Commander’s Drumbeat: Visits to Warrior Transition Units Inspiring

By BG David Bishop, Commander, Warrior Transition Command
After two months on the job as Commanding General of the Warrior Transition Command and Assistant Surgeon General for Warrior Care, I’m already deeply inspired by the indomitable spirit of our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers recovering at our Warrior Transition Units (WTU), their Families and by the cadre who support them. As an armor officer I’ve seen firsthand the significance and results of your efforts and I recognize the dedication and talent of everyone who supports our WTU Soldiers and their Families – here in the National Capital Area and in the field.

Almost immediately after arriving here I began visiting WTUs – I’ve seen 12 in 60 days.  I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Senior Mission Commanders, Soldiers, Family members, cadre, and interdisciplinary team members.  I was able to examine a variety of issues with a primary focus on suicide prevention, sexual harassment and assault prevention, and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), which directly impacts our WTU Soldiers.  I received invaluable input and feedback from leaders on supporting wounded, ill and injured Active Component and Reserve Component Soldiers and their Families. As a result of this great feedback, my staff is already working to address many of the challenges we encountered.

I toured barracks and saw for the first time virtual reality technology that helps our severely wounded adapt when they return home. At the U.S. Open in New York I met with wounded, ill and injured service members and U.S. Tennis Association representatives.  Physical fitness has always been important to me and this group helped me understand the special role adaptive reconditioning and sports can play in helping Soldiers heal. Our Warrior Games athlete, Army SPC Ryan McIntosh, was particularly impressive.  A positive, determined, and resilient below-the-knee amputee and Soldier, SPC McIntosh represented the Army well as a U.S. Open ball person and also during multiple national media interviews.  I expect to see him compete during the 2013 Warrior Games and very likely in the 2016 Paralympics.

As the WTC Commander and Assistant Surgeon General for Warrior Care, a significant part of my role is to educate, inform, and inspire the Warrior Care and Transition Program team.   Understand that you are all critical to ensuring that we honor our sacred obligation to continue to care for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers as long as there is a need.

I am privileged to be a member of this team and look forward to serving you and keeping you up-to-date on what’s going on at WTC and throughout the Warrior Care and Transition Program.

Army Strong!

Commander’s Drumbeat: Taking care of wounded, ill, and injured soldiers – a sacred obligation

BG Darryl A. Williams

After serving as the commanding general of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) since 2010 I’m packing my ruck sack and moving to Korea where I will be the 2nd Infantry Division’s Assistant Division Commander – responsible for logistics and support. As I leave you all I feel trained, ready and uniquely qualified to serve with the 2d infantry Division.  It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as the Assistant Surgeon General for Warrior Care and Transition, and as Commander, Warrior Transition Command.  It has been rewarding on so many levels and that makes leaving here bittersweet.

Although I’ll soon be half a world away in Korea, I’ll never really be far.  After all, I’m a WTC alumni now and my attention will always be on our wounded, ill and injured soldiers. I consider taking care of this population a sacred obligation.  I believe that how we support these men and women says everything about who we are.  It defines our future.

As I pen my last WTC Commander’s Drumbeat, I’m reminded that I’ve deployed and been in battle. I’ve heard my soldiers cry ‘medic’ and I’ve watched those medics rush to their side, putting themselves in harm’s way.  This command, the Warrior Transition Command – is a testament to Army medicine. The people in Army medicine are committed and dedicated and professional.  They do a lot of heavy lifting without any fanfare.

Today I passed Warrior Transition leadership to Brig. Gen. David J. Bishop. Brig. Gen. Bishop will be only the third commander of Warrior Transition Command.  I know he is looking forward to being here and to serving this very special population.  I came here as a colonel and followed great general officers who shaped and developed this command. Maj. Gen. Mike Tucker and Maj. Gen. Gary Cheek came before me and provided all the elements that helped me succeed.  I hope Brig. Gen. Bishop will feel he is set up for success as well.

Serving and taking care of soldiers is what I want to do, and during my past two years as WTC commander, I’ve been able to assist soldiers and their families at the strategic, operational and tactical levels – in ways I never knew possible. I found out quickly the wounded, ill and injured soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Units (WTU) have complex problems that require complex solution sets.

It’s been an incredibly satisfying job.   No day is the same and no job is the same at the WTC.  We are constantly facing challenges and unique cases.  During my tenure here the staff has been extraordinary.  Since 2009 we have worked together to develop Army guidance and policy for 29 WTUs and nine Community Based Warrior Transition Units (CBWTU). Collectively, they provide care for more than 9,500 wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families.  We also have oversight of the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). This is a truly special program.  AW2 supports and advocates for the most severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans with a network of more than 200 AW2 advocates and additional support staff located at WTUs, Military Treatment Facilities, VA Polytrauma Centers, and other VA facilities.

Some of you may be surprised to know that since 2007, Army medicine has returned almost 23,000 soldiers back to the Army and back to the fight. Ladies and gentlemen — that is more than two Army divisions. We also have transitioned about 22,000 to veteran status. We’re a lean organization and we’re good and getting better every day.

There have been numerous accomplishments under my watch and I can’t take credit.  I’ve had support for much of the heavy lifting from a dynamic team of professionals at WTC headquarters and at the WTUs and CBWTUs. From the top down to that essential young noncommissioned officer squad leader responsible for 10 soldiers and family members, each person is an integral ingredient to the success of WTC.

As WTC commander, it has been a privilege to visit the Army’s WTUs and CBWTUs.  It has been a blessing to be in a position to reach out soldiers and families at Military Treatment Facilities, VA Polytrauma Centers and other VA facilities across the country.

I’m grateful to Army leadership for empowering me to solve problems and find solutions. I had no idea how important that would be before I came here.  It’s important for that WTU soldier and his family to know that he’s going to be all right.  It’s important for them to know we have their back.  WTC is a very young and nascent command.  I believe we have a moral imperative to keep the Warrior Transition Command alive.

Clearly this is the best team I’ve ever been a part of.  We’ve got Army Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors all pulling together for our wounded, ill and injured soldiers, veterans and families.  I’m the guy out front, but this is a total team effort.  It has been a privilege of serve in the Army for almost 30 years and each assignment has always been fulfilling – none more than this.

Thank you – each of you – for your professional and personal support.

It is my honor to serve.  God bless you.

Commander’s Drumbeat: Warrior Transition Command Welcomes New Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Director

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
Yesterday during a ceremony at Fort Belvoir, we passed the directorship of AW2 from one great hero and wounded Soldier, COL Greg Gadson, to COL Timothy Karcher, another wounded Soldier and great hero.

People say to me that it’s a bit unusual to have a ceremony for a command staff director. I agree, but I wanted to do this
to highlight the significance of WTC and its mission, and to also recognize the importance of the AW2 director and what it represents.  In fact, the Secretary of the Army described it best when he was recently quoted as saying, “caring for wounded warriors is a sacred obligation.”

BG Darryl Williams, Warrior Transition Command, Commanding General (center), COL Tim Karcher (left) and COL Greg Gadson (right),enthusiastically sing the 'Army Song' following an Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) program change of directorship ceremony held at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. on June 19.

A lot of people don’t realize that the Army continues its relationship with this population even after they transition from military service.  COL Gadson has been a leader of these efforts.  COL Gadson strengthened that relationship over the past two years as director of AW2.  During that time and under his leadership AW2 flourished and now supports more than 11,000 individuals,9,700 of which are Veterans, the others are assigned to one of the 29 Warrior Transition Units throughout
the United States and Europe.

He’s been an extraordinary AW2 director, father, husband, war hero, in-demand speaker, movie star, and not to mention an inspirational motivator for the New York Giants.  He’s done a superb job.

As a result of his willingness to lead from the front, not only has our leadership taken notice, but so have the media, Congress and public, private, and non-profit organizations.  In a very real way, our nation stepped forward and embraced Greg Gadson and the population he represents.

As he moves on to command Fort Belvoir, I’m very grateful that COL Karcher agreed to accept the challenge that comes along
with being the next AW2 director.  He has held many command and staff positions in the United States and in Europe.

COL Karcher is an impressive officer and Soldier who deployed to Iraq three times. During his second deployment, he was shot in his left arm and evacuated from theater, only to return to complete the deployment with his unit.  During his third deployment while serving in Sadr City, Iraq in 2009, his vehicle was struck by an explosively formed penetrator resulting in the amputation of both legs above the knee. Since then COL Karcher has been recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

These two officers are very similar. Both are heroes and role models, both are clearly meant for great things, and both are
at the right place at the right time to represent and advocate for our country’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

I feel very fortunate to have had COL Greg Gadson as the AW2 director for the last two years and wish him well in his next
assignment.  We are equally fortunate to have COL Timothy Karcher to pick up and carry the torch for the Army as we continue
to stand by this population of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

I thank COL Gadson from the bottom of my heart for his courage and willingness to serve.  We are all better for knowing him.

As my own tenure as Commander of the Warrior Transition Command rapidly comes to a close,  I’m sorry that I won’t have the opportunity to work with COL Karcher to take AW2 and the Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program (WTCP) to new
heights, but I believe in him and feel confident the program will flourish under his leadership.

Commander’s Drumbeat: What a Week for Army at Warrior Games

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
Wow.  I have never been more proud to be a Soldier in the United States Army than I am after watching the Army compete this week.  The Army Warrior Games team has turned in performances that make all of us proud to wear the uniform, and today was no exception.

I’ve had a blast all week and have made it a point to get to every event, and I want you to understand just how much excitement we’ve all experienced:

  • Monday: At the Opening Ceremony, the 220 athletes from all the services and the British armed forces marched across the Olympic Training Center with pride.  Their heads were up, shoulders back, all proud to wear the colors of their service branch.  Proud of what they’ve given our country, and what they’ve accomplished personally since they became wounded, ill, and injured.  Mrs. Michelle Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, helped America see how important this event is, and how much wounded, ill, and injured warriors can accomplish.  AW2 Veteran Melissa Stockwell, who competed for the United States in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, lit the torch and reminded all the athletes competing–and all wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers throughout the country–how much is still possible even after injury.  GEN Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and LTG Patricia Horoho, Army Surgeon General, both met with the Army team and attended the opening reception.
  • Tuesday: The Army women swept the podium at cycling and CPT Bill Longwell brought home gold for the men.  Seeing the elation on CPT Longwell’s face when he crossed the finish line and the Army spirit in Veterans Tanya Anderson, Margaux Vair, and 1LT Lacey Hamilton posing with their medals, I knew we were in for a great week.  And we made a strong start in sitting volleyball.  The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, kicked off the cycling competition and presented medals to the cycling winners.
  • Wednesday: Army swept the silvers in all four archery categories.  SGT Fred Prince and Veteran Kinga Kiss-Johnson took home individual silvers, and we won the “team” silvers in both the recurve and compound categories.  And if that wasn’t enough, Coach Steve Coleman had promised the team that if they did well, they could shave his very bushy beard and hair.  He looks 20 years younger without it.  And later that night, Army was on top of our game in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.  You should hear the crowd in the gym for both these sports – you can barely hear yourself think.  Between the cowbells and airhorns and cheering fans, the athletes from all the services know how much they’re supported.  And there was more – the PA system couldn’t get the British national anthem to play before their exhibition sitting volleyball game, so the team belted the lyrics with incredible sense of country.SMA Raymond F. Chandler III, Sergeant Major of the Army, visited with the Army team and cheered them on throughout Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Thursday: We brought home three medals in shooting: SGT Fred Prince and Veterans Justin Miller and Ben Trescott.  The Army Marksmanship Unit came out to help our athletes train, and they were instrumental in helping the Soldiers prepare.  Thursday evening, Army qualified for the gold medal game in both sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.  We won gold in wheelchair basketball last year and silver in sitting volleyball, and members of both teams told me that they were hungry to take home gold.
  • Friday: What an exciting day.  At the track, we sang the Army song over and over, as so many of our athletes won gold.  In his third Warrior Games appearance, Robbie Gaupp brought home two gold—in the 100m and 200m, and now he’s talking about qualifying for the Paralympic Games in London.  Kinga Kiss-Johnson, Anthony Pone, Monica Southall, and Juan Soto all won gold in different categories of shot put, and they all made it look easy.  Then Friday night, we dominated the Marines in sitting basketball and wheelchair basketball, bringing home gold in both team sports.  I could barely sit down during either game, I was cheering so hard and so excited for our teams.  GEN Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, was out at the track cheering on Army athletes and presented track and field medals.
  • Saturday: Army wrapped up the week with a strong showing in swimming.  There were some incredible performances from all the services.  WTC’s own LTC Danny Dudek, author of the new Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) policy and procedures, won gold in his race by more than a minute.

All in all, Army took home 62 medals: 18 gold, 19 silver, and 25 bronze.  Congratulations to all of the Army athletes on turning in a series of outstanding performances, and to all of the competitors here this week from all branches, including the members of the British armed forces who competed.

And to all wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who want to compete at the 2013 Warrior Games, we’ll let you know in the next few months about the training clinics and selection process.  I encourage you to continue to incorporate adaptive sports and reconditioning into your every day recovery and ongoing physical fitness routines, and I look forward to seeing the Army deliver another outstanding performance next year.

Commander’s Drumbeat – A Call to Action

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
Today I challenged the 200 attendees at the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference to all hire five wounded, ill, or injured warriors and spouses during the next year.  I don’t care if they are Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard.  I want everyone to hire someone and then tell me what they did to make it work.

Kicking off this conference, I reminded everyone that this is a joint effort across all of the four service wounded warrior programs, as well as several agencies throughout the federal government.  This is the second year we’ve hosted this conference, and this year we invited members of the private sector to join this important conversation.

The employment of wounded, ill, and injured Veterans and spouses is not just about the individual services, individual agencies or individual companies who work on this issue. It’s about our Veterans.  Our theme for the next two days is Educate – Empower – Employ.  These align directly to my top three priorities at the Warrior Transition Command: education, training and employment.

Employment is a major focus during recovery and transition or our wounded, ill and injured population, not just for the Army, but for all services.  While Soldiers are recovering at our 29 Warrior Transition Units, we focus on preparing them for the next stage of their careers.

That’s where the more than 200 military, federal, and private employers here today come in.  We are all here because we are committed to hiring these Veterans and their spouses.  We already know that it’s an ongoing commitment – we can’t just hire one Veteran and check the box.  We have to commit to hiring many.

I know it’s difficult.  The resumes employers get often don’t align exactly with the positions available. There’s no standard definition of a “wounded warrior”.  Hiring managers need more information about behavioral health injuries, like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.  That’s what we’re here to work on over the next two days – to share some best practices and educate each other on the ways to make each wounded warrior hire a success.

We talk a lot about transition. When servicemembers become wounded, ill, or injured, we don’t just focus on their physical recovery.  It’s important that they heal physically, but we recognize that life is about so much more than that.

Very early on in the treatment process, we start talking to the servicemembers about what’s next.  About half of the wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers in the Army do go back to duty, whether in their old job description or something new.  And 50% leave the military and move on to the civilian world—and the other services also have significant numbers leaving the force after their recovery.  It’s that group that we’re really focusing on at this conference.

And it’s that act of going back to the force or onto civilian life that we talk about with the term “transition.”

I want to talk a little about what you “get” when you hire a wounded warrior.  These are people with strong personal integrity – used to living by a creed.  During their military service, they’ve developed strong leadership qualities and respect for diversity. They learn new skills and concepts quickly. They work well by themselves but they also know how to perform with a team. They’ve got a wealth of experience with new technology and globalization. They show up on time, and they respect procedures, rules, and accountability. They’re productive in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment. And perhaps most importantly, they’re resilient.  They’ve overcome incredible, life-altering physical and behavioral injuries that most of us can’t even begin to comprehend.  And despite all of that, they’re looking forward to tomorrow – to finding a job that will help them build a better life and provide for themselves and their Families.

When they transition to the civilian workforce, they’re overcoming some key challenges.  They’re rediscovering self-reliance, embracing a new identity, and looking for meaningful activity.  It’s a big change to put away the uniform and put on civilian clothes in the morning and navigate an entirely new set of expectations.

Over the next two days, we will meet several Families in Transition who are employment ready.  These are some incredible, resilient people who have been through a lot, and they’re ready to move forward with their lives.  We’ve also held a series of career workshops for local wounded warriors and spouses who are actively searching for employment – again these are from all four services.  All of the wounded Veterans and spouses attending this last workshop will also be in the networking session tomorrow afternoon with all of the potential employers here.

We’ve got a lot going on over the next two days.  The bottom line is about taking action.

Tomorrow afternoon the leaders of the service wounded warrior programs and the federal agencies who organized this conference will have a ceremonial signing of the Wounded Warrior Employment Community Covenant. This is about establishing a common understanding and commitment to take action—making the changes necessary to make a real difference in increasing the hiring of wounded, ill, and injured Veterans and their spouses.

I’m proud of the people gathered here and their commitment to our men and women in uniform. What we are doing here this week is important.  It’s about affecting real wounded warriors and Families.

Commander’s Drum Beat: Updates in Warrior Care

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
As we approach the end of this year, I want to catch you all up on the last few weeks. We said good-bye to Army Surgeon General, LTG Erich Schoomaker, a great officer and leader, and a friend and mentor. We welcomed LTG Patricia Horoho as Army Surgeon General. An Army Nurse Corps officer, she is the first woman and first officer who is not a doctor to serve in this position.

I visited the Arkansas Community Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU) where I met with BG William Johnson, Deputy TAG, and CSM Deborah Collins. It was good to sit down with them and talk National Guard issues. I had lunch with nurse case managers and cadre where it was obvious that everyone there cares deeply for our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. They are working hard on Release from Active Duty (REFRAD) issues and their dedication is paying off. I always like to spend some time with the WTU Soldiers. The Soldiers in Arkansas let me know how valuable the nurse case managers are at the CBWTU, in their words, “they are passionate and really care.” This extends to the cadre as well. They are an outstanding, enthusiastic group, who created a positive environment. I have to give a shout out to SSG Gary Hopmann; he gave me valuable feedback on the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. It’s an impressive place that provides state of the art assessments and treatments for our men and women in uniform who deal with psychological and brain injury issues.

At Fort Campbell, I had the privilege of participating in the WTB complex ribbon cutting ceremony. The new $31.6 million dollar complex includes rooms for 206 Soldiers, state of the art barracks complete with kitchens, handicap accessible bathrooms, televisions, an outdoor wheelchair obstacle course, and a healing garden. This is an example of the Army’s commitment to our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. I was able to meet with several of the Soldiers and their spouses. It’s clear they are going to enjoy the benefits of one-stop shopping and updated facilities. A special shout out goes to the hospital and WTU staff for their hard work and dedication.

Moving on to Fort Drum, I had a good visit with MG Mark Milley, Commander, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division. We talked about the WTU, MTF, our processes, and how we support these Soldiers and their Families. This trip was especially interesting on another front, I got to see firsthand the cadre and Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officers (PEBLOs) remove their gloves, hammer out their differences, and come together on a couple of issues for the good of the Soldiers. That’s what they are about, taking care of their Soldiers. It was good again to hear kudos for nurse case managers, Lori Drake and Maura Jenson. The Soldiers told me, “they’ve got our backs”, and we all know there is no higher praise. A special shout out to WTU commander, LTC Celia Florcruz and Chaplain (CPT) Dave Christensen for their superb work and outstanding commitment to these Soldiers and their Families.

In Pinellas, Florida, I met with MG Robert Kasulke, Commanding General, US Army Reserve Medical Command, and his chief of staff, COL Daniel Ducker. I enjoyed being able to engage them personally on resources, the process of decreasing Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) times, and PEBLO delays. Kudos to SGT Sophia Lopez and SSG Maria Rosado. You all are doing a great job working PEBLO hurdles, VA exams, and disability ratings. I spent some time with our Soldiers at the Polytrauma Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, Florida. These Soldiers are strong and resilient, and have great attitudes. A shout out goes to Dr. Kevin White for all the good work he does in physical and spinal cord injury medicine.

I ended my Florida trip along with Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Peter Chiarelli, Commander, Third Infantry Division, MG Robert Abrams and about 100 friends and Family members of SGT Joel Tavera. It was a privilege to attend the ceremony where he received a new home from Building Homes for Heroes. This organization gets a huge shout out.

SGT Tavera was injured in Iraq more than three years ago. He is blind, with third-degree burns across 60 percent of his body. He’s undergone 73 surgeries since 2008. There is no greater example of courage or resilience. SGT Tavera is an inspiration. You can read about the ceremony at this link:

Most recently, I attended the Army-Navy Game in Washington, DC, with my family and about 20 WTC staff members. It was a great game, right up until the end.

This catches us up on my travels.

As we come to this year’s end, allow me to say to each of you, I am so proud of the work you have done this year and inspired by your compassion and selfless giving. Thank you for your dedication in caring for our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. May your holidays be joyful and safe, and may God bless each of you and your Families this season.

Commander’s Drumbeat: Military Athletes Compete at Warrior Care Month Sitting Volleyball Tournament

Soldiers playing sitting volleyball block at the net

SGT Juan Alcivar, left, and SSG Jessie White block at the net during a sitting volleyball match between the Army and a Pentagon team of Navy Reservists at the Pentagon Athletic Center on Nov. 22. WTC hosted the All-Service Sitting Volleyball Tournament as a part of Warrior Care Month. Photo Credit: James R. Wenzel

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

The energy was off the charts yesterday as the Pentagon Athletic Center filled with people cheering on our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines—Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve—during the Army Warrior Transition Command Warrior Care Month Sitting Volleyball Tournament.  

 Across the Army this month, units and installations have hosted events and engaged local communities and media to highlight warrior care. This tournament was the Army’s Warrior Care Month pinnacle event in the National Capital Region.  I wish all of you could have experienced the excitement of being among so many people joined together celebrating these wounded, ill and injured men and women—celebrating their service, their abilities, and their amazing spirits. Among the attendees were several senior military leaders including the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Director of Army Staff and the Army Surgeon General. 

 Three of the four sitting volleyball teams were made up of wounded, ill, and injured service members—Army, Marines and a Joint team. The fourth team was a Pentagon team of Navy Reservists. I offer a huge shout out to the Pentagon team—they won the tournament with the Army taking second place. It wasn’t an easy win, these players gave their all.

 Army Sgt. Jonathan Duralde said it best, “The other teams were great; it was especially good to see the strategy of the Pentagon team. For us it was a competition and we were there to play regardless of the teams and regardless who won.”  

 Duralde, a below the knee amputee, wounded in Afghanistan in June 2010, recently reenlisted and is continuing on Active Duty. He is assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Belvoir and will soon start working in the Warrior Transition Command. 

 My biggest shout-out goes to all of the competitors. The tournament was about teamwork, cohesion and esprit d ‘corps. You all exemplify the best part of who we are.

 Not only did we see world class military athletes compete, we were privileged to have world class support and participation at this event. Well deserved shout-outs go to some special people:

  •  John Register, one of our tournament commentators. A Paralympics athlete and Army Veteran, he understands the healing power of sports and the significance it can play in the rehabilitation and recovery of our wounded, ill, and injured.
  •  John Kessel, Managing Director, Region Services, USA Volleyball. Kessel joined Register as a commentator and between the two of them kept everyone up to speed on each and every play with interviews about the power of adaptive sports and reconditioning activities between games.
  •  Kari Miller, a former Soldier who lost both her legs as the result of an auto accident involving a drunk driver, who went on to win a Paralympics silver medal in sitting volleyball in 2008. She taught the athletes the tips and tricks of sitting volleyball and refereed the tournament.
  •  Elliot Blake, Sitting Volleyball and Athlete Recruitment Coordinator, USA Volleyball. He also coached and refereed.
  •  Vic Breseford and his team from the Army Media & Visual Information Directorate. They did a super job with sound and getting us live coverage on DVIDS and the Pentagon Channel.
  •  Defense Media Activity (DMA) supported with visual and print staff.
  •  Candice Barlow-Jones. An invaluable member of the WTC team who lent her exceptional voice to our  national anthem, kicking off the event.

 Congratulations to all of the participants.

 I’d enjoy hearing about your Warrior Care Month plans and experiences. Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

More information on events at WTUs around the country is available on the WTC website at

Commander’s Drumbeat: Warrior Care Month

BG Darryl A. WilliamsBy BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

In November we observe Warrior Care Month. The theme is “Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential”.

Taking care of Soldiers is something we do every day. Observing Warrior Care Month allows us to highlight the significance of keeping Soldiers healthy and safe, and taking care of them when something doesn’t go right. We’re all in the business of caring for the Army’s wounded, ill and injured Soldiers—Active, Guard and Reserve.

I realize most people think of the combat injured when they hear the term ‘warrior care’. Clearly, that is warrior care and there is no higher calling than helping these men and women heal. Warrior care is also preventing illnesses and keeping Soldiers healthy and ready to deploy. Warrior care is arming Soldiers with tourniquets that they can use with only one hand. It’s having the best trained medics in the world standing shoulder to shoulder with our combat Soldiers.

Warrior care is an undertaking that encompasses a broad scope of efforts that extend way beyond the battlefield including managing pain with medication and with complementary medicine such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga. Warrior care means building resilience and ensuring our men and women in uniform are strong in mind, body and spirit. Warrior care is our best researchers looking at how we can advance medicine, improve protective gear and treat trauma and complex injuries. It’s having a battle buddy who looks after you and a leader you can count on.

During Warrior Care Month I ask that you also take time to recognize the men and women who don’t wear the uniform but who support and care for our Soldiers and their families. I’m talking about our partners at the Veterans Administration, Congress, Veterans organizations, non-profit organizations, corporate America, local communities and individual citizens. These are the people retired Admiral Michael Mullen, (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was referencing when he said there is a “Sea of Goodwill” in America.

I know a lot of you are planning events to honor the wounded, ill and injured men and women in uniform and to highlight what we do and what this Nation does each day in the spirit of Warrior Care. Like me, you’re likely looking forward to the events you’ll be attending. I’m excited about this month. We have a lot going on here in the National Capital Region. We will support the Navy in a wheelchair basketball expo and clinic in the Pentagon on November 18, and on November 22 the Warrior Transition Command is hosting a seated volleyball tournament. It’s going to be a great month. I’ll be traveling, visiting some WTUs and attending events that honor our Soldiers and people who work to keep them safe and healthy. It doesn’t get any better than this!

As I wrap things up, I want to emphasize my three priorities—education, training and employment. A WTU is a place for Soldiers to heal; it’s also a place for them to plan for their future; a place to develop a good, solid way ahead for them and for their family. When they leave a WTU I want them to have received the best medical care possible, have the education and training they need to succeed and have a job or career lined up.

We owe them our best, and Warrior Care Month is a time to commemorate their strength and resilience and the importance of what we do throughout the year.

I’d enjoy hearing about your Warrior Care Month plans and experiences. Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

More information on events at WTUs around the country is available on the WTC website at

Commander’s Drumbeat—The Excitement of AUSA

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

It’s always great to see the Army Family come together.  Last week was a whirlwind of reconnections, fun experiences, and meaningful opportunities.  Sunday started at 0630 with the Army Ten-Miler.  I met with our team for photos, gave them a send-off and met our wounded warriors as they crossed the finish line.  One WTC employee told me that she was excited to run with the Missing Parts in Action team—current and past wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers who received treatment at Walter Reed—and especially enjoyed seeing them leave her in the dust.  Rehabilitation at its best!  The Warrior Transition Command and the Missing Parts teams were both impressive.

BG Darryl Williams, Warrior Transition Command Commander, congratulates world class runners Tesfaqe Sendekee, first overall male finisher, and Tezata Dengera, first overall female finisher at the 2011 Army Ten Miler (ATM) footrace. Both athletes competed for the 'I Run for God' (IR4G) team coached by LTC (Ret.) Sue Bozgoz. Each runner as well as additional IR4G runners donated their ATM trophies to WTC's Army wounded warriors.

I have to give a shout-out to everyone who participated but especially the International Running Team—I Run for God or IR4G.  These men and women ran for wounded warriors and took first place overall, first place in the overall male category, and first, second and third places overall in the female categories.  They very generously presented us their trophies on Thursday.

If you did not participate in the Army Ten-Miler, start making plans now for next year. It is a super event.  I’m already talking to my team about all the ways we can ramp up our presence and get more folks involved. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years, ate great food, and saw some excellent exhibits.  I even heard some good music and saw a martial arts expo.  It was an all-around festive time with Families, friends, and colleagues—two of my kids were with me and even they had a ball.

You all know that I’m adamant about making it clear that we represent and work for Active Duty, Guard and Reserve.  To build on that—we were fortunate to share a Hooah Tent with Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU) Illinois.  Kudos to all the runners and the volunteers who showed up to share education and information products, and talk to visitors about WTC and what we do every day to support wounded, ill and injured warriors.  They also dished up a load of award-winning chili for runners and spectators—that was a big draw at our tent.

I had such a great time I didn’t think the week could get any better.  Then on Monday I had the privilege of listening to the Secretary of the Army.  While the Secretary did admit budget cuts sometimes keep him up at night, he also told us that unlike in the past, we saw this downturn coming and are better positioned than at any time in our nation’s history to deal with the fiscal realities, and do it in a way that truly makes sense.  He reinforced that part of dealing with these realities is to cut end-strength and that our Army will look different than it does now.  He emphasized that no conflict is ever won without boots on the ground and was confident the Army can handle the challenge of these pending reductions.

He addressed who we are and what we do when he said, “We’re still at war. We work diligently every day to try to make certain they get what they need, to get it when they need it, that we give them all the support they require to build resilience and all the care that’s necessary when they come home.”

For you history buffs, he was right on the money when he referenced  the book “This Kind of War,” and TR Fehrenbach’s passage, “You may fly over land forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it, and wipe it clean of life. But if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.”  He went on to acknowledge that “Fehrenbach’s observations are as relevant today as they ever were, because while we shocked, while we awed, at the end of the day, we did the most important thing to gain and ensure victory, we marched. And there is no getting around the fact that it is the Army that has been saddled with much of the burden these past years, providing between fifty to seventy percent of our deployable forces. And while I’m loathe to view our men and women in uniform as mere budgetary statistics, I think it’s important to remind people that while the United States Army represents half of our nation’s entire force, we consume only about a quarter to 30 percent of the entire defense budget.”

Later on Monday, I was on a panel with the Army Surgeon General, Deputy Surgeon General, and the FORSCOM Surgeon, Supporting the Deployment of Healthy, Resilient and Fit Soldiers…Soldier Medical Readiness.   There was significant focus on how we identify and deal with non-medically ready Soldiers, and fitness and nutrition.  It felt good to say that we return about 50 percent of our Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers to duty and support all our wounded, ill and injured with a personalized Comprehensive Transition Plan  that supports their goals to return to duty or transition out of military service.

Reflecting on the remarks by the Secretary and the Surgeon General on the future and resilience of our Army, I was reminded of who we are and how young we are.  This command is only about two years old and we’ve only had WTUs since 2007.  As the Surgeon General says, we are a learning organization and continuously changing.  Our history is already rich with success and change.  We went from medical hold companies to WTUs; from having no plan to the Army Medical Action Plan; from rehabilitation and therapy to Warrior Games.  Very soon I’ll be sending out the new Comprehensive Transition Plan guidance for coordination and I’ll have new command information product—a newsletter, Warrior Care and Transition Program Update—coming your way soon.

Before I sign off, remember that in November we will celebrate Warrior Care Month across the Army.  I want you all to be fully engaged as this is the most important monthly observance we have.  The Warrior Care Month joint-service theme is “Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential.”  You all know better than anybody what this means and that these men and women embody strength and resilience.  They are the products of prevention and research that resulted in more survivors of combat injures than ever before.  My three priorities for these men and women are education, training, and careers.  Let’s show the world who we are next month and what we do every day to support those who have given so much.  It’s a time to highlight our wounded, ill and injured—Active, Guard and Reserve, and the people who support them.

I’d enjoy hearing about your Army Ten-Miler, AUSA experience and plans for Warrior Care Month.  What stood out, and what we can do better on next year.  Please post your comments on this blog by clicking on the headline and scrolling to the bottom of the page to the comment box.

In closing, I would recommend you check out the remarks of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army during the annual AUSA meeting.

Commander’s Drumbeat: Fort Stewart–Success Built on Teamwork

BG Darryl A. WilliamsBy BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

I recently was able to get down to Fort Stewart to visit with the leaders and Soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU)—what a great visit and what a beautiful Army installation.   There are 234 Soldiers there who are healing and mapping out plans for their future under the leadership of LTC Bill Reitemeyer and CSM Steven Owens.  These are two impressive leaders who are in the National Guard.  They are on the ground, taking care of our wounded, ill and injured, and representing our 563 cadre and the National Guard superbly.  They are an extraordinary team, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to highlight them and their successes—a big salute to my National Guard brethren.

I can’t emphasize enough the difference it makes when WTU leaders are supported by the medical treatment facility and senior mission leaders.  The benefits are tangible and nowhere are they more apparent in our Army than at the Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB).   Leaders at all levels work together to ensure they adhere to the WTU entrance criteria, that the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) is adhered to, and that the medical management center are up and running efficiently to manage the medically not ready population that doesn’t need to be assigned to a WTU.  Fort Stewart is actually the model for medical management centers.  They have been in place now for about 18 months and the folks there are on point with this process.

My favorite part of these visits is meeting and talking with the cadre and Soldiers in the unit.  It was apparent that these folks are familiar with the battlefield.  About 10% of the Soldiers are combat wounded and about one third of the cadre was injured in combat.  They have a unique situation there, I’m not sure I know of any other cadre with these levels of combat injured.  Meeting with them and hearing what they had to say reinforced to me that we can have success when leaders lead and work together to execute processes in synchronization.  I’m talking about teamwork.

This trip was unique in more than one way.  I particularly enjoyed meeting with Soldiers and their therapy dogs.  For those of you who haven’t seen this in action—it’s an unbelievable combination—Soldiers and their dogs.  You all know—probably a lot better than I do—the bond that develops, the positive impact on mental and physical healing, and just overall well-being that can occur when we put the two of them together.  When you get a few minutes, I encourage all of you to read “Dogs and War” in the October issue of Men’s Health, It highlights the important work done by some of our four-legged therapists and the Soldiers they serve.

Well-deserved shout-outs go to PAWS4Vets, some special warriors and their service dogs, and WTU staff:

  • SFC Joshua Campbell’s battle buddy is Jackie and SFC Ed Boleyn’s battle buddy is Paisley.  Guys, you are my heroes.
  • Debra Dehart, Head Occupational Therapist, also gets a big hooah and shout out.  This lady is all about the Soldiers at the WTU and making things better and easier for them.  She basically grew her own military advanced training center (MATC) and is working on behavioral health care through a program that incorporates classical music and has an unbelievable efficacy rate.  Our wounded, ill and injured are fortunate to have Ms. Dehart on their team.
  • The last shout-out goes to CPT Bryan Stewart, Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), who has oversight of the Tampa mission.  It’s a special mission set that deals largely with spinal cord injuries.  I met him this summer when some members of my team and I visited wounded warriors at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa where they specialize in treating spinal cord injuries and severe brain injuries.  He did a great job of hosting me during both visits.  I know they are looking at potentially expanding the cadre in Tampa.  The WTU has submitted a proposal for consideration, and we’re considering putting a company commander in Tampa.

To the leadership and cadre at the WTU, keep up the good work.  You are making a huge difference in the lives of the Soldiers you serve through your skills, dedication, command climate and warrior ethos. This was evident all during the visit, but was highlighted when my command sergeant major CSM Benjamin Scott, randomly spoke to a wounded warrior who was not part of the formal schedule who said, “I love my command.”

This is our testament—what we all strive for.  I know I speak for all of you when I say that our goal each morning as we start our day is to do the right thing by every Soldier who is wounded, ill or injured, and that it is a privilege to serve these very special men and women.

In wrapping things up, I want to remind you that we don’t have to do everything on our own.  There is a sea of goodwill at the local, regional and national levels that include the Army Homefront Fund (AHF) and hundreds of other organizations who want to give back to our men and women in uniform.  You can find out more by visiting the Warrior Transition Command web site resource section,

Note: The appearance of external hyperlinks and/or recognition of non-federal entities does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense, the United States Army, the United State Medical Command, or the Army Warrior Transition Command of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein.

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