By Robin BrownNovember 27, 2007
FORT McPHERSON, Ga. (Army News Service, Nov. 27, 2007) -- Soldiers, Family members and DoD civilians gathered Nov. 20 at Fort McPherson for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that signified the official opening of the Army Reserve Warrior and Family Assistance Center.
Although this was the official opening, the center has already been in operation and has received more than 500 calls for assistance, staff members said.
The center provides Army Reserve Soldiers and their Families with a single source to resolve situations or medical issues and get information on programs and benefits available to them. The center's slogan exemplifies its mission, officials said: "Soldier's first, Families always."
Hosting the ceremony were Brig. Gen. Anne F. MacDonald, chief of staff, U.S. Army Reserve Command, and Col. Scotty Grigsby, chief of the Army Reserve Warrior and Family Assistance Center.
Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Benning, Ga., attended the ceremony and met with volunteer sponsors assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve Command.
The sponsors are here to take care of the warriors, said Sgt. Maj. Troy Falardeau, USARC Public Affairs sergeant major. "It's important to address the specific concerns that Reserve Soldiers have that may not necessarily apply to active-duty Soldiers. The center will staff personnel that can be liaisons between the Soldiers, their Families and the appropriate organizations that deal with their situations during their transition and healing process."
Sgt. 1st Class Bruce B. Golden, a career counselor with the Region 6, Area 1 Retention Transition Division in Decatur, Ga., was mobilized in June 2005 and is assigned to the WTB.
Sgt. 1st Class Golden, a 21-year veteran, has a cervical neck injury that's being cared for by the medical staff at Martin Army Community Hospital at Fort Benning.
"The WTB has really helped me deal with my medical issues before I return home," Golden said. "When I arrived here, everyone made sure I received the appropriate care; all my appointments were made prior to leaving my caseworker's office. The cadre and hospital staff all show genuine concern for my personal needs."
Staff Sgt. Roderick Jackson, a signal support systems specialist with Detachment 20, 1st Brigade, 75th Division from Birmingham, Ala., sustained a torn ligament and separated right shoulder while training Soldiers on simulations and tactical operations during his two-year mobilization.
Jackson said having the WTB and assistance centers available is making his transition back to my civilian life a smooth one. Between medical appointments, Jackson works as a Combined Federal Campaign coordinator, but he'll be leaving the battalion soon to return to his civilian job as a petroleum specialist.
"While being here, I was able to concentrate on healing without the worries of what I'd do if I went home and still had aches and pains," Jackson said. "Being at the center allows me to get answers to my concerns and have what seems like a personal staff that can help me get through the red tape and make the process easier."
Sgt. Maj. Marilyn Wilson, sergeant major for the Warrior Transition Brigade, said the WTB offers Soldiers an environment to concentrate on their healing in a comfortable environment.
"There are 235 Warriors assigned; some were injured in theater, training or seeking medical care for preexisting conditions," said Sgt. Maj. Wilson. "But regardless of how they came here, we are taking care of them. It's not a job that ends at the last formation or with retreat. We are in constant contact with our Soldiers, including over the weekends."
The WTB cadre includes active, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers. Caring for the Soldiers comes easy for her, said Sgt. Maj. Wilson. Even in her civilian career as an educator, she's listening and encouraging people to "help them get through the not-so-easy days."
"You have to love what you are doing," Sgt. Maj. Wilson said. "Sometimes all they need is an encouraging word or two. Soldiers assigned to the WTB are receiving the best medical care without having the stress of making their own medical appointments."
Their care is managed by the nurse case manager.
"Taking care of Soldiers is our number one priority and we ensure that their medical, physical and family needs are met at the battalion," Sgt. Maj. Wilson said. "Staying here, the Soldiers don't have to worry about their medical or monetary needs; it's all taken care of."
(Robin Brown serves as editor of the Sentinel newspaper at Fort McPherson.)