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Wounded warriors barracks in works
Four-story facility should be finished by 2012
Army and developer representatives turn over the first shovel fulls of dirt. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The Warrior Transition Battalion’s mission is “to put people back on their feet,” 3rd Infantry Division deputy commander Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips said Wednesday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the WTB’s new barracks. The WTB currently serves 333 soldiers.
The construction project is one of several Fort Stewart has undertaken to improve facilities for its wounded warriors. The 144,000 square-foot, four-story barracks will be completed in 2012, Phillips said. Last June, installation officials cut the ribbon on a 15,000-square foot Soldier and Family Assistance Center. The center provides rehabilitative and transition assistance to sick and injured soldiers and their family members.
The general said the WTB’s new facilities and innovative programs, like the paws4vets therapy dog training program, reflect the Army’s renewed commitment to helping wounded warriors heal and prepare them to transition back into the Army or civilian life. Paws4vets allows wounded warriors to continue serving by training dogs to assist disabled individuals in the public sector, he said.
The WTB has treated 3,500 soldiers since 2007, Phillips said.
Winn Army Community Hospital commander Col. Paul Cordts said the WTB at Fort Stewart has come a long way since 2003. Cordts read from an article titled “Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor” by journalist Mark Benjamin. The story stated 600 wounded warriors were “warehoused” in substandard, cinderblock barracks that were cold in the winter and “sweltering” in the hot, humid South Georgia summer.
“These (new) quarters are more than barracks; they will provide a home,” Cordts said.
The new barracks will house more than 240 wounded warriors and will be within walking distance of the battalions’ headquarters, the hospital and the assistance center, said WTB commander Lt. Col. William Reitemeyer. He said the WTB campus also will have a walled trellis, wall garden and wheelchair course.
“It’s the same setup as at Walter Reed,” said Spc. Jason Myers as he walked with the help of a cane. The 30-year-old wounded warrior said he liked the Warrior Transition Unit campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and thinks having the same type of layout at Fort Stewart will greatly benefit sick and injured soldiers here.
Myers was wounded on June 24, while on patrol in Iraq. He was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID.
“I got shot by a sniper,” he said. “The round went through my wrist and a round went through my abdomen.” Shrapnel tore through his intestines, colon and bladder and a round also fractured his hip, Myers said.
“I was in the hospital for 28 days and in the WTU at Walter Reed for a month and a half,” he said. “I’m scheduled for a final surgery on Nov. 19.” Myers hopes to return to his regular unit in six months.
“You’ve just got to keep your mind straight with what you want to do,” he said. “You don’t want to get sidetracked.”
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