WTU constantly evolving to meet needs of the wounded
By CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 18, 2007
VILSECK, Germany — Like its three sister sites in Europe, the Warrior Transition Unit here is a work in progress.
“We’re evolving on a daily basis,” said Anne Torphy, spokewoman for Bavaria Medical Department Activity, or MEDDAC. “Every day we’re getting things up and running.”
For example, by the end of the week, all 48 soldiers assigned to the transition unit should have ID cards to help them schedule medical appointments more easily. Although transition unit soldiers are considered priority patients — second only to soldiers getting ready to deploy — some have had difficulties getting in to see doctors, Torphy said.
It was an issue that surfaced at the second Warrior Transition Unit forum in Vilseck last week. Citing medical privacy laws, officials said the meeting was closed to the public and the media.
Along with requests for more information about resources for family members of soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, the scheduling problem already was on the command’s radar, Torphy said.
“The cadre is definitely listening to the soldiers,” she said. “There’s a lot of commitment to make sure we get it right.”
By 2009, a new $16.5 million Warrior Transition Unit complex will be completed in Vilseck. In the meantime, the soldiers’ quarters on Rose Barracks are being retrofitted to accommodate those with physical disabilities.
Designed to better serve wounded troops on a “mission to heal,” 35 Warrior Transition Units are now in place at Army bases around the world and serve about 8,700 soldiers. Most were established earlier this year following widespread media reports of shoddy care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The Army determined a lack of personnel was at the heart of the problem. At a news conference in October, Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker, deputy commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, said the Army was working to increase the medical hold staff from 200 to 2,400.
Though soldiers flow in and out of the units frequently, low administrator-to-soldier ratios are the goal, said Phillip Tegtmeier, spokesman for Europe Regional Medical Command.
A team from the Surgeon General’s office toured the Army’s four European Warrior Transition Units in Germany last week and will issue a report by January about how the new units are functioning, Tegtmeier said.
Most of the soldiers assigned to the European transition units are not combat casualties, and those suffering from more extensive medical issues are still taken back to the U.S. for treatment, he said.
“The thing that makes us different from the States is that we never had these things before,” Tegtmeier said.