By Chrystal SmithNovember 21, 2007
WIESBADEN, Germany (Army News Service, Nov. 21, 2007) -- Spc. Joseph Gooch didn't know what to expect as the first injured Soldier reporting to the new Warrior Transition Unit in Wiesbaden.
"I was jaded when I left the military community at Giessen," said Spc. Gooch. "I felt they had left us there by ourselves. There wasn't a whole lot there and it seemed like the people who were there didn't want to do anything to help us."
That reality was shaken when he and his Family (wife Stefanie, sons Justin and Jeffrey, and daughter Zoey) received orders to report to the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Warrior Transition Unit.
"It was like Christmas and my birthday in one day," said Stefanie. "I was expecting nothing; no one had ever done anything like this."
With the move came the privilege of assisting the garrison team in working out any kinks in the program to better serve future wounded warriors.
"I got to be the guinea pig for the program here," said Spc. Gooch. "I say guinea pig, but I haven't been treated anything like one. They were worried that it wasn't adequate, but everything has been spectacular."
Garrison personnel representing every directorate collaborated to establish the WTU program in the Wiesbaden community.
Soldier and Family Assistance Center coordinators and cadre provide direct, day-to-day support to wounded warriors and their Families in the form of administrative and social work services.
"This was a community project," said Sharon Fields, interim SFAC coordinator. "Our goal was to develop a one-stop shop to minimize the stress on the Soldier and Family whereby their sole focus is on the Soldier's healing."
The WTUs were activated in Army communities - in response to the findings of a probe completed in the spring at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. - to ensure continuous care was met and exceeded for troops injured downrange and to ease the transition back into the military community and/or civilian life.
The overall goal of the program is to facilitate speedy and effective evaluation and treatment for return to duty or administratively process the Soldier out of the Army with referral to the appropriate follow-on health care system.
"I've never been treated this nice; it's not the norm for the military," said the 15-year veteran. "As a Soldier [and former Marine], I was used to going to get whatever I needed, but everyone here was willing to bring services and things I needed to me and my Family."
The WTU was created as a place where Soldiers are to be assigned or attached while undergoing medical care and rehabilitation.
"The Army is taking every possible measure to make sure there's not a Soldier left behind," said Ms. Fields.
Spc. Gooch, who has deployed to Iraq and other locations, suffered an injury during a mishap at his former residence in the Giessen community.
"Let's just say it was like snapping a chicken bone backward a thousand times," he said.
After extensive surgeries, follow-up appointments and rehabilitation, his physical health no longer meets the minimum standard for being in the military.
"I'm confident that everything that they've given me here is more than enough to prepare me for what's ahead," said Spc. Gooch.
Though members of the Gooch Family are the first beneficiaries of the services of the Wiesbaden WTU, officials said they are confident the program is right on track.
"When our Soldier said, with tears in his eyes, 'No one has ever done anything like this for me and my Family,' I knew we were doing the right thing," said Ms. Fields.
(Chrystal Smith serves in the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office.)