New JBLM building consolidates services

$17.7 million headquarters for battalion serving wounded soldiers brings leaders, services together

Staff writerJanuary 28, 2013 

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s ill and wounded soldiers gained a new apartment building nearly two years ago. Now they have a new headquarters for their leaders and some of their medical appointments.

The base this month opened a $17.7 million headquarters for its Warrior Transition Battalion, a unit of soldiers who either are preparing for medical retirements or are recovering from illnesses and injuries to rejoin the ranks.

The headquarters opening follows the May 2011 unveiling of a $53 million barracks for those same soldiers. Washington’s congressional delegation lobbied for the barracks after they learned of poor living quarters for wounded soldiers at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

About 550 soldiers are assigned to the battalion. Most are there for orthopedic or behavioral health reasons. About 300 live in the barracks that opened in 2011.

The new headquarters brings the administrators and some medical appointments closer to the patients in the battalion. Previously, the wounded and ill soldiers lived in the new barracks near Madigan Army Medical Center while their headquarters sat a few miles away.

“Everybody’s here,” said Suzanne Ovel, spokeswoman for the battalion.

The old headquarters was part of Lewis-McChord’s historic core. It was a brick, multistory building poorly suited for ill and wounded soldiers.

With the new one, “We have elevators and we’re all together,” Ovel said. “We’re right next to the soldiers.”

The headquarters also has space for nurse case managers, social workers, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Previously, some of those services were scattered in different buildings.

The new layout should improve care, Ovel said.

“It’s so much easier to hop on down the hall and say. ‘Let’s talk about this soldier,’” she said.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/military

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