Warrior Transition Battalion waits for go-ahead
March 25, 2008
A pending Warrior Transition Battalion in Europe has an officer pegged as its commander and a location picked out where it will set up shop.
Now, it just needs a final blessing.
Lt. Col. Thomas Axtman, currently deputy commander of Army health clinics at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, is the incoming commander for Europe Warrior Transition Battalion (provisional).
Because of geographic dispersion and a growing number of soldiers in Europe warrior transition units, a decision was made that another layer of command and control was needed, Axtman said. The number of troops assigned to warrior transition units tripled to 242 — with more than one-half being combat casualties — since the 15 sites opened in Europe in August.
Once established, the battalion will be one of 16 warrior transition battalions throughout the Army.
Axtman, who has three combat deployments under his belt, said he will make frequent visits to the WTU locations throughout Europe.
“You can’t lead soldiers sitting in front of a computer checking e-mails,” he said. “I’ll be lucky if I’m in my office 15 days a month.”
The battalion is awaiting approval by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, but will initially be stood up at Heidelberg’s Nachrichten Kaserne, Axtman said. The battalion will have a staff of 25, and 15 of those positions will be manned by civilians. The WTU concept arose last year after a media report of substandard care of wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The goal of WTUs is relatively simple.
“When soldiers leave whatever unit they are in and move across to the WTUs, our primary mission is to help soldiers heal,” Axtman said. “Whether they are wounded in war or in training is completely immaterial to us.”
Armywide, about 10,000 soldiers are assigned to WTUs. Statically, roughly 90 percent return to duty while 7 to 8 percent are medically discharged, Axtman said.
“The Army is a values-based organization, and these soldiers, they’ve really shown the Army values,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to show the same thing in return.”