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Reserve liaisons help with WTUs

May. 15, 2013 - 08:58PM   |  
The Army Reserve's Warrior Transition Liaison Program has 18 liaison officers to help its wounded, ill and injured soldiers across the country.
The Army Reserve's Warrior Transition Liaison Program has 18 liaison officers to help its wounded, ill and injured soldiers across the country. (File)
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The Army Reserve’s Warrior Transition Liaison Program has 18 liaison officers to help its wounded, ill and injured soldiers across the country.
As of May 8, 1,191 Reserve soldiers were assigned to warrior transition units, and 700 to community-based WTUs. Four officers are liaisons at each of the Reserve’s Regional Support Commands, one is a staff judge advocate liaison, and another works with Medical Command.
Twelve noncommissioned officers are assigned­ to WTUs across the country.
They are:
■Fort Belvoir, Va.
■Fort Drum, N.Y.
■Fort Meade, Md.
■Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
■Fort Bliss, Texas
■Fort Hood, Texas
■Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston
■Fort Bragg, N.C.
■Fort Knox, Ky.
■Fort Benning, Ga.
■Fort Gordon, Ga.
■Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The Army Reserve has placed 12 liaison officers in warrior transition units across the country to help its wounded, ill or injured soldiers better navigate their way to recovery.

The Army Reserve has placed 12 liaison officers in warrior transition units across the country to help its wounded, ill or injured soldiers better navigate their way to recovery.

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The Army Reserve has placed 12 liaison officers in warrior transition units across the country to help its wounded, ill or injured soldiers better navigate their way to recovery.

The Reserve’s Warrior Transition Liaison Program began late last year when Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commanding general of Army Reserve Command, heard from wounded warriors who felt there was no one to work for or represent them.

Reserve soldiers face different issues than their active-duty counterparts, and certain processes may be different for them than for active-duty soldiers.

“The Army Reserve values its soldiers and will ensure wounded teammates receive the care commensurate with their needs,” said Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, director of Army Reserve human capital. “We have an obligation to provide timely assistance to aid in the education of administrative and medical board requirements [and] processes, and resolution of administrative issues for our soldiers placed under the care of WTUs.”

There are almost 1,900 Reserve soldiers assigned to 28 warrior transition units and nine community-based WTUs worldwide.

Community-based units primarily serve Reserve and National Guard soldiers who don’t need the day-to-day medical management provided by WTUs on active Army posts.

So far, the liaison program has placed 12 liaison officers, all of them noncommissioned officers, at locations with more than 50 Reserve soldiers.

In addition, four officers serve as liaisons at each of the Reserve’s Regional Support Commands, and another serves as a staff judge advocate liaison, said Col. Twanda Young, who manages the liaison program.

The Reserve also is seeking a liaison to work with Medical Command, she said, for a total of 18 liaison officers.

Each liaison officer was vetted and screened to make sure they were qualified and a good fit, Young said. Some of the soldiers had been assigned to WTUs themselves, while others served in the medical field, Young said.

The liaison officers will complement the existing “triad of care” already provided at the WTUs, Smith said.

Wounded warriors assigned to a WTU already rely on their primary care manager, case manager and squad leader or the cadre assigned to the unit, she said.

The liaisons will provide support, connect these soldiers to their units, and help with Reserve-specific issues.

“They’re there to be a conduit to assist the soldier, as well as assist the Army Reserve leadership,” Young said. “As soldiers come in with issues that require Army Reserve engagement, there’s reach-back capability that the WTU commander did not have prior to these NCOs being on the ground.”

“We’re not there to usurp the leadership of Warrior Transition Command,” Young said. “We’re appreciative of what the WTUs and CBWTUs do for our soldiers. All we’re there to do is be an extra resource for the commander.”

Sgt. 1st Class Javier Chavez, the first liaison officer to be assigned, arrived Feb. 1 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The 19-year soldier’s experience working as a civilian clinic manager at Walter Reed led him to want to play a more hands-on role in taking care of wounded troops.

“Some of the best soldiers I’ve ever met in the Army Reserve at one point or another were in the WTU and successfully transitioned back to active duty,” Chavez said. “I can attest to the importance the WTU has to help our warriors recover, and I wanted to offer my support.”

Chavez is always available for his soldiers, meeting them when they first arrive at the hospital.

“The soldiers at Walter Reed are unique because they have very complex injuries,” he said. “When soldiers arrive at Walter Reed, they’re usually in a very rough state physically. There’s a lot of confusion, they’re scared. I meet them at the medevac site, and I reinforce that they’re there to recover, that their primary mission is to heal.”

Every day, Chavez seeks out his soldiers and their families to make sure they’re doing OK, help with any issues or concerns, or sometimes just to chat.

“I feel honored and humbled,” he said. “I take this responsibility very seriously. It’s incredibly rewarding to bring a level of support to the warriors and their families.”

The liaison officers already in place represent the first phase of the program, Young said.

As these soldiers get to working with their wounded warrior populations, the Reserve will collect data and track their progress for Phase II, which will look at placing liaison officers at WTUs with fewer than 50 Reserve soldiers, she said.

The final phase will look to see if liaisons are needed at WTUs with fewer than 20 Reserve soldiers.

“We have a sacred obligation to take care of our soldiers, and this is just one way [Talley] is putting forth effort, time and resources to make sure these soldiers don’t feel they’ve been left behind,” Young said.■

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