The Washington Post ran a story the other day by Steve Vogel with the headline: Combat Veterans Assigned to Aid Recoveries. Here’s a snapshot of the “New Walter Reed".
After revelations this year of squalid living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares at Walter Reed, the Army took the unusual step of creating the Warrior Transition Brigade. It brings in combat-seasoned officers and sergeants to assist the facility's nearly 700 outpatients -- tracking their recovery, ensuring that their appointments are kept and watching out for their morale.
But the effort to help wounded soldiers navigate the medical bureaucracy has also produced a culture clash, with many battle-hardened noncommissioned officers having difficulty adapting to Walter Reed's civilian atmosphere. As some injured troops and their families publicly voice complaints, the brigade leaders face a dilemma: Should they treat the recovering troops as patients first and foremost, or as soldiers?
The brigade has replaced Walter Reed's much-maligned Medical Hold Company, in which platoon sergeants -- many of them former patients or medics and other medical command soldiers -- were each responsible for an average of 55 outpatients, and often more than 100. Platoon sergeants operated with little support and found it impossible to track so many patients with serious physical and emotional wounds.
The battle-tested soldiers of the brigade cadre have encountered systemic problems beyond their ability to address. "We've fixed things," said Capt. Steven Gventer, a company commander in the brigade and veteran of intense street fighting in Sadr City. "Where we can't fix the problem is where we're dealing with boards and doctors. We can identify problems, but can't fix them."
Some in the brigade are critical of the hospital's civilian workforce, which they view as stubborn and resistant to change. While some patients view the brigade as not addressing the underlying problems in the military medical bureaucracy.
The frustration and anger felt by many of those being treated at Walter Reed boiled over at a town hall meeting with the full brigade at 8 a.m. one day last week in the hospital gymnasium.
The bleachers were packed with soldiers bearing evidence of terrible wounds. Many used canes or crutches. Others wore prostheses and some had eye patches or disfigured faces.
Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, Walter Reed's commander, took the floor. "This is the first brigade of its kind," he told the soldiers. "This concept is sweeping across the Army, in how we care for warriors. . . . We acknowledge that this is a work in progress."
When Schoomaker asked for comments, the complaints spilled out. Schoomaker and Col. Terrence McKenrick, a highly regarded Army Ranger whose previous assignment was at the Joint Operations Center for Multi-National Corps-Iraq addressed the complaints as best they could, but the answers did not satisfy all in the audience.
In his closing remarks to the group, McKenrick asked for patience. "We are just beginning, and have a lot of changes to make. . . . There isn't anyone here that's against you."
Gee I hope not!...Lets give the Warrior Transition Brigade a chance! And from all of us to all of you...Thank you for your service and your sacrifice!