VILSECK, Germany — Wounded and injured soldiers and their families can get information on a range of services — from legal and financial advice to help finding child care or a job — at a new facility that opened here Wednesday.
The Vilseck Soldier and Family Assistance Center is designed to help soldiers from the Vilseck Warrior Transition Unit and their families.
The Army has been setting up transition units and assistance centers at bases all over the world since the middle of last year to help soldiers wounded in war to recover and go back to their jobs, move to new Army positions or leave the Army for civilian life.
The Vilseck center occupies a building that formerly housed an on-post nightclub called Yesterdays. It includes a television lounge, a 30-seat classroom, a children’s play area and plenty of comfortable chairs and couches. It will eventually feature a library and six public computers, according to Spc. Alexander Stilwell, one of six center workers.
Stilwell, who’s also a member of the WTU cadre, described the center as "a big filing cabinet" of information for WTU soldiers.
"It is just a center where people can seek information or talk about issues they might have," he said. "It is sort of a go-between for a lot of family and soldier services that are available around the community."
One of several WTU soldiers at the assistance center on Wednesday, Pvt. Aaron Wierenga, 22, of Comstock Park, Mich., said he’s already used its services, which have been available for two months at a temporary facility at Vilseck Army Community Services.
Wierenga said he ended up at the WTU after deploying to Iraq with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment last year. When he deployed he had torn wrist cartilage, an injury that got worse downrange, he said.
"Now I’m missing [the cartilage] and I can’t pick anything up," said Wierenga, who plans to head back to the States, study writing at college and publish a fantasy novel he wrote before he joined the Army.
Wierenga said the assistance center staff pointed him in the right direction for various services, such as the education center, as he struggled to heal from his injury.
"I’d recommend [WTU soldiers] coming here," he said.
Another WTU soldier, Spc. Alicia Jones, 27, of Norfolk, Va., is recovering from a knee injury.
Jones said the center’s staff helped her get her 5-year-old son, Davoughn, into day care while she went to rehabilitation, and directed her to Army Emergency Relief to help her with financial problems.
"They gave me an overall idea of services available to us as far as help," she said.
Nanette Bales, a civilian specialist with a background in social work, said the center uses agencies around U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr to meet soldiers’ needs.
"We assess where they want to go and where they are headed and we outreach them into more than two dozen agencies such as ACS, legal, DPW (Directorate of Public Works), housing, ID cards, Tricare, education providers or the medical clinic," she said.
In one recent case, she helped a soldier resolve a Veterans Administration insurance claim, she said.
Dealing with administrative issues can be stressful for wounded troops returning from war and it is the job of the assistance center staff and WTU cadre to guide them, she said.
"I want to make sure their situation is managed and their needs are being taken care of," Bales said.