Wounded Warriors Are Fighting A New Kind Of War

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Wounded Warriors Are Fighting A New Kind Of War


A wide-ranging inspection of Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion found that the program for physically and mentally wounded soldiers has shortcomings - notably a need for better leadership.

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But the bottom line was that there are no major problems, nothing that is denying soldiers their hard-earned right to heal and return to duty or to the civilian world.

Some of the nearly 500 soldiers who have been in the battalion disagree strongly, saying they were inappropriately disciplined and incorrectly treated.

And the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, said in a letter to the editor that while the battalion isn't perfect, he "would stack up our medical care in the Warrior Transition Battalion against all others in the military."

Who's right? Most likely, all of them.

The trouble with healing soldiers these days is that everyone's boots are on new ground. This is not our grandfathers', nor our fathers', military medicine. Advances in care on the battlefield and in military hospitals have gone far beyond anything imaginable even a decade ago. Wounds that once meant certain death are survivable now. But long-term rehabilitation from them is a work in progress.

The weapons of war have changed dramatically. Improvised explosive devices are the enemy's preferred tool, sending home thousands of soldiers who survived the blast but suffer from devastating traumatic brain injury that causes a host of hard-to-treat physical and mental symptoms.

Treating these wounds, healing these soldiers, is sending medical personnel into places they've never gone. It's done the same for officers who command units of rehabilitating soldiers. Who knows exactly where to draw the line between good and bad behavior in a soldier trying to heal from a brain injury? Which field manual covers that? Do you discipline, or even give a less-than-honorable discharge, to someone whose actions are not voluntary, but rather triggered by that injury?

The Army - like the other services - is struggling with those questions. Different commanders are finding different answers. Sometimes they make mistakes. But so far, at least at Fort Bragg, the approach has leaned toward openness and an apparent determination to get it right. That sounds like the right path forward.

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