WTU Soldiers Gain Experience from Department of Defense Operation Warfighter Internship Program

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The mahogany rectangle framed the picture of the doctor’s family easily distracted MSG Mary Moore’s attention – two children similar to her own. Turning her attention back to the doctor explaining the next steps to fighting cancer diagnosis, all Moore could think of was her children.

“I found out when I was going through the deployment process with my unit I had breast cancer,” said Moore, who  was assigned to the Fort Meade Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) and is now in remission and beginning the process of retiring from the Army and transitioning into the civilian workforce.

“I have two young children. What do I do now?” Moore asked herself  shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer and receiving more devastating news.

“On top of me having breast cancer, I lost my husband while he was deployed in Iraq,” Moore said. “We were married for 16 years. It set my family back like you wouldn’t believe.”

While assigned to the WTU, one of 29 units established to provide personal support to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management, Moore learned about Operation Warfighter (OWF), a Department of Defense internship program for wounded, ill and injured service members transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce.

“My squad leader told me about OWF,” Moore said. “I was told I could get an internship and if I decided to transfer out of the Army it’s a good way to network.”

After contacting OWF Moore caught the break she was looking for.  “One agency contacted me and I interviewed,” she said. “I was able to work in the software engineering program. I learned a lot while I was there. It was a good opportunity to use my leadership skills.”

Started in 2004, OWF represents an opportunity for transitioning service members to increase their employment readiness by building their resumes, exploring employment interests, developing job skills, benefiting from both formal and on-the-job training opportunities, and gaining valuable Federal government work experience that will help prepare them for the future.

“Soldiers in a WTU are encouraged to start or continue a college program to work towards a degree,” Adams said. “If the Soldier already has a degree then they volunteer to work either on- or off-post.”

“Usually if the Soldier is transitioning out of the Army we want them to explore a new career to build experiences that bridge their military career to civilian work,” she added. “We want to prepare the Soldiers for permanent employment.”

Servicemembers must be certified as medically cleared by their chain of command before they are able to participate in the program. Once medically cleared, the service member works with an OWF coordinator to identify and secure an internship opportunity.

“It’s a good opportunity for networking and meeting people  who can help you somewhere down the line,” said SGT Don Rhoda, a Ft. Meade WTU Soldier who also participated in the OWF program.

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Rhoda, an infantryman directly exposed to improvised explosive devices more than 30 times, was diagnosed with a torn rotator and traumatic brain injury.

“I have to find something else to do their give me some experience that I can market,” said Rhoda. “OWF helped take somebody like me that doesn’t have a lot of popular skills and helped me realize the skills that I have are marketable.”

“You’re going to have a lot of offers from different agencies. Make sure you do your homework because it’s your choice. It’s not the other way around, you choose,” Rhoda added. “Make sure you make the right choice.”

According to the Military Homefront website, OWF has placed more than 2,000 service members in internships with more than 105 different Federal agencies and sub-components. These internships help wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers explore potential career and education paths as they weigh transition options.

When asked about her future and how OWF has helped her take a new path, Moore summed it up saying “Sometimes you find yourself in a position to try something different than what you’ve been doing all your life in the military. OWF is just one of the doors open for you, and I really appreciate it.”

For more information or if you have questions about OWF, find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OperationWarfighter.

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 http://www.wtc.army.mil/.

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, http://www.menshealth.com/best-life/dogs-war. 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, http://www.WTC.army.mil/resources/resources.html.

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.

Commander’s Drumbeat: Fort Bragg’s “Team Focus”

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

BG Darryl A. Williams

You’ve all heard the expression—people rise to expectations—I believe that. I’ve witnessed it throughout my career and nowhere is it more visible than at the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). It was clear during a recent visit that these warriors don’t just rise to meet expectations, they exceed them on a daily basis.

I want to publicly recognize LTC James Schumacher, Commander, Fort Bragg WTU; COL Brian Canfield, Commander, Womack Army Medical Center; LTC Arthur Campbell, Chief, Department of Deployment; and COL Niel Johnson, Chief, Department of Family Medicine, they are the blue print of a successful team—setting, meeting, and exceeding high expectations. One of the most impressive teams they created includes Senior Mission Commander, MG Rodney Anderson, Deputy Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg. They all meet weekly and in my opinion, this results in a culture that supports warriors, their Families, and the healing process.

It’s always exciting to be at Fort Bragg, this visit did not disappoint. I met great leaders, great Soldiers, and got to see the new WTU complex construction—this is located by the medical center and is on a glide path for completion in 2012. This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility and will include Family assistance, barracks, dining, and housing services.

I absolutely have to give a nod to their adaptive sports program. This was one of the highlights of the visit. I recall clearly how hard the warriors worked in the gym. Whew! These Soldiers were giving it their all and soaked in sweat to prove it. Fort Bragg may have the premier adaptive sports program around. It’s at least one of the best I’ve seen. It’s truly inspiring to watch these warriors at work. In fact, they recently introduced a pilot program in coordination with Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Performance Enhancement Program that allows Warriors in Transition to participate in daily cardio and muscular workouts at various stations as part of their duty day. This is a great success—way to go Fort Bragg!

The team at Fort Bragg demonstrates an unrelenting commitment to the Soldiers and Families they serve. They’re passionate, skilled, and dedicated to helping Soldiers recover and move forward with their lives. They have created a good command climate, a warrior culture, and embraced the warrior ethos.

As I sign off, I want to also recognize the following:

  • Dr. Lorene Petta, Performance Enhancement Specialist, and SFC Class Christopher Thornton, Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion Master Resiliency Trainer, who launched the Fort Bragg WTU adaptive sports program, resulting in many warriors in transition trying new adaptive sports such as sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. I even recognized a few Warrior Games competitors there.
  • Mr. Clyde Foster, AW2 advocate, and Ms. Betty Goolsby, Director, Fayetteville Veterans Administration Medical Center, are other members of the team focusing on healing folks.
  • AW2 Community Support Network member, Give an Hour, a national nonprofit organization that provides counseling for military servicemembers affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and their Families.

I want to thank the Fort Bragg team for their hard work in supporting our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. I encourage you all to continue your efforts because your high expectations and team building skills are making a difference.

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.

WTC Exhibit Offers a Unique Perspective for Army Warrior Care

By Tim Poch, WTC Stratcom

As a representative of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) who attended the 2011 Military Health System Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, D.C last week, I had the pleasure of offering a unique perspective to the other exhibitors. On a giant flat screen monitor, WTC shared a video of Soldiers bumping, setting, and spiking a volleyball. As the camera panned below the Soldiers’ chests, viewers learn that the players are wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers sitting on the floor in an intense game of sitting volleyball.

For most of us a volleyball game would be a great way to get together and blow off some steam, but for these Soldiers the game has an added dimension of determination, resilience, and courage.  In short, this looping video revealed to the conference attendees the heart of the WTC message for Army warrior care–Soldier success through focused commitment.

Army medicine is state-of-the-art and a leader among civilian and military medical organizations worldwide. The goal of WTC is to create policies that work in conjunction with Army medicine to assist Soldiers in accomplishing their mission of healing and transition. In order to maintain the structure, military character, and goal-oriented behavior that drive Soldiers to succeed, Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) are now using a process called the CTP (Comprehensive Transition Plan). Using the CTP, each Warrior in Transition (WT), with the aid of their WTU cadre, develops a systematic and comprehensive plan outlining physical, career, emotional, social, family, and spiritual goals to aid their return to the force or successful transition to the civilian community.  

One way the Army aids WTs in the goal-setting process and helps them achieve success is through adaptive sports. These programs provide tangible physical results and help speed healing while improving wounded warrior health. The highlight of Army adaptive sports is the annual Warrior Games that features seven sports and over 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from all branches of service. Several WTU personnel stopped by the booth and asked for information about participating in this year’s games.

As Army warrior care develops into a fully integrated process to assist Soldiers in their mission to heal and transition, we fully expect interest and questions from the members of the Military Health System. The Warrior Transition Command is ready to provide answers and information to wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, their Families, Army leaders, military health professionals, and the public as it continues to support to the Army’s wounded warrior community.

Wounded Warrior Urges WTU Leaders to Focus on Soldier’s Abilities

BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

This week at the WTC Winter Conference we have been focused on Comprehensive Transition Plans (CTPs) and how they will help our Soldiers and their Families. Lonnie Moore, WTC Career and Employment Branch Program Analyst, brought home the importance of having a plan in his speech “Disability to Ability.” You see, Lonnie is a wounded warrior and he has firsthand knowledge and experience in why setting measurable, attainable, and time-driven goals is so important.

Lonnie told us how when he was wounded in 2004, he felt he had lost his identity as a Soldier and was so ashamed of his amputation that he did not want his young son to see him. In short he felt labeled, as if people would only see his disability and not his ability. Through the support of his Family, peer support from a Vietnam Veteran, and involvement in adaptive sports he began to make positive changes towards transition and reintegration into a new life.

It was not an overnight transition or all sunshine and roses. Eight months after being injured, and admittedly in a low period in his life, Lonnie was invited by a non-profit organization to an adaptive skiing event in Breckenridge, CO. As he told it, he skied down the mountain twice, falling several times, and thinking he just couldn’t do this. But each time, he went back to the top and started over again. On the third run down the mountain—he didn’t fall. For the first time since his injury he felt he could do anything he put his mind to.

Nine months post-injury, Lonnie had some hard decisions to make, and a trip to an adaptive sports clinic helped him realize it was time to start setting goals and moving forward. He was a third generation Army Soldier, who had planned on an Army career that would culminate in becoming a Battalion Commander, but he made the tough decision to transition to the civilian world. He sat down and created his own CTP, he set measurable and attainable goals, and put his transition on a timeline.

Lonnie believes that we can use the CTP to “train” Soldiers to prepare for transition, and so do I. He exhorted the attendees at this week’s conference to “look at abilities and not disabilities” to make this process work for all of our Soldiers, and I think that’s excellent advice.

WTC Staff and Cadre Wrap Up WTC Conference

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

BG Gary Cheek and COL Brian Lein, FORSCOM, discuss the importance of caring for Medically Not Ready Soldiers with WTC staff and cadre.

BG Gary Cheek and COL Brian Lein, FORSCOM, discuss the importance of caring for Medically Not Ready Soldiers with WTC staff and cadre.

We have had a productive week in Florida, and we’ve made great strides in preparing the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) to launch at Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) across the country. We have gotten very productive feedback on ways to streamline and improve the CTP from Company Commanders, Squad Leaders, Nurse Case Managers, Primary Care Managers, Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC) Directors, and other essential members of the WTC staff and cadre. Now, we will take those valuable suggestions back and improve the CTP for the benefit of all Warriors in Transition (WTs).

This morning, COL Brian Lein, Command Surgeon of Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), gave us all an important perspective as we move forward with the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP). COL Lein previously spent two years as the Commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he supervised the medical treatment of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airman recently injured on the battlefield. Today, many of those Soldiers are recovering in WTUs.

“WCTP is a strategic imperative,” said COL Lein. “It is critical that we maintain this program to ensure the well-being of our Soldiers and Families in order to preserve an all-volunteer force. Senior FORSCOM Commanders have expressed nothing but gratitude for the way WTUs operate and for the collaboration between them and WTU Commanders.”

COL Lein encouraged all of us to continue to examine the best way to care for Medically Not Ready (MNR) Soldiers, and he particularly emphasized that the WTU Company Commanders should engage with Commanders throughout their installations to make them aware of the services available through WTUs and the more accessible WTU admission procedures. I couldn’t agree more—WTUs are here to help all WTs through their recovery and return to active duty or transition as proud, productive Veterans.

As we move forward, I will keep WTC staff and cadre informed of the improvements to the CTP and continue to emphasize that WTs and their Families need to actively embrace this valuable tool so they can set and achieve measurable goals and move forward with their lives.

LTG Ricky Lynch Emphasizes IMCOM’s Support for CTP

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

LTG Ricky Lynch, Commanding General of Army Installation Management Command, discusses the importance of CTP at WTC Winter Conference.

LTG Ricky Lynch, Commanding General of Army Installation Management Command, discusses the importance of CTP at WTC Winter Conference.

I appreciated LTG Ricky Lynch, Commanding General of Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), joining the WTC Winter Conference to demonstrate IMCOM’s support for the CTP.

Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) exist at Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) on installations around the country, and WTUs require facilities, personnel, and resources support from installations to provide the best possible service to Warriors in Transition (WTs). This morning, LTG Lynch assured WTC staff and cadre that they will have the full support of installation Commanders in this important mission and encouraged them to collaborate closely with their installation Commanders.

“At IMCOM, we work hard on leadership development to ensure that Commanders understand the issues affecting WTs,” said LTG Lynch. “Senior installation Commanders should be engaged with warrior care so they can work with their leadership to ensure that we’re doing the right thing and that we’re doing things right. Our Soldiers and their Families deserve the very best.”

Effective warrior care requires coordination and commitment from everyone who interacts with the WT. The CTP, as an automated tool, will help consolidate coordination efforts and give cadre, company Commanders, and even installation Commanders visibility on both the overall trends and individual issues of warrior care at each installation. I am confident that this tool will help leaders across installations and throughout the Army work together to better serve each individual WT.

Fort Stewart WTB Change of Command

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

Last week I went to Fort Stewart, GA, to attend the change of command ceremony for one of our great Warrior Transition Battalion commanders. LTC Jim Kanicki relinquished command to LTC Bill Reitemeyer on a breezy, sunny day at Marne Garden. In his remarks, Jim very eloquently summed up not only the mission of the battalion, but the mission of the Army’s overall Warrior Care and Transition Program. He said that his success as commander will be measured by how successful his assigned Soldiers are when they transition to the next phase of their lives—either returning to duty or integrating into civilian life. In that mission, Jim has indeed been very successful. His battalion transitioned close to 200 Soldiers during his tenure—basically a complete turnover—with 41 returning to active duty. And like all great leaders, he gets satisfaction when those who have moved on call him up to say they are doing well, and to thank him for what the battalion has done for them.

The Army measures its success too in terms of the success of transitioning Soldiers. To that end, we are putting in place the mechanisms that help Soldiers step with confidence into the next chapter of their lives. WTUs are in the process of implementing Comprehensive Transition Plans for all assigned Soldiers that provides a roadmap, with milestones, for personal and professional goals. We are also implementing education, employment, and internship opportunities that enable WTU Soldiers to maximize their rehabilitation period by acquiring new skills and knowledge for use after they leave the WTU. As the program matures, we will continue to add programs and features that set Soldiers up for success.

On behalf of the Army and our Warrior Care community, I want to thank LTC Jim Kanicki for his exceptional service, and wish him all the best as he takes command of the 1-228th Aviation Regiment in Honduras. At the same time, we heartily welcome LTC Bill Reitemeyer—a seasoned Veteran who has served with the 7th Special Forces Group and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. I know that Bill will build on the great success already achieved at Fort Stewart, and continue to serve our Soldiers, as Jim did, with accessibility, responsiveness, and compassion.

Proving People Wrong

(L-R) BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, CPT Scott Smiley, West Point Warrior Transition Unit Commander; Noel Koch, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, at the West Point Transition Unit change of command ceremony, February 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy of John Pellino)

(L-R) BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander; CPT Scott Smiley, West Point Warrior Transition Unit Commander; and Noel Koch, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy; at the West Point Transition Unit change of command ceremony, February 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy of John Pellino)

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

On February 1, CPT Scott Smiley took command of the West Point Warrior Transition Unit. While every WTU change of command is notable because it demonstrates a re-commitment on the part of leadership to the comprehensive support of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, this particular change of command was even more so.

CPT Smiley proved a lot of people wrong to get to where he is today.

On April 6, 2005 CPT Smiley was severely injured in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq. As a result, he lost his sight. Many thought he couldn’t continue on active duty. He did. When CPT Smiley decided to pursue his MBA at Duke University, many questioned whether he could do it.

He did.

CPT Smiley has gone on to teach cadets at West Point, to climb Mt. Rainier, to serve as an example to all Soldiers and all Americans.

As the commander of WTC, I charge all WTU commanders and cadre to lead our Warriors in Transition and encourage them to embrace ability over disability. CPT Smiley is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a Soldier sets a determined goal and gives his all to achieve it. I cannot be more proud to have CPT Smiley as a commander of a WTU. The Soldiers who are placed under his watch can rest assured that they are being led by someone who has faced tremendous challenges and overcome them—and can lead them to do the same.

I thank CPT Smiley for taking up this new challenge and to his Family who have provided him with the support to do so.

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