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ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was encouraged by his Wednesday visit to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson, Colo., furthering the Defense Department’s rebuttal against news reports that identified the unit as problematic.

Gates said Thursday that he met with about 10 wounded warriors and some of their spouses in the WTU for about two hours.

“I didn’t hear a single complaint about the Warrior Transition Unit itself,” he said, adding that several soldiers spoke highly of their rear detachment support.

He then met with doctors, case workers, social workers and staff for an additional hour.

“I came away encouraged,” he said, “but also, as I do from every one of these sessions, with something of a to-do list.”

Some health workers, he said, raised concerns about misuse of the WTU by commanders looking to unload soldiers with noncombat injuries or issues.

The unit at Fort Carson, which treats more than 400 soldiers, was the subject of a harsh assessment in a New York Times story last month. More than a dozen soldiers and spouses told the Times that soldiers were being neglected and overmedicated, and that commanding officers show little sympathy for their recovery efforts.

They also said soldiers were swapping their medications for illicit use.

On the same day the story ran, the Pentagon’s top official for wounded warrior care was asked to step down. Pentagon officials said the timing was coincidental.

But the Times story drew such a strong reaction that the Pentagon organized a news conference in which Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker defended the entire program as sound and effective.

Earlier this month, during a visit to the base by Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, the Army said more than 100 newly wounded soldiers from Afghanistan were expected to arrive at Fort Carson. The unit expects to hire dozens of additional health workers and military personnel, he said.

baronk@stripes.osd.mil

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