Additional Units Stand Up to Assist Wounded Warriors
By Bernard S. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 8, 2007 Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials yesterday activated the second and third companies focused solely on overseeing the health, welfare and morale of “warriors in transition.”
Walter Reed officials activated Battle Company and Chosen Battery of the Warrior Transition Brigade, while the much-maligned Medical Hold Company was deactivated, during a ceremony.
Battle Company and Chosen Battery join Able Troop, which was activated April 27, as part of the new Warrior Transition Brigade “to facilitate the healing process of warriors in transition and their families physically, mentally and spiritually,” said Army Col. Terrence McKenrick, the brigade’s commander.
The Warrior Transition Brigade was conceived of and implemented after a critical series of media reports highlighted shortcomings in outpatient care at Walter Reed. A series of reviews found several faults in the former Medical Hold Company concept. Consequently, such units are being phased out.
The Warrior Transition Brigade provides command and control, primary care, and case management for servicemembers receiving treatment for wounds suffered deployed in the war on terror. The unit works to “promote their timely return to the force or transition to civilian life,” McKenrick said.
“Your mission is to heal,” he said to the warriors in transition, as wounded soldiers are referred to around Walter Reed.
During the ceremony, Capt. Aaron J. Braxton II, commander of Medical Hold Company, encased the company’s colors, indicating its deactivation, while Maj. Christopher Ballard and Capt. Christopher H. Clyde, uncased the colors for Battle Company and Chosen Battery, respectively, activating those companies.
Col. Ronald Hamilton, commander of the Medical Center Brigade which included Medical Hold Company, called yesterday’s events “another milestone in the history of the Army Medical Department.”
More than 230 years ago, the Continental Congress created a medical service for the 20,000-member Continental Army, Hamilton said. Eighty-six years later, during the Civil War, medical technology was not ready for the severity of wounds nor associated diseases suffered by those fighting in that conflict, he added.
But the history of the Army Medical Department indicates numerous enhancements in care and technology during each conflict that’s involved U.S. forces, he said. Today, servicemembers are surviving wounds that would have been fatal if experienced during previous conflicts.
Hamilton said the medical support provided those troops and their families seeks to ensure they have a healing environment with appropriate command and control and resources. Previously, this was done in the Medical Hold Company.
Hamilton praised the job done by Braxton as the Medical Hold Company commander. He called Braxton’s leadership and command team “superb.”
“I’ve been impressed with what they accomplished with limited resources,” he said. “(They) set the stage to keep it right for the future leaders taking that mission today.”
McKenrick said Ballard and Clyde are good fits to command Battle Company and Chosen Battery, and he urged the new company commanders “to never underestimate the impact you will have on the lives entrusted to your care.”
Ballard, an infantry officer who has completed Airborne and Ranger schools, earned a Purple Heart Medal for injuries he suffered in Iraq from a roadside bomb while leading a convoy. “He understands the pain and frustration that can accompany the recovery process,” McKenrick said.
Clyde, a former National Guardsman, is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who served two combat tours in Iraq.
(Bernard S. Little is command information officer in the Walter Reed Strategic Communications Office.)