Once beaming with confidence, Spc. Michael Crawford returned from Iraq emotionally beaten. While serving there, he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and had to witness several of his platoon mates burn to death. Crawford was desperately hoping to make it into Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Battallion, a special unit that was designed to provide care for soldiers with physical wounds and heavy psychological trauma.
Fort Carson, which is located outside of Colorado Springs, seemed like it could be the glimmer of hope to keep Crawford's internal struggle at ease, which many that were close to him had thought. Unfortunately it didn't work as planned, as last August he attempted suicide, and was begging to get out of his unit.
"It is just a dark place," said Crawford. "Being in the WTU is worse than being in Iraq." Crawford is waiting to receive his medical discharge from the Army.
Warrior Transition Units were originally created in 2007, hoping to serve as sheltering stations where injured troops could recuperate and then return to duty, or gradually make the process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with around 456 soldiers at Fort Carson's unit.
Dozens of soldiers and health care professionals were interviewed out of the transition unit at Fort Carson, and reports suggest that the units are a far cry from being labeled as peaceful places for soldiers.
Troops at Fort Carson described prescription pills as being handed out too readily. This has led to addictive behavior to the pills and meds are so abundant that some soldiers in the unit deal, buy, or swap these prescription pills. Four soldiers at Fort Carson have committed suicide since 2007, which is the most of any transition unit as of Febraury, according to the Army.
WTU's are aimed with the goal at providing highly individualized care and ready access to case managers, therapists and doctors. The care given though is not so much an easy going experience, as NCO's hold discipline and enforce rules, often using drill sergeant toughness with junior enlisted soldiers.
Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, head of the Warrior Transition Command, said the Army's own survey of other major posts showed that discipline rates in transition units were about the same as in regular units. He stated that most of the NCO's on the cadre team who receive extra pay and training for the work, perform their jobs well and put in extra hours checking on soldiers. Discipline, he says, is a form of tough love.
For a brief overview of Army Warrior Transition Units visit this link:http://www.aw2.army.mil/about/transition.html