Renovated center provides comfort for injured Soldiers

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

***image1***What used to be spread out and dilapidated, is now consolidated and renovated. The Deployed Warrior Medical Management Center has turned Kleber billeting into a place where transient Soldiers can relax and recharge their batteries as they wait for their wounds to heal.
As recently as June of last year, downrange Soldiers who came to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for outpatient treatment lived here and there.
Some stayed in the Ramstein Inn at LRMC. Others were in barracks at Kleber Kaserne or Daenner Kaserne. The bus schedule was difficult for the injured, due to long walks to the bus stop. Long lines quickly formed to see the doctors, and routine appointments got to where a five hour wait was considered the norm.
The average stay for a Soldier, before returning to duty, lasted more than 15 days, said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Burlingame, first sergeant of the Medical Transition Company.
“Once they got here, it was easy to hide out for weeks, sometimes months,” said Lt. Col. Richard Jordan, director of the DWMMC. “It became an impossible situation to administrate without on-site patrol.”
Now transient Soldiers have an average stay of six days in a barracks that can best be described as “Club Med.” Morning formations at 6 a.m. keep Soldier accountability running smoothly.
“It’s a wonderful place,” said Sgt. Walter Chambers, who was injured in Uzbekistan while serving with the 1015 Maintenance Company out of Fort Gillem, Ga. “It’s a dream. A big, ole dream here. Plus, I get to play pool. That’s the best part.”
Staff Sgt. Michael Williams, Alpha Co., 151st Signal Brigade, whose unit is operating out of Camp Bucca, Iraq, said staying in the transient barracks has been a boost to his morale.
“The staff here has been so nice,” said Sergeant Williams. “We are in need, and the people really do care for us. It’s been such a big boost for morale.”
Between June and December of 2003, with the help of LRMC and the 415th Base Support Battalion, the barracks were repainted and stocked with new furniture and amenities – to include a pool table, library, computer room, ping-pong table, air hockey table, two day rooms, each with its own wide-screen television, a kitchenette and a telephone room where Soldiers can call their families for free.
The library, which has a load of donated books and new magazines, soon will feature six coffee pots with coffee donated by the Kleber Dining Facility. Once the coffee arrives, the place will look like the coffee house from “Friends.” Board games such as Yatzee and Monopoly also can be checked out for Soldiers’ entertainment.
“These facilities are unique,” said Specialist Burlingame. “There’s just nothing else like them.”
The new facilities were formed out of necessity. Colonel Jordan said a huge influx of injured Soldiers forced him to make a snap decision. He had no place to put them, what with only 20 beds available at LRMC. So he met with Kleber personnel and 48 hours later he had 77 new patients living in Bldg. 3210 – a former permanent party barrack that was earmarked for office space.
“The place wasn’t what you see now,” said Colonel Jordan. “It needed some work and new items. The (415th Base Support Battalion) really helped us get started by providing us with new beds.”
Right now the barracks can hold 356 Soldiers, but average only 150, said Specialist Burlingame. However, if needed, up to 410 Soldiers could be accommodated.
Soldiers who come here receive two sets of desert battle dress uniforms, a gortex jacket and a pair of $42 gloves. Not to mention a $250 AAFES gift card so they can purchase some civilian clothing.
“I love it here,” Specialist Burlingame. “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I meet so many people from downrange and get to hear so many great stories. It makes me and the rest of the staff here feel good to make these Soldiers feel comfortable.”