Morale: A Hard Time For Sergeants


July 11, 2008: In the last year, the U.S. Army has established 35 Warrior Transition Units (WTUs), to serve some 9,000 soldiers recovering from combat injuries. The WTUs look after the needs of soldiers requiring six months or more of medical care before they are well again. Most have combat injuries, but there are many with accident injuries, and a few recovering from diseases contracted overseas.

Each WTU is staffed with a few officers and 15-20 NCOs (platoon sergeants and squad leaders). In addition there are nurses and other medical professionals. The WTU staff sees to it that those under their care receive the proper medical treatment on a timely and sufficient basis. The WTU staff deal with any paperwork problems, helping the patients cope with the many bureaucracies that come out of the woodwork.

The WTU NCOs have the hardest jobs, because they are often combat veterans themselves, relate well to the patients, and they are the main problem solvers. This is particularly useful for WTU patients who are reservists, and are not familiar with a lot of the active duty paperwork and procedures. Because of the stress placed on the WTU NCOs, they initially received Special Duty Pay of $225 a month. This is sort of like combat pay, but given to any troops in particularly difficult jobs.

This is all good news/bad news. The good news is that the WTUs work, and are very popular with the recovering soldiers. The bad news is that it's rough on the WTU NCOs, and the word got around. It has become difficult to get NCOs to volunteer for this duty, especially ones who have done several tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, or have just gotten back from one. So the army has upped the Special Duty Pay to $375 a month, and eliminated the requirement that the NCOs have two years experience as either platoon leaders or squad leaders. This enables a large number of newly promoted NCOs to serve in WTUs, and is expected to solve the staffing shortages.



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