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VICENZA, Italy — Sgt. Nathan Williams has had to recover from wounds before.

He was injured during the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s first deployment to Afghanistan in 2005-06. This time, he’s joined the Warrior Transition Unit — a squad that debuted at Caserma Ederle in June.

“It’s a good program,” he said. “They want to make sure you’re taken care of 100 percent. They don’t want anybody to fall through the cracks.”

Williams didn’t talk about his previous recovery, but indicated he felt he was receiving better care this time around.

That’s good news for Staff Sgt. Patrick Chaplin, the squad leader at Vicenza. There are currently 17 soldiers in the unit. Some of them are recovering from long-term illnesses or surgeries that had nothing to do with being injured downrange.

All share two things in common: They’re soldiers and they’re trying to get better.

“The No. 1 goal is to heal,” Chaplin said. “That is this unit’s mission.”

There are a handful of WTUs around Europe. Soldiers who are assigned to them have to meet certain requirements, Chaplin said. One of the biggest is a recovery period of at least six months.

Chaplin said WTUs serve both the soldier and the command. Injured soldiers are assigned to a unit where their recovery is supervised. Their former units, meanwhile, get a replacement for the injured soldier, instead of having to keep the slot unfilled.

Chaplin said his soldiers might not be able to do everything they once could, but they still gather for formation in the mornings, work out and carry on the duties they can.

Some will return to duty. Some will leave the Army. But they’ll do so when doctors say they’re recovered, he said.

Though the unit’s a small one at Vicenza, it’s receiving quite a bit of attention.

A new Soldier and Family Assistance Center, designed to support wounded warriors and their families, opened last week. The base is also modifying two wings of barracks rooms to make them more accessible to those recovering from injuries.

Greg Vallery, chief of engineering services for the base’s department of public works, said half the retrofitted rooms should be ready around the beginning of the year, with the rest done about a month later. He said features such as wider doorways, hand rails and altered showers will make life easier for those temporarily in wheelchairs.

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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