New campus gives soldiers a place to heal
By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Post officials said Fort Hood's new,$62 million Warrior Transition Brigade campus demonstrated the Army's commitment to wounded warriors during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new, centralized unit footprint Wednesday.
"Wounded warriors deserve a place like this to heal in and to meet the soldier in transition mission statement," said Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commander.
At 500 soldiers, he added, "We're now the largest Warrior Transition Brigade in the Army and the best Warrior Transition Brigade in the Army, bar none - and I track it."
Fort Hood's Warrior Transition Brigade is for active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers who will either return to deployable units or leave the Army upon their recovery. It was stood up in 2007 but operated out of trailers at Rough Rider Village and several other locations across post until recently.
The 15-acre campus, next door to the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, contains a Soldier and Family Assistance Center with financial and social services, brigade and battalion headquarters and a 192,000-square-foot barracks complex.
Brigade commander Col. John Kolessar said although construction had been going on for some time, "It was not until recently, particularly over the Memorial Day weekend, that it became very apparent to me what a difference this was making" - not only for soldiers, but for families, who held barbecues and congregated comfortably. "The campus set-up is truly ideal."
Soldiers began moving into the 320-person barracks - the last piece of the campus plan to be completed - in late May, but they officially opened during Wednesday's ceremony. The energy-efficient housing unit includes common areas and 32 handicapped-accessible rooms.
Spc. Ian Alden, of the brigade's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, was assigned to the unit in March. He is undergoing treatment for multiple traumatic brain injuries incurred during a 2010 deployment to Iraq with the then-3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
The 25-year-old single soldier said his new barracks room is "nice, pretty much like the Hilton," compared to his former accommodations at Rough Rider - or any other he'd seen during his time in the Army.
In addition to amenities, including a walk-in closet, Internet, cable TV and a hospital shuttle, Alden said the campus feel increases interaction with fellow soldiers.
"It's a lot less secluded," he said.
The campus funding process took two years and construction lasted an additional two years, according to information from the brigade.
Fort Hood's Warrior Transition Brigade is one of 38 Army-wide. All will eventually have campus-centric models aimed at improving soldier care and well-being.
Lt. Col. Chris Cook, 1st Battalion commander, said the value of having a campus dedicated to wounded warriors can't be overstated. In addition to solving the brigade's many transportation issues, it communicates something profound to its soldiers.
"They've given such huge sacrifices to serve our nation in a time of war," he said. "This is just a small token" of thanks.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.