Warrior Transition Command Restructures as Numbers Fall
By J.D. Leipold
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2014 With the numbers of wounded, ill and injured soldiers steadily declining over the last 14 months to the lowest levels since 2007, the Army’s Warrior Transition Command will restructure over the next nine months.
Retired Army Spc. Luis Puertas, from Orlando, Fla., celebrates as he crosses the finish line first after completing the men's 1500-meter race for above-the-knee single and double amputees during the 2013 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 14, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Brent Powell
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Five of the 29 warrior transition units, known as WTUs, and all nine community-based warrior transition units, or CBWTUs, will be deactivated due to the falling numbers, explained Army Brig. Gen. David Bishop, Warrior Transition Command’s commander, during a media roundtable yesterday.
Thirteen community care units would be formed and embedded within warrior transition battalions and brigades at 11 installations, he said.
"The decision to reorganize was also based on periodic reviews and lessons learned over the last few years," Bishop said, emphasizing that WTC remains fully funded and that upcoming changes "are not related to budget cuts, sequestration or furloughs."
The WTUs being shut down are at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; West Point, N.Y.; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. As of Jan. 2, the total number of soldiers assigned to those five units stood at only 62. Bishop said those 62 soldiers are expected to transition naturally as part of their healing plan by the end of September. If they haven't, he added, they'll be assigned to a community care unit at another installation.
The nine CBWTUs in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Utah, Virginia and Puerto Rico all will be deactivated, but Puerto Rico will have a community care unit detachment under the mission command of the warrior transition battalion at Fort Gordon, Ga.
Before the 13 community care units begin receiving soldiers from the CBWTUs, the commanding generals of regional medical commands will certify their initial operating status to ensure resources and training is in place, Bishop said.
"Every soldier will go through a series of interactions with both their gaining and losing cadre to ensure their complete care and transition plan is fully understood and accountability is maintained and the general added.
Warrior Transition Command began looking at ways it could improve the transition process in July 2012. While the command had the capacity to handle 12,000 soldiers, the population had dropped to 7,070. Bishop said it was appropriate to reduce capacity given the population decrease, but feedback from oversight agencies, soldiers and their families identified improvements that could be made.
"We were able to add capabilities to units, as well as occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants, physical therapists, transition coordinators and nurse case managers to improve the experience of soldiers going through the program," he said.
"For example, nurse case managers have a ratio of 1 to 20 soldiers across the program. In battalion headquarters companies, we're now going to improve that to 1 to 10, and squad leaders will go from a ratio of 1 to 10 across the program to 1 to 8 within battalion headquarters," Bishop added, noting that in the CBWTUs, the ratio of platoon sergeants to soldiers was 1 to 40, and that will change to 1 to 33.
That will increase the capacity of leadership to take care of soldiers and it should be felt positively by soldiers and cadre members, he said.
The command also is working to reduce the transfer and evaluation time, Bishop said. Now, when soldiers go to a CBWTU, they must first in-process at a WTU on an installation, and after evaluation and assessment, they go through several medical appointments until the commander deems them prepared to go home. That takes an average of 107 days, Bishop said.
"The Community Care model is going to help the cadre and the soldier by virtue of being on an installation within the footprint and leadership of a warrior transition battalion," Bishop said. "Right now, the CBWTU cadre are on leased space or on some military space, but separate from WTUs on the installations. But under the Community Care model, they're going to leverage the command structures, the staff of the WTB, the military treatment facility clinical staff and the senior commander who is overseeing the WTU.
"We think the increased standardization, reduction in transfer time, improvement in our simplification of the command structure and the provision and leveraging of installation command structures and resources will help very much," he added.
Addressing the nearly 4,000 military and civilian personnel required as cadre at WTUs and CBWTUs across the Army, the general said the force structure modifications would result in 549 fewer personnel requirements -- 36 fewer civilians and 513 fewer military, most of the latter from the reserve component.
"Commanders will be managing the transitions to these new unit structures, and Medical Command will do everything within its power to take care of its employees -- mobilized reserve-component cadre on active-duty orders will have the option of being released or applying for other reserve-component positions elsewhere or in this program," he said. "The same will be true for our Army civilians."