By Keith PannellMarch 16, 2007
Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Voss suffered a back injury and was medically evacuated from Balad Air Base, Iraq a month ago.
The Missouri reservist's current home is the 649th Area Support Group medical holdover facility here.
"There's been somebody there at every point," Voss said. "It started at the airport with a guy waiting there for me, and it hasn't stopped."
Voss said drivers take him to appointments; he has a case manager looking after his recovery and he said he has a good environment and living quarters at Fort Sill.
"The staff here has been outstanding, and it's like a big family here taking care of each other," Voss said. "I think our barracks looks better than most Army barracks I've stayed in during my 26 years of Soldiering."
Voss said the family environment moves from one Soldier to the other. He said, once his in-processing and medical appointments were set up, he started helping newly arrived Soldiers with their appointments.
Army Secretary Francis Harvey resigned March 2 in light of problems at Walter Reed Medical Center and Maj. Gen. George Weightman was relieved of command as WRAMC commanding general March 1. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley submitted his resignation March 11, according to www.army.mil/news.
In announcing a bi-partisan presidential commission that will review servicemembers' healthcare, President George Bush said, "...some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve," said the commander in chief. "It's unacceptable, and it's not going to continue," he said.
Voss said the kinds of problems he's heard about in media reports from WRAMC are not present at Fort Sill.
"The staff here helps us fight bureaucratic red tape," he said. "If there's anything we notice, anything we think might be wrong with the facility or our rehabilitation, we let them know right away and we hear something back almost immediately."
Fort Sill's medical hold
The 649th is a medical holdover unit was formed at Fort Sill in April 2004, according to Maj. Stephen Krebbs, unit commander. The unit serves Guard and Reservists that have mobilized from Fort Sill. Active-duty medical hold Soldiers are cared for within Reynolds Army Community Hospital on an out-patient basis.
"Soldiers who come home with severe injuries that still need treatment will go to a medical center like Walter Reed or Brooks Army Medical Center," said Lt. Col. Isabel Good, holdover case manager.
Once here, "We work with an overall patient healthcare," she said.
Good said most of Fort Sill's active duty medical hold patients live where they did before deploying and use post facilities for rehab and therapy as directed by case managers and doctors.
Soldiers assigned to the 649th ASG live in single-Soldier housing and have access to two day rooms with big screen televisions and DVD players, and an "Internet cafAfA."
The barracks isn't brand new, but Voss said the Soldiers, who are able, take pride in keeping their collective home clean; floors shined. Meanwhile, leaders find ways to help Soldiers get better. Part of the basement was converted to a fitness area. Soldiers recuperating don't have to get on a shuttle bus or find ways to the gym for frequent workouts. The area features equipment for weight lifting, strength-training equipment and cardiomachines.
They can work out with their battle-buddies in healing.
The Soldiers spend their days going to appointments, bonding through helping fellow med-holdover Soldiers or augmenting on-post missions their recuperation plan allows. Soldiers trying out or using occupational specialties often find an office "home" on post Being in a homelike environment and being productive helps Soldiers recuperate faster, said Good.
"We see mostly orthopedics patients, some (with post-traumatic stress disorder) and all are given some type of mental health screening," said Krebbs.
At Reynolds, "we also do general surgery like hernia repairs; ear, nose and throat issues, and we do some urology here. We also have a great partnership with the downtown hospitals," added Good.
Since the story broke about WRAMC's medical hold company in late February, the Army has taken several steps in fixing the problem in an effort to take better care of wounded Soldiers and their families "moving quickly to address issues regarding outpatient-care at WRAMC and locations Army-wide."
According to an Army release, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army has implemented an action plan consisting of four areas of focus; Soldier accountability, health and welfare; infrastructure; medical administrative process; and information dissemination.
A combined Medical Command-Installation Management Command Tiger Team is visiting every Regional Medical Center and larger hospitals.
At press time, a Tiger Team was not scheduled to come to Fort Sill, said Cindy Jones, RACH spokesperson.
They were surprised by the news about WRAMC, Krebbs and Good said. But they weren't worried about the operation of the 649th ASG. It did make them look closely at the programs being offered.
"It opened a lot of eyes," said Krebbs. "We wanted to make sure we were doing all the right things to take care of our Soldiers in both, their medical care and making sure their families are informed, throughout the entire process."
The 649th ASF medical holdover company's training program was recognized by 1st Army and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs as one of the best in the Army Reserve, according to Krebbs.