The Warrior Transition Battalion held an opening ceremony and open house Tuesday, at its complex, to kick off three days of events planned to celebrate 10 years of serving wounded and injured Soldiers. The event was attended by faces from the WTB past and present.
One face of the past, retired Lt. Col. Jay Nelson, commanded WTB from 2012 to 2014 and explained the mission of WTB.
“The most important thing that we do here at the WTB is that we give that Soldier permission to heal,” he said. “In a culture that is very go, go, go. You’ve also gotta know that the body can only go so far. It is ok to heal...”
Standing alongside Nelson was Sgt. Maj Alvin Brown, (retired) who served with the WTB from 2008 to 2013. In his remarks, Brown discussed the importance of the type of leadership within the unit.
“If you didn’t have this organization (and) these Soldiers remained in their unit they wouldn’t get that compassionate leadership,” Brown said.
Col. David Oeschger, director of the U. S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, U.S. Army Medical Command, Warrior Care and Transition, shared his own personal story of injury in Afghanistan and his road to recovery at WTB-Europe as guest speaker during the opening ceremony.
“Allowing the Soldiers to heal ... is the primary mission,” said Oeschger.
Oeschger explained the focus at the WTB is not just on physical injury but the damage behind the scenes, and said the spiritual, mental and social healing are vital. The benefits are not limited to the Soldier — a Soldier’s Family also benefits from the services at the WTB.
“Having recovered in a WTB myself, my Family was able to recover with me,” explained Oeschger.
Col. Marc Hoffmiester, 20th Engineer Brigade, was wounded in 2007, just as the WTB was beginning to take form. He explained that after being wounded in in Iraq, he picked up responsibilities as a brigade commander and had oversight of 220 wounded Soldiers.
“I was taking care of (them) while I was recovering. I had a limb salvage on my arm, so it was pretty interesting to be trying to take care of the guys while trying to do my job (and) while trying to recover,” said Hoffmiester.
When the WTB opened he was gradually able to start transitioning his Soldiers into the WTB.
Hoffmeister explained that with less combat wounded the WTB now also takes care of ill and non-combat injured service members and the challenge moving forward will be fiscal. The WTB will need to meet a sustainable level of operation while still being able to take care of those in need.
Currently, the WTB complex on Fort Bragg serves 178 service members who have an average stay of about a year, with 45 percent returning to duty.
Pamela Shabram, senior nurse case manager, WTB, and Shataye Goodwater, human resources specialist, WTB both explained that the services provided are comprehensive and they feel the most rewarding part of their job is seeing the Soldiers heal.
Spc. Brandon Canady, WTB was injured while deployed with 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan when his convoy was hit by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The WTB has given Canady time to recover.
“Usually when we do our mission and being in the regular Army everything is always 100 miles an hour all the time, and when you come here it’s a chance to relax and take care of yourself,” said Canady.
Canady’s wife Erianna Canady and their two children ages one and three have also benefited from the services provided by the WTB.
The Canady Family had moved away from Fort Bragg for the deployment and the WTB helped them to re-secure housing after he returned home wounded. In addition to practical support, the WTB checks in on the emotional welfare of the Families of their Soldiers.
“It is about the Soldier and them healing and getting better, but they also help (the) Family move through it too and deal with the stresses of almost losing somebody and (them) getting hurt,” says Erianna.