In a ceremony held Jan. 17 at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, National Capital Region Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) welcomed their new brigade commander, Col. Michelle Fraley.
The assumption of command took place in the gymnasium of Building 17 and gave Soldiers assigned to the brigade a chance to hear words of support from their outgoing commander, Col. Jean Whalen, one last time.
“To the staff, as I reflect back from my first day here, I asked you for your teamwork, acceptance, compassion, tolerance and, most importantly, I asked for your leadership, as I saw each of you as a leader,” she said. “I stand here today to say, ‘You delivered!’”
The mission of WTB is to heal, educate and condition Soldiers who are wounded or injured, transitioning them back to the force or civilian society.
Col. Whalen assumed command of the brigade in October 2012, when the previous brigade commander relinquished the position for health reasons. During her four month tenure, she improved several aspects of WTB operations, including the “One Stop” in-processing of wounded warriors and their families, reducing the average completion time from 45 days to five.
Whalen, an Army reservist, will be returning to civilian life to resume her position as the director of the Warrior Transition Office at Northern Regional Medical Command Headquarters, where she has promised to continue her support of the unit.
“I will continue to work with Brigadier General Bishop of Warrior Transition Command and Major General Jones and his team,” she explained, “with our collective aimed at efforts improving warrior care and the transition program.”
As the new brigade commander, Fraley offered a few brief but encouraging remarks about the future of the brigade, with a focus on possible budget cuts for the Department of Defense (DOD) in the near future.
“Our nation’s commitment to take care of our wounded, ill and injured service members remains loud and clear. As recently as January 10 of this year, Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter issued guidance to address DOD’s current uncertain budgetary situation. His guidance directs full protection of the Wounded Warrior programs; one of only three programs that are currently fully protected against possible DOD funding cuts,” Fraley said. “January 16, the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army also issued specific Army guidance that protects funding of the Wounded Warrior programs.”
She ended with a simple promise to continue the work of the brigade, “Knowing the challenges and opportunities ahead, as your new brigade commander, I remain committed to ‘Caring for Soldiers ... Heal, Educate and Transition.’”