News: Inspection of WTB reveals improvements scheduled to begin this month
Story by Sgt. Osvaldo Equite
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Fort Bragg’s Warrior Transition Battalion this month plans to implement stiffer policies regarding cadre and leadership selection in order to provide better care for wounded warriors, the XVIII Airborne Corps chief of staff announced, April 17, 2012, in a news conference here with local media.
During his speech, Army Brig. Gen. Michael X. Garrett said that potential cadre candidates need to be selected from across the entire Army, and not just those assigned to Fort Bragg, he said.
“Each soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion has a complex case that needs to be carefully considered and handled,” the general said. “We need to be able to choose from a large selection of candidates to ensure we get the right person in this role.”
The inspection was initiated as a result of concerns raised by spouses of soldiers assigned to the battalion. Several spouses emailed Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commander, lamenting distress about the care of their loved ones.
Also, accusations were made that battalion soldiers were improperly prescribed medications, but Garrett quickly discounted the claims.
“We have – bar none – the best medical care system in the world, and we will always strive to provide our soldiers and their families with the best care we possibly can,” said Garrett.
The XVIII Airborne Corps Inspector General’s [IG] office began a thorough inspection in February following the claims, Garrett told reporters. The investigation verified a high quality and caliber of care provided to the wounded, ill and injured soldiers, but it also found several areas that can and will be improved, he added.
Army Secretary John McHugh has been briefed and is well aware of the battalion situation. Helmick recommended that senior leadership within the battalion should be nominative positions from Army level, similar to how battalion commanders and command sergeants major are selected, said Garrett.
Garrett stressed that the battalion leaders should be well versed in Army resiliency training. Such training emphasizes the positive personality traits of compassion and empathy, focusing on the Army’s five dimensions of strength: physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual.
Along with the selection and training of battalion leadership, the unit will improve its processes in the handling of soldiers separation and Veteran benefits.
“We are recommending that the XVIII Airborne Corps legal team provide additional training to the Warrior Transition Battalion administrative separation team in this area,” said Garrett.
Fort Bragg’s IG office also recommended to Helmick that battalion leaders conduct additional training on the Medical Evaluation Board and the Physical Evaluation Board processes, said Garrett, which is used to determine medical fitness of soldiers.
Additional Veterans Administration training was also recommended, he added, which will help in the expectation management of the soldiers.
Better oversight of a soldiers’ chapter and documentation of counselings according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice has also been encouraged. In the past, some adverse actions against the soldiers of the battalion were verbally articulated, now it will be required to keep written documentation to ensure each case is properly recorded.
Soldiers must be properly informed of their legal rights and entitlements, he said. Regularly scheduled town hall meetings between the soldiers and the WTB leadership, will now become mandatory due to lack of attendance by the soldiers in the past. Family attendance is encouraged but optional.
The lessons learned from the inspection will be shared with the Warrior Transition Command leaders in Alexandria, Va., for their consideration as possible best practices to implement at other WTBs, said Garrett.