ROCK ISLAND, ILL., (10/19/2010)(readMedia)-- Officials from six National Guard states in the Midwest region including the Illinois Army National Guard, sent command representatives to Rock Island Arsenal Garrison Oct. 18 to speak with cadre about their injured soldiers in Community Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU) rehabilitation program.
The program has existed for roughly four years on the nation's largest government-operated arsenal helping injured veterans from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The program helps rehabilitate Soldiers both mentally and physically and helps transition them back into their normal lives.
The states' National Guard commands work together with the CBWTU, medical facilities and civilian vocational rehabilitation agencies to help Soldiers seek medical attention and find work in the civilian sector.
Soldiers attend one muster every three months at Rock Island Arsenal, but can seek medical treatment in their hometowns instead of being away from family and other support at an active duty hospital in another state.
"In today's Army, the care and medical needs of our injured veterans is paramount," said Celletti. "These men and women went into harm's way while serving their country and they cannot be forgotten and left to struggle to make ends meet in their times of need," Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti of Springfield, the Assistant Adjutant General - Army of the Illinois National Guard.
Staff Sgt. J.P. Lawson of Marseilles, a platoon sergeant with the CBWTU said the program allows for injured Soldiers to receive the one-on-one care they may not have received at active-duty hospitals after suffering injuries in a combat zone. The facility at Rock Island Arsenal is centralized allowing Soldiers to receive medical attention and take care of personal matters.
"The program is based mainly on getting Soldiers in and getting them to look at their overall care, not just physical but mental," said Lawson. "(The program) is also to help them transition either to a civilian life as they retire out of the military or ... they are actually returning to duty, getting ready for their life outside the war."
Lawson, an Illinois Army Guardsmen now attached to the CBWTP, attended the program in 2007 after returning home injured from deployment to Afghanistan. After going through the program Lawson returned as a cadre member to help fellow Soldiers receive the care they need. As a platoon sergeant, he said he has seen roughly a 90-percent success rate in the Soldiers from his platoon.
Lawson said he has seen Soldiers with all types of injuries in the program. From blindness to broken limbs.
Not all Soldiers going through the transition program have obvious injuries. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Eric Wolf of Jessup, Iowa, with the 445th Transportation Company out of Waterloo, Iowa suffered multiple noncombat related injuries while deployed to Iraq in 2009.
When he originally came home his treatments were at an active-duty station. With family hundreds of miles away Wolf dealt with mental stress.
Since being assigned to the CBWTU, Wolf has been able to get the medical attention he needs to lead a normal life. With the ability to stay in Jessup between musters, Wolf said he is able to spend time with his family and be present in their lives.
"With this program it allows you to get back your family and your family too does not have to go any longer without you," said Wolf. "When you have a wife taking care of four children and she's already done it through a deployment, it's stress on her too for you to get back. There it's really imperative that you two join back together and support each other."
With medical attention in their hometowns, Soldiers like Wolf are able to receive treatment from their local doctors, family doctors and medical facilities in a place they are comfortable instead of miles away from home.
Wolf said being with his family even during his treatments made his mental and emotional state easier. While Wolf's time with the program is not complete, he said with the treatment and vocational support he has received he has been able to heal both mentally and physically and he is ready to face life and the road to come.