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Warriors in Transition Battalion commander discusses report

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FORT DRUM — The commander of the post’s Warriors in Transition Battalion said they’ve worked hard to address issues raised in a recent Department of Defense report.

Lt. Col. Celia A. FlorCruz, who took command of the unit in May, called the report “like a kick in the gut.”

The assessment ended in August 2010, and a draft of the report was in the hands of post leadership in the summer of 2011 before the latest report was released in September.

She said there have been a number of changes in the battalion “that make a big difference.”

Post officials have worked to speed up medical evaluation times to close to 300 days, faster than the Army’s average of 400 days, she said. The battalion’s leadership has also attempted to make entry to the unit more stringent.

She also addressed portions of the report concerning strained communication between soldiers and battalion leadership, saying there were a “lot of venues for soldiers to voice concerns.”

In addition to her own office, she said soldiers could address complaints more discreetly through its pair of civilian ombudsmen or its post chaplain, who were in separate locations from battalion leadership.

She also spoke of the challenges in battalion proximity. Instead of one area for all battalion soldiers and staff, they are spread to six locations on the post.

The post was the only installation with a Warriors in Transition Battalion without a hospital on the post, she said. She estimated the battalion spent $10,000 per week to transport soldiers to medical appointments, with some soldiers requiring treatment as far away as Rochester.

She said the battalion would continue to work to improve waiting times for special care and move soldiers and medical staff closer.

The head of the post’s Medical Department Activity unit, Col. Mark W. Thompson, said wait times for the battalion’s soldiers have dropped from more than 45 days to about two to three weeks. Noting the improvement, Lt. Col. FlorCruz said “it’s not good enough for us.” She added staff members were working with the Veterans Administration to improve care and moving offices for battalion nurse care managers closer to battalion soldiers.

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