USA — Gates Reports on Visit to Carson Warrior Transition Unit

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)