the service this month. One of the last things he did before taking off his uniform for the last time was speak to a formation of Fort Bragg WTB Soldiers as part of the unit's 10th anniversary celebration.
The image of medical hold originally painted for Rounsaville more than 30 years ago as being a place for losers was exactly why there was a need for the development of a unit devoted to providing care for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.
In April 2007, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army directed the Army Medical Action Plan to resolve the difficulties Soldiers were having accessing care and with the disability evaluation system. As a result, the AMAP established an integrated and comprehensive system of care for Soldiers in Transition, also referred to as STs. In June 2007, the Fort Bragg WTB opened its doors to begin caring for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.
The mission of the WTB is the same now as it was 10 years ago: provide comprehensive medical treatment; adaptive reconditioning; and career and education readiness. While the programs have grown in size and scope over the years, the battalion's original intent of either returning Soldiers to duty or helping them transition into a productive life in the civilian world remains the same.
The Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion celebrated its 10th anniversary, June 13 through 15 by honoring its roots and the Soldiers it serves.
The three-day celebration of the WTB's anniversary highlighted the unit's successes over the years. One of the ways the unit shared its success was by showcasing the STs themselves. From inviting Rounsaville and Col. David Oeschger, who was severely wounded in Afghanistan leading to his assignment to the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe, to speak about their experiences and sharing their journey back to duty, to showcasing the successes of STs in the civilian world in a range of categories, including Retired Master Sgt. Bob Fletcher, who markets his own barbeque sauce.
The first day of the celebration highlighted some of these successes, as well as honoring some of the partners around the community during an open house.
"It's very important to highlight what other STs are doing," said Dennis Small, deputy commander, Fort Bragg WTB. "We want our current Soldiers to see and witness the success of former STs, either what they're doing in the civilian world or how they transitioned back to duty."
While the WTB's core focus to successfully transition Soldiers back to duty or to civilian life has remained the same through the years, one of the programs that has increased in size and scope to help accomplish this mission is the adaptive reconditioning program. The WTB highlighted the program during the second day of the celebration with a wheelchair basketball tournament and adaptive sports expo showcasing adaptive cycling, archery, bocce and other sports that can be adapted to allow Soldiers overcoming injuries and illnesses the opportunity to not only participate in, but to excel at.
During the wheelchair basketball tournament, Soldiers in Transition and cadre members strapped themselves into the chairs and took to the court in a game intended to be more than just a friendly competition, but to also show other STs that anyone can play.
"Before coming to the WTB, Soldiers are always told what they can't do," said Lt. Col. Phillip Brown, commander, Fort Bragg WTB, who also participated in the tournament. "We're here to tell them what they can do. They can swim. They can do yoga. They can do art therapy. They can play basketball."
The culmination of the celebration was an adaptive cycling ride across the installation featuring a wide variety of bicycles designed to enable riders of all abilities, including a few bikes that were pedaled using your hands instead of your feet. The ride was followed by a job fair with companies conducting on-site interviews and even hiring a few individuals on the spot. More than 115 people, including STs and veterans, participated in the event.
Since the Fort Bragg WTB's inception, more than 8,300 Soldiers have come through its doors. Of those, about 45 percent returned to duty.
Over the years, the population of the WTB has decreased, consistent with the downsizing of overseas deployments. The demographics of the unit have changed, as well, with the unit providing care for more Soldiers healing from injuries received during training and illnesses.
While the barracks are not as full as they used to be, Brown says that the mission of the WTB is just as important as it ever was.
"There is still a need for the WTB," said Brown. "It's an enduring mission and a responsibility we have to serve our wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. We owe it to our fellow service members to care for them and their Families."