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$57M Fort Bliss transition complex is 'one-stop shop' for recovering soldiers

EL PASO, Texas — Army Capt. Debra Gipson said she's been getting great medical care and lots of other help since she suffered a severe back injury while en route to Afghanistan.

Gipson lives in the 1-year-old Warrior Transition Battalion Complex at Marshall and Cassidy roads on West Fort Bliss.

"Since I've been here, I've been very fortunate," said Gipson, a Cleveland native. "I've received excellent care."

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Gipson said no one is really sure how she hurt her back.

"One day, I was fine, and then I heard something pop in my back," she said. "Two days later, I couldn't move."

She spent some time in a wheelchair but can now walk after having back surgery.

Gipson described the sprawling $57 million Warrior Transition Complex as a "one-stop shop" for wounded, ill and sick soldiers who are trying to recover.

"It allows me to exclusively focus on healing, which is not something I could do if I was committed to doing my daily activities as a soldier," she said. "You're assigned a case manager, a social worker to deal with any mental health issues and a network of doctors on and off post."

Fort Bliss and Beaumont Army Medical Center officials are highlighting the center as part of Warrior Care Month this month. The idea is to spread the word about what is being done to help soldiers who have suffered injuries or illnesses, whether in combat or not, said Capt. Todd Peterson, the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion operations officer.

Warrior Transition Battalions throughout the Army are showcasing what they do this month, Peterson said.

The Fort Bliss battalion and its complex are geared toward helping soldiers transition back to active service or toward becoming productive civilians, Peterson said.

"That's the bottom line of our mission," he said. "To do that, we have a lot of resources that are internal to our battalion to facilitate healing and to help soldiers continue on with their lives."

For injured or sick soldiers, "their job is to heal," said Tracy Higgerson, operations specialist with the Warrior Transition Battalion.

The Warrior Transition Complex opened in June 2011 and can house up to 240 soldiers in what Higgerson called "state-of-the-art" dormitory-style housing.

Housing units are double occupancy and all contain a full kitchen and a full-size refrigerator. They also feature walk-in closets, TVs and computers. The larger units even have washers and dryers.

The complex also houses the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, which provides a wide range of support services for soldiers attached to the Warrior Transition Battalion and their families.

In addition, it houses the battalion headquarters, administrative offices and a medical clinic staffed by four doctors and two medical assistants.

On premises are also 16 nurse case managers and six social workers. Less than a mile away at the Warrior Transition Battalion's old location on Cassidy Road are four more nurse case managers, an occupational therapist, an occupational therapy assistant and two physical therapy assistants. A shuttle service is offered to transport soldiers to these services and to medical appointments at Beaumont and other off-site locations.

"We're basically self-sufficient here," Peterson said.

Sgt. Roy Hughes Jr. tore a hole in his stomach during training and lives at the Warrior Transition Complex.

He called it a "stress-free environment."

"I call it 'my little townhouse," the Alabama native said. "It's the nicest accommodations I've had in the Army."

Sgt. 1st Class Tony Lang injured his shoulder getting out of an armored vehicle while in Iraq. The Monterey, Calif., native lives off post with relatives but receives services at the Warrior Transition Complex.

"Five years ago, soldiers didn't have anything like this," he said. "This is a big step."

Spc. Denisse Fernandez is an El Paso native. She discovered she had diabetes while deployed in Iraq. She also lives off post but receives care through the Warrior Transition Battalion and its complex.

"I think it's outstanding, all these resources we have," she said.
 

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