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Gary L. Kieffer
There have been considerable renovations on the buildings across the street from the dining facility at the Vicenza, Italy, installation. The USO and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, have moved their operations into the buildings as well. New decks providing wheel-chair access have sprung up, surrounding the buildings.
All of this is being done to help our wounded Soldiers on the road to recovery. "Building 9A is complete and we are already moving Soldiers into their new rooms," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Chaplin, Warrior Transition Unit squad leader. "The other building will be complete by the end of February."
There will be 36 rooms, a combination of single and double quarters, housing a total of 56 Soldiers and two cadres. Soldiers already assigned to the WTU have started moving into the new quarters. One of these Soldiers, Sgt. Justin Varnes, moved into a new single room. "It's a really nice space, much better than the regular barracks," Varnes said.
"Not having a roommate is great, but I'd love to have more of a kitchen area, rather than just a fridge and microwave." "We've got lots of storage area here," said Pfc. Thomas Bryant, moving into a double room. "I like it a lot. I even have a signal for my cell phone. Better than hanging out the window in the last place I lived."
For now the available rooms will be occupied by WTU Soldiers. As more rooms become available, they will be filled by whatever Soldiers are in need of a room. WTU Soldiers have priority, and others will be relocated, said Staff Sgt. Chaplin.
"These rooms are just too nice to leave them empty," Chaplin said. "We have Soldiers that may need a temporary place before they get authorization to move off post or to other quarters. But our WTU Soldiers always get priority."
In addition to the new barracks, the WTU has taken delivery of a specially fitted Mercedes van to shuttle WTU Soldiers to appointments. The van is a nine-passenger vehicle, outfitted with a hydraulic lift in the rear to raise a wheelchair bound Soldier in into the van and be secured, all without leaving the chair.
"This van provides our Soldiers with more mobility and ease to getting around for appointments and such," said Chaplin. "We can get them to their appointments comfortably and in a secure manner with ease in this new van.
"Learning to drive it was a big adjustment, this is a big truck," Chaplin continued, "but it's great for transporting our Soldiers." The team in Vicenza DPW did a superb job getting the facility renovations completed in such a short time, less than four months, according to Christopher Karlsen, IMCOM-Europe SRM Program Manager.
"They renovated 56 spaces to include improved accessibility to the buildings, reconfigured room layouts, provided new access control and all new furniture," Karlsen said. Taking care of wounded Soldiers is why the WTU was set up. Allowing them the time and a place to heal is a step in the right direction. "The community is all behind us," commented Chaplin. "We are very happy with the support. The Soldiers are happy, and that makes me happy. Anything we need, the Ederle community is right on it."
The WTU will be officially opened on Feb. 22. "