Clockwise from top left: Lt. Col. Robert P. Venton, right, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gordon Lawitzke, left, the commander and senior enlisted leader respectively of the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit, prepare to case the iconic colors of the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) during a re-designation ceremony June 16, 2020, on Fort Drum, N.Y. Venton and Gordon Lawitzke uncase the colors of the newly formed Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU). The newly uncased flag of the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) flies in front of the SRU headquarters building. (U.S. Army photos by Warren W. Wright Jr., Fort Drum Medical Activity Public Affairs)
Warrior Transition Unit re-designates, reflags as Soldier Recovery Unit on post
Fort Drum MEDDAC
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 16, 2020) – Soldiers, staff, family and friends of the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) gathered to honor the legacy of the battalion and celebrate its new chapter as it was re-designated the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) during a ceremony June 16 on Fort Drum, New York.
Across the Army, WTUs are being re-designated SRUs as a result of a comprehensive review by the Army to identify areas for improvement. The requirement for complex case management and the need to update policies and procedures for simplified entry criteria has driven the change, which will streamline processes and focus resources to meet wounded, ill and injured Soldiers' unique needs.
"Our name may be different, but our mission has not changed," said Lt. Col. Robert P. Venton, SRU commander. "We will continue to sustain and enhance the community of care that allows wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and their families to successfully heal and transition."
At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army recognized a need for personalized support for its wounded warriors. As part of the Army Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP), WTBs were established around the world to care for Soldiers requiring at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical treatment.
Now, the WCTP is being restructured to better focus on its central mission of complex case management. The re-designation of WTUs across the Army to SRUs will allow caregivers to more adequately concentrate medical and administrative resources on the Soldiers who need them.
"We recognize warrior care as an enduring mission, one that must continue to improve our care for our wounded warriors as missions change," said Col. Rob Heath, commander of the Fort Drum Medical Activity, the SRU's higher headquarters. "This re-designation and restructure will give our medical professionals the added tools they need to safeguard the humanity, confidence and respect of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers while simplifying and streamlining procedures, removing barriers and tailoring services to fit the unique needs of every Soldier."
As part of the re-designation, the SRU exchanged its 3-85th Mountain Infantry flag, or colors, for its new Fort Drum SRU flag. Known in the Army as casing and uncasing the colors, the ceremony is a symbolic and significant event honoring the unit's history while celebrating a new era for the organization.
"As we case the colors, we're not saying goodbye to our mission," Venton said. "We're just closing that chapter, and this re-designation is starting a new chapter with the Soldier Recovery Unit."
The 3-85th Mountain Infantry Battalion can trace its lineage back to World War II when the unit was constituted as part of the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale, Colorado. Soldiers with the unit trained in the cold, harsh mountains of the Rockies, honing their mountain survival and combat skills before deploying to Europe in late 1944. Once there, the 3-85th Soldiers would put their mountaineering abilities to the test in the unforgiving terrain of Italy's Apennines Mountains.
The history of the regiment during World War II is filled with notable individuals. One such individual, mentioned by both Venton and Heath during the ceremony, was former Kansas senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole. Dole was a second lieutenant with the regiment during their campaign in Italy. During the bloody conflict, he was wounded by German machine-gun fire and spent nine hours on the battlefield before being evacuated to an Army field hospital.
"We've come a long way from the care Lt. Dole received on the battlefield back in 1945," Venton said. "This illustration demonstrates the need for our Army to maintain the force structure to provide the care and treatment of our Soldiers."
Moving forward, the staff and Soldiers of the Fort Drum SRU plan to continue the legacy of the 3-85th. For them, it's not about saying goodbye to the unit; it's about keeping the regiment alive in their passion for Soldier care.
"Caring in this organization is an action verb," Venton said. "It's not a feeling; it's a commitment. It is doing something for someone else, whether they need it or not, but especially when they need it. We, as Army professionals, must always remember that service and caring is our business."