Wainwright unit steps up care for wounded soldiers

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

FAIRBANKS - Fort Wainwright officials have unveiled their latest Warrior Transition Unit facilities.

John Wagner / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
John Wagner / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The new units were commissioned by the Army last year with the goal of giving injured soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan more direct care than they would get in the past.

The Wainwright unit has been in place since October. It currently serves 88 soldiers, but could handle as many as 200, according to officials, who invited media and representatives from Alaska's congressional delegation to tour the site Friday.

Spc. Adam Johnson, who fractured a vertebrate in Iraq, praised the unit.

"Compared to the care I was receiving before, this has just been tremendous," he said. "I'm getting the first pick of what I need and all the attention that I need."

The Army has a long tradition of paying for veterans' care, but those veterans have usually had to seek health care from the private sector. The transition units focus on rehabilitating soldiers.

The unit also has counseling staff for issues such as suicide prevention and substance dependency. It also provides the opportunity for soldiers to better their education through access to university classes.

Capt. Aaron Willard, who joined the Army in 1990, is a veteran of numerous conflicts. In the transition unit, he's seen a welcome increase in the services he's received, he said. That includes a transfer to new housing so that he doesn't have to climb stairs, aggravating a knee injury he sustained in Iraq.

"The changes have just been phenomenal," he said. "These young kids coming back injured, God forbid, they're lucky they have this unit to come back to."

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