By Stacie ShainOctober 21, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Because the Warrior Transition Battalions are vastly different from other units in the Army, traditional methods of supporting spouses and Families must also be different.
By the time a Soldier becomes a Warrior in Transition, the spouse is often stressed, confused and frustrated by the Family's situation. To help ease the tension, the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion developed the "Burgundy Bunch," a caregiver education and retreat program that has been recognized by the Department of the Army Inspector General's office as a best practice.
"We realized that there were many frustrations at home that can, at times, hinder our Soldiers' ability to heal," WTB Commander Lt. Col. Andrew Grantham said. "We wanted to get to the root cause of the frustration and to provide education about the WTB's mission and the vast resources available to the Soldiers and Families and let them know they really aren't alone in this."
Grantham said that the program is not only a tool to better educate caregivers about the WTB but also an opportunity to build stronger relationships.
The program has been funded by the American Red Cross, which allowed for four training sessions with up to 25 caregivers in each session. The battalion has conducted three training sessions this year, with one more scheduled for January.
Soldiers whose caregivers are invited to attend are nominated by their "triad of care" - the squad leader, the nurse case manager and the primary care physician. Then, the squad leader, company commander and medical management personnel work with each Soldier and his or her caregiver to make sure the caregiver can attend the training.
The program began with a "timeshare" concept of a half-day of training followed by a half-day of pampering for the spouses. At the start of the program, each caregiver gets a binder full of information, ranging from all the contact information for the battalion leadership and support staff specific to each Soldier to information about the Soldier Family Assistance Center, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System, the battalion chaplain's programs, the Medical Evaluation Board and the Disability Evaluation System.
The morning training does not follow a typical Army class structure.
"There are topics we want to cover, but we aren't just showing one ... slide after another," Master Sgt. Daidre Johnson said. "We want them to be able to ask questions whenever they want and share their problems or experiences."
Chap. (Maj.) Carl Johnston talks with the caregivers about spiritual health, and lead social worker Steve Saunders talks with caregivers about coping skills.
Johnston and Saunders developed the curriculum for the training at the request of Grantham.
"We want to provide a hope to these spouses that they may not have thought about for awhile," Grantham said. "We want to get them actively engaged in helping their spouse heal."