285 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers recover across the country
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Thursday, June 07, 2012
6/07/12 at 7:18 AM
View a memorial to Oklahomans who have been killed in the wars in Iraq
About 285 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers have yet to return to Oklahoma as they recover from wounds received during their recent deployment.
Scattered across military bases and hospitals across the country, the soldiers will remain on active duty until an appropriate point in their rehabilitation when they can return to the state. However, their recovery likely will continue for years to come.
"They're part of the Guard family, so we check in on them and keep in close contact," Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Max Moss said. "They're still on active duty. That's how they end up at places where we're not."
The injuries are as unique as the soldier, each requiring specialized care and attention, said Lt. Col. Carol Coppock, chief of the case management section for the Medical Readiness Branch of the Oklahoma National Guard.
"What they're dealing with depends on the severity of the injuries," Coppock said. "Most of these are (on a) case-by-case basis."
Most of the more than 3,000 soldiers from Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned in dozens of homecoming ceremonies in March and April. The soldiers were deployed last summer to Kuwait and Afghanistan.
The mission in Afghanistan put them in dangerous positions, confronting a combative enemy using a variety of tactics.
Fourteen Oklahoma soldiers were killed in action during the nine months in which the bulk of the Guard soldiers were in Afghanistan.
More than 180 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers have been awarded the Purple Heart, typically given to military members who are injured on the battlefield.
For all of those wounded soldiers who are still on active duty, they will remain at a base in a Warrior Transition Unit while their recovery continues, said Capt. Misty Jobe, medical operations officer in charge of the Oklahoma Army National Guard Medical Readiness Branch.
There are two levels of those units: One is a community-based warrior transition, where the soldier has recovered enough to return home but is still working through the recovery process in the community. The other is intensive treatment at a military medical facility, Jobe said.
There are 235 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers recovering in 21 Warrior Transition Units around the country, including 74 at Fort Sill near Lawton, Jobe said.
"The location of the Warrior Transition Unit is dependent on the soldier's home of record but is also dependent on severity of injuries, the bed space at those facilities and the type of treatment they need," Jobe said.
Coppock said most of the injuries are orthopedic in nature and that each of the soldiers likely will have a different recovery and rehabilitation process specific to that injury.
"What they're dealing with depends on the severity of the injuries," Coppock said. "Some have had amputations. Some have had surgeries and are in pins-and-needles contraptions."
Moss said the Oklahoma National Guard's leaders regularly visit the wounded soldiers across the country to make sure their treatment is progressing well and to show support from the state.
"If they have any complaints, I know they solicit those from our Oklahoma soldiers so they can ask the right questions to make sure we don't have a soldier staying in a facility where they aren't taken care of," Moss said.
"The amount of attention to detail on each individual we take with the highest degree of seriousness."
Original Print Headline: 285 Guard soldiers from state in recovery
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Hundreds of 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers are recovering from injuries received during the brigade’s recent deployment to Afghanistan, including Spc. Ashley Jones. Officials said while most of the injuries are orthopedic in nature, each injury is different and requires its own rehabilitation. Jones was wounded Dec. 18 when her convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device and also sustained injuries to her back and pelvis. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World