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Fort Drum marks completion of complex for wounded soldiers

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FORT DRUM — The completion of the third and final phase of a complex for wounded soldiers was considered by the post commander to be the high-water mark for soldier care in the area.

“We’ve gone from a capability that was dispersed and not super well-coordinated ... to now it’s coordinated; it’s all on one campus,” said Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the post and 10th Mountain Division commander.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday capped a four-year, $52 million project to establish a complex for the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment, better known as the Warrior in Transition Unit.

Col. John R. Boule III, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District, called the facility “state of the art.”

The third phase, a Soldier and Family Assistance Center, will provide space for counseling programs and assistance for soldiers, and was finished in March, along with the battalion’s headquarters.

The ceremony featured several dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“This to me represents how we measure ourselves as Americans,” Mr. Owens said.

The completion of the complex comes only months after the release of a report documenting several disturbing practices among the battalion’s leadership and soldiers, including long wait times for medical appointments, drug overdosing and the labeling of the unit as a “dumping ground” for misbehaving soldiers.

In his prepared remarks, Gen. Milley appeared to address those issues, noting the need for battalion leaders to focus on helping their soldiers.

“It’s not done because a bunch of brick and mortar is thrown up,” Gen. Milley said.

Col. Mark W. Thompson, the commander of the post’s Army Medical Department Activity, said the centralized location will help keep soldiers closer to those giving them care. He added that battalion leadership is still working to ensure higher levels of individual care to soldiers.

“We as a medical community and a leadership community have to be attuned that there are 300 different individuals here, and each of them are going to have their own separate needs,” Col. Thompson said. “Their families are going to have their own needs that we need to try to help them fulfill.”

The battalion helps prepare soldiers to return to their units or move out of the Army. The unit has 98 soldiers, a number that includes 78 active duty, 13 reservists and seven National Guard, to go with 54 civilian personnel.

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