When a soldier is wounded, ill or injured — whether at home or overseas — Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Unit is there to ensure the soldier receives the appropriate medical care and administrative processing needed to return to duty or to transition into the civilian world.
And when a soldier is identified as one who will be able to benefit from the care provided by WTU, there is nothing the personnel from the unit will not do to ensure that soldier receives the best overall care possible, said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Cain, WTU commander.
“There are certain entry criteria, and for an active-duty soldier it is: They can benefit from six months or more of care, nurse case management and that (their case is) clinically complex,” Cain said. “Those are the three things they need to meet in order to come into the WTU program. Their command actually nominates them.”
A medical professional within the soldier’s unit writes a summary of the issue the soldier needs to be seen for, along with a write-up by the soldier’s commander, she said. That packet is then sent to the WTU surgeon, who presents the case to the chief medical officer, then to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center commander and ultimately to the III Corps deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, who has the final say on putting a soldier into the program.
“For soldiers who are in ... National Guard and reserve, they are a little bit different — they come to us when they are in some sort of mobilization status and they either incur an injury or an injury is exacerbated during that mobilization,” Cain said. “They can come to us from anywhere — typically they come to us because this WTU is the closest one to their home of record.”
The majority of injuries the unit is currently seeing from soldiers returning from overseas are not combat related, however: There are soldiers receiving treatment for terminal illnesses from which they may not recover to soldiers with serious illnesses they expect to recover from, she said.
“We run the gamut — it’s all wounded, ill (and) injured soldiers who come here to recover, as long as they can benefit from the programs we have here at WTU,” Cain said.
Currently, the unit is assisting an average of between 170 to 200 soldiers in the recovery process, she said.
Cain is not a medical provider — her normal job is military police, she said. However, the opportunity to command WTU has opened her eyes to the strength of character exhibited by soldiers of all military occupational specialties.
“It is amazing. Sometimes the word resiliency is kind of thrown around, but it really means something,” she said. “Resiliency in the face of all adversity — doesn’t matter what kind of adversity, whether physical, mental or spiritual. I am constantly, consistently, day-by-day in awe of the resiliency of not only the soldiers in transition, but those that administer to them here at the WTU.”
The privilege of commanding WTU has helped broaden Cain’s horizon when it comes to the different capabilities of soldiers of all job skills, she added. “I don’t necessarily get to talk to someone who is a combat camera person ... you obviously will run into someone who is cavalry or infantry, but you don’t always necessarily run into someone who is say a mortuary affairs specialist.”
When it comes to the effectiveness of the WTU program, Cain told the story of one soldier undergoing a medical evaluation board process who was pretty much on track to get out of the Army.
“He fought it, hard, did all the right things and was really invested in his recovery,” she said. “He is now going to be found fit and remain in the Army. It’s a true testament to his tenacity and his love for what he was doing.”
For those whose injuries or illnesses may find them unfit to continue service in the Army, WTU does everything possible to ensure the soldier is prepared to enter the civilian world in a veteran status, Cain said.
“We have education programs, internship programs, we partner with the (Veterans Affairs) so they can get fitted for suits to go on interviews — and the VA purchases those suits for them, which are tailored to them,” she said. “We have transition coordinators with each company that will help them to ... move in to civilian life.”
The staff of WTU do an amazing job working with the soldiers in the program, with a full team behind every soldier to ensure there is no conflict between scheduling doctor appointments, therapy, transition assistance classes and any additional needs the soldier may have, such as internships or college courses, Cain said.
“They take it so seriously and do such an amazing job,” she said. “They are so dedicated to making sure that each soldier is transitioned appropriately, whether that be transitioned to remain in the Army or into a veteran status. Everybody gets 110 percent out of all the cadre here.
Cain said she never wants a soldier to leave the Army without being prepared for civilian life.
“Making sure that a soldier is able to navigate complex care and making sure no one leaves the Army unprepared for their veteran status, those are the two things I think are the most important that we do here,” she said. “Healing, and transitioning.”