WASHINGTON — A visit to the warrior transition unit at Fort Carson, Colo., this week was worth the time, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Pentagon news conference today.
Gates visited the facility while he was in the area for the change of command ceremony at U.S. Northern Command.
The unit was the subject of stories alleging problems with care, with the bureaucracy and with support.
The secretary met with soldiers and family members without assistants or media present, an approach he often uses to encourage people to speak frankly.
“I didn’t hear a single complaint about the warrior transition unit itself,” he said. “And several of the soldiers spoke highly also of their rear detachments – in other words, the support back at their bases.”
They did, however, speak to him about the process, the secretary said. “We still have work to do in terms of the medical disability boards and the amount of time that takes,” he acknowledged.
The soldiers and their families also spoke to him about a successful vocational training program with the local community college that was canceled because of lack of funds, Gates said. “I want to see if we can’t get those started again,” he added.
The secretary he was reassured by what the soldiers and their families told him. “One of the wounded-warrior soldiers gave me a long op-ed that he has written that he would like to have somebody publish that has sort of his view of the WTU, which is a different one than has been discussed before,” Gates said. “So I came away from that meeting very encouraged.”
Gates next met with the cadre at the unit. The unit has its own psychiatrist, counselors, therapists and social workers. “They have a pretty robust staff,” he said. “They still would like some more, but, frankly, we just hired about all there are available.”
This doesn’t mean everything is fine, the secretary said. “I came away encouraged, but also — as I do from every one of these sessions — with something of a to-do list,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)