By J.D. LEIPOLD
Army News Service
With the numbers of wounded and ill Soldiers steadily declining in the last 14 months to its lowest levels since 2007, the Warrior Transition Command will restructure over the next nine months.
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 Brig. Gen. David Bishop, Warrior Transition Command, or WTC, commander, during a media roundtable Jan. 9. He added that 13 community care units would be formed and embedded within warrior transition battalions and brigades at 11 installations.
“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 upcoming changes “are not related to budget cuts, sequestration or furloughs.”
The WTUs being shut down are located 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 anticipated to transition naturally as part of their healing plan by the end of September. If they haven’t, they’ll be assigned to a community care unit or WTU at another installation.
The nine CBWTUs in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Utah, Virginia and Puerto Rico will all be deactivated, but Puerto Rico will have a community care unit detachment under the mission command of the Fort Gordon (Ga.) Warrior Transition Battalion.
Before the 13 community care units begin receiving Soldiers from the CBWTUs, they’ll first be certified at their initial operating capability by the commanding generals of regional medical commands to ensure resources and training is in place.
“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 continuity is sustained throughout the process,” Bishop said.
WTC began looking at ways it could improve the transition process in July 2012. While the command had 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 one to 20 Soldiers across the program. In battalion headquarters companies, we’re now going to improve that to one to 10, and squad leaders will go from a ratio of one to 10 across the program to one to eight within battalion headquarters,” Bishop added, noting that in the CBWTUs the ratio of platoon sergeants to Soldiers was one to 40, and that will change to one 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.
WTC is also 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 go through several medical appointments until the commander deems them prepared to go home. That takes an average of 107 days, he 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.”