Fort Knox to welcome community care units

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Post to gain from restructuring of warrior transition program

By Marty Finley

Two community care units treating hundreds of wounded and ill soldiers will arrive at Fort Knox by early fall.

The units will fall under the post’s Warrior Transition Battalion and are part of a larger restructuring announced by the Department of Defense.

With combat missions winding down in Afghanistan and reduced numbers of combat wounded, there is less need for the number of existing warrior transition units, according to the DOD.

The DOD is inactivating five warrior transition units on military installations and inactivating all nine of its community-based warrior transition units, which provide care to National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who do not need day-to-day care.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is establishing more than a dozen community care units at Fort Carson, Colo.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Forts Hood and Bliss in Texas; Fort Riley, Kan.; Forts Benning, Stewart and Gordon in Georgia.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Belvoir, Va.

Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Knox each will receive two CCUs, according to the DOD.

Terry Goodman, director of strategic communications and public affairs for Northern Regional Medical Command, said the units will arrive at Fort Knox by Sept. 30, but a specific date has not been set.

The move will bring 61 military and civilian positions to Fort Knox to remotely manage care for as many as 350 wounded, ill or injured soldiers, Goodman said. His agency is working with Fort Knox officials to find space for the staff, ensuring a smooth activation.

Soldiers receiving care through the CCUs will not have to physically relocate to Fort Knox, he said.

“There will be no impact on the wounded, ill and injured soldiers or their families as they will remain in place, will receive their care in the same fashion and their comprehensive transition plans will remain unchanged,” Goodman said by email.

Fort Knox will cover a six-state area of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin and initially is projected to transfer about 174 soldiers from a community-based warrior transition unit in Rock Island, Ill., to a CCU, Goodman said.

More than 385 soldiers were assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Knox as of Friday, he said.

“This number reflects those who are physically on Fort Knox,” Goodman said. “Soldiers assigned to the CCUs will continue to receive their medical care where they currently are to ensure there is no disruption.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Bill Barron said he was aware of the plans for Fort Knox and was not surprised the post was chosen because of its advantageous geographical location and facilities. Barron is part of the CORE Committee locally, which was designed to protect and promote the interests of Fort Knox.

“It’s really good (to gain),” Barron said.

Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry said there was some concern at first about how the restructuring may impact Fort Knox, welcoming the news the installation would benefit. Berry said the addition of the CCUs underscores the importance of the installation’s medical capabilities. 

Furthermore, Berry said the inactivations are a positive sign the numbers of wounded soldiers are declining.

“It’s good news that nationally they need less of them,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell released a statement to The News-Enterprise expressing his satisfaction with the decision.

“I am pleased that Fort Knox has been chosen to host two community care units to provide the excellent care and treatment our brave, combat-wounded service members deserve,” McConnell said. “The Fort Knox community provides a high-quality of life for service members and their families, and I am confident these additional wounded warriors will be welcomed with open arms.”

According to the DOD, warrior transition units will inactivate at Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Each unit had fewer than 38 soldiers as of late December, according to a news release.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.