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Press Release

ERMC Public Affairs Office
DSN 371-3317/3049
Tel. 06221-17-3317/3049
Advisory No. 20101101-1

Nov. 1, 2010

Studying the past to have a better future
Warriors in Transition and their families learn from ancient persecutions during Rome retreat

HEIDELBERG, Germany Ė Standing at ground level, raising their eyes up to the hard stone and cold brick of the Coliseum in Rome, Spc. Jonathan Locke and his wife Ashley were not exactly thinking about architecture. Their thoughts, instead, turned to the thousands of Christians that had been slain in ancient times virtually at their feet. And then, their resolve to overcome their own difficulties instantaneously grew.

The Lockes were two of a group of nearly 50 Warriors, their families and cadre members of the Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe who volunteered for a weeklong retreat to Rome and the Vatican City. They were taking part in an exercise focused not on building physical strength, though the tour walks were indeed long.

Instead, the trip focused on building their spiritual strength. During the four-day stay, the participants visited a number of select sites that supported the tripís theme, "Memorials of Faith." These were sites where members of the early Christian church faced torture or death following what they believed.

By studying what the early church went through, the participants hopefully would come away with a stronger sense of what is possible in the face of difficult change. It was sponsored by the WTB-E chaplainís office and supported by the Vicenza garrison and Europe Regional Medical Command he chaplains.

"Weíve had a number of retreats for Wounded Warriors and their families north of the Alps," said the WTB-Eís Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Dean. "The opportunities for the folks from Vicenza to join us on them were few." He said he worked with the USO Rome to provide visits to the Vatican City, the Coliseum, the Pantheon and other historic sites where Christians and others had overcome persecution and built lasting organizations.

"Standing here, thinking about the places weíve seen, I understand truly that when you come through something like what the early Christians do, you build something. People will remember your legacy," Locke said. "I know what Soldiers go through when theyíre injured and canít do their job. But I also know that if I stay with my plans to return to duty, I plan to help others understand what it (being assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit) is really like, how helpful it can be."

Like Locke, Spc. Carlos Mendoza from the Kleber WTU thinks that most Soldiers lack a clear understanding of Warrior Transition Units.

"I was in the first WTU in Europe when it stood up, so Iíve seen all the changes as they came around," Mendoza said. "Sure, there may have been a time when everyone with any kind of problem got Ďdumpedí on the WTU, but the selection process is much better now. Not just anyone gets in."

Not only is the process more selective, Mendoza said, the cadres have become more experienced and garrison offices that support them have continually improved access to assistance for our Warriors in Transition.

"If you come to a WTU, you come to heal," Mendoza said. "You make formations, you make your appointments, you do what you are able to do. Thatís your job. Thatís your focus. If you get assigned to a WTU and try to milk the system, try to stay in it as long as you can, youíll fail. Iíve seen it happen, and I think a lot of Soldiers see the few malingerers and think everyone in a WTU is like that."

Mendoza said that he was going to go back from the retreat even more dedicated to returning to duty. While his physical problem does not require him to reclassify if he returns to duty, he is at a career point where he can re-enlist for a different job.

"I want to stay in the Army. The Army has invested a lot in my training, and I think I can still be valuable," Mendoza said. "Thatís the one thing being assigned to WTU has made possible for me. Itís smart for the Army to retain as many Soldiers as possible. When you canít do your job in your unit, you feel like nobody wants you around. In a WTU, everyone has the same job Ė to heal."

The Lockes also look forward to a continuing career and the adjustments their stay in the WTU and their experience in Rome will bring to their lives.

"Iíve always thought the Army is losing its leadership skills, especially in garrison," Jonathan said. "Itís hard for people to accept change, and your ability to change a groupís way of thinking is done through leadership. I want to become one of those leaders who help others, help them heal, help them change. I understand what Soldiers go through. I think I can help. This trip has made me more certain of that."