WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 25, 2007) - A new brigade aimed at overseeing the health, welfare and morale of patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center activated here today.
The Warrior Transition Brigade, led primarily by combat veterans, will allow doctors and nurses to focus solely on medical care as brigade cadre meet Soldiers' other needs.
WTB Commander Col. Terrence McKenrick said the new unit's mission is to facilitate warriors' transition and healing process, and explained that this is critical to Soldiers overseas, as well.
"The success of this mission is important to our deployed Soldiers. They need to focus on their difficult combat tasks knowing that, if injured, they will receive the best possible care," Col. McKenrick said. "We also need to reassure the American people that the welfare of their serving sons, daughters, spouses and Family Members is our number one priority."
The brigade employs squad leaders, case managers and primary-care managers who will work together to ensure continuity of care and a seamless transition back into the Army or return to civilian life.
Capt. Steve Gventer, WTB's Able Company commander, said the brigade will eventually have 166 cadre, including 18 platoon sergeants and 54 staff sergeants across three companies - all dedicated to helping wounded Soldiers.
The brigade's current staff of 110 Soldiers and 28 new case managers reduces the case-manager-to-patient ratio from 1:50 to 1:17. There is also one staff sergeant for every 12 transitioning warriors who will be dedicated to de-conflicting issues that may arise while Soldiers go through the healing process.
"Their sole focus is those 12 Soldiers, that's their mission," Capt. Gventer said. "We bring people who are focused on nothing more than taking care of these wounded warriors; to get them through the system, not as expeditiously as possible, but in the best manner possible without unnecessary steps."
Most of the squad leaders are combat arms noncommissioned officers who have experience leading and caring for small units of Soldiers.
"Combat arms Soldiers, for the most part, have always worked in small elements that develop bonds and trust very quickly. The trust element is key in their operations; these Soldiers know if bad things happen they will be taken care of - 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,'" said WTB's Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Hartless.
Maj. Christopher Ballard, WTB Bravo Company commander, agrees. "I think we do bring numbers to the fight and our experience with leading and taking care of Soldiers," he said, noting that this is his fourth company command. "The focus is entirely different, but leading Soldiers is leading Soldiers."
Hartless, Ballard and Gventer have all been through outpatient care at one point in their Army careers. For the command sergeant major, it was during a deployment to Afghanistan that he was severely injured and evacuated thru Germany to Walter Reed.
Walter Reed staff members have trained the WTB cadre, most of whom have no medical background, on resources available to injured Soldiers and their Families.
Col. McKenrick explained that routine interactions with case managers, squad leaders, first sergeants, platoon sergeants and others in the chain of command will help resolve issues and measure the brigade's success. Regular surveys will be given to the Soldiers and their Families to determine the overall performance of the brigade.
The brigade will also implement a tracking system to monitor the progress of Soldiers transitioning through in- and out-processing, rehabilitation, treatment, evaluation boards and their transition back to their unit or civilian life, he said.
(Kristin Ellis writes for Walter Reed Army Medical Center Strategic Communications.)